The Moment The Tour de France Was Won

Monday, 24 July 2017

The years go by and the result is the same as Chris Froome wins his fourth Tour de France in five years. This year was different with a trio of inseparable riders in the mountains where the contest was so close that they were scrapping over time bonuses, if not to beat Froome then at least to ensure place on the podium. But like last year Froome built his win in the time trials, dominating them in Düsseldorf and dispatching them in Marseille.

There was never the knockout blow that Sky have delivered in the past whether at Ax-Trois Domaines or La Pierre Saint Martin. This was both deliberate and accidental. The course was designed to avoid an early high altitude summit finish; and Chris Froome never looked capable of achieving this. But if the course had been different with a big summit finish showdown perhaps Froome would have prepared differently?

The chart shows Chris Froome’s win was built on the two time trial stages. He established a gap at the start, defended it for the best part of three weeks, then extended it in Marseille. Düsseldorf was as much as psychological victory for Team Sky as it was a stage win with Geraint Thomas and four riders in the top-10 while supposed challengers BMC Racing’s fourth rider was 43rd and their leader Richie Porte wasn’t among them. The mini polemic over Sky’s skinsuit only helped more with the mindgames and got the media asking Sky about cloth rather than corticosteroids even if tempers flared over the team’s media strategy as the team once again walked headlong into another publicity trap marked “TRAP” as they continue to show themselves as a team capable of prosecuting a sporting campaign but struggling to win hearts and minds. Chris Froome and his improving French helps with the locals but large parts of the British media from cyclingnews to national newspapers have an uneasy relationship with the team.

The opening week quickly saw Marcel Kittel establish himself as the best sprinter in the race and giving the new German audience something to cheer. Five stage wins and in what looked like such a relaxed style, a team mate would lead out the sprint from afar early, force the others to launch too early and Kittel would make his long sprint to surge past in the final metres. Kittel is photogenic, even the photofinish cameras loved him.

The opening phase of the race served up many sprint finishes but it really missed a sprint rivalry. Arnaud Démare won a stage but only after Kittel was removed from the contest by an earlier crash. That day was dominated by Peter Sagan’s exclusion from the race. With hindsight even docking him points and relegating him, the UCI jury’s initial decision, seemed harsh but the subsequent decision to eject from the race was mistaken and looked rushed, as if they’d reviewed the video footage, seen an elbow and judged on the spot rather than deliberating and calling in those involved to explain themselves. The refereeing of the race became a theme in part because the rulebook and its application can now be crowdsourced, whereas once it was an official surveying from a motorbike now it’s multichannel TV and social media. But like those unwritten rules the final decision is still internal to the race rather than outsiders. The tension is widened further by the lack of explanation, accounts still differ on why Sagan was ejected, consensus is that it was the elbow in the finishing straight, L’Equipe reported it was for the previous crash but there’s no official account… and no accountable officials.

This brings us to another of the themes of this year’s race: the Counter Factual. Historians enjoy asking if one event or decision had turned out differently what would have happened to the world as a consequence? If it had been dry in Düsseldorf then it would not have been globally significant but what would Alejandro Valverde have done during the race? If Peter Sagan had not been ejected by the commissaires would Team Sunweb’s success only have been half as good? If Richie Porte had not fallen on the descent of the Mont du Chat would Romain Bardet have stood on the podium in Paris, would Chris Froome have won? The point here is not to go down the rabbit hole of speculation, just to note that the final results were shaped as by the actions of those absent in Paris as well as those who made it to Paris. History gets written by the winners but a blog can at least remind us of the losers too.

Indeed the absence of the big teams and their stars was theme this year. Movistar lost Alejandro Valverde on the first day and Nairo Quintana looked as stale as a three day baguette. BMC swapped last year’s two pronged approach for one leader for the Tour only for Richie Porte to go from the form pick to hospital following his crash down the Mont du Chat. This left BMC Racing orphaned and if Damiano Caruso rode to a creditable 11th overall they never weighed on the race much.

Next year’s race will see teams reduced from nine riders to eight. Team Sky did this when Geraint Thomas crashed out on Stage 9 and they still dominated. Christian Knees, Luke Rowe and Vasil Kiryienka towed the peloton across the plains while Mikel Nieve, Mikel Landa and Michał Kwiatkowski took over in the mountains; Sergio Henao didn’t seem as convincing but did his work too. The records will show Froome won but his Polish worker deserves a share of the credit. There is talk of Mikel Landa going to Movistar but why would the world’s wealthiest team let go of such a potent potential rival? Presumably only because another team can guarantee leadership for the grand tours but surely Sky will do their best to retain Landa’s service.

Fabio Aru took a stage and the yellow jersey but fell ill and he still has the look of a dilettante in the Tour, capable of winning the Giro or Vuelta but not yet the Tour. He suffered from the lack of a strong team but Astana never had big plans for July, Aru was supposed to target the Giro until a knee injury changed his plans while injury kept Miguel Ángel López out of the Tour leaving them with a squad padded with Kazakhs yet to make a name for themselves. Jacob Fuglsang crashed out but their time together wasn’t a roaring success, see how the collaborated with Froome on the road to Chambéry rather than picking him off.

Rigoberto Urán made the podium without ever challenging for the win. By some measures he rode the perfect race, never making a mistake and never taking a risk. For others, especially Bardet’s fans in France he was a wheelsucker but they’d do well to remember that Urán’s pursuit of Froome through the Casse Déserte helped tow Bardet onto the podium too. It’s an interesting scenario for Cannondale-Drapac, a huge result for a low budget team. Perhaps it’s one that doesn’t get consumers dreaming of Cannondale bikes but it can certainly reassure and attract much needed new sponsors. He’s only 30 having turned pro as a teenager Urán has led a life unlike many and if you’ve yet to read the interview with him over at Alps and Andes then take a moment to do it. Many pros have come a long way whether Chris Froome from Kikuyu or Yukiya Arashiro from the tiny Pacific island of Ishigaki but few profiles open with a line like “When Rigoberto Urán was only 14 years old, his father was gunned down near Urrao” and it tells how he took over his father’s role as bread earner selling lottery tickets in the street.

Romain Bardet makes the podium again but in a different manner. Last year he needed a coup d’audace, this time it was his coup de pédale as he matched Chris Froome in the mountains and even got the better of him in the two summit finishes albeit by seconds, sometimes just bonus seconds. It’s a result for him and his team, a tricky second album tops the charts. Ag2r La Mondiale as a whole were enterprising and even if they could never go mano a mano – should it be gamba a gamba? – with Sky, they still took up the fight, especially on the descents when nobody else did. If their mountain train didn’t match Sky it was instrumental in derailing Fabio Aru and therefore helping to put Bardet on the podium. Bardet now faces a dilemma, to improve his time trialling at the expense of his climbing. Or does he? From the comfort of a sofa it’s perhaps not so dichotomous, he thinks about a better skinsuit, a more profiled helmet and improved corner lines before worrying about adding bulk to his thighs and bulk that could subtract from his climbing. Plus he was simply ill in Marseille, in Düsseldorf he was matching the likes of Richie Porte.

There was a wide cast of supporting actors. Lilian Calmejane took an impressive stage win made more thrilling by his late cramps. Despite Thibaut Pinot’s fatigue and Julian Alaphilippe’s absence the French had plenty to cheer and Warren Barguil was a home hit, finally confirming his promise with two stage wins and the mountains jersey, a competition whose worth rises and falls but this year finds a fitting winner. Barguil almost had a third stage win but was in tears after being beaten by Urán in Chambery when many others might be satisfied that day with second place and the polka dot jersey but he feared this only meant his luck was still out. Antoine Blondin often wrote “deviens ce que tu es“, the Nietzschean “become who you are” with the open road as a terrain for self-expression. Barguil epitomised this as he did as he pleased and he told the media he won’t race for GC because he can’t sit tight on a mountain stage nor aim to limit his losses in the time trials so his future looks like more stage wins and polka dot jerseys although who’d rule out the Vuelta and Liège-Bastogne-Liège someday too? With a year left on his contract how Team Sunweb combine him, Tom Dumoulin and Michael Matthews is a luxurious dilemma for the small but cohesive and coordinated team.

Alberto Contador attacked but he also crashed and this wasn’t the Tour he aimed for and if his move on the road to Foix helped stir things up the stage was already a boiling pot and on the other stages he wasn’t the catalyst the race needed to get things burning. His final time trial form suggest the Vuelta’s looking good and is due to announce his future soon, probably a Giro-Vuelta double next year.

Michael Matthews inherited the green jersey after his rivals fell away but this was no lucky accident, he’d been hunting for the jersey as evidenced on his Jurassic raid on Stage 9 to reach the intermediate sprint when others could not and if the stage to Rodez had his name on it for a long time his win in Romans was the result of another breakaway with strong backing from his Sunweb team.

Simon Yates took the white jersey in a discreet manner, he and Louis Meintjes were often close to the action but not yet part of it. Dan Martin is another of those counter-factuals because he had Richie Porte fall in front of him down the Mont du Chat and it was minor miracle he only lost a minute a bit plus some skin. Maybe the podium would have been a step too far but a stage win or two were within his grasp. George Bennett didn’t make it to Paris but showed he could climb with the best.

Once again the list of stage winners reads like a who’s who of big names, not a single upstart or plucky underdog although the likes of Wanty-Groupe Gobert and Fortuneo-Oscaro did a fine job of enlivening the race for them the Coubertin aspect of taking part really does count and Yoann Offredo is now more familiar to millions in France after three weeks than years of spring classics. But for many teams this was a hard tour, no wins and little publicity.

Live coverage the entirety of every stage was new and it’ll odd to revert to races that are not shown in full. The advent of the cameras didn’t appear to affect the racing, the utility of going in a early breakaway on a stage set for the sprinters remains as low as ever despite the promise of extra publicity. Still television continues to shape the route and we will see if this continues but as a three week event the Tour, or at least for those who experience it wholly via television, will contain a part that Norwegians call Sakte-TV. The 101km stage from St. Girons to Foix was exciting but equally so was the 187km stage to Les Rousses. We’ll see what the global audience data says but it’s been a success in France, in large part thanks to domestic success but they refreshed the production and the commentary for France Télévisions too.

The Verdict
Chris Froome’s narrowest win when measured by time and it may prove his most satisfying so far, to have been tested and won. But as close as the contest was perhaps this will be his least memorable? It’s too soon to tell but previous wins have seen him deliver summit finish knockout blows and last year saw exploit the descents and crosswinds which won him new fans and some extra time. This time was defensive, close your eyes and try to picture a defining image of Froome this year and it’s hard to recall one, in large part because he missed out on a stage win and the iconography that accompanies this. Instead his rivals fell away, sometimes literally, and as much as Romain Bardet and his team tried to attack the Frenchman could only take metres rather than minutes, even if this was impressive progress by him. For once Froome had several rivals in the mountains including the surprise of Urán but this novelty was quickly banked as Aru faded and the trio of Froome, Bardet and Urán proved inseparable to leave an Alpine stalemate. The riders were on the same level, the course was curated to keep them close. Possibly the likes of Richie Porte and Alejandro Valverde could have unlocked this but we’ll never know. Instead, like Dumoulin in the Giro, the final time trial was an insurance policy tucked in Froome’s back pocket for two weeks. With hindsight Froome could have been beaten on the stage to Peyragudes and to Le Puy but easier said than done attacking the Sky train on a climb as linear as the Peyresourde or going clear on the Peyra Taillade with over 30km to the finish, especially with invaluable riders like Mikel Landa and Michał Kwiatkowski only too eager to work for their leader.

It’s a hypothesis here that the measure of a great tour is how often the yellow jersey changes shoulders and only three riders wore it this year, two of whom looked like they were trying it on for size rather than making plans to wear it in Paris. The contest was closer than ever but still the same result. Froome now has four wins and the fifth looks set to be his hardest challenge.

