Vuelta a España Stage 16 Preview

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

A time trial to balance all those climbs. That was the theory but the practice should see Chris Froome extend his overall lead over his rivals. There’s still the other steps of the podium and today’s stage up for grabs.

The Route: 40km, the longest time trial of all the grand tours this year. They start on the Logroño motor racing circuit and then head out onto a wide road that presents few obstacles and then after passing around Viana they pick up and even wider and straighter road, the kind where a rider can see the rider ahead of them from a long way and passing the Rioja vineyards before reaching the town of Logroño and finally some sharper bends.

The Contenders: Chris Froome is the obvious pick, he’s won time trial stages before including the Vuelta’s time trial one year ago and by a comfortable margin.

Among the GC candidates Alberto Contador can place well but blows hot and cold and would prefer a more technical and hilly course. Ilnur Zakarin can hold his own and Miguel Ángel López beat Fabian Cancellara on his way to winning the Tour de Suisse last year although the hilly course helped but it helps make the point that he’s not the stereotype Colombian climber. Wilco Kelderman is probably the best GC pick outside of Froome, all four of his career wins have come in TTs, he is in excellent shape and Sunweb know plenty about winning time trials.

Now for the specialists and outsiders. The news is that Rohan Dennis is out of the Vuelta so let’s skip to the others. Quick Stepper Yves Lampaert has a stage already and is the reigning Belgian TT champion having made good progress in this area and looks to have been saving himself, he was fourth this time last year but might find 40km is too far. Team mate Bob Jungels should do a good ride too. FDJ’s Tobias Ludvigsson is another specialist and went one better than Lampaert last year with third place a year ago. Movistar’s Nelson Oliveira could be a stealthy candidate but if this time trial was a big objective why was he taking part in a long range / low chance breakaway on Sunday’s stage? In other words he can’t be confident in his form and saving himself for today. Lotto-Jumbo’s Stef Clement can make the top-10 and Sky’s Gianni Moscon could set a good time too. Tejay van Garderen is good in the time trials and is in solid if unspectacular form. Finally Lennard Kämna is worth watching so see his progress, the German rider was junior World Champion in 2014, in 2015 in the U23 race he took the bronze medal in the Worlds and won gold last year aged 20 in the European U23 championships. Now he’s riding his first grand tour for Sunweb.

Chris Froome
Wilco Kelderman
Lampaert, Ludvigsson, TvG, Jungels

Weather: warm and sunny, 30°C and a light breeze from the NE meaning a tailwind.

TV: It’s on La1 in Spain and Eurosport around much of the world and often on the same broadcaster you watch the Tour de France on. Riders go off in reverse GC order and Chris Froome is expected to arrive at 5.40pm CEST.

Daily Díaz: If the Navarra Circuit (open in 2010) is 3,933m long and cost €50 million, you can do the maths and find the €/m ratio. Torres del Río (KM16) is home to one of the few central plant churches in Spain (not the usual cross-like churches, but a perfectly symmetrical figure, similar to the Roman Pantheon). Built in the Middle Ages, these temples are usually linked to the Knights Templar. Other examples of central plant churches in Spain are the True Cross Church (Segovia) and Santa María de Eunate (Navarre). Viana (KM 27) was one of the scenarios of the Navarrese Civil War of the 15th century, a Game-of-Thrones-esque conflict between John II and Charles IV, father and son.

Map by Wikipedia’s Miguillen

Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel

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MJJ September 5, 2017 at 6:12 am

The real question, INRNG, is how much time is will Froome put into his rivals. Any guesses? Kelderman is probably the rider he least has to fear of the top 5. If he can put 90 seconds plus on all the others then his lead seems safe. It will be most interesting to see how Lopez performs given the limited ITT’s in his career.

Cranks September 5, 2017 at 7:34 am

Not that Nibali is going to win the TT, but he was impressive in the Giro TT. Dont expect him to lose buckets of time today to Froome. Max 60 sec is my hunch.

Mark H September 5, 2017 at 7:43 am

Sounds about right, Froome indicated that he will limit his effort somewhat as well given the difficult upcoming stages.

Also be interested to see how people come out of the rest day, it does impact different riders in different ways and with an ITT there is nowhere to hide, and no chance to ride any sluggishness off for the first couple of hours so it should have an even bigger impact that normal.

ZigaK September 5, 2017 at 8:24 am

I would say 90s for Nibali.

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 10:56 am

You must mean the 2nd Giro ITT. In the first Nibali lost 2.07 to Dumoulin. Now there are a lot of ifs and buts but the GC men are only setting off at 2 minute intervals and not three. Froome on a great day and Nibali on an average one…. will Froome actually catch Nibali? As INRNG says, its long straight roads and Froome will be able to see him. My own hunch is not quite. I have Froome taking around 90 seconds from him. He has spoken about not going all in and is now firmly playing the averages to make sure he has red on Sunday.

Toby September 5, 2017 at 2:13 pm

I had forgotten about the 2 minute start gaps, that does add an extra level of intrigue. I reckon if Froome has a good day (would put money on that) and Nibali doesn’t then Froome will push deeper than he has said he will to make the catch.

jc September 5, 2017 at 8:28 am

I too am not convinced we will see a super strong effort from Chris Froome today. Last year it was a final throw of the dice after the Froomigal mess up. This year he needs to conserve some energy for the upcoming stages. Of course that applies to his rivals too. Trying to gain a handful of seconds here could cost minutes on one of the steep slopes to come.

The most recent reference for Vincenzo Nibali was the final TT at the Giro, on a shorter course he lost around a minute to Tom Dumoulin (he lost 2 minutes on the first one but that was against an absolutely stellar ride from TD). A similar loss here really would put Chris Froome in pole position.

