Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Paris - Nice Stage 8

You had to feel sorry for Alberto Contador: after an absolutely disastrous Stage 7, where he bonked with about 7 km to go, he made an incredibly brave, but ultimately futile, attack on the yellow jersey in Stage 8. At the finish, 
Antonio Colom of Katusha outsprinted Contador for the stage win, but more importantly, Luis Leon Sanchez came in only 17 seconds later to ensure his overall win.
Sanchez, and his Caisse d'Epargne Team, did a fantastic job of controlling the race, and never allowed the break to get more than 2 minutes ahead. This was, in my opinion, one of the best Paris - Nice races we've seen in some time, full of attacks, tactical riding and a leadership changing almost daily.
Final general classification
1 Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne         30.53.51
2 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank                      1.00
3 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step                          1.09
4 Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana                               1.24
5 Antonio Colom (Spa) Team Katusha                         1.47
6 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo Bank                            1.59
7 Kevin Seeldrayers (Bel) Quick Step                          2.29
8 Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Skil-Shimano                          2.57
9 Yury Trofimov (Rus) BBox Bouygues Telecom             3.37
10 Mevel Christophe Le (Fra) Française Des Jeux          4.00

 It was not to be for Contador and his much vaunted Astana Team, and I'm sure that not making the podium will not sit well with the team, but for Alberto this is still early in the season; his target this year is the Tour de France. I was a little surprised how easily he was isolated from his team, but I'm sure he will have a stronger, more focussed team around him come July. And I'm sure we will see that in action in 2 months time at the Giro, where Lance Armstrong will have the job of defending Contador's 2008 victory, and there's no-one in the sport better at motivating a team to work for it's lead rider than the 7-times Tour de France winner.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Paris - Nice Stages 5 - 7

Stage 5
Young Jérémy Roy of Française Des Jeux des Jeux took his first professional win in a stage that was well controlled by Sylvain Chavanel's Quick Step Team; no change to the top of the leaderboard.

Stage 6

Alberto Contador (Astana) at last showed the kind of form that won him the Tour de France in 2007. 5km from the top of the climb to the difficult mountain top finish he attacked his remaining companions, Luis León Sánchez and Fränk Schleck, and took nearly a minute off them before the finish. Chavanel lost almost two minutes, and Contador took the yellow jersey back in an emphatic show of his climbing prowess.

Stage 7

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) attacked with 20km to go, and soon opened a gap of 25 seconds. Contador was left to do much of the chasing alone, and found him isolated from his team and he chased hard with Colom, Sánchez  and Schleck in tow. Sánchez rode hard and managed to open the gap on his chasers to over 50 seconds when Colom attacked, with leass than 5km to go. Sánchez and Schleck followed, but Contador was left stranded; the long chase have depleted his energy levels. It was a sad sight to see the yellow jersey being caught and left for dead by the peleton up the final drag to the finish, but I'm sure Sánchez was revelling in his compatriot's misfortune, as he finished 50 seconds clear of the Colom and Schleck, and took an incredible 2:53 out of the yellow jersey. Contador was visibly distressed after he crossed the line and was quickly attended to by his team soigneur.

With only stage 8 to go, it looks like Sánchez's race to lose, but with another tough day and 3 more Cat-1 climbs to go, the strain of today's solo effort might come back to bite!

General classification after stage 7
1 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne             28.05.45
2 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step                             1.09
3 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank                         1.21
4 Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana                                 1.50
5 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo Bank                              1.59
6 Antonio Colom (Spa) Team Katusha                           2.16
7 Kevin Seeldrayers (Bel) Quick Step                            2.29
8 Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Skil-Shimano                            2.57
9 Yury Trofimov (Rus) BBox Bouygues Telecom               3.37
10 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française Des Jeux            4.00

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Paris - Nice Stage 4

Christian Vande Velde (Garmin - Slipstream) attacked the break with 20km to go, and soloed to a well deserved win in Stage 4 from Vichy - Saint-Étienne. Alberto Contador attacked Sylvain Chavanel, the yellow jersey holder, on the final climb of the day, and quickly opened up a gap which he held on to to the finish. This brings Contador back to within 0:36 of Chavenel, who now only has 0:06 over Rabobank's Juan Manuel Garate.
Stage 5 includes a Cat-1 climb, as well as 3 Cat-2 climbs, so expect more attacks from Contador, and more changes to the leaderboard.
This is turning out to be a very interesting race indeed!
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Paris - Nice Stage 3

Wow, did I ever get it wrong yesterday. After the peleton managed to chase down the early break another split occurred, and this time Alberto Contador was on the wrong side of it. It eventually came down to a 7-man dash for the line, and 
Sylvain Chavanel of Quick Step took the win in a group that included 3 Rabobank riders. The gap back to Contador's group was 1:09, dropping him back to 6th overall, with Sylvain Chavanel taking over the yellow jersey.
Another day of rolling hills in Stage 4, with 6 Cat-3 climbs, so expect more of the same, and another leaderboard shuffle if Quick Step don't control the race.