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weeclarky July 24, 2017 at 2:09 pm

Many thanks for your great coverage as always!

I must say I’ve been enjoying the Eurosport chit chat in the longer stages, and have now finally found a soft spot for Carlton K. My favourite moment was “he sniffed his armpit as he went by”, describing Aru’s cheeky attack.

jc July 24, 2017 at 3:09 pm

I enjoyed all that too. The “competition” for the best field clock was also amusing. I know it is not to everyone’s taste (I am sure the anti Carlton Kirby folk will be out) but it does remind me of Test Match Special, rather than buses in the Harleyford road, gasholders, pigeons and cake there is chateaux, Sean Kelly’s lunch and musings on various bits of European history as the countryside rolls by. Ideal background aural wallpaper

RonDe July 24, 2017 at 3:31 pm

I like Carlton Kirby and make no apology for saying so but I did find that the coverage on Eurosport was enhanced even more by bringing in Rob Hatch as well as a revolving door of co-commentators including Sean Kelly, Brian Smith and Matt Stephens. Very comprehensive. When they went to add breaks I gave Ned Boulting and David Millar a whirl for five minutes. Variety is the spice of life.

Michael B July 24, 2017 at 4:08 pm

I don’t mind Kirby that much but the main annoyance is his fake excitement. I watched yesterday’s stage and he’s screaming with 20km to go that the bunch are struggling to contain the break who had 20 seconds. On the Champs Elysees. 99.9% of people watching Eurosport know it’s going to be pulled back so I don’t know what he thinks his audience is. He does that type of thing all the time, forgetting that people watching cycling on Eurosport are already converts. They don’t need the false and misleading hype. It’s just annoying. On the flip side I quite like his mid-stage ramblings about everything and nothing, I can forgive that, as he has so much airtime to fill and is pretty adept at filling it.

Richard S July 24, 2017 at 4:27 pm

I’ll admit Kirby has his place and was pretty funny at times, I liked him describing Fabio Aru as having a face that could break a thousand mirrors. He seemed to like picking on Aru. I think Kirby is best used in the early and middle parts of stages when there is nothing going on and he can go off on one about various things. Plus somebody has obviously had a word with him about taking about Louis Meintjes, Simon Clark and Edvald Boasson-Hagen a bit less.When the action gets going though he does get over excited and repeats clichés, as well as getting important things muddled up. I tried ITV here and there, David Millar is good but the other guy less so.

I still cant decide what was worse though, the Peter Sagan/Rafal Majka Bora adverts or the various Alpecin ones that involve the Katusha riders. The one with the team talk on the bus is a particular low point.

MonsieurLePompideux July 24, 2017 at 4:45 pm

Don’t tell me you are not a fan of this cooking revolution?

Lab July 24, 2017 at 6:06 pm

Speaking for myself, I love it!

md July 24, 2017 at 8:45 pm

Agreed on the Sagan one. I actually think the Alpecin one is funny. The parody of the manic DS is hilarious. The fact he is more passionate about his riders hair than the race is Pythonesque. I tried an experimental speech to my kids about school grades using his style of rhetoric. Needless to say, it didn’t have the desired effect.

Michael B July 24, 2017 at 7:26 pm

“I think Kirby is best used in the early and middle parts of stages when there is nothing going on and he can go off on one about various things”

That’s a good point actually, Kirby and Kelly for that stage and Rob Hatch/Brian Smith in the final 50km.

RRV July 25, 2017 at 6:01 pm

I am please to see a number of positive comments about Carlton Kirby and the Eurosport coverage. For the last seven years I have suffered from a serious illness which at times has left me unable to function and often reduced me to being housebound. During this time watching cycling has been the only respite I have had. At times, it has felt as if one more mention of “Tel Aviv” or a “cooking wevwolution” would be enough to push me over the edge. But I have survived. A long sprint stage with very little action can be dull enough but imagine having to find something to talk about for hour after hour. Kirby and his colleagues manage to do this whilst remaining entertaining.
The abuse Carlton Kirby recieves, via Twitter, is often appalling. Criticism is one thing but some so called cycling fans should be ashamed. After all it’s only a TV programme.
By the way, Inner Ring has also managed to enhance my enjoyment of cycling racing greatly and is an essential read prior to any race. Keep up the good work

Noel July 25, 2017 at 7:40 pm

Great comment RRV, thanks for that perspective.

Michael B July 30, 2017 at 10:22 pm

Just watched Kristoff win the (pretty dull) London Surrey Classic and Kirby said he’d picked up “the greatest prize in one day racing”. Hahaha. Even by his standards that’s amazing. Is he just on a wind up now?!

Elliott S July 25, 2017 at 2:11 pm

On the topic of commentary I thought ITV had produced an excellent show this year for a UK audience. The mid stage interjection of a variety of guests and talking to team cars, Geriant Thomas etc all added to the coverage. Wish they would extend to cover a Paris Roubaix or a few other races.

Ecky Thump July 25, 2017 at 4:44 pm

+1.
ITV4 are doing the Vuelta highlights.
We’re slowly getting more coverage, we’ve had Giro and and Dauphine highlights too, on freeview television in UK.
The Spring Classics has got to be next, definitely.

I like Eurosport and their Eurosport Player subscription is great value.
But cycling’s spirit is free access to all, and this blog is great proof of that.

Titch July 26, 2017 at 7:25 pm

+1 Millar is excellent and gives fantastic insight. Boulting is ok and the pair work well together. The mid stage interviews with cav, pippa yorke, matt white etc were a breath of fresh air and helped break up the monotony. That said, the highlight of the day for me is the dry cutting wit of Gary Imlach.

Nothing personal against kirby other than the unnecessary shouting but the itv coverage is several leagues above eurosport for me.

Anonymous July 24, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Great analysis, as always! The “time on GC” chart is very revealing of how uncontested this win was for Froome.

Jeff July 25, 2017 at 12:01 am

+1. I particularly like the time on GC chart and think it’s a great visual. Maybe even add a point prior to stage 1 to show the step change after day 1?

Chris J July 24, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Thanks for the outstanding coverage, as always. Picked up a supporter tshirt to add to my jersey, cap and socks.

This tour may not have been a classic – way too many sprint stages for my liking – but there were some really satisfying stories and a great mix of winners. Barguil, Calmejane, EBH – especially after that photo finish. A crazy green jersey contest. Also some truly heroic rides: Kwiato, De Gendt, Bodnar.

Roll on 19 August!

The Inner Ring July 24, 2017 at 3:48 pm

I think the sprint stages would have been enhanced by more competition. Sadly Cavendish went out early, Greipel was off the pace, ditto Kristoff and Groenewegen only found his stride by Paris. We’ve seen similar things in recent years, Cavendish dominated last year, Greipel the year before.

BenW July 24, 2017 at 2:45 pm

re: Contador – “His final time trial form suggest the Vuelta’s looking good and is due to announce his future soon, probably a Giro-Vuelta double next year.”

Based on his recent GT showings (and this Tour in particular) will Contador be going for stages or proper GC? I can’t see him living with anyone in decent nick for GC.

Ecky Thump July 24, 2017 at 7:01 pm

I wouldn’t be so quick to write his sporting obituary just yet.
I wonder about his Tour preparation – did he get it wrong or maybe, all along, he’s aimed at the Vuelta as his last major hurrah?
He’s a wily fox and I suspect, and hope, that he’s on good form in Spain.

Valverde's Knee July 24, 2017 at 10:11 pm

Why are people so reluctant to realise that Contador has simply not got it over 3 weeks anymore? He even struggles over 1 week now and has for the last two seasons with losses even to 2nd string riders like Sergio Henao. He can be as wily as he likes but no legs is still no legs.

irungo txuletak July 25, 2017 at 11:23 am

I hope I prove wrong, but it looks like the end for Kontador. Maybe he needs now more time than before to get in form, and he will be a contender for the Vuelta (he can take the record there), but frankly I am not sure. I think his performances in the last ITT or in the stage to Foix show that he can still have great moments, but that he became highly irregular.
For me the top pick for the Vuelta is without any doubt Froome. In his case I am pretty sure he delayed his peak this year and he will not be short for the 3 weeks of the Vuelta.

gabriele July 25, 2017 at 11:41 am

+1

PaulG July 25, 2017 at 4:38 pm

+1 well that’s three of us who agree…….have to wait until after the Vuelta to see if we are correct.

Christop July 29, 2017 at 2:00 am

Agree that Froome has to be the favorite, absent Dimoulin and on-form Q. Very impressed with Froomes discipline in this Tour and sometimes seems as though hes head and shoulders above other contenders in ability to gauge effort in any one stage as well as comprehensively across 3 weeks of widely varying conditions (as well as team power). The corsa seems short on TT and not as brutally hilly as some other recent ones. I will sorely miss Elder Valverde. Hope Nibali can shine and push Froome, Contador can stir things up, and for big rides by up and comers like Zakarin, Kruijswik, Jungels, Yateses, et al.

Cheers to Mr Innring, another great year of coverage of this sport we love.

jc July 24, 2017 at 2:52 pm

As always thanks for the best cycling site around, it must be a lot of work.

No “moment the race was won”, I guess because there wasnt one particular moment, it felt as if the result was preordained when Geraint Thomas won the TT in Düsseldorf. Sky looked at the course and rode to a strategy to win. It might have not been the most exciting but it was the most effective. I suspect things might have been somewhat different if Chris Froome had been 30 seconds behind going into the Alps. Even when Chris Froome had an off day they managed to hide this from the competition until the last few hundred metres, limiting any losses to a handful of seconds. It was a masterful display of strength and race tactics, though not to the taste of many watching. I suspect similar sentiments were aimed at previous dominant riders & teams.

How long can Chris Froome continue in the vein? I am not convinced about any of the current crop of rivals but I do think Tom Dumoulin is a real threat next year if he can kick on from his Giro victory. However if Sky bring a similar team to this year (personally I think the smaller teams will help not hinder Sky) then it could be an interesting match up, certainly more so than this year.

Mikel Landa clearly lost out on a podium place due to his work for the team. He obviously wants a lead role and that is very unlikely for the Tour at Sky whilst Chris Froome remains. Would he really be better off at Movistar or Astana? There is no doubt about his climbing ability and he is not bad at TTs. However he does seem to lack racing nous, he lost out yet again in the finish at Foix. When you are racing for the strongest team it is a gamble to leave.

Sunweb also have a conundrum. Warren Barguil was arguably the rider of the tour (even if Thomas De Gendt deserved the overall combativity prize). There must now be big pressure for him to lead at the Tour but Sunweb already have a potential Tour winner. Will Warren Barguil leave to further that ambition? Comments during the race say yes but perhaps more sober reflection might lead to other conclusions. As Dan Martin has learnt all out attack might bring many admirers but doesnt actually win much.

Despite all ASO’s efforts the race seemed a bit dull until it left the Pyrenees and the stage into Salon de Provence was pointless. A return to a more “traditional” route would seem appropriate, though the stadium start/finish to the final day TT was a good innovation.

As always thoughts turn to the next race. I suspect Chris Froome has the best chance yet of taking the Vuelta. It seems if his biggest rival might be Alberto Contador, who can still pull off stage wins and be competitive but overall victory? The Yates brothers need to improve their TT skills. Not sure who else is a significant contender?

Matty July 24, 2017 at 3:34 pm

Its quite a conundrum when the attacking Dan Martin ends up 6th and the non-attacking Rigo Uran ends up 2nd. Fans say they want attacking racing rewarded. But how to achieve it?

