Tour de France Stage 19 Preview

Friday, 25 July 2014


North to Paris! The race leaves the Pyrenees behind with 200km to ride to Bergerac. This is no rest day but it doesn’t have the same strategic interest as the previous days in the mountains nor tomorrow’s time trial. A sprint seems likely but because it’s the last chance for many teams to win a stage this is the last battle.

Stage 18 Wrap

The same results but still compelling to watch. Vincenzo Nibali won the stage but behind the battle for the other podium places continued and it’s not over yet with tomorrow’s time trial. Blel Kadri and Mikkel Nieve led over the Tourmalet with Nieve looking the stronger and even slowing to keep Kadri with him, useful for the valley approach to Hautacam. But the chase was on behind with Astana taking two minutes out of the pair in the valley road.

Onto Hautacam and Chris Horner made a brief appearance with an attack, his moved tempted Nibali to follow, perhaps revenge from Spain? Nibali quickly dropped him and went solo for the stage win after passing Nieve. Rafał Majka was the next to attack the group, he needed to save his mountains jersey and did it, a strong ride and you suspect he’ll be spending winter in a windtunnel to improve his time trialling. Thibaut Pinot was the next to try and his move quickly put Alejandro Valverde out the back. But the Spaniard wasn’t panicking and paced his way up with Laurens Ten Dam, Bauke Mollema, Leopold König and Romain Bardet, each riding to defend their top-10 finish.

It leaves three riders chasing two podium places. Jean-Christophe Péraud is the best bet, an able time-triallist although often in shorter events. I think Alejandro Valverde has the edge on Thibaut Pinot but the Spaniard has been run ragged across the Pyrenees and freshness counts for so much in the final time trial.

As for Nibali’s ride, more will be said on his dominance but he’s won stages in each of the mountain ranges the race has visited and been flawless elsewhere. Not since the 1980s has a rider won four stages or worn yellow for so long. Yesterday was another demonstration and his win was put down to his team mates, they were working for him so he felt compelled to finish the job. One last detail, see his high position. He rides with the bars high and the hoods higher. But he bends his elbows tight to get a low position, it’s reminiscent of the past.

The Route
At 208.5km this is long but otherwise today’s stage takes in the kind of roads used by gastronomic tours as it pedals past vineyards and farms producing everything from walnut oil to foie gras and goats’ cheese. Plus, the race goes through Condom, bring your own jokes but it’s more famous in France for the production of Armagnac. It’s all over gentle roads that are large and for the most part well-surfaced. Recent previews have tried to list each climb and descent and break down the decisive points of the route but today’s stage just doesn’t have much.

The Côte de Monbazillac – famous for its dessert wine – is the late surprise on the route, 1.3km at 7.6% but it’s gentle at the start and tightens up towards the top. With 13km to go it’s a sharp effort but any sprinters dropped here surely weren’t going to figure in the finish because they’re cooked. For the rest it should spice up the race but it’s over so quickly. The descent is on a smaller road and if it’s straight, it’s narrow and tense for the race with 10km to go before the race drops down into the Dordogne valley and the approach to Bergerac.

The Finish: flat and with two left hand bends in the final kilometre, they’re regular and wide.

The Scenario: as usual several teams have an interest in a sprint finish so they’ll work hard to chase down any move. But today is the last day for everyone else to win a stage. In a race with 19 stages so far only eight teams out of 22 have won a stage (Astana 4; Giant-Shimano 3; Tinkoff-Saxo 3; Katusha 2; Lotto-Belisol 2; OPQS 2; Ag2R-la Mondiale 1; Belkin 1) so the pressure to flood the breakaway should be huge, the idea of two riders being left to themselves to ride away seems unlikely because 14 teams want a result. This makes it harder to control but not impossible, especially with the long wide roads.

One team that won’t be going up the road is Movistar, the Spanish team had its second car thrown off the race yesterday after J-J Rojas was caught holding on to it for an extended period of time. So with only one car in the race if they do send a rider up the road he won’t have any mechanical support, nor drinks and food.

