Tour de France Stage 19 Preview

Friday, 19 July 2013

Yesterday’s stage was big but today is bigger. It’s longer, there’s more climbing and there’s very little flat road along the way.

It’s up to the riders but this is the perfect terrain for the contenders and their teams to ambush Chris Froome and Team Sky.


Stage 18 Review

As suggested yesterday, much of the talk about the Sarenne descent was hype. In fact the only rider who crashed on the descent ended up winning the stage. The day had a lively start with attacks on the Col de Manse and Chris Froome forced to work from the start. But as exciting as the first 20 minutes were, the road levelled out, the fight stopped and a move got away across the flatter roads.

From this Tejay van Garderen, Moreno Moser and Christophe Riblon rode away over the climb of Alpe d’Huez but not as a trio. Van Garderen led but a mechanical saw him stuck as Moser and Riblon passed him on the descent of the Sarenne. Moser’s got the avuncular DNA and was looking fast, using every space possible, it was too much for Riblon who rode into the ditch but the only injury was pride. Van Garderen got back to the pair on the valley road and come the Alpe again Riblon accelerated and Moser was gone. But van Garderen took over the pace and Riblon could not match the pace but he never lost too much time. The gap went to 30 seconds but as van Garderen climbed into the shadow of the concrete resort he was pedalling squares and Riblon began to take back time. The momentum changed and Riblon blasted past to take the stage, France’s first win this year.

On the final climb Joaquim Rodriguez, Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana all attacked and if Froome looked strong, he was running out of energy and in time Quintana rode away in his casual style. Victor Hugo once said “in the Alps you are either an eagle or a cretin” and Saxo-Tinkoff’s plans backfired and Alberto Contador and Roman Kreuziger ended losing time after wasting energy. Perhaps it was worth trying but this was a gamble that cost time, for as much as Froome was in a haze, Contador was lower down the mountain and losing time. Other losers included the Belkin tandem of Bauke Mollema and Laurens Ten Dam whilst Dan Martin fell out of the top-10.

Fine Food: Froome and Porte were hit with a 20 second time penalty and a 200 Swiss Franc fine whilst team manager Nicolas Portal got a 1000 franc fine, all for passing up an energy gel to Froome in the final moments of the race, making it the world’s most expensive energy gel. Sure it’s illegal but for all those railing against Sky’s tactics, all the other teams do it:

  • if you’ve seen a mechanic leaning out of the window to fix a rider’s bike on the move, that’s illegal
  • if you’ve seen riders being paced back to the bunch by a team car, that’s illegal
  • if you’ve seen a rider getting a “sticky bottle”, that’s illegal

And so on. Yesterday Steve Morabito and Jonathan Castroviejo were both fined cash and time for taking a pull with their team cars. I’ve detailed these and other fines as a cost of business in the Tour de France. I think there’s room for the whole rule system to be reviewed because if the rules say bike repairs can’t be done on the move then they should never be done on the move. Once you allow teams to break the rules, you create a situation where riders and teams pick and choose the rules like an à la carte menu and this undermines the rulebook and the UCI. But enough of the rules, the best stage of the Tour is coming.

Stage 19 Preview

  • Km 33.5 – Col du Glandon (1 924 m) 21.6km climb at 5.1% – category H
  • Km 83.5 – Col de la Madeleine (2 000 m) 19.2km climb at 7.9% – category H
  • Km 143.0 – Col de Tamié (907 m) 8.6km climb at 6.2% – category 2
  • Km 165.0 – Col de l’Épine 6.1km climb at 7.3% – category 1
  • Km 191.5 – Col de la Croix Fry (1 477 m) 11.3km climb at 7% – category 1

Some said yesterday was the Queen Stage but today is longer, has more climbs and more vertical metres. Presumably Alpe d’Huez wins on branding but technically today is the harder stage by most counts.

The stage begins with a few kilometres on the valley road before turning up the valley towards the Col de Glandon. A passage up the side of a damn and past the lake behind it and the climbing begins for real. If yesterday saw fireworks on the Col de Manse it was a brief show but this is a 21km hors categorie climb to start the day. Ignore the 5% label because it’s got two downhill sections and when the road climbs, it’s at a steep 8-10%. A fast and technical descent awaits to the Maurienne valley.

