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Subject: Tour for the Galaxy 2009 rss

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Daniel Kazaniecki
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What: a prologue and 13 stages designed using the board game "Leader 1", to combine the greatest moments in the history of Tour de France, and pay tribute to its heroes:

- Octave Lapize (1910),
- Eugene Christophe (1913),
- Coppi vs. Bartali (1949),
- Anquentil vs. Poulidor (1964),
- Merckx (1969),
- Hinault, LeMond, Fignon (1978-1989),
- Indurain, Cipollini, Zabel, Jalabert, Pantani (1992-2001),
- Armstrong (1999-2003).



Who: my pals and me, each taking control of their own national team:



How: I scanned all tiles, created whole stages, and now I'm projecting them on a screen our club has bought lately.
There is a thin plexi glass on top of the screen, so we can place the riders on it.
Not only do we get customized races, but also can watch videos and have a background soundtrack now.
So nerdy, but cool



When: one stage every Monday. I'll try to report every week.
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Super Mario FTW!!
 
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Daniel Kazaniecki
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Prologue: Big Mig
Luxembourg-Luxembourg ITT, 65km (1992, stage 9)

Miguel Indurain turned professional in 1985 and entered the Tour de France for the first time the same year, ultimately entering it in each of the next eleven years. Although he dropped out of the Tour in 1985 and 1986, his standing improved steadily until his first win in 1991. He rode in support of his team captain Pedro Delgado in the 1990 Tour, even though he might have been strong enough to win it himself. He won the event from 1991 to 1995, becoming the first to win five consecutive times.

Indurain was a physically superior athlete, with a resting heart rate that at times dipped to as low as 29 beats per minute, compared to an average human's BPM of 60-80.
His blood circulation also was able to circulate seven litres of oxygen per minute, compared to the average of 3-4.

Indurain is often said to have been the best time trialist in the Grand Tours, putting in large gains against his rivals on the time-trial stages and riding defensively in the climbing stages. In the 1992 Tour he finished the 65 km time trial in Luxembourg an astonishing three minutes ahead of the second-place rider. Despite his five Tour victories, he won only two Tour stages that were not individual time trials: mountain stages to Cauterets (1989) and Luz Ardiden (1990) in the Pyrenees. He was often accused of not fighting hard enough for wins in mountain stages in which he arrived in the lead group, while others respected this as a sign of a gentleness and gratefulness to his rivals.

In the 1996 Tour, Indurain was aiming for a sixth victory, but he suffered from bronchitis after an extremely cold and wet first week of the race, and could not prevail over Bjarne Riis. Riis later admitted having used EPO to win, but is still considered by the Tour organisers as the overall winner, but with reservations.



Our prologue has been slightly flatter than the original one, but still Miguel Indurain has been the best by far, completing it in 12 turns and still saving 9 energy points for the next stage. A bunch of tired rouleurs finished 1 turn later and follow Indurain in the general classement, while Hinault and Pantani lead the climbers. Thanks to a good result by Oscar Freire, the Spaniards also lead the team classification.



PS
If you want to know more about the rules we use, check here:
http://boardgamegeek.com/file/info/37544
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Stage 1: Super Mario
Avesnes-sur-Helpe - Thionville, 223km (1999, stage 7)

In the 1999 Tour de France Mario Cipollini led the peloton on the fastest stage in the history of the Tour, averaging more than 50 km/h over 195 km. In the same Tour, he won 4 consecutive stages (4-7) and set the record for consecutive stage wins. This is the last one of those stages.

Cipollini made no secret that he did not like climbing stages, and he infuriated purists by not attempting mountain stages. He would return to Italy after the flat stages of Grand Tours so as not to be seen struggling.

Cipollini also became infamous for extravagant clothing, especially racing uniforms, sporting custom-made skin suits. Some of memorable kits include a muscle suit, and tiger prints. He was fined for wearing an all-yellow outfit while leading the Tour de France. Off the course, Cipollini and his Saeco squad dressed as ancient Romans during a rest day at the 1999 Tour de France, to celebrate Julius Caesar's birthday and to commemorate Cipollini's record fourth consecutive Tour de France stage win (i.e. our stage), see here:



These antics violated UCI regulations, which resulted in Cipollini and his team being fined thousands of Swiss francs. The muscle suit fetched 100 million lira (US$43,710) in a charity auction, nearly 100 times the fine. Some organisers, especially Jean-Marie Leblanc of the Tour de France, took offence at his hijinks and he wasn't invited to race in the Tour from 2000-2003, despite being the world champion in 2003. Later in 2003, he drew the ire of the organisers of the Vuelta a España when he quit after the prologue time trial. His team had been invited to compete with the condition that Cipollini participated. He said he was recovering from injury and should not have been forced to race in the first place.



Our stage started with some crazy attacks from the line, but also a very quick peloton. Surprisingly, Laurent Jalabert took a risk and fell on the very first curve of the downhill. The group of 4 other rouleurs, together with Paolo Bettini, managed to stay clear over the first hill, while Miguel Indurain desperately tried to join, but was denied the luck each and every time.

Erik Dekker started the intermediate sprint but stood no chance against the one and only: Super Mario! Meanwhile, Lech Piasecki quietly came in third and tried going solo uphill. Joined by Dekker on the way down, the two went through the plain and arrived together to the bottom of the only climb finish of the day. That's when Piasecki used some slipstream and attacked wildly, while Jalabert recovered greatly from his previous crash and arrived second at the top. Piasecki managed to stay clear all the way down to the finish line, also because Oscar Freire (attacking like a madman from behind) fell and was thus forced to remain Indurain's domestique. Led by Freire, Big Mig and Joop Zoetemelk actually caught up with Bettini to arrive 2 turns after Piasecki, Dekker, and Jalabert.

