Friday, May 20, 2011

2011 Amgen Tour - Stage 6

Congrats to Dave Z on winning the TT, and setting a new course record in the process, although as Leipheimer pointed out, that was almost a certainty when running in May instead of February. I assume he was talking about thinner, warmer air being easier to push aside, but maybe also stripped out of all that extra winter gear.

Really sorry for Levi that he didn't win today, but I have to say, I really hate his form. It seems to work for him, but jeeze it's ugly. I think the high aerobar position is not his favorite, but the only one left to him by the UCI as his preferred one they outlawed. Frankly, the TT is one area I think there are too many rules. Better to let people ride anything they want, any way they want.

I think Chris Horner is saving his legs for the Queen Stage tomorrow - by far the toughest stage in the history of the Amgen Tour, and likely the ruin of many of the smaller teams. As of yesterday's start, only 6 of 144 riders had left the race, although Thor Hushovd abandoned the race yesterday. I don't have a  count, but yesterday's stage, being so long, and with a surprising 12,000+ ft of climbing, probably took it's toll.

By contrast, I expect many, many riders will blow up and abandon the race on the course tomorrow - perhaps as much as a third of the field. I'll be watching George Hincapie closely, as he did very well in the San Gabriel Mtns last year, and but for a lot of guys tail-gunning him over the last 30km, might have finished on the podium. Also a good indicator of how much he's got left for another TDF.

I was a little surprised to see Dave Z's leg come out wide and grab some air going through a turn. That seems a pretty serious form break, but I wasn't on the bike, so maybe a split-second balance thing. In general I've worked very hard to immediately, and reflexively bring my right knee to the bar as soon as I stop pedaling. It makes a big difference in drag on a compact frame, helps control the bike when coming off or transitioning to the aerobars, and protects my knees in tight corners.

I've been wracking my brain to find a good alternative to a Tahoe stage should bad weather become an issue in the future. I think I've hit on one. A 30mi/48km Team TT from Carson City, NV to Alpine Village, Ca. Not only does the 1,500 ft drop in elevation eliminate snow, but the Sierra Mountains protect the eastern desert from rain and winds that can reach close to 100mph over the passes. The mile high altitude will also allow the riders to put their high-altitude training to good use.

Since all of our big winter storms swirl up from the south, the SSE winds will be headwinds for the riders, so the strongest teams, with the best form, will come out on top. It would establish a valid pecking order for the teams and riders for the rest of the tour, and allow riders in difficulty to drop out of the paceline near the end. (teams only need to finish with 5 riders)

Given how close the course is to Tahoe, just over Kingsbury Grade from South Lake Tahoe, this should keep logistics manageable and provide for some sponsor alternatives. I'm going to suggest it to the Amgen people, and hope they'll give it serious consideration.

Looking forward to tomorrow's massive Queen Stage, and expect Radio Shack will let Garmin do a lot of the work early, as Garmin has 3 guys near the top in the GC.

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