13, not unlucky for everyone

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. This could be Alexandre Vinokourov’s leitmotif. After the disappointment of yesterday’s 3rd place, Vino seized his chance again today and was deservedly rewarded.

Today’s 196km stage from Rodez to Revel was probably the last opportunity for a baroudeur to win ahead of the Pyrenees. While it wasn’t billed as a difficult stage, the final climb up Saint-Ferreol, close to the finish line, rather predicated against a mass sprint.

But nor was it an easy stage. A high pace and wind, made it more of a nervous one. Vigilance was the watchword. Alexandre Vinokourov kept protectively close to Contador for most of it.

After the peloton had caught the day’s escapees (Fedrigo, Flecha and Chavanel) with 10km to go, the sprinters’ teams, who had done most of the work on the front today, were getting themselves organised for the run in to the finish. At 8.5km to go,  Alessandro Ballan took a flyer off the front and established a small lead. Others followed, including Vino, who passed Ballan with 7.5km remaining  and set off towards the summit. He quickly established a lead of almost 20 seconds over the peloton.

Thomas Voeckler also tried his hand but, like Ballan, was soon reeled back in. Vino was still just ahead of the advancing riders, who were lining up their sprinters, as he approached the finish line. Fortunately, he had enough time in hand to enjoy the sensation of winning.

Brothers in arms

I had been shrieking at the top of my voice at the television, encouraging Vino, just willing him across the line. OK, I know he couldn’t hear me but it’s so exciting watching someone you know win. And what a well deserved win. I was so pleased for him, and so was Alberto Contador who was the first of his team mates to warmly congratulate him. Chapeau Vino!

Putting your foot in it

I got back from my trip to St Raphael feeling pleasurably fatigued and sank gratefully into my spa bath to soothe my aching parts. I really don’t use it often enough. Generally because, when I return from a ride, I’m endeavouring to produce sustenance for my beloved as soon as he emerges from his ablutions.

Given that a little R&R was in order, I donned my fleecy tracksuit, flopped onto the sofa and picked up this month’s copy of Velo Magazine which had been delivered  LAST WEEK and had remained unread. What can I say? Too much to do.

There’s a picture of Cav on the front, sporting a beard, endeavouring to look mean and moody and failing. This month’s a bit of a bumper issue as, among other things, it contains details of all the French cyclosportifs, a team guide, the season’s calendar, features on afore-mentioned Cav and Boassen Hagen plus a list of the 50 top cyclists most likely to be hitting the headlines this season. I thought I’d check out this list to see if we’re in accord.

Their top 3 are Bert, Cav and Lance. I think that’s wishful thinking. Whichever continent you’re on, Lance generates more news than all the other riders put together. This is obviously a French perspective and they’re assuming (and why wouldn’t you) that Bert is going to retain his Tour title while Cav is going to win loads of sprints.  The next three, in order, are Schleck the Younger, Fabulous Fabian and Cuddles Evans – hard to disagree there. They’ve ranked Philippe Gilbert (7th) ahead of Tom Boonen (11th). I’m not sure I agree with that one. Though, to be fair, Tom is probably hoping for more coverage of his cycling, rather than non-cycling, activities than last year.

Surprisingly, there’s a dearth of Frenchmen in the top 50. First up in 25th place is the U23 Road Race Champion, Romain Sicard who this season will be riding as a neo-pro for the boys in orange, Euskatel-Euskadi. Just behind him in 28th place is Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step), the so-called French housewives’ favourite. Christophe Le Mevel (FDJ), 10th last year in the Dauphine and Tour, is only in 37th place. There are three further Frenchmen bringing up the rear: Brice Feillu (Vacansoleil), the younger of the brothers, is 42nd, 45th is Pierre Rolland (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) and Anthony Roux (FDJ) is 48th. No place for Amael Moinard, David Moncoutie, Tommy Voekler, Pierrick Fedrigo, Romain Feillu or, indeed, the Frenchman who’s garnered the most column inches to date, the viral celebrity, young Arthur Vichot (FDJ).

Turning next to the team guide, I check out the new teams and kit changes. By and large, I favour simple colour schemes which are easy to pick out in the peloton: such as, Cervelo, BMC, Sky and FDJ. Omega Pharma Lotto’s shirt is a big improvement on previous years.  I rather like the retro styling and black shorts for Quick Step, but the shorts are too short. Quel horreur, what were the folks at Footon-Servetto thinking? There’s an Italian team (Carminooro NGC) who wear a black kit edged in gold which looks quite classy. Though it would look even classier if  they dropped the outline round the crotch. 

Better in black

If only Footon-Servetto had gone for all black shorts. I really feel for those boys. You just know that those “gold” shorts are going to look “nude”  and turn see-through in the wet. You have been warned.