This is a guest post by Mr.Q, a professional quizmaster and an ardent Tour de France fan who is reporting his 4th tour
On a slightly uphill course with a false flat, it was Lotto Belisol’s Andre “Gorilla” Greipel roar of delight that was heard at the end of the stage on the 6th day of the Tour de France 2012, as for the second consecutive day, he finished of the race by winning the stage with a perfect run to finish line.
The 5throad Stage of the 99th Tour de France started of from Rouento Saint-Quentin, a distance of 197kms, with all the 195 riders who finished yesterday.
Over the last few years, it has been noticed that every year – either in the week preceding the tour start or in first week of the tour, somehow or the other, some explosive new allegation about drug usage by former 7 time TdF champion Lance Armstrong will crop up. And this time just as the first week is ending, comes the new claim by a Dutch Media house that, 5 former ridersassociated with Armstrong, 4 of them riding the current tour and one a team owner on the tour have given evidence against Armstrong, in return for suspended sentences starting in September, after the main Grand tours are over for the year!!
According to the story, George Hincapie of BMC Racing Team, Levi Leipheimer of Omega Pharma Quick Step, Dave Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde of Garmin-Sharp along with Garmin-Sharp owner Jonathan Vaughters have given evidence to USADA. Vaughters did put out a refusal statement & tweeted “Regarding the Dutch media report: No six months suspensions have been given to any member of Slipstream Sports. Today or at any future date.”
Only Hincapie reacted to the allegation with the statement, “I am just disappointed that this has been brought up again. I feel like I have always tried to do the right thing for the sport. Right now I am here to do my job and I am just going to try to focus on that. Cadel obviously is focused on winning the Tour and I am here to try to help him do that. I am going to continue to do that and to try not to let anything get in my mind beside that.” He added that, “Lance has done so many things for the sport. His accomplishments are incredible, what he has achieved in the sport of cycling, the attention he has brought to the sport of cycling, what he has done for the cancer society is honourable.”
What remains to be seen is how far this new revelation will stay on the news headlines, for just like the years before, as soon as the tour gets over, all such news subside, only to raise its head the next year!!
Meanwhile, in the race for the 5th stage Matthieu Ladagnous of FDJ-BigMat was the first to race away. Soon, he was joined by the trio of Pablo Urtasun of Euskaltel-Euskadi, Julien Simon of Saur-Sojasun and Jan Ghyselinck of Cofidis. Together, these four kept a high pace through out the stage and in the end were almost able to achieve a breakaway’s dream of winning the stage, as they were caught by the raging peleton only in the final 300m of the race.
With no climbs for the day, the King of the Mountains competition was not on for the day, and with no cross winds also to disturb the free flow of the peleton, the pace was nice and easy for the whole peleton to have a slightly relaxed ride. The RadioShack Nissan led peleton again did their job to perfection and kept Fabian Cancellara for another day in the Yellow Jersey, a record 27th day for a non winner of the tour.The only intermediate sprint was again a repeat of yesterday with Cavendish bagging the majority of the points on offer for the Green Jersey. Goss, Renshaw & Sagan were also richer by a few points.
One casualty for the day was the withdrawal of Argos-Shimano rider Marcel Kittel, who after suffering for 4 days, with fever & stomach pain due to a virus infection, finally threw in his towel and called it a day. Sad for the debutant, 22 year old sprinter who, if on form would have been a revelation, contesting Sagan for the limelight, at all stages. Hope he makes it back for 2013 tour.
Just like yesterday, as the peleton continued to knockdown the gap between the breakaway and themselves, the sprinters teams were all lining up their riders out at the front. This again brought to the front, all the nervousness and bristling energy of the peleton, and just like yesterday, a rider induced, mishap occurred. Today it happened when Tom Veeters of Argos-Shimano was shoulder to shoulder with Tyler Farrer of Garmin Sharp when a Lampre ISD rider moved on Farrer’s right, who in turn had no where to go, but tumble down and soon a huge pile up was on the road. (After the race Farrer tried rushing into the Argos-Shimano bus and settle his score, but was prevented by the team staff. Tom Veeters of Argos Shimano put out the following statement as a clarification – “Tyler wanted to get in the wheel of Koen de Kort (Argos-Shamano), but I was already there. He didn’t respect my train, but that’s his problem. I get why he’s upset, because a crash is never very pleasant.”)