The Inner Ring July 24, 2017 at 3:50 pm

Dan Martin must rue Porte’s crash, he could have won the stage into Chambéry and would certainly have been higher on GC and healthier to contest other stage wins in the Pyrenees had it not happened.

Augie March July 24, 2017 at 4:46 pm

I’m sure Porte rues it even more 🙂 Seriously though, as you mentioned above it’s almost futile getting into hypotheticals.

DAVE July 24, 2017 at 5:28 pm

+1 loved ITV. +1 Froome will surely win Vuelta with no mishaps. +1 on boredom. +1 on Landa gambling by leaving.

paul July 24, 2017 at 2:52 pm

Looking down the GC is interesting reading, Brice Feillu having a remarkable Tour at 16th on GC

I have really enjoyed this years Tour with Froome not getting it all his own way and the time margins being so low but its easy to forget the very dull sprint days.

I wonder if the full TV coverage will be deemed as a success?

Thanks for the great Coverage INRNG

RonDe July 24, 2017 at 2:58 pm

Is it really any surprise Froome won? We are now post-race and not in the giddy days before a grand tour start when many upstarts are badged up with grand tour winning credentials by people looking at their betting apps. Since Froome first came to prominence in 2011 no one has won more grand tours. No one has a better average finishing position in grand tours in that time frame either. Since he finished 4th in the Vuelta in 2012 he has never finished a grand tour in less than second place. Statistically, Froome is the best grand tour rider of the last 7 years. He has beaten all the other multiple GC winners several times in that time frame but they haven’t all done the same to him. Vincenzo Nibali, for example, has faced Froome 4 times in grand tours from the Vuelta 2011 until now. Froome leads him 3-0 with Nibali’s only consolation that Froome crashed out of the only Tour since 2013 he hasn’t won. Contador and Quintana, the other multiple recent winners, are regularly dispatched by Froome whether they can blame Giro tiredness or not. I mention all this not merely to be a fanboy but to point out that, factually, Froome is the best there is right now and he has been for a while. He has 3 wins out of his last 4 grand tours making this pretty much peak Froome.

So, is it really any surprise Froome won?

Richard S July 24, 2017 at 3:05 pm

Not to anybody who has read your posts for the last 4 weeks or so. I dispute the first part of your penultimate sentence!

RonDe July 24, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Duly noted.

DAVE July 24, 2017 at 3:27 pm

Admittedly though his argument is strong…
Froome has been the best GT rider since 2011 without any shadow of a doubt.
RonDe obvs wants to run Gabriele’s infamous ‘Nibali was the best GT rider 11-14’ into the ground.
And to be honest I agree.

I just want a contest sooner rather than later 🙁

Sincerest thank you to INRNG for a brilliant blog as always.

RonDe July 24, 2017 at 3:37 pm

Nibali is apparently doing the Vuelta. May the best man win. (Assuming Vincenzo isn’t DQ’d for hanging onto the team car!)

Richard S July 24, 2017 at 3:52 pm

I can see both sides of the argument. Froome is the dominant Tour de France (and its preparation races) rider of his era. No doubt about that. But you cant convincingly say he is the out and out best in all of the Grand Tours when he has only won one, repeatedly failed in one and not even entered (since he was a serious contender) the other. I think he might suffer, if suffer is the right word, in this regard because of the British Cycling tactic of concentrating on one event above all others and gearing everything towards that – as with the British track cyclists who are good all the time but massively spectacular every time the Olympics come round. I don’t really know how it works but I suspect that they have it absolutely nailed when it comes to getting Froome in shape for the Tour but that this means he is over the crest of his form when the Vuelta (and Olympics/Worlds) comes round and precludes any involvement at all in the Giro. What I believe Gabriele is saying is that Nibali is superior because his wins in all 3 (as well as success in one day races) shows a greater breadth of talent. What I believe RonDe says is that for those 3 weeks of the year when Froome is at is best nobody can get anywhere near him. What I believe I am saying is that they are both right. Froome still has time to win the Vuelta, maybe this year, and at some point might decide to have a crack at the Giro. If he adds them then the argument can be put to bed.

Ecky Thump July 24, 2017 at 7:09 pm

Interesting reading William Fotheringham’s article in The Guardian on why he thinks Froome will not win another Tour.
His article is based on the fact that Froome did not win a stage this year.

I think Froome rode with *something* to spare, I’m not sure how much but when he really needed it, he got back on after the mechanical when, it was commonly accepted, that no one else would have been able to match the feat.

I think he’ll win the Vuelta too. And another Tour, at least.
He’s got another couple of years grace before the rise of the younger super-TT’ers are ready, I feel, to take over.

RonDe July 24, 2017 at 10:18 pm

Fotheringham’s article is the biggest load of self-refuting tripe I’ve ever read. He is rightly getting slaughtered in the comments for it. Arguing Froome is too old now then raising the idea that Porte and Nibali, both OLDER than Froome, are likely conquerors only makes him look like the bitter anti-Froome writer his literary effluent shows him to be. Porte has yet to post any grand tour podium and Nibali, as I’ve already shown, has received a straightforward spanking in the 3 grand tours they have completed together in the last 7 years. He would have more credibility if his pieces weren’t salted with his obvious distaste at the fact that Froome has barely given him the time of day throughout his career. It clear grates and sours his already bitter coverage.

hoh July 27, 2017 at 8:09 pm

@RonDe

Finally got around to read the Fotheringham article today. The main argument is so full of holes that you felt it has just been barraged by a gatling gun.

But judged by the last paragraph, the article is less an anti-Froome rant than a very clumsy attempt at spicing up expectations for next year’s Tour. The timing of it is just purely awful. It could have been a fun read that provokes different opinion come next June (especially if it then takes into consideration various rider’s performance in early part of the season. Though you can be sure there would be tons of articles like that come next June). But writing it less than 48 hours past the Tour and a very exiting Vuelta still to come? It just doesn’t make any sense.

gabriele July 25, 2017 at 1:22 am

I’m still a bit busy with some photo albums 😉 and I’ve watched little Tour in the last ten days (without much regret, I must say), which means I’m not confident enough to comment about race details.
Yet, I never defended that Nibali was the best GT rider around except for the 2013-2014 couple of years. Contador was clearly the man until 2011 included (somebody might have some problem if they’re watching stats and not races…).
2012 was a complicated one, Purito was quite clearly the strongest guy from a physical POV on the couple of courses which most suited him – yet, he couldn’t win either; the Tour was too ugly and unbalanced to be true – plus, all the podium guys presented evident limits; Contador showed his class with a legendary move in *one* GT, but is that enough (especially since the legs weren’t exactly there)?
From then to 2014, it’s still Nibali, whatever may happen from now to eternity, even if it’s obviously not a dominant superiority.
Just look at the results.
What happened later won’t change much of what happened during that couple of years.
Froome’s merit is having been able to become a better rider. Froome 2016 and 2017 is as different from Froome 2013 and 2014 as Froome “late 2011” was different from everything he showed previously.
Throwing in the mix different samples to create a larger unit which wasn’t there in reality is not a good way to use statistics (I wouldn’t even use such a word).
Just as a “forced” example, using TdF only, but to give a hint of what I mean… “Since Indurain came to prominence in 1990, nobody won as many Tour as him. He had previously beaten 1996 winner Bjarne Riis. Thus, Indurain is the best Tour rider from 1990 to 1996 both included”. Well, I’d say he is from 1991 to 1995.
Uhm, maybe I found a better one with several GTs: “Since Anquetil came to prominence in 1957 to his last victory in 1964, nobody won as many GTs as him. Sooner or later, he beat all the other TdF winners of his time. Hence, Anquetil is the best GT rider from 1957 to 1964 both included”. No, he isn’t – Gaul surely was in 1958 and he probably was in 1959, too. Albeit his 1957 Tour victory was dominant, Anquetil’s golden period was clearly 1960-64.

gabriele July 25, 2017 at 2:12 am

“Since Contador emerged in 2007, nobody won as many GTs as him. Nobody won as many GTs since 2007 to his last GT win in May 2015, either.
He also had beat ‘the all new special’ Froome more often than the other way around (Froome only made it a draw later that July).
In that same period, he won 9 out of 11 GTs he finished.
Statistically speaking, Contador is the best GT rider from July 2007 to May 2015 at least. And, given the quantity of his victories, we could well include the whole 2015 season – even that TdF victory isn’t enough to put Froome on his level, with just a couple of TdFs to sport until that date.
Thus, *statistically speaking* 😉 , Contador is the best GT rider 2007-2015. Froome maybe is 2016-.
But, hey, wait – maybe Dumoulin will start to win big from next year on and in that case we could consider 2017 as his first season of reign – after all his Giro was way better than Froome’s Tour, look to whom he beat!!! That would leave Froome 2015-2016 as a transitional couple of years, like Nibali’s famous 2013-2014!!!”

[please note the inverted commas: I’m just mimicking the kind of figure games RonDe is trying to play]

This would mean forgetting that in 2013 Contador had his worst season ever or that in 2012 he won the Vuelta out of class, not out of legs (which is a merit, but makes things more complicated). Was 2013 just a bad season? Or was 2014-2015 sort of an Indian Summer?

Making statistics created with larger units can be fun, but doesn’t say much about what really happened on the road.

RonDe July 25, 2017 at 11:47 am

Hello Gabriele. I hope you’re having a nice summer. No games intended from me. It was a statement of facts and people can make of it what they will regarding the time frame I highlighted. I am aware you regard Nibali as the best rider from 2013-2014, a very short time frame, but since he hasn’t beaten Froome on the road from Vuelta 2011 until now (the obvious DNF by Froome excepted) I’m not quite sure how valuable such a statement is.

gabriele July 25, 2017 at 12:20 pm

@RonDe
You should add again “on the road in a GT” if you want your sentence to be true.
However, I was replying to DAVE who reported that I defended Nibali to be the best GT rider “2011-2014” which is clearly false, both in the sense that Nibali wasn’t and in that I never said anything like that.
Not only that time frame is short but Nibali’s superiority was *way less* significant than, say, Contador’s ever was. That’s absolutely true. Which doesn’t change the results in that couple of years.

More general judgements about the relevance of a rider should wait the end of the athletes’ career, a moment which has already come (more or less) for Nibali and Contador, not for Froome. The sense of his career will be more manifest when it will be over – he can only improve. All the same, the general sense of his career won’t change what already happened, especially since we’re speaking of a *very changing* athlete, also in recent years, which makes any extrapolation meaningless.
Add to that a peculiar generational situation within which *no* other rider born in the second half of the ’80s (1985-1989) ever won any GT (sorry Andy, you didn’t win it “on the road”), while we’ve got 5 different GT winners from the first half of the 80s and we’ve already got even 3 winners from the 90’s, too. This isn’t to take merits away from Froome, who obviously faced great rivals from two different generations, but it’s a relevant caveat when, again, you try to extrapolate things: age is a huge factor, and we are left checking Froome against riders who’re living the steepest part of their age curve, be it because it’s dropping or because it’s supposedly rising.

In general terms, statements of facts can be well-built or badly so, without stopping being *statements of facts*; when they’re badly built, they tend to bring to wrong conclusions, and people will struggle to notice that, mainly depending on what you left out (the note with which I started this comment is a good example): the series of “factual statements” I reported above about Indurain, Anquetil or Contador show what I mean.
They’re outright statements of facts but if you don’t know more exactly what happened in those historical periods you might consider that the conclusions they bring you to are correct – and they aren’t, far beyond any personal opinion.
Using facts to produce fallacies is a well-studied field.

Jared Kushner July 25, 2017 at 11:10 pm

The world and his dog disagree with you here Gabs.

Froome in top form best GT rider since ’13 hands down. Probs since ’12 if he’d been given the chance. He has 4 TDF’s how he can be a transitional Champ laughable. You’ll never win this argument but it’s good for wind up value on this comments section. Shame you have to use so many words to do it though!