General classification after stage 3
1 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step                9.29.24
2 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Rabobank                 0.33
3 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Rabobank                 0.36
4 Kevin Seeldrayers (Bel) Quick Step                   0.37
5 Jürgen Roelandts (Bel) Silence-Lotto                 0.40
6 Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana                        1.03
7 Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne         1.12
8 Stéphane Auge (Fra) Cofidis                            1.14
9 David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream                1.17
10 Antonio Colom (Spa) Team Katusha                 1.22

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Paris - Nice Stage 2

The second stage from Saint-Brisson-sur-Loire to La Chapelle-Saint-Ursin ended in a bunch sprint, and it was Cervélo's Heinrich Haussler who got it right on the day, and took his 3rd win of the season.
Alberto Contador had a bit of a scare when there was a crash immediately in front of him. Luckily for him he managed to avoid it, and as it occurred within the final 3km, he was penalised on time.
The leaderboard remains much the same, and with three cat-3 climbs tomorrow it is likely to be another bunch sprint, so expect Contador to remain in the yellow jersey.

General classification after stage 2
1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana                           4.56.06
2 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream             0.07
3 Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne            0.09
4 Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia - Highroad          0.11
5 David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream                    0.14
6 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank                          0.18
7 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step                        0.19
8 Antonio Colom (Spa) Team Katusha
9 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Cervélo TestTeam              0.20
10 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team Katusha                   0.21

Monday, March 9, 2009

Paris - Nice Stage 1

The biggest news in cycling this year is the return to the peleton of Lance Armstrong, 7-times Tour de France winner. And the question on everybody's lips is who will be the leader of the Astana team come July? The reason for that, is that Astana is also the team of one Alberto Contador, winner of the Tour de France in 2007, and the only (in my opinion) deserving winner since Lance's retirement after the '05 edition. Lance has stated that it will be whoever has the best form, and he doesn't mind riding in support of Contador.
What has this got to do with Paris-Nice? Well Alberto Contador surprised even himself in the opening 9,3km ITT when he blew away the rest of a very quality field in treacherous conditions. Persistent rain fell on the field, as Sylvain Chavanel's early lead was trounced by Britain's prologue specialist, Bradley Wiggins from Garmin-Slipstream. However, none could match the pace of Contador as he took 7 seconds out of Wiggins' time.
Watch out Lance fans, if this is a sign of Contador's form, Lance may just be riding in that support role.
General classification after stage 1
 1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana                            11.05
2 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream              0.07
3 Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne               0.09
4 Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia - Highroad            0.11
5 David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream                     0.14
6 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank                             0.18
7 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step                           0.19
8 Antonio Colom (Spa) Team Katusha                           
9 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team Katusha                      0.21
10 Rémi Pauriol (Fra) Cofidis                                     0.22

The Argus
On the local front, South Africa's biggest cycling event, the Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour (or just "The Argus" for most people) took place yesterday, Sunday 8 March. Held in deadful conditions, with the south-easter pumping, it was Arran Brown of Team Medscheme who took the sprint, despite the dominance of Team Barloworld throughout the 109km race.
However, far more important than the overall winner, was the performance of the approximately 35,000 entrants in this race. Seeing the weather conditions, with gale-force winds (reportedly gusting at up to 140km/h!), I wouldn't have blamed anyone for staying at home, but officially 25,600 made the effort. I know I was glad I had stayed at home this year, but if you were there, I would love to hear about you experience.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

U2 - No Line On The Horizon

I'm not a music reviewer, nor could I be. I'm the first to admit that I'm tone deaf, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't have an opinion. I know what I like, and I like U2's 2009 album release No Line On The Horizon.
If you're looking for reviews, here is one that is positive, and here is one that isn't; this post is just my (very humble) opinion. 
This is U2's 12th studio album, in a career that into its 33rd year, and their first since How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb in 2004. Many reviewers are claiming this to be their best album since Achtung Baby in 1991, and I certainly agree, although I have enjoyed every one of U2's albums.
U2 have experimented a bit on this album, but not too much. The result is a freshness in their sound that keeps them at the forefront of rock music. This album has it all; from the hard-rock of "Breathe" to ballads like "White as Snow", and everything in between. The first single from the album is "Get on Your Boots", but I think it is probably my least favourite track, so if you've heard it on the radio, please don't jump to the conclusion that the whole album is the same; it's not. This is a great album, and any fan of rock music should have it in their collection.

Thanks for reading.