Sunday, July 29, 2012

All or nothing for Cav and the Brits - and thus they choose nothing

Well it was certainly an interesting race. No radios, small teams, narrow roads and tactics as plain as the nose on Postman Pat's face (my kids like to think Wiggo looks like Postman Pat. Not sure who's the black and white cat, though). Unsurprisingly it all went exactly as expected - everyone attacked the Brits, yet the Brits stuck resolutely, doggedly, determinedly to Plan A. Get Cavendish to the line, first.

So what went wrong? Well David Millar reckons it was Cav's fault, basically, although he didn't say that exactly:  

Millar Left With No Complaints Despite Cavendish Missing Olympic Gold |
With 50 kilometres to race and just one ascent of Box Hill remaining, the British seemed in control. A break had gone clear but after over five hours of racing, the gap was less than one minute as legs began to tire. However new impetus was added when a second contingent of riders attacked on the climb to create a 33-man group.

"We were always working at Mark's pace, so we couldn't react to those things and that was never our plan," said Cavendish's teammate David Millar.

The British team had been clear over its race strategy, telegraphing its tactics in a press conference last week. It was all for Cavendish, with David Brailsford saying, the sprinter was "plan A and all the rest of the letters of the alphabet," too.
My emphasis there, but I would deduce from that quote that Cav's pace wasn't ideal, then?

So what did Cav think went wrong?

Cavendish Misses Olympic Glory In Men's Road Race |
"We did everything we could. The crowd was tremendous the whole way around, but the Aussies just raced negatively. The team were incredible. They left everything out on the road. I am so proud of them. We didn't expect any help. We rode the race we wanted to ride. We couldn't pull the group back on Box Hill. Other teams were content that if they didn't win, we wouldn't win. We expected it. If you want to win, you've to take it to them."
My emphasis, again. It wasn't Cav's fault, nor his one-idea Team of champions. It was the Aussies. Having O'Grady orchestrating the first break and coming, umm, 6th, plus Rogers trying his own attack was clearly not a positive in Mark's eyes, who came, umm, 29th.

And the truth? Well there is more than a little truth in the other teams wanting to negate the Manxman's sprint and thus being prepared to leave their own sprinters stranded, waiting for the Brits to close the gap. But they all wanted a medal, too. Trouble was, no-one wanted to tow Cav (and Greipel) up to the front so they can fight it out for 1st and 2nd, either. It was a stalemate.

And good on Vino for attacking and closing his checkered yet always interesting career with Olympic gold.      

Monday, July 16, 2012

Stupid things people do - road tacks tax belief. But it's not the first time. TdF 2012

Not the first, nor the last. Certainly the most recent and just maybe the most watched. Tacks or other sharp objects thrown on the road to puncture tyres. It happens.

It's a bit like dropping rocks from bridges over freeways, just a little more obvious. And just as stupid. Yet people do that, too. Well, some people. A very small number of people, indeed.

The motivation? An urge to see pain, distress, carnage? A grudge against particular riders, or just any bike rider? The sheer thrill of getting away with it? All of the above?

It's an enduring, if childish and stupid practice. I personally witnessed the great Heffron Park crit circuit sabotage in about the late '80s. Someone was seeding the track with iron filings every week, resulting in punctures during Saturday bike races. In my case it was at least 6 consecutive weeks of punctures. It was more than frustrating, it was dangerous and costly at $90 per silk tubular tyre. The club took to sweeping the track with a magnet before each race, and eventualy the local police tracked the culprit down. The filings came from somewhere, and a local machine shop seemed likely. To my recollection one of the staff lived near Heffron Park and caved in when questioned. I may be wrong but I think he resented the bike racers taking over the crit track every Saturday arvo. Well they did have permission from council, and it's a public park, mate. And much of the 2.1km circuit was built by clubmembers at their own cost, too.

But people sometimes just do the darnedest things.   

Tour De France Organisers Doubtful Of Locating Sabotage Suspects |
Sunday's stage to Foix, however, was a bit more dramatic after the tacks stopped first Andreas Klöden on the approach to the summit of the Mur de Péguère, and then Cadel Evans at the top with flat tyres.

