Tour de France Stage 12 Preview

Thursday, 13 July 2017

The race heads into the Pyrenees via a series of hard climbs ending in an even harder finish. This is a long day for the riders and even for television viewers with over six hours of racing ahead.

Stage 11 Review: Kittel won. As tempting as it is to leave it at that, let’s note some more points quickly:

  • a crash in the feedzone took out Dario Cataldo, one of the crucial support riders for Fabio Aru and Jacob Fuglsang
  • Kittel is on 335 points to Michael Matthews on 202 so he’s looking good for green. The mountains are an issue for him sometimes but he looks very strong, note how he popped up to win the intermediate sprint on Stage 8 after the climb, a sign of his all round form
  • why did Lotto-Soudal and Katusha work so much? You do wonder if Quick Step should send over some champagne to thank these teams for their help. Jokes aside one suggestion is sprinters run on confidence and if the likes of Greipel and Kristoff saw their teams saying “we’re not backing you today, sorry” then this would only make things worse for them
  • Maciej Bodnar was a deserving winner of the day’s combativity prize, going in the early breakaway and then attacking his colleagues to go solo and was only caught in the final metres.

The Route: 214km. It’s easy to Tarbes but the roads soon begin to rise and fall more than the profile suggests. The road to Capvern is a marked climb, 7.7km at 3.1% and a steady climb that tracks the autoroute. It’s then flat as the cross the Comminges area to take the Garonne valley and the intermediate sprint, a flat and straight road.

The first mountain pass is the Col des Ares and gentle introduction to the mountains, 7.4km at 4.6% and it’s purpose is to go up and over into the next valley so they can then climb back over the Col de Menté, 6.9km at a steep 8.1% average but this includes a gentle start and a descent section so to compensate the road pitches up regularly to 11% via hairpins for much of the second half. The descent is technical with a series of hairpins – including one with the tribute to Luis Ocaña after he crashed here in 1971 while wearing the yellow jersey – and it’s steep but compared to the Jura last weekend this is a touch more predictable, a hairpin is more obvious than a blind bend. Then it’s back down the Garonne valley on the opposite side they rode up 90 minutes earlier.

The Port de Balès is a hard climb, arguably one of the hardest in the Pyrenees. It’s 11.7km a 7.7% and with several steep sections, all on a narrow road. It’s a “new” climb or rather the old road, little more than a forestry track, was resurfaced for the Tour de France in 2006. The descent is long and not too technical, this is hard place for a Bardet style move, the lack of corners makes it difficult to exploit the road and the flat sections on the way down don’t suit a lone rider as they drop down to the Peyresourde.

The Peyresourde is where Froome went solo on the descent last year. Now they climb back up, it’s a long and linear climb on wide roads, 9.7km at 7.8% and plenty of slopes above 8% followed by a straight descent for 2.5km.

The Finish: a final climb of 2.4km at 8.4%. Normally that would be hard enough to separate riders but instead there’s a sting in the tail. The ski station of Peyragudes has featured in the Tour in 2012 but this time it’s very different. Instead of taking the road into the ski station they use the “altiport” airport runway which has been resurfaced earlier this year and the slope hits 20% with the final 200m averaging 16% just before the road levels out to the line. This promises a slow motion end.

The Contenders: this is a good day for the breakaway to stay away. If today is hard, tomorrow’s 100km sprint across the Pyrenees will have the GC riders and their teams wanting to stay as fresh as possible. But all the more reason for some teams to send outsiders up the road and put pressure on.

When the breakaway goes clear only a strong climber can hope to win the stage. It’ll be the usual lottery to go clear, it needs the right riders going away at the right time. Warren Barguil is 14 minutes down and in the hunt for more polka dot points. He’s climbing very well and at ease on any kind of slope, from long climbs to sharp walls which means he’s good for the finishing straight. Pierre Rolland could show but can he go in the break now that team mate Uran has a shot at the podium? This and the Giro in his legs makes him a low pick. Fellow girino Thibaut Pinot is still looking a little short of form but should try today as his chances are higher than tomorrow. Stephen Cummings was many people’s pick for Stage 8, perhaps he’ll try today, he can climb very well but today could still be a tall order. Now they’re without their leader BMC Racing will attack and Alessandro De Marchi is a good mountain raider but it’s been a long time since he’s won, maybe because he’s been riding for others while Damiano Caruso rode for himself to take second place in the Tour de Suisse so he looks a better pick.

