Monday, July 09, 2007

2007 Tour de France Stage 1 and 2

The 2007 Tour de France started on Saturday with a short time trial prologue. The prologue usually is just an introduction to the tour and a chance to start the Tour with a rider in the yellow jersey.

Day one was a day for the sprinters, a 125 mile run from London to Canterbury. Oh, did I forget to mention that this year's Tour de France started in England?

The first stage was won by Australian Robbie McEwen. I have never been a fan of sprinter Robbie McEwen. No particular reason why, I just find myself rooting for whoever he is racing against. However my dislike for him has not stopped him from becoming one of the top sprinters in professional cycling.

But Sunday's performance had me sitting in my chair cheering for Robbie McEwen. About 5 miles from the end of the race Robbie was in a crash in the peloton. He suffered a minor injury to his wrist, which can be critical to a sprinter. Power sprints at the end of a race require a lot of pulling on the handlebars. Robbie's team dropped three other riders back to help him catch up with the peloton. Since the peloton was running fast with all the other sprinter's teams positioning their guys for a win Robbies "mini-train" had their hands full trying to get back into the pack.

With 2 miles to the finish Robbie and his escorts finally caught up with the rear end of the peloton. Now all Robbie had to do was work his way through 180 other riders to get near the front and position himself for a sprint to the finish. With the peloton traveling at about 30 mph McEwen had about 4 minutes to accomplish this almost impossible feat.

With about 200 yards to the finish the lead-out men started peeling off and the race was turned over to the sprinters. Suddenly out of the pack came Robbie McEwen. Robbie shot past the leaders and cruised to an almost easy looking victory. Not even Lance Armstrong ever crashed in the last five miles of a race then blew past the entire peloton to blow his competition away for a stage win. Robbie Mcewen's final 5 miles of this race was truly one for the record books.

Today, day 2. The Tour rode from Dunkerque to Gand Belgium. This was another day for the sprinters. Belgium rider Tom Boonen had his eye on this stage as a chance to win a stage in his home country. Unfortunately for Boonen, Australian native Robbie McEwen lives in the part of Belgium also.

The day played out like most standard sprint stages. A long breakaway of three riders that is caught by the peloton with less than 10 KM to ride. As the pack was readying for the final sprint there was a pile up in the front of the peloton that blocked the road and separated the front 20 riders from the rest of the peloton.

This situation played right into Tom Boonen's hands. Suddenly he found himself with 4 of his Quickstep riders as leadout men and most of his major competition piled up or trapped on the road behind him.

So the Quickstep boys accelerated to the finish line each man peeled off as he ran out of steam until there was just Tom Boonen being led by his number one leadout man - fellow Belgium Gert Steegmans. Steegmans main job is to accelerate the pace of the race right up to the end and then let Tom Boonen shoot around him to win the race. Today it worked like clock work, except for one thing. Gert Steegmans didn't run out of steam, Tom Boonen didn't shoot around him to win the stage. Instead, Steegmans then Boonen shot across the finish line for a 1-2 Belgium/Quickstep finish in their home country.

Boonen didn't seem too bothered by this turn of events as he celebrated with his fellow countryman.

Tomorrow is day three, I can hardly wait.

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