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Tour Stage 22 Preview

The 2016 Tour de France starts on Saturday 2 July with a 188km stage along the coastline and across Normandy before the finish in Sainte Marie du Mont, better known around the world as Utah Beach, one of the landing sites for the Allied Invasion of 1944. It’s a day for the sprinters. Perhaps we’ll see Mark Cavendish in the hunt for that elusive yellow jersey and a healthy Marcel Kittel in the mix.

If it starts in Le Manche, we don’t what else Christian Prudhomme has got up his sleeve, little is known about the route for 2016. It’s official that the race goes to Andorra, the mountain principality in the Pyrenees where it will spend three days: one stage finish, the rest day and then a stage start. Convention dictates the Alps and Pyrenees alternate so 2016 will visit the Alps first before the Pyrenees and the visit to Andorra.

Usually things leak out but for now there’s a stage in Montpellier and little else. The Montpellier arrival is official with a local politician announcing it during a council session. Perhaps ASO are clamping down in order to preserve the suspense for the annual presentation? That said it’s almost impossible to keep things secret given the number of people in every townhall or regional council who must know their local stage and then there are all the hotel bookings so we’re likely to find more pieces of the jigsaw between now and the route presentation.

Update: according to regional newspaper Le Populaire after three stages in Le Manche, Stage 4 will start in Tours and go to Limoges in central France and then to Le Lioran, a the small ski resort in the Massif Central.

Otherwise there’s talk of a time trial in Vallon-Pont d’Arc in the Ardèche region but this has been simmering for years. The Mayor of Pau, François Bayrou, said the race will be back in 2016, to be expected given its location near the Pyrenees and the abundant supply of hotels. Bayrou also wants a final time trial around the city before the race goes to Paris but wanting and getting is a different thing. There are rumours of Mont Ventoux too but pick a famous mountain and it’s bound to appear on the route at some point, Ventoux came up after Bernard Thévenet told his local press that the race could visit the surrounding area and the local newspapers seem to have made the leap. ASO has a cross-selling method for stage starts/finishes where towns who buy a Tour stage start often get a place on the Dauphiné or Paris-Nice, geography permitting of course. So it’s possible we get the Col du Béal on the route and perhaps Villard-de-Lans too. All will be revealed in the 2016 Tour de France route presentation on Tuesday 20 October.

TV: those telemetry sticks were on trial this year and promise plenty. The beta website was just that, a test and it felt as if everything was launched without being used properly. However I’ve seen the plans for the future and we should get much richer content. For example imagine a sprint being replayed on screen in graphical format where only the top riders are displayed, you can see their relative positions and where and how they make up ground. This is set to become reality. Both the Tour and broadcasters France Télévisions know they’ve taken the France-seen-from-above or Chateauvision as far as they can and they want to use tech to bring in a newer, younger audience.

Fortunately there’s plenty more than the Tour de France. The Tour de Wallonnie is on today, it might not whet the appetite after a three week gourmet binge but today’s stage features the finish in the Citadelle de Namur, truly one of the most spectacular finishes of the year with its cobbled hairpins and castel entrance. Yet to watch the racing in Wallonnie feels strange, you wonder what is missing and then it hits you: it’s like the mute button is pressed. There are no crowds, no constant cheers of “allez, allez” for hours on hours, a 200km aural Mexican wave. This weekend brings the Clasica San Sebastian and the Vuelta a Espana is less than four weeks away.

Spare a thought for the riders who get the same come down too. Three weeks on a grand tour is tiring yet easy too, all you have to do is pedal. Today it’s back to doing your own laundry, having to put up those shelves, pushing a trolly around the supermarket and all without constant applause. 341 days to go.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kevin Smith Monday, 27 July 2015, 12:42 pm

    Excited already (gosh the grass on my lawn looks pretty long).

  • STS Monday, 27 July 2015, 12:45 pm

    🙂 , thanks! Now give Chris a little respite with regards to trolley pushing after he did it for three weeks in a row many hours per day.

    • GrannyRing Monday, 27 July 2015, 1:26 pm

      Superb. Image of Froome with elbows out, looking down whilst pushing a trolley round Asda has tickled me!

      • Anonymous Monday, 27 July 2015, 1:32 pm

        Better hurry up, he’s taking 5th grade geography class at 2pm(joke folks).

        • Special Eyes Monday, 27 July 2015, 1:41 pm

          I think you under estimate the Sky machine.
          At this very moment they will be riding in echelon against the sea winds, doing a recon of the Utah Beach stage..

          • Sir Dave Blofeld Monday, 27 July 2015, 1:54 pm

            I just saw them live on Sky Sports News HD so maybe it was just some locals in Sky kit on Utah Beach.

      • Anonymous Monday, 27 July 2015, 8:47 pm

        wonder if he puts out 5,73w/kg in Asda??

      • Ryan Wednesday, 29 July 2015, 4:55 am

        Imagine Sky in a nice straight line, pushing carts with Froome in the middle. Those headwinds in the store can be a killer.

        • One Man Grupetto Wednesday, 29 July 2015, 11:20 am

          They’d be in the cereal aisle looking for marginal grains.

          • Anonymous Wednesday, 29 July 2015, 3:23 pm

            That comment earns a 2 minute penalty and a 50 Swiss franc fine.

  • RonDe Monday, 27 July 2015, 12:45 pm

    Based on the fact of where we know the race will start and that it needs to go clockwise to reach Andorra before Paris then I would not expect Alpe d’Huez to feature next year. It doesn’t seem right that that finish is a stage on the way to somewhere else anyway. The prospect of Mont Ventoux seems lip-smackingly good though. Froome vs Quintana round two up to the lunar landscape on top would be good and we could expect Froome to target it yet again as he did in 2013. It might also give Quintana fans the chance to see the long attack they all seem to crave – as he did before but paid for in the end.

