Rest Day Review

Monday, 10 July 2017

The race hasn’t reached the Pyrenees or the Alps yet and already it’s had several decisive phases and the list of contenders has been thinned down. Yesterday’s stage was especially full of action and drama. Here’s a look back at recent events as well as a look ahead.

Düsseldorf came and went, the rain dampened spirits but race took a cold shower when Ion Izaguirre and Alejandro Valverde crashed out. It all seems a long time ago but it’s relevant today because the time gaps established in Germany are ever-present. Froome is in yellow in large part thanks to the buffer he established over Fabio Aru and Romain Bardet. Here’s the chart showing how the first eight overall have fared:

The chart shows time gaps between Froome, Aru, Bardet and Uran have hardly changed since the time trial while others such as Dan Martin, Simon Yates only moved on Stage 9. The story of the race though is also about who is not the chart as others have crashed out or collapsed before the race has entered the Alps or Pyrenees although the Jura showed that its best mountains are the match of anything.

Back to the flat and Marcel Kittel has been the sprint star. With hindsight or should that be Rücksicht perhaps the grand départ would have been better served by a sprint finish to delight the home crowds? Hard to predict ahead of events though. To watch a sprint is to focus on other riders until suddenly a blue hulk bursts into view for the final seconds. He’s not just good he’s lucky winning in Nuits Saint Georges by six millimetres, the width of a grape skin while Edvald Boasson Hagen will may enjoy retirement one day but may always wince when opening wine menus if they feature some Nuits-Saint-Georges.

The only sprint he couldn’t contest went to Arnaud Démare who has gone up a level in his sprints only he’s also gone home too. He spent two days chasing in the Jura to make the time cut, the first day surely making things worse. Yesterday he took three team mates with him and given he was dropped like a stone within sight of the KM0 banner it would have been more economical for him to bail leaving his helpers to cruise the gruppetto. But it’s said Jacopo Guarnieri was ill too and since they’re wagons in a sprint train they’d be lost without him and FDJ will enjoy the “one for all, all for one” tale of solidarité. There’s still a thesis to be written on French attitudes to loss in sport and the notion that lose valiantly or even extravagantly is better than just climbing into the team car.

Démare’s win was noticed but the big story that day was Peter Sagan’s exclusion from the race after the UCI commissaires decided to disqualify him the day after he won a stage. Initially the results showed with relegated to last in the group and docked points for the green jersey competition and on review even this seems harsh. Disqualification? It is possible under the rules but only when a rider “seriously” endangers others. It looks like the UCI commissaires acted in haste with the video images but there’s still no official explanation of what the dangerous incident was and the ruling behind it. Cycling has a referee problem, there are bound to be grey areas given the sport happens outdoors rather than in controlled arenas but there’s an issue with quality (loyal readers will remember the team time trial fiasco from the Tour of Catalonia) and a communication concern. One lesson to draw is that the jury is more likely to intervene if there’s a crash, that the rules apply more in the event of a fall than, say, a tangle.

The Planche des Belles Filles was the first summit finish and rich in information to extrapolate. Fabio Aru simply rode away and this time there was no polemic, he was simply the fastest. Now he sits 18 seconds behind Froome. The climb also reduced the list of contenders down to Richie Porte, Dan Martin, Romain Bardet, Simon Yates and Rigoberto Uran, a narrow selection by just stage 5.

We had more sprint stages where it paid not to tune in for the live coverage. By all means enjoy the landscape but remember a stage promised to the sprinters generally means flatter landscapes. Bad TV? Probably but remember it’ll still score more than a repeat of Kommissar Rex both in terms of audience numbers and demographic targets so it literally pays to fill the airtime with nothing happening.

Low ratings? Not on Saturday when Lilian Calmejane’s stage win attracted a big audience in France and probably beyond. His win was deserved, he got in the big breakaway with help from team mates and then dropped everyone à la pédale on the Lacets de Septmoncel, a Pro Conti rider dispatching proven World Tour members like Warren Barguil, Nicolas Roche and Robert Gesink. It was a triumph for Direct Energie, first to silence the polemic over Bryan Coquard’s exclusion.  As one rider put it the team “reverted to to their DNA as attackers”. Next it gave the team a huge publicity boost, the very reason Direct Energie sponsors the team. It’s a triumph for Jean-René Bernaudeau’s system, he’s got a shoestring budget but has always run a strong feeder team in the amateur ranks which supplies to pro team. Perhaps the model can’t work for every team but it certainly delivers here.

Sunday’s stage was always going to be a big day, the return of the Mont du Chat and it was preceded by the Col de la Biche and the Grand Colombier, the three climbs making in attitude what they lack in altitude. It made for a tiring day just to watch live, relentless attacking at the front of the race and events throughout the stage.