Back to the GC contenders and if they and their teams keep the race tight then like last Sunday they could have the breakaway brought back. All the top GC contenders seem to be climbing at a very similar rate. Chris Froome looked strong on the Mont du Chat and is an obvious contender for the stage win, does he track his rivals and try to snipe the win in the finishing straight and pocket the time bonus or launch a longer range move on the Peyresourde to land knock-out punch he’s still to deliver to his rivals? Fabio Aru can try another attack, we can debate the etiquette of his opportunist move on the Mont du Chat but tactically it was a bad idea, a sudden acceleration on such a steep climb required a huge increase in power and he paid for it, now he can try to pick his moment more carefully but can he count on Jacob Fuglsang? The Dane has two broken bones after a crash yesterday. Dan Martin could have won in Chambéry were it not for Richie Porte crashing in front of him and we’ll see how sore he still is but otherwise he’s in top form and keeps coming close in Flèche Wallonne atop the Mur de Huy so the steep finish is perfect for him. Rigoberto Urán is in the form of his life and even Chris Froome needs to worry about the Colombian, especially as he’s got a punchy finish and if a win still seems unlikely but so did him hanging in the front group so he could be close. Romain Bardet could be close but he’s an infrequent winner and all of his five career wins have come solo when he’s jumped away and used a descent before the finish but this time he’s unlikely to get much space nor does the Peyresourde descent or even the Balès descent suit.

Chris Froome, Dan Martin, Warren Barguil, Fabio Aru
Uran, Bardet, Pinot, Caruso, Cummings, Rolland, De Marchi

Weather: rain will clear to leave sunshine and clouds, a mild 22°C in the valleys and cooler in the summits.

TV: live from the start at 10.55am CET with the finish forecast for 5.10pm CET.

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Peter July 13, 2017 at 6:18 am

I’m for Aru attacking whenever he gets a chance, the “unwritten rules” have gotten tiresome for me.

I’m also excited by Uran’s performance, I hope he does well.

Tomski July 13, 2017 at 6:43 am

+1

I’m also enjoying Uran’s progress. I could never understand why he joined Quickstep and am glad he’s come back from the wilderness. I’ll be cheering if he and Rolland can work together towards a podium. The fact that there’s still nine days of racing and all the variables that come with that says there’s every chance he could make the top step come Paris.

Vive Le Tour!

Strictly Amateur / The GCW July 13, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Talansky should be thinking about the team goal & must be there for Uran.

StevhanTI July 13, 2017 at 2:38 pm

Well, if it wasn’t for Quintana not getting the memo about that treacherous descent being neutralised than he might have won the Giro with QS, as it stands he still finished on the podium once and collected a few nice wins WT wins with them, so, it wasn’t all that bad.

gabriele July 13, 2017 at 2:59 pm

Sure… the descent being neutralised ah ah ah! You noticed I was shortly back, eh, or what? 😉

Urán, a long underestimated rider whom I really appreciate (but you’ll see how great he’ll be made in hindsight if he was finally to be one of Froome’s rivals at the end of this Tour…), wouldn’t have won that Giro under pretty much any condition: however, if anything, he can thank mainly his DS Lefèvere for losing so much time in that stage. Thus, yes, being in QS actually didn’t help him in that particular context (yet, I’d agree with you that in the whole it didn’t hinder him much, either).

AP July 13, 2017 at 5:45 pm

Unfortunately the “unwritten rules” seem to be being abandoned left, right and centre in western society right now. It’ll all end well for everyone I’m sure.

gabriele July 13, 2017 at 6:40 pm

Well, truth is that they’re the *written* rules those being dismissed in western society. I mean, if we want to speak of proven historical processes (a good deal of examples are available, but I think most of us tasted some of the medicine).

It’s called neoliberalism (but you really can spell it capitalism, possibly with some adjective or prefix of your choice like “advanced”, “mature”, “post”, “true”, “festering”, “ultra”…).

And, yes, it looks like it will end very well – for everyone!

AP July 13, 2017 at 6:53 pm

I feel that unwritten rules appear naturally for a reason though… it might only be when we take them away that we fully understand why they naturally came in to existence in the first place.

RQS July 13, 2017 at 8:33 pm

The unwritten rules stop anarchy. If you didn’t ‘respect’ the maillot jaune, it’s likely all manner of under hand tricks would beset the leader, (punctures, bidons in wheels, fishing line to the seat post) and then it wouldn’t be about the racing.

Equally, there’s an unspoken rule about when enough is enough, and you can’t wait for a rider to sort themselves out. It was interesting that Uran’s mechanical would not have stopped the others from cycling, but equally he got a nice free ride from the mechanic for a small part of the run in. Still a great victory to pull off given the circumstances.

Peter July 14, 2017 at 3:32 am

While I agree that civility in society and sport are important, I think in both if a rule is important it should be “written” and done in a manner that is clear.

What I find tiresome about them is that in cycling they seem so sensitive and focused in regards to the yellow jersey, but so disregarded for everyone else. Stopping the race should be used with more discretion, ie if an outside factor unfairly effects the race (spectator, motorbike), not if your mechanic didn’t tune your bike right.!

