Into the Alps

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Legend has it that Saint Martin was moved by a beggar suffering in the cold and he cut his cloak in half to give the poor man some protection. The ski resort of La Pierre Saint Martin might be named after the saint but the scenes last Tuesday were the diametric opposite as Chris Froome took no pity on those hoping to get a share of his golden tunic in the baking heat.

The climb to La Pierre Saint Martin looks to have been too much too soon in story-telling terms, it revealed the race’s hierarchy in the space of 40 minutes when ideally it’s supposed to take shape over four weekends. A sucker-punch to the hopes of his rivals as he dropped them all on one climb. The consensus seems to be that some riders had a bad rest day and struggled with the way the race collided with the mountain the next day. Romain Bardet said he climbed up La Pierre St Martin 6-7km/h slower in the race than he’d done in training while the likes of Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador got found out quickly too. The Pyrenees came and went and the Plateau de Beille climb was shut down by a headwind across the top, so as much as the attacks flew they were reeled in too.

Nairo Quintana seems the best of the rest and should enjoy the upcoming stages in the Alps, with stage wins, the mountains jersey and perhaps more if Froome has a jours sans. Sky are rider down with Peter Kennaugh falling ill and Richie Porte has been on antibiotics. Can Froome be isolated? They’ll be using so much hand sanitizer they’ll smell like alcoholics.

Alejandro Valverde is now 30 seconds behind Tejay van Garderen for third overall and this provides and extra story to watch in the coming days especially as Valverde could take a stage win and with it the time bonus. Van Garderen says he’s been riding steady hoping that others fall by the wayside while he measures his efforts, a sensible strategy in sports science but will it inspire people to buy BMC bikes?

Alberto Contador seems to be improving but his recent attacks have had the look of a test rather than a committed move and his relative flop in the Tour is bad news for the Giro as it will scare off some big names from doing the Giro, they’ll prefer the Tour-Vuelta double, going all in for the Tour and if it flops, attempting a September salvage operation.

Vincenzo Nibali meanwhile has been attacking too but these moves seem to be based on pride rather that power and he certainly doesn’t look to be enjoying himself; a thief stole €500 and his winning sunglasses from last summer but he’s also losing his win bonuses and mislaid his legs from last summer.

Among the rest Geraint Thomas was closed to being dropped on the Col de Manse yesterday so his sixth place looks fragile, Robert Gesink continues to climb with the front group with Bauke Mollema and Warren Barguil making up the rest of the top-10, a prized result for many a rider but forgettable for the wider public.

André Greipel is the best sprinter of the race with three stages, impressive in any year but more so in this edition given the scarcity of sprint finishes, there’s only Paris left. Post stage radio phone-ins are full of calls wondering why he’s not in green but as ever the points competition is just that, a points scoring competition and Greipel has scored a lot of points along the way but someone’s got even more.

Peter Sagan started the race with the points competition rules revised against him but he’s simply upped his game with a display of consistency and showmanship. If we exclude time trials and the uphill finishes he’s been 2-3-2-3-4-2-5-4-2 and all while going in breakaways, contesting sprints and being the showman. As well as green he’s probably got the combativity prize sewn up for Paris too. He seems to be enjoying himself despite visible frustration with those second places. His problem is his versatility, take yesterday’s stage to Gap where his presence in the break meant riders attacked to escape him and once Ruben Plaza was away the others were wary of chasing because they’d be humiliated on the descent and any survivors that made it to Gap would be outsprinted. Oleg Tinkov seems happy with him and if Tinkoff Credit Cards have the basis of a marketing campaign for Russian tourists: show Sagan’s image with the slogan “accepted all over France“.

Tim Kerrison Team Sky

Less accepting has been the reaction to Team Sky from some. Every year they seem to walk into a public relations spat marked “TRAP” and every year we get the same circular arguments over performance data and suspicion that end up in an epistemological cul de sac, or since it happens on the first mountain stage, is it a col de sac? The stress it causes must be a performance drain on Froome. For all the spend on motorhomes et cetera the team come unprepared to deal with the media despite having been hounded in 2012 and 2013 so they’re pushed around and bounced into releasing data, by which time they’ve lost control of the story. Today they published some power data from the La Pierre St Martin climb but will it convince anyone? Most people don’t understand the numbers and so turn to a high priest of power to explain things but anyone who thought Sky were doping in the first place will just say they’re adding to the lies with false data.

Froome said he had a cup of urine thrown at him and some were saying this was because of an inflammatory climate whipped up by sections of the media casting doubts over Froome’s performance. But we don’t know because the moron in the crowd hasn’t been identified and could simply be a cretin who’d spent too long drinking beer waiting for the race rather than being stirred into action by claims of W/kg, RPM or VAM. The irony is that blaming the the media for urine-thrower is an assumption and a short cut and that’s the same leap as those saying estimated power outputs and high cadence mean dopage. There’s a curious Sky-centric aspect to all of this. A British newspaper found out Team Sky employs someone who’d worked for US Postal in 1999 and tried make hay out of this. Meanwhile nobody frets about Katusha employing a convicted criminal as their chief doctor, that Astana is run by Alexander Vinokourov or that BMC Racing employ a soigneur named in sworn statements, all facts out in the open. Let’s stress the past does not mean these teams are up to no good today, simply it illustrates Sky get the grilling that others don’t.

The Tour de France is first and foremost a bike race even if there’s a danger of forgetting this at times so let’s return to the sport.

In the Alps you are either an eagle or a cretin
– Victor Hugo

The race sits at the foot of the Alps now and a series of challenging stages await:

  • Wednesday sees the giant Col d’Allos with its dangerous descent
  • Thursday looks like the least strategic stage because the mighty Col du Glandon sits 40km from the finish but the climb is so long that it will still stir things up
  • Friday has so much climbing they’ve had to send the race up and down the Maurienne valley just to add some flat roads and features the Glandon – Croix-de-Fer – Mollard – La Toussuire. The final climb is an under-rated summit finish, long and irregular
  • Saturday has the Alpe d’Huez summit finish

Alone any of these stages are hard, collectively they’re massive and mean that once the race reaches Alpe d’Huez whoever is wearing the yellow jersey will have been tested to the max on every terrain possible.

With the finish in Paris almost certain to end in a sprint finish it means a lot of teams are under pressure to deliver. Yesterday saw two races for the price of one with a breakaway contesting the stage win and top-10 overall trading attacks and we should see this repeat as desperate teams try to get that precious stage win.

MTN-Qhubeka have been the underdog success story with plenty of publicity for Daniel Teklehaimanot’s first week polka dot points grab and continued with Stephen Cummings’ stage win. It’s been a race with few opportunities for the underdogs, Alexis Vuillermoz got his stage win and Ruben Plaza reminded us that Lampre-Merida exist but otherwise the race around France resembles a Monopoly board with Team Sky, Katusha, BMC Racing and Etixx-Quickstep dominating, the only megabucks team losing out is Astana.

Finally the race goes into the Alps with the mountains jersey almost forgotten about. This is supposed to be the 40th anniversary of the jersey but there’s been little to celebrate so far… there are 18 categorised climbs to come between now and Saturday so the contest might come alive.

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One Man Grupetto July 21, 2015 at 3:55 pm

Superb wrap-up piece. As always steering clear of the hyperbole and maintaining a neutral – but informed – approach to the contraversial aspects of the race. Plus your customary clever rather than groan-inducing pun.

Interestingly, Voeckler was claiming that fear of Sagan wasn’t necessarily the reason for the lack of attacks yesterday. Rather he claimed riders were cooked because the two leading groups spent 95km time-trialling each other before they eventially met up.

John B. July 21, 2015 at 7:29 pm

Speaking of groan-inducing puns, how about that argy-Barguil on the final descent yesterday?

Alex TC July 21, 2015 at 10:13 pm

Make mine your words, I couldn´t agree more. INRNG makes me smile while keeping me informed, totally valid perspectives and clever but funny insights.

Ben July 21, 2015 at 4:10 pm

I’m starting to think openness is the wrong approach for Sky. Astana’s approach last year was just not to discuss doping, and they got nothing like this much stick. Even if the teams had an equal record on doping positives, I’d find it hard to comprehend the different treatment by the media.

BenW July 21, 2015 at 4:18 pm

Sky have tried “not talking about doping” and get pilloried for it like they’re trying to hide something. They can’t win either way, it seems.

Finn July 21, 2015 at 4:54 pm

I think Astana didn’t get grilled on doping last year because every question was about Froome and Contador crashing out

Nick July 22, 2015 at 5:59 am

The media had an actual reason to question the win!

channel_zero July 21, 2015 at 6:47 pm

What openness? This is not a Sky problem as much as a governance problem at the UCI.

The sport at the elite international level is a federation of national federations that are unmotivated to address basic sport integrity/governance problems. Cycling isn’t alone in this. Football and track and field have the same integrity problems. The next Summer Olympic event in Rio will probably suffer as a result.

BenW July 21, 2015 at 4:17 pm

“There’s a curious Sky-centric aspect to all of this. A British newspaper found out Team Sky employs someone who’d worked for US Postal in 1999 and tried make hay out of this. Meanwhile nobody frets about Katusha employing a convicted criminal as their chief doctor, that Astana is run by Alexander Vinokourov or that BMC Racing employ a soigneur named in sworn statements, all facts out in the open. Let’s stress the past does not mean these teams are up to no good today, simply it illustrates Sky get the grilling that others don’t.”