Like some giant halfpipe, the race crosses the valley and starts climbing up the other side on the Col de la Madeleine. Like the Glandon this is a proper mountain col rather than some ski resort access road. It’s long and speed, 19km at 7.9% and were it not for a small dip in the village of Longchamp on the way up, it would be over 8% and there are many parts at 10%. The Tour says it’s 2,000m high and so does the sign at the top but it’s a white lie, it’s 1,993m. Another fast descent awaits, this time to the Isère valley and then to Albertville.

The Col de Tamié is the easiest climb of the day, no breeze but on a wide and regular road, an easy pass from one valley over to the next. If only the same applied to the Col de l’Epine, “Thorn Pass” which is steep and narrow, a road that hangs on the side of a mountain. Over the top and there’s a short descent followed by some more climbing, irregular roads

The Finish

The Croix Fry is the final climb of the day and a virtual finish line because a rider over the top with 30 seconds’ lead can hope to win the stage. It’s just getting that advantage that is hard. The climb reaches the village of Manigod via a series of steps where the road switches from 5% to 8% sections and back. After Manigod’s flat section it zigzags up the mountain with some steep sections at 12% and irregular slopes all the way to the top, ideal terrain to shake any wheelsuckers or expose weaknesses.

There’s a fast descent there the road gets bigger and then into Grand Bornand where there’s a final kick to the line.

The Scenario
Two races again? A break can go for the stage win whilst the GC contenders have their race. If yesterday’s stage saw a GC shake-up, today’s route offers more chances to ambush the race. It’s up to the riders to exploit the irregular roads.

Alberto Contador sits second overall but Nairo Quintana can overtake him with ease. The Colombian might prefer to snipe the seconds tomorrow on the Semnoz but Chris Froome is looking fallible. He cracked yesterday and even if he got his feeding wrong, all the more reason to put the yellow jersey under pressure on such a hard stage. So Movistar and Saxo-Tinkoff can try the strength in numbers approach again and try to isolate Froome, perhaps with Katusha as allies too given Joaquim Rodriguez is now in fifth place. If I had a pick a winner today, I’d go for Rodriguez as he’s checked out the climb, seems to be stronger every day and the finish line has an uphill kick.

Yesterday’s winner Christophe Riblon has an interest in going in the break. He’s sitting high on the mountains competition and could scoop up more points. Easier said than done and besides, if he could take the jersey today, he risks losing it tomorrow. The same for Pierre Rolland who’s hunting for a stage win now his hopes of GC and mountains jersey have faded. Otherwise, take lottery picks with Tom Dumoulin or Jérôme Coppel.

Weather: sunshine with some showers possible, perhaps a thunderstorm. It’ll be warm when the sun shines in the valley but cold at altitude meaning riders need to think about what to wear and eating enough.

TV: live from start to finish, 10.55am to 5.30pm Euro time. Watch the first hour to see how the race develops and whether teams try to put Team Sky on the rack. If this happens then it could become a classic day’s racing. If the likes of Movistar and Saxo-Tinkoff are sitting on the wheels of Team Sky then tune in later for the finish with the Col de l’Epine due to feature soon after 3.30pm.

 

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{ 73 comments }

Matt D July 19, 2013 at 6:35 am

Thanks INRNG – I agree – this is definitely the Q stage – Any idea of vertical ascent ?

The Inner Ring July 19, 2013 at 8:58 am

The exact numbers are not listed this year but I put it at 5,000m today.

Anonymous July 19, 2013 at 9:12 am

Any idea on yesterdays vertical ascent please?

The Inner Ring July 19, 2013 at 9:59 am

About 4,200m.

Mike July 19, 2013 at 9:24 am
Souln July 19, 2013 at 7:44 am

Am I paranoid, or is it possible that Froome’s “crisis” (he did not loose much time) was staged just to show that he is human not a machine?

CK July 19, 2013 at 8:29 am

I’m sure if Sky had wanted to show that Froome was still human they’d have found a better way to do it; they’ve spent weeks trying to find ways to argue that he’s cycling clean, so it’s not very good PR for people to see him so obviously breaking the rules at such a high-profile part of a high-profile stage. Even though any serious cycling fan watching will know that this particular rule-breach isn’t a very severe one, it still doesn’t paint his team as the squeaky-clean outfit they’ve been telling people they are.

What becomes more interesting is if they’re actually trying to deliberately underplay it by saying that it was because of some car problems earlier on in the stage, rather than that Froome’s just cooked. Today we’ll see.

RooBay July 19, 2013 at 9:09 am

Does anyone know the rationale for this rule? If it is to ensure the safety of the riders in the finale I would have thought that there could be room for leniency in instances where the team car is following a small group and one rider drops back to the car (rather than the car being permitted to drive up alongside the group of riders).

