Thursday, 19 July 2012

Thoughts on teamwork and the tour

Almost there

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Let me start by apologize for the few posts I've written during the tour. Blame work, and partly that I have enjoyed watching cycling all day and evening. Instead, I have tweeted more, microblogging so to say.

Today we witnessed Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky winning the 2012 Tour de France. I feel a bit uncomfortable saying it out loud, because the race continues for two more days, three if you count the parade in to Paris. Freak accidents and mechanical breakdowns could happen. We've seen Michael Rasmussen loose a podium some years ago during the last TT, crashing twice and throwing the bike into the woods wearing the climbers jersey. But by the looks of things, Team Sky have this one under control, the same control they have had of the tour.

Some have critisized the tour of being boring and predictable, and that Team Sky "ruined" the excitement by being so strong. I think the reason is not just one, but several.

  • First of all the route sort of favors the TT specialists, that we've known since the route was unveiled last October, everybody understood that.
  • Secondly, the crash at stage 6 injured many riders and some even left the race. Crashes the first week is nothing new but difficult to avoid as nervousness and inattention haven't let go yet.
  • Our expectations to the tour. Fans want to see dancing pedals and furious attacks around every corner as well remembering this tour as the best ever. Preservation of team's goals once its in within reach as well as UCI point system and physical limitations, are some of the reasons our expectations weren't met.
  • Total domination by Sky is another reason as they are just too strong to combat.

Oiled maschinery in action - "We've trained for this."

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Ambitions aside
I have previous written about this issue and all of you who follow professional cycling are aware of this. Sometimes it be painful to watch, as riders setting their personal ambitions, dreams and aspirations aside for the team's decision. Sky have done that this year to the fullest. The tour is one of the very few races, if not the only one in cycling, where 2nd and 3rd are not the first losers.

Today we all witnessed the climbing skills of Chris Froome, he is, in my eyes anyway, the best climber of all the riders in this year's tour. It is hard to watch Froome not getting another stage as "payment" as almost all had wanted that to happen. It's easy to have this perspective, at least when we are not certain of the communication between the two riders in question and the team car. Wiggins said after the stage that he had given Froome the "go" to get the stage win but Froome chose to stay with him. I have yet to see any comments by the DS.
People have speculated if Froome can win a tour himself in the future, and I have no doubt he will, if he's got the same support as Wiggins. It's also important to remember that Froome knew what he signed up for, he's newly renewned his contract, and is paid to help Bradley win. This is the objective perspective of course. Froome will be a giant in the years to come, he's been struggling with sickness the last couple of years but is back now. Imagine where he will be in two years of solid training by Kerrison in Sky?

I have written about Wiggins and Froome earier this tour, you can read that here.

Edvald Boasson Hagen who was free to go during two stages early in the tour, after that he has set his own ambitions aside selflessly. Towing an insanely amount of kilometres at the front, today he even pulled the main group to the bottom of the last climb, loosing several climbers in the making. What could he have done if he was not destined to work for Wiggins? Froome said in an interview today that he though EBH could win the yellow jersey one day and that he was totally blown away by EBH's capacity.

Same goes with Mark Cavendish, the reigning WC, the best sprinter of them all, reduced to a mere shadow of himself (or his capacity). Seeing carrying water bottles and being supportive of Wiggins is fine and he's got one stage so far.
It is easy to say that "yes, this is what they all should do." That is correct, but these guys are not just anybody. It takes a certain mindset to be a professional cyclist, and it takes a certain mindset to be as good as these guys are.

It is a bit ironic that Radioshack-Nissan lead the team competition. Today we saw Klöden riding past Zubeldia without helping him, Zubeldia being #5 GC prior to today's stage but dropping quicker than the US interest rate. So much for that, team competition is obviously more important. So Radioshack-Nissan is on track to win the best team competition for being a bunch of individuals. Lovely.

Danish dynamite
Who else but Chris Anker Sørensen? Trying hard for almost the entire tour to succeed in a brake, today he tried to fetch a newspaper out of his spokes in-flight, cutting three spokes in the process. The result was visible for all. Florence Pommerie, one of the tour docs, changed his dressings three times, claiming CAS "didn't have any pain, it just bled much." As of now, it's uncertain whether CAS will begin tomorrows stage as he undergoes surgery as we speak. Riis was quoted saying that CAS didn't have much flesh on two of his fingers left.

Danish dynamite

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Swede Kessiakoff deserves a mention too, fighting for the KOM jersey for two weeks, only to be bypassed by the clever Voeckler the last two days. Today's KOM battle was almost more interesting than the GC.

One could say the 2012 tour de France is over, but we've got a couple of stages left. The design of the very tour, incidents and injuries during the tour, the fans' expectations and the Team Sky domination are some of reasons this year's tour have been quite predictable.

Always nice but at the same time frustrating to see good riders giving up their own ambitions to meet a "higher" goal set by the team. Payback will come and hopefully everyone will be happy. After all, this is teamsport.

The tour de France is soon over. But fear not, the Olympics are soon here as well as Il Lombardia and the Worlds.

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