Showing posts with label Tour de France. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tour de France. Show all posts

Video: Taking the Tour de France Off Road

There is no question that the riders in the Tour de France are amongst the best cyclists in the world. Still, even those guys would be hesitant to attempt some of the things that freestyle rider Sam Pilgrim pulls off on his road bike in this video. Everything from hopping up stairs to riding along the sides of high bridges are fair game for Sam, who seems to know no fear or have any cares about the road bike that he is abusing along the way. Even Peter Sagan would be jealous of some of these moves.

Video: Inside the 2016 Tour de France (Stages 1-7)

Last year, many of the bikes used in the Tour de France were equipped with action cameras from GoPro for the very first time. These tiny cameras captured some amazing footage from inside the peloton, and the videos were so successful, that they were used again this season. In this clip below you'll get an up close and personal look at what it's like to ride in Le Tour, with some scary, crazy, and down-right amazing images from the roads of France. Think it's easy to ride in this world's most famous bike race? Think again!

Chris Froome Wins 2016 Tour de France

Since I was out of the country for the past few weeks, I wasn't able to follow this year's Tour de France as closely as I would normally like. As usual, it was filled with lots of unique achievements, impressive individual performances, and crazy events. But, judging from the reports, it was also a race that lacked much in the way of drama, as Team Sky's Chris Froome rode to a third victory with few challengers emerging.

The biggest challenge to Froome's dominance was expected to come from Team Movistar's Nairo Quintana. The Colombian rider has looked strong in the past two Tour's and seemed poised to break out this year with a performance that would push Froome to the limit. That never happened however, and for the most part it seemed that Quintana struggled to keep pace. In fact, if not for a herculean effort in the final few days, he would have finished off the podium altogether. He did manage to claim third place, finishing behind Froome and Romain Bardet of Team AG2R.

For Froome, this was his third win in four years. His string of dominance began in 2013, although he crashed out of the race in 2014 and was unable to defend his championship. Over the past two years however he has looked untouchable, with every challenger being turned away. His most vulnerable moment came this year however, when the British rider (by way of Kenya) actually ran up the slopes in Stage 12 of the race after his bike frame broke during a crash. It was an odd scene to say the least, but it showed his fighting spirit and unwillingness to give up in the face of adversity – something that has helped endear him to cycling fans who have been slow to embrace the champion. 

In other Tour news, Tinkoff rider Peter Sagan went home with the Green Jersey once again. The current world champion showed why he is one of the most talented and versatile cyclists in the world, easily amassing enough sprint points to outpace his rivals. Russian rider Rafal Majka claimed the Polka Dot Jersey for the King of the Mountain's classification, which is given to the best climber each year, while Aussie Adam Yates took the White Jersey awarded to the best young rider under the age of 25. 

While I didn't get to see much of this year's race, the complaints I've ready mostly center around the fact that there was almost no drama at any point. Froome's rivals didn't challenge him much at all, and it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that he would win the Tour by the midway point of the event. That doesn't make it very interesting to watch. Some of the riders were clearly playing safe since the Olympics are now just a few weeks away, and they'll be competing for gold in Rio instead. But still, it would be nice to see someone – anyone – attempt to unseat Team Sky and their leader. Sadly, we'll now have to wait until next year to see if that can happen. At this point however, it looks like barring an accident, the only person who can beat Chris Froome is Froome himself. 

Video: Why We Love the Tour de France

It is tough to explain exactly why I – and other cycling fans – love the Tour de France to someone who has no interest. But this video, from Specialized Bikes, goes a long way to explaining it. It is three weeks of intense competition with some of the best back drops anyone could possibly ask for. It is a challenge that requires both mental strength and physical endurance, and it is perhaps the toughest bike race in the world. You'll discover all of this and more in the clip below, which serves as a good introduction to Le Tour to newcomers, but a wonderful reminder to those of us who already love it as to to why it is such a special event each year.

The 2016 Tour de France Begins Tomorrow!

July is here, and that can mean only one thing for cycling fans – the 2016 Tour de France can't be far off. In fact, the most famous and popular bike race int he world gets underway tomorrow, with some very familiar names expected to battle it out for the win.

The race will officially begin with a 188 km (116 mile) stage that runs from Mont-Saint-Michel to Utah Beach Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. This is unusual for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is its length. Typically, the first stage of the race is a short time trial that helps to establish who will ride int he famed Yellow Jersey for the early stages of the race. This long, opening day ride is part of the Tour's attempt to shake things up however, with some changes to the format designed to inject some energy into the early days of the race.

