Vuelta a España Stage 21 Preview

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The traditional parade into Madrid to crown the winner and offer a last sprint finish for those who have stayed the course. The finish is later than usual.

Stage 20 Review: Contador delivered the stage win he’d been promising and did so in front of dense crowds on the slopes of the Angliru.

The Route: 117km and a flat sprint finish. There’s 77km looping in and out of Madrid’s suburbs and dormitory towns before 44km of the 5.6km circuit in the city, all on wide flat roads.

The Contenders: who is left to sprint? Matteo Trentin can win the points jersey back from Chris Froome but only if he wins both the intermediate sprint and the stage and Froome doesn’t place. He’s in good shape and has a strong team but the flat finish on a wide road is not his thing, he’s thrived on the punchy uphill sprints.

Sacha Modolo is the pedigree pick, he’s won stages aplenty in the Giro but has had a quiet Vuelta so he’s not a reassuring pick. J-J Lobato (Lotto-Jumbo)has enjoyed some good wins but like Trentin he tends to win harder, hillier finishes. Adam Blythe (Aqua Blue Sport) has great finishing speed and this stage is his best chance of all the three weeks. Edward Theuns is Trek-Segafredo’s chance now Degenkolb is out. Bora-Hansgrohe’s Michael Schwarzmann may not be the first name to come to mind when citing German sprinters but finish fast. Tom Van Asbroek (Cannondale-Drapac) is quick too, ditto FDJ’s Lorrenzo Manzin and Ag2r’s Julian Duval. Last among the sprinters is Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica-Scott) who won here a year ago and can count on the whole team to set him up again.

But who says it’s a sprint? The likes of Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) and Floris De Tier (Lotto-Jumbo) have the power to barge clear in the finale.

Matteo Trentin, Adam Blythe, MCN
Schwarzmann, Theuns, Modolo

Weather: 25°C and sunny.

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. The finish is forecast for 8.20pm CEST.

Madrid Challenge: the women’s criterium takes place on the same circuit in Madrid. The concluding event of the Women’s World Tour, the finish is for 4.15pm CEST.

Daily Díaz: Let’s finish the Vuelta with another music suggestion. La Cabra Mecánica (“The Mechanical Goat”) was a Madrid-based music band from 1995 to 2010. Their most successful years were the late 1990s and the early 2000s. Arguably the song that launched them to the mainstream media was La lista de la compra (“The shopping list”), but I think for a day like today Felicidad (“Happiness”) is more fitting. Who is happier today than three and a half weeks ago? Which riders, or teams, have outperformed their expectations? Which stages, or moments, have been the most enjoyable? Of course, there are still 117,6 km and 3h30’ to be raced, but a preliminary review of the race can be sketched.

Many 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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Augie March September 10, 2017 at 6:12 am

If Fabio Aru has a weakness, it’s mountainous stage 20 of grand tours….

Ryan Davies September 10, 2017 at 8:40 am

Not in 2015, just ask Tom Doumoulin 😉

Free Landa September 10, 2017 at 10:20 am

Aru seems very sensitive and easily distracted. Perhaps its an Italian thing. He needs much more discipline and focus to become a consistent winner.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 10:23 am

Yes, an entire nation can all hold hold certain personality traits.

Jorgelito September 10, 2017 at 10:38 am

WTF? Adult comments please.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 10:58 am

You’re aware the un-adult comment about “italian thing” came from ‘Free Landa’, do you?

Free Landa September 10, 2017 at 11:34 am

“Perhaps”.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 12:29 pm

Perhaps it was xenophobia.

Free Landa September 10, 2017 at 4:12 pm

The only people I dislike as a class are those who cannot even make up a name for themselves and hide behind “anonymous” which causes confusion for readers apart from anything else. Own your comments. Its not hard.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 4:14 pm

Own your xenophobia.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 10:57 am

It’s not like he wasn’t weak the 19 stages before….

Augie March September 10, 2017 at 11:42 am

True, he hasn’t looked good all race really, but it would be a bad move to get a reputation for blowing up on the final GC day….