 

Much is being made of Aru’s attack when Froome had a mechanical. Aru said he didn’t notice Froome; Froome said he didn’t notice Aru. Perhaps their sunglasses were misting up? More likely they just want to sort these things out on the road rather than via television or newspapers. It seems to energize social media but is irrelevant to the race, a point proven moments later when Aru, Fuglsang and Froome shared the work to bring back Bardet. These things always make social media erupt while the peloton tends to shrug indifferently. A rider who profits too often from the misfortune of others will one day get payback, probably with accumulated interest too. While Aru’s etiquette is poured over, his tactical errors were worse. The Mont du Chat is so steep that to accelerate requires a huge amount of energy and his opportunist move simply put him in the red early for no gain. He also didn’t work well with Jacob Fuglsang.

Porte’s crash is a big spoiler for the rest of the race, an obvious contender is now in hospital. As much as descending has been a weak point this was expected to cost him seconds, maybe minutes, but not to have him being taken away in an ambulance. That said he hadn’t been looking as incisive so far in the race, he had a bad opening time trial which could ascribe to the slippery conditions but he was fourth on the Planche des Belles Filles and extrapolating – a fancy word for guessing – says he was on course for a podium finish but no fruitbowl.

Was the descent too dangerous? As a road the Mont du Chat is steep but perfectly ridable and used by hundreds of cyclos every weekend. It’s no more dangerous than many other mountain roads that are used in races and Porte fell on the upper part which is less technical plus it was included in the Dauphiné just so the ascent and descent could be tested in competition. Arguably the risk isn’t the road, it’s the race. The stakes are high, in another race riders might back off but this time. Also the top riders seem so close in terms of climbing speeds that another way to separate them is the descent.

Thomas is out again, this time Rafał Majka’s crash took out the Sky rider. It’s a loss for Sky but if he goes home on a sad note then he’s taken a stage win and enjoyed a spell in yellow which will make many others envious. Majka himself has succumbed to the injuries and is out of the race too, joining a very long list of quality riders already with Robert Gesink going from almost winning in Les Rousses to crashing the next day.

Nairo Quintana’s at risk of fading away from the Tour de France, a problem for him and a tragedy for the Giro because it’s another deterrent for anyone dreaming of the double and this will only reinforce the Giro and the Tour as separate silos. He’s not out yet, two minutes is a long way down but it also means he can attack and won’t be shut down, presumably scoring a top-10 doesn’t interest him although Movistar do pride themselves on the UCI rankings. Still yesterday’s stage was notable for the absence of Movistar riders, often so visible on mountain stages. Carlos Betancur was in the breakaway, Jesus Herrada crashed but the others were not as influential.

Alberto Contador is struggling. He won’t throw in the towel yet but it’s clear he can’t match the others in a straight climbing contest as we saw on the Planche des Belles Filles and he crashed on the ascent of the Grand Colombier. He’s now over four minutes down on GC, a mountain raid and a stage win is probably the best he can hope for but it’s these moves that make him a popular figure these days even if the palmarès isn’t as rich.

Looking ahead
The week ahead offers two sprint finishes, then a slog across the Pyrenees on Thursday. Friday hosts the 100km Bastille Day fireworks stage before a weekend of so-called transition stages, one with an uphill sprint and the second with some tough medium mountains.

Turning to the jerseys, Warren Barguil leads the mountains competition with 60 points to 30 for Primož Roglič. This puts the Frenchman in a very strong position already but crucially it’s not the points that signal Barguil’s strong position, it’s his climbing. He was up the road on Saturday and then again on Sunday and his time up the Mont du Chat wasn’t much slower than that set by Chris Froome’s group. If he can show this form again in the Pyrenees and Alps he’s Team Sunweb’s best shot at a jersey. Meanwhile Michael Matthews took 20 points at the intermediate sprint but has a long way to go to overhaul Marcel Kittel who wears the green jersey especially as Kittel can win 50 points per finishing sprint meaning Matthews can try for every intermediate sprint going but the pickings are slimmer.

Romain Bardet is climbing well and descending even better. He took 30 seconds down the Mont du Chat, waiting for the trickier second half of the descent before making his move and then exploiting local knowledge. He’s third overall but can’t defend this position given the time trial in Marseille. He’ll surely rely on his team, Ag2r La Mondiale were all over the race yesterday but theirs is a risky game, they cannot over power teams with calculations of Watts/Kilos. Instead they’ve got the numbers and surprise, yesterday saw them up the road and on the front of the bunch, at first it look like one half of the team was chasing the other but quickly we saw the bunch torn apart and big names under pressure.

Rigoberto Urán is in a great position at fourth overall. He’s climbing with the best and has done some good time trials before, enough to suggest that if there was a time trial tomorrow he could be confident about moving up to second place. However there’s still two weeks of racing to go, he’s not going to have much help in the mountains and his problem has long been sustaining performances over three weeks. But he can ride economically, he doesn’t need to attack.

Fabio Aru is only 18 seconds behind Chris Froome, or a small gap and a time bonus from the yellow jersey but provisionally because of that Marseille time trial. He’s in a strong position but has to work out what his goals are. Put simply does he want to win the Tour de France? Obviously yes but does he want to take the risks necessary to achieve this, to attack and risk a “boomerang move” that only sees him overhauled by others and finishing fourth in Paris when the second step was waiting for him? Fuglsang will be the key here if the two can play off each other but collectively the Astana team is weaker than previous years.

