Tour de France: Excitement and Heartbreak
We're only a third completed and the grande boucle has already given us a roller coaster ride.
With nine stages in the bag, the 2013 Tour de France has already been more exciting than the entire three weeks of the 2012 edition of the race. We’ve had seven different teams win a stage (stage 1: Marcel Kittel – Argos-Shimano), stage 2: Jan Bakelants – RadioShack-Leopard, stage 3: Simon Gerrans – Team GreenEdge, stage 5: Mark Cavendish – Omega Pharma-QuickStep, stage 6: André Greipel – Lotto-Belisol, stage 7: Peter Sagan – Cannondale, stage 8: Chris Froome – Team Sky, stage 9: Dan Martin – Team Garmin-Sharp) and five different yellow jersey wearers (Kittel, Bakelants, Gerrans, Daryl Impey – Team GreenEdge, Froome).
Each stage has been a battle and with the exception of stage 8 (I’ll discuss that in a little while) we never knew how the day’s racing would go down. The favorites in the team time trial fell flat. Peter Sagan had only won one stage. The same goes for Mark Cavendish. Many thought those two star sprinters would each have racked-up a couple of stages by now. Instead we had the cagey ride by Bakelants steal the day as well as Dan Martin taking a fantastic win in Bagnères-de-Bigorre.
We’ve also had heartbreak.
Ted King, one of only six Americans in the 2013 Tour de France, was cruelly a victim of a crash in the stage 1 cluster f**k of the Orica-GreenEdge team bus and the drama that followed (see last week’s Roadcycling.com post).
The injuries King had suffered in stage 1 prevented him from riding a time trial bike, so he rode his road bike with clip-on aero bars for stage 3’s team time trial. The Cannondale rider was dropped within the first kilometer and according to the Tour de France officials finished seven seconds outside of the time cut. He was gone from the Tour. Au revoir King.
His parents had just arrived from the U.S. and instead of racing in front of them, he was packing his bags for home. The Tour de France makes dreams, but also takes them away.
Of course in this new era of professional cycling what grand tour is complete without the specter of doping hanging overhead?
Team Sky showed why their captain Chris Froome is a favorite for the overall victory. In stage 8 Team Sky decimated the Tour peloton. Richie Porte paced Froome up the climb of AX-3 Domaines, taking the stage victory and the yellow jersey. Post-stage analysis of the Kenyan-born rider’s time clocked him as the third-fastest on the ascent in race history, only a few seconds behind a doped Lance Armstrong. In a cleaner era of cycling that comparison was awkward. (Want access to the same training tracking and analysis tool as Froome, Porte and the rest of Team Sky? Sign up for the Premium version of Roadcycling.com’s Training Tracker p/b TrainingPeaks).
It doesn’t help that team principal Dave Brailsford has sent mixed messages regarding transparency at Team Sky. He wants to do it, then changes his mind. On some points I can’t blame him. If he releases data from riders, these data sets can