Friday, July 25, 2008


EMERGENT CROP. In the most recent years, Carlos Sastre has been a consistent also ran. Cadel Evans has been lurking, but not ripe for a podium finish in Paris. Christian VandeVelde rode support, as did Denis Menchov. These capable riders have moved forward as the Armstrong-era strongmen have, for one reason after another, moved aside.

LEGITIMATE CHAMPION. Every Tour de France is raced without at least a few "should have been there," "could have won it" cyclists. But they were injured. But their team wasn't invited. But they were under suspicion of doping. But... The eventual champion of this year's Tour de France will be a legitimate winner because he rode the full 21-stage course over 2,000 miles better and faster than anyone else who had equal opportunity to ride it. So, cheers to the eventual champion and every contestant who crosses the finish line in Paris.

ABSENT FROM THE FIELD. On the other hand, look who's not in this year's race: Alberto Contador, the defending champion. American Levi Leipheimer (in photo), last year's runner-up. Contador and Leipheimer's team wasn't invited to this year's race. Then there's Alexander Vinokourov, proverbial dark horse who was kicked out of last year's Tour for doping. And Floyd Landis, 2006 winner, stripped of his title for doping. Michael Rasmussen--out for doping. The list goes on. Some of the "not present" contenders should be there. Some should not. Perhaps some of them will have another opportunity to contest the Tour before they're too old. Others, tainted by doping, should just stay away for their sport's sake.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


TRANSITION STAGE. This late in the race, it's hard to get focused on the goings on within a transition stage. Finished with the Alps, the Tour is moving back into central France--transitioning from the mountains to the flatlands. Today, a series of breakaways and jockeying for points over minor climbs produced, at the line, yet another stage win for American-based Team Columbia with Germany's Marcus Burghardt prevailing. The sportswear company is getting great mileage out of its recent choice to sponsor a team!

IT ALL COMES DOWN TO SATURDAY. The spotlight for the overall win--the General Classification--remains on Saturday's individual time trial (ITT) showdown between current Yellow Jersey man Spaniard Carlos Sastre and pre-tour favorite Australian Cadel Evans. The Tour championship will be won and lost based on the ride of these two worthy riders. Trailing Sastre by 1 minute, 34 seconds, Evans must ride the time trial of his life and hope his time is at least 1 minute, 35 seconds better than Sastre's. Sastre will be the last rider on the ITT course. It will come down to the very last second. Hang on to your hats!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


MAGIC NUMBER FOR EVANS. Cadel Evans' magic number: 1 minute, 16 seconds. That's how much faster he was than Carlos Sastre in the first Individual Time Trial (Stage 4). After Sastre's scamper up fabled L'Alpe d'Huez to a Stage 17 win today, Cadel now trails Sastre 1.34. Barring unexpected and unforeseen shake-ups on Thursday's Stage 18 and Friday's Stage 19, the championship of the 2008 Tour de France looks to come down to Saturday's Stage 20 ITT.

EVANS VS SASTRE ON SATURDAY. After Sastre's CSC-Saxo teammates helped launch him to a powerful attack and win on L'Alpe d'Huez today, the Spaniard took over the Yellow Jersey and a 1 minute, 34 second lead over Evans. Frank Schleck of Luxemburg and Bernhard Kohl of Austria are also ahead of Evans, but neither of them have proven that they can time trial well enough to maintain their advantage over him. Cadel Evans is, by far, the best time trialer of all the contenders. Evans is substantially faster in a time trial than Sastre. But is he THAT much faster than Sastre?

EPIC FINISH. So, it will come down to whether or not Evans can overcome the 1.34 he's behind Sastre on Saturday. This looks to be an epic finish. Don't count out American Christian VandeVelde as a possible podium finisher. It will be either he or Russian Denis Menchov in 3rd place.

Monday, July 21, 2008


LAST WEEK, THIS WEEK. My twice-a-day speaking schedule at the West Virginia camp, along with trying to get in some afternoon road and mountain bike riding in those beautiful mountains and limited Internet accessed shut me out of daily updates on the last week's stages of the Tour. But I'm "back home again in Indiana" and ready to track the last week of the closest Tour de France in recent memory!