Joe Saroni September 10, 2017 at 3:50 pm

I don’t think Aru is allergic to Stage 20’s, but like a few notable Italian riders from the past, he’s overhyped. He’s not the next “campionissimo “. At this point in his career he’s a nice stage racer. In Italy, the weight of expectation is heavy on him. For those who are not able to read the Italian press, it’s easy to think that certain riders share a national trait to fail in big moments. Italy places certain riders on the campione pedestal at an early age, but few deleiver. The list is a long one. It’s not a knock on the riders, but the system that builds them up as ameteurs to be anointed the next Coppi or Giamondi, but most of the are Visentinis, Fondeiests, Giupponi’s….

DAVE September 10, 2017 at 4:01 pm

+1
He’s good just at this moment not in the top league.

Michael September 10, 2017 at 8:56 pm

Can’t really be too harsh on Aru this season. His season got derailed with that knee injury which ruled him out of the Giro – his primary goal of the season. Afterwards he was just playing catch up trying to do more build ups for the Tour and then the Vuelta. Considering this he didn’t do that badly when we compare his results to Chaves, who had similar injury issues this year.

The Inner Ring September 11, 2017 at 10:29 am

A stage win in the Tour de France, the yellow jersey and the Italian national champs too. This isn’t a good year but he’s managed to save things compared to last year where his form and health was a bigger problem. We’ll see if he’s off to UAE for next year and how he works with new management and Dan Martin, but can Astana afford to let him go?

Anonymous September 11, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Do Astana still have Lopez?

Razorback September 10, 2017 at 6:23 am

Was a nice Vuelta… better than I expected (and my expectations were quite high).
Great victory from Contador… happy for him.
I imagine that the comments will soon be full with comments about Froome and Contador, but I would also suggest comments on what we didnt see: Aru, Chaves, TGV…
– Absence of Aru and Bardet from the top 10 shows how hard is to go for the double
– Aru for me is still a rider that doesnt know how to cope with some misfortune. He completely loose his focus.
– Does anyone knows if Chaves got sick? He was doing great in first week and after that was a constant downhill
– TGV is proving hi critics right… I like the guy, but hard to see him producing results
– Moscon: He finished ahead of the likes of TGV, Meintjes, Chaves… what a race

Richard S September 10, 2017 at 9:01 am

Chaves had been injured for pretty much the whole first half of the season. He probably didn’t have the ‘base’ to compete for the full 3 weeks.

Jorgelito September 10, 2017 at 10:39 am

Aru’s os not lack of focus, he signed for another team and Astana wrote him off.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 11:01 am

Why is TGV still a thing to talk about? It’s pretty clear, on this blog or elsewhere, for years now, that he’s a road captain at best, but not a GC contender.

Motormouth September 10, 2017 at 5:15 pm

Yes, 10th on GC, he should just give up already! If you aren’t going to win might as well not bother trying.

Steve September 11, 2017 at 1:49 pm

TGV goes like a train, has hell of an engine, locomotive power etc etc.

Larrick September 10, 2017 at 7:18 am

Nothing to say except thank you Inrng for your previews and the Daily Diaz pieces.

As usual they were informed, fun and much appreciated.

Gowlett September 10, 2017 at 7:32 am

Chapeau to Alberto Accountant for a great finale to his career. Well deserved. Thanks as ever to Mr Ring for first class coverage.

Jorgelito September 10, 2017 at 10:40 am

+1

Oracle September 10, 2017 at 8:27 am

After 7 years, Froome deserves this Vuelta victory.

