A Word about Mark Cavendish

25 07 2011

Sprinters have always been my favourite types of cyclist.  Watching the tour when I was young formed this opinion.  The sheer speed and danger of the final Kilometer of the race was what made it exciting for me and it still does.

Djamolidine Abdoujaparov (aka the Tashkent Terror) got me started, I even named a goldfish after him. After him, names like Chippolini and Zabel were who I looked for in the results.  Now however, all of these have been blown away by Mark Cavendish.  Fresh from his 5th stage win in this years tour and 20th stage win altogether he became the 5th highest stage winner of all time.  

People call him big-headed, but I think that they get it confused with confidence, and what is wrong with having a bit of confidence.  It is so un-British I guess, but its about time we felt we could boast about something.  The nation (and the Isle of Man in particular) has a sports Superstar to be proud of.  But Cav’s wins are more than just him, he will be the first to tell you that, his HTC team have got his lead outs to a fine art, and are always the first to be thanked.  Bernie Eisel and Mark Renshaw are the 2 best lead out men in the world and Cav wouldn’t have been as much of a sucess without them (although I don’t doubt he would have still been a success and a multiple stage winner).

David Miller the Garmin-Cervelo rider is right when he says that Cav should be seen in the same light as David Beckham.  He is a true superstar, revered in nations where cycling as a sport has a higher profile. 

Anyway, Legend.


Thoughts on Le Tour 2011

22 07 2011

I have been a bit slack posting things on here of late, with lots of things going on to distract me.  One of them being Le Tour De France.  Pretty much everything stops while this is on and the 7pm nightly highlights become part of my life for 3 weeks in July.  It has been this way since the eighties. Phil Ligget, Paul Sherwen, Gary Imlach, Ned Boulting and Chris Boardman provide the soundtrack of 21 Days. 

This year has been something special for the armchair cycling fan, I can’t ever remember a tour that has been this open.  With 3 stages left any of the top 5 riders could conceivably still take the yellow jersey in Paris on Sunday.  So through the flat stages and the dominance of Mark Cavendish  (what a legend now with 20 Tour stage wins), the 2 stage wins for Edvald Bosson Hagen (who rides for Team Sky, so is an honorary Brit in my eyes), World Champion Thor Hushovd taking 2 breakaway stages, Andy Schleck taking the mammoth stage to the Col du Galibier and a huge chunk of time out of the current leader Thomas Voeckler.  There is a lot that you can say about little Tommy V’s heroics this year, keeping the Yellow through the Pyreneese and into the Alps and keeping himself in contention still.  The effort has been amazing and I hope he keeps a place on the podium.  He won’t win, but I hope he is there. All of this has gone on to make this a great version of the greatest stage race.

The final 3 stages will shape the Tour’s podium and an Alp d’Heuz finish today and a time trial tomorrow will provide the Yellow Jersey (please not Cadel Evans).  The final stage to the Champs Eleysee in Paris will provide the ideal stage for Cav to claim the Green Jersey, providing he gets over the final mountains.

This month has provided more sporting excitement than any football/rugby/cricket/F1 season than I can think of and is an ideal armchair sports fans viewing.  Allez Le Tour.

Le Tour 2010

26 07 2010

This was one of the best Tour De France ever, the battle between Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador kept going until the Time Trial on the 2nd to last stage. 

Sadly for me being in Scotland I had missed the first 2 weeks when most of the excitement happened, with the carnage on the cobbles of Belgium, Renshaws disqualification for headbutting, Cadel Evans crying (I really don’t like the man) and Lance Armstrong having a nightmare in his final tour. 

I did see the Pyraneese though and had there not been a technical hitch with Andy Schleck’s bike, I am convinced he would have won the tour. 

Still, well done Alberto, I have finally calmed down about your slightly dodgy move on Andy, but not the fact that your domestique Vino is an unrepentant drug cheat.

Also another 5 stages for Cav, he truly is a missile.  Team Sky didn’t have the best tour though, but they will learn.

Tour Finale

27 07 2009

Regarding the cycling, its been a fantastic tour for the British contingent.  Cav got his 6th stage win of this tour on the Champs Eleysee, and with that became the most successful British stage winner ever.   More impressively though was that Bradley Wiggins has turned himself from a time trial specialist to a genuine contender finishing 4th overall.  His climbing has come on in leaps and bounds and loosing weight but not power has been key for him.

Well done to both of them, as well as David Millar who had another solid tour and Charlie Wegelius competing for the first time.

Next year could be exciting with Team Sky hoping to compete with their strong British contingent.  I am doubtful as to whether any of the four this year will be racing for them, but you never know.

Here Comes The Train

16 07 2009

I have been watching the tour for a long time now, and I can’t remember another lead out train as good as Columbia Highroads.  I am sure that the teams of Chippolini, Abduzhaporov and Zabel were just as good, but I don’t seem to remember them.  Perhaps I am taking more notice as its Cav that is winning the stages.  4 in this years tour, and 8 Tour wins altogether have taken him above Barry Hoburn now.

More today?  Who knows.

2 In A Row

7 07 2009

So Cav took his 2nd stage in 2 days yesterday, taking advantage of some strong winds and even stronger riding from his team.