Expect the day to belong to the sprinters. None of the eventual contenders are likely to vie for the stage win, or put themselves in jeopardy in the early days of the race. There are sprint and climbing points to be earned however, so those looking to go after the Green or Polka Dot Jerseys will be in the hunt early on.

And just who can we expect to be in the Yellow Jersey heading towards Paris in three weeks? Two-time winner Chris Froome is the odds on favorite, although the course does favor Nairo Quintana as well. If both men can stay healthy, we can expect some epic duels in the mountains in the later stages of the race. Should they falter or face injury, the race opens up to dramatically, giving a new rider the chance to take center stage.

As long-time readers know, I'm a big fan of Le Tour, and usually cover it extensively throughout the month of July. I know that there are some of you who don't appreciate the race as much as I do however, and simply tolerate my TdF updates. For those folks, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I won't be following the race nearly as closely as I have in the past, so there won't be daily updates on the event. The bad news is, I'm leaving the country to a remote region next week, so there won't be any updates at all for awhile. Personally, I'm bummed I won't be able to watch the race on a daily basis, but duty calls and other adventures await.

Fans of the race will be able to get all the news and information they need at the official Tour de France website. Good luck to all the riders.

Tour de France to Use Thermal Cameras to Thwart Mechanical Doping

Just as the 2016 Tour de France is set to get underway, officials at the world's most famous bike race have announced new plans to thwart potential cheaters in this year's event. Along with the battery of drug tests that they'll be given, riders will also face an array of high tech gear – including thermal cameras – that will be on the look out for "mechanical doping" as well.

In recent years there have been some allegations that certain riders – including two-time TdF winner Chris Froome and world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara – have been competing with a hidden motor in their bikes. The accusations come following impressive individual performances by those riders, although there has been no proof so far that anyone on the pro cycling circuit is actually using such a device.

Earlier this year, Belgian cyclist Femke Van den Driessche was caught using such a motor at the cyclocross world championships. The 19-year old looked to have a promising career, but she now faces a six-year ban from the sport. Now, the Tour is looking to avoid a similar scandal while also trying to dodge another major black mark on a sport that has had so many controversies over the years, including countless doping scandals.

The thermal imaging cameras will allow judges to look for heat signatures on the bikes of competitors. A hidden motor will generate plenty of heat, which should stick out like a sore thumb on these special cameras, making it obvious who is using such a device.

These small motors don't create a ton of power, but they do assist already great riders, allowing them to pedal faster with less effort. This comes in handy when climbing hills or out racing sprints for instance, while keeping riders fresher throughout the race.

TdF officials say that the use of these motors may be the greatest threat to the sport ever. In fact, they claim that they are fighting for the very future of cycling itself at the moment. Those are strong words  when you consider the number of doping scandal that these officials have seen over the years. Still, they are stressing how serious they are taking this issue, and how they are moving forward with efforts to prevent it from happening.

By sharing the news that thermal cameras will be employed to prevent mechanical doping, the riders have been warned. But, this being cycling, I wouldn't be surprised if someone tried to get away with using one anyway. We'll just have to wait and see what comes of this. Hopefully it'll be a good race this year completely free from controversy.

For Cycling, is "Technological Doping" the Next Big Thing?

As if cycling in any form needed another black eye, over the weekend a Belgian rider by the name of Femke Van den Driesshe was forced to withdraw from the Cyclocross World Championships when a small motor was found hidden in the frame of her bike. The revelation has caused some to wonder just how widespread this practice is in the various disciplines of the sport, with the term "technological doping" be used to categorize the illegal behavior.

Van den Driesshe was one of the favorites heading into the race, but on the final lap her bike suffered a mechanical problem that forced her to withdraw from the event. She actually had to dismount from the bike and walk it off the course. When the race was finally over – and one by British rider Evie Richards – several bikes, including Van den Driesshe's, were taken for inspection. It quickly became clear that something was amiss.

UCI president Brian Cookson said of the situation “It’s absolutely clear that there was technological fraud. There was a concealed motor. I don’t think there are any secrets about that." He also reiterated that the cycling union has come up with ways to test bikes for these kind of activity, although he was understandably reluctant to share what those were. He promised that further testing would be done throughout 2016 at UCI sanctioned events, including the Tour de France.

For her part, Van den Driesshe denies any knowledge of the hidden motor on her bike, which she says was put their without her consent. She is facing a six-month ban from the sport, and a fine of 20,000 Swiss francs ($19,500 US) for using the enhanced bike during the race. Those numbers are just preliminary however, as both the amount of the fine and length of suspension could be go up.

