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“We’re being taken for fools”: Manchester Bee Network blasted as motorists drive into cycle zone; Should we toast goodbye to the Tour’s ‘drink driving’ champagne photo op?; Transcontinental race gets under way; Vos the boss + more on the live blog

Ah, the morning after the Champs… But never fear, as we still have a whole week of racing around France left – oh, and Ryan Mallon’s here, nursing his post-Tour hangover, for Monday’s live blog
25 July 2022, 16:52
“Just a minute!”: Chicago cyclists protest Amazon driver parked in bike lane

Before I head off for a nice evening spin, here’s an example of a novel method adopted by some American cyclists for dealing with motorists flagrantly breaking traffic laws... by holding up traffic for “just a minute”:

Thanks to IanMSpencer for flagging the video in the comments!

25 July 2022, 15:49
Correction Corner

A classic from the Graun here, whose Tour de France live blogger managed to spectacularly misinterpret one of Jonas Vingegaard’s heartfelt post-race interviews:

I always said live blogging about cycling was a tricky business…

25 July 2022, 14:28
Marianne Vos takes stage and yellow jersey after dramatic day at Tour de France Femmes
Marianne Vos wins stage two of 2022 Tour de France Femmes (GCN)

It was written in the stars, wasn’t it?

Marianne Vos, arguably the greatest cyclist we’ve ever seen, unleashed her trademark sprint on the uphill drag to the line in Provins to win stage two of the Tour de France Femmes, and with it take the yellow jersey, after a dramatic, windy, crash-filled and potentially GC-upending day.

In 2009 Vos won the final ever stage of the Grande Boucle Féminine, the closest thing the women’s peloton had to a ‘Tour de France’ in those days.

13 years later, the Jumbo-Visma rider didn’t leave it long to restamp her authority on French roads. After finishing second behind Lorena Wiebes on the Champs-Élysées yesterday, Vos outsprinted a small group including Silvia Persico, Kasia Niewiadoma and Elisa Longo Borghini on the uphill drag to the line in Provins.

As the race descended into chaos behind her, with a number of pre-race favourites losing significant amounts of time or even crashing out completely, Vos remained cool, letting Niewiadoma lead her out before shifting down a gear as the road flattened to sprint to a historic stage win and the first yellow jersey of her illustrious, unsurpassed career.

Strong winds and open, exposed rural roads led to a day of tension for the peloton, as teams – conscious of the threat of echelons – sought to protect their leaders and GC hopes.

20-year-old’s Maike van der Duin’s attack with 25 kilometres to go, however, lit the blue touch paper and heightened a few already jangling nerves in the bunch. The Dutch sprinter’s opportune move also preceded a string of potentially race-changing crashes, as the speed noticeably went up a notch.

One of those crashes saw Australian champion Nicole Frain, chasing to regain contact, ride straight into the back of FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope’s Marta Cavalli, who had managed to avoid the initial pile-up. While Cavalli, who finished second overall at this month’s Giro Donne, got back on her bike following the sickening collision, she later abandoned the race and is currently being treated in hospital.

Coming through the finish line to begin the local loop around Provins, which doubled as an intermediate sprint, Trek-Segafredo’s Elisa Balsamo took advantage of the post-sprint lull to bridge to Van der Duin, with teammate Longo Borghini, Niewiadoma, Persico and Vos on her wheel.

Stage 2, 2022 Tour de France Femmes (A.S.O./Thomas Maheux)

A.S.O./Thomas Maheux

While Balsamo worked hard to forge her leader Longo Borghini clear – the leading five would end up putting around half a minute into all of their rivals – things went from bad to worse for FDJ as the peloton blew to pieces in the crosswinds.

The French team’s Danish leader Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig was held up by yet another crash, and lost 1.38 to Vos by the finish, and over a minute to the likes of Demi Vollering and Annemiek van Vleuten (who also surprisingly seemed to struggle on the drag to the line, ceding five seconds to Vollering).

Team BikeExchange-Jayco’s Kristen Faulkner fared even worse, and now sits 92nd on GC, over four minutes down.