  • Alex Monday, 27 July 2015, 12:53 pm

    Only twice in the last 30 years has AdH been included in consecutive tours. It typically skips a year.

    • Alex Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 12:21 pm

      Actually I got that wrong. The trend for alternate years has been over the last 20, not 30 years. There were of course consecutive years up AdH from 1976 to 1984, and from 1986 to 1992.

  • John Monday, 27 July 2015, 1:08 pm

    I there is a joke about people turning up late to wars, but it was the site of the invasion in 1944, not 1945

  • Anonymous Monday, 27 July 2015, 1:13 pm

    What time is this on Eurosport and who is commentating?

    • Alan Monday, 27 July 2015, 1:56 pm

      Anyone but Carlton Kirby …. please !

      • Colly Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 4:03 pm

        I’ll be bound!

  • Rick Monday, 27 July 2015, 1:16 pm

    Should be enough time to get Kittel back into shape…

  • Lars Jensen Monday, 27 July 2015, 1:31 pm

    A stage to Verdun? 100 years since the Battle of Verdun.
    Maybe a visit to Germany?

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 27 July 2015, 1:33 pm

      They did Verdun last year. Germany is likely to get a grand départ for 2017, as mentioned on here earlier in the race the mayor of Düsseldorf was spotted with Christian Prudhomme the start of the stage in Arras.

  • Richard Monday, 27 July 2015, 1:31 pm

    I’d have thought the Ventoux would be saved until 2017 to tie in with the 50th anniversary of Tom Simpson’s passing.

    • souln Wednesday, 29 July 2015, 11:26 am

      Correct me if I am wrong, but TdF does not usually celebrate other than French riders, or French history..

  • Special Eyes Monday, 27 July 2015, 1:37 pm

    It will surely go back to the flat lands and cobbles too.
    A Tour de France without them wouldn’t seem right anymore !

    I loved the finish at Zeeland.
    It was like Man had conquered the sea for a cycling race !
    The helicopter shots of the tiny dots that were the racers below on the huge barrage in an even huger seascape was just awe inspiring.

  • Ronan Monday, 27 July 2015, 1:51 pm

    If we accept that Andorra will come after the alps, and the rest day falls there too, is it safe to assume we could see a final weekend of Ventoux (Saturday) and ITT (Friday?) before Paris on the Sunday?

    You’d have to think we’ll have more ITT kms in 2016 too.

    • Sir Dave Blofeld Monday, 27 July 2015, 1:57 pm

      I would see any ITT happening before the Alps. Maybe somewhere around Besancon which, if I remember right, was where they did an ITT when Wiggins won.

      • The Inner Ring Monday, 27 July 2015, 2:06 pm

        Other clues can from from the Dauphiné and Paris-Nice routes, where they go the Tour often goes and vice versa. I understand the Col du Béal (the Froome vs Contador duel in 2014) is a possibility… but vague and maybe just being stored away for one year.

  • Anonymous Monday, 27 July 2015, 2:27 pm

    I have to say, the lack of TT’s was a positive for me as a viewer. I can barely watch a TT stage. I like how they had a sort of longer prologue and then a TTT. I think that’s was the right amount.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 27 July 2015, 2:36 pm

      You’re in good company as Christian Prudhomme says he prefers riders to fight directly for the win, the Tours with two long time trials are probably consigned to history.

      • M Monday, 27 July 2015, 3:16 pm

        That’s a shame. I’d like to see a repeat of the 1979 Tour.

        • CK Monday, 27 July 2015, 3:29 pm

          Where, let’s not forget, the person who finished third was 26 minutes behind the winner. Eek, perhaps not.

      • Chris Monday, 27 July 2015, 3:16 pm

        Surely we are long overdue for a mountain time-trial ? Unlike standard and team TTs it does less to favour the richest (i.e. best-equipped & strongest) teams. Maybe a TT up Ventoux – has that ever been done ?

        • Tom J Monday, 27 July 2015, 3:26 pm

          Yes – 1958 (Winner – Charly Gaul) and 1987 (winner – Jean-Francois Bernard) in the Tour de France, and other times in other races.

          The problem with a mountain TT is that it reduces the race even more to a contest of W/kg. If there is a lesson to be learned from this year’s race, it is that unpredictability generates excitement. So you want a route with the possibility of crosswinds, or cobbles, or tricky descents, or a big mountain early on to get a leader isolated. By contrast, a mountain TT just becomes an exercise in sports science, as indeed does a stage like La Pierre St Martin with a flat route and a single big climb to the finish – it favours well-drilled teams too much.

          Tom

          • Larry T. Monday, 27 July 2015, 4:14 pm

            Time to bring back a DOWNHILL chrono stage! Skiers do it. MTB’rs too. Didn’t get such a good reception when the Giro tried it (1987? Down the Poggio?) but what the heck? The bike makers would love to show up with their “aero” bike but with fatter tires. Let the riders suit up in MOTOGP style leathers and helmets and see who has the skill (and cojones). Kind of a reverse W/kg contest, no?

          • STS Monday, 27 July 2015, 4:17 pm

            @Larry: That would be fantastic. And introducing a corresponding jersey for the best descender :-).

          • J Evans Monday, 27 July 2015, 4:23 pm

            Good point.
            And I like Larry’s!

          • The Inner Ring Monday, 27 July 2015, 4:25 pm

            The “suicide stage”. This was first done in Paris-Nice in the 1960s and was suitably sponsored by a ski company. But quickly abandoned.

          • STS Monday, 27 July 2015, 4:31 pm

            @Inner Ring: Interesting how it is considered to be suicidal only in road cycle racing whereas in other sports it’s absolutely normal to make a competition out of going down the hill as fast as possible.