Lech Piasecki remains the only Pole to have ever won the yellow jersey in the Tour (2 days in 1987, 1 day in 2009), and also grabbed the two other jerseys on his way. With the hills of Alsace and then the Alpes coming up, he is unlikely to keep any of them though...



PS
If you want to know more about the rules we use, check here:
http://boardgamegeek.com/file/info/37544

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Stage 2: Jaja
Strasbourg - Colmar, 162km (2001, stage 7, more importantly: July 14th)

Laurent Jalabert turned professional with the French Toshiba team in 1989 and quickly established himself as a daring sprinter. He moved on to the Spanish ONCE team under Manolo Saiz, where he reinvented himself as an all-rounder capable of winning one-day races and the tours.

A catalyst was an accident at the finish of the 1994 Tour de France stage in Armentières. A policeman leaned out and several riders hit him. Jalabert was flung into the air and his bicycle was destroyed. He injured his face and promised his wife to change his style of riding. It only took a short while.

He won the 1995 Vuelta a España along with the points and climbers' competitions. He won the world time trial championship in 1997, and was French road champion in 1998, the year he initiated a pull-out of Spanish teams from the 1998 Tour de France in protest at treatment of riders in a police inquiry into drug-taking. This caused discontent among French fans and it took years for them to warm to him.

He moved to CSC in 2001, where he won the stage on July 14, the French national day, Bastille Day, in the 2001 Tour de France. Earlier in the year he had injured his back injury in a domestic accident. He retired in 2002 after winning the climber's jersey in the Tour and going on a solo escape in the Pyrenees.



We're playing the stage on 14.07.2001. It went completely differently, because Jalabert was exhausted after the previous stage and didn't break away at all. Instead, a large group formed in front of the peloton, with Freire, Indurain, Pantani, Zoetemelk, Dekker, Jaskula and the race leader Piasecki. The first three managed to create a gap during the second climb, and quickly agreed to cooperate, while Zoetemelk and the Poles tried to do the same behind their backs. The Spaniards offered Pantani the stage in return for some friendly slipstream, and the three of them stayed clear till the only 2nd category climb of the day, where they dropped Freire and continued cooperating till the end. The Dutch-Polish trio mirrored their moves, but probably never really stood a chance. Pantani went to win in Colmar, and grabbed the polka dot jersey on his way. Indurain finished 1 round later, together with Zoetemelk using his downhill proficiency. Jaskula, Freire, and Piasecki followed, while the French tried to chase, but attacked too late and couldn't limit their losses anymore.

In the GC, Piasecki is just 1 second ahead of Indurain (in case of a draw we use the energy left as the tie-breaker), and also wins the tie-break for the green jersey with Pantani, who now sits in the driver's seat for the best climber trophy. The Spaniards still lead the team classement, although their climber Perico is the very last rider in the GC



PS
If you want to know more about the rules we use, check here:
http://boardgamegeek.com/file/info/37544
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Stage 3: the look
Aix-les-Bains - L'Alpe d'Huez, 209km (2001, stage 10)

It's July 2001. Finally the mountains were reached, and the work started for the riders who went for the general classification. Only one normal Alps stage this year, plus a climbing time trial (stage 11).

Laurent Roux, Eladio Jimenez and Toni Tauler were the early attackers this stage, and by the time the riders reached the first of three 'hors category' climbs, the Madeleine, they were 13'35 ahead of a peloton of about 45 riders. The Telekom team of Jan Ullrich led this peloton, hoping to make it a tough race. On the second climb, the Glandon, only one man was still up front, Roux, and he was 7 minutes before the peloton. In that peloton, Armstrong seemed to be in problems. Where usually he would climb in the front of the group, he was now in the back, and his facial expressions were also not that positive. Furthermore, only two riders from his team (Roberto Heras and Jose Luis Rubiera) were with him.

But when the final mountain, the famous Alpe d'Huez was reached, things were shown to be very different, it looked like Armstrong had been bluffing in order to tempt Ullrich and his team into wasting their energy by forcing the pace too early in the stage. Rubiera attacked on the start of the climb, Armstrong followed, but only a few other riders did - in the end it is just Armstrong and Ullrich. When Rubiera has to drop off, Armstrong looks back and straight into the eyes of Ullrich, as if to assess his rival's state of mind, and then attacks again. Ullrich cannot respond to Armstrong who loses him and climbs the Alpe alone. He overtakes Roux, and climbs up the Alpe d'Huez in 38'01" - only 26 seconds short of Marco Pantani's record from 1995, scored after a much lighter stage.





I must admit I was a bit nervous as the organiser, because we've done some serious fiddling with the rules before the stage, hoping for a stronger behaviour from the peloton. Once again, we revolutionised the pursuit by scratching all previous rules and introducing the "team pursuit points" idea instead. Every team has a given number of pursuit points for a stage (derived from the stage profile: +2 for every green tile, +1 for black, -1 for red, +1 for every moment at which a point will be later taken away, which is either a feed zone or an intermediate mountain top finish). So here, keeping the order: 3*2 + 3 - 3 + 3 = 9. Note that it would be much more for a flat stage. The rule now says that the holder of the peloton token can decide to pursue or not after the die roll. If he pursues (always +1), he spends 1 team pursuit point and can choose to keep the peloton token. If he keeps it, he is allowed to pursue even more in the following rounds, as long as the peloton moves six or less in total. He may pursue until he spends all his team pursuit points. Everybody loses 1 point at the feed zone and at the top of the intermediate mountains (and you pay 2 energy divided freely among your riders still in the peloton if you actually can't pay this 1 point because you pursued like mad before). What we're trying to simulate here is that there are 8 or 9 guys in your team actually, the 3 you see are merely the best, the attackers. As the peloton advances (especially over the mountains), some riders can't follow and lose contact, thus your ability to pursue diminishes.