You’ve hit the nail squarely on the head there. I don’t understand why Sky are in for such a hounding all the time. Well; I do, but I don’t understand why everyone else gets off comparatively lightly. As I’ve said before, I don’t recall there being demands for power data from Astana at the Giro with Landa and Aru and a bunch of solid-but-previously-unspectacular Pros dominiating the front at times, day-after-day.

Back to Le Tour, how is Froome’s climb any less credible than Sagan’s 2-3-2-3-4-2-5-4-2 finishing and constant antagonism? Spectacular though he is, why isn’t he suspected in the same way? He’s always there, day-in day-out across all terrain. Admirable riding and I love to watch him, I’m not insinuating he’s a doper at all – I just wonder why his performances lack the same scrutiny?

Anonymous July 21, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Part of the scrutiny is due to Froome (and, to some degree, Wiggins) sort of “come out of nowhere” to be grand tour champions. Combine that with the insistence on a clean program, and some people will be skeptical.

As for Sagan, well, he’s been a wunderkind since he was a junior, so this sort of performance is just expected, I guess.

Sky, too, have GT leaders who just tend to not be fan favorites. It’s easy to dislike Froome because of his style on the bike. Sky’s tactics, while generally very effective, don’t generate the sort of exciting racing some folks would like to see. Wiggins, too, at least when he was a GT rider, wasn’t very well-liked, either.

Sam July 21, 2015 at 5:24 pm

Wiggins won the queen stage of the 2005 Tour de l’Avenir, attacking from 12km from the start and beating specialist climbers in the process. He was 4th, then upped to 3rd at the 2009 Tour, riding for Garmin. Anyone who had followed his career really wasn’t that shocked.

As for popularity, he’s always divided fans, and sweeping generalisations across the entire fan base don’t really work (eg my Belgian mates tell me he’s very well-liked there)

Froome is a tricky sell, for all kinds of reasons.

whippet July 21, 2015 at 5:49 pm

Astana came under the same scrutiny during the Giro. Sky make themselves look dodgy by following the USPS playbook. “They are jealous losers.” “Our performances can be explained by marginal gains from superior training and nutrition.” “Critics are just haters.” “The media are to blame.” ” What more can we do?” “Never had a doping positive.” We don’t have much evidence one way or the other, but to not be sceptical here is to be naive.

Anonymous July 21, 2015 at 6:54 pm

I always find it funny when people like you describe yourselves as ‘sceptics’.

A sceptic, by definition, is someone who is not convinced by a proposition without evidence.

Now unless you’ve got some evidence to back up your claim that they are dodgy which the rest of the world doesn’t, then you *aren’t* being sceptical.

Incidentally, there’s a far more plausible reason that there are similarities between USPS and Sky in terms of the media. That being that USPS’ responses were perfectly in line with what you would expect innocent parties to make.

That seems infinitely more plausible than there being some kind of PR response that all evil, nefarious teams are forced to use!

(Or, to put another way, if Sky were ‘going Postal’, don’t you think they would be so scrupulous as to avoid doing what USPS did? Certainly the first thing I’d want to do if I were a cheat…)

GB July 21, 2015 at 7:00 pm

The fun thing about US Postal is that they played everyone so well, for so long, and were such jerks about it, that there is literally nothing anyone the scrutiny Sky is currently under could say to convince the doubters. Staying quiet didn’t work, giving reasons doesn’t work, stating facts doesn’t work, giving out more data probably won’t work.

The only thing that might work is the sport going ten years or so without a doping scandal to fuel heavy rhetoric. Considering that investigations from 2012 are still being cited as if they’re new shocking revelations, it wouldn’t even have to be a very big doping scandal for the whole situation to return to square one.

As far as I can tell the best way for Sky to go now would be to point out that structured doping (or new substances) will only be detected (barring a slip-up or a whistleblower) over a long period of monitoring and investigation, that the media damn well knows this, and if the media had something to prove and weren’t just fishing for pageviews, they should tell the UCI. This would still convince no one but at least Sky’s PR team would have more time to prepare for next grand tour.

Sam July 21, 2015 at 8:08 pm

‘Astana came under the same scrutiny during the Giro’

No. No, they really didnt. There was no day-by-day front page ‘Is he/are they doping’ stuff. There was no documentary on Italian national TV where an ‘expert’ (from the field of judo, incidentally) was wheeled on to use completely noddy figures, accompanied by photos of Lance and Ullrich, and proclaiming Aru’s performance as unbelievable.

There was debate on blogs like this and on the cycling forums, but it was nothing of this scale and it has to be said, at times viciousness.

J Evans July 21, 2015 at 8:49 pm

GB, some of us were saying that Armstrong was doping when he won his first TDF. It was obvious. For one thing, if he wasn’t how was he beating all those people who were?
Personally, I was under no illusions about anyone from Indurain onwards (was too young to know before then).

RonDe July 21, 2015 at 11:42 pm

Let’s be very clear here: there is NOTHING Team Sky can either say or do to persuade the skeptics. Quite frankly, a lot of these very vocal and often sarcastic people have put themselves in a position where they cannot be convinced because they don’t want to be convinced. They WANT Sky to be guilty. So any numbers Sky could ever provide would just be evidence for cheating to them. As Dave Brailsford has said in interview with the BBC today, this will go on forever. There is no end to it. These people are only looking for evidence of guilt and never for evidence that things are above board.

And it makes me sick to death with it.

GB July 22, 2015 at 3:31 am

J Evans: Yeah, I was trying to keep my word count down. ‘Everyone’ meant ‘a good number of people’, and that they successfully portrayed most doubters as cancer-survior-hating wowsers for a very long time.
(It’s why when I see people go ‘Why does Armstrong get a lifetime ban when he wasn’t the only one doping? It’s not fair :|’ my reaction is always ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

maximflyer July 22, 2015 at 11:07 am

The came out of nowhere claims are the proof how uninformed people about cycling. Most of the time those who get labelled like this had solid performances. Media has its primary focus only on the winners and forgets about all the others. For example Wiggins: 3rd (originally 4th and he wasn’t on the final podium on Paris) at the 2009 TdF.

The Real JHutch July 21, 2015 at 4:41 pm

It astonishes me how often those crying doping seem to have little or no perspective on how the ‘suspect’ performance actually compares to the performances of others. The Sagan example is one of many performances that would be easy to throw mud at purely based on him being unsurpassed at doing what he does best. Bike racing is filled with so many ‘out of this world performances’ that’s why I watch, from Froome dropping everyone on a climb to Sagan’s brilliance on a bike via JCP getting back on his bike after leaving so much skin on the road – but none of these seem to me to be evidence of doping.

BenW July 21, 2015 at 4:59 pm

It would indeed be easy to throw mud at Sagan, I was just wondering why it doesn’t seem to happen? It’s not just him, there are plenty of other examples. PEDs don’t just affect your climbing speed and power (also recovery time, and endurance), yet it only ever seems to be these that set off the Doping Alarm, and even then only in certain riders. That’s what I was getting at, as a means of furthering my own knowledge as to the whys and wherefores – Personally I don’t think Sagan is a doper.

J Evans July 21, 2015 at 5:28 pm

‘Astana at the Giro with Landa and Aru and a bunch of solid-but-previously-unspectacular Pros dominiating the front at times, day-after-day.’
This is just as inaccurate as the stuff about Sky supposedly doing that in this TDF.
Astana used their men well: they used *different* guys on the front each day – that’s the key point. And a lot of those riders have previously finished higher in the Giro than they did in this year’s race.
I’m not saying Astana are clean (imagine if I was!); same as I’m not saying Sky are clean. Just citing a lack of evidence; and balance.
It’s hard not to think that there’s some anglophobia going on at the Tour.

Larz July 21, 2015 at 5:48 pm

Sky are AFAIK the only team claiming they have a zero-tolerance policy.

They came to the sport with the intention to do things differently (and in fairness, they certainly also do). But often, they also gets caught in being inconsistent in regards to their own retorics about zero-tolerance, transparency and all that. So they get hounded for saying something but doing something different.

For all the expertise that Sky brings to cycling, they sometimes seems like amateurs when it comes to communication. This is not to say, that certain teams could not use a lot more scrutiny. It’s just, that they are making in their own bed.

channel_zero July 21, 2015 at 7:03 pm

JV and his management claim to run a very strict anti-doping program. I’m assuming the Garmin/Cannondale squad is still using Don Catlin? Mr. Catlin has some history of doing what’s right for athletes and sport integrity over his career. Meanwhile, JV has had to manage some strategic doping disclosures about his Giro winner, ryder hesjedal.

Back at Sky, they had a long list of staff that they hired apparently without ever using Google once to check out the prospective hire’s history. It is impossible to know if that was due to simple ignorance or intent. I genuinely don’t know.

Again, this is more a governance problem and much less about the athlete’s choices.

Larz July 21, 2015 at 9:24 pm

But at least, Garmin does not claim to have a zero-tolerance policy with people who have been involved in doping..

Otherwhise I totally agree.