Today’s chaotic finale underlined that old cycling adage that you may not win the Tour on tricky stages like this one, but you can certainly lose it. Those words will certainly be ringing in the ears of everyone at the FDJ dinner table tonight, only two days into their home grand tour.

As for Vos, the yellow jersey represents yet another historic landmark in one of sport’s most storied careers.

Cycling? Completed it, mate.

25 July 2022, 14:00
Transcontinental race gets under way

‘Dot-watching’ cycling fans, rejoice! After a three-year hiatus, the Transcontinental race is back for its eighth, gruelling edition.

Yesterday, as the men’s Tour de France ended and the Tour Femmes kicked off on the Champs-Élysées, 250 ultra-distance cyclists gathered at one of cycling’s other holy places, the Muur van Geraardsbergen, for the start of Europe’s definitive ultra-distance bike race.

The Transcon is a self-supported jaunt across Europe founded by the late ultra-cyclist Mike Hall in 2013, with riders usually covering 4,000km depending on the route they take.

After starting in Flanders last night, the riders will head to Germany and the Czech Republic, before heading south to the Dolomites and the iconic Passo di Gavia, then onto Montenegro and Romania, before finally finishing, after lots of blood, sweat and tears presumably, in Burgas on Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast. Whatever route they take between those checkpoints is up to them, with riders scattered all over Germany at the moment.

Crucially, the clock doesn't stop at all during the event, meaning those at the sharp end of the race sleep sparingly, often in a bivvy at the side of the road if it's not quick or convenient to make a hotel stop.

Drafting is not permitted and you’re also allowed no assistance from friends, family or other racers – all food, accommodation and repairs must be paid for by the rider.

Our own Jo Burt, who was forced to ‘scratch’ after 950km in the 2017 edition, describes it like this: “It is about hardship and pushing yourself to keep going, no matter how fast that may be, always move forward. This is tough, several long strides outside of your comfort zone, it’s meant to hurt, everyone is doing their best just to get by no matter where they are in the race.

“There is little comfort to be had. It’s a race, it’s not meant to be fun. For every moment of high and photogenic viewpoint there are ten times as many tedious boring bits and shit struggle.”

Sounds great.

If ‘dot-watching’ is your thing, you can keep up to date with all the madness and misery – we’re currently almost 17 hours in – on the race’s website.

25 July 2022, 13:26
From one Great Dane to another
25 July 2022, 13:02
Wright Said Fred: rider of the Tour?

It’s easy to forget, ten years on from Bradley Wiggins, in the yellow jersey, leading out world champion Mark Cavendish for the win on the Champs-Élysées, that a Tour de France with a British rider finishing on the podium, another winning a stage on Alpe d’Huez, and a third lighting up the race and placing top ten on the final stage would have once been unthinkable.

But we live in strange times, when British success on cycling’s biggest stage is almost taken for granted.

While the yellow jersey appears, for the time being, beyond reach (thanks to Jonas and Pog), this year’s Tour seemed to pay homage to the past, present and future of British grand tour racing.

First, 36-year-old Geraint Thomas rolled the clock back, putting in a ‘best of the rest’ performance to take third overall, the third Tour podium of his career (ably supported by Adam Yates, who also managed a top ten on GC).

At the other end of the age spectrum (sorry, Geraint), 22-year-old Tom Pidcock gave us a glimpse of what to expect over the next ten years – securing a sensational solo breakaway win atop arguably the Tour’s most famous climb, L’Alpe d’Huez, after one of the finest rides of the race. While Pidcock couldn’t hold onto a top ten overall – he is human after all – the world cyclocross and Olympic mountain bike champion cemented his status as a bona fide star of the road.

Away from Ineos, Owain Doull was a constant presence in breaks, including on the Champs-Élysées, while Connor Swift helped Arkéa Samsic’s Nairo Quintana to sixth overall.

But my rider of the Tour – if we just ignore Jumbo-Visma and Pogačar for a moment (easy, I know) – has to go to Fred Wright.

The 23-year-old Londoner built upon his breakthrough seventh place at the Tour of Flanders in April with an assured, exciting ride through France.