The Contenders: I see two riders who should be fresher than the rest. First is Alexander Kristoff, already the winner of two stages there’s every reason he strikes again. But Peter Sagan could challenge him, the Slovak is assured of winning the green jersey now as long as he finishes the race and watching the way he sped through the field in the sprint in Nîmes he could well get the elusive stage win.

We saw Marcel Kittel finish the Alps tired and he should be even more broken now, perhaps still saving himself for the glamour sprint Paris so perhaps instead John Degenkolb gets his go? André Greipel could easily win too, he’s not looked dominant but in the mix of the sprint he’ll be there.

Europcar’s tactics are as perplexing as ever, sending Bryan Coquard up the road on yesterday’s stage surely couldn’t achieve anything beyond adding to the fatigue in his legs when he could have saved himself for today? Fellow Frenchman Arnaud Démare hasn’t been so visible but he’s tired and has been working hard in support of Thibaut Pinot; FDJ started with a team largely in the service of Démare but now they’re finishing in support of Pinot.

Among the other sprinters OPQS’s Matteo Trentin, Cofidis Adrien Petit and Bretagne-Séché’s Romain Feillu could be there.

As for the breakaway we should see some familiar names, those riders going in the moves in the third week tend to be those with the form to go again and again. So Martin Elmiger, Bartosz Huzarski, Jens Voigt, Jack Bauer, Sylvain Chavanel, Greg van Avermaet and so on. Michał Kwiatkowski sat up yesterday maybe he was saving himself for today?

-
Alexander Kristoff, Peter Sagan
André Greipel, John Degenkolb
Marcel Kittel, Bryan Coquard
-

Weather: warm and sunny with a temperature of 25°C. There’s a chance of storm later in the afternoon. The forecast for the wind varies, it’ll be a crosswind but probably below 20km/h.

TV: live from around 2.00pm Euro time with the finish forecast for 5.2opm. The Côte de Monbazillac appears around 5.00pm.

Tovarishch July 25, 2014 at 6:28 am

Are desert wines found in oases? (Our local Pizzeria does a variety of deserts as well)

The Inner Ring July 25, 2014 at 8:34 am

It’s not that dry ;-)

Joe K. July 25, 2014 at 6:30 am

Seeing Horner and Nibali attack yesterday briefly brought flashbacks of last year’s Vuelta. With no showdown of Froome Contador and Nibali this Tour, I feel kind of let down, like when you get ready for that great date by buying that condom (reference intended to Inrng’s mention above), and your date has to go leave during the meal because of an emergency phone call. Oh well, maybe next time!

BC July 25, 2014 at 7:49 am

A generally middling Tour with the highlights for me the visit to the UK and the crowds, which were in stark contrast to those seen roadside in France. The welcome rise of young French riders and teams, although we should be cautious as the field was somewhat lacking in top end quality. On the downside, it looks as thought two riders with either a past history or questions may once again take first and second and that three teams with the a similar past Movistar, Tinkof and Astana were predominate. Sky continued the downward trend of the year with a performance which was surpassed by that of low budget wild card NetApt/Endura and was little better than Bretagne. Note to Brailsford and company – you need potential winners in the domestic team, as well as one leader.

I am back to some afternoons on the bike instead of the sofa ,and look forward to INRNGs assessment of the Tour in a few days time.

Barodeur Billy July 25, 2014 at 8:36 am

I don’t know if it’s fair to compare the crowds in the UK with those in France. In the UK the Tour is a novelty, something they can only get for a couple days every several years, if that. France gets it every year and for 18-21 days.

George Whitebread July 25, 2014 at 10:35 am

France doesn’t have the population density either. The Yorkshire stages sailed by Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield not to mention all the towns in between. Paris aside etc millions of people.

It would be curious to see if the interest is sustained, if only there was a regular event coming to this area wi nowt fartin about wi.

