Tour de of Britain, Stage 7. Hemel Hempstead to Cheltenham.

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Carlton Kirby, in a world of pain.

Today was probably the hilliest of this years route. I managed to get the Strava KOM on the final climb of the day, The Winchcombe, known as the Col de la Coix de Fer of the Cotswolds. Unfortunately this created quite a storm on Twitters. The previous holder of the record time was a Mr Bob Pilchard and unbeknownst to me he has openly talked about taking pot and LSD on the 60’s. As soon as my KOM was confirmed accusations of drug taking came flying in my direction. How, folk were saying, was I able to beat the time of a known doper. The conclusion they all drew was simple. I must have been taking drugs myself! Things didn’t end there though. It soon emerged that Mr Pilchard once voted Tory and sometimes spits food on people he talks to. My reputation is in tatters but I’m sure I will be allowed to plead my case by my Twitter accusers.

Our United Kingdoms of Great Britain team car was broken today, I’m not sure of the exact problem but someone from British Cycling HQ mentioned something about women drivers. Luckily, because our team and Team Skye are pretty much the same thing we were able to get our bottles and bidons from their car. On my first visit to the vehicle to get supplies for my teammates to “take aboard some sustenance” I was met with the now familiar sight of David Brailsford-Sir who was glaring at me through the window. He told me as he was handing me the bottles that one good turn deserves another so I had to first replenish his team before coming back to get fereshments for the UKofGB boys. “Fine” I said, “I’ll be back in a Jiffy”. I heard him screaming something at me, probably words of encouragement, as I headed up the road. When I returned the car window was rolled up, and it was ruddy well tinted so I couldn’t see Mr David to get his attention. I always thought windows were meant to be transparent but never mind.

I’m glad the race finishes tomorrow, a week of cycling is just about as much as I can take. I can’t imagine what riding a Grand Tour would be like, it’s tiring enough watching the likes of the Giro. Though seeing it on TV you do have to contend with the three week lecture on glacial features and types of aggregate from Carlton Kirby.

Dylan Groenewegen won the stage and Lars Boom still leads the Tour de of Britain sprint cup.

 

Tour de Past, Stage 7. 2011, Britain Not Ready For A Tour Win Yet. 

 

Team Sky came into the 2011 Tour with a lot of hope and expectation. A difficult race the previous year, where their top GC rider Bradley Wiggins only finished 24th, was put down, in part, to the fact that it was the teams debut year and mistakes were bound to be made. Now though they thought they were ready to mount a serious challenge at the Tour de France. Bradley Wiggins had been going well so far in the season and won in the recent Criterium du Dauphine, beating rival Cadel Evans, and followed that up with a win in the National Championships. Sky fanboys all over the UK were being driven into a state of frenzy. They knew when the team launched they stated that their main aim was to “create the first British winner of the Tour de France within 5 years” but they could achieve it in 2!

Team Sky and their fans confidence had taken a further boost the previous day after Edvald Boasson Hagen had won their first ever Tour de France stage. Geraint Thomas was in the white jersey as best young rider and they occupied 6th, 7th and 8th in the overall. However all these positive points weren’t hiding a couple of truths. Out on the road the Sky riders still had a lot to learn about riding as a team and the tactics given to them by the DS’s were very limited.

In the nervous first week of Grand Tours there are plenty of sudden crashes in the peloton. The top riders will therefore stay at the front of the pack as this reduces the chance of being involved in a situation, there won’t be a mass of riders suddenly falling down infront of you at high speed. To further help them stay out of trouble he’ll have a couple of riders around him for protection. However during the first week you would often see Sky’s GC man Bradley Wiggins, easy to spot in his British Champions jersey, in the middle of the bunch with no teammates around him. The more this happened the more Sky were tempting fate.

With 40km of the stage from Le Mans to Chateauroux left it happened. There was a smaller crash almost 10km before as a warning but this one was massive. Dozens of riders were involved. Amazingly after most of the riders had untangled their bikes and started riding again there were only three left seriously injured. Remi Pauriol was sitting down cradling his arm, Chris Horner was in a ditch somewhere and Bradley Wiggins was wondering around in a daze. The doctor arrived fairly quickly though it was clear what was the problem as Wiggins like Pauriol was now holding his arm in the classic “I’ve broken my collarbone” fashion. The dream was over for Wiggins. He had paid the price for being in the wrong place at the wrong time but what was most disappointing was that he should have been in the wrong place.

Not being able to keep their main rider out of trouble wasn’t thethe end of Sky’s tactical woes though. As Wiggins was being assessed by the doctor three of his team mates (Edvald Boasson Hagen, Xavier Zandio and Juan Antonio Flecha) were waiting for him. Fine, this is standard practice. If Wiggins was good to continue they could try and pace him back up to the peloton, though the longer they waited the harder it would be, and it wouldn’t matter if they lost time as they weren’t GC riders. At least the white jersey leader Thomas whos time was precious wasn’t one of them? Well no but he was waiting further up the road along with Rigoberto Uran the exciting young Columbian. Why had Sky sacrificed their whole team to protect Wiggins now it was too late. Was it necessary? All of the eight remaining Sky riders rolled in 3 minutes 6 seconds behind the leaders. Their leader had crashed out and due to some strange tactics Uran’s GC and young riders chances were over along with Thomas’ in the young rider competition. At the start of the day they had three riders in the top 10 and now their best placed man was 38th. Sky didn’t just put all their  eggs in one basket they dropped the basket too.