This isn't the first time that a rider has been accused of using a motor on their bike. There were allegations against Tour de France winner Chris Froome last year, and former World Time Trial champion Fabian Cancellara has been accused of using a motor in the past too. Neither of those accusations have ever had any merit, although this latest incident does raise the question of how much "technological" or "mechanical doping" is actually taking place.

It's no secret that cycling has had more than its fair share of scandals regarding performance enhancing drugs over the years. So much so, that the UCI has taken measures to try to combat the issues, becoming far more stringent and wide sweeping in its testing. But the developers of PEDs have traditionally stayed one step ahead of the tests, making it very difficult to catch anyone who is actually using them. But as the scrutiny has intensified, it seems that some riders are looking for other ways to get the upper-hand on their competition. Finding unique and creative ways to improve their bike's performance that falls outside the rules of racing seems like the next way for them to do just that.

I suspect this won't be the last time we hear the term "technological doping" being passed around when discussing cycling. It will more than likely become a problem that the UCI will have to deal with on a wider level in the years ahead. While it seems impossible the it could rival the largest doping scandals of the sport's history just how widespread and pervasive it becomes remains to be seen.

All of this of course begs the question, why is cycling so filled with scandals and characters who are willing to bend or outright break the rules for a chance to win. The problems that cycling faces don't seem to be quite as common in other sports, although there are plenty of them that have had to deal with PEDs too. But there seems to be a persistent culture that surrounds cycling that makes it more common amongst those who participate in it, and how that changes is anyone's guess.

Video: The Best of the Tour de France - Stages 15 - 21

Return to the roads of France one final time with GoPro, which brought us some amazing footage from this year's Tour de France thanks to bike mounted cameras. The result was images from within the peloton like nothing we've ever seen before. If you want to know just what it is like to ride in the greatest cycling event in the world, just have a look at this video. You'll come away with even more respect for these amazing athletes.

Tour de France 2015: Chris Froome Claims Second Tour Victory

The 2015 Tour de France came to an end yesterday on the streets of Paris, where the peloton arrived after three weeks of racing, covering more than 3000 km in the process. During that time, there were a lot of ups and downs for the riders, with plenty of high drama and incredible feats of strength and endurance. At times, it seemed that this was a race that was going to go exactly by the numbers, with little in the way of excitement. But the final days in the Alps proved that to be completely wrong, and gave us a new contender for future editions of Le Tour.

Heading into the weekend, Chris Froome continued to hold on to the Yellow Jersey worn by the race leader, and for the most part it seemed like he'd ride into Paris with little resistance. The Tour had moved into the Alps, and once again the British rider was showing his strength in the mountains. But on the final two days, two riders rose up to challenge the Froome, and in turn showed that he was a bit more vulnerable than we suspected.

On Friday of last week, 2014 winner Vincenzo Nibali went on the attack and showed that his legs still had plenty of strength in them. He ended up winning the stage and gaining back precious time on his rivals, although it didn't help to get him on to the podium in Paris. Still, it gave fans an idea of where Froome stood, and showed that he could be dropped on a major climb by a determined rider. That was something that Nairo Quintana took to heart on Saturday, attacking on Alp d'Huez – the most storied mountain stage in the sport. Quintana wasn't able to overcome the 2+ minute difference between him and Froome, but he did make it interesting, while managing to put the Sky rider in a world of hurt on the final climb.

In the end however, Froome proved once again to be too much for the peloton, and on Sunday's ceremonial ride into Paris, he claimed his second win in the Tour in three years. It was a strong performance once again by the Brit, although it also showed that he wasn't unassailable. The young man has quite a career ahead of him on the Tour, but his rivals will be emboldened by the fact that he showed vulnerability in the final days, proving that some will be able to ride with him given the chance.

For his part, Quintana showed that he has a bright future ahead of him as well. At the age of 24, he rode away with the White Jersey for the Tour's best young rider, finishing second overall. Probably most importantly, the Colombian rider seemed to gain confidence as well, and I would expect him to give no quarter next year when he and Froome meet again.

Peter Sagan managed to claim the Green Jersey that is awarded to the race's best sprinter, despite the fact that he didn't win a single stage for the second year in a row. This is the fourth consecutive year that Sagan has won this competition, although I suspect he'd like to get a few stage wins too. The big German sprinter Andre Greipel was clearly the fastest man in the peloton this year, but Sagan was easily the most consistent over the three weeks of racing.