My pick for the day is Bob Jungels, I suspect he has been holding back something for this.

E_Pi September 5, 2017 at 10:37 am

I think Froome’s main concern for the coming days isn’t fatigue: it’s illness/injury/bike problems/crashes/food miscalculations etc. If I were him I would therefore try for a big time advantage today.

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 11:02 am

But to balance that jc he lost 1.18 to Geraint Thomas in the same ITT which was 600 meters shorter than this one. Froome knows this is the main stage left where he has a guarantee of taking some time from others. The rest will be defensive rides. I believe he can take 60 seconds from the rest of the GC rivals. It should be enough. Personally, I believe if Nibali and Froome got the same time in the ITT Froome would still win. NIbali has shown no ability to climb anything faster than the Briton and in that scenario even the 1.01 gap now is enough.

Frank Carbo September 5, 2017 at 11:10 am

Correction: “Nibali has shown no climb anything faster than” a well orchestrated team which uses two Grand Tour contender-quality riders to pace/protect Froome all the way up a mountain.

Frank Carbo September 5, 2017 at 11:11 am

Correction: “Nibali has shown no ability to climb anything faster than” a well orchestrated team which uses two Grand Tour contender-quality riders to pace/protect Froome all the way up a mountain.

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 11:19 am

You say that like no one knew and its an unfair surprise Froome has sprung. Read my own comment below where I raise a question you might like to answer.

Frank Carbo September 5, 2017 at 11:23 am

No, I said it like somebody who knows that Nibali has at least suggested ability to climb, on occasion, faster than _Froome_. What he hasn’t done is shown an ability to climb Froome plus his two bodyguards. It’s not unfair that Froome uses that, and it’s very impressive to watch. I also think that Froome would probably be stronger than Nibali given an even playing field.

However, you should still try to be accurate.

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 11:36 am

Points taken Frank but what I’m seeing is what I regard as standard Nibali when he faces a proper rival. (You can compare the Giro here for reference.) He makes ghost attacks against real rivals and not actual attacks. On Calar Alto or Hoya de la Mora here (stages 11 +15) its almost as if he makes the effort because he knows he has to try but you know that he won’t get away. He can’t. And, yes, you’re right, he can’t even get away from Nieve or Poels let alone Froome. (Note how when Froome is released he always cruises with ease up to Nibali). Frankly, Lopez and Contador are impressing me more than Nibali. He is proving to me that his 4 grand tours were won against inferior opposition, young riders with promise and guys who never won a grand tour, because whenever he faces guys like him he fails. He couldn’t beat a subdued Quintana in May and is unlikely to beat Froome in September. And, yes, I have told readers of this blog so many times before. Maybe I’m onto something.

Frank Carbo September 5, 2017 at 11:50 am

You’re missing the point: having two of Nieve. Poels or Moscon (and note that Sky appear to be spelling them on various stages, so they’re not putting in the effort every stage, as is the case with the other teams’ super-domestiques/mountain bodyguards, and certainly, there is no pressure on them to win a stage), allows Froome to ride differently. If he didn’t have them, he would have to mark Nibali’s efforts, because to ride on the front, even pedaling Watts, as he appears to be doing for a linear effort, would expend far more energy. Absent the bodyguards, he would have to mark the attacks, expending the same energy as Nibali, and opening him up to further attacks. Again, he might well be still the stronger were he forced to do that, but the fact is that he doesn’t have to, and that allows him to suck wheels and pedal Watts at a steady rate. This Nibali then realizes it isn’t worth the effort and eases back into the pack. That’s a long way of saying that it’s not about just Nibali vs Froome+Bodyguards, but that that composition the whole tactical picture.

Big Ringer September 5, 2017 at 11:39 am

Whilst Nibali sits in the wheels, he too benefits from the pacing at the front. To follow your comment, I think it is logical to say that to get away, all Nibali has to do is beat two GC Contender-level riders. If he can’t do that, then he doesn’t earn the right to take on ‘the big boss’ 😉

Oracle September 5, 2017 at 12:08 pm

No, let’s make an example.

Froome 350 Watt – Poels 350 Watt – Nieve 400 Watt………………………………Nibali 420 Watt

Let’s say it takes 4 minutes to get rid of Nieve and 5 minutes to get rid of Poels.
Then Nibali has 9 minutes of 420 Watts (compared to 9 minutes of Froome 350 Watts) to create a gap of approx. 20 seconds.
That’s not enough.

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 12:10 pm

I agree with that Big Ringer. Froome would have team mates in any team and I see no reason why he’d use them any other way. If you and your team can’t combat this strategy then you don’t earn the right to take on the big cheese head to head. Froome controlled stage 15 without ever having to put his nose in front. Bahrain-Merida are hardly paupers either so the “big bucks” argument is harder to argue here. Sky should get credit not criticism. They know its a team game and not just about having the best man to drop off at the top of the mountain.

Ferdi September 5, 2017 at 12:31 pm

If it’s not sheer big bucks, then why is it that Sky has better mountain domestiques?

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 12:39 pm

They have better coaches, better talent spotters, a better plan and they execute it better. Compare BMC. They are hardly poor and have GC ambitions but they regularly made a total mess of it. Why do Sky win big stage races and they don’t? (Also note they paid top dollar for a rider who excelled with Sky to try and change their results.)

Big Ringer September 5, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Ferdi – according to Jonathan Vaughters (when talking about team budgets) BMC have about the same budget as Sky. Perhaps their software needs an update, a better operating system or their robots are struggling with existentialism? 😉

Big Ringer September 5, 2017 at 12:49 pm

RonDe – just seen your comment. We must have been writing at similar times.