            It would give guys like Cavendish, Eisel or Cancellara, just to name a few another incentive to feature in the TdF and would certainly pose less of a risk in terms of heavy crashes than your average first-week flat land stage.

          • The Inner Ring Monday, 27 July 2015, 4:35 pm

            We see it in the Red Bull Road Rage races but it happens in the Tour too, the Embrun-Chorges TT route in 2014 had some difficult descending as well as climbing. The idea for a downhill TT would need some safety, in some ways it is not as bad as racing with others who can get in the way. It could depend on the road used, ie not a mountain pass with a 600m drop off the side.

          • diamondjim Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 7:10 am

            I suspect Ag2R La Mondiale might have the most suitable sartorial solution for a downhill TT
            🙂

          • Alex Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 12:39 pm

            All TTs, be they up, down, flat or variable terrain, are exercises in maximising speed via the optimisation of the interplay between energy supply and demand, with some skill elements layered on top.

            All a downhill TT would do is move the science focus onto energy demand factors specific to descending. Lead shot in the bidons once more 🙂 But also better braking technology, aerodynamics, specialist grippy tyres, bike geometry design, strength and weight placement, and of course specialist skill work. It’d just be another “arms race”.

            Imagine the public emulation nightmare.

            The motor cams would have fun though!

  • Tom J Monday, 27 July 2015, 2:33 pm

    Alps then Pyrenees but a rest day in Andorra feels odd. If the rest day is the second Monday, then that gives Tuesday in the Pyrenees but then four days to fill before Paris with the Alps already done. Which is either going to involve some strange geography, a weird route or an incursion into central France and a nervous last week on small roads primed for an ambush.

    On the subject of bike races with the mute button pushed: is there a more anonymous national tour than the Tour of Austria?

    Tom

    • One Man Grupetto Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 3:21 pm

      I don’t think so, although you could make a case for the Tour of Belgium lacking much prestige relative to all the high-profile one-day races the country has.

  • TourDeUtah Monday, 27 July 2015, 4:48 pm

    You don’t have to wait until next year to see a finish on Utah Beach, the Tour of Utah starts in one week !

    See you there.

  • Steppings Monday, 27 July 2015, 4:49 pm

    Le Tour needs in 2016 the Reverse Team Time Trial. The strongest rider sets off alone riding the full 45km, at each 5km point he is joined by the next strongest team member and so on until the full 9 man team covers the last 5km together!

    • J Evans Monday, 27 July 2015, 6:51 pm

      I don’t think this is complicated enough.

    • RonDe Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 11:18 pm

      How do the riders latch on to the passing train? For some guys it is hard enough to keep up starting at the same time.

  • Special Eyes Monday, 27 July 2015, 4:57 pm

    Inrng,
    Where do you see MTN Quebeka going in the next year ?
    They enjoyed a very successful Tour, are they likely to be invited back next year ?

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 27 July 2015, 5:00 pm

      There’s talk of the World Tour, it wouldn’t take much more spending and if Dimension Data comes on board as full sponsor (apparently Theo Bos blurted out on Dutch radio yesterday that it’s happening) they can buy some more riders and move up. It will be good to see but it changes the team, they go from being outsiders to insiders and expectations will rise.

      • Special Eyes Monday, 27 July 2015, 5:37 pm

        Many thanks.
        That would be just reward for their efforts.
        Unlike the paltry 52,400 Euros Team Prize Money. Or about a quarter of a top Premiership footballer’s weekly wage. Life is not fair.

  • cthulhu Monday, 27 July 2015, 5:04 pm

    Massive central has been completely neglected this year, I can see some medium mountain stages in them on their way from Normandie to the Alps.

    Also, I like the idea of the ITT on the last stage before Paris, because it reverses this years Tour, the strong time trialists have to catch the climbers instead and maybe the difference between them and the climbers is reduced because of the fatigue.

    As much as I like the cobbled races and as much as I believe a true Tour champions should prevail on all terrain, the could be left out next year. Though some dirt roads would be a fine addition.

  • Joek Monday, 27 July 2015, 6:16 pm

    How about a stage featuring farm roads in Brittany al a Tro-Bro-Leon?

    • STS Monday, 27 July 2015, 6:27 pm

      Lovely idea! Though it will probably never happen in the Tour de France but that would be great watching and racing. And it would also shake up the GC a bit. So it would probably take more than just one of those stages to equilibrate the individual luck and bad luck 😉 .

  • Lee Monday, 27 July 2015, 7:59 pm

    I actually really enjoyed the ITT a while ago (apologies forgotten if it was TdF, Giro or the Vuelta?) where a lot of riders changed bikes from TT to road bikes for the downhill section. I thought that was brilliant and added an extra dimension of tactics to the race.

    • PT Wednesday, 29 July 2015, 2:29 pm

      I think that was the Vuelta last year, when Quintana over-cooked a corner and had to to unclip to save it. Or am I mixing things up? There was one in the Giro last year where some guys swapped bikes too I think.

  • J Evans Monday, 27 July 2015, 8:25 pm

    I’d like to see the TDF next year spread its variety of stages through the three weeks – geographically difficult, I know.
    The mountains being less of a relentless trial might encourage attacks (or not) and some flattish days would give others more to ride for.
    And you could have some mountains in week one – although that could end up making it less interesting.

    • ccotenj Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 11:44 pm

      hmmmm…. possible geographically, if you just made it “le tour de southern france”… otherwise, there would be some hellacious transfers involved…

      it would be interesting to see what might happen if they hit the either the alps/pyrenees in the first week, and the other in the last week… i don’t know what would happen, but it is possible that it might change the dynamics of the race (for better or for worse remains unknown)…

  • J Evans Monday, 27 July 2015, 8:27 pm

    And a less mountainous route one year would be interesting.
    And don’t end on a time trial – it so often ends up being an anti-climax.

