Coaches' Blog

Coach Ainslie

Phew! Roller coaster couple of days at the Tour de France. The GC favorites remain firmly in their respective places. However, we did see some exciting racing out of them and some of the pretenders to the throne.

Yesterday was another difficult climbing day. The race took in 4 climbs that culminated in the Plateau de Beille. The mountain top finish shook loose any hangers on and the men that came to the finish were the true hard men of the Tour. This stage was won by the crafty Joaquim Rodriguez with the Katusha squad. This is his 2nd win at this years Tour and he was obviously thrilled with his victory. 

Among the GC men we saw Contador throw down an attack without success. Froome's leuitentant Porte showed remarkable restraint and maturity in just holding his pace and slowly dragging back all comers instead of reacting too quickly and upping the pace. This was a demonstration of experience and maturity. 

Today saw a stage with a somewhat flatter profile. The finish was not as flat as some of the sprinters would have liked and this narrowed down the number of men who came to the finish together. Ultimately we saw Vanavaermat and Sagan come to the line together with Vanavaermat getting there first. GV is one of my favorite riders and I'm glad to see him get a well deserved stage win. Sagan once again could only manage 2nd and his sprint looked somewhat dulled. We've seen similar examples throughout this race and my guess is that what we're seeing with him is sprinter transitioning to a stage race rider. We saw this in the past with Laurent Jalabert.

The other notable happening today was JC Peraud falling after crossing wheels in the middle of the field. He took a hard fall and got pretty torn up. He was slow to remount his bike and then spent a considerable amount of time getting back to the group. However, Peraud wins my "class act" award for grabbing bottles from the car and restocking his teammates when he arrived. Despite being the team leader, Peraud showed us he's a diligent teammate. I admire this quality in a leader. 

Tomorrow takes in a number of climbs and finishes up the steep Col de la Croix Neuve. It has a steep section near the end and the combined stressors of the stage will take its toll on all the riders. I expect that we'll see the leaders stay together with a few sporadic attacks. My prediction is that we'll see a secondary rider like Bardet, Fulgesang, Valverde or one of the Sky team men win.

The 2015 Tour de France is 3,360mi long. In honor of the race you can purchase my entire library of books and videos for $33.60.

You can also follow me on Twitter = GTS_Coach_Ace

Coach Ainslie

Wow! Big congrats to Rafael Maijka! Great ride out of the Tinkov/Saxo rider to win from a 40km breakaway. Maijka appeared relatively untroubled throughout his effort to cross with around 5min over the next competitor Dan Martin. This ride shows that Tinkov/Saxo has brought their best squad to the Tour and they are ready to rumble.

The Irishman Dan Martin made a super human effort in the last 5km to finish 2nd and claw back some time in the GC. Martin finds himself in 16th in the overall at 16min and change. A lot of work left to do and miles to go.

The favorites stayed together so there will be no movement in the first 5 riders. We saw some of the peripheral riders try to find a few seconds near the end with Bauke Mollema attacking trying to displace Gerraint Thomas from the top 10. Mollema now finds himself in 10th overall. Thomas is now in 5th. Thomas Voeckler with EuropeCar stayed clear with one of his french country-men to take 5th on the stage. Contador moves into 6th overall and finds himself 4min adrift. He is working his way up the overall, I don't think we've seen his best yet. I think this is a calculated move on his part to slowly move up as opposed to come out of the gates with both guns blazing.

Tomorrow is a 195km ride with 4 nasty climbs on tap. The race takes in the Col du Portet d’Aspet, the Col de la Port, the Port de Les and finally the Plateau de Beille. Some of you may remember several years ago this final climb caught out Lance Armstrong when he forgot to eat and then bonked, calling it his hardest day on a bike ever. This day will provide the most decisive day on the Tour yet. I think we can expect Froome once again to stamp his authority on the race and decimate all comers. Nibali has now lost too much time to factor into the race any further. I don't believe Quintana has the where-with-all to leave Froome and Vangarderen behind.

Tejay seems like he is just following wheels right now. He is either unable to be the animator OR is waiting for his opportunity. Stage 12 could be the day!

The 2015 Tour de France is 3,360mi long. In honor of the race you can purchase my entire library of books and videos for $33.60.