CHAMPIONSHIP UP FOR GRABS. Who'd have thought that less than a minute would separate the top six contenders after 15 stages? More than that, only eight seconds separate race leader Frank Schleck of Luxemburg, Bernhard Kohl of Germany and Cadel Evans of Australia. Back only 38 seconds is Denis Menchov of Russia. Down only 39 seconds is American Christian VandeVelde. Spaniard Carlos Sastre is at 49 seconds. And there are three others within still within striking distance. We're looking at a very exciting week at the top of the leaderboard.

TWO MORE MOUNTAIN STAGES. The outcome of this year's race rests on two more mountan stages and then, on Saturday, an individual time trial. Tomorrow, the cyclists tackle two highest category (HC) climbs, including the highest point in this year's Tour. On Wednesday they face three HC climbs, including a mountain top finish on the fabled L'Alpe d'Huez. While there are categorized climbs during Thursday and Friday's stages, nothing's there to separate the contenders. Wednesday is do or die day! It will be epic!

INDIVIDUAL TIME TRIAL ON SATURDAY. If Cadel Evans can remain within 30 seconds of the lead going into Saturday's Stage 20 Individual Time Trial, he could well be this year's winner. He's, by far, the best time trialer of the top ten contenders. Only Denis Menchov and Christian VandeVelde can match his time in the ITT. Frank Schleck and Bernhard Kohl finished minutes behind Evans in the Stage 4 ITT. But, you never know...

DOPERS OUT. Emerging Italian phenom Riccardo Ricco, after winning two stages in this year's Tour, is out--along with his whole Saunier-Duval team--after his urine test revealed EPO. A Barloworld rider got caught, too. No room for cheaters in the Tour de France. Let's keep cleaning it up, leveling the playing field, and restoring integrity to the sport.

MARK CAVENDISH - FOUR STAGE WINS. The young British rider riding for American Team Columbia made quite a name for himself by winning four sprint-finishes stages in this year's Tour. Few cyclists can do this. Let's see if he repeats the feat next year.

Monday, July 14, 2008


EVANS IN YELLOW. Two highest category mountain climbs brought the first real fireworks of this year's Tour. Two Frenchmen crested the first mountain, Tourmalet, well ahead of the peloton--something of a French victory on Bastille Day. The second mountain, Hautecam, brought a first-time stage victory for Italian Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier-Duval). More importantly, it brought the Yellow Jersey to Australian Cadel Evans, and put distance between him and contenders like Alejandro Valverde, Damiano Cunego, and Kim Kirchen.

AMERICAN VANDE VELDE INTO THIRD. There was something for Americans to celebrate, too. Christian Vande Velde, leader of the Garmin-Chipotle team, finished the stage alongside Evans, moving him up to third place in the General Classification rankings. This was a breakthrough for Vande Velde, who can now be considered a dark horse for the Tour win or podium finish. Vande Velde has lots of experience and tends to ride more strongly in the last week of a 3-week tour.

RESTING, REVELING, PREPARING. Tomorrow is a much-needed rest day for the cyclists. Evans can revel in his good fortune, since he crashed badly on Saturday and raced with bandages today. He is the race leader, but he is just one second ahead of Frank Schleck of Luxemburg. Schleck is a bonafide contender. The riders will consider the mountains that are ahead of them. The heart of the Tour de France has yet to be raced.


MOUNTAIN RETREAT. So, I've been a literal TV and Internet blackout for the past two days. Only by cell phone have I kept track of the Tour progreess. I'm at a camp in the West Virginia mountains and Wi-Fi hotspots are miles away. So, tracking and comment may be patchy this week.

KICKING TRAILS, STEEP ROADS. On the other hand, I'm getting in some great rides, both on my road bike and mountain bike. The trails around here are awesome. They kick me, humble me. The road biking is dangerous. Roads are narrow, windy and steep. Treacherous, really. But it is the most challenging terrian I've ever attempted. No complaints ever again about the climbs in the Hilly Hundred.

Friday, July 11, 2008


The end of the first week of the Tour de France keeps bringing surpises (not the least of which is that the cyclists have two more days of riding before their first rest day). Luis Leon Sanchez (shown leading the stage) dug deep on the long descent and beat all the leaders to the finish line by six seconds. Kim Kirchen retains the Yellow Jersey, but Italian contender Damiano Cunego crashed and damaged his chances to be on the podium in Paris.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


GLORY AND DISAPPOINTMENT. A mountain stage in the first week is rare, not that Super Besse was an HC or Category 1 climb. But, apparently, the constant up-and-down terrain all day took its toll and the final climb up Super Besse really separated the Tour de France peloton. It brought glory for a few and disappointment for others. At the end of the day, the race leadership was shaken up (again).