In another display of just how good Chris Froome is as a rider, he also managed to win the Polka Dot Jersey given to the winner of King of the Mountains competition. That means he was the best climber in the race this year in addition to leading the General Classification for most of the past three weeks as well. No rider has managed to claim both the Yellow and Polka Dot Jerseys in the same year since the great Eddy Merckx did it back in 1970. So while Froome may have shown some signs of vulnerability, he still managed to put on a show for the ages.

The Tour is always one of my favorite events each year, and I'm always sad to see it end. Unfortunately for me, my schedule this year didn't allow me to see as much of it as I would have liked, nor cover it as completely as I typically do. Still, it was fun to watch where I could, and catch up with race reports on the days that I could not view the stage in its entirety, if at all. Now, on the Monday after the final stage of the 2015 Tour, I am already going through withdrawal and starting the countdown to 2016. The make-up of that race will be very different, and it will be a fascinating one to watch for sure.

Video: The Best of the Tour de France - Stages 8 - 14

With GoPro cameras attached to their bikes, the riders on this year's Tour de France are providing us with some unprecedented footage from out on the road. Last week we got a great look at some of the best shots from Stages 1-7, and now we have a new video that does the same from Stages 8-14. Take a look at what it is like to ride in the peloton with some of the most amazing clips from Le Tour ever.

Tour de France 2015: Things Get Testy Out on the Road

We have now entered the final week of the 2015 Tour de France, and at this point it looks like it will be nearly impossible for anyone to catch Chris Froome. But there is a lot of riding to go just yet, and the mighty Alps still lie ahead. So, while Froome and his Sky team look unbeatable at the moment, there is a lot of riding yet to come, and anything can happen before the peloton arrives in Paris next Sunday.

Over the past couple of days we've started to hear a number of disturbing reports from Tour officials about how things have gotten somewhat testy between the riders on Team Sky, and some of the spectators along the road. This past weekend it was revealed that not only was Ritchie Porte punched in the ribs by on the first stage in the Pyrenees last week, but both he and Luke Rowe were spat on as well.

If that wasn't bad enough, team leader Froome had a cup of urine thrown in his face while the offender in question proclaimed him a "Doper" in French. That incident occurred on Saturday on the ride between Rodez to Mende, and resulted in increased security around the Team Sky bus following the stage.

The success of Froome and Team Sky has led some members of the media – particularly in France – to question whether or not the cyclists are achieving their wins by fair means. There has been no indication that any members of the team are actually doping, but their dominance of the race has caused some to question just how they can be so much better than the rest of the peloton. Whether or not there is any use of performance enhancing substances on Team Sky remains to be seen, but based on what we know right now, they are winning the race based on good team tactics, exceptional cycling talent, and a unified presence out on the road.

As we head into the second rest day tomorrow, the riders are preparing to enter the Alps later in the week. It is on those massive slopes – including a mountain top finish on the legendary Alp d'Huez on Saturday – that the 2015 edition of this race will be deiced. But heading into those final days, Froome has a 3 minute and 10 second advantage over second place rider Nairo Quintana, and an additional 22 second lead over third place rider Tejay Van Garderen.

Since he is the race leader, Froome is wearing the Yellow Jersey, although he is also leading the King of the Mountains competition which gives him the Polka Dot Jersey as well. That particular shirt is actually on load to Joachim Rodriguez, who wears it each day out on the road.

Peter Sagan continues to dominate the competition for the Green Jersey, despite the fact that he has yet to win a stage in this year's Tour. At the moment, Sagan has a large point lead over second place sprinter André Greipel, and it is now starting to look like he will ride into Paris in Green for the fourth year in a row.

Finally, the White Jersey remains on the shoulders of Quintana. This jersey is given to the best young rider (under the age of 25) in the Tour, and the next closest cyclist is nearly 8 minutes back. It would take a massive collapse on the part of the Colombian rider to not finish in second place in the General Classification, and ride onto the Champs Elysees in White.

The rest day tomorrow gives everyone a chance to catch their breath before the real race begins. The rest of the week should be filled with lots of excitement as the competition unfolds on the slopes of the Alps. It should be interesting to see if anyone can challenge Froome. It will take a herculean effort to unseat him at this point, but there are a few riders who may be up to the challenge.

Video: GoPro Cameras Capture the Best of the Tour de France

Ever wonder what it is like to ride in the peloton of the Tour de France? Than check out this video from GoPro that captures video from the race unlike any you've ever seen. This year, many of the riders have GoPro cams on their bikes, and the footage that has been shown so far has been dramatic to say the least. This is a view of the race that we haven't seen before, and it is pretty amazing.