    • Lanterne Vert Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 11:42 am

      A rolling course in the Vosges rather than the monster climbs of the Alps and the Pyrenees combined with a downhill time trial. It might be a year for the French. Or, more likely, for Nibali to win his second Tour.

      • RonDe Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 11:21 pm

        If Nibali is doing the Giro in 2016 as rumoured then he might not even be in the Tour.

  • Tim Monday, 27 July 2015, 8:44 pm

    “Chateauvision” – brilliant!

  • Langster Monday, 27 July 2015, 10:08 pm

    I love coastal stages. Love em! Dunkerque last year was one of the best races of the season, honest. Roll on strava KOM and two week grand tours; I don’t need half the peleton getting ill to gratify my fandom

  • paddydunne Monday, 27 July 2015, 10:51 pm

    A stage on the Tro Bro Leon is a no-brainer for me. It’s in Brittany, check. Wind is a factor, check. Off-road sectors, check. And as for a downhill stage, why not. It would be good for some of the old-timers and those carrying a few extra kilos, as for those with the cojones well bring it on. Be back too the Vosges again surely in 2016?

    • Tricky Dicky Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 12:13 am

      It is a charming race – and deserves a higher profile – but the riders encounter even more punctures than Paris Roubaix. I don’t really want the yellow jersey determined by multiple punctures.

      I hope the organiser will use windy, coastal, roads between the Alps and the Pyrenees to encourage echelons. The finish in Montpellier makes that look likely. I also hope they visit the Jura again – that area looks stunning with the possibility of terrific racing – but perhaps they’ll save that area for the following year which, as INRNG suggests, might have a German flavour.

      Wherever it goes, I think we’ll see more “uphill starts” as it seems to create the chaos that the viewers enjoy.

      • One Man Grupetto Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 3:25 pm

        Tro-Bro-Leon is a wonderful race but as TD points out, an absolute puncturefest. It’s also in the extreme west of Brittany so the race would have to make a real committment to the region for a few days.

  • John Blofeld Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 12:19 am

    If Dunkerque is mentioned we shouldn`t forget Eneco Tour. That race is going to kick off in 13 days and has improved a lot during the last years

  • BigSigh Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 1:05 am

    Looking forward to this Grand Départ already, stage 2 especially once it hits the coast and moves north towards Cap de la Hague. Certainly the closest the Tour will ever be to my home roads, I suspect. Also a bit of an early uphill test in the stage finale on la Glacerie.

    Also like the suggestions above of a Tro Bro Leon type stage.

  • maximflyer Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 7:19 am

    While I also think that ITTs are not that exciting TV-wise, still GCs should have more. It would give a chance to more balanced riders. Also would separate the GC and the mountain competition giving back the mountain jersey its own importance.
    I would certainly not miss the TTT. They can include every now and then, but back to back years it’s kinda boring.
    Tro Bro Leon is a fine race although I don’t see it happening in TdF because of the caravan. Maybe they could try a Ronde-type stage (although it would be raced much conservatively I guess).
    I hope there would be more medium mountain stages á la the Vercors stage in the Dauphiné.
    Also there is no need for 6 mountain top finishes in the TdF, would be more exciting to have one or more downhill finishes at the bottom of a climb.

  • Lanterne Verte Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 11:09 am

    Difficult to see how ASO could make the parcours harder for Froome and Sky after this year’s performance. Two ascents of Ventoux on the penultimate day perhaps? As for a Tro-Bro-Leonesque stage, why not? If a high puncture rate is common then there are plenty of tyre options available and cycling should be partly about shrewd equipment selection. I hope that long TTs don’t disappear entirely from tradition, but nothing longer than 40km would be good.

    • Lanterne Vert Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 11:47 am

      Make it more about luck, I suppose – more windy coastal stages, a downhill time trial, Tro Bro Leon roads. An even hillier parcours might allow Quintana to win, but the hills would have to come early to allow him to build up an advantage for Froome to chase.

      • Lanterne Verte Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 1:20 pm

        Froome seems to fade more in the third week than Quintana, judging by 13 and 15 tours at least, and he was the best of the big favourites in the first week this year. More time trialling would favour him so maybe it has to be a punishing third week and perhaps no time trialling at all for Quintana to beat him on current form notwithstanding bad luck etc. Also if Movistar go to the 16 tour without Valverde and back Q 100% for GC then that might be the edge he needs. Plenty of other great domestiques and mountain hares to spring traps for Sky greyhounds in that team, V should save himself for the Vuelta.

    • gabriele Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 5:00 pm

      No need for that.
      This year was hard enough. Even with the top field reduced to one rival for reasons not directly related to Sky’s actions (which is totally normal: what would have been “special” was having 4-5 real top contenders), the margin of the victory was very reduced, despite a perfect display of fitness and strategy.
      Movistar had the chance to go and win. They didn’t catch it. ASO can’t do anything to prevent Unzué throwing away races: they had to have Landis DSQ to be granted their first and only Tour victory since Indurain’s years. Which is a lot of time for the biggest structure of the most talented country when GC of GTs is concerned.
      One should just hope that other riders and teams step up. If they don’t, let’s applaude winning in a difficult setting. Nonsense trying to make it an “impossible setting”, which would probably require lots of long and high gradient climbs (I suppose they exist somewhere in France) and/or a good deal of secundary roads (what lacked the most this year).
      But why would you want to do that?! If the main rivals don’t fight as they could, whatever the reason (physical, psychological, strategic…) the course alone won’t sink Froome. Even if it was possible to do that, it would be hugely unfair. Normally, the winner has got a favourable course the following year: more or less what happened for Nibali. It would be fair to have a more balanced course in 2016, with a bit more ITT.

