Tour de France Stage 15 Preview

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Just like the profile above, Mont Ventoux dominates the landscape of Provence, as ominous as a volcano. It’s also a special place in cycling history, a climb that is rarely used but often cited.

Today’s stage is the longest in the race and finishes at the top of arguably the hardest climb in this year’s race. To put the distance in context, this as long as a spring classic with a giant mountain climb added to the end and this after two weeks of racing. If that’s not big enough for you, it’s Bastille Day, the French national holiday and huge crowds are expected.

Stage 14 Review

A breakaway at last. The riders had to work hard to go clear, Euskaltel-Euskadi and Lampre-Merida missed the move and were condemned to chase. It meant the average speed for the first two hours was 47km/h and on hilly terrain and the stage arrived 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

The attacks started in the final 30km with several teams having a pair of riders in the break so the early moves were shut down. It was an attack by Julien Simon over the penultimate climb of the Côte de la Duchère that raised the excitement. A fast finisher, Simon went solo because he was worried about other sprinters in the group. The gap never got to 30 seconds and for most of the time hovered at 15 seconds. With huge crowds it made for great live TV. Well done to Simon but he’s already nursing regrets from Corsica where he sat second on GC for a while, so close yet so far.

The group came back together and Matteo Trentin was the fastest. No wonder, he was Mark Cavendish’s lead out in the Giro and the number two in the Tour. It marked the first Italian stage win in the Tour de France since 2010. Another winner was Andrew Talansky, third on the stage, he’s moved up the overall standings to third place in the white jersey competition, now just 1.10 behind Michał Kwiatkowski.

Stage 15 Preview

  • Km 20.5 – Côte d’Eyzin-Pinet 3.1km at 4.9% – category 4
  • Km 26.5 – Côte de Primarette 2.6km at 4.1% – category 4
  • Km 44.5 – Côte de Lens-Lestang 2.1km at 3.8% – category 4
  • Km 143.0 – Côte de Bourdeaux 4.2km at 5.7% – category 3
  • Km 242.5 – Mont Ventoux (1,912 m) 20.8km at 7.5% – category H

The 242.5km stage starts in Givors, a town full of closed factories and crumbling smokestacks. It crosses the Rhone but instead of pedalling south along the banks of the giant river, the race carries east before for a parallel route to the Rhone that is hillier and harder. In other words as much as the mind is on Mont Ventoux, the first 200km are no easy spin but offer a strength-sapping six hours on the bike before the final climb approaches.

Bonus climb: there’s the Col de la Madeleine after the intermediate sprint in Malaucène. It’s not big but it’s longer and steeper than some of the listed climbs along the way.

The Finish
There are three parts to the climb. First the race climbs out of Bédoin on open roads, past vines and peach orchards. It’s the easiest part of the climb with gentler slopes and the road is wide but enough for those in a bad way to know it. Second the race reaches the tiny village of St. Esteve where there’s a hairpin bend and the race enters the forest and a relentless slope awaits. There are some bends but the road is full of long sections. Then the gradient eases as the race passes Chalet Reynard and onto the third part where white rock dominates as little vegetation can withstand the blasting winds. The road then snakes up with a series of right and then left bends and kicks up for the last part to the finish line.

The Scenario
There are two likely scenarios:

  • A big breakaway goes away with enough riders to keep going for 200km across the plains and from this group the best climber emerges to win the stage
  • The day’s breakaway is reeled in by teams setting a fierce pace on the approach to the climb and we see the GC contenders duke it out for the stage win

Regardless of how the riders reach the final climb the distance will have done it’s damage. But for all the myths associated with this climb, if the GC riders fight on the climb it is an hour long ramp test, a contest of power-weight ratios provisional on eating and drinking correctly during the first 200km.

In reductive terms Chris Froome is the obvious pick. The best climber in the race and willing to show it, he’s also got the incentive to take time where possible given his team have been struggling to stay with him so if he can distance Alberto Contador, Romain Kreuziger or Bauke Mollema. But rewind a minute, is Froome the best climber? Remember Nairo Quintana used up a lot of energy on the Port de Pailhères but was still strong and if he tracks Froome this time he could well be the winner today.