Alan July 21, 2015 at 11:30 pm

I suspect the zero tolerance policy was enforced by the sponsor, and really it has been more of a millstone to the team. They were forced into a corner and had to lose talented people like Bobby Julich because of past indiscretions, rather than the more pragmatic approach of Slipstream/Garmin. The reality is, until this current generation of (we hope) clean riders passes into team management positions, where do you find experienced guys with no links to the ‘bad old days’.

Another Nick July 22, 2015 at 1:36 am

Sky also came into the sport as an English language team heavily backed by a controversial media empire, claiming to have all sorts of insights from their track experience that the excessively traditionalist roadies wouldn’t understand. They underperformed for a while, and everybody chuckled. They then started winning at just the point when the English language media and fans (many of whom already disliked anything to do with Murdoch) realised that they had indeed been duped by the last big English language team, and vowed that they wouldn’t be duped again. Sky were bound to attract more than their share of criticism. (Or their share was bound to be greater than others’.)

Mancuniancandidatidate July 21, 2015 at 4:23 pm

Perfect summary, thanks.

Nick July 21, 2015 at 4:24 pm

I’m wondering if the Green Jersey comp would be so done and dusted if Greipel had bothered getting in a couple of breaks and nicking intermediate sprints on the hiller stages. A la Sagan.

He could have gone yesterday done Sagan in the sprint then dropped back to the peleton, OK so he wouldn’t have gain points on Sagan, but he would have reduced Sagans gain. With three stage wins, and another possible/likely? in Paris he should really be leading, if he bothered going for the intermidates on transition and mountain stages.

Foley July 21, 2015 at 8:01 pm

Well, they re-jiggered the green jersey scoring over this question, but the answer is still Sagan. You and J Evans say 3 stages (with the Champs pending, here’s hoping Cav will be ready to contest) beats “2-3-2-3-4-2-5-4-2.” But if you are right Greipel should be highly satisfied with his Tour already, as he surely is. Maybe Sagan would trade the jersey for a couple stage wins (not just one), but if you can’t offer him that you can’t have “his” jersey.

TVG is definitely not going to sell bikes (and I am not aware that BMC is particularly interested in doing so anyway…) Of course Inrng readers should consider TREK… Yesterday just before the Thomas crash Tejay backed-off from Barguil and his corner-diving at least twice and Barguil had to find another victim. How strange that G’s crash was just the sort one feared on the oak-lined descent that was taken at speed the day before. Thankfully speeds were quite low for Thomas; Tejay is very good on that “risk management/long-game” stuff (suits his personality) and seems to be still developing nicely as a GC contender. His comportment in interviews is MUCH improved and reassuring for fans who worry he could end up stuck in his own head a la Andy Schleck. Valverde will be trying to hurt him the next few days and has some sharp tools to work with so this should be good.

Favorite line from Jensie during the Phil & Paul coverage: Stage 13, 9km to go Phil asks if the break can stay away [cut to Europcar rider fighting with bike]: “I don’t see a chance. Look, he looks like he is giving up…oh that’s Thomas Voeckler…”

J Evans July 21, 2015 at 8:55 pm

Erm… when did I say what you claim?
Oh right. I didn’t.

J Evans July 21, 2015 at 9:04 pm

BMC don’t want to sell bikes?

Also, TVG went into the corner needlessly overtaking Quintana on the inside. Meanwhile, Barguil was needlessly overtaking TVG on the inside.
But TVG has denied being at fault whatsoever.

Foley July 21, 2015 at 9:27 pm

Hi J Evans-

You said this:

“Time to add more cache to both the green and polka dots jerseys. For me, they mean more than a stage win – I know off the top of my head how many Kelly and Virenque won – I can’t say the same for stage wins.
Not sure how this can be done, but one simple thing would be to take money out of stage wins and add it to those.”

I took that to mean you think the points system should (again) be adjusted so that Sagan does not win just by showing up and doing his usual thing. I said (+/-) Sagan is awesome and deserves the green jersey, and I did not see room for controversy, beyond where the balance should be struck between winning and consistency.

On BMC I just meant it is a boutique/vanity brand of the team owner and as such is not necessarily subject to the normal rules of the marketplace. I have no doubt they would rather sell bikes than not. If it becomes a real priority there’s plenty of opportunity to offer a better value proposition by lowering prices.

Thanks for the exchange, floor is yours, have a nice rest day etc.

J Evans July 21, 2015 at 10:16 pm

You took it wrongly.
I said ‘they [the jerseys] mean more than a stage win’.
Everything you say erroneously in response to this is just stuff you made up in your head.
Although most of that paragraph is incoherent babble, I can state that this did not happen: ‘… [You and] J Evans say 3 stages … beats “2-3-2-3-4-2-5-4-2.”’
As you are seemingly incapable of grasping that these two statements are completely different, I’ll give up on you now.

Foley July 21, 2015 at 10:37 pm

I thought you were saying not only that the green jersey is more important than stage wins, but also implying that Sagan this year is not a worthy winner of the green jersey. Else what’s wrong with the current arrangement? I continue to believe my comments make some sense when seen in that light, but warmly endorse your decision to ignore me. Thanks again.

Anonymous July 21, 2015 at 4:26 pm

Have to disagree with:

“The irony is that blaming the the media for urine-thrower is an assumption and a short cut and that’s the same leap as those saying estimated power outputs and high cadence mean dopage.”

It is a far smaller leap to say that the media influences public sentiment

and

the more public sentiment is swayed against someone, the more likely that there are going to be incidents like the Porte or Froome incident.

Sure, this particular incident may not have been caused by the media in question, but the *likelihood* of an incident like it happening is far greater, which seems the salient point here.

The Inner Ring July 21, 2015 at 4:37 pm

Sure, and going public with an event like this can encourage some too, hopefully it puts people on alert. But the “media storm caused the urine incident” is a hypothesis, reasonable perhaps but just conjecture.

Anonymous July 21, 2015 at 6:59 pm

I’m not sure I’d disagree with that – just pointing out that the leap wasn’t exactly comparable to ‘he goes fast so he dopes’, which is essentially what Jalabert – for example – said!

A bit like comparing a breeze with a gale! 🙂

Anonymous July 21, 2015 at 9:25 pm

Don’t agree with the comparison either, especially as one TV interview Froome said the ‘urine thrower’ shouted ‘doper’ at the same time…

Jerome July 22, 2015 at 12:04 am

The last rider I remember who had urine thrown over them at the tour was Cav and I don’t remember it at all being associated with an insuination of doping, people will see what they want to see.

The Inner Ring July 22, 2015 at 10:41 am

People say “doper” every year, a section of the public think all cyclists are doped just as people link all politicians are crooks, all foreigners are suspicious etc etc.

We can imagine motivations and it seems like a good hypothesis but the point is it’s just that, a hypothesis. So when members of Team Sky blame the media they’re making the same leap that 2+x=4 that their tormentors do.

The Inner Ring July 22, 2015 at 10:38 am

Jalabert didn’t say that, he just said he was astonished by Froome’s cadence and wondered how it was done. It was very clumsy and unwise but “he goes fast so he dopes” wasn’t the essence of being what was being said, although the did leave room for people to take it this way.

sam July 22, 2015 at 10:46 am

Disingenuous, INRNG

The Inner Ring July 22, 2015 at 10:51 am

I’m trying to take a cautious route here because a lot of people haven’t listened to him on this and are relying on the ITV montage, which was good but selective as he’s spoken several times on this in his RTL show. It’s clumsy and stupid but the “essence” of what Jalabert was saying was that Froome’s style is so unorthodox you wonder how he does it.

John Irvine July 21, 2015 at 4:29 pm

Froome’s performance is no mystery to me. Sky brought the best team to the Tour. He’s had a very strong group of helpers, at least two of whom would be GC contenders on lesser teams. And Sky had a full squad up until Peter Kennaugh abandoned, while other GC teams lost men early. At this point Astana, Tinkoff, FDJ, and AG2R are down two men. Movistar is missing Dowsett, and BMC lost Van Avermat. I still see Sky as having the odds, regardless of Froome’s form.

davidk July 21, 2015 at 4:40 pm

A rational analysis of the current Froome debate (and earlier) would surely conclude that it is not anti-Froome but anti-Sky and possibly anti- a winning, even domineering, British team. Like religion it is based on a belief system especially since in this case it is impossible to prove a negative.

Bardet’s admission that he rode up La Pierre St Martin 6-7 km/h faster in training suggests Froome’s ascent was not other worldly. It is of course exceptional but the TdF is designed precisely to select exceptional athletes.

This has all been discussed before ad nauseam. Like with religion, I’ve concluded frustratingly – like Ben above – that the best solution is not to discuss especially if the hope is to make a conversion.

bmj July 21, 2015 at 10:02 pm

I suspect the hate is only anti-Sky in the grand tours. As I mentioned above, their GT leaders just seem to be divisive characters among fans. Folks don’t seem to feel the same way about Ian Stannard or Geraint Thomas in the classics. Even Porte became kind of a bad guy with the whole motor home thing during the Giro.

The Inner Ring July 22, 2015 at 10:43 am

Did you follow the Giro? Astana were the subject of all sorts of suspicion and critical comments, “how did Landa do that”, the team were racing within a couple of weeks of the UCI’s ISSUL audit reprieve, we had reports of Aru’s suspicious coach in an U23 being extrapolated to imply he’s up to no good today etc etc.