I don’t think any of Froome’s competitors would begrudge him getting a gel from the car anyway. Also – was Froome technically in breach of this rule if it was only Porte that went back to the car? Do the rules specifically prevent you sharing food with a teammate within 20km of the finish? I suppose one answer could be that domestiques (generally) don’t care about time penalties and would happily breach the rules for their GC leaders if that was the only penalty (and no penalty was imposed on the GC rider). Leaving aside the issue of whether the rules have been properly applied, the result seems to me to be way too harsh in this instance.

Typical French/ASO nonsense and I suspect very hard to argue your case too vigorously with the organisers for fear of not being invited back to the race (although this would no doubt be a complicated position to take with a World Tour team who get automatic invitations). I suspect that the press have to be somewhat circumspect in criticising the organisers on issues like this as well for fear of not being granted press accreditation for subsequent Tours.

If you own the circus you can set the rules and choose your acrobats.

The Inner Ring July 19, 2013 at 9:11 am

The idea is to keep the team cars away from the riders in the finish, for safety but also so the riders cannot be paced (imagine a crosswind and the team car pulls alongside a rider) but also to keep the rider thinking for themselves.

Also note it’s not a French or ASO rule but the UCI’s rule and enforced by UCI commissaires. Teams can appeal

Tom July 19, 2013 at 9:17 am

Did you see Riblon having to wave away his DS (and car) in the last couple of k’s because he was blocking his way round one of the last hairpins?

Cilmeri July 19, 2013 at 10:30 am

According to what I’ve heard and read, Froome wasn’t breaking the rules, and a team mate can share his gels (which I guess re-enforces the fact that the rule is there for safety and to keep cars away and no other reason). However quite clearly he spoke the spirit of the rules therefore if Porte was punished I was pleased that Froome was as well.

And to echo other people – Souln, yes you’re paranoid.

Bundle July 19, 2013 at 10:42 am

Not long ago you could not get any food from the car, at all, ever, during the stage. Only the food you got from the feedzones. Result: bonking was much more frequent, and eating much more strategic. Attacking in the feedzones (Cyrille Guimard’s specialty) yielded spectacular results. So can you please avoid expressions like “typical French nonsense”, which sound a little xenophobic, prejudiced, and offensive?

Larry T. July 19, 2013 at 1:39 pm

+1 and I don’t even much like the French! 20 seconds is a pretty wimpy penalty when it can greatly affect the finale of a stage. Perhaps they should go back to the earlier regulations on feeding or make the penalty much stiffer to really discourage this – same for the classic “rear brake adjustments” and “sticky bidons” that so often occur?

David MW July 19, 2013 at 8:46 am

Souln, a lot of us read Inner Ring because of the intelligence of both the writing and the commenting, which is largely free of the kind of idiocy you find on say, the Cyclingnews forums. Let’s try to keep it that way, eh?

Alex222 July 19, 2013 at 9:11 am

Well said

Souln July 19, 2013 at 11:38 am

No need to be rude. It was just a thought and I was just looking for a feedback..

The Inner Ring July 19, 2013 at 8:59 am

It’s a sign of distrust that even when he eats some suspect he’s faking something.

Will July 19, 2013 at 10:16 am

It’s quite distressing that some people even suspect that Froome is faking hunger knocks. Can’t anyone trust anything they see in cycling anymore? Why watch if you don’t believe anything you see?

Nick Evans July 19, 2013 at 10:49 am

Knowing Sky, there probably wasn’t anything in this so-called “gel” “wrapper”. Show us the calorie counts!

Pov July 19, 2013 at 8:07 am

I don’t think Froome’s “crisis” was staged. He is getting wearier toward the end of le Tour and he has had to carry the weight of the Yellow Jersey on his shoulders for a lot of days now, responding to attacks and trying to keep up with a very in-form Richie Porte. I don’t think he will crack, but in my opinion he is looking more vulnerable over these last two mountain stages than ever before in the race.

Ken July 19, 2013 at 8:32 am

Quintana’s been the real surprise of this Tour. Kudos to Valverde and Movistar for recognizing this young rider and giving him the support he needs. If Froome is hurting, Quintana is the rider to watch.

The Inner Ring July 19, 2013 at 9:00 am

Yes, he’s been great to watch. This time last year race boss Christian Prudhomme was asked about the route for the following year. He said he could not reveal the route but just said he imagined a rider like Quintana making the most of it.