Augie March July 13, 2017 at 6:31 am

I hope things happen, because one more day in the break on a big mountain stage for Barguil and it could be that the yellow, green, white and polka dot jerseys are wrapped up a little over half way though the race.

gabriele July 13, 2017 at 3:05 pm

Yes. And all that without anything really significant happening, in sporting terms! It must be a record. At least, normally you have a wrapped up result when something big happened (dunno, the last 10 kms of Boonen solo at Roubaix) *or* you’ve got meaningless racing with… *uncertainty*.
Two-thirds plot twist, please!
I’m still hoping, too, there’s some decent racing ahead. Or there might be.

Anonymous July 13, 2017 at 6:52 am

Did Jakob Fuglsang break 2 bones

Anonymous July 13, 2017 at 7:14 am

wasn’t it his team mate

Lotovich July 13, 2017 at 7:14 am

upon closer inspection doctors found “two very small fractures”, one in the scaphoid and another in the head of the radius near his left elbow – on the Dane that is

Ian Anderson July 13, 2017 at 8:20 am

Scaphoid and Radial head, very optimistic for Fuglsang to be starting today. Cataldo broke just the scaphoid I think. Depends on the type of fracture but scaphiid is notorious for not healing well, the Dane IMHO would be better served by letting it rest

Yesterday’s finale was another example of QSF being tactically ahead of the other teams. Once again a rider in blue, Sabatini I think, ‘leads out’ the other sprinters, EBH was once again on his wheel, only to drop everyone off ‘miles’ from the finish line. Everyone starts their sprints way too early and are already fading when the Green jersey comes cruising past.

Emil July 13, 2017 at 9:10 am

According to what he told Danish media: he will start today. The doctors told him that there is really nothing that can be done to the two fractures, so riding will be painful, but (apparently) not a hazard.

Charles July 13, 2017 at 9:37 am

I wouldn’t want to be on his wheel. A slight bump in the road could be enough to throw him off.

jc July 13, 2017 at 7:49 am

Given both the number of “orphan” teams and teams who have had very little so far in the race I suspect we could see another very big break. The main protagonists teams will also want to send riders “up the road” (is there another term for this tired old cliché?). Astana might struggle with this having lost Dario Cataldo and Jakob Fuglsang’s injury. With the fairly flat start it might take some time for the break to form, lots of stress at the front of the peloton. There probably will be a fight for intermediate sprint points too, Michael Matthew’s chances of the green jersey are slim but I am sure Sunweb wont give up just yet.

It does look like a breakaway day to me. Sky will only be concerned about GC threats and if the “right” break goes they will be left build up a big lead.

For all the anticipation I don’t see much change on the GC at the end of this stage. Sky should be able to control things (barring the usual “incidents”), certainly to the foot of the climb up the runway (there are some pictures of Chris Froome checking out this climb on the tourist office site, link in a INRNG tweet). Assuming they are all together at that point I would go with either Dan Martin or Fabio Aru to be first up amongst the GC group.

As to the stage win, it’s the usual lottery but Warren Barguil might have recovered from his efforts last weekend and will want to try to tie down the polka dot jersey. BMC will be looking for something too.

RonDe July 13, 2017 at 9:35 am

“Sky will only be concerned about GC threats”

Not sure that’s true. Its true they are in a position where they can balance defence with attacks and if it looks like other GC rivals might get bonus seconds then they’d rather they didn’t but Froome will also want one stage win to honour the notion that a real champion proves his worth at least once in a proper road stage. And if not here then where?

jc July 13, 2017 at 11:09 am

Luke Rowe said Sky not concerned about the break, we shall see in a few minutes

RonDe July 13, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Could easily have given this break 10-15 minutes but haven’t done. Riders never tell the truth!

Dougie Jones July 13, 2017 at 8:30 am

How is Rigo Uran in TT? I remember vaguely he won once during the Vuelta

The Inner Ring July 13, 2017 at 9:02 am

He’s been very good in the past, he’s won a TT stage in the Giro.

RonDe July 13, 2017 at 9:37 am

I recall that being a mountain TT though and somewhat of an outlier. There’s little to suggest he is consistently at Froome’s level.

Cilmeri July 13, 2017 at 10:18 am

Yes, and this time trial coming up isn’t pan flat, so should level the field between Uran and Froome. At least means Uran potentially makes time on Martin and Aru. (Lots of road to go before then however!)

Cilmeri July 13, 2017 at 10:19 am

Apologies, meant Bardet and Aru…..

irungo txuletak July 13, 2017 at 11:13 am

With his form, Uran is contender for Froome in the last ITT, but I don’t see him putting Froome at 1 minute. And I don’t know where he could take time on Froome elsewhere.
So for me 2nd at best.