Anonymous July 22, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Ever since Froome’s disrespect of Wiggins and Michelle Cound’s abuse of Wiggins’ wife, Cathy, Froome has had a large PR hole to climb out of and he just can’t seem to put away the shovel. I personally do not believe that Froome or Cound are very good people and I think that that shows through. Even to fans and followers who aren’t looking.

rupert July 21, 2015 at 5:01 pm

Hi inner ring – another fine write up.

I’m interested in the average spped info – I know the Giro was raced a record speed i think – but your article of a month or so ago highlighted that avg stage distances have been coming down steadily (so I’d expect speeds to come up)

is it volatile or has there been a steady decline – or do the “bad old days” have too big an influence

does it have any bearing on chance of a breakaway succeding? if the avg speed is low they are more likely to succed or are there too many other variables – like composition, hills etc.?

One Man Grupetto July 21, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Those are really interesting questions.
It seems to me that breakaways in the TdF have been an inadvertent casualty of the competition for the points jersey. Even where they haven’t been reeled in, they’ve seen their leads slashed. Plus, I guess the echelons factor saw the Stage 1 breakaway crumble early and only Périchon willing on Stage 5. In the Giro it seemed more that the GC teams were keeping the pace high to try and tire out their rivals.

channel_zero July 21, 2015 at 7:14 pm

“Average speeds” is a terrible metric for grand tours.
Over time, grand tours have gotten considerably shorter. Bahamontes complained that modern riders have it easy. He’s got a point.
There is the other stuff that cannot be controlled like weather, sequence of stages, other leader jerseys, changes in race equipment, incentives in the race that influence the race speed. All of those things change every year. Some have a cumulative effect, like a bike from 30 years ago vs. a modern bike.

All affect what becomes an average speed.

channel_zero July 21, 2015 at 7:18 pm

That might have sounded too negative.

Average speed is kind of an after affect, like ripples on a pond from throwing a rock, rather than some direct observable thing like, throwing a rock in a pond, on the race.

The Inner Ring July 22, 2015 at 10:47 am

As you say it’s an indirect measure of effort. Things are different today with races more controlled from the start compared to the “golden era”, just one factor. Another is road surfaces which are a lot better.

Journalist Ed Pickering was asking about the last time a lone breakaway succeed in the Tour de France (solo rider attacks peloton and stays away for long time to win) and we have to go back to Christophe Agnolutto in 2000.

Anonymous July 22, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Doesn’t the lack of lone breakaway success has a lot to do with the successful evolution of the use of race radios and the tactical DS? There is probably some technological help on board the team cars that help determine how much of a gap can be caught with a reasonable effort in X Km.

J Evans July 21, 2015 at 5:06 pm

I don’t think there’s much Quintana can do – certainly not 3 minutes’ worth. (Shame about those crosswinds…)
TVG may say he’s been ‘riding steady’ (sic), but he lost a lot of time for such a short climb on Stage 14 and I can’t see him holding off Contador or Valverde.
Tour-Vuelta is always going to be a more attractive proposition, I’d have thought, as the more difficult race to win comes first.
Caption for the Sky photo: ‘Fu(k off, France’. You get the feeling Thomas might actually say it.
I dislike Sky – they have made for tedious racing (not really their fault, I know) and, more importantly, they’re Murdoch-related (my own personal biases) – but if I was them I’d simply have answered every question with ‘Ask the same to Contador, Quintana and Nibali’. They’re wasting their time trying to stop this nonsense.
Froome said the urine-thrower shouted ‘dopeé’ (he adopted a French accent) at him. That does suggest the thrower’s motivation. The thrower might have come to this conclusion without reading/seeing/hearing anything in the media, but it seems likely that this did play a role.
Time to add more cache to both the green and polka dots jerseys. For me, they mean more than a stage win – I know off the top of my head how many Kelly and Virenque won – I can’t say the same for stage wins.
Not sure how this can be done, but one simple thing would be to take money out of stage wins and add it to those. Wouldn’t solve the problem, but in our money-obsessed world, if you took 5,000 Euros off each stage win and thus put ~50,000 Euros onto each of the green and polka dots jerseys that would be a small start. The fact that the money for a stage win is almost as much as for the green and polka dots jerseys cannot help.
And I say on these pages for the 17th time, why isn’t a Frenchman going for the polka dots jersey? Pinot and Bardet are only going to get grief from the press – unless they win this.

Vedrafjord July 21, 2015 at 5:32 pm

I think the problem with the mountains jersey in a mountainous Tour like this one is that the GC is already a de facto best climbers competition so most of the people who can win it are focusing on the overall.

I’d even out the points system, as currently any climb that’s not HC is basically irrelevant, and also get rid of double points for summit finishes. The winner wouldn’t be the best climber in the race but a lot more guys would target it and there’d be a lot more action.

J Evans July 21, 2015 at 10:46 pm

Yes, I largely agree. It was getting to the stage where almost any old chancer could win it, but now it’s gone too far the other way and is dominated by GC riders.

TourDeUtah July 21, 2015 at 11:20 pm

Prior to the current TdF system, guys like Nichoals Edet could win the Polka Dots by bagging a lot of medium mountain climbs, (Cat 1 &2) early in a stage then sitting up whilst the GC boys duked it out on the final HC climb. Yes, the breakaway specialist like Voekler or Moncoutier has been penalized by the double points MTF finish, but, there needs to be a method to equalize the competition.

Plus, ASO wants to reward GC contendors or mtf stage hunters, but this system is far to skewed. Perhaps an MTF points bonus tied to the time cut factor? A 20% time factor for a stage receives a 20% points bonus. Plus, if you are going to double points why not double the cat 3 & 4 mtf’s ?

Alan July 21, 2015 at 11:43 pm

The double points on summit finishes really skews it in favour of a GC guy (and probably the overall winner). I guess we’ll see whether someone like Pinot or Purito really tries to go for it – I hope so – rather than it being a by-product of the GC battle.

RonDe July 21, 2015 at 11:52 pm

Just one point for you J Evans. You say that Sky make for “tedious racing”. Well what are the other 20 odd teams doing in the race and what is their responsibility in regard to this? What’s stopping Tejay/Contador/Nibali/Valverde/Quintana and on and on and on attacking?

Sky aren’t the only team in the race.

J Evans July 22, 2015 at 10:22 am

Yes, I should qualify that: I think Sky do make for tedious racing. However, I don’t blame Sky for this – they’re doing what they do very successfully. Any fault lies with their competitors’ inability to challenge Sky.

Netserk July 21, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Sky gets grilled over dodgy personnel while other teams don’t because of their phony ZTP. They don’t get slammed because their staff has a past. They get slammed for claiming to be the whitest of the lot while dressed in mud.

Speckled Jim July 21, 2015 at 5:44 pm

“They get slammed for claiming to be the whitest of the lot while dressed in mud”

Bit of hyperbole there, old chap. Sky has cleaned out those with proven past associations and, as M. Ring points out, there are far more egregious examples in other teams, some of whom are also members of the MPCC (though seemingly on a rather selective basis).

Netserk July 21, 2015 at 6:07 pm

Do the other teams with dodgy staff have a ZTP? If not, then your point about them is moot in this regard. I don’t see what MPCC has to do with what I posted. Yes it was intentionally strong worded, but the point still stands. Sky can’t possibly not know that Knaven doped during his career, yet they hired him and has kept him for 5 years so far, despite the fact that they have had a ZTP since day 1. It is thus obvious that it is phony and purely PR. They are fine with hiring dopers, just as long as they keep their mouth shut about it.

JimmyF July 21, 2015 at 7:03 pm

Your hyperbole is as phony as you claim their PR is, this the man that cheered when Nibali didn’t get popped in the Giro he won, when it was rumoured he was going to be, and then said you thought he was doping anyway, you just didn’t want him popped. In the same way you are desperate for Sky to get busted and constantly indulge in character assassination rather than deal with facts.

HWSB July 21, 2015 at 5:07 pm

An excellent, balanced write-up – thank you!

Quintana: I worry that Quintana will feel that it is futile to attack Froome and instead ride to consolidate second. There was a moment yesterday when he and Valverde went to the front of the group near the top of the Col de Manse – Valverde then attacked and Quintana visibly held back. I hope on the long Alpine climbs he feels freer to attack – he certainly doesn’t seem to have that wild kick that Froome does.

Sagan: a joy to watch.

Froome: I completely agree with you INRNG about the pickle that SKY get themselves into each year. But I have to say I quite like what they’ve done today. The data they’ve released comes with so many caveats that it’s meaningless, you can’t do anything conclusive with it – and that’s kind of their point. No?

Thanks again.

lefthandside July 21, 2015 at 5:08 pm

Such a good, thoughtful post. I’m almost tempted to buy an 7XL supporter’s jersey for my 71kg frame – almost 😉

Brett July 21, 2015 at 5:12 pm

Interesting quip about BMC selling more bikes. As someone who has built up a GF01 this year, BMC could very much improve their post sales support and social media interactions to help the brand, IMO.

Andrew July 21, 2015 at 5:21 pm

Are any others somewhat astonished at the various body types of the riders? Even amongst the climbers the bodies appear slightly different, with Froome being the most stick-like and grasshopperish, with nothing on him but sinew and lean, lean muscle and an upper body that is almost concave. (Compare with Armstrong – who actually had a large swimmer’s chest) Griepal and Sagan, by contrast, on their bikes look as though they stepped off the rugby field (although each are elegant riders).