Tour de France Update: Froome Tough To Beat in Yellow

My very busy schedule over the past couple of weeks has made it more difficult than usual to keep up with what is happening with the Tour de France this year. While I have tried to watch as many stages as I can, there just hasn't been enough time in the day to follow it as closely as I would like. That said, I have continued to stay abreast of the proceedings, and while I haven't been writing detailed daily summaries as I have in past years, I've still been keeping a close eye on the race.

At the moment, the riders are in the Pyrenees where they are taking on the first major climbs of the year. Yesterday's tough stage helped set the tone for what is likely to come, as Chris Froome, along with his Sky team, continue to look impressive. Froome was the odds on favorite to win the 2015 Tour heading into the three-week long race, and at the moment it is starting to look like no one will truly challenge him. After yesterday, the Kenyan-born rider from the U.K. only tightened his grip on the Yellow Jersey.

Froome's closest rivals are American Tejay Van Garderen who sits 2 minutes and 52 seconds back, and Nairo Quintana Rojas who is holding down third place at the moment at 3 minutes, 9 seconds off the pace. Last year's Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali is more than 4 minutes back, while Alberto Contador – this year's other major contender – is holding down the sixth position over all and currently looks like he isn't riding anywhere close to Froome's level.

With his crushing riding in the first stage of the Pyrenees yesterday, Froome also took control of the Polka Dot Jersey that is awarded to the best climber in the race. He racked up quite a few points on his way to the stage win, and then went for more today on the ride up the Tourmalet. It is possible that he thinks he could pull off the rare double by taking home both the Yellow Jersey and the Polka Dot in the same year. Since he is currently holding both of those shirts, the Polka Dots were on loan to his teammate Ritchie Porte, who is second in the King of the Mountains classification at the moment.

The battle for the Green Jersey that goes to the top sprinter in the Tour de France has been an interesting one so far. Early on, Andre Greipel was cleaning up points in the category with stage wins and major points from intermediate checkpoints. But than as the race shifted locations, it was Peter Sagan who started to take charge. Now, the two men have been exchanging the jersey back and fourth between them, with just 7 points currently separating the two. Sagan has the jersey headed into tomorrows race, but whether or not he can hold on to it, and wear it on the ride into Paris, remains to be seen.

The White Jersey for the best young rider on the Tour is currently on the shoulders of Quintana, who has a more than 3 minute advantage over his closest rival in the category. While the Colombian rider would be happy to head back home in White, he still has designs on the Yellow Jersey as well, and will probably try to close the time gap that has opened between him and Froome.

Tomorrow is another very tough mountain stage. It is a 195 km (121.2 mile) ride from Lannemezan to summit of Plateau de Beille, which features a Category 2 climb, and two Cat. 1s before the mountain top finish that is rated as "Beyond Category." It is believed that there could be attacks on Froome's Yellow Jersey on that final climb, as Nairo Quintana looks to improve his position and put the lead back into striking distance before the riders temporarily leave the mountains behind.

The stage should definitely give us an indication of whether or not anyone can challenge Froome, or if he is destined to win his second Tour de France in three years.

Tour de France 2015: Greipel Continues to Dominate Sprints

Today was a typical early stage of the Tour de France. It featured plenty of riding, less than favorable weather conditions, several nasty crashes, and a sprint finish that provided a level of excitement in the final few kilometers. It also did nothing to impact the General Classification standings, although the sprinters got to strut their stuff once again.

The 189.5 km (117.7 mile) stage ran from Arras Communauté Urbaine to Amiens Métropole was most meant to be flat and fast. But poor weather that included rain and high winds, kept speeds slower than expected and helped to cause the peloton to split, while also bringing about several nasty crashes.

The real fireworks didn't begin until the riders lined up for a sprint finish. The top sprinters in the world made their way to the front of the pack to put themselves in position for a win, with the speed and intensity of the race rising dramatically in the final few kilometers. As the tempo increased to heart-pounding levels, riders like Andre Greipel, Mark Cavendish, and Peter Sagan went head to head for the stage victory. In the end, it was Greipel who made it to the line first, easily out pacing his rivals. Sagan and Cavendish finished second and third respectively.

It could be another controversial day in the media for Cavendish, as somehow he managed to lose the wheel of his lead out man Mark Renshaw in the stretch run. This didn't put Cav in the best of positions to go for the win, even though he tried his best to make up for the slip. Whether or not he'll find a way to throw his teammate under the bus again remains to be seen, but in the early days of the race, the relationship between the two riders has to be strained a bit.