Joe K. July 13, 2017 at 8:39 am

This stage is long for a mountain top finish, so it can be an opportune time for Froomey to shake up the GC standings especially if others ride tentatively, holding back some of their reserves in anticipation of the next day’s stage, which might play out like an uphill criterium. Quintana isn’t even in the conversation here, . . . wow, who would’ve thought one month ago?!

Polkadots July 13, 2017 at 8:49 am

Me tbh. A combination of competing in both Giro and Tour isn’t possible anymore in modern cycling.

The Inner Ring July 13, 2017 at 9:04 am

Quintana could feature but he’s in a tricky place, he’s looking sluggish when they’re climbing at full speed but still inside the top-10 overall: so he seems unlikely to be able to ride away from the top guys but he doesn’t have much room to go up the road.

Anonymous July 13, 2017 at 8:46 am

“on the opposite side they road up 90 minutes earlier.”

I suspect ‘rode’.

The Inner Ring July 13, 2017 at 9:04 am

Fixed. A good place for souvenir hunters, harvest the caravan once and then cross the valley to do it again.

Richard S July 13, 2017 at 8:47 am

I think Nico Roche is a decent shout for today, there’s no reason why BMC can’t put him, Di Marchi and Caruso all in the break. I think the GC teams (I.e Sky) will keep the break on a close leash and keep the gap at no more that 4 minutes or so. They seem unable to relax and allow anybody any space. With this quite long mountain state (200km+) followed by the short one tomorrow being straight out of the Vuelta playbook it might be worth them taking it easy and remembering what happened there?
Does anybody else miss Euskadi Euskaltel for stages like this?!

PaddyDunne July 13, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Yes!

Paul July 13, 2017 at 9:12 am

Mad scramble for position at the bottom of the Porte de Bales, very narrow roads and a hard climb, i am hoping its all action from there

RonDe July 13, 2017 at 9:17 am

I have a feeling for Chris Froome today. He likes the Pyrenees, has won two notable stage finishes there before (Ax 3 Domaines and La Pierre St Martin) which put his rivals on notice and the Peyresourde looks perfect as a similar type climb to those. That leaves the questions 1. Can he do it again? and 2. Will he want to? I’m sure he will want to because who wouldn’t want to build a nice cushion if they could? As to if he can, I think if things go his way on the approaches, especially the Port de Balès, then yes he can. Mitigating against this are his opponents but I think his only real worries are Aru and Bardet. But this isn’t really a Bardet type day as Inrng perfectly pointed out whilst Aru needs to attack early rather than too late. Factoring in a time time he needs more like 78 seconds than 18 because the idea is to be wearing yellow in paris rather than borrowing it for a day or two. Overall, I think it will take united efforts from multiple riders to distance Froome today and I see plenty prepared to follow and few teams strong enough to take him on mob-handed. I can see Dan Martin hanging around and pinching a few seconds but Dan is now too far down to be a serious GC unless he himself is going to single-handedly start winning stages by a minute himself. Not a likely scenario.

Overall, I think Froome might have this down as his likely stage win of the Tour and I expect Sky to try and manage any break so he gets a shot up the Peyresourde.

RonDe July 13, 2017 at 9:24 am

Oh and there’s another reason Froome might want to win here specifically and his name is Bradley Wiggins. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2012/jul/19/tour-de-france-bradley-wiggins-chris-froome

RonDe July 13, 2017 at 9:31 am

I love the Wiggins quote in that Guardian piece “Mentally he’s very strong and I’m sure that he’ll win the Tour one day” which he says of his then domestique Froome.

D,ya really think so Brad?!

jc July 13, 2017 at 10:13 am

That tour would have been very interesting if Chris Froome had not crashed in an early stage losing a good bit of time. Whilst Brad was clearly the top TT rider around it became apparent that Chris Foome was the strongest rider overall. In retrospect it is clear that the batten was passed over on the top of the Port de Bales. Brad’s TdF career was to come to a triumphant end a few days later in Paris but the future belonged to Chris Froome.

routedusud July 13, 2017 at 10:18 am

It was a puncture not a crash.

JEB July 13, 2017 at 12:43 pm

When I was watching it I felt the same . . . until Wiggins smashed him in the following TT. It was evident then that Brad was the ‘safer’ option for Brailsford and Sky to back. I think Froome came second, but Brad put about a minute into him, some one can check, more than the 15 – 20 secs that Froome might have got from taking on Valverde for the finish. Wiggins had the track record and was safer for the 3rd week. IMHO they played it right – and the results speak for themselves – first ever Brit to win the TdF, some achievement.