My point is that Froome seems to “embody” (pun intended) the essence of a climber, and thus his efforts going uphill appear totally legitimate.

The Real JHutch July 21, 2015 at 5:41 pm

Having been lucky enough (in my opinion) to have met Chris Froome I was astonished at the size of his thighs. He and I are almost the exact same weight and height, but my (normally considered) skinny looking arms looked big by comparison; Chris has weight where he needs it and non where it’s on no benefit for a GC/Climber. I read somewhere earlier this year that Sky had told Porte to cut down on the rest season swimming as he was building music that served no purpose on a bike.

THWND July 21, 2015 at 6:18 pm

There was a great shot of Froome and Quintana sprinting to the finish on stage 14. Froome looked like he was twice the size of Quintana (height wise) but they were going the same speed. Two very different body types for arguably the two best climbers in the world.

Foley July 21, 2015 at 8:38 pm

Skinniness is pretty obviously part of the Sky approach to grand tour fitness. They used to speak of the the Aussie swim coach who would keep them at 95% of peak fitness through multiple seasons, but since then have not showed anything to suggest that they have any secrets there. What they have done is show that they can strip weight and keep it off for long periods, without increased susceptibility to illness (the typical pitfall, Fabio Aru’s Giro may have been an example) and also while turning in top-rank time trial performances. which s a good health-related test of whether they are “too” skinny. You have to suspect the diet might be a bit strict…but maybe not as unpleasant as 120 rpm hill intervals.

Judging riders’ physiques from photos is often remarkably deceiving. Sagan can look chubby, and Lance can look like he had a swimmer’s chest. Both are far from the case. Greipel also has a skinny little biker pecs, although he does carry a couple kilos worth in his shoulders and biceps for pulling during sprints. Degenkolb and Cancellara have “thicker” body types (look at their ankles), and we see what types of riders they are.

The Inner Ring July 22, 2015 at 10:57 am

Riders can look one way on TV and in photos but when you see them for real they look different. The peloton has a Liliput aspect with big and small riders when you watch on TV but visit a race or ride with them and they collectively all look very slender. Even Greipel mentioned above looks like a hulk on TV but see him in person and he shrinks down a size or two.

Paddy July 21, 2015 at 5:26 pm

Murdoch is the media king in the western world. Why is Sky cycling suffering from the media?

GB July 21, 2015 at 5:38 pm

Heh! Team Sky is funded by James Murdoch, I don’t know if Rupert’s given him the keys to the media headquarters, as it were. Just the phone lines HAW HAW that was terrible I’m sorry.

(Also, you know what they say about bad publicity.)

JohnnieForeigner July 21, 2015 at 5:37 pm

One PR weapon id like sky to use more in terms of showing character, charm and sass – G

His comments post race after the crash yesterday were brilliant. Yeah – it i crashed; bit upset to lose a few seconds. The doc asked me some questions to make sure i wasnt concussed – my name and stuff. I told him i was Chris Froome didnt i

Sam July 21, 2015 at 5:38 pm

Geraint is actually Sky’s biggest PR weapon (to use your phrase)

JC July 21, 2015 at 5:40 pm

I am sure part of all this is jealousy at the resources Sky have at their disposal. The sheer size of their operation when compared to what most of the other teams have (though it is quite small when compared to many other sports) means they have better technology, better training resources, better motor homes :), more wind tunnel time, more money to pay for a stronger team etc etc. In other sports the top teams are often the subject of similar feelings. Dave Brailsford also seems very driven to succeed perhaps bringing a greater level of managerial and business expertise than is available elsewhere. All these little things add up (the rather hackneyed concept of marginal gains) and again is clearly an approach that works in many sports.

Neither does it help that there has been no French winner for many years and the upstart Brits (few of whom speak decent French) seem to be dominating such a quintessentially French event.

What will the next few days bring? probably more of the same. The thought that Chris Froome weakens in the third week of GTs and all the others get stronger seems to be straw grasping. Perhaps Sky will fade (though we seem to have not seen much of Leo Koenig and Wout Poels in the mountains so far), rumours of colds and G feeling rather sore from his telegraph pole excursion suggest this could happen but Chris Froome is probably strong enough to fend for himself if he has to. I could see Chris Froome suffering a mechanical whilst isolated towards the top of a climb and Nairo Quintana riding away but it is a lot of time to make up, he would have to be very unlucky to give away more than 3 minutes.

I guess more of the sort of racing we have seen from the past few days, a breakaway heading up the road at a rate of knots whilst the peloton cruises along, the GC crew warily eyeing each other and saving their strength for the key points of the stage not caring about either the stage win or kom points.

JZ July 21, 2015 at 5:43 pm

I do find it rather comical how poorly Sky have handled the accusations that they had to know would be coming. For all their vaunted preparation they seemed to have missed something. Thank goodness because the entertainment value has been exceptional, which helps when the race is already won two weeks before the finish.

SeeingElvis July 21, 2015 at 6:12 pm

Returning to the subject of the race, I was recently castigated by a fellow commenter for suggesting that Contador might yet take some time back- it was suggested that I was living under a rock- but I have seen more than 30 Tours and enough history to know that making blanket assumptions about foregone conclusions can backfire. While Mr. Froome is indeed in a superior position and with seemingly splendid form, the next few days could hold plenty of surprises. Maybe, not, of course, but many scenarios are possible and for an ardent Tour fan, the rest day can seem like forever, especially when the Alps await.

The Real JHutch July 21, 2015 at 6:18 pm

Totally agree. If yesterday Froome had been taken out rather than Thomas things could be looking very different – and that’s without Froome having a bad day. I just wish Quintana would stop sitting on Froome wheel and be a little more attacking!

channel_zero July 21, 2015 at 7:23 pm

If there was an optimal time for Quintana to attack, it will be over the next few days.

But, so far, Froome’s power is on a whole other level. Quintana will not risk a podium position to try overtaking a rider with more power.

THWND July 21, 2015 at 6:22 pm

TJVG has to be the most boring elite racer in the world right now. He talks about wanting to win, but has rarely ever attacked in his life. His entire game plan is based on other guys flaming out trying to win and he will get a podium spot by default. He may not have the legs to win the Tour, but if I were his sponsor I would want some action out of him. He is riding an anonymous race. If he were not an American BMC would be looking for a new GC rider (in addition to Porte who is joining in 2016). BMC is too good a team to be led by a guy aiming for a top 5 finish.

Anonymous July 21, 2015 at 6:40 pm

Totally agree, how excited must they be at BMC headquarters. As an aside, I hope they regret not bringing Pip Gilbert, although the excitement maybe would be too much for them to handle.

ccotenj July 21, 2015 at 9:04 pm

i suppose it depends on what coverage you are watching… i can guarantee you that tjvg isn’t “invisible” on the coverage/commentary we receive here in the usa…

this year, he is at least talking about trying to win… and since he really isn’t the type of cyclist who has attacks in him (like contador does, or did before he got older), you can’t criticize him for what he can’t do…

tj isn’t on my list of favorite riders, but i think you are being unfair… it isn’t like he has a zubeldian level of top 10 invisibility….

THWND July 21, 2015 at 11:05 pm

TJ gets coverage in the US for being an American but look at the coverage. He gets interviewed before and after the stage. During the race the main comments are TJ is still with the leaders or TJ has been dropped by the leaders.

rt July 22, 2015 at 12:16 am

when looking at the actual top ten, im sorry its really quite clearly teejay wholl get the most invisible award

RonDe July 21, 2015 at 11:59 pm

Tejay is actually what his critics claim Chris Froome is: a guy who rides to tempo and hopes to achieve by default. Froome at least attacks and has a kick. I do not think that Tejay will ever win a grand tour. He is the ultimate nearly man.

The Inner Ring July 22, 2015 at 11:00 am

It’s not exciting but he can stand on the pedals and win, see his stage win in the Volta a Catalunya etc. He’s still 26 and with talk of a more time trial friendly route for 2016 – more this another day – he will have more chances. After missing the podium last year this year is about trying to get in the top-3.

Jonhard July 21, 2015 at 6:28 pm

Is Sky’s money really more offensive than Astana’s? Or Katusha’s, or OGE’s for that matter?

They’ve been on a hiding to nothing since 201o when the whole grand project was announced. People expected to be laughing at their hubris (and there was a fair bit of that in 2014), and their success is bitter for many. Fair points about PR (and the ZTP), but that only goes so far and they will never overcome hostility from some quarters, particularly those who blame Sky for the loss of some indefinable but typically continental-European panache. C’est la vie.

Excellent wrap from INRNG, as usual.

TedH July 21, 2015 at 6:42 pm

Sky really does not do themselves any favors on the planning side, although in fairness, they should not be the only ones scrutinized. BMC with Viane and Ochowitz is up there with Riis and Vino quite frankly. Perhaps Sky have the issue that was written about Kim Philby in “A Spy Amongst Friends”, which is too British to be doubted at home; too British to be believed elsewhere?