But it is no coincidence that the Giro was, by far, the most entertaining GT. It was the only GT where Sky didn’t play a role in the fight for the leader jersey. Cycling has many boring flat stages (high speed bunch into last kilometers) and mountain stages (with Sky) are going into the same direction. First they give away the stage by offering a big break away 12 minutes, then they chase by a calculated 95% of their power, a pace that’s easy to follow by 20 riders but makes it almost impossible to escape and gain much time. Then we see a sprint in the 2 last kilometers.
It’s good for Sky, but it’s bad for cycling (long term popularity and commercial wise). As long as a there are 8 domestics (of this Poels/Kwiat/Moscon strength) nothing will change. Even TT-specialist Tom Dumoulin will have almost no chance against team Sky.

routedusud September 10, 2017 at 9:28 am

Don’t be so pessimistic Oracle. 2018 hasn’t happened yet and we don’t know any of the grand tour routes, who will compete in each grand tour or what kind of form they will have. Froome may be the top of the current tree and Sky may be working out the best way to make grand tours submit to their will but nothing lasts for ever. Dumoulin, for example, and even Porte are riders aiming to beat Froome at his own game. We forget too easily that things could have turned out differently if Porte never crashed on the Mont du Chat and.. well, I can’t actually think of a way that Froome could have lost this Vuelta but you get my drift. Nothing is written and everything must be earned. There are no gifts in cycling.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 9:41 am

Other teams can and will do the same as Sky once/if Sky are no longer dominant. So, the style of racing will stay the same – unless rules are changed.

Valverde's Knee September 10, 2017 at 9:58 am

It seems you dislike cycling being a team sport Anonymous and want to stop teams utilizing that feature of the sport. I’m not on your side in that case and I find the bias against one way of winning bizarre. Sunweb won the Giro and they are not a wealthily-funded juggernaut of a team. They are just a bunch of organized cyclists with a strong team ethic. Those who can organize themselves successfully should not be penalized by those who dislike a certain way of winning. Its up to the others to find a way to beat it.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 10:26 am

See Oracle’s post. And many others on these pages over the course of the Vuelta.

Ferdi September 10, 2017 at 5:40 pm

No new fans will get hooked by seeing “a bunch of people getting organised and follow a collective work ethic”. Face it

Kupepe September 11, 2017 at 7:49 am

I love Porte, I really do. I had so much hopes for him when he went for the Giro. The only one who can keep with Sky powerwise. But to win a GT you need to learn how to avoid mistakes and mishaps. Froome does not have “unlucky” incidents like Richie. No crashes, no tyre-changes, he is extremely careful and minimizes factors that can go wrong. To be a GT you need more than legs and lungs.

Bora got Kelderman and Matthes and he brought in Pete Kennaugh (Team Sky), Daniel Oss (BMC Racing Team), Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Drapac).

There are some Sky-like domestiques here to support the GC. Oss is a beast for the flats like Knees/Stannard and it’s getting too strong in the mountains.

Kupepe September 11, 2017 at 8:04 am

Sorry … meant Majka and Konig

Anonymous September 11, 2017 at 1:32 pm

Froome crashed in the Vuelta and had tyre changes in the Tour.

Gabriel September 11, 2017 at 9:16 am

Porte bit crashing and giving Froome a tougher battle in France could have had an impact on his Vuelta performance.

jc September 10, 2017 at 10:40 am

Not sure you are on the right track here. The stage into Chambery at this year’s TdF has a good claim to be given “epic” status. It most certainly did not conform to your template but Chris Froome ended up in the winning group (I seem to remember he was third). There is an argument to be made that was the day he “won” the tour. Yes he has the strongest team but he has also been the strongest rider at both the TdF & Vuelta so no big surprise he won both. Perhaps if Movistar had used the tactics you describe at the Giro Nairo Quintana might have won, they also had a very strong team but lost to a very determined rider from a much lower budget team.

Mark h September 10, 2017 at 11:36 am

Finally enough I remember everyone complaining about how boring the giro was this year

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 12:30 pm

Yup. The queueing happens in most grand tours.

Bundle September 10, 2017 at 5:59 pm

I think the Vuelta was about as entertaining and inspiring as the Giro, both beating the Tour hands down (again). The Giro had uncertainty about pink till the end, but the Vuelta had uncertainty about how long would form last, and hierarchy seriously changed throughout the 3 weeks. Shame about that Sierra Nevada climb, with Poels bringing everybody back. It felt so depressing and, as the Spanish word goes: “ventajista” (meaning taking maximum advantage of your advantages while reducing risk in order to secure an easy triumph, a strongly derogatory term derived from bullfighting).