Dan Martin was with the yellow jersey group at the summit of the Mont du Chat only to get taken out by Porte’s crash. He’s now sixth at 1m44s and it must be frustrating to pay for someone else’s mishap but also a minor miracle he limited his losses given the circumstances because he crashed again and needed a spare bike. We know he’s got the legs so he’s now got room for manoeuvre, he can attack late on a mountain stage to pick off a stage win without putting Sky, Ag2r or Astana on red alert. A similar story for Simon Yates too who is already three minutes ahead in the white jersey competition.

Which brings us finally to Chris Froome. So far so normal, it’s straight out of the Sky playbook to take the overall lead on the first summit finish and then to hold it, helped by a phalanx of team mates who try to asphyxiate the race. But it’s not the same time this. First he might have taken yellow on Stage 5 but he was beaten on the summit finish and he’s not shown superior climbing yet, he was on level terms on the Mont du Chat too although the run to the finish encouraged some grouping too. He’s also lost a valuable lieutenant in Geraint Thomas. So is he beatable? He’s certainly in a more fragile position than previous years but still in command thanks to ride in Düsseldorf. He’s climbing well and seems to hold a psychological advantage over his rivals, he can push things on the descents, he’s strong enough on the climb that even Fabio Aru is reduced to springing surprises and all along he’s got the Marseille time trial as insurance.

Chris Froome
Fabio Aru, Romain Bardet
Rigoberto Uran
Fuglsang, Martin
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DV July 10, 2017 at 7:05 pm

Good review, thanks. Technically we’re double dipping the Alps this year!

The Inner Ring July 10, 2017 at 7:45 pm

Sunday was 100% Jura, the Alps are yet to come. I can bore about the geology if required.

Douglas Apted July 10, 2017 at 8:08 pm

Ha – although the French guy on the cycling podcast said it was 100% Alps! I think it was there, or somewhere some one said it… or maybe that was Saturday? I’m confused.

Vitus July 10, 2017 at 9:08 pm

Jura is technically and geologically an own mountain range.The Alpes are on the other side of the Lake of Geneva.
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Jura_TopoMap.png

The Inner Ring July 10, 2017 at 9:11 pm

You can tell it’s the Jura by the white/grey limestone rocks which are distantly related to Mont Ventoux and part of the pre-Alps. The other side of the valley from the Mont du Chat is the Revard which is part of the Alps. Anyway the point isn’t really geology, more that there are more mountains to come including climbs above 2,000m and some that are much, much longer.

Bilmo July 10, 2017 at 10:25 pm

The mountains were Jura but I believe the actual finish was in the Alps region.

StevhanTI July 10, 2017 at 10:50 pm

Chambéry, were the finish was drawn, is apparently in, or at the foot of, the Alps. The mountains climbed in both stages were 100% Jura, that’s what I got from the Cycling Podcast’s explanation.

Charles July 11, 2017 at 12:20 am

He was referring to Chambery as being in the Alps but Mont du Chat is in the Jura.

Richard S July 10, 2017 at 7:15 pm

Nice to see a French team on the front of the race making things happen. The last time I can remember that happening it was Festina in rather different circumstances.

The Inner Ring July 10, 2017 at 7:46 pm

They’re another team with a strong feeder system. It took them a while to get going with this system but it’s now churning out a lot of good riders like Bardet, Latour, Silvan Dillier at BMC and more.

The Warsaw Pact July 10, 2017 at 8:15 pm

So good to see new tactics from Ag2r – have listened to people slamming (in my view) Movistar & BMC for years on tactics without giving a clear idea of what the hell else they would have done… but Ag2r seem to have genuinely come up with something clever here – so impressive.

Just out of interest INRNG – have they got this from history, were teams using this tactic in the 70s or something? Or is this new? If it’s new, has it come from Bardet do you think or the team? I’ve heard Bardet is smart guy (got a degree whilst cycling professionally right?) and it seems to get a team to go hell for leather down a descent it might need to come from a team member rather than those off the bikes pushing the riders to take risks?

Either way, very very impressive. Especially as I’ve seen most (aside from 2012) of Contador’s audacious attacks as a little desperate, but Ag2r are doing this with a real interest in winning and using their resources cleverly. Can’t wait to see what happens later in the race with them. Will they be able to do it on roads which aren’t their home turf?

Diecast July 10, 2017 at 7:22 pm

Regarding Aru’s tactics – was he right to work with Froome chasing Bardet?

The Inner Ring July 10, 2017 at 7:47 pm

It shows their differences a moment ago could be put aside. It suited to chase Bardet and to keep Martin, Quintana and others away but if you have two riders up against Froome without a team mate it’s surprising he wasn’t given the “old 1-2” treatment on the run in.

hoh July 10, 2017 at 11:09 pm

Maybe Uran & the two French men are the spanner in the wheel of the 1-2 attack?