Steppings July 21, 2015 at 6:53 pm

I hope we see some good racing in the next few days, no great fan of Sky but I thought Froome was going to fall asleep on the podium on Sunday, he looked tired, I know their all tired but he looked almost comatose. I also hope we see some action from Quintana in his favoured terrain. TJVG playing the long game, ahh well, the long game is now for playing so we will see. There will be some salvo’s fired from the opposition, but I would not be surprised if they turn out to be damp fireworks and the yellow jersey will remain to Paris.

ccotenj July 21, 2015 at 7:02 pm

people keep saying “sky has lousy pr”…

frankly, they are in a totally no win situation when it comes to pr, no matter what they say/do, it’ll still be ripped apart…

cycling as a sport needs to stop eating their own… it does no one any good… and it’s time to stop with the “xx years ago so and so did this”… guess what? xx years ago i did a lot of things i wouldn’t do today…

looking forward to the alps… imo, quintana isn’t completely out of this yet… it’ll be tough, but it’s doable…

fwiw, i’m a fan of cyclists, not teams… i freely admit that froome is amoungst my favorites*, and find it pitiable that many don’t like him just because he looks funny on a bike…

*froome, cav, sagan, for full disclosure, although as noted yesterday, g thomas is making a strong run to make that a 4some…

channel_zero July 21, 2015 at 7:25 pm

This is where the federation should be providing some sport integrity with more transparency and good governance. But, they don’t, so the sport “eats their own.”

ccotenj July 21, 2015 at 9:07 pm

couldn’t agree more… sadly, we are stuck with a federation that is beyond worthless… not only do they not help the sport, they hurt it…

J Evans July 21, 2015 at 9:12 pm

I agree with both: Sky’s PR is not to blame for what others are saying (even thought it is lousy); people need to stop crying doping; and the UCI needs to sort out cycling.

ccotenj July 21, 2015 at 9:42 pm

“people need to stop crying doping”….. YES!!!! stop eating your own!

in today’s sport of cycling, you are presumed guilty until proven innocent, and there is an entire cottage industry built around “no matter what, we won’t accept anything as proof of innocence”…

that cottage industry continually fans the fire, and frankly, cycling will never “turn the corner” as long as that industry exists…

i noted in one of my very first posts here that i stopped being suspicious a long time ago, as it only ruins the sport for me… i accept that some people will cheat and get busted… that’s human nature, it’s not just in sports that people try to get an edge, we have prisons for a reason…

i also accept that some may cheat and not get busted… that’s life too…

also… i am not naive enough to think that doping no longer exists… but i firmly believe that the sport we watch today is a heckuva a lot cleaner than it was… i also firmly believe that the difference in “legit” sports science from only 10 years ago to today is very large, and many (most?) ignore that…

Alex TC July 21, 2015 at 10:38 pm

Cycling may never stop eating their own. Given the recent past and countless disappointments, everyone (fans and media) are totally entitled (almost to the point of obligation) to question incredible features. And leading any modern TdF by such margin and with such apparent ease IS incredible.

Now I agree the level of questioning is another thing, and attacking/trolling is (or should be) out of question, unacceptable. But doubting and/or questioning should not be something extraordinary or viewed as cynicism or bitterness. Constant questioning may well keep things in check, whereas loosening the control and observation too much may lead back to organized doping, or worse. We should just ignore the trolls but keep on demanding more from UCI, WADA, the press and everyone else.

I try my best not to become overly cynical or obssess about doping, so not to become bitther or forget my passion for the competitive side of the sport which I really enjoy, doping or not, scandal or not. But I can´t help raising doubt and get that all-familiar déjavú feeling when I see a rider dropping well prepared and trained top GC riders without looking too troubled, all things considered.

RonDe July 22, 2015 at 12:12 am

Which “well prepared and trained top GC riders” were dropped without the winner “looking too troubled”? The time gaps Froome had on stage 10 were not incredible or spectacular as even a number of the riders have said. Is it really so amazing to beat Robert Gesink by 1.33 and Pierre Rolland by 2.04? Should this cause uproar? Contador’s post-Giro malaise and Nibali’s non-existent form are hardly his problem. And Froome ‘s numbers were apparently something he has repeated a number of times. (BBC’s Bespoke podcast quoted 16 times in the last 2 or 3 years. I don’t know where they got this information from though.)

Overreaction doesn’t even begin to describe what has happened since that stage. It makes me think that some people are just looking for trouble. Which they undoubtedly are.

ccotenj July 22, 2015 at 12:31 am

i agree, i guess i didn’t see that particular ride as either incredible or extraordinary…

contador is cooked after the giro (as one might expect)…. nibali has been off form all year… quintana was only really beaten by a bit… and tj, well, he was tj…

imagine if bmc had their act together when the field split in the wind, and started driving the lead group right away… froome would be at least another minute (if not more) up on q and valv… the uproar would be even louder, and the bigger lead would have nothing to do with froome or sky….

ccotenj July 22, 2015 at 12:38 am

should read “field split in the wind on stage 2″… : facepalm :

Duncan July 21, 2015 at 7:39 pm

Thanks for the summary.

Doping debates aside, I would suggest that Froome deserves even more credit for the position he is in, albeit half from a crosswinds day rather than mountain gains:

this Tour has been designed to be as difficult as possible for a rider with his characteristics to assume the lead, with minimum individual flat time trialling and maximum climbing (plus the cobbles and descents near finishes for example, to reduce his dominance and increase uncontrollability of result).

Sure he’s a great climber, but his real advantage compared to current GC contenders is in long, flat time trials. If he were to win in such an edition, I wonder if the organisers would propose a somehow more extreme mountains vs TT route for next year. It must be frustrating to have the odds intentionally stacked in favour of one’s rivals, and Sagan has just the same situation and seems to be overcoming it with an impressive display.

Dodge2000 July 21, 2015 at 8:07 pm

He’s good at TTs, but he’s proved he’s one of the top climbers in the world so for all of the talk about it not suiting him, the mountains suit him just fine. The lack of TTs would be more of a Wiggin’s issue

Anonymous July 21, 2015 at 10:57 pm

For me this is part of the point : Froome is good at this year’s course. He’s probably one of the top two climbers in the world.

And yet compared to current top GC contenders the course favours him as little as possible. Long flat TTs would do that to a greater extent.

And I don’t suppose we’ll find many to contest the idea that Wiggins more than Froome, would struggle with a lack of TT km

ccotenj July 22, 2015 at 1:02 am

agreed…

froome, in form and with a solid team, is good on any course…

sir brad, otoh, couldn’t have gotten done on this course… i’m not taking anything away from him*, you race the course you are given, and he is a “worthy” tdf champion… he isn’t the only past champion who couldn’t have won on this course… big mig would be short a few yellow jerseys if the courses he rode were like this year’s…

* similar to nibali last year… yea, the competition wasn’t as strong as it was in most years, but that doesn’t affect his standing as a tdf winner…

Dodge2000 July 21, 2015 at 8:01 pm

Is that MTN Qhubeka 2nd in the team classification? Is that correct? Assuming that is down the lead the breakaways have been allowed, but even so that is a great result so far, with the mountains already scaled.

Despite what some teams might think (BMC’s Jim O), the MTN story at this edition has been great to watch and an endorsment of the wildcard. The Polka Dot celebrations, Cummings on Mandela Day. It’s been said a few times before, but a 21 day tour, with 199 riders, the stories outside of the headlines are many and varied. Think of a documentary like the Giant Shimano one (clean spirit, is it?) about Kittel’s emergence, but for any one of the teams and you could fill a good hour. EQS with the ups and downs they’ve had, the battle of OGE against the worse run of crashes, the Movistar power-battle, Sky’s embattled dominance, the Sagan Saga.

Will Movistar try and get and protect 2nd and 3rd? Will Contador and Nibali throw caution to the wind and do a Dauphine 2014 type affair where Talansky overhauled the podium with a fantastic stage to win the GC? And it does only need one over-cooked corner for it all to be back up in the air.

Can’t wait for The Alps………….

The Inner Ring July 22, 2015 at 11:03 am

Yes, the team classification is correct. On the stage to Gap Teklehaimanot, Pauwels and Boasson Hagen were all in the breakaway so this meant they took time on everyone else, it’s this collective aspect where finishing 15-20 minutes ahead of other teams means 15-20 x 3 = 45-60 minutes gain on the team GC rankings. As you say they’re having a great time.

dodge2000 July 22, 2015 at 11:42 am

Heard on the cycling podcast last might that they are under specific instruction to race for every place for the team comp. They are all being given the responsibility to get the best stage result they can. Will keep an eye on it now. Can’t see Movistar being usurped, with Quintana and Valverde both looking good for podium places

roomservicetaco July 21, 2015 at 8:34 pm

In this article:
http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/team-sky-reveal-froomes-tour-de-france-data-from-stage-10

Tim Kerrison states: “We know power Osymetric chainrings (used by Froome) over estimate power by about 6 per cent. ”

Does anyone know why power would vary based on the shape of the chainring used? Shouldn’t really matter in that torque is torque and rpm are rpm. If the Osymetrics allow you to apply more torque due to the longer lever arm, then they are going to take that much longer to spin around, so power should stay the same.

