Seldom does a Tour de France deliver so much drama in the opening week.
This year’s edition seems to have had a little bit of everything packed into the first four stages alone. And it surely will only get better as the race heads toward the Pyrenees.
Putting an exclamation mark on the strangeness of the early part of the race was the fact that 2 of the Big 4 race favorites (defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, and Nairo Quintana) both lost nearly 1:30 to the other half of the favorites group, Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, in the wind-swept Stage 2.
Then, in Stage 3, an unmet acceleration in the last 1/4 kilometer saw Froome take another 18 seconds from Contador.
But that wasn’t even the most dramatic element of the stage. Sadly, two major crashes took out such luminaries as Fabian Cancellara, causing numerous broken bones and abandonments (including a reported 5 of the 20 riders in the “big one.”)
And lurking in the “don’t forget about him” category (somehow there wasn’t enough room for a Big 5?) lies Teejay Van Garderen, who after the first four stages sat in 3rd in the GC, just 13 seconds behind Froome, who was 2nd. Contador, in 8th, sat 36 seconds back of Froome, while Nibali (13th) was 1:38 behind, and Quintana (17th) was 1:56 in arrears.
We know big chunks of time can be taken in the mountains, where all of the top riders have special talents – which makes the mountain stages in the particular TdF so very tantalizing.
And let’s not forget the team trial coming up on Sunday, just before the first rest day. It’s relatively short, but a strong team (Van Garderen’s BMC, with individual TT winner Rohan Dennis on board?) could make hay. And then, when the race resumes on Tuesday, the first high mountain stage in the Pyrenees looms.
I’m excited. How about you?
TdF Shoes Show a Pronounced Move to Boa Closures
Most tech stories emanating from the Tour typically seem to focus on “big ticket” items like new frame-sets or electric shifting systems, so I was intrigued to see a story focused purely on the types of shoes riders are donning this year.
A story in Bike Radar from a reporter who camped out at the sign-in table before a stage, snapping photos of rider’s shoes, showed a clear trend toward Boa closure systems as the dominant type of footwear at the Tour.
Almost completely gone are the 3-strap hook-and-loop closures of the past; even lace-up “retro” Giro models were more prevalent.
If you don’t know what the Boa system is all about, Jim Langley wrote about it back in December, in his annual cycling gift ideas column:
Boa Closure Cycling Shoes ($ varies)
This gift idea is for a somewhat-new technology that many road riders love when they try it: shoes with Boa Closures. It’s a system that uses tough, thin wire/filament laces that you tighten and loosen with a ratcheting dial. This allows fine-tuning the fit along the entire length of the shoes simply by turning the dials. And the result is even more comfortable shoes and power transfer. To buy this gift, you’ll want to give them a gift certificate to a bike shop that carries shoes with Boa Closures so that they can get the right fit and features. The link goes to a page showing the many shoe brands using Boa Closures. Some cycling shoe makers use a proprietary closure system similar to Boa Closures.
Browsing the Boa website, I learned that the technology is used on all types of sports shoes, which I hadn’t known before. And, I also enjoyed the video at this link that explains much better than I can how Boa Technology provides superior fit and comfort: http://www.boatechnology.com/why-boa/#/what-is-boa
I’ve been wearing a pair of Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Leader shoes (review forthcoming) with boa closure for a few months now, and I really like the easy-to-dial-in fit and comfort.