Eskerrik Asko July 26, 2017 at 5:01 am

Dave: Writing your comment in block letters is the least of the unwritten rules you have broken in your comments to this blog entry.
Jared Kushner: No, they don’t. And please take your head out of your ass, learn to read and understand that being factual, convincing and entertaining beats being short, curt and opinionated both in GTs and in classics.
RonDe: In my honest opinion your failure to correct Dave on his July 24 3:27 pm entry showed an elemental lack of class.
Eskerrik Asko: Who do you think you are to make such comments and to judge other commentators? But at least you have the decency not to declare yourself the winner of the argument.

Anyone else looking forward to Tour de Pologne?

DAVE July 26, 2017 at 12:20 pm

Apologies for overstepping @Eskerrik Asko
Love this board love this blog. Will take a leaf for John McCain speech yesterday.

CA July 26, 2017 at 4:54 pm

Eskerrik Asko – haha, great job policing and keeping score and giving a humble position of your own performance haha

Razorback July 24, 2017 at 5:04 pm

+1
just waiting for Gabriele response in 3, 2, 1…

Cepphus Grylle July 24, 2017 at 5:49 pm

Nibali was imperious at the Tour in 2014. Both pre- and post- Froome and Contador crashing out.

DAVE July 24, 2017 at 7:35 pm

Have to admit I thought Fotheringham has been poor this tour, maybe he always has?
That article is just click bait, you can hear in the final paragraph and constant caveats he doesn’t really believe the words. Other times I read and he just seems poorly informed, never as insightful, well research or balanced as INRNG. Don’t really understand why Guardian don’t sack him off and just run INRNG articles… they’d get more and they’d be better! Sorry to be calling for your head Fothers but you’re yesterday’s man.

I would look very silly if Fotheringham turned out to be INRNG…!

I’ve actually found his constant banging on about Sky & doping hard to stomach even if I don’t actually care either way – especially as it’s going to inform a lot of half cycling fans. Have a huge respect for how INRNG has covered the subject and been very careful not to beat it to death and effectively convict Sky through incessant repetition. We all know they’re poor with the press and it’s almost fair to say no smoke without fire, but painting them as Postal MKII is unfair and does a disservice to strides cycling has made since ’09.

Also excited to have Gabriele back soon.
Great post from Richard S. I kind of agree, although do not think podiums are failing. For me Froome would have won ’12 given the chance, likewise ’14 without the crash (but Nibali was fantastic that Tour and fully deserves win) and probably will win a Vuelta and maybe even Giro before retiring. He’s just that good, and being the rider who is unbeatable in peak form for me makes you the best GT rider.

jc July 24, 2017 at 8:05 pm

Agree about Will Fotheringham. Perhaps its because his brother writes for Cycling News he has become obsessed with processology with regard to jiffy bags etc However the article in question does make a valid point. Clearly we will have to wait until next year to find out the answer but at some point, perhaps now, it will be the last Tour Chris Froome will win. What is perhaps more interesting is at what point do Sky start to seriously make “succession” plans? They were very ruthless with Brad Wiggins will they be equally so with Chris Froome?

RonDe July 24, 2017 at 10:23 pm

Of course they will. When Froome loses the Tour he’s dead meat and will be thrown to the wolves. But I suspect Froome himself already knows that.

tedba July 25, 2017 at 3:29 pm

FWIW fotheringham is hanging up his quill and departing the tour after 25+ years.

gabriele July 25, 2017 at 1:25 am

It was a matter of a few hours 😛
I’m afraid I won’t be able to follow up that much – yet, I hope to be really back for the Vuelta, even if this looks like a bad year for GTs.

Ronytominger July 24, 2017 at 7:56 pm

Its hard to deny that we are currently in the froome era, when the guy has won 4 of the last 5 tours. Maybe the sky era. 5 of 6. thats quite exceptional. The questipn now is can he make it to 5 like indurain, merckx or hinault? I dont think he can get 6, the competitors are slowly catching up.

md July 24, 2017 at 9:05 pm

I got the feeling listening to Dave Brailsford’s post tour interview yesterday that he would love to have the crown of most ever Tour wins on his ace rider’s palmares. I think they’ll try for 6. I’m not saying they’ll get them though.

Tovarishch July 25, 2017 at 9:50 am

I think you are right and that is something that will both enhance and damage Froome’s reputation. Concentrating on 6 Tour wins means he will almost certainly never win a Giro (he may give it a go after his 6th) and this year probably gives him the one chance of adding a Vuelta in the same year.

Of course he might want to go for 8 wins to claim outright bragging rights.

DAVE July 24, 2017 at 9:14 pm

(I think they were only ruthless with Wiggins because they had Froome, it was either lose the rider they had just seen had the potential he’s now proved or keep a rider they knew would struggle to defend the tour)

Ecky Thump July 24, 2017 at 3:08 pm

That reads beautifully Inner Ring, like a nice coffee to savour as you sit back in your chair after a long meal.
Thank you very much, as ever, for all your efforts and your daily Tour blogs that arrived silently early and as dependable as the milk man used to deliver to your doorstep.

I was an ITV4 man, and thoroughly enjoyed their coverage.

One addition from my perspective, post Tour; it was a race that ultimately delivered the right results, like it or not.
The strongest rider won yellow.

The strongest team won best team. It was not the Movistar tactical chess game that we’ve seen in past years.

Green was won in adversity by the most versatile rider, and it would have been a nonsense (with respect to the points tinkering) if Kittel had prevailed.

Barguil was the correct winner of the polka dots and combativity. De Gendt may have had a justifiable claim for the latter but Barguil affected the race more.

And Yates’ win was fully deserved.

So, despite much criticism, and tinkering, the parcours and the race delivered all the right outcomes in the end. There will always be controversy of how they were arrived at, but the fact that they did arrive has to be both pleasing for ASO and cycling in general?

routedusud July 24, 2017 at 3:18 pm

The strongest man did win but how can it be that a Colombian rider who sometimes in his career has seemed like a journeyman can basically follow wheels to 2nd in the Tour? And that by only 54 seconds? I can only assume the course had a more constricting effect on the rivals than is being given credit for. At the high pace the race was conducted at (2nd fastest Tour ever so I read) any rider would have need a zillion watts to escape the rest.

Rod July 24, 2017 at 3:54 pm

The same journeyman has finished second in the Giro. Twice.

A big part of this result is not so much who was there but who wasn’t, as mentioned by the INRNG. Porte, Valverde, and a less banged up Martin could have reasonably vaulted over Uran. But that’s like ruing the Tour that Nibali won after so many racers were out of it by the end of the cobbles stage.

DAVE July 24, 2017 at 7:39 pm

Where did you read it was second fastest ever?

Interested to know if that is on account of additional descents? As at times the opening week seemed very slow compared to past years…

Maybe the course was shorter? The could be many reasons…

Ps, journey is very hard on someone who’s finished 2nd twice in the Giro. His a top rider.

routedusud July 24, 2017 at 10:27 pm

There is an account on Twitter run by a Finnish guy @ammattipyoraily who keeps stats on cycling and he published the list.

Charles July 25, 2017 at 9:33 am

I don’t know but I’d imagine the relative lack of total ascent / climbing in the parcour was a major factor in the race to being “fast” and plenty of other factors weather etc. contribute

Ronan July 24, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Would be interesting to see how many KMs (or maybe even metres!) the trio of Froome, Bardet and Uran spent in different groups on the road. Outside of Froome’s brief mechanical mishap on the road to Rodez and the final few hundred metres into Peyregaude, were they ever apart?

Lee Woodhead July 24, 2017 at 3:13 pm

I don’t think you can lessen Nibali’s achievement in the tour just because Froome crashed out, staying upright is a key factor & Nibali won that year with genuine panache (the cobbles, the attack in Sheffield etc)

RonDe July 24, 2017 at 3:20 pm

Froome will never win a panache argument. I was arguing stats not panache to demonstrate a particular point. Nibali’s 2014 win will be judged in its own right by those who want to make an assessment of it.

The Inner Ring July 24, 2017 at 3:51 pm

Perhaps Froome did win some panache arguments last year.

E. Amaro July 24, 2017 at 6:35 pm

Agreed. Going daredevil in the descent, jumping along with Sagan to grab few seconds, running on his feet uphill on Ventoux… Can’t get much better than that.

DAVE July 24, 2017 at 7:42 pm

Yeah, I have to agree, I’ve always though Froome had buckets of panache…

Vs Cobo was incredible…
Up Aix 3 & Ventoux likewise…
Pierre St Martin…
Plus last years descents & wind break…

I’ve always felt he’s the Mansell of cycling – boring on the outside, exciting on the inside!
And Sky make him seem more metronomic than he is.

I love Nibali, Quintana and all those others, just feel like Froome gets hard done by in panache front… as if we have to have something to be negative about and even his fans are willing to compromise on this…

?

Chris J July 25, 2017 at 3:23 pm

“I’ve always felt he’s the Mansell of cycling – boring on the outside, exciting on the inside!
And Sky make him seem more metronomic than he is.”

Agree with this.

I always look at a comparison between Wiggins and Froome.

Wiggins may have been a charismatic interviewee (when he wanted to be, at least), but I always found him boring as a rider – he’d just take time in the TT and then ride defensively.

Froome, on the other hand, isn’t a born raconteur and certainly isn’t elegant on the bike, but he’s an exciting rider and a risk taker. He attacks, takes chances and always looks to exploit opportunities, even if it’s just to gain a few seconds or just prove a point.

So, one is exciting off the bike and boring on it, the other is the opposite. I definitely know which I’d rather watch.

hoh July 24, 2017 at 8:23 pm

Definitely, as well as during his failed attempt to win Dauphine this year.

Redbeard July 24, 2017 at 3:49 pm

Agree on Nibali 2014. Sure, Froome crashing out (probably) made that win possible, but bike handling is part of bike racing. Same this year with Porte and even Valverde. Froome has obviously put in the work to greatly improve his descending and handling, which were weaknesses in 2014 but are now strengths.

hoh July 24, 2017 at 8:26 pm

Not sure Froome showed his weakness in handling in 2014. Him abandoning that year was ultimately due to a silly mistake the previous stage where he broke his wrist. He tried that kind of silliness in the 2015 Vuelta with everybody coming to the very obvious conclusion: you can’t win double Grand Tour with a broken foot.

Nick July 25, 2017 at 11:37 am

Froome’s 2014 crash was more like Dan Martin’s than Porte’s, though, as he was taken out by another rider. Sky’s fault, sure, for not protecting his front wheel, but not really a reflection of his bike handling in quite the same way as the crashes you mention.

gabriele July 25, 2017 at 11:49 am

He showed mediocre or poor handling in other circumstances, anyway. The Vuelta episode named by hoh, for instance (among others). However, he got really better over time, a bit like Pinot did with his descending skills.
Besides, a certain kind of preparation may make the results of your crashes worse, and you need to accept it as a side-effect of being made more effective as a climber.

Paul July 25, 2017 at 11:00 am

There you go – well said

AP July 24, 2017 at 3:19 pm

Could Kwiatkowski theoretically adapt to compete for Yellow or Green? If he could, should he try?

The Inner Ring July 24, 2017 at 3:53 pm

He’s tried before and just come up short, his problem is that he’s good except for the very highest mountain stages. He’s probably the most versatile rider in the peloton alongside Michael Matthews, capable of winning a TT one day, a medium mountain stage the next. He could aim for Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico perhaps, finding those opportunities alongside Henao, Thomas etc etc is hard.

