Tour de France: Learning to Love Cadel

Love Cadel? Just kidding. One of the side-effects of Tour watching is over-familiarity with the trials and tribulations of Cadel Evans. Which means: tipped as a perennial race favorite by the Brit commentators on Versus, he’s never quite shown up. But unlike some non-winning favorites you root for because they win sympathy in defeat through a show of panache or humor or some other token of class, Evans always seems to have had a whine ready about the tough conditions he couldn’t quite overcome, plaints about the long odds he’s always facing, or some other bit of unpleansantness. (Here’s the “You step on my dog, I cut your head off” moment from 2008 which shows Evans at his best; and here’s a brief review of Evans’s 2008 Tour, which thankfully he did not win.)

But there’s more to being a Tour fan than just hating Cadel. It stands to reason we ought to like someone in the peloton, and also that we dislike others nearly as intensely as we dislike Evans. Here’s a short list of who we love and who we find insufferable, with an attempt to rationalize our choices:

Guys We’d Ride With, If We Could Keep Up

Fabian Cancellara: Awesome power, but mostly he just seems like a cool guy. We liked what he did to control the peloton after the Tour’s big Day of Crashes (Stage 2) last week.
George Hincapie: The guy’s been in 15 TdFs and seems like the definition of the smart, selfless, capable rider. Again, he seems–and we’re aware how much we’re relying on the thin evidence of what we see on the telly–to be a cool, thoughtful, approachable human being.
Andy Schleck: The accent might be a barrier to understanding him, especially as he accelerates away from us on the first molehill climb of the day, but he seems like a decent sort. Great win on Sunday (Stage 8).
Jens Voigt: Tough and courageous, and seemingly never afraid to bury himself for a teammate or for an unlikely breakaway result.
Levi Leipheimer: A local (Northern California) guy who has stuck his nose into the elite ranks and has stayed there. I don’t seriously believe he’ll contend for the top step of the podium in Paris, but whether he does or not he seems to take each accomplishment or disappointment as it comes.
Svein Tuft: Who? Not a top performer in the Tour. But one hell of a guy. And no one has a better story.
Dave Zabriskie: We still remember his day or so in yellow. We still remember the story we heard of him borrowing a tube from a recreational rider here in the Bay Area. And we love his Yield to Life campaign.
Greg Lemond, Floyd Landis: You know, I saw LeMond at a regular old midwestern century once. He’d been hired as the honorary ride leader or something, and did the distance and hung out with folks in a park in downtown Milwaukee afterward. I remember him goofing around on someone’s hand-cranked recumbent. That was cool. More recently, he’s become a bit of a nag as the Cassandra for doping in cycling. As for Floyd: What a mess. But I’d still like to see if he’d talk about, ahem, The Stage, and whether he’s ever told the truth about any of it. One of these by themselves would be some kind of a treat. How about getting them together for a gabfest?

I’d Have a Beer with These Guys, As Long As It’s Not a Michelob
Really, we’re not worthy to kiss the hems of their jerseys. I mean, these folks seem sort of Olympian, and a couple of them are known to not suffer fools or second-place finishes gladly. Still

Lance Armstrong: Why? In his own way he’s the best.
Mark Cavendish: Our hearts go out to a guy who seems a little deranged by his emotions. We’d love to watch tape of some of his wins and hear him explain the strategy.
Alberto Contador: Tell us, please, what kind of guts it takes to attack on the most desperate climbs.
Johan Bruyneel: OK–not an active rider. But his book, “We Might As Well Win,” is a fine racing memoir even though it’s less than convincing laying out its strategy for success.

We Woudn’t Give These Guys Change for a Twenty Even If We Had It
We realize without being told that we’re being small and ungenerous in our opinions. But here’s a group that just rankles somehow.