Though they did do that in the run in, it would be up to Froome to close down the attacker. As a result, either of the French Due or Uran are as likely to win.

At least they are more likely to take the 4 seconds away from Froome.

Johnson Johnson July 10, 2017 at 7:58 pm

This is such a good question.

Cycling Podcast, ITV podcast and even Lance on Stages have gone wild over it yet it doesn’t seem so clear cut?

Aru pointed out today they were gaining time on the riders behind (including Quintana) as much as closing down Bardet and it seems quite a difficult call to make in that situation: Whether to push Froome to chase or let big riders back into the game… surprised they’ve been castigated…

I can understand people’s frustration at riders protecting podiums in the last few years but to secure second place, put the knife into serious contenders and wait for another day to fight Froome doesn’t feel the worst decision… especially taking into account all the past form and strength of Sky which would have most betting men/women put Aru beating Froome down as a bit of a long shot… why give up 2nd (even temporarily) and possibly a podium (if others find form later) after an injury struck season to gain on a leader you’re likely to struggle beating anyway?

I think everyone is quick to judge.

Given that Aru has in many people’s eyes not risen to the heights expected, and even when winning the Vuelta looked ropey (in need of Landa’s inspired riding rather than his own) – a second place at this years Tour gives him the negotiating power to secure a contract that will support him handsomely into the next phase of his life following cycling. It may sound dull, but give the guy a break, we all need to live, if he slips down the GC from being overly ambitious he could go the way of Talansky and TVG as it will another in the line of multiple disappointments.

I think Bardet is the real challenger now – he won’t outclimb Froome but he might out think him, plus he has a 2nd so can throw caution to the wind.

Contador, Quintana, Martin, Yates and obviously Porte all out of it unless we get a massive surprise.
Uran is a dark horse if he follows Bardet closely.

Redbeard July 10, 2017 at 10:05 pm

Idk about “outthinking” tho. Surely Froome has proven by now that he’s usually (excepting Froomigal) pretty tactically astute. For all the grief people give him for being a robot staring at a computer, he basically always remains calm + collected, going back to 2013 when Movistar isolated but couldn’t crack him, on thru to yesterday when he stayed calm after Aru’s attack and again when he was isolated w/the 2 Astanii.

That said, he doesn’t seem to have the absolute world-crushing form of years prior (tho he may be rounding into it) + I could see Bardet/AG2R, or I guess Astana springing some ambushes, or maybe springboarding off some Contador wildness. I.e. it’s probably a done deal barring a crash, but much less certainly than the last couple.

[I know he’s paaaast it, + it’s a bit sad to watch, but man am I gonna miss Contador when he’s gone]

plurien July 10, 2017 at 10:26 pm

It’s Valverde we’re missing the most right now.

Aru and the others should have made Froome do most of the chase into Chambéry and then rolled him for valuable seconds when Bardet was in the bag. Instead they gave him 4 seconds bonif

irungo txuletak July 11, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Agree on Kontador, it is a bit sad to watch.
And I agree on Valverde too, it was probably one his best opportunities with this route and contenders.

Othersteve July 11, 2017 at 10:33 pm

Valverde would light things up with so many GC gone and with Quintana 2:13 down. Movistar would probably let Valverde off leash from now on. Movistar needs some positive TV time!

Will be interesting to see if Cannondale goats can be of help to R Uran in the alpine uphill days to come.

Augie March July 10, 2017 at 8:04 pm

Perhaps that’s how they made up after a slight difference of opinion on that final climb?

AP July 10, 2017 at 9:27 pm

It depends on if the aim is the positive one of winning the tour yourself (i.e. working with Froome) or the negative one of simply trying to stop Froome from winning it (i.e. not working with Froome). Aru chose well.

STS July 10, 2017 at 10:35 pm

Yes, if they were riding for Aru’s second GC place.
No, if they really want to win this TdF against Froome.

But you can be sure it was not Aru’s or Fuglsang’s decision but Martinelli’s.

RonDe July 11, 2017 at 8:30 am

If Aru really wants to win then he had to work with Froome. It doesn’t help Aru if he also has to beat Bardet as well. Some days you have to cut your losses or settle for what you can get. Aru was hanging on by the end but Froome could still manage and attack and a sprint in the last 1.5kms. By working together Aru is 18 seconds down. If Astana hadn’t played ball he could have been behind Bardet too.

Jon Clayson July 10, 2017 at 7:36 pm

Grapefruit skin?

Simon July 11, 2017 at 1:02 pm

Yeah, I thought 6 mils was thick for a crape

Chuffy July 11, 2017 at 8:14 pm

Yeah, I used to take this blog seriously. Shocking slackness.

Augie March July 10, 2017 at 7:37 pm

Interesting that the Giro saw impressive mountain stage wins by the previous “next big things” who had to various degrees fallen by the wayside – Rolland, Van Garderen and even Landa. Now at the Tour we have the redemption stories of two of 2013’s hottest new prospects: Barguil and Urán after some years in the wilderness.