Collectively Movistar surely have plans to ambush the race but I think they’ll wait for later stages, although of course if an opportunity presents itself a team will take it. Instead though I see Alejandro Valverde has a great chance to win the stage. He was amongst the best on the climb to Ax-3 Domaines but now he’s well down on GC if he goes the others might give him some room. Plus if gets away with others then he’s got a fast finish. Also watch Jakob Fuglsang as the Dane is having a quietly successful race and first hit the headlines after a strong ride in the Dauphiné in 2009 when he was fifth on this climb.

With his descending woes, today’s flat run and climb was supposed to be for Thibaut Pinot but last night’s medical bulletin reported a “small flu-like syndrome” after his visit to the race doctor during the stage. Is this stress or a real bug and he’s off the pace?

Weather: Hot with temperatures at 31°C (88°F) and 20km/h breeze from the north-west, a tailwind. This matters because riders must eat and drink huge quantities for the distance and heat.

TV: live images from 1.50pm Euro time. If you just want the approach to Mont Ventoux, tune in around 4.20pm to catch the race speeding through Malaucène.

Bastille Day: it’s the French national holiday and commemorates a key point in the revolution of 1789. For many it’s a day off but for FDJ.fr manager Marc Madiot it’s time for the mother of all motivational talks conducted to the soundtrack of the French national anthem played from a CD brought specially for this purpose. I’m not kidding.

The Myth of Ventoux

Mont Ventoux sits in the pantheon of legendary cycling locations. But it is also on the frontier of legend and myth, a place where from fame and respect confront mystery and invention. We can’t even measure the height right but for invention, see the tale of Tom Simpson. There are many good tales of Simpson’s life and death on this climb elsewhere so one anecdote. The immortal line of “put me back on my bike” was apparently the invention of a journalist. Instead he cried “my straps” to his mechanic, too weak to adjust the straps on his pedals before he collapsed.

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{ 64 comments }

Martijn July 14, 2013 at 9:13 am

Quintana should be really interested in this one. With 50 points for the Best Climber jersey waiting at the top, this is not only his chance to shake off Kwiatowski in the battle for the white jersey, but also to take over the polka dot jersey from Rolland (or at least put the pressure on him before the Alpes.) Of course the same goes from Froome, but I don’t think he’s interested.

Kartik July 14, 2013 at 9:33 am

The preview has not appeared on the front page. Just thought I would remind you. You can remove this comment later.

The Inner Ring July 14, 2013 at 9:39 am

It should do. Some readers can clear the cache on their browsers to fix this.

Al-Bo July 14, 2013 at 10:32 am

Will those winds amount to something greater on the slopes of Mont Ventoux? From what I’ve seen, the wind can be as big a problem as the gradient.

The Inner Ring July 14, 2013 at 10:40 am

The wind can be a problem but not today, at least the weather forecast says it will be calm all the way up. The lack of a breeze can mean it’s hotter though.

Cam July 14, 2013 at 10:36 am

Matteo Trentin would win a sprint from the composition of that break. Winning the stage took a little more though: he’s been effectively sprinting at the end of each flat stage so far… In the last 10km he sat on, wagering that the group would come back together, it paid off, but took confidence and a long sprint. Decent win.

Treor Ward July 14, 2013 at 10:52 am

Will having to cycle 220 km just to get to the foot of Ventoux dilute the drama on the slopes? Is it too long? Won’t the pack be simply knackered by then? Would a shorter stage have made for a more exciting duel on the Ventoux? Questions, questions, questions….

Anonymous July 14, 2013 at 11:10 am

I’m guessing tired legs mean less attacks, but maybe those attacks will be more decisive?

Jeeve July 14, 2013 at 11:05 am

You would think the intense heat would possibly favour Quintana.

vimes July 14, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Why would you think that? Quintana comes from altitude, where it is not so hot.

Having said that, i have high hopes for him today.

hoh July 14, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Poor Contador, not even considered a contender on this stage.

The Inner Ring July 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm

He gets his name in bold above. We should consider him for the win and top-5 seems most likely.

hoh July 14, 2013 at 6:30 pm

My poor reading habit.

Dave July 14, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I thought the reason it was all rock at the top was because they deforested it in the past? Rather than the wind being too strong.

The Inner Ring July 14, 2013 at 3:01 pm

A bit of both. I gather the deforestation has taken its toll but the top is now so exposed that vegetation struggles to grow back. It looks white and lunar in the photos but there are plants growing up there, just small ones.