We additionally chose to punish long breakaways: you now pay 1 energy for every move you start from a breakaway ahead of the peloton. Obviously, we couldn't wait to see how it unfolds...

Dekker and Jalabert attacked early and were later joined by Freire to go through the intermediate sprint in this exact order, thus giving Erik Dekker the virtual green jersey. They then rolled slowly to recover some energy.

In the very first move from the red tile, Jaskula attacked and was immidiately joined be all other climbers. The peloton stayed close, so some of them actually had to jump multiple times. Jaskula led them over the top of the famous Col de la Madeleine, while the Spaniards used the pursuit to keep Indurain really close. They managed very well but almost ran out of pursuit power, so Indurain attacked on the downhill together with a couple of other leaders.

At the bottom of Col du Glandon the road was full of people trying to create a gap. Nobody was willing to take risk at this early stage, so luck played a role and Indurain actually got caught by the speeding peloton, while Zoetemelk managed to stay ahead with all the big names: Hinault, Perico, Pantani, Theunisse, and Jaskula. The latter made use of some indecision among favourites and jumped just before the top, took the points and went solo into the valley!

The others caught him there, but then again he went crazy of the flat and went through it all without stopping on the green tile, grabbed the intermediate sprint and starting his final ascent.

Right behind him, Pantani came second and regained the green jersey from Dekker! It was now sure he would wear it next day, since we don't give away sprint points at mountain top stage finishes.

In the meantime, Indurain jumped on the descent again, formed a group with his loyal helper Perico, Bettini, and Szurkowski, and managed to catch Pantani, Theunisse, and Hinault just before the last climb.

Jaskula never looked back and finished the stage solo, while the others were profitting from some slipstream to keep their losses to one turn only. Pantani arrived together with Hinault and the brave Zoetemelk, Indurain was brought in by Delgado two turns after that and regained the yellow jersey!

Summing up: special congrats to Indurain for regaining what's his (even with the bad luck he had), to Zoetemelk for sticking with the climbers till the very end (I guess two successful risks helped a bit ), and to Pantani for taking over the green jersey! Also, good to see Hinault back in top shape

Standings:
Yellow: Indurain 1 turn over Zoetemelk, 6 over Pantani and Jaskula.
Polka: Jaskula 34, Pantani 30.
Green: Pantani 14, Dekker 13, Piasecki 12.
Team: Spain and Poland tied!

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Stage 4: off-roading
Le Bourg-d'Oisans - Gap, 184km (2003, stage 9)

Although the biggest climbs in this stage were at the beginning, it was the much smaller ones at the end that proved decisive. Several attacks in the early race brought groups ahead, possibly the most important rider in these was Jörg Jaksche. Being a teammate of GC number 2 Joseba Beloki, and himself not very far behind Armstrong, his intention was probably to force Armstrong's team to work, which makes them less capable of defending him against Beloki later in the stage or in the coming stages. At the end of the final (fourth category) climb of Cote de La Rochette, Vinokourov was in position to win a second stage, after having received the order to attack previously in order to compensate for the time his team mate Santiago Botero was going to lose due to stomach problems.

During the descent, however, Beloki locked his wheel on the melting road surface, flying out of control, and falling on his head, shoulder, and hip. He badly injured his elbow, and despite trying to get back on his bike, was taken to the hospital, dropping out of the Tour with several broken bones. His injuries proved severe enough that he was also forced to miss the 2004 Tour de France. Lance Armstrong, sitting just behind Beloki, managed some quick thinking, swerving off the road through a field, getting off his bike, hopping over a small embankment, and resuming the chase. He may have been assisted in his cross-country journey through the practice he gained racing cyclo-cross events in the off-season. Despite a hard chase, Vinokourov kept the lead and took the stage, as well as second place in the general classification.





Our stage began differently, because all the best climbers were chasing the points for the polka dot jersey. Hinault attacked first, and the other four followed. He won on both summits, but Jaskula rescued his jersey by finishing second on the latter one, which leaves the fight for the jersey open (Jaskula 44, Pantani 39, Hinault 38). Then they all saved energy and got caught.

The insane Erik Dekker went full steam ahead, like he always used to, and won the intermediate sprint before his captain Zoetemelk, and Freire, who also had his captain Indurain by his side. The attack was somewhat disrupted by Indurain's puncture, but then continued, while the French, the Italians and the Poles struggled to keep the peloton close.

Jaskula attacked on the second to last hill, followed by Hinault and Bettini, while the leaders were already beginning the final ascent. Indurain took the lead on the summit, and Zoetemelk tried to overtake him on the dangerous descent, but fell in the same spot as Beloki originally did.

Indurain went to win the stage solo, one turn before the trio of Cipollini, Zoetemelk, and Jaskula, and one more turn before a group of six. The peloton arrived five rounds behind the winner.

Indurain not only remains the yellow jersey (3 turns ahead of Zoetemelk, 8 of Jaskula, 12 of Pantani and Hinault), but also leads the sprinters now (with 18, Dekker 16, Piasecki 15), and is part of the best team so far!