I agree Porte wasn’t looking a level above Froome as he was in the Dauphine, but his presence would have made things more of a contest, and a stage win and a lower step on the podium would have been a great result for the BMC rider, but twas not to be. Hopefully Aru, Bardet and all the others make Froome work for it if he wants that 4th fruit bowl.

DAVE July 10, 2017 at 8:03 pm

Landa only had one bad year?

Not sure he’s in the same category as Rolland and definitely not TVG?

Rolland’s GC career was short lived, he’s been a stage hunter for years rather than disappointing us with GC failures.

TVG has finished 5th twice in the Tour, although has now disappointed three years in a row.

Landa has his breakout ride in 2015, does a great job at the Vuelta help Aru, fails in 2016 (despite a good TT at the Giro) then gets unlucky in 2016 going on to prove he may well have been the strongest rider in the race when chasing stages? Landa is still hot property, as his current demand in the transfer market proves…

Augie March July 10, 2017 at 8:06 pm

I debated about including Landa, but there were such high hopes for him after 2015, and of course Sky has been a difficult team to be grand tour GC rider on if your name isn’t Chris Froome. Anyway, I was glad to see him get a big win, and hopefully next year, whatever team he’s on, he can make a serious tilt at a grand tour.

Richard S July 10, 2017 at 8:34 pm

I think he’ll have to leave Sky (que strongly worded posts defending Sky and stating how much he enjoys being there). At best he’ll have to share the Giro with Thomas and be Froome’s work horse at the Tour/Vuelta. He could easily be a leader at those for someone else, and surely as a Spaniard he’d want a go at the Vuelta. Supposedly UAE are after a GC man.

haps July 10, 2017 at 10:48 pm

In Spain,
People are mentioning Moviestar as his next destination.

RonDe July 11, 2017 at 8:33 am

I don’t see how that works at Movistar where Valverde is king and Quintana is their top GC pick.

Rt July 11, 2017 at 4:16 pm

Valverde is 37 years old. They are probably looking for a spanish successor

Michael B July 10, 2017 at 7:43 pm

Great round-up as ever. For me it’s been a tour of contradictions so far – massively exciting stages mixed with the mundane. Unpredictable winners against the likelihood that Froome will win the race with relative ease. Huge names going out leaving a gap for the next generation to come to the fore.

Overall it’s been a very good Tour so far, the last two days in particular have been scintillating, and if Bardet, Aru or Uran can mount a genuine challenge to Froome it could yet be a great one. There’s still a long way to go…

DAVE July 10, 2017 at 8:07 pm

Agreed.

And the excitement has at times been for the wrong reasons.

If there’s no bad luck Froome has this sewn up. Will drop Bardet & Aru on later climbs and put the boot in during the TT.

I expect an Aru collapse one day and the podium to be Froome, Uran, Bardet, with Uran jumping Bardet in the TT. If Uran doesn’t hold on then Fuglsang gets to the podium – but I see on past performances Uran sticking around. Looking forward to Talansky working for him!

AP July 10, 2017 at 9:38 pm

Even with Froome in Yellow this Tour is a fine watch. Imlach/Boardman’s apparent desire tonight for more rain on downhills to ‘make the tour more interesting’ left me a little uncomfortable, I wish somebody newer and younger would come along and shake those two up instead.

DAVE July 10, 2017 at 10:16 pm

Oh, I like them! Think their commentary shake up on ITV has been great as well, love watching ITV now compared to Phil Liggot days.

Michael B July 11, 2017 at 9:18 am

I like Imlach and Boardman but agree that hoping for rain is a bit much. The descents are tricky enough without it. Wonder if Boardman hoped for rain on the day he broke his ankle on a wet, treacherous, downhill prologue?!

RobH July 10, 2017 at 8:09 pm

So what’s Landa up to? He hasn’t taken a turn on the front yet , but is only -3.06? A stealth move so he can be sent in the break on the short stage in the Pyrenees?

jc July 10, 2017 at 9:08 pm

Despite yesterday’s epic stage I am not convinced this is, or has the potential to be, a great edition. I still have doubts about the route.

I suspect there is material for a blog on the subject of risk to the riders versus entertainment value, how many gladiatorial elements should bike races have? There is no easy answer, bad crashes can happen on the most straight forward of stages.

I suggest barring further incidents (which might be tempting fate) it does seem as if the race is now between Chris Froome, Fabio Aru and Romain Bardet. I cant see Rigoberto Uran keeping up, a real shame about Dan Martin and very sad for G.

Romain Bardet was certainly lively yesterday. His team principle suggested that the riding on the front downhill was a defensive move to keep the team safe. Though that clearly wasnt the case with Romain Bardet’s daredevil descending off the Mont du Chat. Yet despite all this effort, Bardet lost time. I do wonder quite where they can try all this again.