Richard S July 24, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Another rider who needs to leave Sky, like Landa and Thomas. If he had a team built around him in the same way that Sagan does he could aim at short stage races, hilly classics, cobbled classics, whatever category of classic Milano-Sanremo falls into, time trials and top tens – possibly podiums – in Grand Tours. He’s probably the most versatile rider since Laurent Jalabert. He might even be more so due to his success in cobbled races. So the best alrounder since Sean Kelly. If the time trial and road races at Bergen are on hill course he could conceivably win both rainbow jerseys. And people thought I was wrong in saying he shouldn’t be a domestique!

jc July 24, 2017 at 4:37 pm

The problem here for all the riders you mention is where do they go? Who else can pay the salaries and also has the backroom resources that Sky do? I would have thought there is plenty of scope for Michael Kwiatkowski at Sky. He can easily be their leader in the Classics and also some of the one week races. I would also guess that he could focus on GTs in a couple of years if he wishes much the same as Geraint Thomas has. One issue for the future is the smaller GT teams, it becomes harder to build a team with multiple objectives. As we saw with Quick Step and Dan Martin, not having a full team focused on winning the GC can be a real disadvantage

tedba July 24, 2017 at 5:18 pm

+1 for this – as INRNG has pointed out… one less member of Sky’s train does very little to curb their influence… but it does mean that squad will find it harder to support a tilt at more than a single jersey.

P DOG July 24, 2017 at 7:11 pm

He’ won Milan San Remo and Strada Bianchi, second in Amstel Gold and was one second off a stage win in the TDF this year whilst at Sky. He looks like a rider that can win every Monument bar Paris Roubaix and Sky support him fully in those races. He’s paid enormously well, would it be worth his while to sacrifice spring classics to target Paris Nice and ride conservatively to a TDF Top 10?

DAVE July 24, 2017 at 7:44 pm

+1

this is the best comments board of the tour so far – everyone making calm reasoned arguments, all basically nicked off INRNG, but it’s nice to read as don’t we all!

Michael B July 24, 2017 at 7:50 pm

+1 P DOG – The trap is to think that he should try and convert his awesome power into GT contention. It’s an understandable one given his talent but thinking about it properly I’d prefer to see him focus on the Classics. With Valverde coming to the end it opens up LBL and Fleche Walloon considerably too.

I’d rather see him become a legend in the one days than also-ran in the GTs. The Vuelta is probably most suited to his skillset but still, Kwiatkowski versus Martin, Chaves, Alaphilippe, the Yates etc at Lombardia, MSR, LBL, San Sebastian etc is a far more exciting prospect as a fan. Who knows what Sky have in store for him though.

STS July 24, 2017 at 8:41 pm

Maybe, no, make that probably, he just doesn’t want to evolve into a GT rider. To me he comes across more like a rider who loves hard one day races where at some point he can throw all his money on “rouge” and go for it. And while he was already very, very good at that during his years @Quickstep he seems to have further improved now. Having those preferences doesn’t mean though that he doesn’t like to be part of a very strong team united in reaching one goal (with one rider) in a Grand Tour. As a former team sports player before I picked up racing bikes late in my teenage years I found both aspects in road racing very satisfying, pursueing the individual result when the course suited my abilities or working for a team mate who was our favorite for that very race.
There are acutally many professionals who even if it was realistic for them to ride for the GC in GTs would still prefer being able to ride for wins in one day races. I reckon though that it’s hard to communicate that attitude outside of their team’s environment and close friends because in the public eye and therefore also for the sponsors GT racing is regarded as the crown discipline of the sport.
I really think Kwiato likes what he’s doing and is happy with where he’s at. You don’t kill yourself like he did riding a high tempo up some HC climb in the service of someone else if you’re doing it only for the money. Then you could also fake it.

MikeF July 24, 2017 at 9:50 pm

Time trial course at Bergen finishes at the top of Mt Floyen – so I reckon that’s about three times the height gain than for the climb in the TDF Stage 20 Marseille time trial.

Charles July 25, 2017 at 9:48 am

There have been plenty of riders at Sky previously who have left with visions of being GT contenders – Porte, Uran etc. and all have come up short. The grass is rarely greener. Plus he’s supported in plenty of other races. Who are Sky sending for San Sebastián and Lombardy? Surely he’ll get his chance at one of these?

Tovarishch July 25, 2017 at 9:59 am

Nothing from Sky but Procyclingstats have Landa and Moscon for San Sebastian. I wonder if we can read anything into that. Kwiatkowski isn’t down for the Tour of Poland, either.

Titch July 26, 2017 at 7:55 pm

Suppose it depends on his form. Sky do seem to love a decision based on watts. Maybe they’ll go for a dual leader approach with Kwiat & Poels who should be fresh and raring to go? Either way they’re not the worst cards to play!

CA July 24, 2017 at 8:38 pm

I’d rather see Kwiat and Sagan continuing to go head-to-head in Monuments for the next 5-years.

Jeff July 25, 2017 at 12:05 am

+1. I’d love to see that develop more. Kwiat is just such an elegant rider, with a deceptively large engine too. Seeing Sagan’s power and explosiveness go up against Kwiat is a real treat.

Augie March July 24, 2017 at 3:21 pm

I’m no expert but perhaps the first thing Romain Bardet might want to change is the gearing on his TT bike, he was grinding his way up that climb almost stopping while Froome spun up his usual 110rpm in a tiny gear and floated towards the top. He needs to do something because he can’t just rely on the ASO to continually cut down the number of TT kilometres until it gets to zero, even over this distance Froome again proved the value in being an allrounder.

And perhaps there’s little difference between victory number three last year and number four here, but does Froome have anything more to prove at le Tour? I suppose it’s not up to him, the sponsors only care about the TDF so I guess we’ll never see him test his skills in the Giro.

Dan W July 24, 2017 at 3:31 pm

I wonder if Froome will tackle the Giro next year IF he win’s the Vuelta this year? Holding all three GC jerseys so to speak at the same time must be pretty rare and I remember a tweet from Froome earlier in the year mentioning how he’s looking forward to going for the Giro sometime in the future.

Sure, it would make winning the Tour next year much more difficult, if not impossible – but I just wonder how much an immediate fifth Tour means to Froome compared to say holding all 3 Grand Tours at once (albeit not in the same year).

hoh July 24, 2017 at 8:33 pm

Don’t see it happen after he gets his fifth Tour. Most likely he will give it a go after wining a 7th Tour.

hoh July 24, 2017 at 8:34 pm

A 6th I meant.

RonDe July 24, 2017 at 3:48 pm

I have no inside knowledge but I have always had the impression Froome would never do the Giro whilst he thought he could win the Tour. Not only would it be the case Sky would dissuade him from anything which might stop Sky laying the annual golden egg of Tour victory but several times in recent years we have seen very good riders coming from a high Giro showing to collapse, stutter or stagger through France just over a month later. This year Pinot was invisible and Quintana, who had already seemed less than his punchy self in Italy, completely wilted on the vine during the Tour. Not even in the top 10! That’s ruined his grand tour averages. (Making him do 4 grand tours in a row for GC isMovistar madness.) Contador had already foreshadowed that the double was a non-starter in 2015 of course.

Its often pointed out that Froome is no student of cycling history and he already has an obvious attachment to France and a historical one to Spain which is where he career in some ways really started. Italy is the odd one out and you can’t do them all.

Gargatouf July 24, 2017 at 4:00 pm

There was an interview of Bardet, after the first stage I believe, where he was basically saying that he was not interested in improving his TT, so as long as there are riders like Froome or Dumoulin that are extremely strong in the TT, he has no chance of winning. Not too sure why, but apart from FDJ very recently, French teams/riders don’t seem to be interested in the TT.

Can Froome do the Tour-Vuelta double? The race starts in just over 3 weeks no? Seems a very short amount of time to rest and recuperate properly.

Augie March July 24, 2017 at 4:52 pm

@ Dan – I think Froome is interested, but at I suppose he goes where the people who pay his salary tell him to go. Ironically nothing would do more for the Giro’s perception in the UK than Froome announcing it as his next big target, but the corporate mind usually doesn’t think that way, and Sky isn’t like Cannonade where it’s managed by a former racer, it’s run by business people with an eye fixed firmly on the bottom line.

@ Gargatouf – I don’t get either. Why wouldn’t you want to try and win the Tour de France as a Frenchman? I have greatly admired Thibault Pinot’s riding in recent years, and it was obvious he was only focused on the Giro this year, I’m sure he only turned up in July because the sponsors made him – again the same story.

Megi July 24, 2017 at 8:49 pm

Froome is avoiding the mistake that Contador and Quintana have made. His preparation for the Tour this year suggests his plan all along has been the Tour Vuelta double. He appears to have aimed the start of his peak for the last rather than the first week of the Tour and hopes to carry it over to the Vuelta.
Unlike Contador and Quintana he hasn’t mentioned the word “double” until he has got the first part of the double in his bag.
If he is indeed thinking of holding all three GTs at the same time, he won’t mention it unless and until he wins the Vuelta and he’s seen and liked the look of the Giro 2018 course.

Augie March July 24, 2017 at 8:55 pm

Possibly, we’ll wait and see on Froome’s form. And he’s liked the course of the Giro before, this year’s edition looked tailor made for his skill set, so what is holding him back?

RonDe July 24, 2017 at 10:34 pm

I don’t believe any eyelash fluttering Froome does towards the Giro. He knows, and its been shown plenty recently, that the Giro messes up your Tour attempt. Landa isn’t disproof of this. He was way down in GC after his crash. He could pick of mountain stages for the blue jersey. Getting as many yellow jerseys as possible is absolutely Froome’s and Sky’s number one goal. The Vuelta has become a bit of an obsession too since he’s now accumulating 2nd places and is usually not off by much. Sky owe him that one too after 2011 when they took way too long to realise Wiggins was holding him back. The Giro, I think, is firmly number 3 grand tour in the Froome thinking.

Somers July 25, 2017 at 3:25 am

I doubt Froome will do the Giro. He’s does everything he can to avoid the cold, it badly exacerbates his respiratory issues – now he even stays in SA over the european winter.

Anonymous July 24, 2017 at 3:28 pm

thank you as always for providing the best analysis every day.

CARLOS BETANCUR finished in the top 20! xxx

STS July 24, 2017 at 8:44 pm

… when still looking as if he carried an extra 5 kgs in the third week. How do you do that after 2 weeks of stage racing?
I really hope Beta gets his mojo back one not too distant day. Such an interesting rider. And a very different Colombian.

hecbom July 24, 2017 at 4:19 pm

RonDe you forget that Froome was also disqualified for holding on to a motor bike at the 2010 Giro d’ Italia.

Mattgc July 24, 2017 at 7:13 pm

Technically he was disqualified, but had already quit, and was getting a tow up to the feed zone and team car. That it was a police bike he was hanging onto suggests that he probably wasn’t trying to cheat…

DAVE July 24, 2017 at 7:48 pm

Again, great knowledge, this a joy to read!
Tow’s aren’t that bad, part of cycling to an extent, think RonDe is writing with tongue in cheek, Nibali got caught, and it was quite a big error of judgement to go that far but it’s not the worst thing in the world, many have done worse and doubt Froome or the others care that much. He got what he deserved and we move on. He can’t not expect a few jokes about it from time to time if he reads niche english language cycling blogs!

Øystein July 24, 2017 at 4:45 pm

Sakte-TV … excellent reference 🙂

E. Amaro July 24, 2017 at 4:50 pm

It was good to see people attacking and Froome losing seconds here and there… it’s strange, but it looked like Sky still had everything under control from the very start.
Their supporting cast is so strong that they could even afford losing G Thomas and still dominate the race. Kwiatkowski is so versatile that can outsprint Sagan in MSR and be an ultradomestique in the Tour. Landa probably could challenge Froome for the Yellow.

Froome is so strong that he could still win it with a weaker team. But Sky’s roster depth is insane.