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Stage 5: the duel
Cannes - Briançon, 275km (1949, stage 16)
in-game: Draguignan - Briançon, 249km (2000, stage 14)

Cycling is all about competition and camaraderie. It was never better defined than in the 1949 Tour de France with Italians Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi. The aging Bartali was the reigning champion, but Coppi was the rising star, having just won Milano-San Remo and the Giro d'Italia. For much of the race Coppi appeared jinxed, losing nearly half an hour to crashes and mechanical mishaps. But he was clearly the superior climber and he showed it in the Alpes. On the epic stage to Briançon, the duo charged away on an early climb. But on the final infamous Izoard climb, Bartali started to struggle. Finally Coppi said, "Now Gino I'm going." But Bartali pleaded. "Let's finish together. Let me win the stage. Tomorrow you will win the Tour." And that's exactly what happened.



Apart from Dekker's usual mad attack for the intermediate sprint, we didn't expect anything interesting until the first climb. However, 4 riders punctured on the flat, including Indurain (yellow jersey) and Jaskula (3rd in GC). It cost them 5 and 8 energy points respectively to rejoin the peloton.

Then, the Italians started an interesting attack. Cipollini didn't stop after the intermediate sprint to spare energy, but instead started the climb on his own, and was soon joined by Marco Pantani! At this point, the Poles started chasing at full steam, and managed to catch both just before the steepest part of the ascent, where Jaskula attacked. Other climbers, and Zoetemelk, followed, while the Spaniards began to chase.

Jaskula actually managed to arrive first to all three summits, with Hinault second every time, and Pantani third on the last two. More importantly, Indurain (with lots of help from Delgado) and Zoetemelk (using his downhill excellence) never really lost contact with the leaders.

During the last downhill, Pantani overtook Jaskula for his second stage win, while Zoetemelk brought all the favourites home one turn later. The peloton lost 7 turns to the winners, Dekker 8, and Cipollini 11 due to a fatal puncture on the second ascent of the day.

Obviously, no big changes in the general classement, apart from Dekker (again!) wearing the virtual green jersey for most of the day before being denied by Pantani, who now won two stages!


Everybody's kinda dead too
Next Monday, it's Mont Ventoux!
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Stage 6: the giant
A) Marseille - Mont Ventoux - Carpentras, 211km (1967, stage 13)
B) in-game: Carpentras - Mont Ventoux, 149km (2000, stage 12)

A) At the start of the 1967 Tour de France, Tommy Simpson was optimistic he could make an impact. After the first week he was sixth, but a stomach bug began to affect his form, and he lost time in a stage including the Col du Galibier. In Marseille, at the start of stage 13 on Thursday 13 July, he was still suffering as the race headed into Provence on a hot day, and was seen to drink brandy during the early parts of the stage. In those years, Tour organisers limited each rider to four bottles (bidons) of water, about two litres - the effects of dehydration being poorly understood. During races, riders raided roadside bars for drinks, and filled their bottles from fountains.

"Get me up. Get me up. I want to go on." Those are believed to be the last words spoken by Tom Simpson on the slopes of Mont Ventoux during Stage 13 of the '67 Tour. Britain's most accomplished rider pedalled a few hundred yards more, then keeled over for good. It was assumed he'd succumbed to the intense heat on the exposed peak, until amphetamines were found in his luggage. Rumours of drug use had been present for years, but with Simpson's death the Tour was changed forever.

B) In 2000 (see the picture), the most fatal figure of modern cycling - Marco Pantani - arrives to the top accompanied only by Lance Armstrong, and wins the mountain top finish. Later Armstrong says he gave the win to Pantani to show respect.



Unfortunately, the directeur sportif of the French team couldn't attend today, the least we could do for him was to simulate him pursuing as hard as possible towards the end of the stage, which in the end meant that the peloton finished only a couple of rounds behind the escapers, with his riders staying fresh for the upcoming team time trial.

One of the steepest stages in our tour started the usual way: Mr. Dekker and his madness
Freire and the Italians (Bettini, Pantani) followed, but with more decency. Erik Dekker won the intermediate sprint and 3 little mountain sprints, and then died and finished hours (11 turns) after the peloton, but will continue the tour because there are no eliminations in our race. Bettini and Freire also paid eventually for their brave attacks by getting dropped by the peloton.

On the third hill Zenon Jaskula attacked and was joined by the rest of the favourites on the downhill. He decided to jump through the entire flat part in one move, and only Joop Zoetemelk managed to stay glued to his rear wheel, while the great Miguel Indurain found himself at the wrong side of a little gap, which was a mistake, as the spokesman of the Spanish team told us after the race.

As the famous yet scary ascent started, Zoetemelk's simple strategy to stay behind Jaskula at all times proved simple, but successful. The Polish climber didn't have enough energy to risk any acceleration that could possibly hurt Zoetemelk, so the two climbed at a steady pace.

Behind, Indurain's chase was being interrupted by the dying Dekker and Szurkowski, but after a while he managed to form a group with Pantani, Theunisse, and Perico, while Szurkowski and Bettini tried to hang on, but the latter collapsed eventually.

In the meanwhile, Jaskula enjoyed a solo win being the biggest success of his career, and Zoetemelk couldn't follow just in the last curve, needed 1 more round to finish, but was happy enough gaining a couple of turns on Indurain.

Pantani, Jaskula, and Indurain have now won two stages each, and the latter stills sits on top of the general classement, with Zoetemelk only 1 turn, and Jaskula 3 turns behind. The Pole increased his lead in the race for the polka dot jersey by winning on top of Ventoux (Jaskula 85, Hinault 62, Pantani 58), Dekker got closer to his beloved green jersey (Pantani 24, Dekker 22, Indurain 18) and should be able to claim it in the flatter stages still left, while Szurkowski's plan of finishing dead last and with no points in any classification burnt to ashes, since finishing 7th on Mont Ventoux gave him exactly 1 point...