Valverde's Knee September 5, 2017 at 12:52 pm

BMC are TTT world champs for several years in a row. That kind of power has been paid for. But money does not simply translate into grand tour wins. They are the proof.

E_Pi September 5, 2017 at 1:17 pm

(Ferdi) If it’s not sheer big bucks, then why is it that Sky has better mountain domestiques?

The money certainly is a massive help (but to a certain extent they’ve earned it by being so successful… if they hadn’t won TdFs they probably wouldn’t exist anymore.)
But I wonder at times about the psychology of other teams. Traditionalists insist that cycling is an individual sport, not a team sport, and therefore struggle to imitate Sky’s approach. Some other GC teams are closer to being 9 individual egos than they are to being a unified team. Just look for example at Astana’s disunity when they should have been defending Aru’s yellow jersey, and Sunweb’s Barguil problem. TeamSky choose riders that don’t just have good legs, but also who have the correct attitude.

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 1:21 pm

@E_Pi Compare Sunweb’s approach in the Giro with a smaller budget. Its ALL about the team goal. Sunweb aren’t rich. But they won a grand tour and many think they will win more. The money argument is complicated not simple and is often used by those looking for an excuse.

gastro george September 5, 2017 at 1:44 pm

I got the feeling that when Nibali attacked on Sunday, he expected others to follow. A joint attack sharing the wind has more chance of getting away – see Contador and Lopez. Maybe others were already on the limit, maybe deterred by the eventual fate of Contador. Maybe Nibali should have joined Contador’s attack. Whatever, once he realised he was alone, he did the sensible thing.

Big Ringer September 5, 2017 at 2:09 pm

Oracle – your example seems fair enough. What it underlines to me is that other GC contenders need to organise their teams / find more willing domestiques so that they do a better job of saving their leaders for later in the war. There is nothing magical about Sky, but at the moment they do seem to be better at doing-what-they-do than anyone else (with possibly the best leader).

I stand by my comment that all Nibali needs to do is beat two GC contenders, but how he would best achieve that is down to him to work out

Anonymous September 5, 2017 at 9:19 pm

Are people here honestly suggesting that anyone else’s domestiques are the equal of Froome/Sky’s?

Mark H September 5, 2017 at 11:13 am

60 or 90 as in your above comment?

We need to know so we can tell you if you got it wrong tomorrow 😉

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 11:18 am

I said Quintana would lose 3 minutes to Dumoulin in the 1st Giro ITT. No one believed me then, their fantasy result playing out in their head. He lost 2.53 which was close enough for me. As in my comment below, Froome will gain a minimum of 60 seconds to the GC field. Thereafter who knows?

Anonymous September 5, 2017 at 11:51 am

Many predicted that.

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Go back to the Giro stage 9 comments. Then you can see who predicted it on this blog and who said I was wrong.

Eskerrik Asko September 5, 2017 at 1:27 pm

It’s one thing to write your own reviews and quite another to rewrite history. As already pointed out, *everyone* exepcted Quintana to lose a minimum of 2 minutes and up to 2,30 was generally considered doable. And that was without accounting for the possibility that (a) Quintana would have an unusually bad day, (b) Dumoulin would have an unusually good day, and (c) the wind conditions would turn out to be worse than in the weather forecast.
And if rewriting history as blantantly as you did is one thing, the bit about the fantasy result playing out in everyone else’s head borders on sheer madness!
Besides, you’re on record saying 2.30 would be a great day for Dumoulin and that he shouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than that. You did *also* say Quintana could lose 3 minutes and *everyone* gave you credit for that – but it was not a unique or a particularly sharp prognostication or an opinion that was vehemently considered beyond the realm of possibility by everyone else.

PS Even if I have to give it to you not all of your views are poorly informed, ill-considered, opinionated and jarringly expressed, I cannot help but skip over your comments sometimes when you are “on a roll”.

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 1:35 pm

I’m fortunate to have people who read my comments closely enough to remind me of past comments. I don’t believe being opinionated is wrong provided you show your reasoning. And I frequently have.

Eskerrik Asko September 5, 2017 at 1:43 pm

Siince you ask for it: “I think he could take as much as 2.30 from Quintana on Tuesday.”
Guess who wrote that?
Oe “a great day for Dumoulin today is something in the 2.30+ range – and I think its at least a reasonable aim”?

Well, the answer is that it was the same person who wrote: “I’ve been saying for days that Tom Dumoulin would get 3 minutes on Quintana. I’ll take 2.53!”

Ecky Thump September 5, 2017 at 8:45 am

I’m loving the Daily Diaz.
The Navarra Circuit sounds expensive (it is!) but it cost about €20 million / mile.
This actually compares favourably with UK new road construction prices – given as a whopping £29.9 million / mile for a new motorway and £16.2 million / mile for a new dual carriageway.

If you ever cycle on a Sustrans cycle path, around the UK, here are some costed examples for interest and comparison sake –

http://www.sustrans.org.uk/sites/default/files/images/files/migrated-pdfs/17%20costs%5B1%5D(1).pdf

Ecky Thump September 5, 2017 at 8:47 am
Ecky Thump September 5, 2017 at 8:48 am

Sorry, the .pdf is not behaving itself and c & p’ing, but you get the idea. Haha.

Tovarishch September 5, 2017 at 9:02 am

Are those costs for the UK correct? According to RIA Novosti who were looking at Russian road building costs, the comparative costs are China – $1.3M, USA $3.6M, EU $4.3M, Russia $10.6M (but $31.0M outside Moscow!). Probably only single carriageway but it looks a huge difference.

