Monday Blues: Matteo Tosatto at the 2014 Tour de France

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authors photo from the 2013 Tour of California

Occasionally i like to select a random rider and follow his progress over the three week course of a Grand Tour, as well as throw in some stats, trivia and anything else i can find. At this years Tour de France i have chose Italian Matteo Tosatto, who races for Tinkoff-Saxo. Since Tosatto's team leader, Alberto Contador, is on the top line of contenders for overall victory, it is unlikely that Matteo will see much, if any, opportunity to race for himself.

At forty years of age he is not only one of the older racers in the Tour, he is also one of the more experienced, with seventeen years tucked away as a professional racer. That career includes stage wins at Paris-Nice, the Giro d'Italia, and indeed, the Tour de France (Stage 18 in 2006). He has racked up additional wins at the Coppa Placci, Giro di Toscana, GP Kanton Aargau Gippingen, Settimana internationale di Coppi e Bartali, and Tour of Qatar. Considered a classics specialist, his palmares are further filled with many top ten placings, including a seventh at the 2012 Paris-Roubaix, his best finish in a true Classic. Considering his longevity in the sport, there can be little doubt as to his worth as a team player, a quality that will no doubt be exploited to its fullest at this years Tour.

So, lets jump on in - at the end of the 190 km Stage One between Leeds and Harrogate, Tosatto finished 157th, yet with the same time as stage winner Marcel Kittel. Stage Two, 201 km between York and Sheffield, saw Tosatto come across the line in 158th spot, fifteen minutes thirty-nine seconds behind stage winner, and fellow countryman, Vincenzo Nibali. That time gap may sound like quite a bit, but it was not quite the sprinters' bus which came in at 19:50

Stage Three was a 155 km race into London from its start in Cambridge. Flatter than the first two stages, this one was expected to be a sprinters' showcase and did not disappoint with Marcel Kittel claiming his second win. And did you see Tosatto up front pushing the pace with the other Saxo's in the last kilometers? Yah, having it running in the background at work i couldn't really tell if Matteo was amongst the band of brothers driving at the time either. Nor did i hear his name announced by Sean. Since he came in with a bunch 1:05 back of Kittel, he may very well have done his job before the final twenty into London town, when he and Nico Roche lent a hand to reel in the day-long break of Jan Barta and Jean-Marc Bideau.

Stage Four. For this day's 163.5 km run from Le Touquet-paris-Plage to Lille, Tosatto along with Daniele Bennati, were charged with keeping Alberto Contador safely ensconced, and free of trouble, near the front. Contador noted that he was never outside the first twenty riders during the day. For his efforts Matteo finished 148th (I wouldn't be surprised if only Marcel Kittel has had more consistent finishes), 2:05 behind the stage winner, with the knowledge that his team leader now sits in fifth spot overall. Meanwhile, Kittel snagged yet another win (that is three for four now, in case you lost count), while Peter Sagan, after a late mechanical, chased solo back to the bunch, wove his way through the peloton and still managed a tightly contested fourth behind Kittle, Alexander Kristoff, and Arnaud Demare. Guy is one strong rider. Oh, and hooray to Tommy Voeckler for having his nose in the wind all day.

Tosatto rode the first of his (thus far) twenty-nine Grand Tours in 1997. What is the difference between then and now, he was asked: "The difference between 23-year old Matteo and 40-year old Matteo is the experience and the recovery time. In '97 I attacked all the time as soon as the stage started. Now I use my energy much more wisely when the opportunities arise. I still have the same power but I naturally need to focus more on recovery, resting after the stages and getting ready for another day." (Tinkoff-Saxo Team website)

By now i suspect everyone is aware of the shake-up caused during the Fifth Stage, 155.5. km between Ypres and Arenberg Porte du Hainaut. The sections of cobbled roadway made even more problematic by the rainy, wet weather caused all kinds of havoc, including the withdrawal of defending champion, Chris Froome due to injury. There were two big winners today - Lars Boom, who won the stage (no surprise, the conditions seemed perfectly suited to the Dutchman and former cyclocross World Champion), and Yellow Jersey wearer Vincenzo Nibali, who rode masterfully at a time when he might not have been expected to. But then, perhaps that is not giving him enough credit - we have seen him win in the snow, after all. Nibali's teammate, Jacob Fuglsang, also benefited from the combination foul weather and hard work, finishing the stage in 2nd place, and being the next closest to his leader in the overall standings by a mere two seconds. But this is supposed to be about Matteo Tosatto, yes? He came in 127th at 15:32, well back of team leader Contador, who was at 2:54.