At the end of the day, Greipel managed to add to his points total and hold on to the Green Jersey once again. Sagan also stays in white as the best young rider in the tour as well. The Polka Dot Jersey that goes to the King of the Mountains remains squarely on the shoulders of Joachim Rodriguez, although a few Category 4 climbs tomorrow may change that.

In terms of the GC, Tony Martin remains in Yellow and had no difficulty defending his top spot on the leaderboard today. There were no real chances for anyone to take the maillot jaune away from him, and he's likely to continue holding on to it for a few more days. The real contenders for the win – including Chris Froome and Alberto Contador – are lurking not far back, and are simply waiting for the first stages in the Pyrenees to make their move. That will happen this weekend.

Tomorrow, the riders will take to the French roads once again as they tackle a 191.5 km (119 mile) stage that runs from Abbeville to Le Havre. This is once again a route that favors the sprinters, although a few climbs will add a bit of interest along the way. Look for the familiar names of Greipel, Sagan, and Cavendish to be fighting it out once again, although this will be a stage where a breakaway could conceivably survive. Now that would bring some interest to the early proceedings.

The 2015 Tour de France is Underway!

One of my favorite annual events got underway this past weekend when the 2015 Tour de France began with an individual time trial in the town of Utrecht, Holland. As is typical with Le Tour, the opening days have been filled with carnage and controversy that have already left its mark on the peloton.

As mentioned, Day 1 was an individual time trial that was most notable for the fact that it was won by Rohan Dennis of BMC. He managed to complete the entire 13.8 km (8.5 mile) course in under 15 minutes, which put him in the Yellow Jersey just ahead of Tony Martin and TT specialist Fabian Cancellara.

Heading into Day 2, the riders were anxious to head out onto the first real stage of the race. It was a 166 km (103 mile) route from Utrecht to Zélande that featured a sprint finish that was won by Andre Greipel. It was this stage that brewed the first level of controversy as Greipel, Peter Sagan, and Cancellara all beat sprinter Mark Cavendish to the line. As they approached, it appeared as if Cavendish stopped pedaling, indicating that he had given up going for the win, which allowed Cancellara to earn a high enough spot to get bonus time that would put him into the Yellow Jersey.

After the stage, the media and cycling fans tore into Cavendish for not going hard all the way to the finish line. Had he finished stronger, his teammate Tony Martin would have earned the maillot jaune. For his part, Cav turned on his lead-out man Mark Renshaw, saying that he went for the sprint too early, leaving him hanging out to dry and without enough power to complete the final leg. The infighting has already put a dark cloud over the Etixx-Quick Step team in the early days of the race.

Day 3 was a defining one for the 2015 Tour. It was a 159.5 km (99.1 mile) slog across the Mur de Huy in Belgium that brought some tough climbing to the early days of this year's race. It was eventually won by Joaquin Rodriguez, but not before 2013 Tour winner Chris Froome grabbed the Yellow Jersey while out on the road.

The biggest news of the day was a massive crash that sent 20 riders to the ground and caused Tour organizers to suspend the race momentarily while the medical crew and cyclists worked to normalize the situation. When the dust cleared, several riders were forced to withdraw, including Cancellara who suffered a broken vertebrae in the fall.

Today, the race returned to France at last with a 223.5 km (138.8 mile) stage that took place between Seraing and Cambrai. The riders were forced to take on the infamous cobblestone roads of the north which always cause havoc on the peloton and their bikes. This was the case once again, with many cyclists having mechanical issues as they struggled to hang on with the lead group. On a day like today, most of the riders just try to survive, as the cobblestones have ended the Tour dreams of many of them in the past.

The hero of the day was Tony Martin however, who has languished in second place over the early stages of this year's Tour. As the peloton approached the finish line with just a few kilometers to go, Martin took charge of the race and sprinted out ahead of the other riders. The time trial champion was able to hold off a late attack and reach the finish line first, claiming the Yellow Jersey at long last. Although he has no designs on actually winning the race, Martin wanted so badly to claim the maillot jaune, even for a short time. He'll now take to the road tomorrow in yellow.

With this big win, Martin also holds the Green Jersey, while the White Jersey for the Tour's best young rider goes Sagan. There haven't been many climbing points up for grabs just yet, but the Polka Dot Jersey is currently on the shoulders of Thomas De Gendt.