Cadel Evans: Yes, we’re aware that there’s evidence to the contrary, but the guy seems like an unhappy, griping, pouty piece of work.
Thor Hushovd: Here we turn our back on our blind allegiance to one of our ancestral homelands, Norway, to deliver this verdict: Tour muttonhead extraordinaire. Just seems like a blockhead. Although it must be admitted he’s not to blame for the idiot commentators who persist in calling him “The God of Thunder.” But we never promised to be fair or reasonable in our judgments, did we?
Ivan Basso: It looked like he was the heir apparent to Armstrong, then he doped and couldn’t quite get his story straight about what he was or wasn’t doing. We have an expression for guys like this: dumbass.
Sylvain Chavanel: We should have a soft spot in our heart for this guy. After all, he crashed during one of the classics this spring, fractured his skull, and had to be put into a medically induced coma during his recovery. And now he’s won two stages in this Tour and twice worn the yellow jersey. Bravo. On the other hand, his riding seems to typify the strategically empty role of the French racers in the Tour. They seem to specialize in the long, desperate, and usually predictably fruitless escape.
Thomas Voeckler: Another hard-riding Frenchman. Next.
Alexander Vinokourov: He had a great Tour, once. It was 2003, he was wreaking havoc on the peloton and on his own team with his boundless daring, courage, energy, and lack of concern for tactics. In fact, he was the rider Armstrong and the ill-fated Joseba Beloki were chasing when Beloki crashed and Armstrong made his famous cross-pasture ride. Alas, “Vino” turned out to be a doper of the worst sort–the transparently lying kind. He was banned from cycling for a couple years, but last year appeared at the end of the Tour to announce he was taking control of “his” team–the Kazakh-backed Astana, run by Bruyneel, home of Armstrong, Contador, and Leiphemer.
In short, he seems selfish to the nth degree, though yesterday he did surprise by not attacking his own team leader (Contador).

Svein Tuft Watch: Tirreno-Adriatico, Stages 4 and 5

You know, I haven’t watched a minute of this race–I think at least clips are available online–and I don’t know whether it would make a difference in terms of understanding what the course has been like for Svein and the other racers. From afar, one of the strangest things about the race so far is following the progress–no, lack of progress–of Fabian Cancellara. When last we heard of him, he was winning the prologue of the Tour of California, then falling ill and dropping out the next day–the cold wet run from Davis to Santa Rosa that prompted Lance Armstrong to Twitter, “Holy hell. That was terrible.” Cancellara is still sick (and injured) and is not only last in the Tirreno-Adriatico G.C., but has added to his legend by having been overtaken by the rider who followed him out onto the course during today’s time trial. This is the Olympic and world champion time-trial champion we’re talking about here, and the 2007 champion of this very race.

But back to Tuft-world. Standingswise, Svein moved up this weekend:


Stage 4, 171 kilometers from Foligno to Montelupone (the finish is on a wall with stretches of 20 percent plus).

Stage 4 finish: 48th, 5:04 behind stage winner Joaquim Rodriguez (Spanish, riding for Caisse d’Epargne). Svein and Garmin-Slipstream teammate Julian Dean finished together, trailing the previous group by a minute and the following group by 50 seconds.)

G.C. placing after Stage 4: 83rd, 13:48 behind leader (Rodriguez). Tuft and Dean are placed with the same time in G.C.


Loreto Aprutino → Macerata

Stage 5, 30-kilometer time trial from Loreto Aprutino to Macerata

Stage 5 finish: 41th, 2:12 behind stage winner Andreas Kloeden (German, riding for Astana).

G.C. placing after Stage 4: 72nd, 15:29 behind leader (Kloeden).

Svein Tuft Watch: Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 3

Well, the headline from this stage highlights one of Svein’s teammates, Tyler Farrar. He did what few casual observers would think possible nowadays: beat Team Columbia’s Mark Cavendish head to head in the closing sprint. Cavendish has not only demonstrated amazing acceleration in the final 200 meters, he is from all appearances utterly confident in his ability to beat anyone when the chips are down.

Svein’s numbers:

Stage 3, 166 kilometers from Fucecchio to Santa Croce sull’Arnoa.

Stage 3 finish: 107th, same time as stage winner Tyler Farrar.

G.C. placing after Stage 3: 127th, 8:59 behind leader Julien El Fares.

See Velonews writeup and standings  . Team Garmin-Slipstream writeup here  . Tirreno-Adriatico page at

Also of note: Garmin-Slipstream’s Julian Dean’s Tirreno-Adriatico diary at Cycling News. Reviewing Stage 1, he is brutally critical of his own performance:

I wasn’t good at all today and it was a stage where I should’ve been good. It was a final that would normally be perfect for me and I was bad. We had a 4km climb, 15km from the finish – not too unlike the finish of San Remo – and when we got to the bottom of it I couldn’t follow the second group, let alone the front group!!!