BC July 14, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Thank goodness for a knowledgeable insight and preview.
I have had to switch to French commentary, after once again suffering the inane commentary on British Euro Sport, where Sean Kelly is given little chance to impart his considerable knowledge. CK rattles on about all the hairpins on the lower slopes of Mt Ventoux and other completely uninformed drivel.

One is almost, but only almost, wishing for the “Duffield” days !

tom July 14, 2013 at 4:03 pm

CK “rattles on” because Sean Kelly virtually never says anything (although when he does its almost always spot on). I much prefer when CK works with Daniel Lloyd. With Lloyd its seems more of a shared commentary, and not a CK solo performance. Lloyd’s commentary is both interesting and knowledgable. I was really hoping CK and Lloyd would be the team for the Tour as I really enjoyed their work on the Giro.

fjorthur July 15, 2013 at 1:43 am

I agree, Charlatan Kirby probably sings, There Will Always be an England after a Sky win. Perhaps he reads too much Rudyard Kipling. Compare the latest Michael Rogers interview after the race with Froome. it seems Rogers is halfway conscious and Froome talks as if he did nothing more than read the Sunday Times supplement.
But Kirby assures the world, today, that Froome is a super being with extra human powers, so I guess the impartial expert silences the disbelievers who are now delegated as sidewalk superintendents in this Tour De France.
Is something irregular in the race? Of course not, it is easier to believe that someone is a superman and wins a race that he rode, as Kirby said, but once before the stage and memorized it.
As the French say, Il ne faut point parler de corde dans la maison d’un pendu.

Whiff July 15, 2013 at 7:51 am

According to Inner Ring’s twitter stream Froome needed oxygen after the finish so maybe he wasn’t quite as fresh as you suggest.

Tom July 14, 2013 at 6:07 pm

In the end, no big change. Froome stretches his lead but top five stays the same. Minor reshuffling beyond that.

Fan of Contador July 15, 2013 at 12:52 am

Why is it that Contador can’t stay with Froome in this year’s Tour? Being a huge fan of Contador it pains me to say this, but it might just be that Contador’s best days are behind him.

Prior to his suspension, it didn’t seem like anyone in the world, save Andy Schleck, could hold on when Contador really decided to attack. And even Andy could only sit on and could never put Contador in any trouble.

In the 2012 Vuelta, however, Contador’s attacks were not enough to drop Purrito and most of the time he couldn’t drop Valverde either. Is Froome just that good, or is Contador not the same due to age or perhaps because he’s riding clean now?

DNF July 15, 2013 at 2:51 am

Yeah, I am a fan of Contador as well, and sadly it is time to admit that he’s not the shadow of what he was prior to his suspension. Sadly, that tells everything.
I thought I could believe in him, in his honesty and now he’s proving me wrong.

Doubter July 15, 2013 at 4:13 am

Because Contador isn’t on the sauce anymore, that’s why. He is human.
And now we have Porte dropping everybody but AC, including Valverde, Rodriquez, the entire top 5 of the TdF, etc. and Froome can climb Ventoux faster than LA in 2002.

Mark July 15, 2013 at 1:09 am

I can’t be the only one who thinks Sky and Froome are as dirty as it gets here. I (and I’m sure many others here) have been watching cycling far too long to recognize when something is too good to be true. It’s simply laughable.

So the important question becomes: who finishes second? After Froome is exposed (whether next month or a few years down the road), that second spot will yield a GT win (albeit with an asterisk).

noel July 15, 2013 at 10:39 am

so… whoever wins is too good to be true regardless of any evidence, just because they are currently the best?
If years of watching has made you that cynical (perhaps not surprisingly) I’m not sure why you bother.
Go and find a sport that makes you happy.

Parrulo July 15, 2013 at 1:39 am

Its pretty obvious that Sky has better fuel than the rest of the field.

I think Contador could be sitting comfortably in second place hadn’t he tried to follow Froome twice and gone way too far into the red.

BarkingOwl July 15, 2013 at 2:48 am

So of the top two climbers in this Tour one is from Kenya and the other from Columbia, both high-altitude countries. With all these doping scandals and cycling auto/biographies the average joe (me) has become very aware of how important blood make-up is to endurance sports usch as cycling. Now that the peleton is cleaner (I suspect) I guess many future grand tour contenders will be coming from these high altitude countries. Would Froome and Quintana have naturally superior hematocrit or are they naturally better able to breathe and pump oxygen at higher altitudes??