Gabriel September 11, 2017 at 9:18 am

That’s quite a descriptive word 🙂

RQS September 11, 2017 at 1:52 pm

So ‘dominating’ is not an accurate translation?

RonDe September 10, 2017 at 9:09 am

My Vuelta takeaways:

1. Froome is a worthy winner and was never really challenged. With the protection of a bullet proof team, other contenders simply could not attack because Sky brought back any rider they wanted to. On the Angliru Sky placed 5 riders in the top 19 and Froome’s top lieutenant, Wout Poels, finished 2nd on the fabled peak for the 2nd time in his career, moving up from 9th to 6th on GC in the process. So I note its much easier to be the best if you always have someone in the top GC group who is a potential winner himself. Another example is Mikel Nieve, himself a former top 5 finisher in Spain and a former Giro KOM winner. With such bodyguards it is nearly impossible to ever expose the team leader they protect. He is then free to show his own talents as necessary as Froome did here with 2 stage wins and an almost flawless defensive performance. This is now peak Froome and his last 4 grand tours read a record of 1st, 2nd, 1st, 1st. His 33 days in grand tour leader’s jerseys in 2017 is more than anyone in a calendar year since Eddy Merckx in 1972 and he is the active leader in total number of leader’s jerseys collected. This is indicative of Froome’s, and Sky’s, style which is to get the race lead and then dominate all opposition into submission.

2. Vincenzo Nibali still fails to deliver when faced with a quality opponent. In fact, did Nibali ever really put Froome in any danger or deficit in the entire race? Not really. His best positive moment, in retrospect and Froome’s wobble on Los Machucos aside, was an attack on Calar Alto with 2kms to go before Froome caught him and promptly sat up, not needing to chase Lopez who had pushed on ahead. On Sierra Nevada Nibali, with a small group of others, pushed ahead but Froome breezed up to them when his team mates had done their shifts. This is the second grand tour this year where Nibali, a four-time grand tour winner of similar age to Froome, has failed to beat other riders who have won grand tours. My suspicion remains that he only beats those of a lesser quality than himself but cannot raise his game against his equals. See who he beats when he wins and who he doesn’t beat when he loses. The only time he’s beaten Froome in a grand tour they both finished remains the 2008 Tour de France when Nibali was 19th and Froome, then of Barloworld, 83rd.

3. Alberto Contador had one last great victory within him. And I’m happy he got it. He gets the fairytale ending. But it masks his last couple of years which have been more about animating races than victories. Second place on the podium, losing to the likes of Thomas or Henao in Paris-Nice, let alone filling out the top ten in a grand tour as he has recently, could never be sufficient for the greatest grand tour rider of the 21st century so far. That is why he is retiring. He’s retiring because he doesn’t have the consistency anymore and because winning a grand tour is no longer about heroic attacks by lone heroes on a mountainside. Contador is what he is. But what he is doesn’t mount the top step of grand tour podiums anymore. But, yes, it was great to watch while it lasted. Adios El Pistolero!

4. The young pretenders are still just that. Here we can name the likes of Zakarin (who gets a creditable 3rd on the podium), Kelderman, Chaves, Lopez, Aru, the Yates brothers and Bardet. These riders are now usually named as contenders and yet they are all still short of what’s required in varying degrees. In many respects this is team-based and they simply don’t have the protection a grand tour winner requires these days. Many of them are also not the greatest time triallists. When you see who won the grand tours this year, Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome, two Olympic time trial medallists, you realise that there is no excuse for a poor time trial if you want to mount a serious grand tour challenge. This was the year that proved yet again that a time-trialler who can climb well and has team protection is a combination its very hard to defeat. But this shouldn’t surprise us. Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault and Indurain were much the same!