ITALIAN ROOKIE TOPS. Tour rookie Italian Riccardo Ricco beat all the contenders to the top of Super Besse. Right on his heels was top contenders Alejandro Valverde and Cadel Evans, and, right behind them, Frank Schleck and Kim Kirchen. Unfortunately, race leader Stefan Schumacher crashed in the final kilometer and lost the Yellow Jersey. Kirchen takes over as the race leader.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


YOUTH MOVEMENT. Mark Cavendish of Britain out-sprinted the best of the best sprinters at the finish line of the longest day of this year's Tour de France (232 km) to claim a striking win. The charging peloton swallowed up a day-long breakaway group of three within the last kilometer. Several teams worked to set up to spring their best sprinter across the finish line. Oscar Freire was there. Thor Hushovd was there. Eric Zabel was there. And there, also, powering ahead of these sprint greats, was a 23-year old from England riding for American team Columbia.

A STAR IS BORN? This was the first Tour de France stage win for Cavendish. Racing folks took note of him in the Giro d'Italia, in which his sprinting ability stood out. It was the first stage win for a British rider since David Millar won a stage in 2003. He's one to watch for the rest of the sprint finishes in this race and for the future.

THOR IN GREEN...FOR NOW. With his fourth-pace finish in the stage, Norwegian Thor Hushovd took over the Green Jersey from Kim Kirchen. Hushovd has won the Green Jersey competition before, but he will certainly have to fight to keep it amongst a carnivorous group of capable sprinters. Yet to win a sprint finish: Australian Robbie McEwen (though he out-sprinted all others behind the 3 breakaway riders in Stage 3).

STATUS QUO. No significant changes in the General Classification (overall standings).

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I love this wide angle photo of American Christian Vande Velde riding in Tuesday's Stage 4 Individual Time Trial of the Tour de France. You know, Vande Velde didn't HAVE to put the image of an American flag on his American-made Zipp wheels (made in Speedway, Indiana, actually!), but he did! I think that's cool. I usually don't go in for flag-waving expressions of patriotism, but every now and then some graphic strikes me as fitting and fun. This is one. Vande Velde finished well enough to put himself in the top ten overall for the race after four stages.


CHANGE, CHANGE. First it was Spain that celebrated. Yesterday the French could celebrate. Today, it's the Germans. Tomorrow?

SCHUMACHER BURNS UP THE COURSE. Today's Individual Time Trial was a short 29.5 kilometer ride that called for a sustained blast of energy. Most riders finished the course in about 40 minutes, but the winner, Stefan Schumacher of Germany completed it in 35.44 minutes, averaging 49.534 km/h. Schumacher's time was not only good enough for the Stage 4 win, but good enough to put him in the Yellow Jersey as the third leader in 4 stages of this year's Tour de France. Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara was heavily favored to win this stage, but he finished fifth. What happened?

SHAKE UP. The ITT shook up the leadership of the Tour, making the race leadership look more like it would have looked like had there been the usual Prologue prior to Stage 1. It looks good for Cadel Evans and Kim Kirchen, even Christian Vande Velde. On the other hand, it looks like Alejandro Valdverde is not yet strong enough in time trials to stamp his leadership on the Tour.

AMERICANS. Two Americans, George Hincapie and Christian Vande Velde finished in the top ten in the ITT. Danny Pate was in the top 15. The Americans have learned from Lance Armstrong that a key ingredient to a successful Tour is to work hard on and ride well in individual and team time trials.