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Stage 7: one for the team
Montpellier - Montpellier, TTT, 38km (2009, stage 4)

Ever wondered how it all started? The idea for a round-France race came from L'Auto's chief cycling journalist, 26-year-old Géo Lefèvre. He and the editor, Henri Desgrange discussed it after lunch on 20 November 1902. L'Auto announced the race on 19 January 1903. The plan was a five-week race from 31 May to 5 July. This proved too daunting and only 15 riders entered. Desgrange cut the length to 19 days, changed the race dates to 1 July to 19 July, and offered a daily allowance. He attracted 60 entrants, not just professionals but amateurs, some unemployed, some simply adventurous.

Desgrange and his Tour invented bicycle stage racing. Desgrange experimented with judging by elapsed time and then by points for placings each day. He stood out against multiple gears and for many years insisted riders use wooden rims, fearing the heat of braking while coming down mountains would melt the glue that held the tyres.
His dream was a race of individuals. He invited teams but forbade their members to pace each other. He then went the other way and briefly ran the Tour as a giant team time-trial, teams starting separately with members pacing each other. He allowed teams who lost members in the team time-trial years to recruit fresh replacements.

The fastest Team Time Trial in the Tour de France was by Discovery Channel in 2005. The team rode the 67,5 km stage Tours-Blois with an 57.324 km/h average. Since that year however, the team time trial has not been held in the tour. However, it was announced in the 2009 Tour Presentation, that a 38km Team Time Trial would be included.



It was a rainy day. Lots of tension in the air. While Jalabert and Moreau felt rested and confident...



...Cippolini and Bettini looked concerned, while still showing off with their respective World Champion helmets



The above route has been finished in 8 turns by the tired Italians and in 7 by the rest. The French have won their first stage (congratulations!!!), while the Dutch and the Italians unfortunately exceeded the time limit of 6 minutes and have been penalized by the usual 1 turn for doing so. But overall no big changes in the classifications of course!

The Spaniards were especially impressive in my opinion, optimizing for a great time in spite of great tiredness, and all this in about a minute of real time gaming. I had trouble keeping up their pace when filling their energy chart!
In the above route I have indicated their moves. I offer a broken Soviet toaster to anybody who can show me how to do it better (starting energy: Freire 13, Indurain 15, Delgado 17; finishing: Freire 4, Indurain 7, Delgado 15)



PS
You might wonder why I put the the photo with the chicks there. Just couldn't stop myself from showing you one of the first results google gives you when searching for "Mario Cippolini team time trial". Says a lot about the guy, doesn't it? The other photos show Moreau, Bettini, Indurain, and creme de la creme: USPS a.k.a. Discovery Channel.

PPS
Off to holidays now, next stage on 6.04 - the Pyrenees!
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Stage 8: assassins

The most famous of them all. You could tell dozens of stories, but these are my favourites:

A) Luchon - Bayonne, 326km (1910, stage 10)
B) Bayonne - Luchon, 326km (1913, stage 6)
C) Luchon - Mourenx, 214km (1969, stage 17)
D) Pau - Luchon, 186km (1986, stage 13)
btw, in-game: Pau - Luchon, 196km (1998, stage 10)

A) It wasn't until the eighth Tour that race organizers experimented with the first big mountain stages, in the Pyrenees. The 7,000-foot climb up the now legendary Col du Tourmalet took riders along goat tracks barely passable by car.

The race turned into an epic battle between the 1909 winner François Faber and Octave Lapize. When the race finally reached the Pyrenees, it was Gustave Garrigou who had the honour of being the first to cross the Tourmalet, but he said nothing to Desgrange and the other officials, who had been waiting with some anxiety to see if any rider made it over the Tourmalet and onto the Aubisque. 15 minutes later, Octave Lapize appeared, covered in mud and pushing his bike. "Assassins" he spat, before riding on, eventually to win the stage, and the whole Tour. The circulation of l'Auto rose and rose as Lapize steadfastly clawed his way past Faber in the final few stages before Paris, and Desgrange saw that the Tourmalet was a winning formula; the Pyreneen giant has been included in the Tour more times than any other mountain. Another legend in the history of the Tour was born.

B) In 1913 Eugene Christophe was well placed to win when a mechanical failure cost him the race. He rode the first part, from Paris to Cherbourg and then down the coast to the Pyrenees cautiously. He was in second place when the race stopped in Bayonne on the night before the first day in the mountains, when the course a succession of cols: the Oschquis, Aubisque, Soulor, Gourette, Tourmalet, Aspin and Peyresourde. The field set off at 3am with Christophe 4m 5s behind Odile Defraye, of Belgium.

Christophe rode for Peugeot and his team attacked from the start to demoralise the rival Alcyon riders and, in particular, Defraye. It worked. Defraye was 11 minutes behind at Oloron-Ste-Marie, 14 in Eaux-Bonnes, 60 at Argelès. He dropped out at Barèges, at the foot of the Tourmalet, the highest pass in the Pyrenees. Christophe dropped all the field except another Belgian, Philippe Thys, who followed at a few hundred metres. Thys was of no danger, however, because he had lost too much time earlier. The two were five minutes ahead of the rest. Christophe stopped at the top of the mountain, reversed his back wheel to pick a higher gear.

