Archive for the ‘Tour de France’ Category

He’s done it!

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

As you will remember, Wim Vansevenant had to thread a needle today in the penultimate stage of the Tour de France, an individual time trial.   Yesterday Bernhard Eisel lost 13 1/2 minutes relative to Wim’s overall time, becoming the new Lanterne Rouge by 42 seconds.  In order for Wim to make history by earning the Lanterne Rouge for the third Tour in a row, he had to come in at least 43 seconds slower than Eisel today.

Not too difficult, perhaps; Eisel beat Wim by a full minute in the shorter time trial in stage 4, and he got to start the TT after Eisel today, so he’d know the time to beat.  However, Eisel’s crashed repeatedly during this tour, and the group he finished with yesterday were all so beat up and bandaged that they might have been the cast of The Mummy Returns.  What if Eisel was on his last legs yesterday?  Today he might have finished outside the time limit (1.25 times the winner’s time) and been disqualified.  Today Wim had to race fast enough to stay inside the time limit — something I’m probably not capable of on my best day — while ensuring that, if Eisel was also inside the limit, he’d finish at least 43 seconds behind him.  A lot of calculations to make on the fly while performing in a world-class sporting event.

Well, the nice thing about the individual time trial is that they start in reverse order of their standing in the general classification, so by the time I got up this morning, Wim and Eisel had both already finished the race.

Vansevenant:  1:14:47

Eisel: 1:13:12

Vansevenant came in 1:35 behind Eisel; by my calculations, he’s back in last place by a margin of 53 seconds.   Close, but a deficit he should be able to maintain tomorrow all the way to the Champs-Élysées.   Nobody else is within striking distance — Sven Kraus was the closest, 1:12 ahead of Wim yesterday, and finished well ahead of him today.  What about the cutoff time?  Wim’s okay as long as the winner doesn’t come in under 51:49, a superhuman 38 mph average speed.  That looks safe so, I’d say unless something weird happens tomorrow, Wim’s going to make history by coming in last in the Tour de France a third time.  Go Wim!

Oh, yeah, and this stage will probably decide the yellow jersey too.   It would be nice if Cadel Evans won, so that Silence-Lotto could make bookends around the tour.

Update:  It’s official.  Wim’s again the Lanterne Rouge of the TdF, and only the flat stage to Paris remains.  Teammate Cadel Evans didn’t pull out an overall victory, though, and will be 2nd to Carlos Sastre.

More on Wim and the Lanterne Rouge at the TdF Lanterne Rouge blog.

Wim’s in trouble!

Friday, July 25th, 2008

In his race for a historic third Lanterne Rouge in the Tour de France, Wim Vansevenant hit an unexpected bump today.   I didn’t expect much to happen today, in a mostly flat stage.   The peloton usually stays together, and a breakaway of guys with no chance in the overall contention goes off the front, trying to stay ahead long enough to get a stage win.  But today I watched the news flashes with some concern as a group of 9 riders fell off the back of the peloton — including Team Columbia’s Bernhard Eisel.

Eisel was a comfortable 12 minutes and 9 seconds ahead of Wim at the end of yesterday’s stage, and who’s going to lose that much time on a flat stage?  Well, Eisel’s group lost almost 13 minutes to Wim.  So as of today, Eisel is the Lanterne Rouge, and Wim is 42 seconds ahead of him.

Can Wim still pull this out?  Well, tomorrow is the last individual time trial.  The other ITT this year was stage 4, and Wim lost exactly a minute to Eisel in that one.  Furthermore, this time trial will be 1.8 times as long as stage 4.   Most important, competitors start in reverse order, so Eisel has to go first.  That means Wim will know how much time he needs to lose.

Still, it’s going to make for an interesting day tomorrow.  Both the Maillot Jaune and the Lanterne Rouge are likely to be decided by the same stage.   Go Wim!

As always,  you can get more Tour de France Lanterne Rouge news by going to the Lanterne Rouge Blog.

Update on knee and Wim

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Knee: It’s getting much better.  I’m able to spin on the trainer without pain, and although it hurts a bit when I do the leg presses that my PT recommended, it’s still improving.  So I figure I’ll be back on the road soon.

Wim:  Still bringing up the rear.  He’s getting a bit more recognition; a blog post on the web site now.  The man is a rock.  He’s steady, he takes care of his teammates — I saw him in a rare TV appearance when Cadel Evans crashed yesterday and the whole team pulled him back to the peloton — he doesn’t finish dead last most days, but he just finishes far enough back to maintain his overall last place.  He’s 1 min 42 sec behind Matthieu Spreck.

You can’t just fall off the back and finish at midnight (my personal strategy, except that I probably couldn’t make it over the Col du Tourmalet if they gave me all night).  There’s a time cutoff set by the judges for each stage, which depends in an arcane way on the difficulty of the course, the speed of the winner, the phase of the moon, and the quality of the wine served at the judges’ dinner the night before.  One rider, Magnus Backstedt, was already kicked off the tour this year because he came in 5 minutes past the cutoff.

Anyway, it takes a rare combination of high-level athletic skill and personal humility to be the Lanterne Rouge.  Especially 3 times.  Go Wim!

Tour de France — Who will be the Lanterne Rouge?

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

Last year I did some bike racing, and at the Hillsboro Roubaix I had the distinction of crossing the finish line, looking back, and seeing them dismantling the scoring tent.  Just as the leader of the Tour de France is the maillot jaune for the yellow shirt he wears, the last finisher is known as the red lantern, or lanterne rouge.  There is actually some honor in this — I was the last to finish the Hillsboro Roubaix, but at least I finished.  A lot of people dropped out.

The Tour de France is a grueling competition – over 2000 miles in 3 weeks, and the peloton averages over 25 mph on that.  Just finishing is an enormous athletic accomplishment.   Especially if things aren’t going that well for you, often the case if you’re in last place.   A lot of riders wind up in the voiture balai, the “broom wagon” that sweeps up the drop-outs.

So who, you ask, is the likely Lanterne Rouge this year?  My money is on the man who brought up the rear both of the last two years:  Wim Vansevenant.  Can he pull it off again?  After two stages, he’s 178th out of 179.  He’s a comfortable 9 minutes 1 second behind the leader, and only one rider stands in his way — Juan Mauricio Soler Hernandez, who is a minute and 22 seconds behind Wim.   And Soler is riding with a probable broken wrist.  Unlikely he’ll finish.


Follow-up with data:

Nobody has ever earned the Lanterne Rouge three times.  Two-time winners are:

Jimmy Casper (2001, 2004)

Daniel Masson (1922, 1923)

Gerhard Schönbacher (1979, 1980)

And of course Wim Vansevenant (2006, 2007).

Jimmy Casper is also in the race this year, but Wim has almost 7:30 on him already.   Go Wim!