Tour de France. July 21, Stage 21: Versailles – Paris – Champs-Elysées 133.5km

Possibly one of the most exciting Tours in some time. Certainly, Chris Froome asserted his domination time trialing flawlessly, and accelerating on the mountains in his own unique style. Then Nairo Quintana was one revelation, he not only climbed well, but also time trialed effectively. What made all of that possible was the Movistar team, which performed on a par with SKY. In fact, had it not been for a cross wind section early in the event Alejandro Valverde and Rui Costa could have finished high in the top ten. As it turned out, Valverde truly dedicated himself to Quintana, and at the same time Joaquim Rodriguez fought his way to the podium without attracting much attention. Of course a good tour for Alberto Contador as well as Roman Kreuzinger, though they won’t be satisfied with missing out on the podium. Of course we have Richie Porte who has no idea what “getting dropped” really means.

Let’s not forget the sprinters including Marcel Kittel, and one rider I mentioned earlier Mateo Trentin who shows promise for the future. Also highly recognized are Andrew Talansky as well as Bakelants and an armada of French riders who are unknown quantities with high potential.

New faces, aggressive and high quality riding, all riders performing at a high level of skill. Every inch of the race was hard fought, and no gifts of any kind. Noting of course that there were many versions of the skill sets, each rider performing them in their own unique manner, but importantly skilled.

July 20, Stage 20: Annecy – Annecy-Semnoz 125km

Mikel Astarloza (Spa) has a very nicely defined sidebend motion while seated; as do Mathew Goss (Aus) and Daryl Impey (RSA) off saddle and hands on the hoods. Then there is Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) and despite a good view, I could still not see what he was doing as he climbed. If you haven’t noticed yet I am not a great fan of rider bopping the shoulders as they climb on a nicely asphalted road, there are some exceptions as always, one is Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) who does have a very active skill set along with the bop motion. Under those circumstances you can get away with that. Jeans Voigt (Ger) escapes the break quite readily with a well defined skill set, but as he fatigues the skill set fades and the legs have difficulty turning the crankarms. Skipping a few comments on the leaders which have been made previously, there is a brief helicopter image of the 3 leaders, off saddle, SBHH and hands on the hoods. If they could have just gotten together for coffee earlier on they could have done it in perfect unison. It does happen on occasion. We had to wait until the final week but finally we had a look at the Gendarmes checking the occasional idiot into the third row, and Chris Froome (GBr) also got into the action with a solid arm swipe stopping the infractors in their path. OK as small as he is, I might have expected Quintana to exaggerate his skill set much like Contador, but it is really quite compact and very consistent throughout.

July 18, Stage 18: Gap – l’Alpe d’Huez 172.5km

A rare sighting of Mark Cavendish (GBr) on an earlier climb, a roll of the torso/pelvis reminiscent of sprint mode. Then we have Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) also off saddle with a bit more of the sidebend motion, rotation of the torso and a hike of the pelvis. A back view of Jens Voigt (Ger) shows that he weight shifts on the handlebars off saddle, check the triceps lighting up.

One I had not heard of before, the Mavic car is the “St. Bernard of the Alps”. TJ van Garderen (USA) well defined skill set off saddle, while later he would be “bopping” the shoulders up/down a bit more. Getting closer to the end of the race (12.8 km) Laurens ten Dam (Ned) appears to be rolling the torso while off saddle, and hands on the hoods. With 7km to go Nairo Quintana (Col) creates separation from Froome (GBr) and continues with the skill set. Remember TJ bopping the torso? Christophe Riblon (Fra) maintained his skill set throughout, and for that matter so did Moreno Moser (Ita), both riding within their abilities would up with a 1-3 finish. Not many notes for Friday so I’ll jump to Saturday.

July 17, Stage 17: Embrun – Chorges (ITT) 32km

Quite a few days without updates, too hot to be seated at the computer. I find myself trying to figure out what my scribblings. Phillipe Gilbert (Bel), nice flow of the SBHH and more marked on the aerobars, less so off saddle. Jean Claude Peraud (Fra) fell during warm up and fractured his R-collarbone, performing a nice (not to mention brave) skill set on the aerobars. He would fall a second time, ending his tour.