TOP TEN. Here are the top ten times in the race after Stage 4 (name, nation, team, time):

1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner total lapsed time: 14 hrs. 4 min. 14 sec.
2 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Columbia -0.12
3 David Millar (GBr) Garmin Chipotle -0.12
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto -0.21
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) CSC-Saxo Bank -0.23
6 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin Chipotle -0.37
7 George Hincapie (USA) Columbia -0.41
8 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Columbia -0.47
9 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas -0.58
10 José Iván Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne -1.01

OTHER CONTENDERS. Here's where others considered contenders to win this Tour are placed after Stage 4:

11 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank -1.12
16 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre -1.26
17 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne -1.27
18 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC-Saxo Bank -1.29
23 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC-Saxo Bank -1.43

SIX TO WATCH. After four stages, the race appears to be up for grabs among six riders. Count David Millar and Cancellara out of the running; they are not mountain climbers. Hincapie and Lovkvist will sacrifice themselves for Kirchen in the mountains (too bad for Hincapie, because I think he's got the stuff to lead Columbia and be on the Paris podium). Nibali and Gutierrez, likewise, are support riders. Team leaders Denis Menchov, Damiano Cunego, and Valverde are great mountain climbers and they can readily erase 90-second deficits. But can they put enough time ahead of Evans, Kirchen and Vande Velde in the mountains before the second Individual Time Trial to keep the lead, should they capture it? We'll see.

HOW TO LOSE IT IN THE FIRST WEEK. Lance Armstrong was quoted recently as saying (repeating): "You can't win the Tour in the first week, but you can lose it." How to lose it: (1) wreck in the peloton, (2) do a poor Individual Time Trial, (3) fail to respond aggressively to breakaways. It looks like Evans and Kirchen are following his formula closely.

Monday, July 7, 2008


WHO'D HAVE THOUGHT? I wonder if American Wil Frischkorn (left in picture) really thought he'd actually get away with it when he sprang forward at the start of the 208-kilometer Stage 3? Of course every rider always hopes to get enough distance and out-last the pack of 170+ riders who eventually try to chase down and overtake any escapees before the finish line. Rarely does a breakway succeed.

ONE THAT GOT AWAY. But this is one that succeeded. This is a breakaway that got away. Joined by a handful of riders the peloton leaders decided were "safe" enough to let go, Frischkorn worked with two Frenchmen, Samuel Dumoulin and Romain Feillu and Italy's Paolo Longo Borghini through rain, wind and shine to out-wit and out-pedal the peloton. The group finished 2 minutes and 3 seconds ahead of a wreck-divided peloton. Australian Robbie McEwen beat all other sprinters to the line, finishing 5th in the stage.

NEW RACE LEADER. Their achievement shook up the leadership of the 95th Tour de France. Dumoulin won the stage. Feillu was presented the Yellow Jersey. That's two good reasons for France to be celebrating tonight! In addition, Feillu took over the White Jersey as the best-placed rider 25 years of age or younger. For the record, Frischkorn, an American riding his first Tour for Garmin-Chipotle, finished second in the stage and moved up to 3rd in the General Classification (overall time)--a minute behind Feillu and Borghini and just a few seconds ahead of former race leader Alejandro Valverde.

FURTHER GAPS. A wreck occurred on the rain-drenched road as the peloton was trying to chase down the escapees. As a result, the main peloton slip up into three groups. Several of the contenders for the General Classification (Yellow Jeresy) found themselves in the second group that finished about forty seconds behind other contenders. The later finishers included: Denis Menchov, Riccardo Ricco, and Jose Cobo. But Valverde, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, and Damiano Cunego all finished in the lead group and maintain prominence in the overall standings.

THREE AMERICANS IN TOP 25. Don't look now, but Frischkorn, George Hincapie and Christian Vande Velde are all placed in the top 25 after three stages of this Tour. Not bad for USA having only four riders out of 180 selected for the race.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


TEAM COLUMBIA. Kim Kirchen of Luxemburg, now wearing the Green Jersey of the sprint leader and who finished 7th in last year's Tour, is riding for an American team. Team Columbia (the sportswear company) is based in the USA and includes American George Hincapie (pictured in helmet), the former faithful lieutenant of Lance Armstrong. Columbia recently became the name sponsor of the team that has been known as Team Highroad.

GARMIN-CHIPOTLE CYCLING. There is another American team in the Tour--Team Garmin-Chipotle, formerly known as Slipstream. That's Garmin GPS products and, yes, Chipotle gourmet burrito restaurants. Team Garmin-Chipotle features team leader Christian VandeVelde and two more Americans.