Svein Tuft Watch: Fan Club Flakeout

I think I blew my chance to be president of the Svein Tuft fan club. I lost him after a stage or two of the Tour of California and am only now checking back in. But wait: Maybe that flakiness qualifies me to be president. In any case, the update.

Tuft was in 20th place in the overall when he crashed on the seventh, and next to last stage, and suffered a concussion. That put him out of the race. According to the Denver Post, his next race begins this Wednesday: Tirreno-Adriatico.

Two more Tuft-related readings:

Denver Post, February 26, 2009: An Example of Tuft Love (kudos for the truly dumb headline)

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 6, 2009: Four teams commit early to Tour of Missouri (Tuft finished third there last year; this year Garmin-Chipotle teammate Christian Vande Velde will be defending his 2008 title).

Svein Tuft Watch: Tour of California Stage 1

By all accounts, a miserable cold, wet, windy day (what Lance Armstrong said about it, via Twitter, when it was all over: “Holy hell. That was terrible. Maybe one of the toughest days I’ve had on a bike, purely based on the conditions. I’m still freezing”). Svein Tuft finished 31st overall today, toward the front of a large group that finished about five minutes behind the stage winner, Francisco Mancebo, and four minutes behind the main chase group led by Armstrong, Leipheimer, Voigt, et al. Svein’s general classification placing after today: 24th, 5:04 off the lead.

Svein Tuft Watch: Tour of California Prologue

Finishes ninth in an amazing field. Here are the top 10 finishers for the 3.9-kilometer course (full list at VeloNews):

1. Fabian Cancellara Team Saxo Bank in 00:04:32.91
2. Levi Leipheimer Astana in 00:04:34.11
3. David Zabriskie Garmin-Slipstream in 00:04:35.56
4. Michael Rogers Team Columbia-High Road in 00:04:35.70
5. Thor Hushovd Cervelo Test Team in 00:04:36.04
6. George Hincapie Team Columbia-High Road in 00:04:36.25
7. Tom Boonen Quick Step in 00:04:36.34
8. Mark Renshaw Team Columbia-High Road in 00:04:36.96
9. Stein Tuft Garmin-Slipstream in 00:04:37.06
10. Lance Armstrong Astana in 00:04:37.17

Svein Tuft: Coming down from the mountain

From the Globe and Mail in Toronto, another (very badly formatted) Q and A with  Svein Tuft:

Coming down from the mountain.


Lance Armstrong retired in 2005, but he’s back this weekend for the
California tour. How do you feel about racing against a seven-time Tour
de France winner?

You know, as much respect I have for him as a rider, it’s a very
top-calibre race and there are going to be so many other world
champions there. We [as a team] don’t look at just one specific guy –
we focus on what we’re here to do.

A day after your silver medal at the
2008 Road World Championships in Varese, Italy, an Italian newspaper
dubbed you the “Canadian Rambo.” What’s it like to be Rambo?

I cracked up when I read that.

Svein Tuft Watch

We’ve been a little adrift here. No peloton to ride in. No urge to get on the bike. Just guilty, guilty feelings about not being out there. But that’s changed now that Svein Tuft is in California. We hereby dedicate ourselves to following him — his progress, from afar — for at least a day or two during the Tour of California. To prepare, here are some very important Svein Tuft links. If you happen across this and want to contribute, send a note!

Canadian Rider Makes an Unorthodox Climb Toward Cycling’s Pinnacle: The New York Times article that started it all (“it” being Tuftmania).

Svein Tuft: the Wikipedia article

Svein Tuft: bio and race results from his former team, British Columbia-based Symmetrics Cycling.

Svein Tuft: racer page from his current team, Garmin-Chipotle

Svein Tuft Gets Pez’d (Pez Cycling News, August 19, 2008: focuses on Tuft’s race at the Olympic road time trial).

Svein Tuft’s journey to worlds silver: (October 13, 2008: a long Cycling News feature).

Interview: Svein Tuft (The Daily Peloton interview, December 19, 2008: includes Tuft’s racing plans for 2009, including Paris-Roubaix).

Svein interview after winning Canadian individual time trial, July 4, 2008.