Fabio Aru continues to look fresh, fit and hungry. I do wonder if his weakness is his impulsive nature. Whatever the endless dull polemica, was that really a good place to attack? 5 kms was an awful long way from the summit. Once that didnt work he did not seem to have the same spark, he appeared under pressure a bit further up the climb but did pull back. Given he was the only one with a team mate in the finale, not managing even a time bonus seems to have been a wasted opportunity (I turned off the ITV podcast on the basis I thought they were talking complete rubbish…..).

Which leaves Chris Froome. Is his team as good as previous years? Maybe not, yet he still had 3 team mates around him when he launched up the climb, even after loosing his key lieutenant. Those three are all in the top 15. Besides Fulgsang the others seemed to be alone, their helpers all fallen away. Is he as good as previous years? He hasnt ridden away on the first climb like he has done in the past but I got the feeling he has been holding something back. Fabio Aru was let go on stage 5, not sure that will happen again. He almost seemed to be toying with the others yesterday, maybe I am wrong and he was at his limit unable to drop them but maybe also the climb was too steep for anyone to really ride away. On the longer less steep climbs to come perhaps we shall see a rather different outcome.

William Fotheringham compared yesterday’s stage to the one to Les Arc in 1996 where Miguel Indurain finally lost his grasp on the tour. Chris Froome seems to cast a similar spell over this race, seeing off all comers by force of will, One day , like Indurain before him, his spell will be broken too but I dont think that will happen in this race or against these riders. Perhaps the one to break the spell is sitting at home in Maastricht watching it all play out on television.

Richard S July 10, 2017 at 9:33 pm

I agree that this doesn’t look like being a stellar edition. It seems to me to be a bit of a weak GC field with no gladiatorial match up of two major heavy weights. Bar Froome everyone has an obvious weakness. Porte is the only one who can time trial but as has been proven he’s an unsteady descender and seems (to me) mentally fragile. Aru, Bardet and Martin might as well be the same rider. They are all good climbers, Aru and Martin seemingly especially when it is steep, but can’t time trial on the same level as Froome. That Uran is being talked up as an outsider should underline the lack of a real threat to Froome. Quintana seems to have a bit of a Giro hangover but even without that would probably fall short in the TT, and poor old Contador looks a shadow of his former self. Hopefully they’ll put enough of a TT in the Vuelta for Big Tom to give a fight.

CA July 10, 2017 at 10:10 pm

Very good point, I don’t think Froome will have difficulty over the next 2 weeks, but his final ouster is very likely watching at home wearing a very pink jersey (and enjoying the nearby washroom).

Fabio Aru (all drama aside) definitely chooses some ridiculous places to attack, plus with a teammate present I have zero clue how they weren’t able to do some damage yesterday.

Team Sky might not feel as strong because people may be glorifying their past performances, but they look dominant to me. They’re probably holding the climbing lieutenant’s back a bit, waiting for the upcoming Alps and Pyrenees so they might not look as strong. However, when you have a previous World Champ (plus current MSR champ) driving the pace hour-after-hour, believe me, they’re strong.

hoh July 10, 2017 at 11:22 pm

And have his time trial position modelled in the Delft university lab?

hoh July 10, 2017 at 11:22 pm

That was reply to JC about certain person watch it on TV.

RonDe July 11, 2017 at 9:00 am

Froome only leads this race by 18 seconds from a rider, Aru, who we know will continue to attack (which some, like me, may consider his weakness). This isn’t enough to feel safe or to rest on one’s laurels. If you speculate and factor in the stage 20 ITT then Froome is probably more like 1.18 in front of Aru though and 2 minutes in front of Bardet. Who knows what Uran will do as he is the unpredictable factor. Most would be surprised if he put in a genuine bid for the top step though.

However, my overriding thought here is that Froome has more to give… should he wish to. On the Mont du Chat he was clearly just doing enough. At first he simply followed when Aru and then Porte offered up attacks. But then he put in his own. It was Froome who got rid of Quintana and it was Froome who closed the 25 seconds to catch Fuglsang back. It seemed to me as if Froome was the only one there who could attack and sustain it so that he actually closed gaps and caught other riders. He also attacked on the first part of the Mont du Chat descent before Bardet took over which, apart from anything else, kept him safe from crashes, something Dan Martin might want to take note of. We also need to keep in mind that Froome prefers the Pyrenees to the mountains down the right hand side of France. La Pierre St. Martin, Aix 3 Domaines, these are Pyrenean peaks. Froome might also have won at Peyragudes in 2012, a stage finish in this race on stage 12, but for the fact he was having to tow Wiggins behind him. You may remember the pictures of him encouraging Wiggins on in an effort to catch Valverde but Wiggins was seemingly on his limit. I mention Peyragudes because I expect Froome to go well there in his favoured mountain range. If riders like to win a stage as well as the jersey then I’d mark Peyragudes down as the one Froome might have targeted.