Astana's Robert Kiserlovski, an animator of several stages in the Tour, crashed after the summit of the Mur de Péguère as he swerved to help team leader Janez Brajkovic, who had flatted. Kiserlovski was forced to drop out of the Tour with a suspected collarbone fracture. The incident also sent American Levi Leipheimer to the ground.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Play it safe and lose no time or attack and falter? TdF 2012

Stage 11 cracked Evans, or rather he cracked himself. Or perhaps it was the plan that was flawed?

The team had a plan, presumably, or simply went with what they had. Let's just assume they planned it all. One teammate already up the road in the break, they sent another away, within striking distance of an attack by Evans. With that arrangement in place, Evans duly attacked. And all went well until Evans reached his teammates. Firstly his "fallback" guy faltered and then he himself went off the boil. Yes, the pace was already high, so Cadel's attack had to be overwhelming and sudden. And he was still a worryingly long way from the finish. The effort must have pushed him into the red... and when his 3-man BMC train became just 2 he looked the weaker of the pair. Suddenly the plan didn't look so good. Having expended that energy he then faltered again on the final climb.

Is he unwell? Or did he just overstep the line with the first attack, and paid the price later?

Some other observations: Wiggins looked exposed, both when Evans attacked and even more so when his own teammate, Froome, attacked! And both Rogers and Porte were visibly more tired. Coupled with Froome initially faltering and falling back before suddenly coming good again (which was bizarre in itself) it looks like we still have a race on our hands. Perhaps even Evans will now deserve a "good" day and succeed in one of his moves?

Tour De France 2012: Stage 11 Results |
Sky's Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins were both there, as were Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol). However, defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC) failed to stay with their pace.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tactics and all that sort of stuff - Scarponi picks the wrong wheel: TdF 2012

Another stage over. Yes, Stage 10 was a great one to watch.

Voeckler won, but it was never a certainty. Sagan started a break that went all the way, just without Sagan. Instead he dropped back and picked up an attack from his team leader for GC, Nibali. Together they gapped the yellow and Evans, too. But they wilted and Sagan was dropped. With that Nibali fell back as well. Great tactic but just not enough firepower.

Meanwhile Sky held everyone in check that mattered.

Leaving Voeckler to do his gritty, never-say-die-act. To perfection. When all looked lost, back he came. And Voigt did a very similar thing, nearly pulling off an amazing win. Which left Scarponi guessing about what might have been, had he only picked the right wheel!

Scarponi Falls Short In Bellegarde-sur-Valserine |
Scarponi admitted that he hoped that the deck of tactical manoeuvres would ultimately fall in his favour.

"I was hoping that the rivalry between Voeckler and Sánchez would give me a chance in the sprint, but it didn't work out like that," he said. "But in any case, Voeckler was the cleverest and the strongest today."
Scarponi Falls Short In Bellegarde-sur-Valserine |
"It's not just Wiggins and Froome, it's an entire team that gives an impression of strength and cohesion. They're almost unattackable," he said. "But there's still a long way to go. Right now they might seem invincible but the Grand Tours teach you that stage after stage you can invent something."
Voigt Almost Pulls Off The Impossible In Stage 10 At The Tour De France |
By the summit Voigt was still nowhere in sight and the stage looked set to be four-way battle. However when race radio crackled with 'race number 18 at 17 seconds' a once highly unlikely victory became a distinct possibility. On the slopes of the stage's final climb, the shorter and shallower Col de Richemond, Voigt was still closing, and inside the final 10 kilometres the German accelerated alongside and past his rivals.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

All hail Team Sky. But is Cyclingnews now talking in code? TdF 2012

OK, Wiggins and Froome have set the pace in the mountains and the time trial, indeed they have dominated. But "on another sphere"? It's not a great choice of words, is it? Especially after Wiggins has just so emphatically countered his "anonymous" doubters at a press conference. It's OK on its own, isolated from its context, but anyone who has followed the sport since, say, 2006 or so knows that any reference to other-worldly performances is shorthand for "assisted". Either Cyclingnews is just ignorant of this - possibly - or are grinding an axe of some sort. Oh well. For the record, there is no evidence of untoward activity, just great sport science, hard work and years of planning and training.

Evans's Tour Defence Suffers First Setback |
In spite of his losses in the overall classification, Evans looked to take solace from the fact that he had fared admirably against the pure time triallists, but it won't have escaped his attention that the Sky pair of Wiggins and Chris Froome – first and second on the stage – were on another sphere to the rest of the field.