      • J Evans Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 9:42 pm

        Great to have you back, Gabriele – always a lot to learn.
        I agree on the secondary roads and it would be good to see steeper climbs in the TDF – or even some different ones, for once.
        I’d like to see a Tro-Bro-Leon stage, though: some time. Maybe not next year: I think it’s always best to have variety. Perhaps on roughly alternate years they can have the sort of stages that can ‘mess up’ the GC: not really fair to do that to them every year.
        Same with TTs – I don’t particularly like them and would usually keep them to about 50km per grand tour, but variety’s the thing: the odd TDF with lots of TTs is a good thing (just not very often).

  • Richard Eastham Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 11:43 am

    I know La Manche region really well having ridden for the VC St Lô amateur team 2000-2005. It’s a beautiful part of France. Watch out for Amäel Moinard (BMC) next year as “la regionale” as he hails from Cherbourg. He was a team mate of mine at VC St Lô before turning pro with Cofidis. I stayed at his family home once. He’s an anglophile, loved Engleeesh indie bands!

  • Anonymous Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 12:46 pm

    As life goes on, I am very impressed with Loïc Vliegen at the Wallonie. The longer distances seem to suit him, I already noticed that he was doing well with them during his time as trainee last year. BMC sound as if they have real fun as a team racing there! Nice!

  • MultiplexRant Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 1:16 pm

    I wouldn’t mind a *bit* more TT (of the ‘I’) variety, especially something tough and uphill.

    I think one or two more flat stages wouldn’t go amiss either; the transition stages betwixt Pyrenees & Alps were unnecessarily punishing, and if Prudie really wants to keep Sagan from winning the green jersey again he’ll need to give the pure sprinters more chance to do so. One or two more straightforward sprint stages would’ve given Greipel a very strong chance; really, despite his best efforts and the extra points in the pure stages, there was no way he was going to keep Sagan from taking it – no bad thing in my view; Sagan is the most consistent high finisher and that’s what the jersey is for.

    • STS Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 2:19 pm

      And that’s what you would really like to see, more flat stages with the inevitable sprint finish and the highest likelihood for mass pile-ups when you only have to turn on the telly some 20k’s before the finish???

      I found those “transition” stages quite interesting to watch but they could be made even more challenging / interesting even for the GC battle by using smaller roads thus giving escape groups bigger chances to stay away.

  • NSSSc Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 1:27 pm

    If superior performances in mountain top finishes are the problem – spectator disbelief and entertainment value vise – then get rid of mountain top finishes. Imagine a GT decided by tactical ambushes in the medium mountains, allrounder racing skills in crosswinds, on cobbles or dirt roads, in positioning in hectic finals, as well as pure physical strength in short TTs (preferably on road bikes) and not-too-long and/or not-too-steep uphill finishes. Imagine a tight GC contest featuring the likes of Gilbert, Van Avermaet, Sagan and Kwiatkowski as well as this Tour’s top 5.

    Or, more important in my opinion, imagine real variety from race to race and year to year. We say one Tour is for the climbers, the next for the allrounders who can climb and time trial – but the contenders are always the same. Let’s throw the names above into the mix and make one GT every now and again a race for the real allrounders.

    Do GTs have a problem? In my opinion yes. We get plenty of entertainment in single stages and GC vise in the first week or so, but we rarely get what it’s really about: three weeks of GC-action.

    • gabriele Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 2:06 pm

      Where were you in May? 😉

      • Lanterne Vert Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 2:30 pm

        +1

      • NSSSc Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 2:46 pm

        The Giro was a great race as it is almost every year, but it wasn’t the answer to my call for a bigger-picture-variety with real GC opportunities for real allrounders – every now and again.

        • gabriele Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 3:36 pm

          I was half-joking, I got your point about GC action but it was simply funny you stated it with the kind of Giro we enjoyed this year (uncommon, indeed).

          However, there are some more serious points one could make, a couple of them relative to the peculiar narrative structure of time in cycling:

          – in a GT you’ve got different narrative threads, during the first week it’s interesting to see who actually snatches the jersey (there can be a lot of switches), who falls out from GC competition or apparently so etc. Then, there is the “expectation” factor. You don’t score goals in any minute of a football match, a lot of that is tension and waiting. Same goes for the GC in a GT. Lost occasions are part of the fun – and part of the strategy.

          – the fact that different GTs have (or had) a different nature, that is, that it wasn’t just a matter of dimension or importance, adds a lot of interest and perspective to the history of GT riders. Where do you perform well? You win a lot in one of them but you struggle elsewhere? Etc.
          The question is that you need some kind of continuity to establish that sort of identity. If the GTs are changing their charcateristics every couple of years, we’d soon have a mere “order of importance” between them, which maybe corresponds to the vision of the average “media consumer”, but not to the actual content of the sport. That is, an *importance order* clearly exists, but there’s a great deal of technical difference to be fostered.
          Which doesn’t mean that GTs should stay as they are: the end of the Leblanc-style has been *very* welcome on my part, as the introduction in the Giro of very stimulating ITTs, not just “big”, but complex and technical. The Giro marked important evolutions which have been passed over to the Tour, and that’s great.
          It’s equally great – and it’s deep rooted in cycling tradition – that courses may vary, adapting to the field of riders, maybe even to favour some of them.
          Still, some continuity holds a great importance to preserve *meaning* and not just ending up with a memory-less show. A Tour without a decent number of ITT kms, like this year’s, can be welcome as an *exception*, memorable and interesting, but it shine as such because there’s a background you contrast that with.