RonDe July 13, 2017 at 1:08 pm

If they’d backed Froome they still would have had the first British winner (and he’d now be racing to match Merckx, Hinault, Anquetil and Indurain). In my view Wiggins got lucky because they could’ve backed either and Froome had already beaten Wiggins in the previous Vuelta. But Wiggins had the pull and connections in those days. In retrospect, of course, that was his last chance.

hoh July 13, 2017 at 11:11 am

That article bought on a lot of nastalgia, as it was the first Tour that I followed closely.

Didn’t know Guardian for such amusing writing. But more importantly, interesting to see who was there in that final 7: Horner, TJV and Pinot.

Jim July 13, 2017 at 9:20 am

How about Simon Yates to get away from the group today? Clearly in good form but far enough back that Froome, Aru or Uran probably wouldn’t feel the need to bring him back?

Augie March July 13, 2017 at 10:47 am

Yates is only two minutes behind Froome so I doubt that either Sky or Astana would be keen for him to get away.

anon July 13, 2017 at 9:23 am

Aru should have a chainring or two?

The Inner Ring July 13, 2017 at 9:24 am

Yes, an omission, probably after yesterday’s stuporific stage. He’s added back in time for the stage start.

Ecky Thump July 13, 2017 at 10:46 am

Matthews in the break for the intermediate points?
I truly hope so, but you could understand if he gives up the ghost though.
Friday’s intermediate stage is at just 13.5 km from the start, Saturday’s is pan flat at 56 km out, and then Sunday’s is way up in the mountains somewhere at the halfway point.
Are ASO serving up the green jersey every night on a silver salver to Kittel or what?
The way that this points competition was rigged against Sagan / Matthews is crazy.
Do the intermediates that are harder carry more points or just the same as any other?
Should the harder intermediates carry more weighting – yes, in my view!

David July 14, 2017 at 8:15 am

ASO likely didn’t anticipate Kittel being quite so all-dominating in the sprints. If the flat stage wins had been shared around a bit (and if Sagan hadn’t got himself booted from the tour), the jersey competition would have been much more evenly balanced.

irungo txuletak July 13, 2017 at 11:09 am

If Kontador has decent legs (no sure at all after what we have seen in the Jura), I won’t be surprised to see him trying something in Balès, at least for the stage win. I cannot imagine this guy riding only to hang as long as possible on the wheels of the other contenders.

Drew July 13, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Highlight of the day already: Pippa York in the commentary box on ITV4

JEB July 13, 2017 at 12:58 pm

How ironic – we thought that Sagen out of the race might actually bring life the Green jersey competition and make things more close. In fact it looks like Kittel is riding away with it and no one is able to challenge him. I wonder if Sagen would have been able to reduce the deficit by more than Bling has been able to. My recollection from previous years is that Sagen was in the breakaway almost every day (no easy feat). He certainly seemed to be featuring higher up the bunch sprints earlier in this Tour than Bling was and he did already have a stage win and the points associated with it. I suspect it would still depend on what happens to Kittel after the big mountain stages.

gabriele July 13, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Sorry in advance for not having read pretty much anything in the comment section in the last two or three days. I’m not off yet, but I’ll be soon and I was quite busy. Thanks to those who wrote some personal lines to me and thanks to everybody for several interesting debates – at least, those I could read.

Now, it’s a bit suicidal to write the following lines while a stage which promises to be very interesting is already ongoing, but I must remark that until now the Tour has being hugely dependant on the nature of the course – and not in a positive way, except for the well designed and quite exciting Mont du Chat stage (I must confess that I even hoped for *more*; yet, as it was, it was fine for such an early stage: more might too well have been too much. All the same, my sadistic self can’t stop considering a pity that the bunch crawled up the Biche soooo slowly, because if they put the hammer down as they did on the Grand Colombière we’d have had a real, unpredictable slaughterfest. Again, I know it’d have been an excess).

The fact that we hopefully may see some good racing today wouldn’t change the general fact. Neither would it change anything if we had a bad race: it’s easier and way more common for a good stage to be raced dully than it can be, statistically speaking, to put on a good race over a “locked down”, poorly designed, stage. It’s not symmetrical, alas. Hence the need to include as much well-designed stages as possible: not all of them will *work*…

Every cloud has a silver lining, every dog has his day. Now don’t say nothing if you don’t have something nice to say. The sun don’t shine on a sleeping dog’s ass.
The riders make the race.
Sure. Okay.

But designing an undending series of very similar flat stages produced a good deal of mediocre or not-very-significant racing. Cycling is always good, we all like it, but I always fail to see why some people – our host included, sometimes 😉 – tend to settle for something which isn’t up to the standard which a nice cycling race or a fine GT can offer.
Obviously, we can make the effort and find reasons to be interested anyway.
But I don’t think that being content with mediocre racing will improve the sport we’re fan of. The 100th Giro created a notable hype, in Italy, but poor racing (still better than most 2017 Tour until now) had a lot of potential fans running away. And the Tour, too, is suffering from that situation, in terms of audience – besides its own problems, of course.