While his Bahrain-Victorious teammates generally underperformed, Wright was an ever present in breaks, bunch finishes and even in the final time trial.

After being beaten into second by former world champion Mads Pederson into Saint-Etienne, Wright put in another gutsy ride from the break on stage 19 into Cahors, breaking clear in the final kilometres before being swept up by a rampant Christophe Laporte.

He then backed that up by finishing a remarkable eighth in the TT, and then – just like that – tenth on the most important sprint stage of them all on the Champs-Élysées.

Wright, who also possesses one of the most unique middle names in the peloton (Brockwell, named after a local park) then staked his claim for the ‘best off-hand comment of the Tour’ award, quipping to GCN’s team in Paris “where's my make-up” while he was being interviewed…

Chapeau, indeed.

25 July 2022, 12:41
Some thoughts on the last three weeks, and how well Jumbo-Visma can answer tricky questions, on and off the bike…
25 July 2022, 11:41
Geraint Thomas congratulates… Geraint Thomas

Hopefully the other Geraint’s Twitter notifications will calm down a for a bit now…

25 July 2022, 10:59
I’ll be back… on my bike

Now, I wonder what everyone thinks about smoking a cigar while cycling?

25 July 2022, 10:30
Tadej Pogačar: Never wasting an opportunity

Also, spare a thought for poor Simon Geschke, forced to look on as a polka-dot mannequin takes his place on the Tour podium… 

25 July 2022, 09:33
“Just what people on bikes want. Drink driving”: Is it time to toast goodbye to the Tour’s final day champagne photo op?

Now, before we get into that tedious annual debate about the merits of the Tour’s final “processional” stage to Paris (though all I will say is, make sure Tadej Pogačar isn’t a handful of seconds behind you on GC, as he will attack on the Champs-Élysées, tradition be damned)…

Yesterday cycling journalist Peter Flax pointed out, as Jumbo-Visma’s riders and staff soaked up their dominant Tour win by posing for as many photos as possible, the rather questionable optics of team car drivers clinking glasses of champagne.

Regardless of whether any bubbly was actually consumed by riders or drivers, does the champagne photo op send the wrong message, and should it be consigned – like proper racing before the Champs on the final day – to the annals of cycling history?

25 July 2022, 08:51 at the Tour de France

Live blog favourite Dan drew the short straw this weekend and was whisked away on a private jet – loaned to him by his mate Kylie, he tells me – to Paris for the final stage of the men’s Tour de France and the first stage of the relaunched Tour Femmes.

By all accounts he had a dreadful time:

I wonder how he’s feeling this morning… 

25 July 2022, 08:40
“We’re being taken for fools”: Manchester Bee Network blasted as motorists filmed driving into cycle zone

Back in 2020, you may remember, Greater Manchester’s then-cycling and walking commissioner Chris Boardman told the then-safely secure Prime Minister Boris Johnson (how times change, eh?) that Manchester’s Bee Network could act as a “national blueprint” for active travel, and that the “timing is perfect to wean a nation off its automobile addiction”.

Judging by footage filmed at the weekend, however, it seems that motorists first need to be weaned off driving into the city’s new cycle and pedestrian zones.

Cycling advocate Harry Gray, one of the masterminds behind this year’s Snake Pass protests, posted a video on Twitter on Saturday showing a number of Uber drivers being forced to reverse out of the cycle zone in the city’s Northern Quarter:

While some criticised the blasé attitude of the drivers towards cyclists, Gray focused his attention on the “sheer incompetence” of what he called the network’s “awful design”.

He pointed out that the cycle and pedestrian zone is only enforced by a ‘No entry’ sign and a red line on the road (the concrete block that forced the motorists to back up is found further into the zone) and that drivers are being shuttled down a one-way street towards the area, with no other option than to reverse.

> Revamped road condemned as “death trap” after cyclist critically injured

Gray wasn’t the only one pointing out the flaws in that particular section of the Bee Network, as last night infrastructure expert Iain Roberts gave his take on the Thomas Street cycle lanes, which, as he points out, were originally touted as an alternative to the "missed opportunity" for active travel provision on Great Ancoats Street:

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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