Blazin' Saddles

  • Andy’s poker face

    There were four races being played out on the final ascent to Ax-3 Domaines on Sunday: one between breakaway winner Christophe Riblon and himself, a second between the two best riders vying for yellow, a third between Denis Menchov and Samuel Sanchez for the final podium position, and a fourth between the rest of the top eight.

    Although it was momentarily rather extraordinary to see Menchov, the Silent Assassin, leave his magnum at home and come out to play with a blunderbuss for a change, the most captivating duel was that between Contador and Schleck - ironically enough, precisely because of

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  • Vino, Vidi, Vici – finally

    When Saddles found out that Alexandre Vinokourov won stage 13 of the Tour he thought he was dreaming. It was as if someone - a rather magnanimous Joachim Rodriguez, perhaps - had turned back the clocks 24 hours and let the Astana road captain win on the Mende airstrip after all.

    You see, Saddles has been out of action celebrating the marriage of his sister Traceycle down in the shires. It's the first time he's missed a stage of the Tour since he graduated from stabilisers all those years back.

    The festivities over and the hangover already beginning to set in, Saddles sloped off to bed and

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  • De Cock fighting for Contador

    What, two savaged and bloodied roosters from the Caribbean squaring off to the death in the name of Spain's twice Tour de France champion? Sounds like Hispanic reality TV gone bad.

    The truth behind the headline is a little more prosaic, but nonetheless still worthy of a few blog inches. Ever since Alberto Contador announced he would see out the last year of his contract at Astana the Spaniard's signature has been the centre of much speculation.

    Earlier this month, QuickStep's chief sponsor, the guffawingly named Frans de Cock, stressed that "Contador will be here next year".

    Of course, De Cock

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  • French bank denied on Bastille Day

    A historic win for France was guillotined at the death on Bastille Day by a Portuguese mercenary for the corporate American team of one of French cycling's biggest enemies.

    Shockwaves crossed the whole of l'Hexagone as what could have been a perfect celebration of French capitalism on July 14 came crumbling to the ground like the walls of an old pre-Revolutionary prison in Paris.

    With honorary French citizen Vasili Kiryienka of Belarus poised to give the Spanish team sponsored by French bank Caisse d'Epargne a good return for their money, Sergio Paulinho, wearing the colours of the

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  • Alberto the Time Lord

    Talk about having guts: Alberto Contador, at the start of Thursday's stage in Epernay, waltzed in to the RadioShack team bus unannounced and unflanked by bodyguards to confront his two biggest enemies, the men who had made his life a misery at Astana last year.

    On paper, it seemed about as good an idea as Peter Perfect climbing into the same wacky flying machine as Dastardly and Muttley.

    But the visit was all in good nature; the Spaniard came bearing gifts for Lance and Johan - trinkets of appreciation for their roles in helping him win last year's Tour.

    Honouring a race tradition started by

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  • Double whammy

    If ever there was an argument in favour of keeping race radio it came in the climax to Saturday's stage at the moment when Sylvain Chavanel and Jerome Pineau combined to ensure that it would be QuickStep's day.

    From their two different positions, the pair attacked almost simultaneously to swing the race in their favour: Pineau to drop Danilo Hondo at the start of the final climb, and Chavanel to take his fellow pursuers by surprise on the previous descent.

    It was a beautifully choreographed pincer attack, a one-two combination that would have made any boxer proud. Hondo was knocked out for the

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  • Rooney’s hate for Landis

    Apologies to all two-wheeled racing fans who can't stand football - and don't worry, Saddles will get on to Cav's spitting incident in good time - but top news this week comes in the shape of Wayne Rooney's personal vendetta against a disgraced former US cyclist.

    Football's Andre Greipel (well, neither are exactly lookers are they?) was pictured this week with the words "FCUK U" scrawled across the instep of one golf shoe and "FLOYD" across the other.

    The bizarre sartorial statement made by Rooney - currently not scoring goals for England at the World Cup in South Africa - set media tongues

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  • Blazin’ Saddles: Fight Club

    If only Saddles could always count on a good bit of old fashioned fisticuffs to stop him from having to write about Mark Cavendish for a third successive day, eh?
     
    So a big thank you goes out to Quick Step's Carlos Barredo and the former Benfica midfielder Rui Costa for livening things up on the longest, hottest and - at least so far - dullest day of this year's Tour.
     
    With Mark Renshaw having expertly led his HTC-Columbia team-mate to a second stage win in successive days, a gripping subplot played out as the peloton congregated on the finish line.
     
    Brandishing one of his wheels and seething

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  • Cavendish capitulation

    Somewhere in Austria there was an almighty roar as Andre Greipel (presumably) broke in to laughter while watching the climax of stage four of the Tour.

    Greipel, a winner of 12 "small races" this year including a Giro scalp and victory in the opening stage of the Tour of Austria on Sunday, must have felt a mixture of anger and elation as Mark "80 per cent" Cavendish capitulated for the second time in this year's Grande Boucle.

    "Scheie," Saddles pictures Greipel saying as he watched the highlights. "Cavendish ist langsamer als meine Mutter! Ich wnsche, dass ich in Frankreich war. Warum bin ich

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  • A tale of two Schlecks

    On what was arguably the most exciting day's racing in the Tour in living memory we saw a different side of team Saxo Bank and cobbles specialist Fabian Cancellara.

    Just one day after Spartacus led a revolt to get stage three to Spa neutralised following a grim succession of nasty spills involving GC riders in general, and team-mates Frank and Andy Schleck in particular, Cancellara did what he does best: rip the field apart with a devastating display of pavé perfection.

    And yet Cancellara had a huge decision to make when Frank Schleck hit the deck on the decisive Sars-et-Rosieres section of

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