POST-DISCOVERY OPPORTUNITIES FOR AMERICANS. These two American teams have been emerging on the national and international bicycle racing stage impressively over the past several years, but this is their first appearance in the Tour de France. This is quite encouraging, particularly after the demise of the Discovery Channel cycling team (formerly U S Postal) of Lance Armstrong at the end of 2007. It's good for American cycling, giving a platform for young racers to aim for. Though only four Americans are in this year's Tour de France, each is part of a highly-competitive team.

AMERICANS IN FRANCE. The four Americans racing in this year's Tour are: George Hincapie (Columbia), Christian VandeVelde (Garmin-Chipotle), Wil Frischkorn (Garmin-Chipotle), and Danny Pate (Garmin-Chipotle). Unfortunately, the American most likely to have been on the top-three podium in Paris, Levi Leipheimer, joined the Astana team which was subsequently suspended as further discipline for Alexander Vinokourov's doping in last year's TdF. Usuals also missing from this year's Tour squads, Americans Bobby Julich, Fred Rodriguez, and David Zabriske. It remains to be seen whether or not Tyler Hamilton or Floyd Landis ever ride professionally again after disciplinary action for apparent doping.


NORWEGIAN POWER. After over 100 miles of undulating Brittany terrain and a breakaway--involving Frenchman Thomas Voekler for the second straight day--that almost succeeded, Norwegian sprint specialist Thor Hushovd outkicked Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen at the finish line to win Stage 2.

SPRINTERS EMERGING. What a great name: Thor! It's almost as if, with a name like that, you've got a psychological edge on the competition. Hushovd had the edge today, just like he's had in five other Tour de France stages in previous years. Kirchen finished just a nose behind Hushovd, but the Luxembourger took over the Green Jersey as the sprint leader. Watch for Hushovd, Kirchen and Australian Robbie McEwen to compete for the Green Jersey throughout the tour. Sprinters will likely dominate the first week of racing.

VOEKLER PUSHING IT. Thomas Voekler is making a habit of breaking away. The Frenchman stayed away most of yesterday and today. Though he and his compatriots were eventually reeled in, Voekler's efforts have garnered him a commanding lead in the "King of the Mountains" competition. He'll wear the Polka-dot Jersey for the second day in a row when the cyclists line up on Monday. He may be noted well as the most combative, too.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


POWERFUL UPHILL FINISH. Alejandro Valverde made a strong statement about his intentions for winning the 95th Tour de France. On the 1 km uphill finish of a rolling 197.5-kilometer race, the Spaniard broke out of the leading group, powerfully out-kicking all competitors to win Stage 1 going away. Tour contenders Cadel Evans and Kim Kirchen were in the leading group, but they were no match for Valverde's explosion of power on this day.

STAKING A CLAIM. So, Valverde, the only rider in this Tour de France to have previously won a stage in a head-to-head mountain climb against Lance Armstrong, stakes his claim in this year's Tour. The recently-crowned Spanish national champ and winner of this year's Dauphine Libere, dons the Yellow Jersey of the overall race leader. Will he be able to keep it throughout the next 20 stages? Or was it enough, for now, to serve notice on Evans, Kirchen, Sastre and other contenders? We'll see.

SOLER RECOVERS, BUT HIS BID IS JEOPARDIZED. One of the top contenders was involved in a crash that jeopardizes his chances of winning the Tour. Maurico Soler of Columbia was able to finish the stage, but rolled across the line over 3 minutes after Valverde and the peloton. He may have reinjured a wrist broken in the Giro d'Italia. Soler was last year's Polka-dot Jersey winner, indicating he was the best climber--King of the Mountains.

EIGHT ESCAPEES CAUGHT. The stage featured a day-long breakaway by 8 solid riders, including a few former stage winners like Thomas Voekler and Stephen Auge. Working together, they sprang ahead of the peloton by as much as 8 minutes at one point. But the peloton picked up the pace and steadily reeled the last of the escapees in within 2 km of the finish line. That's a classic maneuver you will repeatedly see during the Tour. Under certain conditions, the peloton will allow a few riders to spring ahead (escape) early in the stage. However, the team leaders in the peloton will decide when it's time to chase the escapees down. It's carefully calculated to catch the escapees before the finish line. Sometimes, however, the peloton waits too long or the escapees work together or are strong enough to stay away and win the stage. It's interesting strategy to observe.