I.B., The Extra Terrestrial? |
Simoni: "I've never seen anyone dominate [like Basso], never seen any one that strong! He seems like an extra-terrestrial," Simoni said post-stage, his face and words minced with bitterness. Whether the Trentino scalatore was implying Basso was 'assisted' in some way is up for speculation, but Basso wasn't happy when he heard this: "I don't like to be called an extra-terrestrial or a phenomenon," he said.
Yes, Basso later served a suspension for "attempting" to dope.

And whereto from here for Le Tour 2012? Well it's quite a change from last year, where Evans waited until the final TT to take control. You couldn't really wait any longer, in fact. And whilst it looks like a poor tactic for Wiggins and Sky to take yellow so early - week one, after all - it's not bad for team and individual morale, is it? Wiggins has only just won his first stage, after all, and leading Le Tour is something most riders would find hard to knock back. And whilst Team Sky now need to expend additional energy in controlling dangerous attacks and protecting both Wiggins and Froome,  BMC themselves expended a lot of energy in acting as though they were "in yellow" last year. Basically it may be hard but it's doable.

OTOH last year other teams with shorter-term ambitions shared responsibility with BMC for keeping control of breakaways and the like. And whilst the Schlecks (and to some extent Contador) knew they had to take time off Evans in the mountains, Evans himself only had to limit losses and win it back in the last TT. So whilst it looks bad for Evans that already his losses have mounted up, coming about despite his strengths in the TT and prologue, this isn't last year. He must have expected something like this scenario, given recent peformance. So either it really is bad and he has little hope of recovering this amount of time, or he has a plan to address the gap. So which one?

As I said, this isn't 2011, so throw that thought out. But Sky has the box seat here, a big lead with Wiggins and a strong wild card to play in Froome. Most likely Wiggins will be able to match all attacks - and there will be many, as the likes of Nibali and Menchov are just as desperate to win as Evans, and both the RadioShack and Lotto teams have some GC gas in the tank, too. But it may expose weaknesses. It could be that Wiggins gets isolated - unlikely, I know - and loses time on a descent. But he has time up his sleeve, doesn't he. And if he or his team really falters then sending Froome up the road will cure the situation. If they are having trouble defending, why not attack?

It is a long way from from Paris and a tough job to defend from here. But Sky must have thought this through and they must see it as their "Plan A". Equally Evans and Nibali must have expected this scenario, too, so they will be executing their own tactics in the Alps to come. With the Pyrenees in week 3 to consolidate. I expect fireworks and I expect that whoever gets the advantage in week 2 will then have the same problem as Sky has now - how do you defend all the way from here to Paris?

So, fireworks in the Alps, yes, particularly Stage 11 - but with care. Whilst they don't want to leave it too late, they don't want to take control too early, either. But if they do, they'll want it to be a crushing blow that sinks Sky's ship all the way to Paris. Anything less will lead to a win for Sky. And it doesn't need to be a win for Wiggins. 

To paraphrase, this is a US District Court Judge telling Armstrong to get real...

Read it for yourself, it's plain enough. Keep in context that Armstrong has a right to be considered innocent and that he also has a lot to lose.

Armstrong's Federal Lawsuit Against USADA Dismissed |
"This Court is not inclined to indulge Armstrong's desire for publicity, self-aggrandizement or vilification of Defendants, by sifting through eighty mostly unnecessary pages in search of the few kernels of factual material relevant to his claims."
Armstrong's Federal Lawsuit Against USADA Dismissed |
"Contrary to Armstrong's apparent belief, pleadings filed in the United States District Courts are not press releases, internet blogs, or pieces of investigative journalism. All parties, and their lawyers, are expected to comply with the rules of this Court, and face potential sanctions if they do not."

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Expect the unexpected in Le Tour. Sagan gets the bell, Kloden can't be coaxed and Froome sprints

Given what has happened so far, I expect anything and everything will happen from here on in. (But I will pin hopes on Nibali and Evans attacking downhill at the first opportunity - which will be real soon now.)