Ecky Thump September 5, 2017 at 10:29 am

Those costs of yours seem extraordinarily low by comparison.
Cheaper labour / degree of engineering?

I find the Sustrans costings fascinating (2007 prices). They range from £11,500 / km for a quiet suburban cycle path, right up to circa £1 million / km for a segregated kerb urban cycle path, which gives an indication of likely costs for the Cycle Superhighways in central London.
That’s just the capital cost, of course. There’s the on-going revenue cost to add, and this can catch many a local authority out – simple things like cutting back over-hanging brambles, clearing the sadly inevitable fly tipping and litter / broken glass.
They’re still an excellent way to spend public money though, even if not entirely suitable for expensive road bikes.

Big Ringer September 5, 2017 at 11:27 am

The last tarmac cycleway I built cost £214,000 (ex VAT) for a kilometer off road, including all preliminary and associated costs. I think litter clearing in Essex costs local authorities around £1million per annum. I think the problem with brambles over cycleways in the UK is that it reflects the level of importance the government places on cycleways and cycling as a mode of transport – very little despite the rhetoric. The costs in London will be stupendously high, for many reasons, but not least of which is because the city has been developed over time without space for cycleways let alone those segregated with kerbs. Retrofitting them in a way that is safe and creates a pleasant cycling environment is very difficult on many levels.

Given the amount of factors that can influence the cost of construction, I am not sure what you can take out of the headline construction costs for various countries, other than that is how the costs averaged out. If one country includes the provision of new power lines in undeveloped areas, or has to import large volumes of road building material from far away the cost will probably be considerably higher than those that don’t etc. I’ve seen maps that suggest a very large part of Russia does not have mains electricity. Some parts of the world have capital funds directed towards ’employee massages’ too.

BenW September 5, 2017 at 12:21 pm

“The last tarmac cycleway I built cost £214,000 (ex VAT) for a kilometer off road, including all preliminary and associated costs. ”

Jeez. What were you making it out of, gold? Half a kilometer of single-carriageway highway with footways doesn’t cost me that.

Big Ringer September 5, 2017 at 12:39 pm

BenW… I think I mentioned it being built from tarmac 😉

part of the point of my post was about costs being different in different situations for things that on face value seem the same – in response to the costings given above. In some regards your comment supports this – unless your project and mine shared the same exactly the circumstances.

Big Ringer September 5, 2017 at 12:39 pm

… or something written in better English!

Pax September 5, 2017 at 8:56 am

I see Froome maximizing his advantage where basically no one else on GC can get close. To me Froome is the best Gc cyclist (with team). I expect TJ to be closet but he is quite a ways back.

I am most interested to see how super man does with what ever Astana magic wand they can wave.

Also first big time tt for woods.

noel September 5, 2017 at 11:20 am

I think Woods has been lowering any expectations, so it’ll be interesting to see how much time he does ship here

Richard S September 5, 2017 at 9:01 am

If Froome keeps a little bit in the bag then I quite fancy Jungels as he has no reason to conserve anything, likewise Lampaert. It’ll be interesting to see the times as this is a largely flat almost exactly 25 mile effort, similar to the sort of thing British club cyclists do week in week out. I’ll be looking to see if I scalp anyone…!

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 11:03 am

I noticed that too. There will be a few club riders comparing their 25 mile times tonight!

Matt September 5, 2017 at 1:21 pm

There’s good news and bad news:

The good news is that there are some twisties at the start and finish to keep their average speed down compared to a UK DC course.

The bad news is that there is no CTT regulation that the start and finish need to be within a certain distance, and the majority of the course is running SW with a NE wind forecast.

Let’s call it a float day. 😀

Matt September 5, 2017 at 1:22 pm

Also, the ToB has a ’10’ on Thursday. Will be interesting to see how Białobłocki does.

Richard S September 5, 2017 at 3:01 pm

well the roads will be closed so he wont be getting sucked along by passing traffic, so maybe no record! I don’t think the Vuelta lot will get near his time for 25, the first two thirds of the course aren’t downhill!

Erlend September 5, 2017 at 9:16 am

Kämna didn’t win the u23 worlds last year. He placed 4th

Anonymouse September 5, 2017 at 9:29 am

I cannot imagine that any of the GC contenders, and Froome most of all, would be holding back “to conserve some energy for the upcoming stages”. It’s an effort of less than an hour!

BC September 5, 2017 at 9:59 am

+1 Anonymouse. It would make absolutely no sense for Froome not to try and put as much time as he is capable into his closest challengers to consolidate his overall position. Just as importantly, it’s also part of his mentality and stated aim to take advantage of his rivals where ever he feels it’s possible.

J Evans September 5, 2017 at 10:40 am

Yep, far better to gain as much time here as possible – I doubt 40k is that taxing and the gains are comparatively huge. Then, he only has to hang on in the mountains, which he seems perfectly able to do. I think, unfortunately, the race pretty much ends here – I expect him to put at least 90 seconds into the other GC contenders and for many it’ll be significantly worse. If he did say that he’ll be taking it a bit easier I wouldn’t believe him.

Big Ringer September 5, 2017 at 11:05 am

+1 Agreed.

noel September 5, 2017 at 11:24 am

….plus putting himself up for the Worlds TT tells me that a) his TT game is in pretty good shape, and b) his season has been structured round being strong in the second half (and coming out of) the Vuelta, so JE, I think you are probably right.
I too fancy Jungels to take it , altho his form doesn’t appear quite as stellar as it was in the Giro…

Ecky Thump September 5, 2017 at 12:27 pm

The other point is that Nieve and Poels certainly won’t be going full gas in the TT, so it’ll be advantage Froome whatever happens…

Sim September 5, 2017 at 9:32 am

I think Kelderman might surprise a few people today. He’s been hampered by tonnes of bad luck (and more than a few poor decisions of his own too), but he’s shown glimpses of his class in the past. He beat Dumoulin at the national ITTs only 2 years ago.

