Il Lombardia photo gallery

It has to be said that Saturday’s race didn’t enjoy stellar weather conditions [masterful British understatement – Ed] but that didn’t prevent one of the locals, friend of VeloVoices Nathalie Novembrini, from following the advice given by some of our professional VeloEyes about what, where, who and how to photograph the professional peloton.

Of course, no trip to any race would be complete without first scouting the team buses. After all, you don’t know who you might bump into, do you?

Cameron Meyer and Nathalie pose for Orica-GreenEDGE’s ‘Call Me’ campaign

No sign of those one-off duck egg blue Bianchi shirts. I suspect the boys are huddled inside trying to stay warm

Obligatory mighty fine bike bling, but where’s their designer? Oh Mario …

After a quick trip round the car park, Nathalie assumed her position behind the barricades to see who she could capture in her viewfinder. As you can see from the subsequent photos, she was standing opposite Alessandro Ballan‘s number one fan.

Here’s one of Kitty’s favourite kits – Farnese Vini – she loves those glowing colours. At least you could see them once the heavens opened and the mists descended

Discarded Carrot! Yes, after many years faithful service. nul points equals no contract for 2013. Please hire Amets, he keeps the TV presenters tongue-tied

Here’s a riders who checked the weather forecast – Astana’s Alexandr Dyachencko

Sorry Andriy [Grivko] but that lovely bright blue national champion’s kit is going to get very dirty, yes it is.

Nathalie has a penchant for young Italian riders with firm jaw lines, here’s Gabriele Bosisio

Here’s another one, Giairo Ermeti whose name – it has to be said – sounds like some unfortunate medical procedure.

One of the more mature riders in the peloton, Matteo Tosatto

Former rider Maurizio Fondriest and (one assumes) his missus

Nicki Sorensen, who played a part in one of the many breaks of the day

One of the Rabo boys wrapped up warmly, ready to face the onslaught

The Italians were hoping that Vincenzo Nibali might get onto the podium

Orica-GreenEGGs and Ham rider loaded and ready for bear

As you may have guessed by their size, some of the photos have been edited to exclude heads and hands which inevitably seem to get in the way when you’re taking photographs from a less than optimal position.

Everyone wanted a piece of the newly-crowned world champion, Fast PhilGil before the start of the race

Fortunately Phil’s well on the road to recovery after his fall which saw him pick up a nasty case of road rash and ruined that spotless white jersey.

Giro del Piemonte winner Rigoberto Uran was equally courted before the start

I still think Rigoberto looks older than 25!

It’s at times like these those brown shorts come into their own, shame about the largely white shirt

Then it’s into the car and off to the finish to wait for the arrival of the winner who’ll be crowned here:

This was the podium in the case of Plan A – no rain

Or here:

This was Plan B

And here he comes through the gloaming … it’s …

You can just see the race winner Joaquim Rodriguez appearing through the curtain of rain

Nathalie, thank you so much for sharing your photos with us and proving that with a wee bit of ingenuity, everyone can get some great photos at the races!

Tour de France: Stage 15 review

Stage 15: Samatan to Pau, 158.5km

Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ-BigMat) handed the French their fourth win of the Tour  – and his team’s second – when he beat Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp) in a two-man sprint after the pair had distanced their four breakaway companions 6km from the finish. This was the second time in three years that Fedrigo’s won into Pau, his fourth Tour victory, but his first since 2010 and his return to competition after suffering from Lyme’s disease for most of last season.

The other four, having lost out in the inevitable game of cat-and-mouse, which started 10km from the finish, finished seconds behind, with stage 10 winner Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) rounding out the podium.

Maillot jaune Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and the main peloton, lead home by birthday boy Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), rolled home nearly 12 minutes behind the breakaway. Indeed, it had taken over 60km for the successful break to slip away, after several had tried and failed in a fast and furious start to the race. With Fedrigo, Vande Velde and Voeckler were Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) and another Kitty favourite, Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), who were eventually joined by Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank’s Nicki Sorensen after a long solo chase.

The peloton, possibly intent on keeping their powder dry for the next two monster stages after tomorrow’s rest day, were only too happy to cruise in the last half of the stage after the frantic early pace.

VeloVoices rider of the day

VeloVoices’ rider of the day, by a nose [I see what you did there – Ed], is stage winner Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ-BigMat), who carefully weighed up his options and eliminated his sprint opposition, the diminutive Dumoulin, on the run in to the finish line. Indeed, one might say that the last two stages, both won from breakaways, have been won by classic stage-hunters.

Observations

Today was another short punchy stage televised from the start. In theory it was a stage for the sprint teams but there were still 14 empty-handed teams so today was always going to be a battle royal to get into the breakaway. You might wonder why more didn’t try but the speed was pretty much flat out for the first 60km. With a successful break finally forming, Nicki Sorensen tried to bridge but only succeeded dangling in no man’s land until his team came to the rescue, no doubt on the orders of Saxo Bank team manager and master tactician Bjarne Riis. After 75km, the front five had built a lead of over six minutes but Sorenson was still 30 seconds adrift when his team mates hit the front of the peloton and began to drag back the leading group. Hobson’s choice, so the five-man group slowed and allowed the Dane to catch up with them. Once he’d done so, his team mates disappeared from the front of the peloton and the gap began to grow again.

Tactical analysis

Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) was allowed to roll over the line at the intermediate sprint point, a signal of the other riders’ capitulation in the face of his dominance in the points competition: game over, barring any mishaps.

Tejay Van Garderen is still comfortably leading the young riders’ competition and there’s speculation that he may be BMC’s sacrificial lamb in the Pyrenees, used to tempt Sky’s black-and-white sheep dogs into  a rash move in an effort to get teammate and defending champion Cadel Evans back onto the podium.

Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) is still wearing the mountains jersey  – plus matching shorts, helmet, socks and gloves – but today Thomas Voeckler made a point of taking all five points on offer to move up in the competition. Has he now set his cap at the jersey? If so, he’ll need to get into either or both of the next days’ inevitable breakaways. Even for him, this might be one break too far.

Meanwhile, Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and his team are looking unassailable. The next two stages represent the last chance saloon for anyone wanting to disturb their one-two lock on the podium. But will the others want to gamble their places and precious UCI points? I see more potential downside than upside for the challengers on terrain that’s difficult, yes, but there’s virtually no painful and unsettling changes of gradient to disturb Wiggo’s rhythm. In week one, Bradley said it’s not over until the fat lady sings, and she’s not even in the room. I would venture to suggest that she’s now in the room and warming up at the mike.

In reality, maybe there’s only Samu Sanchez’s (Euskaltel-Euskadi) successor as the winner of the mountains classification to be decided in the coming days. Not of course forgetting those 14 teams still intent on chasing a precious stage win, which will ensure places in the day’s breakaway will be hotly contested.

VeloVoices will bring you previews of each day’s stage every morning, live coverage of every stage on Twitterreviews in the evening and in-depth analysis after selected stages.

Link: Tour de France official website