Dave July 25, 2014 at 11:58 am

“if only there was a regular event coming to this area”

I assume from that comment you ARE aware there are plans for a 3-day Tour of Yorkshire starting next year, along with a 1-day womens race.

http://letour.yorkshire.com/news/2015-yorkshire-race-official-launch

@INRNG, according to Cycling Podcast the last time a yellow jersey won 4 road race stages (ie. discounting TT’s) was Merckx?

Andy L July 25, 2014 at 7:51 am

Valverde looked in big trouble last night, will be interesting to see how fatigued he is for the TT, at 54km long it’s going to be tough.

On the subject of tough, watching the TdF in Oz is a tough gig. Really struggling to stay awake at my desk currently.

Anthony Tan July 25, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Too true, this year has been espescially hard with the world cup draining sleep reserves early on but it’s been an enjoyable race so well worth the sleep deprivation. Stay with it, we’re almost there!

VeloDeMontagne July 25, 2014 at 8:50 am

Photo finish with Sagan winning by a nose over Kristoff! What a wild finish it will be!

Nice wrap INRNG! Always enjoy your perspective and the fine details of the locale. Your writing is so rich and holds my interest to the very last word. Best cycling website on the web. Your investigative work shows, I’m sure you don’t sleep much, but we benefit from your excellence! Thanks Much!

Sam B July 25, 2014 at 9:05 am

Watching yesterdays highlights (ITV in UK) I did find it slightly confusing trying to follow who was in which group stretched out over the Hautacam. With the camera jumping quickly between 3 or 4 groups who are often shedding riders or attacking each other, possibly not aided by Phil & Paul’s incisive commentary, it’s not always clear who is where. The Tour’s graphics are shown infrequently. Would it be too hard to copy Formula One and display the course with dots representing the positions of key players in real time? I think Inner Ring may have written on this a while ago in fact, which just shows the delay in using modern technology to benefit viewers.

Jason July 25, 2014 at 10:26 am

Yes, something like that would be great and in fact I do not think it is that difficult as letour.com already has a good live display. Also good is the app by cyclingnews, I find myself watching the action and also holding in one hand the tablet to check the details..

Michael July 25, 2014 at 10:36 am

The Tour app works pretty well, I usually watch (Eurosport, Phil & Paul don;t do it for me) and have the app for identifying the riders in different groups, with maybe the cyclingnews live feed, which is pretty quick off the mark with updates

Nina Portig July 25, 2014 at 10:31 am

Offtopic: falling accidentily into the abyss of the comments on the Tour on german Eurosport homepage I really got desperate and ashamed. People loose all dignity, humanity and brain when they can hide behind a nickname. And it seems to me to be much worse in cycling than in any other sports. How refreshing it is to read the comments here, where people really care and ENJOY. My opinion: Posts should only be able under our real names (I don’t see any privacy problems- no one forces you to post a comment).
Ontopic: I know many people feel this tour is kind of boring, but I feel exactly the opposite. In my eyes there was some beautiful racing, we had tactical fights, shattered dreams, highflyer and a strong leader , although I don’t feel I can say Patron. Don’t know if this is a good thing or not. I feel this is/was a beautiful Tour and we saw true racing and ryders who weren’t afraid to go

Tovarishch July 25, 2014 at 10:54 am

It’s not to hide from other users. It’s to hide from your boss!

Garuda32 July 25, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Is that you down there? You son of a gun! I’m going to make an overhead announcement and cough into it, if you hear me, you should do the same thing.

Paul Jakma July 25, 2014 at 11:41 am

Have to agree on the racing. This has been a more interesting tour than the last few years watching, mostly, Train Sky tow its leader along. Ok, Nibali has dominated the yellow jersey, but he won it with a canny stage win in Sheffield. He put his 2 main GC rivals on the backfoot early on, to the point they took risks beyond the ability of their bike handling skills (certainly true for Contador, a little less so for Froome maybe). The battles behind Nibali for 2nd and the white jersey have been great too.

Been a good tour!