Razorback July 24, 2017 at 5:03 pm

@INRNG, one alternative title would be “where the Tour was not lost” and the Rodez stage would rank really high.
The 40sec recovery was probably the most impressive thing Froome did in this tour… it was also a great team effort that I imagine had some effect on the competition.
Once more, great coverage!

JH July 25, 2017 at 12:52 pm

Indeed. If I had to pick one moment, this would be it.

AG2R driving at the front. At the bottom of the climb, exactly the wrong place, after struggling for a bit earlier on. Bike from the key domestique. An incredibly vulnerable moment. Pretty sure that gap had gone out to more than the 54 seconds that separated Froome from Uran.

Definitely a pivotal moment, and an awesome display of strength to make that time back up – considering that AG2R had more people at the front than Froome had helping him back up.

Kjetil July 24, 2017 at 5:07 pm

Thanks for the excellent summary, and of course for the Sakte-TV reference.
I’ve been thinking that this year’s TdF must the most memorable since 2003.

DAVE July 24, 2017 at 9:42 pm

This is a joke right? I think it’s a joke, it’s a good one. Made me laugh and google to check I got it.

INRNG great as always – likewise today’s comment section – enjoying hearing all thoughts, it’s only Kwiat going for Green being the lol-burger!

dyalander July 25, 2017 at 4:51 am

The only thing I remember from 2003 was the battle for the green jersey culminating in Baden Cooke and Robbie McKewen’s final sprint for Green in Paris, with Cooke literally shouldering McKewen aside for the win.

Brian July 25, 2017 at 3:28 pm

I think most will remember Joseba Beloki’s horrible crash while second on GC and the yellow jersey cyclocrossing across a field to jump back in to the lead group chasing down Vinokourov who would take the stage.

Irungo txuletak July 25, 2017 at 8:29 pm

2003 was one of the best Tour ever.
Of course all the top contenders are now to be forgotten, but still, I cannot believe you did not find this race great at that time. Or maybe you didn’t watch the race because you considered everything was a fake, did you?

Andrew July 24, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Team of the race?
It’s hard to look past Sky, winning the yellow jersey and fourth place despite being a key man down early on, and taking the team prize too.
But I’d give the imaginary award to Giant Sunweb: two jerseys, four stage wins and some clever tactics to support those aims. And that after Dumoulin won the Giro! At the very least Barguil and Matthews win Roommates of the Race.
An honourable mention also, to AG2R. How refreshing to see a team – and a French one at that – attack the race and try and make things happen, after years of watching Movistar sit in the wheels to secure second place for Quintana. I was rooting for Bardet and find myself disappointed he came up short.

DAVE July 24, 2017 at 7:49 pm

+1

Othersteve July 24, 2017 at 9:49 pm

I can’t disagree with Andrews choices above. Yet I would suggest that Cannondale did a hell of
a job with the least amount of resources. Dollar/Euro-pound for pound fought above their economic weight.

Thanks INRNG and all for interesting conversation.

Nicolay July 24, 2017 at 6:19 pm

Remeber that Froom had problems with the bike twice

DAVE July 24, 2017 at 9:35 pm

Who has forgotten?

larry g July 24, 2017 at 6:25 pm

+1 ‘History gets written by the winners but a blog can at least remind us of the losers too.’

inrng for the writers’ gc.

Joe Pooblix July 24, 2017 at 6:59 pm

Hindsight is always 20/20. But it was lost on all but a few that Uran lost 51 of his total 54 second deficit on Stage 1 the opening prologue/time trial. that was held in the rain that was on and off affecting riders depending on when they started and how well they stayed upright.

The TdF was won on that day, Although Froome may have lost it on any of the the other stages, he did not, nor did Uran make up any of those seconds in the succeeding stages. The shortest, flatest stage in the TdF, turned out to be the defining one.

Justin July 24, 2017 at 8:54 pm

Uran’s 51 second time loss on stage the stage 1 TT reinforces two themes of the post: (1) It reinforces the theme of the Counter Factual because we can all ask ‘what if’ the commissaires had not changed their ruling at the last minute and made Uran switch to his spare TT bike, which had a different position than his first TT bike. (2) It reinforces the theme of non-accountability of the race officials insofar as the decision to make Uran switch bikes overruled an earlier decision by the race officials to permit him to ride his first bike (this was the narrative of events given by Jonathan Vaughters).

One advantage that Sky enjoyed in this race was that they employed Uran for two years and presumably had access to his training files from that period. Once Uran was identified as the #1 threat to Froome Sky could, with some degree of confidence, plot a tactic for riding tempo in the mountains.

DAVE July 24, 2017 at 9:40 pm

In all honesty… I just don’t get the feeling they were ever that scared of Uran… would be interesting to know if they ever once pulled up his training data during the Tour…

SilverSurfer8 July 24, 2017 at 7:12 pm

The moment the race was won, was on the stage one time trial. While everyone else was being cautious on the rain-soaked roads, Froome saw an opportunity to take time, and he did. Boom, hierarchy established. All he had to do was defend from there on, knowing he had another time trial at the end.

If ASO wants to avoid another Froome dominated Tour, put a TT in the middle of the race, not at the ends. And get back more mountaintop finishes for the climbers that are now on equal footing with him.

DAVE July 24, 2017 at 9:38 pm

@SilverSurfer8

This has been done… he passed the test.
Froome’s won on all terrains and jumped all hoops.
Maybe rather than the anti-Froome route bias it’s time to put pressure on his rivals and see if it brings them out swinging?

RonDe July 25, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Instead of trying to manipulate the course to trip up Froome why don’t his competition actually try and make themselves better all round bike riders? Bardet, for example, shows an almost public disdain for time trialling. Has it ever occurred to him this might be why he loses the Tour de France?

ErnieC July 28, 2017 at 7:27 am

Even if they did become better all round bike riders, there is still the problem of team sky and their budget to overcome no?

OL July 24, 2017 at 8:34 pm

“This time was defensive, close your eyes and try to picture a defining image of Froome this year and it’s hard to recall one”

To me the defining image of Froome this year is of one arm in the air, looking backwards for the team car.

Thanks for the (always) great coverage INRNG!

CA July 24, 2017 at 8:42 pm

Froome was definitely very good this year, but I’m on record saying he may have peaked.

Fact: Nobody who wasn’t loaded on EPO has won their 5th TdF past the age of 32.

In my mind, Froome’s biggest competition are all entering their optimal age window (ages 27-32) therefore next year Froome will have better competition. This in combination with his aging body will make it difficult for him.

steve carnie July 26, 2017 at 5:24 pm

Could Froome’s late start push his optimal age on a bit?

CA July 26, 2017 at 5:44 pm

I think the late/slow start might reduce the chances of overuse injury (less mileage on his body, joints, etc.), but nothing (other than advanced doping techniques) can really slow the aging process.

Look at recent TdFs, the only riders to win it beyond age-32 was Carlos Sastre, Cadel Evans and Lance.

Carlos Sastre, in my opinion, won because Contador wasn’t allowed to start (Astana was not allowed). Contador clearly was strongest GT rider that year – he won Giro and Vuelta

Cadel Evans won because Contador focused on the Giro that year to pre-empt his suspension.

Lance won (on the road at least) because he was loaded on EPO and other illegal methods to stay powerful.

Aging really has an effect on someone’s top-end power and explosiveness, and there’s nothing legal you can do to mitigate this. I suspect the rhetoric that Froome was saving form for the Vuelta this year was a smokescreen for not being in the best form in the Tour build-up…. potential signs that father-time is catching up with this 32-year old young father (parenthood might have similar effects! when he’s home how many full sleeps does he get and when on the road, how much does he miss his family?? Potentially a lot, he seems like a very grounded person).

md July 24, 2017 at 9:06 pm

Many thanks @Inrng. Excellent.

Philip July 24, 2017 at 9:33 pm

Just to say thanks for another tdf of great blogging!

Michael July 24, 2017 at 10:15 pm

Interesting to think back to the Froome-Wiggins scenario… when Wiggins was the best time trialist, and Froome was the best climber. The following year for the mountainous Tour, Sky backed Froome. Since then Froome has proved the best as adapting to whatever route is put before him. Most everyone else he has been competing against fit into niches of climbers or time trialers.

Contador used to be able to break out of those niches, but he has been past his best or fatigued the past couple July’s. Domoulin is beginning to break out of his, hopefully that will continue. Porte is decent in both, and hopefully he can raise his game, while hopefully others like Bardet, Barguil, Pinot, Quintana, Aru, Nibali, Yates, et al address their weaknesses.

Hope to see a good contest next year!

Razorback July 24, 2017 at 10:30 pm

Quick fact: 8 teams used Shimano this tour and they won all stages and all jerseys… quite impressive marketing!

Max July 25, 2017 at 12:13 am

Booo…😉

DJW July 25, 2017 at 7:55 am

You might not like the ubiquity of the S brand but having ridden the expensive rival, Campag Record, through the seventies and crashed due to a failed crank arm (directly due to poor design and manufacture, and later found to be one of hundreds of similar failures) I can excuse lack of variety if reliability is the result.

ErnieC July 25, 2017 at 4:43 am

So much for winning with panache….😉

PaulG July 25, 2017 at 9:21 am

Campagnolo makes beautiful things that work….Shimano makes things that work beautifully……

Michael B July 25, 2017 at 11:04 am

I think Shimano’s ubiquity is down to market power, rather than any significant sporting advantage. I’ve used Campag and Shimano stuff (although never the highest tier!) and would imagine Shimano Dura Ace, Campag Super Record and SRAM Red all work beautifully. Even the weight differences are irrelevant now with the 6.8kg limit and use of ballast etc to make it. Campag does look best though, it’s just a shame their teams (Lotto-Soudal, Movistar, UAE) have had a nightmare at this year’s Tour!

Nick July 25, 2017 at 11:54 am

Actually 17 teams used Shimano, so a bit less of a surprise that they took everything.

Jimmy July 25, 2017 at 1:55 pm

And just from memory at least 11 teams won stages, possibly one or two more

Max July 25, 2017 at 12:15 am

Mr Inrng.
Five chainrings!

BigSigh July 25, 2017 at 7:23 am

Just to add my note of thanks Inrng for this blog, the TdF daily profiles of course but also everything else throughout the year.

Call Me Jane July 25, 2017 at 8:03 am

Has anyone ever won the Tour without not just winning a single stage but not winning a single race all season?

The Inner Ring July 25, 2017 at 9:23 am

Greg LeMond in 1990 I think

DAVE July 25, 2017 at 10:13 am

Fothers leaving Guardian. Feel guilty now.

RonDe July 25, 2017 at 12:08 pm

He’s leaving reporting on the Tour full time. I dare say Guardian readers may still have to suffer from time to time.

MMAOHara July 25, 2017 at 10:58 pm

I have only started reading his reports of the tour this year but I thought they were poor. Will he really be a loss to the Guardian? Actually I thought all of the Guardians coverage was rubbish. I’m glad I found this site.

Joe K. July 25, 2017 at 10:20 am

Now with the Tour over, and the Vuelta coming in just three weeks, I’m already feeling the beginning of the end of the 2017 season post-partem blues. But bring it on anyway, baby! Too bad Dumoulin has opted out of the Vuelta. It could’a been a nice preview of what’s to come next year at the Tour. Go! Go! Froomey! Vai! Vai!

Andy W July 25, 2017 at 12:48 pm

“…even if they could never go mano a mano – should it be gamba a gamba? – with Sky”

I’ve always thought of ‘mano a mano’ meaning ‘hand to hand’ in Spanish rather than Italian

‘gamba a gamba’ means ‘leg to leg’ in Italian, but ‘prawn to prawn’ in Spanish !