Christophe said:
I plunged full speed towards the valley. According to Henri Desgrange's calculation, I was then heading the general classification with a lead of 18 minutes. So, I was going full speed. All of a sudden, about ten kilometres from Ste-Marie-de-Campan down in the valley, I feel that something is wrong with my handlebars. I cannot steer my bike any more. I pull on my brakes and I stop. I see my forks are broken. Well, I tell you now that my forks were broken but I wouldn't say it at the time because it was bad publicity for my sponsor.
And there I was left alone on the road. When I say the road, I should say the path. All the riders I had dropped during the climb soon caught me up. I was weeping with anger. I remember I heard my friend Petit-Breton shouting as he saw me, 'Ah, Cri-Cri, poor old lad.'[4] I was getting angry. As I walked down, I was looking for a short cut. I thought maybe one of those pack trails would lead me straight to Ste-Marie-de-Campan. But I was weeping so badly that I couldn't see anything. With my bike on my shoulder, I walked for more than ten kilometres. On arriving in the village at Ste-Marie-de-Campan, I met a young girl who led me to the blacksmith on the other side of the village. His name was Monsieur Lecomte.

It took two hours to reach the forge. Lecomte offered to weld the broken forks back together but a race official and managers of rival teams would not allow it. A rider, said the rules, was responsible for his own repairs. Christophe set about the repair as Lecomte told him what to do. It took three hours and the race judge penalised him 10 minutes - reduced later to three - because Christophe had allowed a small boy, Corni, to pump the bellows for him. He eventually finished seventh in Paris. The building on the site of the forge has a plaque commemorating the episode.

He repaired the bike himself and finished the day, but he'd lost four hours and a chance at the overall. In 1919, Christophe would wear the first-ever yellow jersey, and he'd do so again in 1922, only to lose both years due to broken forks (sic!). Until 1919 there was no jersey handed out to the winner. It was not until midway through the 1919 race that organizers heeded to the pressure of the press to make the race leader more visible. Fittingly, they chose yellow as the distinctive tunic, a nod to the colour of their newspaper, "L'Auto."

C) Eddy Merckx, considered the greatest cyclist ever, destroys the competition in his first Tour, months after being tossed from the Giro d'Italia on unfounded doping allegations.
Merckx could have cruised to victory with after building up an insurmountable eight-minute lead by the 17th stage, but he decides to crush the competition by breaking away with 87 miles to go. He thus earns his nickname "Cannibal" for his penchant for going for the jugular. He also becomes the first Tour rider to win the overall winner's yellow jersey, the climber's polka-dotted jersey and the sprinter's green jersey.

The 1969 Race is unique in that it is the only time that a single cyclist has won not only the Maillot jaune, but the Maillot vert and Polka dot jersey as well. Eddy Merckx rode on the winning team, FAEMA, won the Combination jersey and the Combativity award, and had the Young Riders' Maillot blanc have existed at the time he was young enough to win that as well. The finish:



D) Following the success of Bernard Hinault the previous year, the La Vie Claire team was heavily favored. In the 1985 Tour de France, Bernard Hinault promised to return LeMond's support to win the race. However, continuing attacks cast doubt on Hinault's sincerity. He claimed that his tactics were simply to wear down LeMond's (and his) opponents and that he ultimately knew that LeMond would be the winner because of time losses earlier in the race. Regardless of his true motives, this tactic worked well, and rivals Laurent Fignon and Urs Zimmermann were put on the defensive from the first day. Laurent Fignon quit the race due to injuries aggravated by stress.

Who would have guessed that Hinault would then be LeMond's greatest rival? Apparently the thought of becoming the first six-time winner diluted his previous promise. And when he grabbed the yellow jersey on the day before the race entered the Pyrenees, Hinault appeared well on his way. But when he returned with a cocky attack on the stage to Luchon, overextended himself and suddenly folded. LeMond would then catch and pass his mentor-turned-nemesis, taking back valuable time and setting him up to become the first American to win the world's greatest bike race. In the end, LeMond was crowned winner of the race and Hinault retired shortly afterwards.



This was clearly the toughest stage of our tour, with four category 1 climbs, including the infamous Tourmalet, and no feed zone on top of that, just to get the 1910 feeling again!

It will be remembered as a stage full of punctures. At least 4 of 5 puncture rolls for everybody, Jaskula suffering one before the first move actually, and then mainly the Italians getting really unlucky.

On the first ascent, Jaskula attacked almost as soon as he caught up after the puncture, while Zoetemelk and Indurain countered on the downhill, so all the GC favourites went to work soon. On the Tourmalet, the Pole went ahead while the big duo waited for their respective climbers to help them out a bit.

That's how the Polish climber was left alone approximately from the middle of the Tourmalet ascent, and he had no real choice but to spend this long day on his own. He had just enough energy to climb the last mountain, but had to slow down significantly on the last flat stretch. It was still enough to win, 1 turn before the next riders.

Meanwhile, the Dutch duo was climbing behind in a relatively steady tempo, but never managed to get a step over the two Spaniards doing an excellent job right behind. Right before the top of the last mountain, for reasons beyond my understanding, Zoetemelk offered Indurain to protect him with wind shade all the way to the finish line. These two finished 1 turn behind the winner, Pantani followed 2 turns later, followed by the majority of the helpers, and the tired peloton.

No major changes in any classification, apart from the Poles taking over as the best team, 2 turns in front of the Spaniards. In GC, Indurain is now one turn ahead of Jaskula, and another one in front of Zoetemelk, while Pantani hangs on to his green jersey, and Jaskula practically secured his polka dot jersey all the way to Paris (125 points, Pantani 63).
 