Dave S July 19, 2013 at 12:12 pm

I’d say!

The quintessential climber and poker face.

Gowers July 19, 2013 at 8:34 am

Souls – definitely paranoia.

Whiff July 19, 2013 at 8:48 am

Good, balanced take on the Froome feeding issue, which surprisingly isn’t generating as many column inches or social network hot air as might have been expected. The real issue, as you pointed out in your earlier blog, is that the punishment clearly doesn’t fit the crime. Froome stood to lose much more than 20 seconds by not eating so would have been stupid not to take the penalty. As we’ve seen in the cricket in the last week there’s no point sticking to some old-fashioned Corinthian sense of fair play if no-one else is.

As for today the big question for me is whether Contador finally sets Kreuziger free to ride for himself.

CK July 19, 2013 at 10:46 am

I wonder how much of an effect that gel really had though, aside from the psychological boost— but that works both ways, as JRod and Quintana immediately attacked the moment they saw that clearly Froome was ailing and wanted the gel, so they had a psychological boost too. In the reality of the physiological world though, how long would it take for the body to absorb the nutrients it needed and then disperse them to the areas of the body that needed them? There weren’t that many more minutes of climbing left anyway.

Tom July 19, 2013 at 10:48 am

I’m not sure how much time he’d have lost without the gel. If you’ve hit the wall, it’ll take maybe 10-12 minutes for any release to hit, so little benefit in Froome’s case. Additionally, he wouldn’t have signalled weakness to the other riders who consequently attacked.

BC July 19, 2013 at 8:51 am

Froomes riding style always makes him look ‘on the edge’. I agree that todays stage should find out some tired legs. On the negative, Porte aside, SKY are looking as though they will be light in numbers for much of the stage. On the plus, Movistar and Saxo have to ride hard to protect or improve their positions. Should make for a very good days racing.

Funkinstein July 19, 2013 at 8:59 am

All the other teams do it? Well then you know who won all those TdFs if that argument is being used for anything in bike racing. Pacing back behind a car, sticky bottle etc. are not done in the last 10km at the epicenter of the race.

Anonymous July 19, 2013 at 10:02 am

I think there is a slight difference between an energy gel and doping…

bart July 19, 2013 at 9:26 am

Will Mollema drop out of the top 10 today? He has been struggling with his health since wednesday. And yesterday evening teammanagement indicated it wasn’t sure wheter he was going to start today.

Tom J July 19, 2013 at 9:41 am

Didn’t Stephen Roche get a similar penalty for taking food in the same situation during his tour win? As he pointed out at the time, better to take the time penalty than bonk in a major way and lose minutes. 25 years on, and no-one is saying “ah, that Stephen Roche, he broke the rules to win the Tour” and I suspect it will be the same with Froome. If he wins, he will be remembered as the best climber who nonetheless had one bad day; not as someone who broke some minor technicality to do it.

Also, am I alone in seeing the delicious irony of Froome needing to ask his key lieutenant to ease up so he doesn’t get dropped on a climb? Puts his supposed superiority over Wiggins last year into context. Being a strong climber when the pressure is off your shoulders (as Froome was last year) is very different to maintaining your strength while also having all the pressures of being the race leader.

Elliot July 19, 2013 at 10:17 am

True, but then last year (IIRC) Froome was 2nd on GC when he held back for Wiggins, whereas Porte has already cracked once and stands no chance of the podium.

An interesting question is whether Porte would have been willing to take it easy on the mountain TT, to save himself to provide maximum Froome-support in the Alps, if he was still on for a high GC place?

Martino July 19, 2013 at 10:49 am

I think you are right, the situation is different because of their respective GC placings.

However, I am pretty certain that even if Porte were second on GC, then he would have been held back by the DS just like Froome was, and he would have compliued with the team orders, just like Froome did.

There are rare cases of intra-team rivalry, but they are definitely the exception, not the rule. Everyone knew that Wiggo was the Team Leader last year and everyone knows that it is Froome this year. They are individual riders, but it is a team sport and you follow team orders, simple as that.

diamondjim July 19, 2013 at 11:03 am

…of course the other difference is that Froome and Porte actually seem to like each other :-)

PT July 20, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Froomy & Porte are room mates on tour and also ride together a lot in Monaco where they live. No chance of mutiny I’d reckon.