Today’s pile up also caught the Green Jersey of Sagan in the wrong place and this crash resulted in him missing some important points. But the highlight of the race was also the show of strength by Team Sky for its road race world champion Mark Cavendish, as they lined up in full numbers to make the train, which kept the pace up ahead at the front and drove the race into the final kms. Yesterday’s crash was seen by many as being due to the lack of support being shown to Cavendish & Eisel, who in order to win took some risks and ended up on the tarmac. This dedication of the team was heart warming for all Cavendish fans, including yours truly, something which I had blogged at the very outset in my post on Stage 2 …“wonder what he meant by this statement, for me thinks, he is telling his team that, you have to back someone who is delivering, rather than focus on someone who can?? Only time will tell..:)
In the end, the well-set Lotto Belisol team train again chugged into the final stretch with Greg Henderson leading out Greipel, and by the time the Gorilla got going, it was very clear that no one would be able to beat him today. Matt Goss of Orica Greenedge was also delivered perfectly by his team, but he began his sprint run a bit too early and faded away at the finish. Team Sky train did do what was planned, but Cavendish was left of a little bit at the back and by the time he kicked in Greipel was already gone, and Cavendish found that his legs were not up to it after yesterday’s pounding on the tarmac and came in fifth.
The leader board and the Jersey owners all continue unchanged for another day. The Yellow Jersey of the race leader continues with Fabian Cancellara of RadioShack Nissan. The Green Jersey for thepoints leader continues with Peter Sagan of Liqigas Cannondale. The White Jersey, for the best young rider continues withTejay Van Garderen of BMC Racing team, while Michael Mørkøv of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank retains the King of the Mountain Polka dotted Jersey.
Stage winner Greipel said, “I’ve won again a stage in the Tour de France. It was a bit crazy because I was behind the crash with 3 kms to go, but Greg Henderson was waiting for me,” Greipel said of his lead out man. “He brought me back in the train. The Lotto-Belisol train was working perfectly again. It was a really hard sprint uphill. I think it was one of the hardest sprints I’ve ever done.”
The Yellow Jersey of Fabian Cancellarasaid “This run in yellow has been very enjoyable. After my crash early in the season I had to modify some of my goals, but I kept training hard and it has paid off. It’s pretty awesome! This has taken a lot of pressure off our team. In the second week of the Tour, we can continue with less pressure. It was a great opportunity for us and we’ve taken maximum advantage of that. The team has performed so well.”
On being queried by the media about winning the Tour, he stated very eloquently, “No, no, winning the Tour de France is a dream, not a goal. I’ve had yellow jerseys on 26 days and that is a record for someone that doesn’t go on to win. I hope to keep this record until the end of my career. I can’t win the Tour but I’m happy to make history in the Tour this way. My next goal in the Olympics.”
The finishing town of Saint-Quentin, named so after a Roman Christian who came to evangelize the region and was martyred in Augusta, also has a very interesting Butterfly museum with a collection of over 600,000 of which more than 20,000 of them are on display. Hope the lepidopterist in you has a field day!!
And for the foodies, good seafood is on offer, but do try the Maroilles Cheese Pie or as the locals would call it – Tarte au Maroilles,which is a traditional French recipe, from the North of France, for a classic pizza-like pie made from a pizza base and filled with chopped maroilles cheese and cremefraiche.
Tomorrow, the 6thStage of this year’s TdF is from Epernay & ends at
Metz, a distance of 210kms.Me thinks, it will be a bunch sprint again. Will it be the 3rdvictory roar for Greipel or can Cavendish recover from the fall and win it again for his team. But, watch out for the breakaway, for tomorrow there is a Category 4 climb, something which all sprinters teams will try and pace it out, but it all depends on the composition of the breakaways. Is Vinokourov listening??
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