What does all this mean? It means that Froome is in the driving seat as much as he ever was and we shouldn’t let numbers deceive us. He still wears yellow, still has the best team and there are still precious few places to put him under pressure. He can still balance defence with attack. Aru won’t beat him by short attacks such as that on La Planche and Astana will have to deploy Fuglsang cleverly to make Sky bothered. Froome also has an ITT up his sleeve. None of the riders currently behind him will want to be within a minute of him come Marseille. But that means they have plenty of work to do because precious few riders have ever taken that kind of time out of Froome in France.

peter July 10, 2017 at 9:14 pm

Not to put a damper on anything so far, but, always a but, had any body else noticed Uran taking something in the sprint he won. About 500 metres to go? Any comments?

Richard S July 10, 2017 at 9:35 pm

Are you suggesting doping? Even if he’d mainlined Amphetamine through his eyeball nothing would take affect that quickly!

jc July 10, 2017 at 9:43 pm

🙂 even Lance Armstrong would have struggled pulling that trick

Cochisecito July 10, 2017 at 9:50 pm

Are you talking about his metal chain? He usually races with some bling, and he was putting his Christ image in his mouth

Alex July 10, 2017 at 10:00 pm

It was his communication set/ telephone ear . Or how do you call it. It was hanging loose

Foley July 10, 2017 at 10:07 pm

Right, you can see Uran’s earpiece flying up in front of Bardet’s shades in the photo above.

Ian Anderson July 11, 2017 at 7:58 am

Apart from the issue of pharmacokinetics, when you watch the video again Uran apppears to be crossing himself then touching his hand to his face, a quick prayer perhaps to ready him self for the sprint on his 53/11 broken bike.

Ronytominger July 11, 2017 at 4:39 pm

Yes it was epic

Othersteve July 11, 2017 at 10:44 pm

remember “religion is the opiate of the people”

I will say a rosary for him tonight.

Peter July 10, 2017 at 9:42 pm

I’m not suggesting anthing. Am just wondering who would take and what would someone take oraly 500 metres from the line. look close at finish.

Ian Anderson July 11, 2017 at 8:18 am

Just like Elwood Blues he was on ‘a mission from God’

anon July 10, 2017 at 10:05 pm

“Rückblick”, not “Rücksicht” – the latter means as much as “care” (as in “taking care” – “Rücksicht nehmen”)

Doesn’t take away from this well written summary. Looking forward to the next stage previews, and hopefully, interesting states as well.

Lion July 10, 2017 at 10:08 pm

As a very loyal reader but an equally rare commentator, I would like to point out that the German “Rücksicht” isn’t quite the right phrase meaning regard or consideration. “Rückblick” would be the word.
Very much enjoying the coverage though!

The Inner Ring July 10, 2017 at 10:22 pm

Thanks, maybe I meant Nachtsicht ?

anon July 11, 2017 at 12:15 am

“Nachsicht” is something else again, similar to patience/understanding, accepting that someone cannot perform due to some circumstances. “Nachtsicht” would be nightvision. “Rückblick/rückblickend” would indeed be the right word here.

Ronytominger July 11, 2017 at 4:53 pm

In hindsight = im Rückblick

Anonymous July 10, 2017 at 10:12 pm

Bouhanni has a bad rep, but I saw a tweet or two where riders had said what a d**k Demare is. First he was all over the road on the Sagan/Cav stage, then he was at again on the next sprint! He doesn’t deserve the green jersey, so a’bientot Arnaud.

The Inner Ring July 10, 2017 at 10:23 pm

Many sprinters complain about their rivals, see Cavendish dissing his own team mate Greipel etc.

Ecky Thump July 10, 2017 at 10:39 pm

It looks like Kittel may pick up another 100 points for the green jersey over the next two flat stages, shielded from the wind by his team mates.
Matthews, if he wants to contest, will have to half-kill himself over mountains and have to get in a breakaway to pick up 80 points in the four stages afterwards.
That doesn’t seem right at all?

Other than to demonstrate just how remarkable a rider Peter Sagan is, ASO have mucked the points competition up this time.

Flávio Ferreira July 11, 2017 at 1:16 am

Yep, ASO last year changes of the green just to make Sagan lose it, just made it worse, just bad idea overall.

Honestly they should go back to same points all stages this was a regularity context, but for some treason they want to be a sprinters jersey, when they already have lots of stags and could still compete with the same points.

RonDe July 11, 2017 at 9:07 am

Mucked it up or got what they wanted? ASO have been wanting a proper sprinter to win it for years.

Ronytominger July 11, 2017 at 4:45 pm

But matthews move for the intermediate points was really “grosses tennis” (epic) he suddenly appears on the front after these monsters of the jura, real great riding for a sprinter.

Dantheman July 10, 2017 at 11:00 pm

– great summary, thanks
– I respect Chris Boardman’s amazing career(s) but he’s too negative and downbeat for the TV summariser role; often his answers are too curt even for TV
– whereas David Miller is now the most compelling TV pundit – him and Boulting nailing it though I like ES too
– Froome has looked strong. Not dominant but strong, nobody could outride him sur Le chat and he hasn’t had to take any risks yet.
– Johnson makes a good point – 2nd might be life changing for Aru but 7th wouldn’t be
– Quintana very disappointing – the silent assassin of 2 or 3 yrs ago has gone, here and the Giro- I don’t get it, is it just form? He is too young for the improvements to plateau, surely….?
– I’m enjoying the race and all the media that goes with it – hope you are too

mmaohara July 12, 2017 at 12:46 pm

Is it wrong that I quite like Boardman and his dour dryness? I also like Boulting and Millar’s commentary during the race, Millar’s knowledge is invaluable, makes the commentary really interesting to listen to and learn from.