He seems to be in top shape, should be fresher than most other GC riders having only raced 9 stages in the Giro, and is (finally) in a position to contest the podium in a Grand Tour. I expect a very good TT from him today.

Lee Woodhead September 5, 2017 at 10:02 am

Froome will gain at least 90 seconds, I don’t think he will hold back given that it is likely to be 50 minute or less effort.

Matt September 5, 2017 at 1:26 pm

Given most of the course will have a tailwind, I reckon they will at least be down under 45m

Ferdi September 5, 2017 at 10:26 am

Zakarin did beat Froome here in Romandie a couple of years ago. Convincigly, too. But he hasn’t shown that TT level again.

Mark H September 5, 2017 at 10:41 am

Seems to be a theme amongst many of the GC riders (other than Froome, Contador of days gone past, and now I suppose Dumoulin) that they are occasionally capable of doing very good TTs but are inconsistent. Is there a reason? Lack of practice? good only over specific course types?

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 11:06 am

That day was wet as I recall.

Mark H September 5, 2017 at 12:24 pm

Yeah I guess weather is a big factor actually, in terms of both ability and luck. On a rainy day with nothing on the line those riders are less likely to put too much effort in than those at the sharp end. On a day with changeable winds the start times of the riders has a big impact.

Vitus September 6, 2017 at 1:27 am

Doing an ITT in a one week race is another than after 2 weeks of a GT. A thing statistic nerds never will get. Races are done on the road, not with a slideruler

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 11:12 am

I’m not being too bold in my predictions today. I expect a minute of time gains as a minimum for Froome but more than that its hard to tell. Some could drop significantly more and a stellar performance might put Nibali in danger of being caught (he starts only 2 minutes ahead). But pretty much everyone thinks Froome will increase the gap to the rest so its uncontroversial to say so.

The other top GC guys actually seem very well matched. Nibali, Zakarin, Kelderman and Lopez anyway. They shouldn’t be too far apart at all and the podium is far from decided yet. Much to play for today where you can make direct time gains or losses on your rivals based on your own strength and not race dynamics. My pick to do well there is Kelderman. I was harsh on him earlier in the race calling him “the Dutch Tejay”. My bad.

During the rest day I mused with a little question that my critics prompted with all their chatter. Its this: let’s say Nibali was racing here for Sky and Froome was racing for Bahrain-Merida. Would Froome still win or would Nibali win?

Mark H September 5, 2017 at 11:21 am

You lost your bottle since 10:56 when you said 90 seconds!

That’s a very difficult question to answer, good thought. Froome’s strength in the TT means he doesn’t need to attack uphill so assuming Sky still raced in their usual style he could just hang onto Nibali and the Sky train for the mountains and then gain time on the TT as now. But if Sky had Nibali as leader would they change their tactics to become more attacking given his weaker TT?

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 11:25 am

Not really. I’m fairly confident Nibali will lose 90 seconds but I can’t be sure. A minimum of 60 to all GC contenders seems reasonable. Much more won’t surprise me.

Mark H September 5, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Haha, I’m just messing with you really. We will see tomorrow.
I’m gonna say 75 seconds 🙂

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 12:22 pm

You crazy guy 😛

Ferdi September 5, 2017 at 11:59 am

I think Froome would still win, and I am sure it would be a helluva show. But there’s a chance Poels would win too.

J Evans September 5, 2017 at 12:01 pm

I agree, which is why some sort of budget cap would be good. How much more interesting would it be to see Froome (or someone else) winning without having a much stronger team? We’d be much more likely to see a real contest. (Cheeky of Contador to suggest it when he’s retiring, though…)

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 12:22 pm

“Interest” like “excitement” is subjective. Let’s go back to guys with tyres over their shoulders and a big dinner tucked in the back pockets of their wool jerseys. You can’t say a true mano a mano wouldn’t be either interesting or exciting.

One thing the budget cappers aren’t contemplating in their rush to cap teams they don’t like is what would happen if the rich just left. Its ironic when one loud mouthed and, to some, dubious team boss has his begging bowl out that others with an interest in the sport seem content to drive out those who are actually happy to spend millions. The only gain for any sponsor in cycling is the exposure that comes from winning. Take away their ability to win and maybe they decide the return on the investment isn’t worth the trouble. And why do we think Bahrain and UAE have got involved as well? Its disturbing when some would rather keep cycling as a small, parochial sport when others have increased its popularity beyond what was formerly imagined possible. And with little thanks from some quarters.

Ferdi September 5, 2017 at 1:24 pm

It’s not about attracting sponsors. Who cares for their money except for the pros themselves? I’d rather their sponsored races instead of teams. What we need to attract is young fans, and the kind of cycling where emotion, excitement, epics, legend, suffering, glory, and all those aesthetic, subjective concepts are not put in the centre to leave space for mere businesslike victory management is not likely to capture the young generations. It’s a pure Armstrongian kind of cycling (not talking doping), and it just drives people away, it just doesn’t fascinate because it doesn’t even want to.
I find it very difficult to convince my son to watch team-based races. He only tunes in when the field explodes, and he can see the heroes in the first person.

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 1:28 pm

In the UK Sky have attracted young fans. I believe there is data for it. But we don’t want THOSE kind of fans, right?

