‘That’s not normal’: Van Vleuten tears up the GC on the Tour’s first mountain stage

The GC race had barely begun before stage 7. Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) was sitting in yellow on borrowed time before the mountains with the GC favourites dotted around the top 10. Just 2:34 separated Vos in first and Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM) in 10th. 

After Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) had her way in the Vosges Mountains, however, the GC was torn to pieces. 

The 39-year-old’s 60 km-long assault on the GC race sees her leading by 3:14 ahead of her nearest rival, Demi Vollering (SD Worx0, who valiantly stuck with her compatriot until she could no longer match her pace on the climbs. 

“That’s not normal,” Vollering said of Van Vleuten’s performance. “I said to her it’s not normal what you did. She said, I have so much more training experience and experience overall. She said to me that it will come to me, so let’s hope.”

Vollering stayed away on her own ahead of a chasing group of favourites to finish 5:16 ahead of Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Suez Futuroscope) who took third place on the stage. Vollering’s ride puts her at a 1:19 advantage over Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) who started the day in second place.

“It was brutal to be honest,” said Niewiadoma after the stage. “There was seriously no time to recover, no time to do anything, because we started with a lot of attacks from different teams. So the pace was quite high. And then of course, we get the first climb. And it was still just crazy.

“For me personally, I knew that after the second climb, there was a long descent on the big road and the part in the valley was something that you definitely would benefit from when having riders around too. So when I saw [Elisa] Longo Borghini going on her own I knew that it would be a difficult day for her.

“And then on the last climb I just gave my best because I knew that the GC spot or the top three is available for me, especially the third place so basically I rode for that.”  

Longo Borghini’s solo efforts meant that she struggled on the final climb after eventually being caught by the group containing Niewiadoma, Juliette Labous (DSM), Uttrup Ludwig, Evita Muzic (FDJ Suez Futuroscope), Urška Žigart (BikeExchange-Jayco), and Silvia Persico (Valcar Travel & Service). The Italian eventually crossed the line 7:23 behind Van Vleuten and 2:07 behind Uttrup Ludwig putting her in seven on GC at 6:15.

“I’m completely exhausted,” Longo Borghini said after the stage. “I’ve been alone for a long time. For me, what really killed me was the valley. I gave my best and that’s it. In the end if you give your best it’s all you can do, and I really did it.

“We all knew that she [Van Vleuten] was the strongest and I didn’t believe for one second that she was not good.

“For me I was rockclimbing the last climb, but what can I say? It’s bike racing.”

Uttrup Ludwig’s third place on the stage has moved the Danish rider up to fifth overall at 5:59. Despite climbing up the GC the 26-year-old seemed uncharacteristically deflated after the stage. 

“I just gave it my all,” she said. “I guess then you should be satisfied. I didn’t have much more to give. They were just stronger today,” she said. “I did everything that I could, and I think the rest also. She [Van Vleuten] was just stronger.”

Labous, who finished fourth on the stage after a three-up sprint with Niewiadoma and Uttrup Ludwig has climbed to fourth overall at 5:22 while Muzic, who was in the same group going into the final climb, has entered the top 10 and sits in eighth with a deficit of 10:13 on Van Vleuten. 

Italian multidisciplinary rider Silvia Persico beat Longo Borghini in a sprint over the line to come sixth on the stage but still lost time to move into sixth overall at 6:11 back. An in-the-wars Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ) managed to pull up after an unfortunate few stages of crashing to ride to 13th on the stage which propelled her back into the top 10. She sits in ninth place overall, 12:06 behind Van Vleuten. 

One of the day’s big GC losers was Vollering’s teammate, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio. Usually one of the peloton’s strongest climbers, the South African could only manage 18th on the stage, 13:43: behind Van Vleuten, dropping to 12th overall.  

“I’ve had a bit of a runny nose and stuff but I thought it was just allergies, but my whole body was just aching today,” Moolman Pasio said. “I don’t know, empty today. It’s crazy how you can go from feeling so good to feeling so shit just overnight. But yeah, a really good performance from Demi so we can be happy with that.” 

One of the revelations of the day was Žigart who, after a relatively quiet race, spent the day in a group of the peloton’s best climbers. The 25-year-old Slovenian finished the stage in eighth place but is over 30 minutes in arrears on GC.  

“It was full gas from the start,” she said. “Already when the big break went. Actually when the peloton split. And then full gas into the full climb. Everybody knew that they had to make a difference as soon as possible and then it’s everybody on their own.

“I wasn’t there – I didn’t see it [Van Vleuten’s move]. I was a little bit stuck and out of position. I had to climb my way back to the group of favourites. We were unlucky to have Kristen [Faulkner] back but I couldn’t push, I couldn’t work in the group. Of course I was a little sad. I felt a bit stupid.

“I felt good [on the day]. I showed the world that I have the climbing legs. Hopefully in the future I can be further up.”

The GC podium seems all but secured with one stage to go, however in the words of Niewiadoma: “you never know what can happen. Bike racing is unpredictable.” 

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17 Tips And Tricks For Taking Young Grandchildren To Disney World

Toting a four-year-old and a one-and-a-half-year-old, our first trip to Disney World with our grandchildren was a hoot. Our children visited Disney World for the first time when they were around four. We knew what a joyful experience it was for us and our children that we had to take our oldest granddaughter and started planning for her fourth birthday.

A Disney World trip for younger kids can be a lot of work, but also glorious fun. Watching the wide-eyed amazement as beloved characters come to life right before their eyes is a moment not to be missed. Your grandchildren’s first Disney World vacation will be filled with princess dresses, tiaras, magic bubble wands, and Buzz Lightyear costumes.

If you plan ahead, be prepared for plans to change, and enjoy the crazy Disney World atmosphere, you will have a wonderful time —  and your grandbabies will too.

The Disney World Parks

Each park has its challenges and rewards. To avoid trying to cram all the Disney fun into one exhausting day, choose a multi-day, Park Hopper Pass option. Under the current Disney regulations, Park Hopper hours start at 2 p.m.

Viewing rhinos at Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney Magic Kingdom.

Viewing rhinos at Kilimanjaro Safaris

Photo credit: Sandi Barrett

1. Animal Kingdom

I think Animal Kingdom is the best park for the first day to ease into the visit. The parks can be completely overwhelming for young kids and exhausting for us grandparents. There are good ride options depending on the age of your grandkids.

The Kilimanjaro Safari opens at 8 a.m. which is perfect if you are an early riser and staying on Disney property. The kids love watching all the exotic animals. They enchant even very small children.

Another child-friendly ride in Animal Kingdom is the Wildlife Express Train. The short train ride, which for the little ones is an adventure, drops you off at a winding path through the “jungle.” Ultimately, you land at a kid-friendly petting zoo and exhibit.

2. Magic Kingdom Must-Do Rides

My best advice for the Magic Kingdom is to plan your must-do rides. There are so many rides to choose from, but you should figure out which are the must-dos for you — whether it’s “it’s a small world”, Mad Tea Party, Dumbo, or something else. When you take your grandkids to Disney World they expect a magical time and this is the park to bring on the magic.

Intersperse wild, tummy jostling rides like the Mad Tea Party —  I can only take so much spinning —  with rides where you sit. The PeopleMover, “it’s a small world”, and the Marketplace Carousel are calming options.

Watching the fireworks display over Cinderella’s Castle is a time-honored tradition, and everyone wants a perfect view. Magic Kingdom’s Main Street can become extremely crowded during the festivities. If you want a good view, arrive early. Guests start lining up two hours ahead of time and navigating a stroller through the crowds is challenging.

3. Epcot And The World Showcase

Epcot is not just for adults, it is worth spending at least half a day here with young grandchildren. Frozen Ever After is a must-see for any young Disney fan, and Soarin’ Around The World is another wonderful ride. When you are ready to sit, visit The Seas with Nemo and Friends; it is cute and appropriate for all ages.

4. Disney’s Hollywood Studios

I would skip Hollywood Studios if your grandchildren are really young. There is so much to see and do at the other parks. When they are in their tween years, they will love the wild rides here.

Goofy, the author's grandchildren, and their father at Chef Mickey's.

The author’s grandchildren with their father at Chef Mickey’s

Photo credit: Rose Pacific

Disney Hotel Must-Haves

A Disney Resort Hotel is the best option for a stay. Each themed hotel offers great options, but I like Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The monorail runs right through the hotel, making it easy to get to the Magic Kingdom. Additionally, they host breakfast at Chef Mickey’s. Make sure to get a reservation at Chef Mickey’s beforehand or join the walk-in waitlist the day of by checking if there is dining availability on the My Disney Experience App. The main goal with little ones is to keep it easy and simple.

5. A Great Pool

Mixing in a few pool days is super important. Grandpa wants to go to the park every day, but with little ones, it’s important to have downtime. Nothing gets everyone ready for a nap better than a swim.

6. Stay Close To The Park

If you can’t stay in the park, let’s face it, the on-property hotels are pricey. Look for a hotel that is close to the park. The Springhill Suites by Marriott is close to all the action for a family-friendly price. For other options, browse through this list of hotels that are participating in Disney’s Good Neighbor Hotel program!

7. Kitchen

Groceries can be delivered right to your condo, hotel, or Airbnb. You don’t want to waste time running around the grocery store. Plan a few meals and healthy snacks before you go. Order them to arrive when you are unpacking and settling into your temporary home.

Getting your babies’ favorite snacks such as the right yogurt, crackers, and fruit will help keep the kids comfy and regular —  a very important consideration to keep them happy. Young children can be picky eaters and having your own food will save you money.

The author's grandchild with a bubble wand at Walt Disney World.

The author’s grandchild with a bubble wand at Walt Disney World

Photo credit: Sandi Barrett

Extra Surprises

Disney parks are designed to process lots of guests. Be prepared for long lines and throngs of people by stashing a few extra surprises in your magic bag of tricks.

8. Fun Toys

You can order popular items like the ubiquitous bubble wands before you go for less than in-park prices.

9. Disney Wearables

Ordering Disney pajamas, character t-shirts, and Disney hats before you go is a fun way to spread the magic without breaking the bank. You may still want to purchase a small trinket or two on the trip for memento purposes.

10. Genie+ Service

Enhance the Disney magic by using the Genie+ Service. You need to set up an account on the My Disney Experience App, but you will want to do this anyway. The service costs $15 per person in your group. You can have all members of your party on the account which makes reserving parks, rides, and more a one-stop-shop.

As of June 2022, Disney has eliminated the pre-purchasing option for Genie+. Guests can purchase the service on the day of their park reservation.

11. Lightning Lanes

The Genie+ Service is the best way to avoid long lines for your most desired rides. You can sign up your entire group for a time window to access the lightning lane for a particular ride. There are a few restrictions; it is applicable for certain rides, but many popular ones are available for an upcharge. Depending on the park and your timing, you can expect to upgrade two or three rides to lightning lane passes —  if you arrive at the park early.

12. Order Food

With the My Disney Experience App, you can order and pay for food at counter service restaurants throughout the park using the Mobile Order feature. No need to stand in line for a snack! You will be notified when your order is ready for pickup.

13. Wait Times, Character Meet And Greets, PhotoPass, And More

The My Disney Experience App will display wait times for rides, shows, height requirements, character meet and greet times and locations, as well as PhotoPass photographer locations, and more. It is an invaluable tool that will make your experience less frantic.

Visiting a princess at Magic Kingdom Park.

Visiting a princess at Magic Kingdom Park

Photo credit: Emily Barrett

Visiting Walt Disney World

14. Buy A Park Hopper Pass

A Park Hopper Pass adds more to the cost of your ticket and adds flexibility to your visit. With Park Hopper tickets, you can enjoy attractions at the Magic Kingdom in the morning, journey through Pandora in Animal Kingdom during the afternoon, then finish the night watching Epcot’s new nighttime spectacular Harmonious.

15. Start Early

Go early in the morning. It is always crowded but aim to be at the park when it opens. Head straight to the must-do ride of the day and enjoy a shorter line, then meander from there.

If you are staying on property or at a Disney Good Neighbor Hotel, you have the advantage of 30-minute early access to the parks. This can make a big difference in wait time for the most sought-after rides.

16. Take A Midday Break

With a multi-day park hopper pass, you have the option to leave the park and enter a different one. Note that if you have a day pass (without park hopper access) and reservation for a Walt Disney World theme park, you can leave the park and re-enter later that same day. Take advantage of the midday slump and head back to the hotel for lunch, a swim, and a nap —  not just Grampy, but the kids too. After a refreshing break, you will be ready to head back into the park.

17. Be A Flexible Planner

Finally, be flexible. Pre-plan your days to determine which days will be park days and which will be pool days. That way, you will have a better and more efficient trip.

Funny story: One time when my girls were young, it was our sixth day entering the park. My youngest daughter, five at the time, had a meltdown in the parking lot. She threw herself to the ground and screamed, “No more Mickey —  no more Mickey!” We were long overdue for a pool day.

A Perfect Walt Disney World Vacation

It doesn’t exist. Don’t aim for perfection, aim for creating special moments. Going with the flow and having fun is more important than getting on that last ride.

Visiting Walt Disney World with your grandchildren is a magical vacation. I can’t wait to bring them again when our grandson is old enough to remember the experience and make priceless memories.

Pro Tip: With the little ones, bring mom and dad along. Give them a night out, but bring them to the park — little ones are exhausting and those teacups are traumatic for Gigi after the fourth go around!

For more tips and tricks to planning your next magical Disney vacation, click here:

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Tour de France COVID test results, updated as we get them

We roll with some trepidation into the Alpine rest day of the Tour de France, as the entire peloton plus team staff, the UCI jury, and other key Tour de France personnel were all tested for COVID after Sunday’s stage. The results of those tests are starting to trickle in, first via reporting by CyclingTips and other media outlets and, sometime tomorrow, as a formal report from the UCI and Tour de France organizer ASO.

A number of teams have already returned 100% negative results and will enter the rest day with a calm that comes from knowing they will start the Tour de France on Tuesday. Crucially, the teams of Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard are both in the clear, according to a report from Het Laaste Nieuws. The below list is a combination of independently verified negatives and reporting from HLN and others.

Tour teams with all negative tests

  • AG2R-Citroën
  • Alpecin-Deceuninck
  • Intermarché Wanty-Gobert
  • Lotto Soudal
  • Jumbo-Visma
  • Trek-Segafredo
  • Quick Step Alpha-Vinyl
  • UAE Team Emirates
COVID testing in a tent near the team bus parking area on Sunday.

How does the Tour de France’s COVID testing work?

Under the UCI’s revised COVID protocol, the testing process can be broken down into three parts.

First is an antigen test. These are the tests performed on the entire peloton just after the stage. Riders descended from the finish to the team bus area, about 6 km below, and were immediately handed a mask and whisked away to a testing tent. They returned roughly 5-10 minutes later to shower and change.

The results of those tests began to arrive late Sunday evening.

In the event of a positive antigen test, the rider or staff member will receive a PCR test. PCR tests are more sensitive and provide more detail than the simple “yes/no” of an antigen test. PCR tests generate a Cycle Threshold (CT) score, essentially a measure of how much virus is being shed by the individual in question. Higher numbers are better. A number below 30 or 35 (there appears to be some leeway here) is a definitive positive and the rider is out of the Tour. Above that threshold and there are decisions to be made.

If CT is over 30 or 35, a three-doctor tribunal of sorts, comprised of a team doctor, the Tour’s COVID doctor, and a UCI doctor, all decide what to do with a particular case. These doctors can let a rider continue to race or send him home. Bob Jungels, who won Sunday’s stage, tested positive in the days before the Tour began but returned a score over 35 before the start and was thus allowed to line up. It is possible that a rider who scores close to 35 on Sunday night could be tested again Monday night and be cleared to race. This is why in this case, no news is unlikely to be good news.

We will update the above list of confirmed negatives as teams release their results.

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