July 17, 2006 posted by


I was caught without an internet connection for the last couple of days so I’ll catch up after that fact. In case–like my friend Sandee who rides her bike all over, races triathlons, and still has no clue about why the race goes the way it does–you’ve been confused about the last few days events:

Bastille Day – France’s independence day almost always happens on the “transitional stage” in the Tour. This is a stage where there are no big mountains, which gives breakaways a good chance of success. During the race, the peloton (the mass of riders) starts and goes about as slow as it can get away with. Some days it’s SLOW, some days not, but it’s always calculated and usually controlled by the team that has the yellow jersey. Whether it’s slow or fast, someone always tried to attack and go off alone. On Bastille Day, the French riders usually attack constantly.

However, the Bastille Day break the succeeded didn’t contain a French rider who could hold the pace and was so strong the French teams couldn’t bring it back. In the end, the guy who won had to attack early because his two companions were both sprinters. Discovery’s Yaraslov Popovich attacked the break 5 times before he got away. Impressive.

The next day, Landis lost the race lead. This was calculated by his Phonak squad who wanted to “give away” the yellow jersey.

Essentially, various breaks try and the peloton, which can always move faster because of the mass dynamic and more riders available to take pulls on the front, finally allows one to go up the road and gain an amount of time. With races radios, the riders communicate with their director about who is in each break. Finally, a break with “the right elements” is allowed to go. In this case, they went far far ahead, gaining over half and hour on the peloton before Phonak started riding harder and “pegged” the break at around 30 minutes. This was enough time to give away the jersey but not enough to allow a lot of time for the new race leader to have in hand when the race reaches the alps.

The break came down to a race between two of the most aggressive riders in bike racing, Jens Voight, who won the stage, and Oscar Pereiro who got the race lead. He’s a great rider, but nothing in has past shows that he can hold onto the jersey in the mountains. Asked about “losing” the jersey Landis commented, “If I don’t get it back then I wasn’t going to win it anyway.”

So that’s how that works.

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