Saturday, July 18, 2009


That was brutal to watch.

The Tour is often analogized to a chess match, with the leading teams building up their strategies against each other. But some days, those strategies aren't being built up, they're being radically torn down. This was one of those days.

So George takes off on a flier and it looks good. Everybody is happy at the thought of seeing the veteran helper end up in yellow at the end of the day. Hooray, what a great story!

Astana wants to see him there too, but not too far in the lead, so they work to limit the gap. And they screw up -- they cut it too close. With the typical blindness of the very, very arrogant, they believe that they and their interests are the only ones on the road, so that if they leave George in the yellow by a few seconds, then that's where it will stay.

Now it's coming to the finish and there's a real conundrum in the pack. Columbia has been running all the finishes so far, but they're stuck between a rock and a hard place: if they do their usual dominant lead in, then they'll erase George's gap and he'll lose the yellow, but if they don't, then Cav might lose sprint points to Thor, who, to Columbia's surprise, managed to regain the green jersey just yesterday.

Here's where Garmin comes in. Jonathan Vaughters and Matty White are some smart dudes, and they realize that Astana has unwittingly moved Columbia into a checkmate position. If Garmin takes over the finish, then it's a triple win for them: 1) it protects Wiggo and CVV, their GC guys, since an uncontrolled finish is a danger, 2) they get to pay back Columbia for all the crap Cav and co. said about them in the Giro, and 3) by paying back Columbia, they send a message to the peloton that even though Garmin is a young team, you don't fuck with them.

And they're sick too. The don't quite erase the gap. Instead, they leave Columbia to do the last kilo, driving the knife into themselves. Columbia is in the weird position of trying to win the sprint as slowly as possible. And Cav, the rookie, blows it spectacularly. He wants to beat Thor by just a tiny bit, but either intentionally or not -- he may have just lost sight of Thor and was weaving because he was looking for him -- he illegally blocks Thor against the barriers and gets relegated.

Now Columbia has lost George's yellow and likely lost Cav's green for the duration, as the relegation leaves Cav way down.


Moral of the story: don't trust Astana, and don't fuck with Garmin.

Winner: Garmin
Losers: Columbia (big) and Astana

But flat stages are boring.


curveship said...

The Columbia-Garmin feud is breaking out into the media now: .

curveship said...

Err, with link: Cyclingnews: Fuse Lit Once Again in Columbia's Rivalry with Garmin.

felonious said...

AH breaks down the Tour rivalries. This is a fine piece of race commentary, as good or better than I have read on any of the legit (cycling- or velo-) news sites. Bravo.

DukePirate said...

Excellent commentary Adam. I was reading along during the last few minutes of the stage, but the commentary wasn't nearly this good. I understand a little better now what was going on. I think Astana may have made the biggest mistake by making more enemies in the peloton, but we'll see. This just might turn into an interesting weekend after all.

Oh, and I would have liked to have seen big George in the yellow, if only for a day. I think this was his shot though.

DukePirate said...

I take back what I said about Astana making enemies. After reading this story from velonews that doesn't seem to be the case:

curveship said...

I love how in the earlier article on Cyclingnews, Bob Stapleton was threatening to call Vaughters' boss, but in the later one on Velonews he says "the relationship is fine" between the teams. Uh-huh.

Armstrong's and Bruyneel's comments about having "no idea why" Garmin would work at the front are pretty transparent given that they did the exact same tactic just yesterday: put themselves at the front near the finish in order to protect their GC guys. The difference is that it's a tactic only used by the "big teams." When they say they can't imagine why Garmin did it, they're saying they can't (or at least didn't) imagine Garmin as a big team. Garmin thinks otherwise right now.

I, too, would have liked to see George in the jersey. While Cav isn't nearly as sympathetic a character, it's worth pointing out that he probably just lost the overall green jersey, all in an attempt to get one teammate into the yellow for one day.

DukePirate said...

I was thinking that events might have one more effect, in that Columbia might have to choose to focus on the green jersey to get Cavendish the win in the points race. I think that he can still get it, but to do so he'll have to pay close attention to the intermediate sprints and catching as many points as possible, something that he hasn't done to this point, and that his team would need to help him with. This could mean that Columbia's GC and white jersey contenders would be left alone.

Just idle musing, obviously, but something that I was thinking last night. I'd like to see Columbia win the points race, so I hope that Cav is able to come through.

DukePirate said...

And it's all moot...

co2cycle said...

I guess I'm jumping into the discussion late, but I like Adam's analysis. So much blame being directed toward Garmin, but they seem to be staying above the fray and avoiding the war of words. I wonder, is the Garmin team well regarded in the pro circuit, or are they the goody-two-shoes teachers' pets that get beat up at recess.