If you do your best and it’s not good enough, well, bad luck. But what about knowingly setting a lacking course? A dream which doesn’t come true is just a lie or something worse?

Sprint stages are needed, up to a certain point, and are fine in itself. But this is carbon copying, and it ain’t be fine at all. Kittel is doing great, no doubt, but he’s not even being troubled by any slight change from the most favourable conditions for him.
You can design a lot of different stages which *might* end in a sprint finish (plus, complying with the function of easy stages within the big picture): it’s all about how you get there and how realistic, albeit not probable, is any other outcome.
Winning a lot of stages normally implies a good deal of merit because – again, “normally” – if you win 5-6 of them, they typically end up including different conditions. If it’s the same again and again, and the most predictable kind of “sameness”, it’s not the sport at its best, and it hasn’t the same meaning which winning multiple stages usually has. Cycling is about variety.

It also brings consequences on the race in general, too, and on the GC in particular.

Same goes for clipping the wings of potential mountain stages. Not speaking of Mount du Chat, which I liked as it was: but, frankly, Station de Rousses can’t be considered as a mountain stage, I think that’s pretty clear now – and it was entertaining, I liked it, but just as a hilly stage. What the nature of the course pretty much inevitably determined.

Half of the race is gone for good, most of it wasn’t worth watching (literally meaningless): don’t confuse a slow-burner or situations you need to understand in order to enjoy them with the lack of significant action. The GC has been affected *mainly* by crashes, although I’ve been impressed by Bardet and Ag2R’s racing. One single day.

Rant mode off, and really hoping for my negative expectations to be proven wrong – not just the positive ones as the Tour typically does.
To put what I say in perspective, we could consider this edition as a postmodern homage to the Leblanc age.
Vintage Tour.
Unluckily, an old bottle of a now good wine can come from a very bad year, or even a whole bad period (!). Having been on the shelf for some time doesn’t make it better.
I just hope it’s only a one-off homage, as I said, and not something which was produced by the same factors which produced that long-blamed course style. What did I say? Rant mode off? Ok, sorry, now it’s really off.

Sean July 14, 2017 at 1:08 am

+1

Wouldn’t have pegged you as a Springsteen fan.

tj July 14, 2017 at 3:18 am

I was surprised by that too!

gabriele July 14, 2017 at 2:38 pm

OT – Well, yes, I’m not ashamed to shed a tear or two when listening to The River or The Ghost of Tom Joad full album 😉

And I loved Springsteen’s contribution to one of the most beautiful movies ever about cycling: The Wrestler by Aronofsky.
What? No bicycles there?
Indeed – and yet…

Plus, “I’m on fire” featured in a cult film by Italian Nanni Moretti, “Palombella Rossa” (amnesia, water polo, the corruption of language, and the crumbling of the most powerful western Europe Communist Party).

As I said elsewhere, I love “varietas” and Springsteen production provides a lot of that, often with a very high quality.

gabriele July 13, 2017 at 3:11 pm

I’ll later check the figures (still not knowing if I’ll be able to report), but the 1 cat. Menté has apparently been strolled over by the bunch. Uff. Not a good sign.

TDog July 13, 2017 at 3:27 pm

I wonder if the rise of resistance to “the unwritten rules” isn’t animus toward Sky in disguise. I for one embrace the unwritten rules. Beating your opponent mano a mano is sporting. There is no glory in winning because your opponent has a mechanical when the heat isn’t on. This begs the question as to when the “heat is on”. That is where honor amongst combatants comes into play. Character is revealed.

I have big respect for Rigo Uran for his win. Game was full on. Dodged the crash. Fights a damaged bike and muscles to victory. That was legendary. The stuff of 53×11 big ring heroes.

Don July 13, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Maybe not ‘animus toward Sky”. Maybe others are like me. We are fed up with the unwritten rules. The way the unwritten rules seem to work is – pick beforehand who should win and then wait for them to win. Then call everyone else a loser even though nobody waited for them.

Cochisecito July 13, 2017 at 5:31 pm

Uran’s win was absolutely badass

gabriele July 13, 2017 at 5:40 pm

What a pity that the supposed “unwritten rules” (usually a proxy for “shielding the already powerful” and fostering inertia)… won’t allow big figures to get as legendary as Rigo, no? 😉

Being legendary ends up being for character roles, while men with a great character will be served the best conditions by a jury or the “rivals”.

Let’ em fight adversity, I’d say. *That* may “reveal character”.

No, the bunch would stop to unroll the red carpet while the men of honour come back unscathed by whatever bad luck, bad handling of the bike, bad shifting, in short anything which can be emended by the silent menace of retaliation.

