This is a guest post by Mr.Q, a professional quizmaster and an ardent Tour de France fan who is reporting his 4th tour
Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky, showed today, why he is being billed as the most certain bet, to win in the tour, to win this year’s TdF. In a race stage where, the current time trial world champion along with a very in form former 4 times time trial world champion were supposed to be the hottest items, Wiggins rode at a phenomenal pace to win by a huge margin, crushing all opponents. While doing so, he also rode away from the reigning champion Cadel Evans in the race for the overall title.
The 9th road Stage of the 99th Tour de France was from Arc-et-Senans to Besancon, a distance of 41.5kms and was a time trial. After a prologue, which was a short individual time trial, this is the first of the two time trials of this year’s TdF. With the race poised keenly, it was not about who will win the stage today, but how much time will Wiggins put into Evans, that was being debated & discussed amongst the cycling aficionados across the globe. For the record, only 178 riders rode today’s stage.
For those, who would like to know a little bit about this aspect of road racing, it’s a race against time. A time trial is a on a course which is pre-designated and can be held as a solo ride as well as a team event. As a solo ride event, its each rider for himself. He has to ride all alone, from the beginning to the end, with no other support systems. Usually, the time trial starts with the lowest ranked rider starting out first. Followed by the next rider in the ranking above him, and so on till the last rider, who will be the leader of the race at that point of time. There is usually a time gap of 1,2 or 3 minutes between the riders, depending on the length of the race course. The rider who takes the least amount of time to cover the course is the winner. Its in essence, a pure sporting event, where the rider faces all the challenges by himself, the weather, the course, the crowd,…etc. In the event of a rider catching up with another rider, who has started before him, he has to overtake the other rider and carry on at his pace, while the overtaken rider is not allowed to follow in the wake of the speeding rider.
The race started with Brice Feillu of Vacansoleil-DCM, as the first rider on the course. His time was soon over taken by his teammate Gustav Larsson, the Swedish champion, who finished in 54’19”. After a few riders, who did not disturb the leader board, it was again another Vacansoleil-DMC rider, Lieuwe Westra, who went faster. But then came around the TT World Champion, Tony Martin of OmegaPharma – QuickStep, who despite a broken bone in his wrist rode the course in 53’40”.
In time came Fabian Cancellara of RadioShack Nissan, who won the prologue on the opening day, and who was labeled by many, including yours truly, as the man to beat at the TT today. He did ride a blistering race and finished 52’21” and at that time looked set to win the stage. But even before he could settle down, Tejay van Garderen of BMC was seen racing across the course ahead of Cancellara’s time. In the end, he did taper off and came in 9secs slower than Cancellara.
But the drama of the day was just beginning. Chris Froome of Team Sky, a rider, who had crashed at the world championships, started of in a flying mode, and soon was seen breaking Cancellara’s time at the very first time check spot. He continued to ride the whole course at the same speed, and came in at 51’59”, a time which was commendable, as he was besting Cancellara by almost 20secs!!
In the meanwhile, the top three riders of the tour had also started out and though Nibali & Evans rode competently, it was the aggression of Wiggins, which was the feature of the race. Nibali rode the course in 53’31”, while Evans came in at 53’07”. At the finish line, it was Wiggins who was timedin at 51’24”, an astonishing time, which gave him an average speed of 48.4kmph,which won him the stage!
So now having put in time into Evans, Wiggins also wins his first ever tour stage in his 6th attempt at the tour. He not only consolidates his Yellow Jersey, but also lays the marker down for Evans & Nibali, who will now both be plotting, on how to beat this British rider, who seems to be a sure shot at winning this year’s tour. Though, it must be said that, at this stage, the tour is not even half way into its course, the Alps & the Pyrenees are yet to come, it will be a brave man who will lock Wiggins as the ultimate winner, for anything can still happen.
The leader board changed due to Froome’s excellent ride. Wiggins now leads the race, with Evans behind him by 1’53”, followed by Froome, another 14secs behind. Nibali & Menchov round off the top five overall.The Yellow Jersey of the race leader continues with Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky. The Green Jersey for the points leader continues with Peter Sagan of Liqigas Cannondale. The White Jersey, for the best young rider changes to Tejay van Garderen of BMC Racingteam, while Fredrick Kessiakoff of Team Astana continues in the King of the Mountain polka dotted Jersey.
White Jersey wearer Tejay van Garderen of BMC Racing said, “You’ve seen the fight with me and Taaramae – I was three minutes down and, all of a sudden, I’m back in White. Cadel is a fighter and he’ll fight for every inch and every second. I still believe that Cadel is going to be in Yellow in Paris. I think we just need to remain calm and not get down. We have to keep doing what we’ve been doing. Cadel is still in fantastic shape and he’s going to pull back time.”
Bradley Wiggins, the Yellow jersey wearer, after winning his first ever stage in TdF said,“ I just go out there and concentrate myself and do the ride. It’s all still a bit of a haze. I’ve won the stage, which is almost forgotten about as it was all about the GC and the battle – watching for Cadel, Vincenzo and those guys.”
“I’m just really pleased with the way I put the ride together and mentally the way I put the day together. The noise when I rolled off the ramp was incredible and not letting that phase me in terms of going off too hard. At the moment its just relief and I’m proud of myself for doing that. It’s fortunate we’ve got a rest day tomorrow so there’s a bit more time to let it sink in before we are back on the road in two days’ time.”
On the team strategy with Froome, he added,“We’ll just continue what we’ve been doing since the start. Me and Chris have been riding shotgun for most of the stage. The intention of the start of the race was, as last year when I crashed out we didn’t have a back-up plan. We’ll just continue what we’re doing and keeping Chris there as long as possible. It’s just taking it one day at a time, seeing where we go from here.”
The race tomorrow has a day off. On the 11th of July 2012, the 10th stage of TdF will be from Mâcon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, a distance of 194.5kms. Me thinks,the breakaway can stay away, if provided we have some top name escaping tomorrow. With the Grand Colombier, coming in almost 43kms before the finish line, the leaders will be split on the climb, that’s for sure, who will come back into the leading pack on the descent will be the point to note, for if they don’t bridge back, then the leading pack might stay away for the remain race and claim a victory. Watch this space tomorrow for another epic story of the tour as it unfolds…:)
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