Anonymous September 5, 2017 at 1:43 pm

Really it comes down to one’s own priorities: sport or business.

As for British interest in cycling, I think most of that will last only as long as a British rider is winning the TdF.

Most non-British cycling fans I have spoken to think that the sport is becoming less interesting. Take away the British blip and people are being turned off my predictable racing.
Any suggestion of changes to that are generally derided as backwards-thinking, communistic, parochial or anti-technology.
The bubble will burst, as it did in the US.

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 6:24 pm

Anonymous I believe the first person to admit that sport today IS business would be Jonathan Vaughters. Its because its business that he struggles and because sport and business are intricately linked.

Anonymous September 5, 2017 at 9:22 pm

Teams (businesses) come and go – the sport is what matters.

James September 6, 2017 at 1:47 am

“Let’s go back to guys with tyres over their shoulders and a big dinner tucked in the back pockets of their wool jersey” That’s the kind of bull why everyone hates reading you. And I’m pretty sure you never watched a race or rode one when we wore wool. You’ve know idea. But a lot of time to write your opininn a dozen times a day.

Anonymouse September 5, 2017 at 11:45 am

Another thought. Based on his intrinsic TT skills, Froome really should put at least one minute into the other GC contenders. However, a third-week TT in a grand tour reflects the freshness of the riders as well. Therefore, if Froome were to gain less than a minute to the likes of Nibali, Kelderman, Zakarin, maybe even Lopez, it would suggest he’s starting to run on empty.

Unlikely as it may be (or is it, considering he rode the Tour?), this could set up a brilliant final few stages. I like Froome – he’s always been a class act on and off the bike – but I wouldn’t mind seeing a close battle until Madrid 😉

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 11:55 am

Last year Froome rode the Tour AND two Olympic races AND the ITT was three stages later. He still beat the entire field by 44 seconds (future team mate Castroviejo in 2nd place) and his main rival, Quintana, by 2.16. and Contador by 1.57. (Honourable mentions to Ludvigsson and Lampaert, mentioned by INRNG above, who were beaten by 1.24 and 1.26 that day.)

Anonymouse September 5, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Indeed, and the next stage up the Aitana he didn’t lose any time significant for the GC. So that’s how it should look today and the rest of the week if he’s as fresh as in 2016.

My point then was: in the unlikely case he’s *not* as fresh, today could provide the telltale sign in the form of a less-than-expected win over the other GC contenders.

SirDaveBrailsford September 5, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Froome will destroy them. Without any team to help him. Step up you other contenders or go home.

Georg September 5, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Budget caps: so basically you’re telling Poels, Kwiatkowski, Thomas and many other riders that they are not worth paying well because we have a communist view of cycling’s economics? If you cap budgets you don’t change anything. You just make the top cyclists poorer.

And what is the new budget? Because the likes of Sky will still have the full budget from day one whereas others may not.

It is the economics of envy, nothing more, nothing less.

Valverde's Knee September 5, 2017 at 12:56 pm

To those who have small budgets and think they cannot compete I say this: work harder to get better sponsors and get smarter with what you have. That’s what Lefevere does at Quickstep. They regularly win both big races and the most races. Their budget is not that of Sky.

Not having enough money is an excuse used by losers.

SirDaveBrailsford September 5, 2017 at 1:06 pm

There is actually a budget cap now. Its what sponsorship your setup can attract. I can well understand why some attract a budget and others do not. Its called having a record of success with what you had to work with before. This is why the “equality” nonsense is ill-conceived. It works on the basis that everyone should be equal when the fact is they aren’t. Some teams are better than others and so worth attracting more money. Would you back Quickstep or Cannondale with your $5 million? I know which would get the better return for my business.

Anonymous September 5, 2017 at 1:37 pm

Sky started with a big budget and no record of success. As have many other teams: Bahrain-Merida, UAE (next year apparently), etc.

Jamis September 5, 2017 at 2:06 pm

Ah yes , lovely Bahrain , look at our cycling team not our human rights record

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 6:26 pm

Correction: Sky started with British Cycling’s (Sky-funded) Olympic record of success… and many of their staff.

Big Ringer September 5, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Nice post.

Big Ringer September 5, 2017 at 2:36 pm

Grrr.
Nice post SDB above.

Frank Carbo September 5, 2017 at 10:29 pm

A salary cap would involve some level of revenue sharing. Works brilliantly in the NFL — contrary to being “communist”, it’s actually the best commercial policy for a sport, in my view.

David September 6, 2017 at 8:02 am

What’s so wrong with being a bit “communist” anyway? Rampant capitalism hasn’t exactly got such a stellar record of being a great way to organise things.

J Evans September 5, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Budget caps:

‘Let’s go back to guys with tyres over their shoulders and a big dinner tucked in the back pockets of their wool jerseys.’ – that’s got nothing to do with this subject.

Some think more money and more popularity is always a better thing – this probably isn’t the forum to discuss society’s indoctrination of people on this matter. (But isn’t it odd that one of the first concerns mentioned is ‘You just make the top cyclists poorer’ – so protecting the rich is the top priority.)

Some also need to learn what the word ‘communism’ means.

SirDaveBrailsford September 5, 2017 at 1:08 pm

I think most people in cycling and not just society would like to think if they excel they will be suitably rewarded. Its hardly a novel concept.

J Evans September 5, 2017 at 1:26 pm

But would matters be improved, or worsened, if the rewards for the small number at the top were a bit less and those for the large number at the bottom a bit more?

Big Ringer September 5, 2017 at 2:28 pm

Sport is elitist

E_Pi September 5, 2017 at 2:11 pm

It’s worth mentioning that even many pro sports in the supposedly ultra-capitalist USA have salary caps (although they’re set astronomically high).