Friday, July 4, 2008


REFRESHING CALM. All has been relatively quiet before the start of the 2008 Tour de France. No major doping revelations. No last-minute suspensions. Sniping between professional cycling sanctioning and doping oversight authorities has subsided for the moment. After the last two years, it's refreshing to get to this point to be able to talk about the race and cyclists in positive terms. The "Tour Depart" is tomorrow, July 5. Hope you will be able to follow it on TV or on the Internet.

NO PROLOGUE. For the first time in over 30 years, the Tour de France will not start with a time-trial Prologue. Instead of the usual time trial to set up an initial time separation between the riders, Stage 1 takes the cyclists 197.5 kilometers (that's 122.7 miles) from Brest to Plumelec and over four Category 4 climbs. The finish in Plumelec (hometown of Tour de France legend Bernard Hinault) is an uphill climb known locally as the "Breton Alpe d'Huez,"--named for the monster mountain climb that has challenged cyclists time and again.

THERE WILL BE A NEW CHAMPION. No cyclist has yet taken the place of Lance Armstrong, who could be named the hands-down pre-tour favorite to win the overall classification Yellow Jersey every year after his first win. No one since has emerged with such dominance. And since last year's Tour de France champion Alberto Contador is now riding for a team (Astana) which Tour de France organizers suspended for a year after it was kicked out of last year's tour for doping, there WILL be a new champion this year. American Levi Leipheimer, who finished 3rd in last year's Tour also now rides for Astana and he, too, will miss this year's event.

[And, yes, I think the suspension of Astana is unfair, since the entire team leadership and most of the team is new, and since the decision to suspend Astana from the 2008 Tour de France was made AFTER Contador and Leipheimer, along with team director and former Lance Armstrong director Johann Bruyneel, joined the team as part of its rebirth. If Astana is out, why is Rabbobank in? Answer me that!]

FAVORITE: CADEL EVANS. While no racer seems ready to dominate, there is a favorite to win the Yellow Jersey. It's Australian Cadel Evans (in photo) who placed 2nd last year, just a few seconds behind Contador. Evans has the right combination of climbing ability, time trial skills, and a strong and supportive team to win it. Does he have the explosive power and ego strength to assert leadership? Yet to be seen. Should he win, he'd be the first Aussie Tour de France champ.

FOUR MORE. Evans isn't alone, however, as a top contender to win this year's edition of the Tour. Alejandro Valverde of Spain, Damiano Cunego of Italy, and Denis Menchov of Russia are easily conceivable as leader/winners. All three have the complete combination of developed skills, demonstrated leadership and wins in multiple-stage races and the savvy necessary to win the race. Some pundits also include Spaniard Carlos Sastre in the mix, but Sastre has never made a serious move in the Tour de France.

UP FOR GRABS. Cyclingnews' sub-headline reads: "Unknown predators could swoop in on Paris prize." I think they're right. Reading through the list of riders, I recognize many who have ridden the Tour de France, Vuelta Espana, and Giro d'Italia in past years, sometimes with flares of brilliance. I wouldn't be surprised if some of these, like Christophe Moreau of France, make a move to lead or win. It's up for grabs and that, along with the Tour's daily dramatic twists and turns and boiling sub-plots, will make for a very interesting race.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


I've updated the right sidebar, including fresh/live links to essential TdF sites. These are some of the tools you'll need to follow the Tour closely:

1. Internet radio or Internet TV to follow the Tour live. Live TV or radio feeds are provided whenever possible by Cycling Fans for each stage much earlier than the Versus channel, which joins in relatively late in the day.

2. Cyclingnews and Velonews, along with the official TdF site, provide two- to five-minute updates and commentary from start to finish of each stage. These are usually accurate, insightful and fun. This is the way to learn most about the race.

3. Daily summaries, analysis, commentary, and finishing order follows each stage at Cyclingnews.

4. Velonews, Versus, and Cyclingnews offer good video clips each day. Some feature history, rider profiles, or aspects of the race, some are highlights of the day's stage.

5. Metric to miles conversion chart. Mostly for us Americans...some of the last humans on earth to go metric.

6. French weather reports.

7. Versus TV channel. Don't miss the great commentary and play by play of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin. These guys, along with Bob Roll, are great to listen to and their combine experience and insight gives the Tour great perspective. They also provide good commentary with posts after each state.