Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Beautiful Machine

Bikes and music. Sometimes the patterns of a life are set from early on. And it can be quite a shock to find others who you have never met with the same obsessions. He is also the only other person I have ever heard of who has suffered from sarcoidosis.

I enjoyed the early chapters a lot – he is great on growing up and the escape a bicycle offers. The years at university and just after are also fascinating, but from then on it becomes a bit hit-and-miss.

He is an opinionated and spirited writer, and you know he would be good company on a long ride, but the endless stories about rides he has done and coffee shops he has frequented lose their charm for the reader long before the author tires of them.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tour round-up

So, farewell Tommo, Paul and Phil, late nights, Matt and Ned and Chris in the ITV podcast on the train to work and managing my own tour team.

All that remains is to check the predictions and see how we did this year. Pretty good I have to say. Certainly much better than last year ...

Top two on GC correct and only one place out for Lance. Bradley Wiggins surprised me to equal Robert Millar's fourth place from 25 years ago, but then again I don't know of anyone who predicted that! Evans and Sastre were big disappointments and Sastre couldn't even blame his team. I think that both are probably already past the peak of their careers, although it would be good if Cadel could prove me wrong.

Not bad on the green jersey either – if the commisars had stayed out of it and I had been a bit more optimistic about Thor. Boonen was completely invisible and if you had asked me I would have been hard pushed to even say when he abandoned. Quick Step would have been better with Alan Davies after all!

The mountain jersey wasn't quite so good – Sastre was 43rd and didn't do anything whatsoever in the mountains. Still, I was right about Contador in 3rd and Andy Schleck was close with his 4th place.

And finally, my fantasy team ended up 1556th with 1389 points. I could possibly have done even better if I had read the rules. Just wait for next year ...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Song for Sunday

Malcolm Middleton – Waxing Gibbous

Not really a song this week, more a little docu-video-thingy about Malkie's new album. But it is great. And so is the album. I would recommend that you go and buy it.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tour de France 09

In theory Alberto Contador has to be the favourite for this year's race – climber's course, strongest team, blistering form and almost perfect preparation.

Will it all go according to plan though? I have my doubts. The team is riven into two clear camps by the presence of Armstrong, Bruyneel seems unsure of what he is doing and where his loyalties lie, the financial problems, the intriguing political maneuvering and the reappearance of our old friend Vinokourov all point to a team more likely to implode in shower of overheated egos than put riders on to the podium. One thing's for sure though: it should be fun to watch.

Could all this play into the hands of our local hero Cadel? I would like to hope so, but I suspect there is too much climbing, not enough time trialling and that his team won't be strong enough to either support him in the mountains or not lose time in the team time trial.

Astana's problems are more likely to benefit the other strong teams like Saxo Bank, Columbia and possibly even Garmin, playing into the hands of a canny operator like Bjarne Riis.

Sastre doesn't have the team to back him up this year and I suspect the best we will see from him are a couple of solo mountain wins in the Alps when he is already out of overall contention. He'll probably pick up the maillot à pois rouges for his efforts though.

And what about Menchov? He could well end up on the podium, but I have a feeling that he won't have totally recovered from his Giro efforts and will end up losing time somewhere on one of the big mountain stages.

Mark Cavendish should make it to Paris this year and I would be surprised if he doesn't have the green jersey on when he takes his first win on the Champs-Élysées. The last minute reinstatement of Tom Boonen should make things more interesting, but I can't see anyone challenging Cavendish in a straight-up sprint. His team is too well organised and he is just too fast. The margins won't be as big this year, but they will still be more than enough.

So here they are, my predictions for all three jerseys. Feel free to add your own in the comments or just tell me where I've got it wrong. And if anyone fancies a shot at picking their own team try the SBS Fantasy Tour and see if you can beat CDMC Racing ...

1 Alberto Contador
2 Andy Schleck
3 Cadel Evans
4 Lance Armstrong
5 Carlos Sastre

1 Mark Cavendish
2 Tom Boonen
3 Thor Hushovd

1 Carlos Sastre
2 Andy Schleck
3 Alberto Contador