Reuben July 11, 2017 at 12:14 am

Great piece as always, a fantastic recap going well beyond the superficial.

A small correction – “Movistar do proud themselves” I think you meant “pride”?

Flávio July 11, 2017 at 1:20 am

Great piece as always.

If not the for the (next to) last day TT, this tour could had some excitement for the winner, but the brilliant minds at ASO made all this TT kms on the last day knowing the riders that come to the tour, I guess they didn’t want excitement, and I was so hopeful after the 2015 good route (could be better but the TT km and placement on the race was perfect)

RonDe July 11, 2017 at 9:10 am

If the ITT came now who do you think would win it and how much bigger do you think the gap between 1st and 2nd would be? This edition of the Tour has some of the least ITT kilometers in recent memory. But what can you do if the best all rounder keeps winning? He wins BECAUSE he’s the best all rounder.

Louis le Blond July 11, 2017 at 1:30 am

And in week 3 we’ll see the Irish (D. Martin) and the Birdman (Fuglsang) team up and sail away nice and easy – no big gestures or words of goodbye.

Ian Anderson July 11, 2017 at 8:12 am

INRG you speculate that a sprint grand depart may have played to German interests? but let’s not forget Mr T Martin racing in the World Champions skin suit and hotly tipped for the win. A dry day and a few extra dimples might have seen the home team in yellow before the likes of Kittel and Griepel came out to play. Much better bet for the organisers IMHO

IanPa July 11, 2017 at 9:19 am

I’m late to the Party, my prinicple got in the way! (God I hate CK on Eurosport)

Digress..

Think this is the last year of Froome winning (cant see him losing now). He is 32, and i think its just age that’s doing for him, he’ll lose the zip we have seen over the past few years in the mountains, retain the TT strength and speed, but at some point the younger guys will just be able to attack him and he cant follow, ala Contador over the past few years with his steady decline.

If i was Sky, id be looking to the future now, but Landa doesnt seem to have the final bit extra (and he is runoured to be Movistar bound anyway), G is most probably top 10 material, so where do they go.. Could be the final year of their domination.

Hoping that Martin, Aru and Bardet can attack and put some pressure on Froome, and would love to see Yates have a go on one of the later stages to show his true worth for the white jersey.

noel July 11, 2017 at 6:28 pm

if Froome does win this year, there’s no way they won’t go all in for the 5 over the next year or two…

Gargatouf July 11, 2017 at 11:28 am

I have a question, it’s a genuine question, not a way to try and stir trouble.

For the past few years (maybe longer but I’ve only noticed it during the past few years on Grand Tours), during the rest days, you see teams posting pictures of their riders going for their rides on social media. A lot of them have arms and/or leg warmers (usually on very sunny days). Obviously some people on social media have come to the conclusion that they are hiding needle marks or something, but I’m just wondering why you would wear these on days that seem very sunny and hot. So for example, I saw pictures of some Movistar and Sunweb riders yesterday in what seemed a beautiful sunny day, in arm and/or leg warmers.

The Inner Ring July 11, 2017 at 11:39 am

It wasn’t that warm yesterday – some got soaked on their rider, others used indoor trainers – but one aim of a rest day ride is to sweat because water retention is a big fear for many riders, to start today with swollen legs or feeling ballooned. So you wear a layer more to help this process. It’s an old school thing.

As for incriminating needle marks surely they’d persist and so be recognisable today… and if someone did want to use a needle they’d place it somewhere that is covered by team kit?

Gargatouf July 11, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Thanks for the anwer. I didn’t think it was to hide needles. As you say, if you’re going to do that, hide it where no one will see them at all after a few days. Was interested in knowing why you’d wear so much clothes on a nice day.

Chuffy July 11, 2017 at 8:21 pm

Re: Uran not having support.
What has happened to Talansky? He seems to have completely vanished. You’d hope that Cannondale Drapac would bust a nut to get Uran onto the podium or die trying.

MeisterBrau July 12, 2017 at 3:54 am

So a non contender for the Green Jersey throws a swing and gets a fine. The ringer gets thrown out of the Tour on a dicey sprint. Oy Vey.

Ozgur Nevres July 12, 2017 at 10:45 am

“He’s also lost a valuable lieutenant in Geraint Thomas. ” Well, he lost actually two lieutenants, Thomas and Porte.

Michael B July 11, 2017 at 9:20 am

PS – slightly off topic but Imlach’s “My Father And Other Working Class Football Heroes” is a lovely book. Well worth a read for people interested in that other sport.

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