This seems like a pretty arbitrary statement and a number picked out of the air to help support their case. 5.78 W/kg seems innocuous, but 6% more is 6.13 W/kg. His statement that “With his weight hovering around 67.5kg” is also somewhat vague and potentially misleading. If he actually “hovers” around 66kg, for example, his power output goes to 6.23 W/kg (6.36 @ 65kg), which is at or above what is considered “extraterrestrial” performance.

I don’t know what Froome does or doesn’t do, but when someone presents data and then conveniently massages the data to align with their preferred conclusions, I get a bit suspicious.

[Don’t mean to hijack a great post about the race itself, but not sure where else to ask these questions]

Foley July 21, 2015 at 9:05 pm

I’m guessing, but I’d expect in order to calibrate the strain gauge the radius of the chainring needs to be known. For non-round rings that requires an estimate that will be somewhat arbitrary– not for me to try to ballpark the magnitude of the resultant “inaccuracy.” The fact that meters tend to overestimate power for non-round chainrings somewhat supports the idea that they have the intended affect– so it’s interesting that there is apparently no consensus on whether they “work” or not. I think Wiggins used them and then switched back to round. Perhaps it is more a matter of “feel” and preference rather than absolute advantage.

physics July 21, 2015 at 9:44 pm

Power is the product of torque and angular velocity. You get torque from the strain gauge, but how do you get angular velocity? Power meters estimate it by measuring cadence. The assumption here is that angular velocity is constant through the whole revolution, which holds for round chainrings but is obviously not true for osymmetric chainrings.

Of course, if you don’t believe that, this is a trivially measured effect.

Paul Jakma July 21, 2015 at 10:57 pm

+1 on ‘physics’ comment. I’ve heard the same explanation from a powermeter engineer from a major vendor.

roomservicetaco July 22, 2015 at 2:38 am

Thanks physics and Foley for comments, but I don’t necessarily agree with the conclusions.

Re: calibrating strain gages, I don’t think you need to know the radius of the chain ring to calibrate, but even if you did, the strain gage is fixed at a point on the ring and you’d just have to measure the radius of the ring at that point (there are probably multiple strain gages, so you’d calibrate each one based on the radius at each gage).

Re: angular velocity, I follow what you are saying, but:

-as you said, power meters on circular rings already calculate based on rpm rather than instantaneous angular velocity so how different could non circular rings be?
-around one revolution, the angular velocities should “average out” between the high and low spots on the chain
-if there are strain gages around all parts of the ring, the angular velocity would be slightly higher as some gages are measuring torque and slightly lower on as others are measuring torque, also averaging out

Paul Jakma, I’d be interested to hear more about what the engineer told you. Did he say the effect was not only present but also present and requiring 6% of adjustment? Is the effect different for different size/shape rings? If so, what is the adjustment on each ring and how does he propose that users should set up their power meters if that’s the case?

Thanks.

roomservicetaco July 22, 2015 at 3:35 am
KAOS July 22, 2015 at 4:13 am

What about rear hub based powermeters then? Strain gauges are measuring the twisting forces that arrive via the chain. (OK, Sky’s not using Powertap)

RouteDuSud July 22, 2015 at 12:18 am

Thanks for proving that no matter what they say it can always be interpreted negatively and regarded as massaging.

Just how many decimal places would you like the data to in future?

Anonymous July 22, 2015 at 1:45 am

“If he actually “hovers” around 66kg, for example, his power output goes to 6.23 W/kg (6.36 @ 65kg), which is at or above what is considered “extraterrestrial” performance.

“I don’t know what Froome does or doesn’t do, but when someone presents data and then conveniently massages the data to align with their preferred conclusions, I get a bit suspicious.”

Was that meant to be self aware irony?

The 6% figure has been bandied about for a long time, by the way.

Anonymous July 22, 2015 at 2:07 am

Apologies – that comment came across harsher than I intended it. I said it in a jocular fashion in my head, but it doesn’t come across that way on paper – er computer screen.

Seriously though, if you doubt these numbers, one wonders what on earth Sky can do to persuade you. Anything like power data etc. that their critics have been baying for, can just be waved away as them having ‘massaged’ the data. So what *can* they do?

roomservicetaco July 22, 2015 at 2:27 am

I did not take it as harsh, but thanks for clarifying

I don’t have a bias one way or another re: Sky or Froome (or at least I did not before I heard their explanation – perhaps the irony you mentioned) and was not looking to be/not be persuaded about PED use. Was just responding to what seemed like a BS explanation.

They chose to present data and explain how they massaged it and, frankly, their explanation did not make sense. That’s the beauty of data and scientific analysis – rather than speculate, we can look at numbers and see if they were arrived at in a method that will lead to reasonable conclusions.

If the 6% number has been bandied about before, I’d like to know:

-is it 6.00000% or is it some other calculated number? If so, what is that number and how was it arrived at? Who arrived at this number – Osymetric? SRM? Sky? Does any one of these parties (or any others) dispute the calculation?

-is it a 6% adjustment for all Osymetric chain ring sizes? If not, what is the adjustment for a 39T, 53T, and 56T ring? Does Sky adjust differently depending on what bike/ring Froome is riding? How do the Sky number crunchers know what ring he’s in at any time so they can make the proper adjustment to calculations?

-if 6% is an approximation that applies to all Osymetric chain rings, what is the margin of error? For a team like Sky that rely on precise data analysis, is a gross 6% adjustment across the board really allowing them to accurately analyze their riders?

All I’m saying is that 6% seemed to be pulled out of a hat, doesn’t seem to have any basis in the configuration of a power meter, conveniently allows Sky to adjust Froome’s numbers from “fishy” to “safe,” and should make others skeptical of any other data they present (weight, for example).

Nick Berrichone July 22, 2015 at 9:59 am

As someone who manages complex test and evaluation programmes for a living, and has to argue and explain data to sceptical customers, there are numerous parallels with the Froome data dilemna.

The commentators who are calling the 6% factor BS are in a position to quickly verify this for themselves by conducting their own experiment, rather than relying on tertiary word-of-mouth or forum/PR sourced comments which are just as unverifiable as Sky’s 6%. I.e. take a group of 27-30 riders, measure their power outputs for a season with / without Osy rings and then make a comparison. The results cannot be definite, but they can give you the likelihood of an answer to a particular confidence level (ie “we are 99% certain they have an impact greater than 2%… 50% certain it is greater than 5%” etc).

Note, the experiment above is most likely exactly where Sky have gathered their 6% assumption from from their own data analysis from their own sample of riders – it just take time and money for real scientists to verify.

Robin July 21, 2015 at 8:39 pm

Last year Astana were in yellow and every day he faced questions along the lines of “You’re only here cos the two lads who are better than you fell off.” His achievements were devalued.

This year Sky are in yellow and the line is “You are so much better than everyone else.”

Which would Froome prefer?

ccotenj July 21, 2015 at 8:55 pm

i’m sure he would prefer the second one, if the statement was unqualified…

problem is, you are leaving out the “rest of it” that comes after “you are so much better than anyone else”…

SOMEONE has to be “the winner”…. SOMEONE has to be better than anyone else… sometimes it feels (to me) as if a large contingent of cycling fans won’t be happy until the race is a 198 person tie for first…

Mickey McMook July 21, 2015 at 8:47 pm

Nice write-up, Inrng! Besides Katusha’s convicted criminal for doping Dr. Andrei Mikhailov,
the Russian outfit has Geert ‘Duffy’ Duffeleer as business manager and Lance Armstrong’s
former soigneur at USPS, Discovery & Astana Ryszard “Richie” Kielpinski on staff. Duffeleer
is the most notable as he has been widely named in the USADA Reasoned Decision as running
the logistics for USPS’s doping program while General Manager of Johan Bruyneel Sports.
Today, Duffeleer presides over Katusha’s business from his office in Brakel, Belgium, the
former USPS service course.

The Inner Ring July 22, 2015 at 11:06 am

Will this be widely investigated and reported? Of course not. Although if Rodriguez was leading the race perhaps it would be aired more? Hard to say.

Anonymous July 21, 2015 at 10:04 pm

Interested in the Valverde / Quintana dynamic I have to say I know nothing about their relationship other than the image in the media portraying Valverde as a sort of bitter old man to Quintana’s pure up and comer. Not wanting to cede leadership because he thinks he still got it (he evidently does).

Then I see a tweet about Valverde apparently confronting Contador on the team bus because of Contador’s sarcastic gesturing to Nairo on a descent in the 2013 tour and it flipped that idea on its head. Is it a master and apprentice situation etc or a no love lost rivalry.

Movistar seem to have handled the two if them well. Wise Spanish heads.

GB July 22, 2015 at 4:01 am

I am interested in this too! I feel like a lot of the fans and media really, really want another Hinault vs LeMond-style showdown. Not even because they particularly hate Valverde, just because it’d be great drama to watch. 😀

I guess most of the Movistar hearsay will likely be written in Spanish. But if they both wind up on the TdF podium, we may have an answer.

Honestly, I think the dynamic and the pride of both riders is being exaggerated for storytelling effect. On a related note, I keep seeing recent photos of Valverde and Rodriguez chatting and while they don’t seem to be Etixx-level chums, they certainly don’t look like they want to leave as soon as possible or murder each other, which is not what I would have expected hearing the stories about that one World Championship.