:o)

RQS July 25, 2017 at 2:36 pm

I think all the criticism of the Sky team is a little harsh. They evaluated the course and their skill set and maximised their gains accordingly.

The course was set out to try to disrupt their ability to win, and presented their closest opponents with chances to win. In the end they just couldn’t match Sky/Froome.

I think that either Froome has lost a bit of his top end power, or else he has changed riding to better suit the challenges he faced, but it is clear that, as in the Dauphine, he did not have the ability to match the accelerations of the best climbers. This maybe the beginning of the end for Froome’s TdF domination. It will be interesting to see if he has anything in the bag for the vertical shocks that await him in the Vuelta.

Chris July 25, 2017 at 4:34 pm

I disagree, i think his power has been improved – i mean – specific for time trial. He will gain more time against the clock, than the current “format” / “approach” how the front group rides MTFs with a high pace tempo and attacks in final 2-3kms. This equates to looking less dominant in the mountains, without a massive kick/acceleration, but it doesn’t matter – while Bardet can chip off the front for 10-20s… he will lose minutes (even in short format) time trials.

If Dumoulin announces a shot at the Tour, i’m very curious how the route will look like. Froome has not had a rival who is his equal against the clock. Dumoulin can possibly beat Froome in the time trial, and as per the Giro, has the required tools to defend himself in the mountains too.

Tovarishch July 25, 2017 at 7:27 pm

Interesting thought. Sky knew, that despite the low TT mileage, this is where they had most opportunity to gain time, especially given the opposition. Perhaps, Froome’s training was more geared to this than mountain performance. Will pay back in the Vuelta as well.

Titch July 26, 2017 at 8:06 pm

Would be ironic if the anti froome route conspiracy turned full circle to increase tt km’s.

Personally i’d like to see plenty of tt’s, plenty summit finishes, a few descents to spice it up and maybe even a cobblestone or 2 & may the best all round rider win.

Ian July 25, 2017 at 3:16 pm

Many thanks as always for the blog and the (mostly) intelligent and good natured below the line comment that adds hugely to my enjoyment of following the sport.

Ignorant question from me re: Thomas de Gendt – to my untrained eye he’s a Belgian, riding for a Belgian team who seems to have limitless stamina, can ride most people off his wheel and get up climbs. Why does he not seem to feature in the classics ?

DAVE July 25, 2017 at 3:42 pm

Decent shout. He seems better than what he’s achieved. The Stelvio climb a few years back was incredible.

Richard S July 25, 2017 at 4:24 pm

Rumour has it he doesn’t like riding in the bunch, hence his omni-presence in breaks. Bunch savvy and bike handling are the most important skills (as well as massive strength and stamina) to have in the classics in order to be at the front for all those sharp turns onto narrow climbs, or you risk getting caught behind all sorts of shenanigans.

One Man Grupetto July 25, 2017 at 4:31 pm

It’s a very good question. Not only because of the points you make but he also rides the Belgian Classics roads all the time in training as that is where he lives. Knows them like the back of his hands.
However, the answer lies in part of the reason he loves to get in breakaways. He hates battling for position and riding near the front of the peleton all day. Essentially that’s really where you want to be if you want to win Classics, to be in the right position at the bottom of the key climbs, to spot the key move forming. That’s why he doesn’t go for them. (Not my own conjecture, this was from a printed interview with him a year or two back).

Dan Connelly July 25, 2017 at 4:51 pm

First, with the US self-destructing I’ve had a really hard time caring about bike racing this year. But then I found myself in the Pyrenees for stages 12-13 so was reminded what a great thing the Tour was….

Thanks for the great ongoing coverage, as always!

I’ve seen a lot of analysis of how the Tour should have been engineered to be better. The fundamental issue is simply that Sky is too strong. It doesn’t matter what you do, if the goal is the strongest rider with the strongest team wins, then you’re going to get the result you got. If you want more competitive balance you’ve got to do something on the financial side, like salary caps or “taxes” redistributed to other teams. More time trials, less. More dirt, less. More time trials, less. Mountains late, mountains early. Sky adapts, Froome adapts, and the race is won again and again.

CA July 25, 2017 at 5:04 pm

Dan Connelly – EXACTLY.

The strongest rider and his team will always adapt to the course. Sky, Postal/Discovery, Renault, La Vie Claire, Reynolds, Faema/Molemi, etc.

People think that it would be more exciting if Tour went the same way as the Vuelta citing Froome’s loss at Vuelta. But, he was toast at that point, similar to Quintana this year being toast during his second GT.

DAVE July 25, 2017 at 6:51 pm

*(Q had ridden Tour also last year. Froome also rode well fought hard, he was beaten fair and square but as Q and Movistar acknowledge, the tactical fumble was the big changer.)

nsb July 25, 2017 at 8:43 pm

Great website, great coverage, fantastic analysis. inrng.com is even better than TDF itself. There’s more emotions in articles than in racing. Just think about it: 21 days of racing and only 3 top finishes. So why 3 weeks? It lasted one week too long at least. Let’s compare it to Dauphine L. with great racing, emotions, attacks. Another thing, catenaccio of SKY – it slowly kills racing….

Chris W July 26, 2017 at 1:49 pm

Many thanks. Another tour in the company of an informed and insightful commentator, plus various other perspectives. A pleasure.

gabriele July 26, 2017 at 2:19 pm

@Jared Kushner
Feel assured that the world and his dogs you refer to is a minority of cycling fans (and dog fans), quite much affected by the media environment they’re living in.
Supposing that Froome was the best GT rider in 2013-2014 + *probably* 2012 implies to extrapolate a good lot, since few facts are actually there.
You need to imagine him being better than he actually was on the road in Vueta 2014 (“in top form”, you say), plus to imagine him riding on *to victory* in the 2014 Tour (after having looked not convincing in previous races and not that supported by his own team at the TdF), not to speak of dreaming of him beating Wiggins and the rest if he had the responsibility of a captain, the need to go deep and whatever else is needed in 2012.
A lot of phantasy and a single GT victory (against a debutant, albeit hugely talented) over the three years you name.

Extrapolation can be valid under certain circumstances, but in this case it’s an especially poor tool: Froome isn’t a rider with a minimally steady profile (riders very rarely are, but Froome is a notable case in terms of changing is qualities in a matter of few months – if anything, he got better year after year from many POVs, which means that you can’t easily extrapolate success backwards). The age factor of the 1985-1989 generation I stressed above is another element which makes extrapolation especially dubious. I could add that 2017 and 2013 have the youngest top tens of the last ten years.

I understand that this kind of reasoning goes beyond the way some sport fans are used to make their minds up (which is way more similar to mythical thought), and I’d generally avoid to insist anymore on the subject. I did it above because I was expressely named and with some factual modification of my reported opinions.
As you’re doing in your post, by the way: my comment about Froome being transitional between Contador and Dumoulin, in inverted commas, went together with a note which made it clear that it was an example of “bad use” of extrapolation and imagination, that is, an example of the *wrong conclusions* you can be led to if you try to use “facts” forcing time frames and extrapolating what did not happen. It belongs to a series about Indurain and Anquetil, all of them ab absurdo.

CA July 26, 2017 at 5:03 pm

Gabriele – although I vehemently disagree with everything the real jared kushner says, does, thinks and pity him for who he has to spend Christmas holidays with… I must admit he’s correct about Froome.

Contador won the 2015 Giro but can you really say that if he focused 100% on the TdF that he would have beat Froome? I don’t think at that point, that his peak form was good enough to contend with Froome. In fact, I would say that the last year that Contador was the absolute best GT rider was 2011 (I still count the 2011 Giro and 5th at TdF as his). If he only did the 2011 TdF I think he would have won. In a way he was robbed of 2012 because of his suspension.

I think your argument doesn’t really explain why Contador was the best GT rider until 2015, but I think you’re really reaching to say that Contador was the best GT rider for those years. You don’t state how he had the best peak form in those years. His reign was 2007-2011, since then he always lacked a bit of top end form.

gabriele July 26, 2017 at 6:04 pm

@CA
I guess that my linguistic limits are becoming an actual problem.
I must ask you an effort to overcome my lack of fluency in order to try and read carefully the last paragraph of the post you’re answering to:

“my comment about Froome being transitional between Contador and Dumoulin, in inverted commas, went together with a note which made it clear that it was an example of ‘bad use’ of extrapolation and imagination, that is, an example of the *wrong conclusions* you can be led to if you try to use ‘facts’ forcing time frames and extrapolating what did not happen. It belongs to a series about Indurain and Anquetil, all of them ab absurdo”.

Instead, if you read what I was writing above without using any inverted commas (which I used in that occasion to mark “mock discourse”), you’ll notice that I *don’t* actually think that Contador was the best rider until 2015 – I just show how some curiously built statistics can end up showing something which wasn’t there on the road.
Same as Indurain, whom I think was dominant from 1991 to 1995 and *not* (obviously enough) from 1990 to 1996, albeit you can build some stats which may confund whomever didn’t follow those races. Anquetil was an even better example: he was impressive in 1957, but he really was the GT top dog in 1960-1964, while Gaul was in 1958 (no doubt) and I’d add 1959, too.
And same as Froome, who’s been quite steadily dominant (even when he apparently hadn’t the best legs on the course – which is a merit, for me) since 2015 – but far from being such during those previous years, despite the impression generated by the 2013 Tour.
The fact that, unlike Quintana, Contador or the *old* Nibali (until 2013), the ‘new’ Froome rarely tested himself out of his usual hunting grounds makes his stats better but at the same time makes his profile pretty weaker if you seriously want to judge his “potential” or “theoretical” performance. Again, harder than usual to extrapolate.

Anyway, I even wrote above that Contador was the best GT man until 2011, it’s still there to be read ^__^
2012 is about Purito’s legs or Contador’s class – the margin would be very tight in every case.
I don’t even think that it’s as easy and obvious to name Nibali for 2013 and 2014 as it is in Contador’s case until 2011 or in Froome’s since 2016 – and probably 2015, too.
Not at all. Yet, I’d say that he’d win that photofinish, especially if we speak results-wise and about “GTs” (plural). I could add that performance-wise (mere figures, but it’s still an element more) Nibali was *generally* more impressive than Froome in that couple of years – even when he lost the Vuelta to Horner (who put in monstre values, rarely equalled by anyone in this era).

However, I don’t consider such a debate to be very serious: to start with, when people obsessed with “whom you beat” (their mantra), irrespective of physical conditions, decide to ignore that supposed key factor when it means that in late 2014 Froome was still being beat, and clearly enough, by Contador. I’d also bet that a lot of them changed their mind about Urán 😉

It’s pretty much manifest that there’s little interest about establishing a plausible historical interpretation and a lot of desire to cast present over past.

CA July 26, 2017 at 6:35 pm

Gabriele – great, thanks for the explanation! I must say I did miss some of your responses – so didn’t see all of the points that you made in other replies! Although I have to say I really really wish I could read in detail all the comments on this blog rather than the accounting work I’ve had to push through these past few weeks!

Thanks for clarifying your position, I also must admit that there was a lost in translation moment when I read your post, and now I see your point. It does make sense to me now too.

I’m really interested to see how 2018 goes for the GT riders, I really think it could be a transitional year, with anywhere up to 10 riders emerging at or close to Froome’s level!

gabriele July 26, 2017 at 7:52 pm

I haven’t read much, either.
I think that the Vuelta will be an interesting benchmark to discover if Froome changed his prep to get a shot to the minor double or if he’s actually short on physical superiority as he looked at the Tour.
I must confess that I really can’t say what’s the most probable option, both would justify the results shown until now.

