Thursday, July 29, 2010

Post Tour melancholy

So: now that the sleep deprivation has worn off and the dust has settled on the Champs-Élysées, what to make of Le Tour 2010? Well, for starters my predictions were about as bad as they have ever been. I got the winner right and that was it.

To be fair nobody else I saw managed to pick more than two out of the top five (oh, all right Monsieur Jean-Francois Quenet got three), but even so I would have done better if I had just republished last year's list.

The green jersey list would have been spot on if Petacchi had followed Cipollini's example and headed for the Riviera at the first sign of mountains and you ignore the fact that Robbie was placed below Rojas on a countback. And as for the mountains jersey, well the less said about that the better. I do find it sad that all the real mountain specialists don't seem interested in this classification anymore. They should just rename it the mediocre French journeyman's prize ...

Contador didn't seem to have the same form as last year and I would have loved to seen Schleck really attack him in the mountains. You also have to wonder what would have happened if Andy hadn't lost 42 seconds to Contador in the prologue. How could a serious GC contender lose so much time over 8.9 km? He even lost less time than that to Contador in the 52 km on the penultimate day.

Anyway, I seriously underestimated Schleck's form and if everything goes well for him you have to imagine him winning in the next year or two. And I drastically overestimated how strong Armstrong and Wiggins were – both were a big disappointment. Armstrong looked like he couldn't quite believe that his legs wouldn't keep up with the younger generation and he was unlucky at crucial points, but as Phil or Paul said, when lady luck gives up on you she really gives up. As for Wiggins he just never looked like a serious contender this year. I think the miscalculation on the opening prologue hit him hard psychologically and it will be interesting to see if he can get back in the top ten next year.

Rogers was an even bigger disappointment than Wiggins and Armstrong and, as he said himself near the end of the race, he just isn't cut out for the three week grand tours. Unlike a true GC contender who seems to get stronger as the race goes on you can just see Rogers fading away. Kreuziger did pretty well and I reckon you will see him on the podium before too long.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Song for Sunday

Laura Marling – Rambling Man

I am usually fairly immune to waify, singer/songwritery types, but this is rather lovely and has snuck in behind my defences over the last few weeks. The video reminds me of an old friend who lived in Brighton for a while, but only because of the swimming in the sea thing not the rambling or the suitcase or the birds or anything like that.

Band/artist of the week: The National
Song of the week: Rose Elinor Dougall – Find Me Out

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Song for Sunday

Blondie – Union City Blue

A golden oldie as they used to say when I listened to the radio. Even after 30 years I still love this song. They don't make videos like this anymore – interesting to see where the design for the Guantánamo jumpsuits came from though ...

Band/artist of the week: The National
Song of the week: Rose Elinor Dougall – Find Me Out

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tour de France 2010

Winning three Tours de France puts you in special club of cycling greats, joining Greg Lemond, Louison Bobet and Philippe Thys. Doing it at the age of 28 probably gives you another five or six attempts and a shot at all out legend status; looking towards the five Tours of Indurain, Hinault, Merckx and Anquetil and onwards to the dizzy heights of Armstrong's seven wins.

So, the question is can Contador win it again this year and join the club of greats? My answer would have to be ... probably. He is still the strongest rider, his preparation has been good and the course is so suited to him you almost have to wonder if Christian Prudhomme wants anyone else to win.

But. And there are a lot of buts. His team is nowhere near as strong or tactically astute as last year, the tensions and conflict will be gone, but will he have the support when he needs it? I doubt it, but even so I still can't see anyone else managing to get ahead of him. The tough Belgian stages in the first week will also be strange and unfamiliar, with the other favourites doing all they can to make him suffer. Even so, the lack of team time trial and just one individual time trial will play to Contador's strengths, as will the tough Pyrenean stages a few days before the end.

Until the race gets to the Pyrenees I think it is going to be one of the most open and interesting Tours we have seen for many years and there are more genuine challengers this year than I can ever remember, so who else will be joining Contador on the podium?

I think Armstrong will be next. He is looking stronger and more dangerous than last year. Radioshack is also a much stronger team than Astana and you can guarantee that they will work for Armstrong like no other team in the race. Also it is his last chance and if he has enough time on Contador before the Pyrenees, he could just hang on to make it eight. Unfortunately, unless Contador and Astana make mistakes I just can't see where he is going to gain enough time.

And moving up one place on 2009, I think Bradley Wiggins will be finishing on the podium for the first time. He looks ready, thinks he is in better form than last year and Team Sky are hungry to show that they can compete at the highest level with the best in the world.

After that there probably another ten riders that could round out the top five. The Schleck brothers still look strong, but I think Andy is not quite on his best form and Franck just isn't strong enough in the mountains. Cadel was very strong at the Giro, the lack of team time trial will be an even greater relief for him than Contador, but I think he will struggle to crack the top five. Michael Rogers on the other hand looks like he is in the form of his life and, although Columbia will be working hard to put Cavendish into the green jersey, I still think he will have enough support to strongly challenge for yellow. And in fifth, Roman Kreuziger, will show how much potential he has as well as wresting the white jersey from the shoulders of Andy Schleck.

1 Alberto Contador
2 Lance Armstrong
3 Bradley Wiggins
4 Michael Rogers
5 Roman Kreuziger

1 Mark Cavendish
2 Thor Hushovd
3 Robbie McEwen

1 Carlos Sastre
2 Luis León Sánchez
3 Cadel Evans

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fozz for Oz

Down to the last eight ... 75% hit rate on my group stage predictions ... still looking good for Argentina, but sadly not against Spain in the final as I thought. Could it be an all South American final? Quite likely ...

However, my attention is going to be elsewhere come Saturday as the greatest annual sporting event gets underway in Rotterdam. Plenty more to come on that over the next few days, but first I just had to throw my considerable influence behind the push for the FFA to appoint Craig Foster as the next Australian manager. Yes, I know he didn't really play at the highest level, has never coached anywhere and it would be terrible to lose him from the SBS team of experts, but (and most importantly after the Verbeek fiasco) you have to admit that he has the hair to take Australia at least as far as the quarter finals. I rest my case.