J Evans July 21, 2015 at 10:23 pm

http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/tour-de-france-tinkov-wants-to-start-a-cycling-revolution

– Ignore the egomaniacal gibberish and feast your eyes on the faces of the two poor devils he’s manhandling.
Tinkov is a man so consumed by himself that he seems unaware that those two people clearly despise him.

J Evans July 21, 2015 at 10:26 pm
RouteDuSud July 22, 2015 at 12:20 am

Your posts on Tinkov always show but one thing: you don’t much like Oleg Tinkov!

Foley July 22, 2015 at 12:27 am

Thought you were going to say “…want to drive traffic for [cn].”

J Evans July 22, 2015 at 10:31 am

Criticised CN a lot in the last few days. Again, you are talking about things that only happen in your head. (Also, feel free to go back to previous days’ posts here and you’ll see that my point has always been that the green jersey is worth more than a stage and that Sagan is doing brilliantly. Again, it is not what you *imagine* it to be.)

J Evans July 22, 2015 at 10:23 am

True.

Anonymous July 22, 2015 at 2:38 am

and you accused me of inappropriate posts…

Richard S July 21, 2015 at 10:36 pm

There are really people out there who don’t understand how Sagan is leading Greipel in the points competition?! They must be spectacularly stupid! Sagan has been the rider of the tour for me so far, his versatility, consistency and sheer fitness are phenomenal. With his performance on the stage to Gap you’d have to think it’d be worth him having a pop at the Giro di Lombardia if he has anything left at the end of the season.

Re the mountains jersey, I think it’s suffered from the change to double points for HC stage wins. I understand why they did it, yet he best climbers are the ones who win the HC finishes at contest the GC. But doing this has meant there is no long going on day long points scoring raids as you’ll just get half the points as the guy who’s sat tight all day and then flew up the last climb. Look at the other day, Purito didn’t contest any of the climbs mid stage but jumped up to 2nd behind Froome (who himself hasn’t contested a single mid stage climb) by virtue of winning the stage.

TourDeUtah July 21, 2015 at 11:34 pm

Spot on.

There were only 25 points available mid-stage. So, the clear strategy is to save it for the finale.

The day Froome took his 50 points there were only 3 points available for the break. It certainly does take the joy out of a good polka dot battle from the break away specialists.

BTW, Froome did bag some minor points on the Tourmalet when he jumped ahead of the peloton in the last 20 meters of the climb.

Foley July 22, 2015 at 2:22 am

For the points green jersey especially, +1 from me too. I’ve been trying to say that however you slice the points allocation for green Sagan will be there, like “Zelig” or something. If Greipel wins in Paris they should ask HIM how he feels about not winning green. Maybe Sean Kelly has said something about this?

The Inner Ring July 22, 2015 at 11:09 am

Spectacularly stupid? Not really, just casual viewers of the sport who tune in for the Tour without going too deep on things. Loyal readers who come to read a cycling blog are in a niche and many if not most or all readers know of the new system of points. But the wider public doesn’t know the scoring system and still think of it as “best sprinter”. Hopefully the Average Joe / Monsieur Toutlemonde is still impressed by Sagan’s efforts.

Richard S July 22, 2015 at 12:04 pm

Has anyone ever called it the best sprinters jersey though? It’s always referred to as the green jersey. Plus apart from his 3 wins and a couple of intermediates on the same stages Greipel hasn’t been seen that much. Sagan is out there every day being shown winning, or contending, the intermediate sprint and then at the end. Even a casual viewer who has watched all the Tour (they would have to have to know that Greipel has won the sprints) but doesn’t tune in for the Classics/Giro/Vuelta would have seen that and understood it. The football team that wins the most games, or the F1 driver who wins the most races, doesn’t necessarily win the championship. Consistency is not a new concept.

Megi July 21, 2015 at 11:58 pm

Here are five reasons why Sky and Froome are getting a grilling and Nibali didn’t last year.
1) French hopes were sky high for a French winner this year after last year’s podium and with all this year’s mountains. As the French challenge fades, cue strong French media antagonism towards any non-French rider dominating the race. Allegations that the non-French rider is “cheating” in some form is an easy way of avoiding having to admit that the French riders aren’t good enough this year.
2) The expected showdown between the Big Four (Five) hasn’t happened yet and some of the journalists who predicted it may be feeling a bit foolish and looking for a reason why it hasn’t happened.
3) Britain is a parvenu in road cycling terms and has the audacity to tell the old hands how to do it. Worse, British riders and a British team are successful and show up the old hands.
4) So far, there has been little happening at the top of the GC apart from Froome increasing his lead. So the media is looking for something to write about.
5) Many of the TdF press don’t cover cycling for the rest of the year. They may not understand the details of cycling tactics, are used to thinking of “cycling = doping” and will tend to follow the rest of the crowd. The Giro doesn’t get the same scrutiny or the same size media.
6) Nibali’s lack of grilling last year could be as much due to the double French success dominating the French media’s thoughts as to Contador and Froome crashing out.

rt July 22, 2015 at 12:27 am

these endless sky discussions are somewhat tiring

Lachlan July 22, 2015 at 2:45 am

+1

Lets focus more on the riding. There has been some great racing but often it seems to get lost and become the back story.

Cameron Isles July 22, 2015 at 4:01 am

Should I put a fiver on Romain Bardet for Pra Loup?

And what’s up with the concentration of racing around Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne? Always thought that was a pretty bleak place. The climbs are great but the flat roads are kind of industrial-looking. Could the stage finishing there not have taken in the lacets AND finish at La Toussuire? It’s just up the hill. The day after looks like a circuit course; you could just hide in the pub for three hours and join the leaders for the finale! :-p

ChuckD July 22, 2015 at 5:46 am

This discourse has gone so far into the Sky weeds I had to go back to refresh my memory what the post was on.
First, thanks to inrng for providing this oasis of relative sanity.
Second, this incredibly engaging Tour, for me, isn’t as much about the exploits of Froomie and Sagan, et al, but about the tension Quintana is building. Athletes don’t peak for a 3 week event. They have a 2-3 day window of opportunity and Quintana, arguably the greatest climber in the world, admittedly unfettered by the racing schedule the others have followed, patiently and wisely watching as the rest of the field flails, has had weeks to prepare to peak this week. Can he make up the 3 minutes to Froome? I think so, and it’s killing me waiting for him to pull the trigger and try.

My money’s on Quintana in yellow on the Champs-Élysées on Sunday.

Special Eyes July 22, 2015 at 12:41 pm

Chuck, I’d have to strongly disagree about ‘peaking’ form-wise.
Athletes / riders can get in great shape, avoid illness, build confidence etc to find a spell of form.
This spell can last weeks.
There is absolutely no way that you can prepare to peak for 2/3 days as you suggest, there is no sports science that exists that can be that precise.
It is a matter of thorough preparation but some luck also. The pieces fall in to place and The Stars Align, as our blogger put it.

I would suggest that Froome is in ‘form’. His biggest worry would surely be picking up a bug – Porte supposedly has been ill, and Kennaugh has had to go home. Things like that are somewhat out of the athlete’s control.

Quintana is the unknown. He could be in great shape, we can only wait and see.
But, to my mind, to reverse this deficit needs Froome to somehow fall out of that peak he is in.
Pressure from the press, sleep affected possibly.

Movistar, as was pointed out, are an inherently conservative team. They will probably look to crack Froome towards the stage finishes. So they have effectively 4 x attempts to gain back over 3′ deficit.
You could see Quintana maybe sneaking away and getting 20-30 x seconds at most per stage. With time bonuses, the deficit is not impossible but remains very difficult. And unlikely, for me.

ChuckD July 22, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Respectfully Special Eyes, you should do some research on the subject.
For my part; been there, done that. That’s how it works. Please Google it.

Special Eyes July 22, 2015 at 6:19 pm

Hi Chuck, am seeing a very complex process, dependant on many factors such as the type of sport involved, sleep patterns and regeneration, number and duration of competition phases etc. I’m also seeing that it is possible for athletes to hit several high plateaus of athletic performance of 1-2 months length in a season, and that peaks of 7-10 days within these each plateau can be gained during competition.

In the context of a three week Grand Tour, the plateau is ‘form’. A peak within this context could be planning to be stronger on, say, the third week. Again, however, sleep and recovery, avoiding illness are influences on the ability to do this.
But I don’t see anything that would suggest that Quintana could arrange to peak specifically for a 2-3 day period. The Alps provide the backdrop for him to do so of course and they are only over a 4 x day period, so in that regard it is a limited time window.
But he may sleep poorly tonight, and his performance tomorrow could be upto 26% less effective because of that.
So, form = yes. Peaks = yes. But planning a peak of 2 days over a 3 week race with all the variables it entails ?

Robin July 22, 2015 at 1:19 pm

“Will this be widely investigated and reported? Of course not. Although if Rodriguez was leading the race perhaps it would be aired more? Hard to say.”

If you’re a sports editor, its just not as exciting a story.

Partly because of something you’ve mentioned before Inrng – there is a feeling in the media that sports fans EXPECT the foreign teams to be a bit rogueish.

Partly as you say because Katusha are not in yellow.

And partly as others on this thread have said: Sky are the saints of the peloton, so a whiff of villainry is a real thrill.

If the media thought this story would sell papers and encourage clicks, they would be all over it.

I think this is what Richie Porte and the rest forget – reporters only report what readers want to read.

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