RadioShack-Nissan has been hanging on grimly, desperately hoping that Cancellara could stay close enough to Wiggo and co. that he could recover his lead in the ITT. That looks like a forlorn hope, but he'll probably get 30secs back, maybe. As for their GC riders, well falling at speed always hurts and Frank Schleck will take a few days to recover. By then his Tour hopes may be over. And Kloden? Well just plain old "bad legs" apparently. It happens. He wasn't the only one to have bad legs or bad luck on stage 7. It seemed that every one of the GC hopefuls bar Evans, Wiggo and Nibali can't take a trick this year. Cross fingers things improve. 

Meanwhile the ever-interesting Sagan will apparently ring his new bell when he sees an imminent fall... or will he ring it in hope that the others will think "another lap to go!".

And what about Froome? Does the last pull up the mountain, barely recovers and gaps both Wiggens and Evans. Wish I could do that.

RadioShack-Nissan Fighting Without A Leader |
Stage seven didn't go to plan for the RadioShack-Nissan team. As expected Cancellara lost contact with the Sky-lead group on the final climb but it was the performance of the team's key riders that was disappointing. Schleck waited for Andreas Klöden when the two were dropped on the final climb but Schleck could not coax the German into holding his pace. The Luxembourger then continued at his own tempo but couldn’t catch his two teammates Haimar Zubeldia and Maxime Monfort who were clearly riding much stronger than the trailing duo. Klöden ended the day 2:19 back on the winner and nearly a minute behind Schleck while Zubeldia and Monfort finished inside the top-ten.

"I had bad legs and have no real explanation for it, I had felt it in the early part of the stage," said Klöden on his team website.

Tour Shorts: Ice Cream, Sagan's City Bike Bell, Abandoning The Tour |
The current wearer of the green jersey also relies on quite traditional bike components in order to prevent him from crashing. After having his chances annihilated by a fall in the finale of Thursday's stage five, the Slovakian asked his mechanic to mount a bell on his handlebar - indeed, an ordinary, black city bike bell.

Tour Shorts: Ice Cream, Sagan's City Bike Bell, Abandoning The Tour |
Robert Gesink (Rabobank) came in behind his teammate Mollema and although Laurens Ten Dam was there to pace him, he conceded 2:53 at the finish.

"The GC is shattered. I can’t say much more about it. It was a difficult day and the speed was high. Luis León [Sánchez] kept up really well. I myself rode at the utmost speed and it wasn’t enough. We all know how I was before this, how good I was in California and Suisse. You don’t lose that just like that. But you know, yesterday I landed on the tarmac. You’re not supposed to do that, but it happened. Today didn’t turn out as I had expected." AM

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Sagan wins, many lose. TdF 2012 smash-fest continues

If you've never been in the middle of a 200-strong peleton you can only imagine the eerie feeling. To describe it briefly, it's wonderful and scary in equal measure. It sucks you forward relentlessly, and on the flat you barely need to pedal. Rolling hills are no bother either, it's only when the road pitches sharply up that you need to do some serious work. But if you drift to the edges or the rear, or when the road turns sharply, beware. Changes of pace or direction are unsettling enough, but a narrowing road is worse. Suddenly what was a carefree bunch rolling along (unless you are doing the engine room work at the front, of course) becames a nervous monster. Everyone has to find a spot in a decreasing space. You can imagine what it's like if a rider touches the wheel ahead. Any sudden movement, unexpected braking or swerves around gravel or potholes can set off mayhem... even on a straight road.

Most of the time you just manage. Sometimes it all happens too fast. Tired riders, nervousness and a big peleton can equal big changes in the GC.

At least it frees a few riders up to attack and be let free. As long as Hesjedal doesn't get 10 or so minutes ahead he may be allowed to escape and win a stage. Maybe. I doubt they'll let Schleck or Gesink come back, but they'll sure try. Maybe even tomorrow. Could we even see Cancellara sacrifice his yellow jersey for a Kloden attack? And let Schleck roam free in a break? Or will they hold off such tactics until week 3?  

Video: BMC Remains Intact After Metz Mayhem |
Ryder Hesjedal lost over 13 minutes, with Alejandro Valverde, Frank Schleck, Bauke Mollema and Robert Gesink all crossing the line with less skin than they started with and more time in their general classification tally than before.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Embattled 'Shack actually doing well everywhere - France, Austria... TdF

The flipside of controversy and disruption is - perhaps ironically - team bonding? It's hard to imagine a worse scenario for RadioShack-Nissan, with several current and past members of the team embroiled in their individual doping allegations, pay disputes, injuries and seemingly unending speculation about the team's future. You'd think that losing master tactician Bruyneel (Armstrong-related doping allegations), plus last year's TdF 2nd place rider Andy Schleck (through injury) would be enough but no, they also have Fuglsang fuming about being overlooked for the TdF and a number of riders awaiting overdue pay. Yet here they are leading 2 stage races at once!