I agree with what you say about the next future: it’s not only about Froome but also about his rivals – it seems that the top age for the Tour is presently around 29-30 (average age of the winner in the last 10 years being 30.5 – although we must take into consideration that we had a couple of peculiar late winners, Evans and Sastre; average age of 10 years of top tens being 29.5) which means that we might still need one season or two to get over the “lost generation” effect.

However let me add that on a balanced TdF course it’s just fair that a balanced rider like Froome gets the upper hand over climby rivals, albeit all of them very classy, like Bardet, Aru, Quintana, Yates, D. Martin, Meintjes, Barguil… in a short ITT at the end of a GT and which also includes a climb, at least a stage top 20-25 should be required for a serious GT contender and I don’t know if any of the previously named actually got it.
They’d need a good deal of strategy and alliances to corner him, and that’s always hard to put into effect in cycling, especially against an überteam.
I struggle to remember such a lack of TT prowess in a TdF final top ten, and, unlike (say) 2015, it wasn’t due to the course but to the characteristics of the startlist.

Once again, the course of the TdF sadly confirmed most of the pre-race forecasts. Which means that I mainly hope for better courses in 2018.
Despite the riders-make-race truism, the fact that one could predict quite much the nature of racing watching the course alone is quite telling and not a good sign. Both at the Giro and at the Tour (however, I liked best the Giro once more).
I must say that on paper this year’s Vuelta looks more interesting than previous editions, although within its usual characteristics’ range. Hoping for at least one great GT, I hadn’t been this disappointed by the first two of them since 2012 (which at this point was worse, all in all, than this year).

CA July 26, 2017 at 10:58 pm

Agreed on the aging topic, I posted a bit earlier about older Tour winners in recent memory.

By my calculations, only 3 won the Tour after the age of 32 – Sastre, Evans and Lance (he won on the road – let’s just leave it at that). To get Lance out of the way, he only won (by beating a youthful Basso both times plus Kloden) because he had been training for more years on hard PEDs and that the PED usage is the only reason he was able to stay that strong post age 32.

Sastre won in large part because Contador wasn’t allowed to compete (Astana was barred). I think we can all agree that Contador could have dusted Sastre and the Schlecks. Then, if Contador wasn’t there, Sastre only beat the Schlecks because CSC was so strong that team tactics on the road let Sastre slip away. If Sastre didn’t win, Schleck would have won (and he was much younger than 32).

Evans won because once again, the younger Contador wasn’t there.

Obviously I’m simplifying things and trying not to take anything away from Evans and Sastre’s victories (or from Lance’s, he doesn’t need my help downgrading his wins, haha), but it doesn’t take a genius to see that after a certain age, winning the Tour is a tall task!

Nick July 27, 2017 at 12:38 pm

@Gabriele, so far as the final ITT was concerned, Barguil managed 19th (with some time to wave at the crowds), and Aru 22nd. If you consider him one of Froome’s climby rivals, Landa also got 15th. Otherwise, most of the top 10 were some way down, the best GC rider other than Froome being, funnily enough, Contador.

gabriele July 27, 2017 at 1:20 pm

@Nick
Thank you, I didn’t check before writing. Well, all in all that was an acceptable performance by Aru and Barguil, although still on the lower side of the range. However, what you say about Contador is really telling: despite his current potential, which isn’t the same as years ago, he’s still up there.
Maybe because of pure chance or because some other factor, there are few all-around GT riders; many of the most talented (especially at this Tour, but also in general terms) look climbing oriented: in that sense, it’s just fair in sporting terms that a balanced profile like Froome’s prevails, even more so at the Tour.
Landa is a whole different subject, that’s why I didn’t include him. He could easily be a top favourite for any GT if it was only about legs.
Anyway, I won’t complain about a certain abundance of climby riders, that’s sure, especially if they’re supposedly inclined to attack, as is the case for most of them (even if it wasn’t that apparent in this Tour).

Razorback July 26, 2017 at 9:35 pm

I think @INRNG should have a post specifically about who was better in 13-14… this is probably the most recurring topic of this blog! 😉
Lost count of how many arguments we had about it, but my pov is still the same:
– 13: indeed Nibali had a great year winning Tirreno, Trentino, Giro., but, (and this is a great but) he only competed vs Froome, Quintana or Contador at Tirreno (and won with a nice attack under the rain). Froome won Creterium, Dauphine, Romandie and the TdF (plus Oman! ;)) vs Contador and Quintana. So my vote goes to Froome
– 14: is a hard year to evaluate. Nibali had a shity year up to the Tour. Terrible results in Paris-Nice, Romandie Dauphine, but was leading the Tour when Froome and Contador abandoned. Both Froome and Contador had previous good results in the year (Tirreno and Pais Vasco for Contador, Oman and Romandie for Froome). So if we see all results from 14, Contador has actually the best palmares (plus Vuelta later that year) . Contador raced 8 stage races (Algrave, tirreno, Catalunia, Pais Vasco, TdF, Dauphine, Vuelta) and was 1st or 2nd in 7 out of 8. Nibali had just one podium at the Tour. Said that, my vote goes for Contador in 14.

I think Nibali had a magic moment in first semester of 13, would be good to see him competing at a GT vs the biggest of his generation, but that didnt happened.

gabriele July 26, 2017 at 10:06 pm

Obviously, we’re speaking of GTs. If we were speaking of stage racing in general, Froome – pretty much ‘any’ Froome – would struggle to be a force on the level of Contador, Quintana, Valverde (as would Nibali, given his attitude from 2014 on). 2017 included.
The two things can go together or can be quite much split – as they often are, which is why you can’t determine one through the other.

Just as a side note, Romandie and even more so Oman – not to speak of Criterium (2 days!) – aren’t on the same level of Tirreno, Catalunya, País Vasco. It’s a bit laughable to throw all them in the same mix.
Romandie is probably comparable to Trentino.
The Dauphiné would deserve a whole different debate, but it shouldn’t ever be forgotten that unlike the other big ones, it’s a race whose GC men aren’t often that interested to win. It’s an entertaining race and our host loves it, but its sporting value is a whole different business.
Again, this is just a side note, the main point being that some GT men aren’t performing correspondingly in shorter stage race, or even renounce racing (is that really better than participating with a modest form and getting a top ten anyway?). This year, think Aru, besides Froome and Nibali, or S. Yates, or Barguil (the last two both with just *one* short stage race with effective form before the Tour). A prep choice, not a prove of your GT level.

Richard S July 27, 2017 at 10:12 am

Yeah Horner…. that seemed weird at the time and looks even more so now! When you say he put out ‘monster’ values are we talking about watts or just his times up the climbs? I don’t suppose he published his watts? I’d be interested to read about his performance in that race.

gabriele July 27, 2017 at 1:37 pm

W/kg can be reasonably calculated, also with the help of the data of several riders who publish their Strava files and can be used to adjust the results to real life racing conditions. Various sport scientists and some famous Twitter accounts 😉 make the results available.

On 18-25 minutes climb (6 out of 7 climbs at that Vuelta), Horner consistently produced a level of performance (W/kg) which has practically never been matched by the other top contenders in GTs at the time or since, on comparable climbs (Contador barely did it once on a <20' climb in Vuelta 2014 and Froome made it just once, in 2013 TdF).

Tomski July 24, 2017 at 9:20 pm

I think Froome had plenty to spare this year and had eyes on the Vuelta. His ride after his wheel broke was probably the moment the race was won.

Movistar seem in disarray (I noted your reply the other day RonDe) and the addition of Landa will throw another spanner in the who attacks out of Landa, Valverde or Quintana conundrum.

Lastly one only has to look at who Sky left out of their team this year (for whatever reason) to see Froome won’t be lacking in team mates next year.

One could choose a whole second team including Poels, Elissonde (who’s won on the Angliru), Stannard, Lopez that are the equal of those at Froome’s disposal this time round.

Chris July 25, 2017 at 4:30 pm

I was about to write that the summary doesn’t include a moment the race was won! However i agree with you Tomski, that it was the 10-20mins after the wheel broke that won the Tour for Froome.

– he managed while burning up Nieve, Kwiat, Kiri to get back to the lead group
– Landa was compliant to come back and bring him up the last 1-200m
– Bardet / Uran / Aru did not use the opportunity to attack – deterred by the 30km to go from the top of the climb? Deciding to ride the tempo set by the AG2r domestiques was OK.. but in hindsight, with Froome isolated near the top of the climb, desperately trying to get across alone once Nieve had finished his turn… it was time to test if SKY would let Landa mark an attack, or stick to Plan A.
Opportunity missed unfortunately.

CA July 25, 2017 at 4:41 pm

Froome looked pretty gassed in certain situations. The Tomorrow Never Dies finale climb he didn’t have the power to shift to a higher gear, and earlier on that climb he was labouring to stay with his leadout.

Didn’t seem to have the power to do his normal high cadence attack at any point in the mountains.

Junker July 26, 2017 at 10:24 pm

Jesus – none of you would survive in the peloton – he only said like three words in caps, and the opinions above are fair enough – lighten up… guess it was enough to be zapped so I won’t be raising my voice any time soon! Love Gabriel but he does kinda hog this board when he’s posting (I’m braced for cover, they’re good posts, even if he’s sometimes as flexible with the facts as everyone else!) Great blog, pleasure reading through Tour INRNG. Viva La Vuelta, little interest in Poland though.

Richard S July 24, 2017 at 8:06 pm

Sagan isn’t going to win the Tour and he doesn’t prioritise it but he still gets the team all in for him. Kwiatkowski in his way is as good as Sagan, he just has less hair and not as brash a social media presence. I’m not saying he should focus on Grand Tours. But if the parcours suited, like this year, and the team was all in for him he could be top 5, light up the race, win stages and make things happen. As a domestique that won’t happen. Who would pay him to do this I don’t know. If Aru goes to UAE Astana have Luis Leon Sanchez stage hunting and pretty much nothing else! Maybe he’d fit in there? Thinking out loud.

hoh July 24, 2017 at 8:30 pm

Well, maybe Sky would get so rediculously strong that they can support him on Green as well as Froome on Yellow. Is there any points at all on high finishes on MTF at Tour?

Prince Hal July 25, 2017 at 12:05 am

This wish is father to the thought.

DAVE July 24, 2017 at 9:37 pm

Sorry, Kwiat is not going to win green.

hoh July 25, 2017 at 7:43 pm

Agree. He’s too weak on out & out sprint.

Richard S July 24, 2017 at 9:14 pm

You are missing my point. He has concentrated on one day races this year and was still one of the strongest riders at the Tour. Riding for himself this year he could’ve done well. I’m not arguing that he should ditch one dayers for grinding out a top 10 ‘a la Meintjes’. I’m not saying he doesn’t enjoy it either, not knowing him personally I can’t comment.

barry July 25, 2017 at 6:12 pm

not sure when Meintjes ditched “one day” races…… always been a top 10 (ish) GC guy apart from a few attempts at LBL.

anyway everyone know Kwiatkowski is a classy rider, capable of a team leader role in probably all but one or two of the classics/monuments and if he wanted to be…. a very very good 1 week stage racer but, a GT 3 week guy …. nah I don’t think so.

Chris July 26, 2017 at 1:34 am

The development of Meintjes is really a curious one.

Other guys who are aiming for top 10 at the Tour in recent past, someone like Talansky, is usually quite visible in the week long WT races leading up to the main event. lampre/UAE seem to have taken a different approach… keeping expectations low (no pressure to prove a point in a short hilly stage race), yet seemingly getting more success than other Gc hopefuls who have opted to be proactive in build up events.

Not mentioning his style of riding (at the back a la Adam Yates/Evans), he had a couple of accelerations in the alps that distanced Simon Yates on the climbing stages. I wonder if as he gets older the pressure to be more proactive will increase.

Ronytominger July 26, 2017 at 8:02 pm

Its landas home race pf cpurse he will take part

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