5. 2018 will be very interesting. Froome will clearly start the year as the dominant rider, the favourite for the grand tours he enters, since he has won half of the last 8 grand tours. But we should take nothing for granted and I certainly don’t emptily assume that he will breeze to more victories easily. Dumoulin looks to be his most dangerous future rival for grand tour supremacy and marks a new kind of challenge for Froome who will be 33 by the time of the next Tour de France. This is the challenge of a rider built in his own mold but who is a BETTER time triallist than he is. On the other hand, we can surely not have seen the last of Nairo Quintana, who was finally tired out by a ridiculous program of races which included four grand tours in a row. It broke him. But we can expect him to re-emerge refreshed. And then there is Richie Porte, the former lieutenant who now wants to be the boss. Porte is actually older than Froome. Could he beat Froome in the Tour in 2018 if Froome is, once more, fully focused on peaking in France rather than trying to win two grand tours in one year? And let’s not forget Mikel Landa, a rider who so far has complained about not being the leader at two teams and has never really had his own shot at glory. Is he top step material when its all down to him?

6. Question: will Froome now dare to enter the Giro and go for the full set in what will surely be his only chance to hold all 3 jerseys at once… or is the lure of a 5th Tour too much to put in jeopardy?

Thanks for reading and for the debate during this Vuelta and I’m sure Inrng would appreciate it if, in replying, you argued with the points rather than insulting the commenter. Even rivals can be friends as this shows: http://imgur.com/gallery/ceKAp

Mattgc September 10, 2017 at 9:30 am

Nice book, RonDe! To be fair though, I agree with pretty much all of it. I would like to see Froome go for the Giro. I don’t dislike him but he would go up another notch or two in my estimation if he did.

JH September 10, 2017 at 9:43 am

He hates cold weather.

Just can’t seem him doing the Giro when there is the chance to add to the Tour – 5 is another mythic number. And he’s starting to get on a bit now, so chances are running on.

Richard S September 10, 2017 at 9:49 am

I agree with your general point about the ‘pretenders’ to Froome. The majority of them are all terrible time trialists and in previous eras would just be ‘climbers’ rather than GC men. Take Froome out of this race and Nibali would have won largely off the back of a fairly tidy if not spectacular time trial. And Contador though past his best and attacking on a daily basis still put in a worthy TT to upstage the youngsters.Froome versus Dumoulin does promise to be a good fight that hopefully would be spoilt by an injury or illness to either. Next year might be the only year they overlap as top dogs as Froome is cracking on.

Interestingly though Froome has dominated this and the Tour he’s never really been in the lead of either by a significant amount. For the majority of this race Nibali was around a minute behind, at the Tour for a long time several riders were within a minute. Froome could potentially expand this if pressed but he was only ever really a puncture and a duffed wheel change, or some other minor cock up, away from losing his lead in both. In some ways for all Sky’s dominance and control freakishness it’s surprising that they were happy with such small leads. I think this adds to the frustration of those who aren’t Froome fans because you tune in every day with an outside chance of Froome being knocked off his perch, but it never happens?!

Another point about Froome is that he appears quite egoless. Maybe be the only time in his career when he has displayed ego was when he was second fiddle to Wiggins. Put when leader he isn’t a man who needs to dominate with overt displays of machismo like Hinault or Armstrong. He doesn’t need to dominate on a daily basis and is happy to let the final GC show who’s in charge. In that way I suppose he is similar to Indurain, who had similar boredom based taunts levelled at him.

RonDe September 10, 2017 at 10:08 am

Many of the greats were called boring. In the last week, doing some research, I found quotes where greats such as Anquetil and Hinault were referred to as boring. Indurain obviously was. I think those who win multi-events simply attract this tag regardless. Contador, in fact, may be the only one who hasn’t but perhaps someone will be able to find a quote where he is too. Unlikely, I know. But good time trialists who can climb is a very common model for the successful cyclist and is not always the most entertaining way to win for many observers. But so what? Alberto isn’t getting a jersey for panache because such jerseys don’t get handed out.