However it isn't all rosy.

Fuglsang is at least partly trying to prove (I imagine, as I haven't asked him personally) that the team made the wrong decision in sending him to Austria when he deserved to be racing in France instead. In doing so he's inadvertently 'proving' that the team was actually right - he's currently leading the race he was sent to! He may well be motivated by the 'snub' but he's doing exactly the job intended. Whilst it's motivational genius it's hardly surprising...

And isn't Cancellara just doing what Spartacus does? Win the prologue, hold onto the yellow jersey for as long as possible (first mountain stage, perhaps?). He is above all of the controversy and simply doing his job. Self-motivated, really. Yes, the team is there to support the yellow jersey but guys like Jens Voigt will simply do their job, irrespective, so again it's "situation normal".

The real test for RadioShack-Nissan will come when Cancellara eventually finds lifting his weightier TT-er body over the mountains too much. And teh team will turn to Kloden and Frank Schleck to deliver. Can they? Will they? It'll be fun to find out! 
Fuglsang Earns Overall Lead At Tour Of Austria |
Left off the RadioShack-Nissan roster for the Tour de France, Jakob Fuglsang has fought back at the Tour of Austria, winning stage 4 and moving into the overall lead.

It was the team's second yellow jersey of the day on Wednesday with Fabian Cancellara not threatened at the Tour de France.

"I'm super happy with this win and the overall," said Fuglsang following the 141.3km stage. "It is certainly defendable and we're going to do everything we can to bring the yellow home. It's cool that the team has the yellow jersey in two different stage races."

Bruyneel Asserts Innocence Regarding USADA Doping Allegations |
"I have never participated in any doping activity and I am innocent of all charges," read a statement on Bruyneel's personal website. "I am dismayed that once again doping allegations have been raised against me, this time by USADA.

Tour De France 2012: Stage 4 Results |
The top of general classification remains unchanged as Fabian Cancellara continues in the yellow jersey with a seven-second lead over Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Sagan rules these lumpy stages - TdF 2012

Every bike club has one - the guy who you never seem to be able to beat. And suddenly, one day, you do.

Of course at pro level there's a bunch of guys like that, and specialists who dominate certain races and terrains. But the principle's the same. You have to keep at it. (In other words, Sagan can - and will - be beaten.)

The usual suspects again featured in this tough, crash-ridden stage. Wiggins and several others were lucky to get away with the same time as the lead group. Evans was more decisive and committed to the front, and Cancellara passed the test. Surely now he will hang onto - and maybe extend - his lead?

Tour De France 2012: Stage 3 Results |
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale 4:42:58
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 0:00:01
3 Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
4 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan
5 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
7 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
9 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
11 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Sharp
12 Wouter Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
13 Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan
14 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Astana Pro Team
15 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
16 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
17 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team
18 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
19 Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan
20 Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan
21 Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
22 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar
23 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team

Monday, July 02, 2012

Well they still look happy enough - Le Tour 2012

The usual falls, mad roadside furniture, a stray photographer and Jens smiling, waving. And then that finish! Now that was exciting.

So RadioShack-Nissan are still full of beans, basking in the glory of Spartacus. And when Fabian finally runs out of steam, probably on a mountain later this week, most likely on Stage 7, what happens then? Will Kloden get his chance to lead? Or will Frank have clawed his way back? But if Cancellara survives the attacks up La Planche Des Belles Filles (possible, since the opportunists and the GC guys playing catch-up will likely seize upon it, rather than those closest on GC) he'll probably get over the next day's bumps, too. But will he pay a price during the following 41km ITT? Or will it open up his lead even further?

It will still be too early for most of the top GC guys, so I'm betting he'll still be there, in yellow. Having said that, he will have to decide how he manages his energy loss over stages 7 and 8. If an opportunist (and it could even be a GC guy like Evans) takes a risk on Stage 7 then Cancellara's lead will quickly dissolve. So will he chase and defend, or let it go? And maybe even get it back in the ITT? Yellow is yellow, after all. He'll fight.