Drew July 15, 2013 at 3:10 am

Like many of the comments above, I will start this with “in my opinion.”

In my opinion, those who “think” Froome and Sky are clean or dirty should think twice before posting. If the posters opinion is based on facts and previously unrevealed data or significant insight, then great – share away. Until then, a post saying “Sky are cheats because they are faster than Contador” or “Sky are clean because Froome is better…” add nothing to the debate and are about as relevant and exciting as a thunderclap in a storm.

LDR99 July 15, 2013 at 4:48 am

It is only our opinion, but it is based on observation. No one can prove anything because Sky assiduously refuses to release any power data (and they are not the only ones to withhold the data). Remember, naysayers were shouted down in 2000-2005. Willful suspension of disbelief only takes us so far. Historically, in the last 15 years, unbelievable performances have been just that: unbelievable. Unfortunately, it has always taken time for the truth to out.

The “facts”? Froome is faster then anyone can imagine. Faster then Armstrong, Pantani, Mayo, and Ullrich, and their cohorts. He is making a talented field look like second raters. He is firing from 7 K out and pressing it all the way to the finish. He beats the most talented pint sized pure climber on Ventoux, and is mere seconds off the current world champion in a flat TT. Facts. And things that make you go Hmmmm . . .

Anonymous July 15, 2013 at 6:31 am

“He beats the most talented pint sized pure climber on Ventoux, and is mere seconds off the current world champion in a flat TT.”

I was willing to give Froome the benefit of the doubt after Ax-3 Domaines. Then the TT happened. Ventoux just hammers the point home even more.

We’ve seen this before, and it turned out too good to be true. I think suspicision is valid.

MikeF July 15, 2013 at 9:09 am

Faster then Armstrong, Pantani, Mayo, and Ullrich, and their cohorts? Over what distance? In what conditions? Cherry picking individual non-killer “facts” and using them to support a pre-decided hypothesis doesn’t prove anything, beyond that the person posting them isn’t really interested in working out what the actual truth is.

And faster then Mayo?

It’s a 20.9km climb. Ten Dam’s strava says it took him an hour and 31 seconds. He was less than two minutes behind Froome at the end. If you think sixty minutes thirty minus two minutes is less than 55′ 51″, you need help with remedial maths.

And finally, bald comparisons of one climb of Ventoux versus another one on a different year are mere hand-waving unless one knows for certain what the wind conditions were, when a 10km/h tailwind can possibly give you another 40W of power.

Will July 15, 2013 at 10:11 am

According to Science of Sport he did 48:35 for the last 15.65 km- 2nd fastest time since 2000

https://twitter.com/Scienceofsport

DrHeaton July 15, 2013 at 11:55 am

Putting that into context, a quote from the ‘Science of Sport’ preview of the Ventoux stage:

“the top times of 2000, 2002 and 2009 belong to Pantani & Armstrong (49:01), Armstrong (48:33) and Schleck & Contador (48:57), respectively (times courtesy vetooo on twitter, and available here).”

That puts Froome’s time into perspective and puts it very much in line with what Schleck and Contador were doing 6 years ago. To insinuate that Froome is superhuman is also to insinuate at Schleck and Contador were too to get such a good time. Don’t forget that Froome also had a tail wind for a large part of the ascent which makes it very difficult to compare with other times.

The actual doped records for the Ventoux climb are in the region of 45-46 minutes done by Mayo (on a TT) and Pantani.

What I take from all this is that Froome is very much in line with the best climbers in the world at the peak of their ability. The reason he’s so far out in front is that the field is not at the same level. Contador and Schleck clearly aren’t at their 2009 levels and the rest of the field, as good as they are (Kreuziger, Mollema, Nieve, Ten Dam, Peraud etc) are just not at the same level as Froome.

TheDude July 15, 2013 at 4:06 am

G.B. Sky Service featuring Froomstrong

Doubter July 15, 2013 at 4:18 am

There is a lot of backlash against the veracity of Froome’s performance, even on this site, which is generally strongly pro-sky.

Every time in the last several decades, if something appeared to be too good to be true, it has not been real. Every time.