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 6:31 pm

Salary caps that incorporate high earners and everyone getting hugely richer. What we call a cartel. Its anti-sporting in that no outsider can join in. In cycling there is always the chance for a team with a rich sponsor to step up or step in afresh. Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft are not socialists.

Cilmeri September 5, 2017 at 1:24 pm

I suspect if you have a budget cap, then riders will get more money via external sponsorship to top it up (ie all organised by the teams). A variation on paying in brown envelopes when amateurs. Or there’ll be an image rights loophole.

Plus with budget caps, you provide an unfair advantage to teams with riders in countries with low tax rates.

Basically I don’t think it’s workable in a global environment. (so on a practical rather than principle level).

Froome to win the GC today unfortunately. Prior to the stage 17 monster steep interesting climb that has been mentioned in dispatches.

Ferdi September 5, 2017 at 2:43 pm

Actually, an international covenant on equal (equally high, that is) taxation on sports professionals’ incomes would be a fantastic initiative. I think the public would generally like it. And then if a country doesn’t sign to it, the teams and sportspeople residing in it cannot take part in international competitions. I suppose the idea would drive many people in Switzerland nuts, but in the rest of Europe it’d work.

Ferdi September 5, 2017 at 3:51 pm

And it must be said everytime: TT is the one exercise where allowing power-metres makes absolutely no sense. It’s about pacing oneself, guessing how deep you can go, never really knowing if you’re going faster than you should or too slow. Without power-metres, we would witness many more surprises.

Anonymous September 5, 2017 at 4:58 pm

No-one can name an occasion when they improve racing. So, why have them?

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 6:34 pm

Its about pacing yourself yes. What this has to do with “guessing” only you can tell us. Any rider is free not to use them. They are not compulsory.

Watts September 5, 2017 at 9:22 pm

I have ridden many time trials with a power meter. And a few without due to circumstances. It’s a different experience but not slower, you just go more by feel. Which is also what you’re doing when you can look at a powermeter. You check it once in a while.

I think those who benefit the most from a powermeter on a TT ride are novices, because they don’t know themselves. I think the pros know themselves well, so if you look at the case of Bardet bonking in the TT at the tour, he might have been too focused on following his numbers not taking into account that it was the 3rd week of the tour so they would be lower.

I am not saying that Ferdi has never raced a bike, with your insight I’m sure you have. I’m just saying that a power meter does not make you ride faster. You still have to push the pedals yourself.

The Inner Ring September 5, 2017 at 10:03 pm

I’d go with that. The first time you ride with a powermeter it is mesmerising to see the numbers go up and down. Weeks/months later and you know when you are doing N watts or N+10% watts etc and riders know what the right pace feels like.

A powermeter can help with pacing so you don’t start like crazy but an experienced pro shouldn’t either. Even if they did a DS in a following car with a stopwatch too.

Also worth noting Bardet was ill that day with a fever, he didn’t really crack he started slow and got slower.

Ferdi September 6, 2017 at 11:40 am

1) A power-metre can even make you go slower, because it can prevent you from going positively crazy and deliver the performance of your life, much beyond what you had done before. You’d say that no one forces you to use one, but that’s not the point, the point being that it is different to ride according to sensations than according to numeric information.
2) I heard Indurain yesterday on TVE saying that he even refused to use the HR monitor during TTs, and that didn’t prevent him from riding like a metronome. Of course knowing yourself reduces the utility of the power-metre, but still it makes a difference for those who use it (otherwise they would gladly accept its banning).
3) The more numeric information you have, the more different you relation to agony is. My point is: time trials are a distinctive psychological exercise, where the man is left alone to deal with his nervous system, that provides him information on the pain in his legs, the state of his heart, the energy in his body, etc… Numeric information denatures it. For the Hour Record, is the power-metre allowed?
4) Bonking on TTs used to be much more frequent (Breukink vs Lemond and Indurain, 1991 TdF, anyone), just like guys finishing like a cannonball and yet losing time. This goes for uphill TTs (Avoriaz, 1983; Ventoux 1987), too: before power-metres, they very seldom reproduced the climbing hierarchy in a GT, now they repeat it almost verbatim.
5) Besides, like Anonymous says, let’s not reverse the burden of proof: it is for power-metres defenders to prove how they improve racing, not for detractors to prove how they worsen it. If the effect is nil, then they should not be allowed, and no one should have a problem.

CA September 6, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Power metres will never be banned… cycling is in large part a sport based on technological advances, with large sponsorship dollars based on this.

Power metres aren’t why riders don’t bonk on TTs anymore, it’s because the TTs are about half the distance. Previous TTs were well over 1-hour efforts, now they are often 20-40 minutes. It’s nearly impossible to bonk on that effort.

CA September 5, 2017 at 10:39 pm

Ferdi – are you making the point that TT’s would be more exciting without power metres? haha… that might be an oxymoron, 95% of TT’s are pretty boring.

Of the 5% that have exciting elements, 99% of the riders’ results are irrelevant to the casual fan.

Power metres don’t change this one bit. As some of the commenters have replied with, an experienced TT rider knows how to ride within himself so a powermetre doesn’t really change things. I doubt you could really pick out a TT from the past 20 years where powermetres made a noticeable difference in the outcome.