July 14, Stage 15: Givors – Mont Ventoux 242.5km

A brief look at Markel Irizar (Spa) as well as Christoph Riblon (Fra), each off the saddle though with contrasting styles. Irizar with a roll motion and Riblon tending to the sidebend motion. Later on, Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) climbing with the SBHH skills set and he would go and blow the engine and it’s clear that the skill set seems to be in slow motion. Alberto Contador (Spa) seems to be most at ease while off the saddle, but in the end he would succumb to the accelerations of Christopher Froome (GBr). Rodriguez must have blown by him in the final km or so. At an earlier point we had a good look at Mikel Nieve (Spa) as well as Jan Bakelants (Bel) performing the SBHH off the saddle, which of course happens to be the skill set of choice for Nairo Quintana (Col) which he uses to advantage seated or off the saddle. He did seem to tick the skill set at a faster clip than Nieve.

Real brief looks at Bauke Mollema (Ned) and Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) and Mollema in particular with the sidebend motion – roll of the lower trunk and hike. Perhaps we will have a better look at them in the upcoming days. Team Sky may have been fortunate in a sense that Movistar did all that work at the front of the peloton, which worked in favor of Quintana, who did deliver and moved himself up the standings.

July 13, Stage 14: Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule – Lyon 191km

Early in the break we have a glimpse of Marcus Burghardt (Ger) as well as Matteo Trentin (Ita) taking advantage of a sidebend/roll/hike motion with the hands on the hoods. Move forward to Julien Simon’s (Fra) attack about 14 km out, and it did look like it would succeed, tending towards a sidebend rotation and hike motion while off the saddle and perhaps a tendency to a full roll while seated. But he keeps his skill set throughout, very active and lively. Some good views of weight shifting while climbing off saddle, though absent was the elbow in motion we do see in “climbers”. Can’t help but cheer the guy on.

Back to Trentin, with 30 km to go apparently sitting in the back of the group, since then he worked his way towards the front 5 riders or so, covering the odd break, but primarily relying on other wheels to bridge. And towards the final sprint there was a sizeable break to the 4 sprinters to Trentin (sitting in at 9th or so). Then he pulls right and engages in a real long sprint, one difference from the others head looking ahead, great looking sidebend with rotation, well controlled and powerful. He brings a lot to the table to begin with, and no doubt has learned some good lessons as a leadout for Cavendish (GBr).

Tour de France. July 12, Stage 13: Tours – Saint-Amand-Montrond 173km

Michael Rogers (Aus): “Worse than a day in the mountains”. Alejandro Valverde, who was well positioned in second place overall at the tour has a flat tire, several teammates drop back to help bring him back to the lead group. And initially, it looks like it’s going to happen, they could almost touch them, it takes a flurry of high level action of the skill set, almost desperate, but this loses impetus, in turn the skill set dampens down, and they will eventually be absorbed by the Marcel Kittel (Ger) group. Dropping Kittel was the initial objective of Cavendish’s team. It looked like Chris Froome (GBr) would bring his lead intact to the finish line, when Contador’s team (6 member strong) finds an opportune time to string the lead group out and form a 14 rider echelon, minus Froome and many others. His team has been exposed, and he will miss Kirienka as well as Boasson-Hagen. In the end he would lose over a minute in about 30 km. Over to the side we would see Greipel (Ger) off saddle with the SBHH (side note). Of interest, when that final split took place Cavendish was the rider in front of Froome, Cav sprints into the lead echelon and Froome could not hold the wheel. Wow! That was it.

On the final sprint I could not tell if it was Niki Terpstra (Ned) or Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) did the lead out for Cavendish, but Peter Sagan (SVK) in second place pulled through and appeared to let Cav through, perhaps believing he could catch his wheel, and he almost did but without being fully engaged, Cav ran away with the win. Perhaps he should have kept on going. I still think Cav is going more into the sidebend department than in past years, might be interesting to look at tape of years past. Quiet at the dinner table for the Movistar team. Certainly hats off to the Saxo, Omega and Belkin teams.