          – GTs are GTs: supposed all-rounders can win shorter stage races. And maybe it’s up to them… to up their game. After all, it’s not easy for a GC contender to get a podium in Classics: but that just makes more valuable the fact of trying and maybe getting a good result, let alone winning. Valverde’s 3rd place in the Tour would have been disappointing for, say, Froome, but it was great for the one-day races champion who had such a great spring. Same goes for Nibali podiuming in Sanremo or Liège: disappointing for, say, Kristoff or Gilbert, great and nearly unique for the Italian. You *can* win a Giro or a Vuelta if you are a Vinokourov, a Di Luca, a Sean Kelly, a Bugno… and maybe you can also make a top-5 or a podium in the Tour.
          If it were easy because we set it up with a specific course, it wouldn’t be nowhere near that interesting.
          Also note that maybe the *all-rounders* you name aren’t all-rounders at all (hence the “supposed” I wrote above). They possibly lack recovery and the capacity to hold a sustained more than 20′ long effective effort. Maybe it remains to be seen when we’re speaking of Sagan and Kwiatkowski, since they’re so young (we’ve got some good clues, anyway): however, they’d need to work really hard to become *real all-rounders*.

          • NSSSc Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 4:29 pm

            Firstly, I agree on the use of the term allrounder – ref my comments on what makes a ‘complete rider’. But don’t let us dwell with those names, I listed them as examples of who – perhaps (and imo certainly for Sagan) – could perform in the scenario I propose.

            A GT has a range of narrative threads, and would still have if we one year got a less mountanious route. Depending on the route it would be possible to name contenders and watch them stay and walk away from GC contention during the first week. There would be tension, missed opportunities and waiting. No change there, just more contenders and less chance of a mid-race turn for the worse for the most exciting narrative (who will win the race?) through an early superior performance on a mountain top finish.

            What would be markedly different is the season-long narrative, where climbers’ performances in Oman through Dauphine all play into the ‘who will win the Tour’-narrative. These lively discussions and analyses would necessarily include more riders. A bad thing?

            Further, I believe you read too much into my proposal if you believe the sense of continuity of the races would be damaged. I’m speaking of (again, in the one end of a more varied spectrum) a race with several stages in the medium mountains were time gaps (hopefully, and except for the much-hoped-for ambushes) are counted in seconds rather than minutes, perhaps even stages in the high mountains if gradients are modest enough and the run-in to the finish flat enough. I’m not talking about a 21 day spring classic fest.

          • J Evans Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 10:09 pm

            I can see both points of view: NSSSc’s idea is very interesting, but in the end I come down more on the history side of things that Gabriele mentions.
            But I think the solution is the stage races. These are – so often – only used as warm-ups for the GC contenders; but last year’s Paris-Nice was a great example of how exciting a race can be without giant mountains in it.
            Races like Paris-Nice, Tour of the Basque country and the Eneco could be upped in difficulty – i.e. length of stages, but not mountainousness (if that was a word) – and thus upped in importance (and entertainment).
            They would still not be three weeks long, of course, but you can’t have everything.
            Perhaps a not-so-mountainous Vuelta could be tried without too many of us complaining.

    • STS Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 2:22 pm

      Wow! Couldn’t agree more.

    • THWND Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 2:35 pm

      The criterium du dauphine tried the no major summit approach last year and it was not popular. The Eneco Tour each year is basically flat as well. With the late change to the Tour of California you had something similar (Peter Sagan won the overall). My point is that there are opportunities for Roulers to win stage races. A GT is a test of a complete rider though and that includes high mountains. The most dramatic stages of this year’s race were in the mountains. As for 3 weeks of tight GC action you just need to look at the Vuelta last year (Contador vs Froome right until the last summit) and the Giro this year (Contador vs Astana until the last summit). Even this year’s Tour gave us drama right up until the end and there was a tight battle between Froome and Quintana.

      • NSSSc Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 3:14 pm

        I am not convinced by the ‘complete rider’ argument. If it was to be a true test of the complete skill set of a proffessional cyclist, one may semi-jokingly argue it had to be as many minutes of crosswind action as there is mountain climbing, as many minutes of TTing as there is cobbles and so on. One could argue differently, that the ability to sprint had to count as much as the ability to climb, and so on. My point is that no fair ‘test of a complete rider’ can be realized, and so I call for greater variety in stead of today’s state of affairs, where every GT every year is for the climbers. For sure, there have been editions without cobbles, so there can be editions without the high mountains – and no less test of completeness.

        When it comes to the definition of ‘tight GC action’ I guess different people experience it differently. For me – not suspect to hinsight bias – Contador was in control at the Giro from stage 14, as was Froome from stage 10 at the Tour.

        • gabriele Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 4:12 pm

          Generally speaking (not answering to something you may have said), it’s an error to imply someway that Classics are that much less important than GTs.
          GTs are (mainly) for GT riders, nobody with any knowledge of cycling could ever say that the winner of the TdF is the “best cyclist”.
          Why don’t we make a Paris-Roubaix for climbers?

          Besides, the TdF is not for pure climbers, given the abundance of flat terrain where light riders suffer more just because of the high speed (even in the peloton), and, more than everything, because of the sort of climbs it offers. Essentially, 20-25 km/h (or more) climbs…!

          Anyway, it must be said that from the late ’90s on the TdF (unlike the Giro or the Vuelta) has become more and more a TdF-riders thing. Its winners struggle to win anything big Tour aside – because of ultra-focused preparation, too – including other GTs (!), save physical transformations through the years like Lance or Wiggo (no doping implication).
          In that sense, Evans, Nibali or Contador are welcome exceptions. But I don’t think one should radically change the Tour, some adjustements may be enough.
          In the worst case, we’ll just observe that the TdF winner is specialising as a 63-67 kgs “passista scalatore” with a propensity for sustained 40′ high-power efforts. Plenty of other races in cycling to appreciate different riders. We can also note that Evans, Nibali and Contador correspond to this physical profile, which may mean that restricting oneself to the Tour is a problem of mindset.