Tomorrow, the peloton turns towards the Somme, a brutal scene of battle from World War I. The stage will be 189.5 km (117.7 miles) in length between Arras Communauté Urbaine and Amiens Métropole. It will be a sprinters stage once again, with the fastest men in the world lining up to take the win.

The Tour is just getting started. There is plenty of drama and competition yet to come.

Bradley Wiggins Sets New Hour Record For Cycling

With the 2015 Tour de France now less than a month away, it is certainly time to start thinking about cycling once again. If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you probably already know that Le Tour is one of my favorite events to follow each year. It is cycling's grandest stage, and a daily dose of inspiration for those of us who like to ride.

This past weekend, 2012 Tour champ Bradley Wiggins, who has all-but given up road racing in favor of returning to the track, set a new UCI hour record. For those who don't know, the hour record is an attempt by a rider to go as far as possible in just 60 minutes. It is conducted on a track instead of the road, and the cyclist rides completely alone. The event has received quite a bit of attention in the past year or so, as last September Jens Voight set a new mark by traveling 51.11 km (31.7 miles) over the course of his ride. Since then the record was broken three more times, with Brit Alex Dowsett the current record holder at 52.937 km (32.89 miles) going into the weekend.

The 35-year old Wiggins, who is known for being a powerful cyclist both on and off the track, managed to smash that mark however, and by most accounts it didn't appear that he was even working all that hard to do so. At the end of the ride, Wiggo had managed to travel an astounding 54.526 km (33.88 miles), beating the old record by a kilometer and a half.

This is an impressive feat for a rider who has struggled with injuries since winning his Tour de France nearly three years ago. He was left off the Sky team altogether last year, and more recently he has expressed his interest in returning to track cycling, which is where he got his early start, and has continued to show his prowess.

After hearing that his record had been broken, Dowseet – who is a road cyclist himself – has already said he would like to try to regain the title. It is unclear as to when exactly he would do that, but it seems that there is a real arms race going on right now to push the hour record even higher. Wiggins has already indicated that this was his one go at the mark, and that he would not continue to try to extend the distance. Considering how impressively he handled the ride, it seems he could probably go further, but having shown what he can do, it seems Sir Bradley has other things he'd prefer to concentrate on.

Congratulations to Wiggins on this very impressive feat. Now who is going to step up to challenge the record next?

Video: Cyclist Conquers Pyrenees on a Fixie

Here's a video that the cyclists amongst us will be able to appreciate. It features rider Patrick Seabase as he rides an exhausting mountain stage from the 1910 Tour de France on a fixie bike. Yep, that's right. He rode all 192 miles (308 km) through the Pyrenees on a bike that doesn't have any brakes or gears. Just watching him struggle to go up the slopes is enough to make my legs tired, and going back down had to be a scary affair as well. To find out more about Seabase and hi amazing ride, check out this interview he did with Red Bull.

Lance Armstrong Admits That He Would Dope Again

Lance Armstrong is back in the news once again this week thanks to an interview he gave to the BBC. In that interview Lance talks openly about life after his ban from professional cycling – or competing in any sports for that matter – saying that the fallout from his confession to doping throughout his career has been "heavy." But the part of the interview that continues to make headlines is when the former seven-time winner of the Tour de France admits that he would "probably do it again" in regards to using performance enhancing drugs while racing. This quote has of course let many shaking their heads, particularly if it is taken out of the context of the interview. But if you step back and take a look at what Lance is saying, his words really should come as much of a surprise.

During the interview Lance is asked if he had to do it over again, would he still use PEDs. His answer was "If I was racing in 2015, no, I wouldn't do it again because I don't think you have to," In that statement Armstrong is saying he'd ride clean if he were part of the peloton today, because the sport is cleaner in general But he goes on to follow up that sentence by saying "If you take me back to 1995, when doping was completely pervasive, I would probably do it again."

The sport of cycling has come a long way since Armstrong dominated the Tour back in the late 90's and early 2000's. It is indeed cleaner, although it is far from perfect. But when Lance was winning races testing for EPO and other banned substances was either primitive or nonexistent altogether. Practically everyone who was riding at the time was using some kind PED to get ahead. When most of the peloton was taking part in the practice, riders had little choice but to either get with the program, or be completely left behind by the sport.

In the interview with the BBC, Lance is simply being very honest with his answer. Those who are shocked by what he said probably don't understand the era in which he competed. It was a time when performance enhancing drugs were common. So much so that since Tour de France officials vacated Armstrong's seven titles they have been unable to award the wins to anyone else because most of the other top riders have tested positive for banned substances along the way as well.