David September 6, 2017 at 8:25 am

TTs aren’t (inherently) boring; the TV coverage we get of TTs is generally boring. It seems as if the organisers / TV companies just can’t be bothered to make even half an effort to make it engaging. With current technology and the amount of data that’s now being collected, it surely shouldn’t be beyond the wit of those involved to make substantial improvements: better use of virtual splits between riders; comparisons of speed etc. at the same point on the course (knowing what two riders are doing now is meaningless, since they’ll be on different terrain); split screen ‘ghosting’ of previous riders at the same time during their run so that you can compare the difference in where they are on the road…

We did get some virtual splits yesterday, but they were frequently… idiosyncratic in who they chose to compare against. And in many TTs we don’t even get to see the times as riders go through the timing checks, which raises the question, what is the point of them?

Anonymouse September 5, 2017 at 4:03 pm

L.L. Sanchez overtook Moscon already after a good 6 min… Clearly Moscon was ordered to save his energy for tomorrow.

DAVE September 5, 2017 at 6:16 pm

Chaves dropping 4mins to Froome. Ouch. It’s so hard to see him winning a GT without some serious luck.

Meintjes 3mins, even Lopez 2.30 down.

Quite surprised by many of these results… Great ride by Nibali though, likewise Zakarin and Contador.

Once Contador, Nibali, Froome have gone and Dumoulin is racing TDF against other big hitters, Zakarin has a great chance of a Grand Tour. Wout Poels likewise.

Was interested to see what Moscon would do today, seems like he soft pedalled unfortunately.

Anonymous September 5, 2017 at 9:25 pm

30 in a month, Poels might have left it too late.

Frank Carbo September 5, 2017 at 6:27 pm

the TT has set up a fascinating battle for third, I would have thought.

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 6:39 pm

Great rides by Kelderman, Nibali, Zakarin and Contador. I’m not convinced Froome was giving it the full beans but I don’t want to be seen to be belittling the achievements of others because I’m not. It just looks like Froome did enough though even though he was clearly faster in sectors 2 and 3 on the timings. When he is so close to an historic win I’m pretty sure he must be getting nervous right now that something silly might snatch it away.

Wakey September 5, 2017 at 8:25 pm

Any early thoughts on tomorrow folks…I need to get my fantasy picks in.

Surely if any of the riders have any intention of attacking Froome or improving themselves onto a podium finish then they only have tomorrow and the penultimate stage left to do it. …or at least they offer the best opportunities.

Contador to drag the field to another GC battle on the final climb ?…(a few contemplating a breakaway day but I don’t see it)…

Big Ringer September 5, 2017 at 8:43 pm

So the top 5 on gc finish as the top 5 on the stage. Almost in the same order.

Wakey September 5, 2017 at 8:51 pm

As for today. It was quite interesting that many commentators took the view that Froome would be happy to take a minute..in fact they damned near predicted it.

I’ll consider it coincidence that he took almost exactly that at 57 seconds because if it was anything else then it takes planning to a new level…even by SKY’s standards.

Ferdi September 5, 2017 at 3:02 pm

BMC is a very strange case, and its #1 is a classics specialist. I’d compare more Sky with Bahrain, Movistar or even Trek. It’s basically about the money (not only salaries, mind you). Just imagine if this year Thomas had been at UAE, Landa at Lotto-Soudal, Poels at Lotto-Jumbo, Kwiatkowski at Dimension Data, and Nieve at Cofidis. The GT top-10 would have been quite different.

E_Pi September 5, 2017 at 4:37 pm

… and Sky would have still found a way, leading to a lot of screaming and hair being torn out.

RonDe September 5, 2017 at 6:37 pm

Its an eternal argument because Sky would have got in another five riders you would have complained it wasn’t fair that they could afford. Whoever Sky get some will always say they are being held back or not being given their own chance. Why don’t we just let riders make their own career choices and leave it at that?

AK September 6, 2017 at 12:29 am

It’s pretty simple. It’s not about fair. It’s about getting rid of the predictable style of racing. The mountain train tactic is just getting old now. Of course it’s Sky’s good right to play the game this way, as it is the most effective way to win GT’s. But unless you are a Froome fan, it’s boring as hell. (BTW, nothing against Froome, and if he would not be as strong as he is, the whole mountain train thing wouldn’t do much)
The UCI should respond to this by changing the rules. Most big spectator sports do this when an effective but boring tactic becomes prevalent. I’m not sure the salary cap would be the best solution but it might help. Smaller teams will help, they’re doing that. I’m not sure what other things could work, they’ve tried everything with course design to no avail.
The most obvious weapon against the Sky train is a rider who keep up with that train but is strong enough in the TT to take time there, and hence would not have to attack in the mountains. It would force Froome to attack instead. I guess this is why everyone is looking forward so much to Dumoulin entering the Tour next year.

J Evans September 6, 2017 at 12:51 am

I feel exactly this. It’s not about who I like or don’t like (there is not a single rider I feel strongly about, in fact). It’s not that Sky are doing anything wrong. It’s that I now only watch the hour highlights of grand tours and there are few or no days where I think ‘I wish I’d seen that live’. This is going from watching a minimum of 3 hours of every stage of a GT. Watching a queue of riders slowly chugging up a mountain is dull. And there are many who feel this way. I don’t have the answers, I’d just be willing to try stuff. (Start with smaller teams and see how it goes.)

J Evans September 6, 2017 at 1:01 am

Was supposed to be a reply to AK.
Try smaller teams, try budget restrictions, try no powermeters and no radios (those two would be simple, as would smaller teams).
It’s not about stopping the successful, it’s about making it more of a spectacle.
Back when I used to watch (sorry to mention it) soccerball, Maradona used to get chunks kicked out of his legs on a regular basis and I remember thinking how much I’d rather see this genius play.
They altered the rules, eventually, and allowed those guys to play more. (Of course, then I realised what a god-awful sport it is… and besides, I’d seen Maradona – everyone else paled in comparison.)

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