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Stage 9: never took place
Tarbes - Valence d'Agen (1978, stage 12a)
in-game: for historical correctness, we should just sit there and drink beer ;-)

Stage 12 was split into two sections. Section one was an early morning race from Tarbes to Valence d'Agen. The tired riders, after the late arrival to hotels the previous night, struggled to make the transfer. They started complaining about extremely harsh conditions. From the early days of the Tour race director Henri Desgranges demanded his Tour be known as one of the toughest physical endurance tests. Desgranges' ideal Tour would be so hard that only one rider would survive the ordeal. Jacques Goddet, who succeeded Desgranges, tempered this philosophy slightly, but told riders "it's necessary to keep an inhuman side to the Tour".

Back in 1978, he may have been a Tour rookie, but Bernard Hinault was already the boss. Not only did he win the first Tour de France he entered, but "The Badger" already held the respect of the entire peloton. And he showed it on the stage between Tarbes and Valence d'Agen when he led riders in protest against the growing number of long transfers and early starts. It seemed only fitting when he finally took over the yellow jersey and won the race.



One of those stages where nothing is certain, apart from Erik Dekker's insanity of course. He attacked early, but was joined by a large group as soon as Zoetemelk tried to make his jump, and only managed to arrive 2nd to the intermediate sprint behind Jalabert.

The five rouleurs stayed ahead until mid-way through the stage, with a short exception when Freire punctured, but managed to attack again and rejoin the leaders. The tempo never was high though, with everybody watching each other and nobody willing to sacrifise too much.

During the second climb of the stage Pantani made a jump and joined the leaders shortly after the feed-zone, and tried to push the tempo together with Cipollini. At some point they managed to build a gap, joined only by the Polish wheelsucker par excellence, Lech Piasecki. Unfortunately, Cipollini punctured and was left behind.

In the meantime, Dekker waited for Zoetemelk, who then made an impressive jump to join the leaders. Now there were three of them starting their last decent: Pantani leading (but wisely not giving any slipstream-presents), Piasecki dying in his wheel, and Zoetemelk preparing his final jump.

The Dutchman has actually underestimated the strength of Pantani's dope legs and cojones mind, when he planned to move after him from the final downhill tile, and then probably before him in the final turn. Well guess what: that was the final turn and Pantani reached the finish line first after a long finish!

Zoetemelk finished the same turn, while Piasecki, Indurain, and Cipollini needed one more, and Jaskula and 4 others lost another turn on them.

No huge changes in the classifications, but Zoetemelk is now only 1 turn behind Indurain, while Pantani's green jersey suddenly looks defendable all the way to Paris. But hey, he has already won 3 stages!
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Stage 10: eternal second
Brive - Puy de Dôme, 237km (1964, stage 20)
in-game: Aigurande - Super-Besse, 195km (2008, stage 6)



1964 was the year Jacques Anquetil won his fifth Tour de France - the first rider to do so.
For years, Raymond Poulidor remained Jacques Anquetil's greatest rival. And in 1964 he had one of his best chances to seize victory form the cool-headed Anquetil. The final climbing stage attacked the Puy-de-Dôme volcano in the central region of France. At the foot of the climb, Anquetil held a 56-second lead on Poulidor and knew his rival would attack. With each acceleration, Anquetil marked Poulidor as the two climbed shoulder-to-shoulder up the up the narrow fan-packed road that wraps around the volcano. Finally Poulidor broke free in the final 1,500 meters and gained ground with each pedal stroke. Delirious, Anquetil forged on trying to cut his loses. At the finish he maintained a 14-second lead. Days later he would become the first five-time Tour winner. Poulidor would never even wear the yellow jersey.



Our race started with the rouleurs trying their luck, but we were all back in the peloton by the time we were crossing the penultimate summit. Zoetemelk attacked into the valley, and was soon followed by all the big guns. Miguel Indurain left nothing to chance and started the final ascent first, proudly displaying his yellow jersey. Pantani, Zoetemelk, Hinault, and Jaskula were all there. Once it got really steep, Pantani made his move, but was immidiately countered by the Polish climber, who took the stage in front of charging Perico. Indurain and Hinault followed, while unlucky Zoetemelk lost a turn, which basicly means he might have to get used to his second place in overall, like it happened so often in history...
 
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Stage 11: it's not easy wearing green
Orléans - Évry, 149km (2001, stage 19)

Erik Zabel was one of the biggest cycling stars of the 1990s. But he will also be remembered forever for the most silly loss in the history of cycling, namely his premature jubilation in Milano - SanRemo, finally won by Oscar Freire by millimetres:



Zabel's biggest strength was his all-round ability: whereas specialist sprinters such as Mario Cipollini would leave the big stage races before the mountain stages, Erik Zabel could climb reasonably well. This meant that, apart from being able to take the yellow jersey (maillot jaune) in the Tour de France thanks to the time bonuses, he could pick up further victories in latter stages, when other sprinters had retired, and take the green jersey (maillot vert) to Paris.

One of his most memorable victories in securing the green jersey was in the 2001 Tour de France when his competition with Australian Stuart O'Grady continued all the way to the final stage in Paris. Zabel won the second-to-last stage 19, and in the final sprint his better placing (2nd) finally took the green jersey off O'Grady's (3rd) shoulders, to win his 6th and last maillot vert.



Our race started in an interesting fashion, with Pantani and Perico trying their luck early. We were going to make 1,5 rounds of this circuit, with the first passing of the finish line being an intermediate sprint, so you can imagine the look on Dekker's face, when others were taking away "his points". For the first time ever, he kept he cool and - as we will discover 100+ kilometers later, was finally rewarded for it!

There was lots of chaos involved, as the peloton was heading into the first long downhill section of the day. Nobody seemed to know what type of rider had the best chances in this mostly flat stage with 5 short, but very steep hills. Zoetemelk and Indurain actually joined the break of the day, also including Jalabert, Pantani, and Cipollini.