The road into La Grande Motte is notoriously windy at this time of the year and with the entire Team Columbia at the front making the pace, a split in the peloton was inevitable.  27 riders managed to move away from the bunch on a corner and take the race by the scruff of the neck.  In the group with Columbia were Lance Armstrong, and a couple of Astana riders as well as Fabien Cancellara the current yellow jersey holder.  This group opened a lead of 40 seconds over the bunch, and bought Armstrong on his return up to 3rd overall.  Surely now he must be staking his claim as Astana team leader, although the mountains will be the telling point.  I still think that the team will back Contador more.

Anyway, I digress, Mark Cavendish is a lucky man, not because he needs luck, he is by far the fastest rider about, but that he has a team that are willing to drag him to the line.  George Hincapie and Mark Renshaw are incredibly strong and some of the best lead out men in cycling.  Without them, Cav would have had his work cut out today.  Thor Husovd was close, but not close enough as Cav made it 2 from 2.  A British record 2nd day in green today for the him in the TTT awaits.

The Manx Missile

6 07 2009

SO the Tour de France has started again, with a mini time trial for stage 1 (too long to be a prologue)  won by Fabien Cancellara, and then stage 2, perfectly designed for the sprinters.  It was won by Mark Cavendish, the fastest man on the planet on a bike (Fact!).

He is still only 24, but has so far won 5 stages of the Tour (4 last year) and a host of other big races too.  He will break Barry Hoburns british record of 8 stage wins, possibly by the end of the week.

Yesterday he had the perfect lead out by his team, and it showed, he was so far ahead of second place by the end that you really should feel sorry for them.  Today might be slightly trickier though, with a team time trial tomorrow, his lead out men might be saving themselves for that, but if it came down to a full bunch sprint, then I would still back him. 

Admittedly yesterday he was probably helped by a bit of argy bargy in the peloton, causing Tom Boonen to take a wrong turn, but I still don’t think that would have stopped Cav getting to the line first. 

Anyway, back to work (answering a few emails while watching stage 3 on Eurosport).

Why I Love July (Also Called Make It 4)

18 07 2008

I actually love July for 3 reasons, the cricket, the football transfer merry-go-round (busy times for Pompey and I may write somthing about this soon) but mostly for Le Tour de France.

Firstly a few facts and figures:

  • First ridden in 1903 by 60 riders
  • Only 10 riders finished in 1919
  • 15 million spectators will line the roads during the race
  • The fastest average speed for the race is 41.654km/h won by Lance Armstrong in 2005
  • 144 British riders have taken part over the years
  • 2008 tour raced over 3500km over 21 stages

I am a big cycling fan and have been to see the great race 6 times. I was there when the great Miguel Indurain finally cracked in the alps, I have seen all of the greats of the nineties flying past at 60km an hour, The hour coverage with Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwin is some of the best commentary that you will hear, and its not all about the cycling, there is the whole spectacle of the tour caravan (a 20km procession of advertising, team cars, dignitaries, VIPs, TV crews and a few cyclists thrown in) and its getting exciting again now. There is a British rider doing not just well, but doing superbly. Mark Cavendish from the Isle of Man (with an ego about the same size) has until the 13th stage won 3 stages, he is without a doubt the fastest man in the world over the last 200m (a spped camera at the end of one of the stages clocked him at 74km an hour). No Briton has ever achieved 3 stage wins in the same tour before and only 6 have ever won stages.

Mark Cavendish takes his 3rd stage win.

Mark Cavendish takes his 3rd stage win.

Winning his third stage would normally have been huge news in the cycling world, but for the continuing depths that cycling is going to. I am completely disgusted by all of the doping that goes on, it makes a mockery out of the sport and what is the worlds premier endurance event. A third rider this year has been caught with traces of EPO in his blood, (all 3 of them had taken a varient of EPO (its called CERA) that has been undetectable before and is fairly advanced) Ricardo Ricco the young Italian had taken a brilliant stage win in the Pyrannese earlier in the tour but has now been shown to be a cheat, and he deserves all he gets. For those of you that don’t know, EPO increases red blood cells and therefore increases endurance.

I found this quote in the paper today, see if you can figure out what is wrong with it:

British cyclist David Millar summed up competitors’ feelings, saying: ‘It’s irresponsible. This guy does not have any love or care for the sport.”

The answer is, its by David Millar, who himself has served a 2 years ban for doping.

Anyway Saunier Duvall, Riccos team has now quit the tour, today they have sacked another of their riders for “Irregularities”. This is after the team manager guaranteed live on TV that these riders were clean…

Now in the tour, 3 teams independently test their riders, Mark Cavendish’s Columbia team are one of them. Cavendish was also the first rider to sign to the anti doping charter. Even though the guy has an ego that only rappers can equal, I like the guy, heis good, and he knows it. He is also quick to acknowledge the help that the team have given him. Without the domestiques (the dogsbody riders that fetch the leaders food and drinks, and lead out the sprinters) dragging his weary body over the haut catergorie climbs, he wouldn’t even have still been in the event, he would have been eliminated, so bonus points for that.

Anyway, big congratulations to Mark, to win a stage is a fantastic achievement, to win 3 is amazing. He isn’t sure if he is going to complete the tour, as he has to go off to the Olympics where he will hopefully bring back a gold in the Madison race.

OK, lets make that 4 (I was writing this as I was watching the coverage), he just won the 13th stage, and thats 2 stages in a row. From being boxed in with 150m to go to 2 bike lengths in front over the line is a completely amazing sprint. Especially leaving some of the best in the world for dead.