You can also follow me on Twitter = GTS_Coach_Ace

 

Coach Ainslie

Well, it wasn't total carnage. However, there was some movement in the GC. Froome thrilled us with an incredible ride in the final 10km's while the other favorites just hung on or got shelled. 

The Sky boys set an infernal pace until part way into the climb of Col du Soudet. The final two men Richie Porte and Chris Froome rode together until 5km to go and then Froome launced his final attack. The next man to go was Quintana. He managed to stay within a reasonable margin of Froome until he was caught and passed by Porte in the final km. Right now, the Sky boys are looking quite good.

You know Froome was flying when Contador, Nibali and Vangarderen all lost time. Contador has admited that he is potentially behind the 8-ball on fitness and today showed that he may not actually telling tales. 

Nibali started falling apart days ago and today was further proof that he has not brought his A-game to the Tour de France.

Tejay remains in 2nd but lost more time today. Overall, I think Tejay is in good fitness. I think he will get better as the race goes on and we may still see some fireworks out of him. At WORST, Tejay will be able to maintain a podium position....in my estimation.

Quintana is a wild card in my book. We don't know him enough as a rider to be able to definitively say how he'll ultimately do. Compared to the other men, he is much less experienced. 

In general, I think its too early for anyone to predict what will ultimately happen. Asking the Sky boys to defend the yellow jersey all the way to Paris is a BIG job. Its still early and as we've seen in years past, anything can happen. The favorites are not immune to mistakes and/or disaster. 

Tomorrow brings a 188km ride with several nast climbs; the Col d'Aspin, the Col du Tourmalet and culminating in the Cote du Cauterets. These come late in the stage and the riders will be good and softened up by the time they arrive on the first climb. I think, as is the tradition, we'll see the normal early break that is allowed to have its head until we get into the first climb of the final trio. Here, the GC faves will assert themselves. 

My prediction for the stage win is one of the french men with EuropeCar or AG2R/LeMondiale. 

The 2015 Tour de France is 3,360mi long. In honor of the race you can purchase my entire library of books and videos for $33.60.

You can also follow me on Twitter = GTS_Coach_Ace

Coach Ainslie

Sorry crew! My website was hacked over the weekend and I could not write my blog. My brilliant web-mistress got everything sorted out and we're back now.

The Tour has taken in a few exciting days in the mean time.

Friday, Mark Cavendish finally got it right! His team controlled the lead out and the sprint and put him in great position to win. Cavendish has been notably frustrated with his inablity to win one of these races and this was a great confidence boost for him.

Saturday Alexis Vuillermoz managed to give everyone the slip in the closing kilometer and win the stage. In my opinion this was a stroke of genius as he was cagey enough to stay with the leaders and then give the heavy hitters the slip. Great piece of riding.

Sunday brought the team time trial. This has been a stage everyone has been looking forward to. I personally love the team time trial and I couldn't wait to see this stage. Ultimately BMC won, but Sky and Movistar certainly didn't make it easy for them. 

The GC remains about the same. There was some movement with Tejay Vangarderen moving into 2nd in the overall. 

Greg Vanavaermet is now in 3rd and Peter Sagan is holding tight in 4th.

Tejay is now in prime position to enter the mountains. He will have his work cut out for him to stay with Froome and Contador. Contador has been quietly moving up the overall from his original 44th exiting the prologue. 

Riders to watch will be Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde.

Vincenzo Nibali has lost time the last several days and its difficult to say if he'll be able to rebound once we hit the mountains. He certainly is a capable rider and it would be unwise to discount him altogether. BUT, at around 2 minutes behind on the GC, he's going to have to pull out all the stops if he wants to occupy any step on the podium when we arrive in Paris. 

There is still 2 weeks of racing remaining after todays rest day. The GC men will have met with their team personel to discuss the plan going forward. They'll have briefed their team-mates about the approach this coming week and which stages they'll target. 

Tomorrow is a 167km stage with a relatively flat profile that ultimately finishes up the Col du Soudet. This climbs steepest gradients come early in the proceedings. It will be one of the first "sort outs" of the race. The climbers will have their opportunity to assert their dominance over the lesser men. I don't think we'll see too much up a mix up between the first two, Froome and Vangarderen. However, I think we'll see Contador, Quintana and Nibali try and move themselves further up. Froom and Tejay are clearly in some good fitness right now and it's hard to imagine either of them cracking or losing time tomorrow.