Dave July 25, 2014 at 12:04 pm

totally agree on the racing, taking the top step out of the equation (which he won on an epic wet pave stage lets not forget) the battle for lower steps, placings and other jerseys has been enthralling and FAR more entertaining than a Sky Train (though Froome is a more attacking rider than Wiggins and a Froome/Contador battle could have been stunning).

It helps that I’ve been rooting against Valverde, but I’ve also been cheering Pinot on as his vulnerabilities make him a more interesting, human character.

The Inner Ring July 25, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Likewise for the racing. When I read people saying it’s not been a good race I wonder if they’re watching a different race or in a different way. Every stage has seen upsets, twists, changes and more.

Anonymous July 25, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Wholeheartedly agree. Yes it was a shame to lose Froome and Contador because it has robbed us of the battles at the very head of the race. But the race behind Nibali has been excellent and to see French riders battling for places to get on the podium has been decades in the waiting. Remember, it is a French race after all. To see a yellow Jersey win stage 2 for the hell of it is so so entertaining and Nibali is a likeable and truly all round rider capable of handling anything climbs, descents, rain, heat, cobbles etc etc. He is no one trick pony bore fest of a rider we have had to witness over the last 20years.

Lab July 25, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Great edition of the TdF for me. It would have been a good battle if Contador & Froome had stayed upright but I don’t think its fair to say Nibali wouldn’t have held on anyway.

As has been pointed out above, his early tactics forced his rivals to react and even if Froome had not crashed before the cobbles would he have been able to limit his losses any better than Contador and the rest of the GC contingent? I for one think he might have struggled against that quality of performance. Nibali and his team mates came with both a plan and some flexibility to improvise, and have taken every chance. Even his first stage win in Sheffield was not purely opportunistic, as Fuglsang softened up the lead group with his attack a moment earlier. Old school 1-2.

He might not have lost that much time to his two missing rivals in the mountains, his climbing has looked strong and the gaps to the other riders when he attacks shows that he would certainly have stood a chance of retaining his lead. Also, Porte would have been ill regardless of Froome’s ongoing participation and Xandio injured anyway, so the Sky train may have lacked the required stamina. Who knows.

His position in the standings has also meant that the race has taken on a different rythym, as there have not been the opportunities to sit on and then attack late on a climb. This has made the whole race less defensive than we have become used to in my view. The small groups we are left with, even before the business end of the longer climbs, indicate that Astana haven’t been hanging around either. I have found it both refreshing and interesting, although of course a little more drama for the win would have been nice.

Nibali would/will be a worthy champion nonetheless, and fitting that a win here would afford him access to the small club of riders who have won all three GTs. A true all-rounder indeed – remember too that he almost won LBL in 2012 – and seemingly a good man both on and off the bike.

Anonymous July 25, 2014 at 1:31 pm

I wasn’t convinced of Porte’s “fitness” before the race let alone during it.

Flashing Pedals July 25, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Someone wiser than I, from Launceston could enlighten you on Porte, than I, but worth remembering, Sky had no Plan B.

Froome, was the Plan and that was it.
Riders they rook to Tour, went Thierry with preparation and sole purpose, to ride for him.
Porte, didn’t prepare as a team leader in his own right.

The unfolding mess, after Froome abandoned, and Brailsford PR – in managing, THAT disaster, simply reinforced the view.
Porte, was never part of the GC plan, and whilst stepping up, and all that bravado from management, was nothing other than a smokescreen, to appease the critics.

Porte, as most know, was supposed to be leader at this year’s Giro, but that didn’t occur.
Rumour has it, that he (Porte) is suffering from a bout of mononucleosis, which has been present since early June.

That is a rumour, so it’s not qualified.

gabriele July 25, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Nice third place in Sanremo 2012, too… Quite impossible for him to overcome Gerrans or Cancellara, but it was him who split the field, and we had a GT winner on the podium of Sanremo after some twenty years (17 years since Jalabert, who hand’t yet won his Vuelta when he won Sanremo, 22 years since Bugno, who would win his Giro some months later, 23 years since Fignon, who had his Tour won when he got his Sanremo double and went on to win the Giro in 1989).