Tom J July 19, 2013 at 11:43 am

Yes, I appreciate the GC situation is different this year, but simply goes to show that there is more to winning the race overall than being the out and out strongest every day. Something I think was forgotten by a few of the people keen to say Froome should have won last year’s tour and was stronger than Wiggins.

Tom

Elliot July 19, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Fair enough. And following on from Martino’s points – there are team orders for good reasons and winning a GT is a lot more complicated than watching the highlights on TV for a few days and having some opinions.

(though jim made me chuckle as well ;o)

Amir July 19, 2013 at 10:28 am

Quintana and Rodriguez for the wins today, I reckon. Contador played his last hand yesterday, Kreuiziger too.

Strangely, Quintana and Froome seem to have built up a good relationship this year – if Froome’s in the mix come the Col de la Croix Fry I can see a bit of negotiation to give Quintana a stage win.

As for the food issue – is it really that big a deal? We all remember Cavendish’s setback in one of the first couple of stages, and we were all happy for him to draft from team car to team car to get back in the peloton. I do have my reservations about Froome’s performance this year but to say that him getting a gel illegally is a sign of bad character is frankly insane. All riders bend the rules at some point, it’s part of the race, however you see it.

Amir July 19, 2013 at 10:28 am

That should be ‘Quintana *or* Rodriguez for the *win* today’, even!

hoh July 19, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Well, Contador was literally cooked by Moviestar yesterday.

To start off with was the Moviestar TTT towards Bourg d’Oisans, which eliminates Contador’s advantage on the decent and depletes his energy reserve. Then Froome, Porte, Quintana worked really well on the last climb to drop Contador with JR being the lucky passenger. And most incredibly, Valverde helped Porte to link back again with Froome after that GC assault (and it was him rolling in behind the Sky due at the finish).

Looks like Valverde wasn’t just congratulating Froome after the Mountain time trail. Even makes you wonder the real reason behind Quintana’s half heartedness of his late attacks on Stage 9 (that’s probably a bit of a stretch).

But the Sky & Moviestar pack is quite obvious now. I can see them working together to neutralise any Contador long range attack today and Quintana & Froome working together again tomorrow to drop Contador. What’s left was to see if JR can leap onto the podium.

Víctor July 19, 2013 at 10:34 am

Avuncular DNA… +1

Inrng you are great. And it is not only about cycling, as a non-native English speaker, my vocabulary keeps expanding by reading your pieces.

Ian July 19, 2013 at 10:40 am

Anyone that has hit a hunger knock as badly as Froome seemed to yesterday will know that you can’t even think straight about things like penalties or whatever. He obviously got in a panic very quickly about it, ordered Porte to go get something, and whether the team were saying ‘no you can’t do that’ we’ll never know, but he probably didn’t care. He just needed some energy or he knew he was in big trouble. But to come on air straight after and try to play it down by saying ‘I don’t think it made any difference that late in the stage’ is absolute nonsense – he could have lost 2 or 3 minutes without it.

I agree again (!) with your choice in Purito, this finish is more suited to him today – he couldn’t match Quintana’s darts at the end yesterday, but this finish is better for him. Also gone for Costa to try a similar ride to his other stage win and a few long-shots in Gadret (inspired by Riblon and not riding badly at all, if under the radar) and de Clercq (also riding well and might try a surprise dart on the final climb).

Mollema is indeed really struggling, I suggested laying him for top 6 at odds on before yesterday’s stage, he is 5/1 now to be top 6 despite still being in 6th so clearly he has problems..

http://cyclingbetting.co.uk/tour-de-france-stage-19-preview

Anonymous July 19, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Beautiful stuff Rui Costa, 38/1 winner for me today..

Ian July 19, 2013 at 5:08 pm

woops! Forgot to fill in my details! (mr Anonymous!)

The Inner Ring July 19, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Good pick. I considered him for the stage but then thought he might be on team duty to help Quintana and isolate Froome. But as soon as he got in the early brake he looked strong.

Ian July 19, 2013 at 5:56 pm

yeah, I think the fact the gap got up to 11 minutes or so helped, they were not going to be caught so he was free to go for it. Now to try to find tomorrow’s winner!

Cilmeri July 19, 2013 at 10:41 am

Mr Inrng – quick question on jerseys if I may (and apologies if covered before), but on jersey order, I’d have presumed that the polka dot would’ve trumped the white jersey in order, however hasn’t quintana been wearing the white jersey?

On a related note, I’d make Qintana favourite for the polka dot now come paris as well – I could certainly see Froome letting him have a stage win if it means a bit of support on the mountains.