Time will tell and I, for one, am excited to see if there is a shakeup of some kind.

The 2015 Tour de France is 3,360mi long. In honor of the race you can purchase my entire library of books and videos for $33.60.

You can also follow me on Twitter = GTS_Coach_Ace

Coach Ainslie

Griepel grabbed another stage win today! Clearly he is on form and highly motivated to make this Tour his best. Cavendish and Kristoff could not hold off the charging German. Peter Sagan appears to also be on form but clearly left it too late today. He was out of position and timed the sprint wrong.

Once again the GC men hung tight and were under minimal stress. Their teams kept things together and allowed the boys to cruise to the finish. The race was certainly fast though with some stretches in the wind creating some consternation for anyone not ideally located. This kind of thing used to be a struggle for me when I was racing. Echelons present a unique challenge and it was never something I felt like I mastered. However, when you have an entire team around you making sure you're out of the wind and so on, it's considerably easier. 

USA Cycling coach and Army Master Fitness Trainer Lt. Colonel T.G Taylor comments "A really great sprint today. While I'm not ready to coronate Greipel king of the sprints, it may be time to decrown Cavendish. He had a near perfect lead-out from his Etixx team and failed to finish it off. The surprise of the day may belong to Sagan who came from more than 10 spots back to take 2nd. Had the race been 10 meters longer, Sagan would have pipped the Gorilla on the line!" 

Overall, the GC men are still keeping their powder dry. Now is too early for the men who want to be on the podium in Paris to be making moves. Their primary goal right now is to get through the first week, save as much energy as possible and stay of the pavement. Once the race hits the mountains, thats where we'll see Nibali, Contador, Vangarderen and Quintana come out to play. 

Tomorrow is a 191.5km stage from Abbeville to Le Havre. The course profile is bumpy with a hil right before the finish. Velonews.com compares the finish to Amstel Gold's Cauberg. With the course profile, I think it rules out the pure sprinters and we could see one of the lesser men succeed here today. My prediction is Greg Vanavaermat with BMC.

The 2015 Tour de France is 3,360mi long. In honor of the race you can purchase my entire library of books and videos for $33.60.

You can also follow me on Twitter = GTS_Coach_Ace 

 

Coach Ainslie

Finally! Tony Martin with Etixx QuickStep got his yellow jersey. After missing out on yellow in the prologue and then Stage 2, Martin finally took matters into his own hands and won todays stage. A 10 second time bonus plus his lead over the field was more than enough since he was only in 2nd place by a mere 1 second. Martin was visibly thrilled when he crossed the line! AND, on a borrowed bike no less as he flatted in the closing stages of the race and his teammate gave him his bike rather than wait for the team car!

Todays stage dished up over a half dozen cobbled sections that were highly anticipated by the riders. Last year a cobbled stage in the opening stages of the Tour created havoc and many GC favorites torpedoed their chances in the ensuing chaos. This year however, the GC men were all present and accounted for when the dust settled. Their teams did a fine job of sheparding Contador, Froome, Vangarderen, Nibali and Quintana to the line in one piece. Very impressive to see even yellow jersey Chris Froome (Sky) taking pulls and making accelerations on the cobbled stretched. The group was thinned to about 50 or so men in the closing km's and the pace was incredibly rapid. The teams were trying to minimize attacks and keep men who had been dropped from getting back on. Great racing to watch. 

Tony Martin moved into yellow today. The big favorites all held their positions and there was no real notable movement in the overall standings. 

Tomorrow brings a mostly flat stage of 189.5kms. There are a few bumps in the course but nothing notable and it looks, on paper, like it'll be ideal for the sprinters. As always, I like to allow for the possibility of a small breakaway spoiling the fun for the sprinters exists. With this said though, the sprinters teams do a remarkable job of shutting down breakaways with alarming effectiveness. My prediction is Degenkolb or Cavendish.

The 2015 Tour de France is 3,360mi long. In honor of the race you can purchase my entire library of books and videos for $33.60.

You can also follow me on Twitter = GTS_Coach_Ace

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