Anonymous July 26, 2014 at 11:59 am

Thanks, but i didn’t need enlightening on Porte.

Brian-Sacramento, CA July 25, 2014 at 4:01 pm

What makes this one of the best cycling blogs is not only the great writing by The Inner Ring, but the positive contributions by the readers in the comments. Chapeau to everyone.

Flashing Pedals July 25, 2014 at 10:33 am

Camera views of the various groups on the road, are down to the production team, filming the race.
The TV channels around the world who show the race, have no control, over which group is watched, so as you all have seen, you can see something exciting unfolding, whilst the TV producer switches to film moto 4, who’s watching a horse/sunflowers/dopey tractor driver, etc.

Interestingly, increased use of mini cameras on riders bikes, shows another brilliant perspective.

I recall, Robbie McEwen using one in a criterium, and it was great footage. He remarked at the time, it was unobtrusive and weight/distraction, was not an issue.

That’s the future for filming races.

Lanterne Verte July 25, 2014 at 10:44 am

I’m hoping for a Sagan win today not because I am a fan particularly but because he clearly wants it, deserves it and I don’t like the thought of the Le Maillot Vert feeling un peu triste in Paris

re tomorrow’s TT and podium shuffles I’m still half expecting t0 see TJVG leapfrog some french riders into 2nd or 3rd….if you look at past form in long TTs gaps of 4, 5 even 6 minutes are at least possible if TJVG has a good day and the others don’t…..Valverde, Peraud, Bardet all looked tired on Hautacam, perhaps they are super-motivated and can recover today, perhaps not. Its a long shot but not impossible.

Mike July 25, 2014 at 10:44 am

Europcar’s Bryan Coquard tactics – to open up the points gap on Kristoff in third, just in case Sagan crashes?

Can’t think of any other reason.

Flashing Pedals July 25, 2014 at 1:39 pm

The “formula” ASO use when planning each years race, generally follows the same pattern.
Obviously, the riders ultimately make the race, what it is, however, planned routes, where a metronomic trained chimp, can climb, time trial to a GC win, is somewhat boring.

I for one, would like it “mixed up a bit” and that includes a cobble – Northern France type stage, in the last week.
Who’s to suggest stages in Netherlands or Belgium in the last 10 days? Or perhaps, mountain stages early, that then ensure that teams need to attack to get back in the race. The usual, flat/cobbles/mountains/no mountains/mountains/time trial/finish is kind of “meh”.

Nibali has been an exciting race leader, and interesting watching the Bardet, Peraux, Pinot, battle – Valverde decline, is easy to see, and I’m less favourable to him as a part of that team, or his ability. Horner, ditto. TJVG all the panache of a squashed squirrel.

Many teams with big ego’s and balances, who’ve effectively “stuffed u” this Tour, whether poor planning, or preventable bad luck.
Be quite good to see Sagan wallop the finish on Sunday, but it will be a promenade with the predictable sprint finish.

Greipel, Kittel, Kristoff, whichever of those has the freshest legs…. vive le Tour

Just make next year’s race route, something that ensures the teams, have to think :-)

Toe Strap July 25, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Brilliant photo by the way, just love that young kid’s enthusiasm. He’ll be a fan for life!

Anonymous July 25, 2014 at 2:19 pm

I noticed that too ha ha, more memories than some dumb computer game.

Chris July 25, 2014 at 2:17 pm

A bit off topic, but I realized yesterday that Specialized has had the winning bike in 9 out of 18 stages so far. Granted, they sponsor more teams than anybody else and one could argue that it is a meaningless stat, but it’s surely one that they will trumpet on their advertising for the next few months. Also, I bet their final victory tally will be 10 with the ITT coming up and Tony Martin still in the race.

Finally, was Démare penalized for that ridiculous sticky bottle a few stages ago? Cyclocosm has a clip of that. Absolutely no shame.

