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Tour De France 2015: General Classification Preview

And in a flash, it’s that time of year again, the Tour De France is just around the corner. And this year we have a juicy line up.

Last year, the General Classification landscape was ravaged by injuries and was absent one of cycling’s brightest young stars. Nairo Quintana, who had been the only rider in sight of Froome on the climbs in the 2013 Tour, opted for the 2014 Giro d’Italia over the 2014 Tour de France. And the marquee matchup between Chris Froome and Alberto Contador never materialized as both crashed out early in the Tour. All of this was no fault of Vincenzo Nibali who took the opportunity to emerge as a top class Grand Tour rider and left the rest of the field far behind, adding his name to the once in a decade group of top tier riders that will do battle this July.

Between them they have 12 Grand Tour Victories! and a hand full of additional podiums; it is perhaps the most accomplished short list of contenders that has ever been assembled at the Tour de France.  The riders are:

Chris Froome:

Chris Froome

 

Age: 30

Grand Tour Accomplishments: Winner 2013 Tour de France

Chris Froome was the class of the field in the 2013 Tour de France gaining time on his rivals in both the individual time trials and the high mountain stages. Froome is many people’s pick to win this year’s Tour and for good reason. He was the odds on favorite in the 2014 Tour before he crashed out AND he is surrounded by perhaps the strongest team in the race. The strength of his team will not only help to support him throughout the tours stages and peril, but will also provide a quantifiable benefit in the team time trial (TTT). An event that is included once again in this year’s race.

Look for Team Sky to be all hands on deck during the Stage 9 TTT to try to squeeze out a slight advantage for Froome over his rivals. And for Froome to establish himself as the best time trialist of the contenders.

Alberto Contador:

Alberto Contador

Age: 32

Grand Tour Accomplishments: Winner 2007 & 09 Tour De France; Winner 2008, 2015 Giro D’Italia; Winner 2008, 2012, 2014 Vuelta a Espana

The oldest and by far the most accomplished rider of the group. Contador began his dominant Grand Tour run in 2007 a year in which he won the race after Rabobank’s Michael Rasmussen was sent home. Contador then received his own potential knock on Tour de France victory count when his team, Astana, was banned from the Tour De France in 2008 for past doping violations. Violations that didn’t involve Contador or then current management. After the ban, he was back in 2009 to battle his own teammate Lance Armstrong as well as strong Schleck Brothers, a battle which he won, garnering his second Tour de France win.

Contador is nearing the end of his prime and his could be his last chance at a Tour de France victory. A feat made even more difficult by the stiff competition and the fact that he is coming off a Giro D’Italia victory. A strong Giro performance is usually and indication that the rider will be unable to successfully peak twice with such a short turnaround between the two events. The last rider to accomplish the Giro- Tour double was Marco Pantani in 1998.

Contador is a crafty, experienced rider with explosive uphill speed. Look for him to use those skills to stay close or gain time on his rivals. The real barometer of his ability to win the Tour will come in the race of truth, the individual time trial. If he can limit his loses to a rider like Froome in the ITT, look for Contador to be a handful in the mountains of the Tour.

Vincenzo Nibali:

Vincenzo in yellow 2014

Age: 30

Grand Tour Accomplishments: Winner 2014 Tour de France; Winner 2013 Giro D’Italia; Winner 2010 Vuelta a Espana

As mentioned before, the 2014 Tour de France was all Nibali’s. He won the race by over seven and a half minutes. Part of that margin was the absence of Froome and Contador, surely, but part of it was Nibali’s improvement in the individual time trial. His improvement there has made him a top tier all-around Grand Tour rider.

Another thing in the favor of Nibali, is that, like Froome, he will have a very strong team for the team trial.

Look for Nibali to try to gain time over his rivals in the TTT and to attack in the mountains.