There's a rest day after the ITT, and then a shock to the system as Stage 10 will be the first real climbers' stage. If Cancellara gets this far then he will want to have a big lead, as it will be whittled away quickly enough as the real climbers take advantage. And surely they'll have a go. Surely! (And he can't possibly survive Stage 11!)

Tour De France 2012: Stage 1 Results |
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale 4:58:19 Expected, really
2 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan Not unexpected. He was always going to try.
3 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
Expected, really
4 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team Expected, really, even if he is having an ordinary season so far... had this been 2011 it would've been his stage to win
5 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team Good ride.
6 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team
Expected, but slighly disappointing, it really should have been his stage!
7 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team Expected, really
8 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin - Sharp I guess it's no surprise
9 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Sharp Fresher, perhaps, than we thought?
10 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep Another good ride.
11 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
Expected, really
12 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep Expected, really
13 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team Expected, really
14 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne Expected, really
15 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale Expected, really
16 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling Expected, really
20 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team Expected, really, and another likely winner had Cancellara not charged like a bull
22 Michael Rogers (Aus) Sky Procycling Nice recovery after a fall
34 Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan Frank's back!
35 Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan And Andreas is hangin' with Frank!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Oh, forgot Van Den Broek and Gesink!

Ooops. Well, I forgot them 'cause they are on the edge here; they could fall either way. Whereas Frank Schleck is probably abseiling or free falling, take your pick. 

Mind you, it's still a bad sign. Obviously neither of them can afford to lose more time and they must take every opportunity to attack from here. Well, at least to take sensible opportunities. One good mountain stage and they'll be back. 

Van Den Broeck Not Bothered By Tour Prologue Time Loss |
"Twenty seconds is negligible," Van den Broeck said. "We'll see at the end of the Tour de France but I don't have to look at others but at myself. It's important that I don't lose twenty seconds on a man like [Robert] Gesink,"

While losing 11 seconds on defending Tour de France champion Cadel Evans (BMC), Van den Broeck lost only two seconds on Robert Gesink (Rabobank) who has similar climbing qualities as the Belgian.

Le Tour 2012: how to lose at the start - or hey, it's only the prologue!

Perhaps this Tour was lost weeks ago, maybe even years ago. As I have your attention now (both of us, me and you) let me explain. Kinda.

This is the hypothesis: what goes around comes around. Simple. When things look extraterrestrial, maybe they are. It's not news to say that there are clouds hanging over some past performances at Le Tour (amongst other races) and - perhaps - it's all coming to a head. Or a beheading. There are riders and managers past and present hoping it all comes to nought. They may have nothing to fear but they still fear it in their bones. Or blood. It still has an effect. It rattles a few things, and focus is lost. And riders make mistakes, or lose form. And then there are aftershocks, pay disputes and general unhappiness. You know what I mean. Morale is damaged.

And there's more to the hypothesis, too: you are where you came from. Wiggins for example is a pursuit guy, a trackie used to smooth, fast velodromes. Yes, as are many other great road cyclists. But some of that basic training hangs around and whilst he's made a huge improvement on the road he still has to match the great descenders and tactical guys. Can he gain enough in the mountains and TTs to give up some time elsewhere?   

So what do I (club-level crit racer that I am) reckon the GC will look like in Paris? Well Wiggo, Evans and Menchov look good but you can't write Nibali out, either. Hesjedal? He'll give it a shot but his best tactic will be to look exhausted (from his Giro win), hang tough, stay close and pull out a surprise or 2 late in the race. But they all know to expect that. Wiggo, as I said, will take time in the mountains and TTs but may lose a bit to opportunists and descenders. Evans will just do what Evans does, hang in there, cling to Wiggo et al and just stay close enough to strike if he can. An opportunistic attack on a wet downhill may be his best tactic. However unless Wiggo cracks his strong TT will not be enough. He's not facing the Schlecks this time, is he? (Well not judging by Frank's performance so far - unless he has a miracle mountain ride up his sleeve.)

Of course it's a long race, of course anything can happen. To survive week one is hard enough, but then to attack or to match the attackers, that is the question. It may come down to who keeps the most energy and best form all the way through 4 weeks. It may depend on crashes, viruses, or one or 2 smart attacks on just the right days. Or it may play out exactly as expected. But I doubt it.  