Larry T. July 25, 2014 at 2:19 pm

It’s easy to say it’s been a great tour when your man wins, something that hasn’t happened for me since Evans won awhile back. Certainly a lot of the air went out after Froome and Contador crashed out, but Nibali and his challengers have done their best to keep things interesting though the others are racing for podium spots only. I think back to the Dauphine when all the talk was how Nibali wasn’t at the level of the other two and had little chance at LeTour. I believe the other two were already at their peaks and nowhere to go but down while Nibali timed his program to perfection. Quite likely would have been a more interesting race with those two in until Paris, but the top step of the podium would be unchanged in my opinion. Mr. Inrng has done a great job, providing an entertaining forum packed with details and mostly free of the awful “you suck” stuff that ruins most of the forums out there. MERCI!

Anonymous July 25, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Never understood the downer on Nibali too.

2012:
1. 32nd Tour of California (never finished in the top 10)
2. 28th Criterium du Dauphine (never finished in the top 10)
3. 5th National Championships Italy
4. 3rd Tour de France

2014:
1. 5th Tour de Romandie (finished in the top ten on 1 stage)
2. 7th Criterium du Dauphine (finished in the top 10 on 3 stages)
3. 1st National Championships Italy
4. 1st Tour de France

Lab July 25, 2014 at 4:26 pm

“It’s easy to say it’s been a great tour when your man wins”

If you’re referring to my comment above (yours is a valid point in isolation so I can’t tell if I promted the thought or not) I was actually secretly pulling for Contador this year. Not because I am a big fan but more because I thought he was the best chance we (the public) had of not repeating the formula of the past 2 years. For variety’s sake as much as anything I guess. After the Dauphine, Nibali’s emergence was therefore initially a surprise – although your point about timing his programme to perfection is spot on. I should have seen it coming but perhaps wasn’t sure what level he might reach.

It is Nibali’s performance during the race – the desire to not just settle for the win, but to earn it – which compelled me to put my support for him out there. I hope others can appreciate his efforts to a similar degree, or if not then just enjoy the race!

Oliver July 25, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Hey Toe Strap,

Funny you mention the little kid: he was featured prominently in the French televised evening news (France 2) yesterday. He was asked about his thoughts upon seeing Nibali and his enthusiasm was very high! Fun to watch. That’s really what the Tour is about these days. The actual racing, racers and organizers — not so much. imho, of course.

imakecircles July 25, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Interesting to me to see how far Nibali has climbed up the rankings of number of days in yellow with his dominant performance this year. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_jersey_statistics Should he hold it to Paris (and he should, barring catastrophe), he’ll be up there with such greats as Coppi and Gimondi.

Barodeur Billy July 25, 2014 at 11:17 pm

Amazing that Cancellara and Voeckler are in the top 20!

matt July 25, 2014 at 6:16 pm

Put a few bucks on the stage winner at 67/1 u beauty

george July 25, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Is it normal for the team car to be thrown out? I thought they usually just threw out the rider grabbing onto it. Great stage today and a very chaotic final few kilometers.

The Inner Ring July 26, 2014 at 1:19 am

If the car is involved then yes, it’s happened before.

tourdeutah July 25, 2014 at 11:29 pm

It was an entertaining Tour even though Sagan and Nibs dominated their competitions from stage 2 onwards. Nibs performance was Merkcyx like. Wearing yellow for 19 of 21 days and winning three stages. Even if Conta/Froome had finished, I feel he still would have won.

He dominated on stage 2 and stage 5 before the race even hit the mountains.

This years Tour also witnessed a changing of the guard. The old dogs have fallen away and there are many fresh and exciting riders on the rise !

Barodeur Billy July 25, 2014 at 11:30 pm

Was Nibali involved in the crash with Sagan, Bardet and the rest? On the broadcast it looked like he arrived after Pinot and Valverde but they were given the same time as him. Was that just a bit of television trickery?

othersteve July 26, 2014 at 12:25 am

When was the last time a French team won the best team title in the TDF?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: