What we learned from the first week of Le Tour 2009

1. If you were expecting the GC to be exciting and to change hands like it did last year, then you were mistaken.

Once Cancellara bagged jaune in Monaco it was going to be tough to shift him until the mountains. Saxo Bank did work on the front protecting it and getting the sponsor plenty of talk time. Perhaps they’ve spent a little more time at the front than they would have liked but that’s not their fault (see 2.)

2. The sprinters have decided that they’re not going to waste their energy going wheel-to-wheel with Cavendish and Columbia.

Nobody seemed interested in helping them reel in breaks and yet they still couldn’t beat them come the finish. In fact, Garmin blew their chances of putting a man into yellow when they got caught behind the gap when the wind changed.

Thor Hushovd showed enough savvy to be in the mix at the line so that he could pick off the green jersey with a strong ride on a hill stage to sweep up intermediate points. Cavendish may find he has to dig deep and do likewise if he harbours ambitions of reclaiming the jersey and holding it to Paris. And let’s face it, much as he protests, he’s a stubborn and driven blighter who is still in second place, a position he will never learn to live with.

So they’re not going to beat Cavendish in a drag race but a sprint is as much about position as power. If they can limit the space Cav has to launch himself off Mark Renshaw’s wheel then they have the opportunity to beat him. Easier said than done but if they don’t then they’ll never beat him. It worked for Petacchi at the Giro after all.

3. Not all opportunities are equal.

Service Course makes the following very good point:

“So, if Lance Armstrong (Astana) spots an opportunity to gain a little time on other GC contenders, teammates included, and spends a bit of his and the team’s energy to exploit that opportunity, that’s smart, heads up riding.”

“If Alberto Contador (Astana) spots an opportunity to gain a little time on other GC contenders, teammates included, and spends a bit of his energy to exploit that opportunity, that’s worth several interviews worth of indignant grumbling about how it assuredly wasn’t “part of the plan.”

Read the full post “Pyrenean Procrastination” on Service Course

4. Brad Wiggins can climb with the best.

Proof if ever any were needed that putting down the pork pie and pint can make a considerable difference. He’s now 72kg instead of 78-80kg he was when he considered himself a track rider. At last he is a genuine road rider and a potential podium finisher in Grand Tours. Not quite a Grand Tour winner yet, but with a bit of experience, it’s not an unrealistic goal is it?

I’ve lost about 5kg since Easter, although it fluctuates outrageously depending on “water weight” and I find going up hills easier. I’m currently stuck on around 75kg with an ambition to get down to 70kg which is frankly about as realistic a goal as me suddenly developing into a world-class rider.

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