So on with the show, this is it (summarised and commented, of course):

Tour De France 2012: Prologue Results |
1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan 0:07:13  Expected but a pleasant surprise to see confirmation - he's back. Fabian will hang onto the yellow until it makes no more sense for him or the team. He's done good, but where are the 'Shack's GC guys?
2 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:07
Expected. On form, done good. Used to be a TT specialist, despite obvious improvements elsewhere it remains to be seen how he copes with mountain descents in the wet, or the pressure of favoritism. Still, deserves to be the GC fave.
3 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep Great ride, Chavanel will steal a stage or 2, surely?
4 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:10 Again, rode out of his skin. A boost to BMC and a hopeful sign of strong support for GC man Evans.
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 0:00:11 Expected. Wiggins has support, too.
6 Brett Lancaster (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team
7 Patrick Gretsch (Ger) Argos - Shimano 0:00:12 Perhaps unexpected? Obviously a good result.
8 Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team 0:00:13 Expected. A welcome return to form, deserves a break this year. Must be counted for the GC podium in Paris.
9 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team Coming on strong at exactly the right time. Watch this space. Again a comfort to Evans to have another powerhouse on his side.
10 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 0:00:15
11 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:16 Expected. Another Wiggo support man.
12 Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 0:00:17 Expected.
13 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team Expected. He's not a TT specialist, although he does great TTs, especially long ones. He's managed his loss to just a few seconds, so he's in the game.
14 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:18 Like Evans he's done his job. Expected. Wiggo-Evans-Menchov for the podium, Nibali a close 4th? Maybe. It's a cliche but it's true - anything can happen from here. Expect an exciting week 3 if these 4 are still on the same page.
15 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Sharp Expected. OK, make that 5. It's a tough call to expect Hesjedal to back up after his epic Giro, so I'll say "not this time".
16 David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Sharp Expected.
17 Stephen Cummings (GBr) BMC Racing Team Great ride. More support for Cadel.
18 Jens Voigt (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:19
Expected. Always there, isn't he? But he's not the 'Shack leader, is he? Maybe it's the next guy?
19 Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan Expected. Definitely in the game and if he's called upon to race like a leader and gets the support he's got the class to surprise... but then again, it's a big ask at the wrong end of a famous career, so maybe not.
20 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank 0:00:20 Expected.
21 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team Expected.
22 George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team Expected and good to see Cadel's support around him after this short test. But it's the long game that matters.
skip a few
30 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Sharp
Expected, but perhaps he should have been a few places higher. We shall see how he sprints.
skip some more
36 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling
Expected, but again he's not as far up as we might have hoped. Will have saved something for Wiggo's support in the mountains, I suspect.
skip again
41 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky Procycling
Expected. But a good ride nonetheless. Makes it look a good contest between Cav and Farrar in the sprints, methinks.
43 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol Team Expected. Make that a 3-way race for Green. 
45 Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma-QuickStep A good ride but he should have won - a bike change drama slowed him down. Revenge will be sweet, later.
53 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale Oh dear, a bit less than expected. Missed a corner, pulled his foot? Whatever, he'll be back. Make it a 4-way race for Green.
61 Michael Rogers (Aus) Sky Procycling
Expected. He's not a short TT guy and like Porte he'll be supporting Wiggo later.
69 David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin - Sharp Not that far off but slower than expected.
80 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Omega Pharma-QuickStep First GC guy to miss a trick, perhaps, but he's really here to support VDB... but where's VDB? Still, it's a lot of time to lose in the prologue. 
87 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team No GC ambitions but can Gossy match it with the 4 sprinters above him? We shall see.
90 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale Ouch. It's OK, he's a support guy for Nibali this year. Calm down. 
Skipping a few more
113 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan Obviously saving himself.
And the rest. They all have their jobs to do.

Oh, what about Frank? Theory A. is that he's fried after a strong run a month or so back. Theory B is that he's going to pull a surprise. Theory C is that he'll support Andreas instead. They are professionals, they'll get over the dramas. Or not. 

Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan. No chance from this far back, really, unless he is hiding stellar climbing form and cracks the lot of 'em in the mountains. It'll be fun to see him try, anyway. Or will he simply support Andreas?  

On to Stage 1, I guess.