Blazin' Saddles

  • Why so many crashes?

    The 2011 race
    has been one of the most brutal in living memory and the body count on the
    first rest day is as high as a scene from a John Wu-directed 'Nam war film.

    It's not just
    the 18 withdrawals we've had so far - it's the nature of these abandonments,
    the severity of the injuries and the calibre of the riders involved.

    We all know
    you're not going to make an omelette without cracking a few eggs, and the idea
    of a bicycle race without some nasty spills is unlikely as one devoid of a
    doping scandal. But to see so many top riders out of the race before the
    mountains have even begun is

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  • Rest day recap #1

    It's been nine days of chaos and carnage in France - but the
    much-needed break on Monday gave Saddles the chance to remind you what's
    happened so far.

    Stage one

    Despite the absence of a prologue, Fabian Cancellara tries
    to win all the same - before being made to look decidedly human by the Belgian
    bulldozer Philippe Gilbert, whose win was about as routine as the eventual
    presence of a FDJ rider in every breakaway in the entire opening week. Andre
    Greipel struggles to make the step up from "sh*t races" to the big
    boys event when he crashes in the neutral zone (effectively before the Tour has

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  • Astanarama

    The opening song on Bananarama's eponymous second album is called Cruel Summer and it must be what's going through the heads of the Astana riders right now.

    Last year the team were winning stages and delivering Alberto Contador to the overall victory; the year before they were pretty much doing the same, while getting all the publicity of Lance Armstrong's lauded comeback.

    This year, however, it's all a bit, well, pointless. Their roster of four home-grown Kazakh riders is not as self-punishing as Katusha's ridiculous Sputnik-esque foray into all-Russian outrecuidance, but it's hardly going to

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  • Wiggone

    In what would have been an otherwise exclusive scoop on any other day,
    Bradley Wiggins admitted on Friday that he "felt on top of the world"
    after boshing "some fantastic drugs".

    Of course we're talking more morphine than EPO after the British GC hope
    was discharged from hospital following that fall which Leipheimer'ed his

    Yes, the sky fell on Wiggins' head on Friday - just 24 hours after his
    team notched their first ever Tour stage victory. "That's bike racing -
    it's unfortunate but life goes on," he told ITV's Ned Boulting.

    Eight hours earlier, at the stage seven start in Le

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  • Tour de France yellow jersey guide

    After 11 months of controversy, doubt and anticipation the Tour returns - and it looks like the two main protagonists will be, once again, Messrs Contador and Schleck.

    Two horse race

    Last year's winner Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) has been cleared to race despite his ongoing case with the CAS over his failed test for clenbuterol last year. With a ban looming, the Spaniard decided to race the Giro in May, showing the world why he is by far the most talented rider of his generation with an imperious overall win in Italy.

    Gone were any suggestions that Contador would be psychologically unsettled

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  • Diamond in the Sky

    The fallout from the News of the World scandal made an
    unlikely foray into the world of cycling on Thursday.

    Moments after Norwegian rookie Edvald Boasson Hagen dazzled
    on the wet roads of Normandy
    , rumours began to spread that the Rupert
    Murdoch-funded Team Sky was heading the same way as the Australian media
    tycoon's popular 'family' Sunday tabloid in the UK.

    Like the NOTW, Team Sky could well be wrapped up at the end
    of the week. Sunday's stage eight from Issoire to Saint-Flour may see the team
    ride without any sponsors on their kit before a likely withdrawal from the race
    is forced

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  • Eight seconds

    It may appear a teensy-weensy margin, but at this stage of the race
    every little helps for Alberto Contador. Besides, doesn't the eight seconds
    Bertie seized back from rival Andy Schleck at Mur-de-Bretagne have a nice
    symbolic ring to it?

    Eight seconds, of course, was slender amount of time that saw Greg
    Lemond beat Laurent Fignon in the 1989 Tour. Eight seconds was also the
    advantage held by Contador over Schleck the day after the infamous
    "Chain-gate" affair.

    But what do those eight seconds mean today? On the surface of things,
    very little; Contador is still 1:42 down on leader Thor Hushovd

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  • Sweet 16 for Cav

    Like Billy Idol, Mark Cavendish will do anything for his Sweet 16 - even
    ditch the train and take the low road to success.

    With 300m remaining in Cap Frehel, Cav's 16th career victory on the Tour
    looked about as likely as a crash-free race for Tom Boonen. Matt Goss had blown
    a gasket, Tony Martin had unknowingly loped clear, and Cav - after been
    "bashed by Greipel" - was languishing with that segment of riders
    where the Galimzyanovs, the Bozics and - dare Saddles say it - the Bonnets
    usually mope.

    It wasn't a question of missing the HTC train - it was as if said train
    were operating on the

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  • Forlorn on the fourth of July

    While Tyler Farrar was celebrating Independence Day with a maiden Tour win, Mark Cavendish was left to rue a missed opportunity.

    After the disappointment of Sunday's team time trial - where HTC had the ignominy of being outdone by fellow US-based minnows BMC - the former bullyboys of bunch sprint racing looked to have Cav on course for the win.

    But their man found himself boxed in by a Romain Feillu-Jose Rojas sandwich (not something you'd ever find at Pret a Manger) and then almost became part of the Little Sammy Dumoulin circus act as the Frenchman almost became the first rider in Tour

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  • Blazin’ Saddles: Thor de Chance

    Big Thor Hushovd is laughing in yellow but it's all gone pear shaped for Bernie and Bertie after just two days in the saddle.

    On Saturday it was Andre Greipel who suffered the ignominy of crashing in the neutral zone, but Bernhard Eisel's embarrassing tumble on the first bend of the TTT on Sunday had a larger bearing on the outcome of the day's result.

    Riding with a ninth man - especially one with the grizzled experience of Eisel - would arguably have seen HTC make up the five seconds that were enough to banish them into fifth place behind winners Garmin-Cervelo.

    The world may be

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