Nairo Quintana:

nairo quintana

Age: 25

Grand Tour Accomplishments: 2nd place 2013 Tour De France; Winner 2014 Giro D’Italia

At just twenty five years of age, Quintana has speed and accomplishments beyond his age. In the 2013 Tour de France, he was the only rider that could stay near Froome on the long uphill finishes. In 2014, he opted to skip the Tour De France in order to focus on the Giro d’Italia, a race he won handily. Now in 2015 he is back and not as young as the time before. His major weakness compared to his rivals is the time trial.

Look for Quintana to try to limit his loses in the time trials and attack relentlessly in the mountains.

Tour De France (English Review): Tea & Crumpets?

Cavendish Plays construction worker, Nibali shows classic Italian passion still has a place in cycling and Kittel proves he’s the fastest man in the world 

Vincenzo in yellow 2014

Late in Stage 1 Cavendish believed that paving a passing lane took precedent over cycling.

Coming up the final incline to the finish, Cavendish found himself behind big Marcel Kittel. Cavendish knew that, with 200 meters left, he had to get around Kittel. There was only problem… Australian Simon Gerrans was driving in that other lane. To make room, Cavendish put the top of his helmet into Gerrans’ chin at 35mph. Cavendish worked a little too quickly and they both went down, hard. Cavendish remained on the ground for a while before sheepishly, and no doubt in great pain, crossing the line to a round of applause by his countrymen. No doubt a tribute to the record number of victories he had given to them, but also a sanguine round of applause for what could have been. Up the road Marcel Kittel took the stage just as he did on Day 1 of last year’s Tour.

In the bumpy and long Stage 2 a flexing of the overall contenders’ muscles and an emerging selfie craze was in store. Many people believed that some overall contenders might come near the front. I don’t think anyone thought that there would be quite such a sorting out of the overall contenders. As the effects of  a selfie crazed world showed through to the refined land of tea and crumpets and the gentleman’s event of the tour as several riders slapped phones out of the spectators hands. Ramunas Navardauskas actually looked like he quite enjoyed it. See video:

As the race neared its completion and the steep Jenkin Road began, a who’s who of the Yellow Jersey favorites began to appear at the front of the race. At the foot of the climb, Sagan had his Cannondale team at the front to get him into a position to possibly launch an attack. But as the short (800m), steep (30% in some areas) climb developed it became apparent that it might be too much for Sagan and Cannondale to control. None other than THE Alberto Contador moved to the front with his dancing pedaling style, out of the saddle, his head on a swivel to see where everyone else was. Chris Froome emerged, Tejay Van Garderen, Vincenzo Nibali, Andrew Talansky.. did I say who’s who, all came to the front. Contador didn’t attack but set a high tempo at the front instead. Along the right hand barriers Froome attacked and Van Garderen was right on his wheel. The attack was shut down pretty quickly as soon the group was all back together. Coming off of the climb Sagan remained towards the front of the newly formed group of slightly fewer than a dozen riders.  Then from a stealthy 9th wheel with about 1.5 k to go Nibali launched the fatal attack to gap the field by a few seconds and take the yellow jersey.

Stage 3..England’s equivalent to The Champs Elysee.. Marcel Kittel put his Giant Shimano team on the front and stormed to victory at Buckingham Palace. With that victory he solidified the usurping of Cavendish as fastest man in the world and will now be the man to beat in the coming half decade.

7 Must See Commencement Addresses

Commencement Addresses:

It’s the good ones that really make us think. Commencement addresses are designed for young graduates, meant to be filled with advice for the future. But it is not only graduates that can benefit from them. There are some days when all of us could use the wisdom of a commencement address. Here, we have assembled a non-comprehensive list of seven great ones (in no particular order) for you to enjoy.

1. Jim Carey 2014 Maharishi University Commencement Address

2. Steve Jobs 2005 Stanford University Commencement Address

3. J.k. Rowling 2008 Harvard Commencement Address

4. Ellen Degeneres 2009 Tulane University Commencement Address

5. Meryl Streep 2010 Barnard College Commencement Address

6. Neil Gaiman 2012 University of the Arts Commencement Address

7. Mack Brown 2014 University of Texas Department of Government Commencement Address

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