The Inner Ring July 19, 2013 at 10:43 am

Covered here http://inrng.com/2013/06/tour-de-france-who-will-win-the-white-jersey/ (scroll down) but in short, Quintana is the real wearer of the white jersey so he wears it and it goes down to the third rider, Riblon, who borrows it.

cilmeri July 19, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Of course! – thanks for the reply, I thought I’d read it before but couldn’t find the piece again when I looked.

Bundle July 19, 2013 at 11:06 am

1) On Froome’s suspected theatrics, I 99% just don’t buy it. I find it almost impossible to believe, although the bloke is so unfathomable, and Sky issues are being so “bizarre” (to use Evans’ term), and the media pressure on Froome and Brailsford is so strong, that I find myself not being to completely rule it out. But if in 2 years we discover for sure that Sky had been doping like Gerolsteiner, I’ll swear a little, but will not feel really deceived, as this game goes. Yet if in 2 years, I am convinced that the TdF yellow jersey had been deliberately diminishing his performance, in order to dispel doping suspicions, that’ll be the day when I stop following, because this sport will have become, like crits, sheer theatre.
2) One subject for a good article, following the excellent one recently published by Robert Millar criticizing Europcar and Movistar’s tactics on the Ventoux stage, would be the incredible frequence of moronic or unexplainable tactics. What are these DS drinking in their cars? What the hell was Saxo doing yesterday? What timing! What’s Rogers doing? Why was Movistar doing a TTT towards Bourg d’Oisans? Why didn’t anyone try to eliminate Kennaugh before the Sarenne?
3) But all in all, for all its action, plots and subplots, aggressive riding, complexities and mysteries, this is being a real vintage Tour de France, with a really deserving winner and reallly good challengers, the best one since probably 2003, and even 1992. Let’s hope today Movistar really tries to turn the race inside out (they could, and should try), but knowing them, I don’t think they will. The only tactical move I foresee is the 1-2 by Cigarette (Moreno) and Purito up the Semnoz.

Souln July 19, 2013 at 11:52 am

1) +1

Wheelsucker July 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm

I’d be very interested in some post-match tactical analysis, especially explaining what some teams were trying to do when it eventually didn’t work out for them.

As ever, thanks for your great blog.

Redster73 July 19, 2013 at 11:08 am

Was Froome’s comment about team car mechanical meaning the car wasn’t there for them when they could take on food thus leaving them short…although gel’s aren’t exactly a burden to carry – my two-penneth is it was a necessary hit…

But as my wife points out the real argument is “he’s just not British”…I disagree of course…

Crusheur July 19, 2013 at 11:23 am

“in the Alps you are either an eagle or a cretin” – brilliant!

Murph July 19, 2013 at 11:37 am

Hey inrng, great preview as usual. Could you explain something?

Being drafted back into the race by a team car, taking a sticky bottle etc is obviously against the rules but its usually ignored so long as the infraction isn’t too prolonged and the rider isnt attacking as it happens.

However, on the mountain time trial, pushing riders was a deliberate part of se teams strategy, and it was happening every time a rider changed bikes. This struck me as unfair – when a rider has just run a record segment and changes bike they get a push the same way as they might if there had been a mechanical.

Was anyone penalised for it? Were there any complaints?

Cheers

The Inner Ring July 19, 2013 at 11:38 am

No complaints / penalties but I agree, getting a push helps. Having a fit mechanic helps!

Murph July 19, 2013 at 11:45 am

Yeah it’s surprising how out of shape some of the mechanics are. Marginal gains and all that. Cheers!

cilmeri July 19, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Let’s hope brailsford doesn’t read this blog – the mechanics will be in for some hard training in the winter months!

Just to expand on the push – sky had cracking tactics I thought by changing bikes whilst still going uphill, so the push meant more than if Froome was at the very top. Apparently if a member of the public gives you a push you may be disqualified but not if a mechanic does it? Very strange, especially as the bike change was pre-planned and not due to a mechanical.

Brian July 19, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Froome maybe appears to be uncomfortable and pedaling with heavy legs. 38Ks to go- anyone going to try anything?

Andrew July 19, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Am I missing the point here completely?

Lets forget for a second all the talk, and endless chat about doping, the UCI, and the race organisers and the various permutations that lie therein. And take a step back.