          Perhaps we should see more TdF riders testing themselves in the Classics, rather than creating a TdF for Classics riders?

          • J Evans Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 10:15 pm

            Here you go folks – bikeraceinfo.com/glossary.html – for the Italian cycling idioms.

          • J Evans Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 10:16 pm

            I still want a World Championship in the mountains – just one year.
            This seems increasingly aimed at classics riders over all others.

          • ccotenj Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 11:20 pm

            i wouldn’t mind seeing a few more “tdf” riders taking on the ardennes classics… he k, we don’t have to go any farther back than this last spring, when valverde (although not really a “true tdf” rider) showed what is possible…

            however, if i was a ds, i’d keep my “tdf guy” as far away from p-r as possible… and p-r is my favorite race on the calendar*… there is very little for them to gain (tommeke/spartacus at age 70 would still crush froome/quintana/pick your tdf specialist in their primes), and a whole lot to lose…

            * even if p-r is the most contrived race there is, i can’t help myself, it’s my favorite… i get tingles just thinking about that “long shot” as they approach the arenburg, where you see the little skinny path through the forest, and you know it is “game on”…

            @j evans… oh yea, i’d like to see a world championship raced on a mountainous course at least once as well… i think it would be rather interesting to see who really could go up a mountain the best without multiple days of racing already in their legs…

  • ccotenj Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 2:55 pm

    whatever they decide, i personally hope for at least one long tt… i know that the majority of people hate watching tt’s, but imo, the ability to tt is part of being an “all around” champion… i also hope for a few more sprint finishes… sure, the “excitement” of a sprint finish is all in the last 10-15 minutes, but i will admit to being guilty of enjoying just watching the scenery for a few hours as well… i also think that a few more days of “relative rest” for the gc contenders teams does not hurt…

    some of the suggestions made in the comments are good… others, i’m not so sure about… i don’t think i really want a gt that is a 21 day “classics” race… i did like the “classic” stages in the first week (although i’m still not sure about cobbles*), i just don’t want 21 of them in a row…

    i know that people want to be “entertained”… but i also don’t believe that “we” should change the character of what a gt is…

    i thought this year’s race was quite enjoyable, but then again, my level of enjoyment isn’t defined strictly by the gc competition…

    * do not get me wrong… i love the cobbled classics… however, in a gt, a “p-r type” stage introduces a huge amount of luck into the race if the weather isn’t “good” (like this year), and i believe that there is already enough of the “lucky factor” without them…

    • J Evans Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 10:19 pm

      I agree with your last point – hence, I’d only have those sort of stages every 2 or 3 years.
      Also, I wonder if a less mountainous grand tour could end up being just as much of a stalemate as a mountainous one can be.

      • ccotenj Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 10:30 pm

        imo, it would likely be as much of (if not even more) a stalemate… they’d just endlessly mark one another even more than they do now…

        the gaps would likely end up being smaller, but the race likely wouldn’t be any “closer”…

        but that’s imo, and i have been wrong many many times before….

  • Special Eyes Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 6:15 pm

    Regarding the debate on how this year’s Tour supposedly favoured Quintana ; did it really ?
    By my reckoning the breakdown was evenly split by types of racing styles :
    Flat / Sprint / Cobbles / flat ITT = 7 x stages
    Puncheur / hilly TTT =7 x stages
    Mountain =7 x stages

    In retrospect, perhaps Quintana performed really really well. As Gabriele said, the ‘puncheur’ stages may not suit him as (a lighter / less powerful rider) well as we thought.
    The let-downs were Nibali and Contador.
    The Tour was set up to offer each a bit of something, and it can’t be Mnsr Prudhomme’s fault that the other two contenders failed to take their share, leaving Froome to profit.

    • gabriele Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 7:52 pm

      I see this as “Nibali’s Tour course”. Have a look to the descents, too!

      However, if one has to choose between Froome and Quintana, it was very balanced – in abstract terms. Apparently, it was maybe a bit more favourable to Quintana, but we should consider some other factors: most mountain stages were too short, and only one stage had big climbs without enough flat terrain to regroup the team and close gaps. What is more, high altitude played a minor role and high gradients were never very prolonged. Hence, IMHO, it was a draw between them two – in theory.
      Practically speaking, we should be honest enough to acknowledge that those traits which didn’t favour Quintana are Le Tour’s trademark, thus being less significant. Whereas not having much ITT is totally peculiar. That is, if we don’t look at the course in an abstract way, but in its “Tour de France” real context, we must admit that, compared with the typical Tour, it was the result of various “innovations” quite favourable to the Colombian – while the downsides were just good ol’ Tour.

      I’ve written about Nibali elsewhere. What happened was a pity. We must also consider that all the UCI psicodrama had consequences, without any doubt, on the team’s inner relations and stability. IMHO, without significant reason for that. However, I don’t think most people realised what a great Tour he rode from LPSM on. Including stages in which he was still losing time of fighting to find form. He was simply impressing – but this is too long to explain in details.

      About Contador: it’s a long and complicated subject. He threw anything he had in changing the race’s script – and rightly so, it was his only option. La Toussoire depended heavily on his way of riding the first climb. But the moments in which he tried “untimely” moves were uncountable. Superficially, people could think he was trying a Fuente Dé and didn’t succeed. Instead, he was asking people to come on board. 95% of the times he was left alone.
      The problem is that he needs significant collaboration to succeed in these actions. Even if he started attacking from far, he’s definitely a 20′-40′ uphill rush rider. Even Fuente Dé was created like that, not like one of Nibali’s actions. This year’s Giro confirmed that (Verbania stage, for example). He’s just playing out of his comfort zone when he feels that that option can raise his winning chances. The only exception which comes to my mind was Tirreno 2014, probably the best Contador ever.