Tour de France. July 10, Stage 11: Avranches – Mont-Saint-Michel (ITT) 33km

The race of truth as it is called. It is that but also a good opportunity for some quality camera time on the favorites. A few riders of note, Simon Gerrans (Aus) displaying a nice flow of the SBHH. In some rides we could see the pelvis popped off the saddle from the seams on the road, and the skill set apparently undisturbed. Tejay van Garderen (USA) tends towards a roll of the lower torso and hike motion, generally difficult to get a good view of him, but this occasion you could make it out. Not clear if he was labored on a rise in slope, or trying to get the timing right. Ryder Hesjedal (Can), riding with sore ribs, seemed to have a clear SBHH. Richie Porte (Aus) is one of the first riders we see who is attacking the course with the SBHH, and if you were to place him side by side with Damiano Cunego (Ita) you would see the difference. Cunego is one who along with Andy Schleck (Lux) are allergic to TT’s. Schleck appears to be dancing around in the bed of tulips, try loading the forearms on the pads! One feature from the Andrew Talansky (USA) performance was the vibration of the forearms, which may serve to dissipate road vibration.

Cadel Evans (Aus) finished relatively well, always confident in his abilities. His skill set is generally among the most compact of the field, did pick out the hike motion.

Alberto Contador (Spa) as well as Alejandro Valverde (Spa) both rode very well, active and alive on the bike. Contador tending to reposition back on the saddle quite frequently. Same for Chris Froome (GBr) of course, who attacked the course with a very decisive SBHH seated and off saddle. Finally, of note were Bauke Mollema (Ned) and Laurens ten Dam (Ned) who must be twins (separated at birth), both with very skilled movement patterns, very active and solid. Mollema perhaps a bit more active than ten Dam, both fully deserving of their high placings. We are left with Froome in the drivers seat, and several riders in position for second and third.

Tour de France. July 9, Stage 10: St-Gildas-des-Bois – Saint Malo 197km

One straightforward concept to report on today, and that is that the overall features of the skill set change little when headed into the wind. For example Luis Mate (Spa) with a SBHH, which includes what appears to be rotation of the lower trunk and Juan Jose Oroz (Spa) as well as the other members of the breakaway. Compare with the hunching down, curling up of the body of many people when faced with a stiff headwind.

In an unfortunate accident, Tom Veelers (Den) is done with his leadout of Marcel Kittel (Ger). Veelers relaxes completely while Mark Cavendish (GBr) is in sprint mode. They veer into each other and Cavendish shoulders Veelers (which should be an inconsequential event) as he leans in the opposite direction. Not clear that anyone was at fault.

Tour de France. July 7, Stage 9: Saint-Girons – Bagnères-de-Bigorre 168.5km

Richie Porte (Aus) would be gapped and came within 1 min of bridging to the Froome group but Team Movistar would have none of it. Certainly an active SBHH, but later on this would lack clarity. The loss of Vasili Kirienka (Blr) may turn out to be more damaging in the end than Portes’ power loss. Thomas deGent (Bel) would win a KOM sprint with a TPR, off saddle. Simon Clarke (Aus) certainly with a lively SBHH, seated as well as off saddle. and the logic of some of the announcing escapes me when they note the “rocking of the shoulders” and relate this to the cadence.

Of note is Daniel Martin’s (Irl) skill set, rather interesting. Uphill, he does like to bop the upper trunk along with the SBHH while seated, while it’s a clean performance off saddle. On the flats, he seems to rotate the torso and hike the hips if he has the forearms on the handlebars, which of course leaves little room for the bop motion. Hands on the hoods, he reverts to the bop motion. And how about that Brian, I did mention Hubert Dupont (Fra) as someone to watch, although he was in the Froome group, he received no mention.