What happened yesterday is indicative of a much larger ‘culture’ or acceptance that no amount of ‘spin’, carefully prepared and coached interview responses or media wizardry will cover up in cycling, whatever has been said in the aftermath of the Armstrong confession earlier this year and the raft of ‘infringements’ that we have seen since this Oprah moment. Think Giro. Think two high profile Italians.

These are the facts regarding Froome’s taking of the energy gel as he pushed to the top of the Alpe for the second time yesterday.

1. Froome took the energy gel from Porte and ate it, when he realised (he signalled remember, so he was clearly thinking relatively rationally at the very least) that he was out of sugar.
2. Froome or the Sky management decided that Porte should be the one to collect the gel from the car within the last 20kms (presumably amongst many other duties the Sky management know the basic rules that govern the daily marshalling of the peloton).
3. Froome still lost time to Quintana.
4. Froome was penalised 20 secs for this infringement of the rule stating that you cannot take more food/drink from the car inside the last 20kms.

Simple observations are these:
1. Froome clearly ‘improved’ after consuming the energy gel, and by whatever margin improved his time to the top of the climb, than he would otherwise, had he not eaten.
2. This ‘improvement’ however small or great ( the exact margin does not matter) allowed him to limit his losses against Quintana and hold and build advantage over other rivals (Contador).
3. Eating and drinking are pretty necessary things in terms of being a cyclist. Every cyclist understands that and every cyclist has experienced the feeling of what its like to run out of sugar.
4. However, the act of taking food from the car (not the act of eating/drinking) is prohibited in the last 20kms of the race.
5. Either Froome mismanaged himself or his management did not keep track of what he was eating and ensure that he had supplies on him or his bike to see the stage to the end.

Deductions:
1. Rider/management implemented a sound strategy for the day, but loss of focus toward the end meant that their tactics were exposed ie. Froome ran out of sugar.
2. The act of Porte ferrying necessary food to Froome, allowing Froome to eat to allow him to keep going at a reasonable pace effectively acted as a ‘performance enhancement’ that allowed Froome to limit his losses or indeed build on his lead (Contandor).
3. The choice of Porte as the rider to physically carry the food from car to fellow rider clearly showed thought and premeditation by the Sky management, who knew that what they were doing was ‘breaking the rules’ and that by including a domestique albeit a super domestique in the chain the act would be perceived as ‘bending the rules’ by any sympathetic press.

Final thoughts:
1. Froome will win the Tour de France on Sunday. He has unquestionably been the strongest and most consistent rider in this year’s tour and indeed in a host of races in the lead up to the Tour itself.
2. However, the integrity and sportsmanship of Froome and his team and its management is the real issue here. Not the promises of training figures provided to WADA et al. If all Sky parties involved feel that ‘bending the rules’ to allow at the very least a ‘maintenance’ of Froomes pre ‘bonk’ performance (if we assume that the energy gel kept him just on the borderline, rather than crashing below it) so that an acceptable time vs his rivals could be registered at the end of the day, then where does that integrity or clever political gamesmanship end?
3. Sky have been hammered throughout the Tour, perhaps unfairly regarding the performance of Froome and indeed the entire Sky train. In response they have been resolute in their anti doping stance and in their professionalism.
4. However, that resoluteness may have been undone by a seemingly trivial energy gel and ironically not a newly developed wonder drug.
5. The act of breaking that simple rule (however, many other rules are broken on a daily basis by others or themselves) in the context of yesterday’s situation undoubtedly aided the athlete’s performance, over and above his careful training and preparation.
6. Its a small thing, but without rules we have no structure, and without structure we have disorganisation which will rapidly lead to chaos.

The sport has taken some big hits in recent months. And accusations are being flung around everywhere. If cycling and professional cyclists want to be admired again it needs to start with themselves. It needs to start with self regulation and with that forgotten attribute, ‘sportsmanship’.

The Inner Ring July 19, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Sure but enforcing the rules can’t start with Froome on Alpe d’Huez. Looking at this evening’s bulletin, 2000 francs were levied in fines and six riders got time penalties too.

It’s widespread and this story of the gel with Froome seems to have become a big story when it’s not that big. Over the winter it would be good if the UCI could review the rules and create actual rules rather than a fixed-price menu of infractions.

Also note the Sky car broke down on the Col de Sarenne. The DS Portal had to wait and then take the second car driven by Servais Knaven and with the narrow roads, riders and of course the crowds he could not get to Froome to pass up the food before the 20km sign.

KB July 19, 2013 at 8:20 pm

“Its a small thing, but without rules we have no structure, and without structure we have disorganisation which will rapidly lead to chaos.”