Ever take a look at the overall stats following a race, at the placings further back from the 'higher ups'? It is not unusual for one or more riders from the same team to cross the line together. Take Stage Six, for instance, a 194 km, mostly flatish jaunt from Arras to Reims. Our man Matteo Tosatto (128th) came in with a group of five riders at 1:27, including teammates Nicolas Roche (126th) and Rafal Majka (129th). Roche, as usual was helping out at the front for much of the day; it would not surprise me if the other two were there to help him get to the finish without any undue difficulty after making sure Alberto Contador made it safely to the final few kilometers.

Thank goodness for rest days, they allow me to catch up. Stage Seven was won by another Matteo, Matteo Trentin. Meanwhile our man, Matteo Tosato crossed the line 158th @12:16. This stage was 234.5 km between Epernay and Nancy, and was a final flatter stage before the race turns more mountainous. The 168 km Eighth Stage between Toumblaine and Gerardmer La Mauselaine included a pair of category 2 climbs and a cat 3 within the final thirty km of racing. Frenchman Blel Kadri took the win ahead of Alberto Contador. Tosatto came in 120th at 17:51 and alongside the races elder statesman, Jens Voigt. With three cat 3s, two cat 2s, and a cat 1 climb, the 170 km Ninth Stage between Gerardmer and Mulhouse introduced some serious climbing to this year's Tour. It also had a long downhill to the finish, which proved perfect for Tony Martin, who soloed in for the win. Matteo finished in 128th spot at 19:24, and alongside teammate Michael Morkov.

The climbs continued into Stage Ten, 161.5 km between Mulhouse and Planche des Belles Filles, with a cat 3, two cat 2s and four cat 1 climbs, including the ski station finish. Vincenzo Nibali took the win, solidifying the lead which he temporarily surrendered yesterday. The biggest news, though, must surely be the abandonment of Alberto Contador, following a crash in which he broke his tibia, yet rode another ten miles before succumbing to pain. The top two pre-Tour favorites are now out of the race from injury, though the way Nibali has been riding they may very well have been hard pressed to top him. Tosatto came in 132nd at 29:49 on this tenth stage. He, along with Nicolas Roche, Michael Morkov, Daniele Bennati attempted to shepherd their team leader along, but ultimately to no use.

to the millimeter - if bike prep and mechanical stuff floats your boat, check out the full image, and more, in this gallery at RoadCyclingUK

Stage Eleven began in Besancon and rolled over hill and dale for 187.5 km to Oyonnax. The stage profile is rolling, though trending ever upward from the start. Matteo had a higher placed finish today, coming in 73rd and crossing the line solo at 7:27. In case you were wondering, he now sits 141st out of 179 riders still in the race, 1:52.01 behind race leader, Nibali. The end of the stage saw yet another team leader and pre-race, dark horse favorite withdraw due to an accumulation of injuries, as Garmin's Andrew Talansky struggled to finish just ahead of the broom wagon, and later drew the curtain shut on his chase of this year's final Yellow Jersey.

Stage Twelve, 185.5 km between Bourg en Bresse and Saint Etienne was similar the stage eleven, and even more likely to end in a sprint. Tosatto finished in 115th spot at 2:24, the same time at teammates Nicolas Roche and Sergio Paulinho.

By now, i imagine, you are familiar with the vests being used by the Tinkoff-Saxos to deliver fresh water bottles to their crew. The team says that Tosatto can load up and be on his way back into the bunch in 15 to 20 seconds.

from the Tinkoff-Saxo Team on Facebook