Feel assured, it’s not against Sky, it was a long-abused trick well before Sky even existed.

PS I wonder if the same people who chastised Nibali at the Vuelta (and rightly so) also thought that actually the bunch should have waited for him (and I say: “no”! But how does it all work in the imaginary world of people who’re calling for the hypocritical football fair play to be applied to cycling?).

Eskerrik Asko July 14, 2017 at 7:08 am

You are in very good form! If the comment section had a feature of giving those thumbs-ups and hearts and whatnot in addition to +1s, I’d click on them all.

PS July has been very good for my own riding; even those of my raining buddies who have usually been no-shows (“Sorry, but gotta watch today’s stage.”) have joined me for long rides!

GB July 13, 2017 at 7:20 pm

Hot take: If the unwritten rules are so important, maybe they should just be written down already so we stop having these nonsense controversies at least once a year.

I’m not very serious and yes, I know this suggestion is terrible for a number of reasons but my animosity is nothing to do with Sky and more that these rules generate a huge amount of pointless, TEDIOUS arguments for even less return than the usual polemic.

And then I hear from the commentators ‘Unwritten rules are part of the charm of cycling’ Mate, having the same bl__dy argument every other grand tour has lost it’s charm.

I agree that Uran was amazing.

gabriele July 13, 2017 at 5:14 pm

The daily top five is made by five riders I’m quite much rooting for. Yet, what a shame of a stage.

AP July 13, 2017 at 5:28 pm

Do professional commentators still insist that Aru was wrong to work with Froome now, I wonder?

nsb July 13, 2017 at 5:36 pm

Why do they ride for 3 weeks if there are only 3 tough stages (finish on the top) which are attractive for fans and can influence the GC? Why 3 weeks? For Kittel mainly? 😉 Today a stage with big promises, but there was only one attack just at the finish line. Tomorrow just transfer through the mountains with some bumps in the middle of the stage – final downhill 25km will flatten everything or even prevent from trying an attack… What’s more, there’s only one serious mountain stage in front of us, d’Izoard with mountain top finish (the other stage is again downhill…).

CA July 13, 2017 at 5:47 pm

What are you talking about?? Tomorrow is 101 km so will be really explosive. Remember last year’s short Grand Tour stages? Many guys got completely caught out and hopefully the same thing happens tomorrow.

The Inner Ring July 13, 2017 at 6:43 pm

The same person has posted a few “the stage will come to nothing” messages in the past, usually on the eve of an action-packed stage 😉

gabriele July 13, 2017 at 6:46 pm

If inrng is right… please nsb, write more often!!!!!!! 😛

JD July 13, 2017 at 8:09 pm

+1

CA July 13, 2017 at 5:43 pm

Froome certainly looked beatable today in that final sprint. Looks like he isn’t the strongest GC rider on the Tour right now.

It’ll be interesting to see if Sky sits back and makes Astana control things from now on.

I wonder if we’ll look back on this stage and say it’s where Froome lost his dominance as the top GC rider. Even Landa outfinished his team leader. Froome is now 32, what do people think will happen moving forward?

DAVE July 13, 2017 at 5:53 pm

Maybe hold your horses a little…

Bear in mind there’s a TT to come and this course, should Froome lose, has a notable lack of TT miles, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s finished as a GC rider considering even over 14km he took significant time out of everyone who beat him today…. nor does one loss make him not the strongest GC rider here…

You may be proved right but give it a little time and more proof rather than hoping to be the first to call it.

We’ll have to see right now there are a number of scenario’s:

1) Froome has never been great on multiple climb days and the closing gradient this time showed it more clearly.
2) Froome may get weaker during a three week race and hasn’t had the route to stamp authority early.
3) Froome’s ill.
4) Froome’s purposely come in undercooked to have a proper stab at the Vuelta double and is finding the competition stronger than expected.
5) A bad day.
6) He’s on the wane.

I don’t think you can extrapolate that this is the end of Froome after one day, even if it is surprising.

Makes the race interesting. I didn’t see this coming.

Luigi Crema July 13, 2017 at 6:38 pm

7) (the comment in bad faith) the TUE scandal had some effect

8) (what I actually think) Froome is chobbier than last year, still in the anorexic spectrum, but the face is not anymore the un-healty skull we saw in the past. Maybe he suffered more than in the past the crazy regime he maintains.

I see AG2R as a strong team to oppose super SKY. Aru has to use the work of AG2R tomorrow

Nick July 14, 2017 at 12:14 pm

9. New parent isn’t getting enough sleep?

rt July 13, 2017 at 7:01 pm

his lack of results before or maybe better his unwillingness to really compete in other races than the tour this year and the results so far at this tour do the longer the more indicate all in one direction. this is the weakest froome weve seen in years and he knows it.

quintana will bang his head over his over-ambitious race strategy for this year.