Right, and in this case, when the rule was broken, the rule was also enforced and a penalty, consistent with that given to other riders, was administered – I don’t understand the complaint then. It’s hardly as if there is a shortage of rules: just ask Tony Martin about the rainbow bands on his TT bike! If you want to make an argument that the rules should be changed and/or penalties made more severe…well, I missed that in your thesis.

And cycling is not the only sport where a competitor can gain a strategic advantage by committing a foul for which the penalty is less than the potential gain of breaking the rule (cf. Luis Suarez intentional handball in the World Cup 2010, Uruguay vs Ghana). Some call it ‘gamesmanship’, others may call it ‘cynical’…it’s a bit of both. But rules are rules, right?, and rules were also followed in that case…

hoh July 19, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Well, using minor foul play to break your opponent’s rhythm was accepted tactic in basketball, especially NBA.

Teams do that and accepts that there are accompanied penalties/risks in such act: your opponent get free throws. Then of course, your opponent may score or miss. But the point here is that the associated penalty was linked to the performance of your opponent.

If that particular gel Froome took was so game changing, maybe 20 seconds deduction wasn’t an adequate penalty. But then it’s hard to define what is adequate. Maybe they can try to proportionate the penalty to the amount of time your GC rival was able to take away from you. For example, Quintana and JR was able to take a minute away from Froome, Froome’s time penalty then should be a certain factor times that one minute time gap.

KB July 19, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Interesting thought. But with such a big lead, he could always afford the penalty. If the gaps on GC were very small, a 20sec penalty could be very significant to placings, then there’s a bit of strategy in play. Though a serious ‘bonk’ would obviously cost even more (cf. Alberto Contador Paris-Nice 2009).

hoh July 19, 2013 at 11:04 pm

If you put that factor to be 2, then he would lose more than two minutes. That would put a big dent on his lead.

It’s still a huge 3 minute lead, but it would become possible to surpass. And more crucially, that would change the thinking within Moviestar or Katusha camp, and make them more likely to work with Contador.

Foley July 19, 2013 at 8:32 pm

The choice of Porte to get the gel from the car “clearly showed thought and premeditation by the Sky management?” No, it showed he was a domestique doing exactly what his job normally calls for. Is it possible that there could be a trace of anti-Sky bias in there somehwere? Quite an elaborate interpretation of a very simple situation. There are clear problems of authority and fairness when riders are allowed to draft off of cars and such, but one interesting aspect of the situation is that “sportmanship” is carefully preserved in spite of the commonplace rules infractions in cycling (not saying that Froome’s situation was commonplace). Sportsmanship is protected in these situation because the entire peloton implicitly agrees on what the true standards of fairness are. In that spirit, I don’t think anyone in the peleton had a problem with what Froome did, which seriously undermines the argument that there was bad sportsmanship on display there. Rule infraction definitely. But the fear that, for instance, the anti-doping rules are threatened when teams practice the “traditional approach” to minor rules that are poorly conceived and articulated, is unwarranted. In the case of the feeding rule that was broken, there is not even agreement on what the purpose of the rule is, so it is nigh impossible to say whether the spririt of it was broken, but I think for most fans this issue produced a yawn. Though it was great to see moment of panic in the Sky world.

Gowers July 20, 2013 at 2:28 am

+1

Nick Evans July 19, 2013 at 11:37 pm

“The choice of Porte as the rider to physically carry the food from car to fellow rider clearly showed thought and premeditation by the Sky management”. Indeed they thought about who would be in their team, then picked it a leader and some domestiques.

Boy_Howdy July 20, 2013 at 2:05 am

“Its a small thing, but without rules we have no structure, and without structure we have disorganisation which will rapidly lead to chaos.”

Lighten up, Francis.

Doxter July 19, 2013 at 7:39 pm

It’s against the rules to get nutrition / liquids from the team car in the final 10km. Not to consume. Why ? I’m failing to understand the significance of such a prohibition . Without such credence I see no point in its remaining. On the scale on cheating I’m not really seeing it as significant .

Gowers July 19, 2013 at 8:11 pm

Doxter, I believe it’s to stop the cars interfering in the last critical moments of the stage and the safety risk to fans rather than the nutrition per se. As you say if you can eat at this point anyway it makes the individual rider ‘cheating’ by taking nutrition argument pretty much void.

matt July 19, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Going with the amount of performance disbelief abound presently, does this indicate the only credible team at the tour this year is Lampre?

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