Stage 20 Review
A win for Tony Martin. The German gave another display of power and riding the course with such control that he was in an aero tuck when others had to stand on the pedals. His win seemed inevitable, so much so that Fabian Cancellara quit the race weeks ago. But it was still impressive to watch, he’s mastered the art. Others have mentioned it before but it’s worth stressing his narrow shoulders and the way they slope down; the polar opposite of Belkin’s Steven Kruijswijk who has shoulders like a cattle yoke.
But the second race was more captivating with three riders in search of a podium finish. Jean-Christophe Péraud won this contest despite a puncture on the way. Alejandro Valverde was the loser, down at the first time check and struggling more and more. It was conceivable he’d have planned to start very fast as a ruse to make Péraud and Pinot respond and duly crack but the conception was more conceit and he finished fourth, ending a final week where he’s looked tired. Tony Martin might have won the stage but his victory was expected. To see both Péraud and Pinot promised a podium finish is something astonishing, a tribute to both of them.
Romain Bardet ends up sixth overall, pipped by two seconds thanks to a puncture and a mechanical plus several other problems (his power metre wasn’t working, nor his race radio). But it takes two to switch and Tejay van Garderen rode a very solid time trial… if only he”d eaten more solid foods on the way to Luchon earlier this week he could be standing on the podium. Then again you see Péraud and see how many names have years to get it right.
Amid all this Vincenzo Nibali is almost an afterthought. But only because he’s in such a certain place, he is promised the win and only the cruellest of tragedies can deny him today, just as it was yesterday too.
The Route: a Parisian classic with the race starting in the Orge valley before heading into the city to lap the Champs Elysées. There’s little point detailing the strategic elements except to say the race uses the full length of les champs, like last year. As ever there’s a slight rise to the road and it’s cobbled, obviously the urban variety of pavé but a different feeling.
- Pointless: because we know who has won the Tour de France and half of the stage is a victory parade, a procession
- Essential: because it crowns the victor and provides the prestigious backdrop. After weeks touring rural France here is the capital’s seal of approval
The Scenario: it might start out as fun and games but it ends with some of the fiercest racing all year. Just ask Lieuwe Westra who started the final stage last year but could not finish. We’ve also seen some riders attack to improve their GC position although it’s hard to imagine Romain Bardet outriding Tejay van Garderen today. Talking of likely outcomes, expect to see Vincenzo Nibali in full yellow kit today with matching shorts and bike.
The Contenders: almost the sprinters’ world championships the finish is usually reserved for the fast men although there have been upsets from time to time and today’s chance of rain might just alter the story.
If not then can Marcel Kittel repeat last year’s success? He’s looked stuffed since the Alps but two day of relative restraint might mean he’s back in action. I certainly think Giant-Shimano will back him.
Alexander Kristoff is the “freshness” card. If you think Kittel is cooked then Kristoff has yet to pass his best before date. The Norwegian seems to prefer the tough conditions and could take his third stage win.
Next is André Greipel who has the speed and power for a stage win but hasn’t had the luck so far. He’s got one win but might be placed to take more. Then comes Peter Sagan, still hunting for a stage win to avoid Thor Hushovd’s 2005 feat of winning the green jersey without a stage win. Of course winning the jersey is impressive and the whole point of the competition is to reward regularity ahead of speed but still, a win would suit him. But watch Elia Viviani too, maybe Cannondale repay his support role, he has the leg speed to surprise.
Among the others would you rule out a French rider? Arnaud Démare does seem tired but could find FDJ back in his service and the finish does suit him. While Bryan Coquard and Kévin Reza will be there too.
|Marcel Kittel, Alexander Kristoff, André Greipel|
|Elia Viviani, Bryan Coquard, Arnaud Démare|
Weather: sunny but a chance of a thunderstorm on the Champs Elysées. Rain and cobbles don’t mix well.
TV: note the late finish, expected for 7.20pm Euro time or two hours later than usual. But tune in early for La Course, the women’s race. I was going to do a separate preview but cyclingtips has everything and more. The women race between 12.50pm and 2.45pm, it’ll be on the same channel you’ve been watching the Tour and should feature live footage from on-bike cams too.