Bundle July 15, 2013 at 4:25 am

I agree.
We need more facts now. He doesn’t exactly need to answer, but a journalist should confront Chris Froome and ask the following questions:
- What products or treatments, if any, are you employing under an Authorization for Therapeutic Use, with regard to your chronic schistosomiasis, the side-effects of its treament, or any other condition.
- When did you start using those products or treatments.
- What is your average natural hematocrit level? What was your hematocrit level during the Tour de France?
- How did you achieve such a remarkable weight loss in 201-11.

He doesn’t need to, but I suspect Chris is smart enough to understand he should be the first to want to talk about all this.

Gareth July 15, 2013 at 6:15 am

A fan response to the tour
– to win like Cadel Evans – “How boring, he never attacks…”
– to win like Froom – “He must be doping”

In my opinion….Why can’t we just admire the racing (best tour in years) and enjoy it, and be disappointed when a doper is found out? This constant whining after any rider shows a dominant display must take all the pleasure out of the sport for some. Why bother watching and reading cycling blogs if you have the sh*%s with the sport?

I know you think your opinion is important, but can I suggest that we limit talk about doping on doping related stories/forums?

Josh July 15, 2013 at 7:34 am

“Why can’t we just admire the racing (best tour in years) and enjoy it, and be disappointed when a doper is found out?”

Didn’t we just do this, and then when the doper was found out it was international news and totally shredded what credibility was left of the sport?

MikeF July 15, 2013 at 9:20 am

There’s a difference between ignoring clear evidence and testimony (as we had against Armstrong in 2004), and merely cherry-picking times on a climb to say someone must be doping or not.

Some people seem to be determined to be sceptical, as if they are trying to over-compensate for their lack of cynicism during the Armstrong years, to the extent that they appear to believe that anyone who beats the others must be doping.

Tricky Dicky July 15, 2013 at 10:16 am

+1. Some of the “create the evidence to fit the crime” blogs and tweets this morning have been laughable. I have no idea if Froome or Sky are doping but there’s not really anything there (yet) other than 3rd hand “times” selectively compared to a dodgy era, without taking account of some ugly relevant factors.

The previous era have stuffed this sport up good and proper. If you want a reason why I want all the dopers from 1998 etc to get called out now, the crazy reaction of otherwise sensible people in the last 24 hours is good enough reason for me.

Alex July 15, 2013 at 6:24 am

Unfortunatelly pro cycling will live under this cloud of suspicion for some time still. We believed for too long, we avoided the questions and we kept criticism low. Everyone. While these guys abused. Everyone. Yes, I enjoy the show and watch everyday, I ride lots and love cycling, bikes and races. But if I say that the encroyable performances of Froome & Co. didn’t turn the red light on for me… I’d be lying!

So, despite the lack of evidence I feel totally comfortable to raise suspicions and make comments. Just this time I do so hoping that I’m wrong and these guys are riding cleaner than I think they are…

HamishD July 15, 2013 at 7:58 am

Er, Tailwind anyone?

Paul Jakma July 15, 2013 at 2:35 pm

They only had a medium tailwind in the first part, 18 km/h WSW, from Saint Estève to Chalet Reynard, and they actually took it fairly slowly for a good part of that, not taking advantage of the tail wind. From the turn at Chalet Reynard onward, the road snaked through a side-wind and they would have alternated between head, side and tail wind.

Paul Jakma July 15, 2013 at 2:37 pm

source: http://www.windfinder.com/report/wind/entrechaux/2013-07-14

Also evident in the video, where you can see from the flags on the road that there is a wind blowing orthogonally over the ridge of Mont Ventoux.

Anonymous July 15, 2013 at 8:25 am

Forget doping. I’m sick of Froome grabbing his microphone and ear bud. Just ride your doped body to the finish line already

Larry T. July 15, 2013 at 8:26 am

This is truly a sad situation. Pro cycling’s reaping exactly what it’s been sowing for years. Credibility pretty much at zero these days, like pro wrestling, but the fans still turn out in droves to see the spectacle and we watch on TV, hoping to see exciting but credible performances. If this Sky-bot holds on to Paris we face a dilemma – if he’s dirty we want to know sooner rather than later while we all know he can never be PROVEN to be clean. Thanks Hein and Pat, you’ve done great things with the sport, things what will take years to clean up if/when you are finally removed from any position of power. What’s even more sad is the Brits seem to be falling into the same hole as so many Americans did with that punk from Texas…the fact that he’s their man rather than a foreigner means he must be clean – he’s such a nice boy and all.

Dave C July 15, 2013 at 10:34 am

I’m don’t doubt that this is the case with some Brits, but to be fair to Sky fans with Armstrong everyone knew he was doping because of the covered-up positives, Betsy Andreau, Ferrari, Simeoni, Bassons etc. To believe in him you had to cover your eyes to a lot of evidence. With Sky the only evidence is that they’re skinny, ride fast, train on Tenerife and hired Leinders. The first three are nonsense arguments, the last is worrying but far from evidence of doping.
To help with the credibility, I do think that teams should release blood data at the end of each season (I can understand the argument that you don’t want to give your rivals any extra information during the season).

Christian July 15, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I believe that Larry T’s initial comment about the inability of Froome to PROVE his innocence is a good one. I think that no matter how many interviews Froome conducts or how much data he releases people will always find reason to doubt him. He’s fighting an uphill battle (pun intended).
Fans love the scandal and the media feeds into that by digging up “evidence” which draws us in deeper and deeper. It’s like a good made for TV murder mystery (see George Zimmerman trial in the USA).

Some fans are interested in watching the stage and marveling at the freakish ability of the cyclists to ride uphill, but then want to find the analysis of the riders’ performance. Where is the analysis of the race itself? Would fringe cycling fans really enjoy it? Until there is more compelling mainstream analysis about the sport (see INRNG.com) the doping scandals won’t go away because it’s what readers want to read about.

Mac July 15, 2013 at 10:15 am

Until an overwhelming weight of evidence condemns a rider, I will enjoy watching the TdF and admiring their cycling prowess. I couldn’t hold the wheel of the lowliest domestique so I have no idea what the most highly resourced and dedicated, not to mentioned naturally genetically-gifted, riders can achieve. I willingly admit to being a fan of Lance Armstrong right up until the publishing of the “Reasoned Decision”, at which point I was glad to see his name removed from cycling history.

Show me the whistle-blowing former team mates, show me the journalists naming the product, show me the failed drugs tests, show me the questions from other riders/campaign of silencing other riders. Until then I am happy to appear naive and gullible to all those who want to be first to say “I told you so” and I will just enjoy watching the cycling.

Christian July 15, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Well said, Mac. I’ll enjoy the race too and admire the athletic prowess of all of these athletes exhibiting freakish ability to climb uphill at a gradient of 10% for 20k.

If the first 220k of Sunday’s stage had reduced the field to me versus Andy Schleck up Mont Ventoux then Andy’s pace of Sunday, when compared to my pace, would have convinced many in the world that he’s doping.

The peleton spreads out all over the course on these selections. For the fan base to constantly pick the lead rider and say he must be doping is to discredit any winner in the sport forever. True, cycling did it to itself, but what specifically did Chris Froome have to do with the Armstrong, Ullrich, Landis cheating scandals?

The debate, however, is interesting and something that I believe that cycling officials quietly like because it bring attention (albeit, infamy) to their otherwise 2nd tier sport. Any coverage is good coverage. Did you see the crowds on Sunday’s Mont Ventoux???! It’s just fun to watch the guys ride uphill at such an amazing pace, dope or no dope.

Steve C. July 15, 2013 at 10:47 am

If there was a drug free and drug enhanced version of any sport running concurrently, which would command the bigger audience?

Whom of those above, currently claiming the moral highground, can honestly say they wouldn’t sneak a look at drug fuelled cycle racing?

If you don’t believe it don’t watch and the rest of us can carry on enjoying the spectacle regardless.

Jason July 15, 2013 at 10:59 am

Before the Mt. Ventoux stage how many watched again the video o Pantani winning in 2000 and how many the 2009 stage?

Tintinbike July 15, 2013 at 11:02 am

I am with Mac on this. With LA there was lots of circumstantial evidence that most chose to ignore; with Sky we only have the Leinder’s thing – messy and casts a cloud.

At least Froome has looks like he is struggling on the climbs and how does he get that clean shaven look?

Whiff July 15, 2013 at 11:04 am

Two points possibly in Froome’s favour.

Yesterday he paced himself up Ventoux to perfection whereas both Quintana and Contador peaked too soon and slowed down before the top. Does this suggest that Sky’s much-vaunted scientific approach does mean they can accurately assess how much power each rider can produce and that other teams have yet to master this.

Secondly is the weakness of the rest of the GC field making Froome look better than he is. After all
- first and third from last year aren’t in the race
- fourth place from last year, Van Den Broek, has abandoned the race
- Contador has not been the same since his doping ban
- Evans and Schleck look past it
- Valverde and Rodriguez have disappointed and not kicked on after their Vuelta performances last year
- Hesjedal and van Garderen might as well have stayed at home
- Mollema, Kreuziger and Ten Dam are promising riders but don’t have the palmares yet to suggest they can challenge Froome
- Quintana is exciting but is still inexperienced

Jason July 15, 2013 at 11:11 am

Agree it is a combination of Froome being very good and the others quite below par..

Lee Kaliski July 15, 2013 at 11:28 am

I think I’m gonna give up reading race report “comments” and stick to the pics and riding my bike! …man, the whole LA thing has really messed with some people’s heads. Yes, I’ve certainly been left feeling more than a little dissolussioned after watching the sport for 20-odd years, but I think now it’s finally reached the point where the armchair experts and those that “know” who is and who isn’t doping are just about as toxic as those that dope. Honestly, I think some people just watch the races now in the hope that they are proved right in the end – and what’s the point in that? Why don’t you just go and watch WWF instead? You’re not wrong for being an optimist – I think it’s what makes (some of) us riders in the first place – but until proven by verfifiable scientific fact none of us “know” whose doping and who isn’t.

Guttersnipe July 15, 2013 at 11:31 am

If you are going to get into the performance as a doping indicator debate, at least know the basic numbers.
This post, from the brilliant science of sport blog, is definitive on the history:
http://www.sportsscientists.com/2013/07/mont-ventoux-preview-looking-forward-by.html
And this quick analysis is a further development of the discussion:
https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=642986672379042&id=213103522034028
The short takeout is that questions are legitimate and necessary, but we clearly aren’t in the realm Pantani/Mayo/Armstrong here, and simplistic interpretations of the numbers are unhelpful.

hoh July 15, 2013 at 11:39 am

Might be a bit of an odd question. I got the impression somewhere that power datas are available to the bio-passport system and can be used to flag up suspicious riders for more tests. Is this true?

The Inner Ring July 15, 2013 at 12:48 pm

No, they’re not available. I think they might be part of the testing in five year’s time but not for now. Besides the data can vary, devices can be badly calibrated etc.

hoh July 15, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Could be hot air move up the slope.

Larry T. July 15, 2013 at 4:40 pm

A response to the comparison of BigTex and the current wearer of the yellow tunic – remember back in 1999 there were no obvious indications (and not so many rumors as I recall – I was there that year) of BigTex being doped. Post Festina (and now post BigTex) the tendency is to paint the latest “savior” as, well…a savior. Anyone with cynical questions is shunned (remember the famous “are you calling me a liar or a doper” quip?) then as now. It’s very easy to say “I knew it all along about BigTex when you really might have wondered but only were convinced much, much later. We’re at that same point with this new guy…and those who felt they were taken for fools by BigTex last time are making the current guy pay for it…and rightly so. If the guy is really clean, how can he wipe the floor with EVERYONE else in every discipline? It’s not like his competitors and their trainers are imbeciles that don’t know how to train – SKY has no patent on any training methods and their vast budget can only count for so much. This guy may never be proved guilty of any cheating…but the stench of the past claims of “I’m 100% clean” from those later caught cheating is impossible to ignore. He can thank the crooks who run cycling for this situation rather than blaming the media or fans – as THEY (not the fans or media) are the ones who have repeatedly failed to clean up the sport.

The Inner Ring July 15, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Do we know the tailwind is real or just from Greg Henderson’s tweet? Others say it was calm up there. I’m not picking on your arguments but trying to show how even the issues like windspeed are up for debate.

Christian July 15, 2013 at 2:23 pm

The commentators in the USA on NBCSN, Phil and Paul, periodically mentioned a tailwind.

But what I don’t understand is that, if the road snakes around, doesn’t a tailwind turn into a headwind and then back to a tailwind again? Wouldn’t the riders’ times be just as deflated by the headwinds as they were aided by the tailwinds?

Or are there not too many switchbacks on the road up Mont Ventoux?

The Inner Ring July 15, 2013 at 3:09 pm

There are not many switchbacks. It has two parts, one heading north and then it turns west, but the westerly section turns left and right, north then west. So wind direction is complicated, especially with some shelter in the forest section.

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