I have often contended that much like the "steroid era" of baseball, the results of that period in cycling should still stand as well. It was a different time when the use of PEDs were so predominant that it was more unusual to find a rider who competed clean than it was to find someone who juiced. That isn't to say that it was right, only that the riders were mostly on a level playing field because nearly all of them were using something. Much like baseball, it is a good idea to compartmentalize that time period, recognize it for what it was, and move on with cleaning up the sport. Fortunately, there have at least been significant gains made in that area, even if there is still work to be done.

As for Armstrong, he is hoping to get his lifetime ban from sports lifted to he can start competing in events once again. There is no denying that he is a true competitor, and he would like nothing more than to strap on a pair of running shoes, or get back on a bike, and show us what he can do once again. He feels that it is time that we forgive him for his use of PEDs. But what he doesn't understand is that for many of us it isn't the revelation of his doping that has shocked us. Rather, it was the tactics that he took to cover up the doping that is most troublesome. When he was at the height of his popularity he made ruthless, systematic efforts to ruin the careers and lives of anyone who dared say that he wasn't riding clean when he won the Tour de France. A number of people became pariahs in the cycling world, and the court of pubic opinion, thanks to Lance's efforts to discredit them. It is that shameful behavior that is most difficult to forgive, and it will take an awful lot to reshape his public image as a result.

Tour de France 2014: Nibali Claims Victory in Paris

Yesterday was the final stage of the Tour de France, and as expected, Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali finished the race in the coveted Maillot Jaune, making him the champion for 2014. It was a dominating win for Nibali, who finished more than seven and a half minutes ahead of his nearest rival. All told, he wore the Yellow Jersey for all but two days of the Tour, and even put in a great performance in the individual time trial on Saturday, even though he already had the race won. As is usual on the final day of Le Tour, no riders attacked the race leader, and Nibali was able to ride into Paris to receive the adulation he deserved for such a dominating performance.

Of course, the final Sunday of the Tour de France isn't just about the ceremonial ride into Paris. The sprinters lined up for one last mad-dash on the Champs Élysées, with Marcel Kittel nipping Alexander Kristoff at the line. As usual, it was a crazy day on the cobbles of the streets of Paris, with plenty of fireworks as the riders pushed towards the finish line. But Kittel is now amongst the elite sprinters in the sport, and he proved that once again.

Saturday's individual time trial was also intriguing to watch. While Nibali put in a good performance, climbing fourth on the day, the rest of the Peloton was simply no match for world champion Tony Martin, who averaged 48.8 kph (30.3 mph) over the length of the 54 km (33.5 mile) route. His time was by far the fastest of the day, and proved why he remains the best time trialist in the sport at the moment.

Yesterday was a historic day in Paris, with two Frenchmen joining Nibali on the podium. Second place went to Jean-Christophe Péraud, who rode well on Saturday to take over the position from third place finisher, Thibaut Pinot. But Péraud nearly lost that second place finish when he was involved in a crash on the Champs Élysées on Sunday. Fortunately, it occurred far enough from the finish line that he was able to get back into the main group in time. Out of respect for his positioning, the peloton also slowed down to allow him to rejoin.

As for Pinot, he saw his position fall from second to third on Saturday, but he has a lot to be proud of. He went home in the White Jersey as the Tour's best young rider, and it appears that he has quite a career ahead of him. At the age of 24, he is already show ing flashes of brilliance, and may be France's best hope for an overall winner in the year's ahead.

Cannondale's Peter Sagan went home with the Green Jersey as this year's top sprinter. It is the third year in a row that he has earned that honor, and it may be some time before anyone challenges him in that category. Meanwhile, Rafal Majka held on to the Polk Dot Jersey, becoming the first Polish rider to be named the King of the Mountains.

All in all, it was another good year for the Tour de France, although that was mainly due to some amazing efforts on individual stages. With Chris Froome and Alberto Contador crashing out of the race early, Nibali was simply too powerful for anyone else to challenge. He was so good, that I'm not sure that either Froome or Contador could have beaten him either, but it sure would have been fun to watch them try. Hopefully next year we'll get some real competition for the Yellow Jersey, as the battle for the Maillot Jaune lacked any real sense of drama in 2014.

Still, Nibali earned the win and now has victories in all three of cycling's Grand Tours. Only five other men in the history of the sport can make that claim. Congratulations to him, and the entire Astana team, for such an impressive show out on the roads of France.

We'll see you next year Vincenzo.