      Nibali expressed regret for not joining a couple of Contador’s attempts. Quintana felt the same about Nibali (but he added that he needed to support Valverde…).
      The old vice of cyclists, which the yellow jerseys of every era have made the most of, is thinking: “wow, good luck! The fool up the road is burning himself, I’ll overtake him in GC… and maybe the leader’s team is tiring and I’ll attack… later….”. Rivalry doesn’t help, either.
      But a really great Tour didn’t materialise, among other things, because, like in a bad movie, the evil guys (thos down on GC) attack our hero (Froomey) mostly one by one… And, totally bad script, the minions tend to get the one in the way of the other instead of joining efforts.

      • Anonymous Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 8:09 pm

        Glad you’re back again, Gabriele

  • Lanterne Verte Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 7:23 pm

    amazing that people are talking about contador as disappointing or failing this season, he won the giro and came fifth in the tour, thats a massive achievment by any standard, how many others have even made top 10 in two consecutive GTs in the same year recently?

    • gabriele Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 8:57 pm

      Good question, let’s see if collective memory helps us because it ain’t be that easy.

      Tour-Vuelta looks pretty easy, indeed: Sastre was an habitué, he’s got several double top-tens and double podia, too. One of the most unfairly undervalued riders, IMHO. Heras used to do that, too, even if he succeeded just a bit less. Cadel made it in that unfortunate 2007 Vuelta with the neutral service polemics (a great field that year, by the way). Valverde repeated the feat three or four times, as did Purito (a couple of times, maybe?).

      They’re all excellent riders, but I feel that having that kind of good result is not that incredible.
      Giro-Tour… that’s harder. It’s also harder to rememeber when it happened!

      Rolland nearly made it last year, top five in the Giro and 11th in the Tour. Like Cunego back in 2006. Menchov made it in his best season, 2008 (another very good rider that isn’t appreciated as he would deserve, and, with his late doping troubles, history won’t rediscover him either). Contador had it in 2011. Basso was very close in 2005, even if the final Giro GC doesn’t say exactly that.

      In the first part of the 90s it looked easier. Maybe you didn’t perform at your best in both, but you could achieve a double top-ten. And for those who’d say it was because of EPO… well, it’s true 😛 but don’t think that people stopped taking drugs in 1996 or so. Truth is that it was a generation rich in GC talent (unlike the last ones we had), with a notable level of competition, and people thought that a GT rider should test himself both in the Giro and in the Tour. Olano, Rominger, Ugrumov, Hampsten, Bugno, Chiappucci, Lejarreta… and Indurain 🙂 They were able to make a double top-ten, maybe because all the top guns were doing the same, but also because they were better than most GT riders we’ve seen in recent years.
      And I’m not a blind laudator temporis acti, since I’ve got no doubt that, speaking of Classics for example, in the last 20 years or so we’ve probably got the best cobbles generation *ever* or somewhere near, with some very good côte riders, too, who would place well in an all-times classification.
      We’ve also got a good number of riders able to have their say both in one-day races like Liège and in GTs, a mark of good ol’ times that went forgotten in the 90s and appeared again in the 2000s thanks to Vinokourov, Valverde, Cunego, Di Luca, Hamilton, Schleck, Nibali, Evans, Purito… (by the way, note how doping doesn’t explain very well technical factors: “clean” riders with “overdopers”, and a notable change between the “doped ’90s” and the 2000s overdopers, who, on the other hand, show a similar pattern to present “clean cycling”).
      Hence, it’s not that our era is the iron or rust age when compared to previous decades – we simply must acknowledge that the average level of top GC riders in the GT isn’t that high (whereas other aspects have been shining more). Maybe it’s starting to rise slightly right now – but we’ll only be able to tell in hindsight.

      • J Evans Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 10:25 pm

        Christ, I’m learning Latin now.
        With these comments you’ve outdone yourself Gabriele. I don’t agree with everything, but it’s fascinating reading. And besides I don’t have the knowledge to disagree. Thanks.

        • STS Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 10:31 pm

          Well said, J.
          I agree with you with one exception: I agree with nearly everything Gabriele writes, at least those points where I have enough knowledge or experience enabling me to disagree. This accordance is almost puzzling.

          • J Evans Tuesday, 28 July 2015, 10:37 pm

            I have to admit, I’m probably agreeing with a good 90% (of the stuff that I know enough about – no way in the world can I compare today’s GT riders with those of the past: I was watching, but how would I know if Olano was better than Nibali? – then again, maybe it’s a massive bluff by Gabriele, knowing that there’ll be no-one who can disagree with him [unless Matt Rendell gets on here]).

  • JEB Thursday, 30 July 2015, 12:44 pm

    From a purely financial view point wouldn’t ASO do best to choose a TJV friendly route (i.e. ‘moderate constant climbs’, plenty of ITT) to win a much larger American & Canadian audience – increase viewers in an affluent country and improve appeal to sponsors who all want to increase presence in the worlds largest market.

    On the other had – would they really want a winner with an American accent so soon? And would they really want to risk a ‘boring’ tour (although if everyone was expecting boring it would no doubt exceed expectation and probably end up being regarded as one of the most exciting tours).

    • J Evans Thursday, 30 July 2015, 12:55 pm

      There is no parcours that could be created that could lead to him winning the race. (That’s just one of the many flaws with your idea, which – thankfully – I don’t think you meant terribly seriously.) Even with lots of TTs, there are so many riders who could beat him.

    • STS Thursday, 30 July 2015, 4:10 pm

      As long as TvG rides and behaves as he has done so far I hope he will never win the TdF or come even closer to its podium. A TdF that would enable / see him doing this would indeed be a boring one.