At this point, the order from the French team was symptomatic for the nervousness inside the bunch. The French helpers decided to keep the escapees in check. As a result of that, there was only Zoetemelk in front of the peloton once we finished the first lap, with two hills to go.

The situation kept changing constantly! Zoetemelk cracked slightly, which encouraged Freire and the aggressive Bettini to try their chances, as the peloton slowed down slightly. Freire went wild over the top of the penultimate climb, what could well have won him the stage. But his body refused to listen and he cracked badly!

On the very last meters of this climb, the big two attacked: Jaskula, shadowed by Indurain. Moreau joined too. A quick leap through the flat part, and there they were, climbing again. Jaskula started moderately, Moreau jumped ahead, Indurain followed the Pole. Dekker and Piasecki jumped too. Right behind them, the Italians pushed the tempo to extremes!

Moreau went first over the last hill, but was immediately followed by the Polish climber. They both missed just 1 space to finish the stage in this turn, but Jaskula put his nose centimeters ahead of the Frenchmen, and took the stage in the following move. Dekker followed to grab 4 sprint points, which give him good chances to win the green jersey by finishing well at Champs Elysees. He now has 33 points, Pantani is at 36. Third place in Paris will make the Dutchman's dream come true!

Indurain and Piasecki were caught by squadra azzura, and Pantani, Szurkowski, and Jalabert actually managed to finish in the same turn as the stage winners, while the peloton needed one more turn.

Before the final flat time trial, we have Jaskula 1 turn ahead of Indurain, which will be just what the Spaniard needs to get back into the driver's seat. After that, we'll have a traditional peaceful stage towards Paris, where the winners drink champaigne, and then the sprinters fight for glory (and Dekker for his jersey). Polish wheelsuckers should take the team classification and the polka dot jersey home.
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Stage 12: closest TdF ever
Versailles - Paris, ITT, 24km (1989, stage 21)

Eight seconds proved the winning margin in what many call the greatest comeback in Tour history. Entering the final day's time trial, Greg LeMond needed to erase a 50-second deficit over the brief stretch of 15 miles to win his second Tour. No one believed he could make up even half the deficit. But equipped with newfangled aerodynamic handlebars, the American - two years after a hunting accident collapsed one of his lungs - overcame Frenchman Laurent Fignon to deny the home fans a win.

You can see the handlebars that won the tour here:



And the stage here:





This was the second to last stage in our Tour, with the last one being a traditional peaceful feast, where the winners drink champaigne, and only the sprinters fight for glory. Thus, the big guns could give their all in the time trial!

Everybody did really well and the differences between riders of the same type were very small. After one stage without it, the great Miguel Indurain jumped into his well deserved yellow jersey again. He won the stage by finishing 2 seconds (i.e. same amount of rounds, but 2 energy points more, because energy left is our tie-breaker) before Lech Piasecki, while the other rouleurs were saving their energy for Champs Elysées. They both finished in 7 turns.

Jalabert and Cipollini finished in 9 turns, Szurkowski and Bettini in 10, Freire and Zoetemelk in 11. The latter secured the overall second place in the Tour, because his opponent Jaskula needed 4 more turns, and had only 3 turns advantage before!
 
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Stage 13: Tashkent Terror meets Coke Can
Melun - Paris, 178km (1991, stage 22)

A graduate of the Soviet sports programme, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov came into his prime just as his country - Uzbekistan - gained independence; after initial difficulties (including Uzbekistan's not being affiliated to the UCI, which caused problems with the Cycling World Championship) he signed for a Western professional team and became one of the world's top sprinters.

Abdoujaparov remains most famous for his scrabble score tussles with Laurent Jalabert in the Tour de France's green sprinters jersey competition in the early 1990s. In 1991 "Abdou" won the competition despite a spectacular crash during the final stage on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, where - with 100 metres to the finish - he hit a giant promotional drinks can and somersaulted into the air. Despite still holding enough points to win the sprinters' jersey, he had to cross the line unaided. Members of his team picked him up, put him back on the bike, and he rode slowly over the last few meters, medical staff walking alongside him.





To cut the long story short: all rouleurs were dreaming of winning the sprint on Champs Elysées, plus Erik Dekker needed to arrive at least 3rd to grab enough point to secure the green jersey.

Jalabert and Dekker attacked first, while the Spaniards pushed the tempo in the back. Well, Perico was pushing the tempo, while Indurain was getting wasted with champaigne, which resulted in rolling two threes in a row. At this point the other rouleurs slightly panicked and decided to make the jumps to join the escapees, which was rather costly at this point. As a result, only Freire managed to level the French-Dutch duo for a while, but then didn't have the energy for a strong finish. Jalabert won the sprint in front of Dekker, Freire, and Pantani. Dekker won the green jersey!
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Summary

I think it's safe to say we all had great fun, and I'm really pleased with the results: everybody had their moments of glory, and Leader 2 proved to be as realistic as it gets.
We will now take a short break, and then play the entire 2009 season, so stay tuned!

Final results:



France won the 2 most prestigous stages (TTT, Champs Elysées).
Italy had one of the biggest star of the Tour in Pantani (2nd sprinter, 2nd climber, 3 stage wins!!!).
Holland's Zoetemelk promised from the start to finish 2nd overall (like he did his whole career) and fulfilled it, while Dekker grabbed the green jersey.
The Polish wheelsuckers sucked their way to 3rd overall and the polka dot jersey for Jaskula, plus got the team classification win.
Last but not least, Spanish star Miguel Indurain won the whole thing in great style!

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