CA July 13, 2017 at 7:12 pm

Definitely this race is getting interesting. I really wonder how Froome can possibly take the jersey back. The time trial is only 22km, and has a climb and there are a few more stages where Aru can put more time into Froome.

It really looks like Froome came into this year’s Tour with less form than previously. It’ll be interesting to see if he can ride into form for the final week.

Jean July 13, 2017 at 8:21 pm

@Inner ring
Bennet penalized for the same ‘infraction’ than Bardet. Accepting a bottle or bidon from a spectator (or a ‘soigneur’ at the road side) in the last kilometers. But Bardet didn’t receive a time penalty. By the way. It’s allowed to receive a bottle from a spectator. Why Bennet was penalized and Bardet wasn’t ? Once more an example of a biased jury under influence of ASO.

Vitus July 13, 2017 at 8:46 pm

So first you ask a question cause you don’t know why, but in the next sentence you already have your answer? Better can conspiracy bull never work.

Horse of the Year July 13, 2017 at 9:00 pm

Isn’t that a type of rhetorical question?

Jean July 13, 2017 at 11:31 pm

I repeat my question, Vitus. Why is Bennet sanctioned and Bardet not for the same ‘socalled’ infraction. Well Vitus, i’m waiting for your answer.

ErnieC July 14, 2017 at 6:13 am

Bardet did not drink from the bottle, poured it over his head, Bennet drank from the bottle hence the penalty. The ruling is you cannot receive food or drink or words to that effect.

Jean July 14, 2017 at 9:29 am

Not correct. The ruling is that you can not receive food or drink. It’s the accepting that counts. Not what you do with the bottle. Pour over your head, drinking, or squirt water upon the bottom of a naked hooligan (as we have seen a few times in this Tour). So to accept a bottle by Bennet and Bardet is 100 % not allowed and has to be sanctioned in the same way.

Cochisecito July 13, 2017 at 9:29 pm

What do you all think about the penalties to Bennett and Uran? Bardet also took a bottle from someone else, yet he didn’t lose any time.

Arthur Lager July 14, 2017 at 3:47 am

Harsh. Didn’t see anything live, though this may have been due to being in a Fleche Wallonne-like coma. Seems plenty of people on twitter follow Jonathan Vaughters, can see through Aru’s head, and know that Bardet is French.

The empty bidon July 13, 2017 at 9:44 pm

How sad to see Alberto going backwards, one season too many? That final day descent at Paris-Nice seems a lifetime ago now…

Quintana just not in form at all, he could surely have been firmly in the driving seat in this tour with different focus.

A real ramp at the end today but how could froome lose so much time over that distance?

Paris really is still a long way off isn’t it?!

nsb July 13, 2017 at 10:30 pm

Froome and Aru went off the track due to poor skills and …everybody in the group stopped waiting for them. It’s insane. People are scared to attack or to even continue riding with normal tempo after Froome/Aru crash? FGS! They’ve made mistake on the descent!

ErnieC July 14, 2017 at 6:15 am

+1.

Nick July 14, 2017 at 12:17 pm

Nobody else had any team mates, and they were just at the foot of the Peryesourde. Attacking there would have lost them the race.

nsb July 13, 2017 at 10:35 pm

Froome is being covered by SKY perfectly, but his weakness is obvious and not only today. If he was left alone like all other players in thisgame called Le Tour, he’d have been gone 6-7km before finish. I bet on d’Izoard he would have another technical issue, changing the bike, stopping main group =catching a breath asf. Circus.

Johnson Johnson July 13, 2017 at 11:44 pm

Please go away nsb. Your comments are stupid and uninformed. Read everyone else’s here, the standard is higher.

doodie July 14, 2017 at 4:28 am

Oh… comment police! Comment police! You must have been great fun in school

Gareth July 14, 2017 at 12:03 am

Came looking to see if the blog was up for tomorrow as I can’t wait.

Bastille day, 100km with climbing from km 0. A faltering Froome means a Frenchman has the chance to take the jersey and a real chance to carry it to Paris. A resurgent Aru potentially in the form of his life.

Afternoon booked off work – it’s going to be epic!

Ian Anderson July 13, 2017 at 10:42 am

+1 that and the risk of worsening his injury. I rode for two weeks with a broken scaphoid and was bloody lucky it actually healed after. Either of the two fractures (depending a bit on their configuration) Fuglsang has could potentially leave him with long term loss of function if not looked after properly, his team’s medical support should be telling him that

ErnieC July 14, 2017 at 10:36 am

Semantics. If he did not drink it, is it a drink but i get what you are saying.

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