RocksRootsRoad September 10, 2017 at 10:10 am

Alas, everyone always forget Indurain 1991.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 10:16 am

Froome seems like a nice enough guy (I don’t really care about a rider’s personality) and I don’t think there is any particular ‘Froome-hate’ going on (other than a minority who claim to ‘know’ about doping). Throughout the Vuelta, on these pages, people have complained about the style of the racing. But almost no-one has blamed Froome or even Sky for that: people have suggested rule changes, etc.. They want these rule changes because they find the racing dull – but others then claim that this is due to ‘hate’, reading into those comments what they want to see. Also, if one posts a comment about Froome and people criticise that comment, that’s not the same as criticising Froome – all the pages are here if one wanted to check: there is no Froome-hate.

Me, I saw a rider better than everyone else win. I’d liked to have seen him do this without being able to be towed behind a team far superior to all others for all but a few km. That’s not ‘hate’, that’s wanting to see what I consider to be more interesting racing – riders going up against each other, not queuing up behind a team of uber-domestiques. Yes, it happened in the Indurain and Armstrong eras, but to a less dominant extent – there were more attacks in those days, whereas now riders know it very probably won’t work.

RonDe September 10, 2017 at 10:43 am

You know we disagree here and whilst your wanting to see riders win a certain way, for entertainment’s sake, is reasonable and fair enough, it becomes sinister when its suggested rules be changed in an effort to try and force it to happen. You’d need to completely gut teams to change anything. Next year the Tour will have teams of 8 riders but no one thinks it will make any difference. Froome, in fact, only won one of his Tours with the full 9 men. He won one of them with 7. So what do we want, 6 men per team like the Tour of Britain? It is, of course, not wrong to want entertainment but how about we leave it up to the teams and the riders on the road to provide and plan for that rather than trying to gerrymander the thing we want to see? There is a place, I think, for just letting what will happen, happen. Such tactics, after all, have not stopped Alberto Contador becoming a legend and the greatest stage racer of our century, a rider who won grand tours both before and after his enforced lay off.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 11:09 am

Sports change rules to make the sport more entertaining.
I don’t think trying teams of 7, getting rid of team radios and powermeters, and some sort of budget cap would amount to gerrymandering.
Radios and powermeters didn’t used to exist and are not an integral part of the sport.
Many other sports have a budget cap (whether or not it would be possible in cycling is another matter).
Again, it’s not about Froome (or Sky), but in GT’s teams rarely finish with a full team. If they start with 7 and lose 2, they end up with 5. So, the difference between teams of 9 and 7 is clear.

RonDe September 10, 2017 at 11:28 am

Not unreasonable points but none of them explain how Contador, the rider usually held up as an example of the kind of racing “we” want, was still able to win three grand tours since 2012 in what I hesitate to call “the Sky era”. Unless your argument is that Movistar, Astana and Sunweb, the other recent teams winning grand tours, have ridden them like Sky in a “team controlling” kind of way then it seems to me you are guilty of over-exaggerating the existential threat to racing you say you want to remedy. And how were Tinkoff riding when Contador won for them? Was it much different? Why were they buying in the likes of Mick Rogers and Roman Kreuziger?

I know there will always be those who want to go back to no radios, smaller teams, “racing on feel” and other such niceties but things move on. I don’t imagine riders back in the day would have refused communication with team bosses or ways to monitor their efforts had they been available. People always think the grass is greener. neither do I think all riders use them in remotely the same way. Plenty of the stattos of the sport get off on reading the data riders post after races. It is all very much part of modern sport generally, a way to engage modern fans rather than old duffers who bleat on about wool jerseys and the like (not saying that’s you by the way).

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Take Contador away from this Vuelta and how exciting a race would it have been?
Contador’s victories since 2012 have never been against Sky’s top team.
In fact, since 2012 the only rider to beat Sky’s top grand tour team has been Vincenzo Nibali and you’ll be aware that Sky’s leader in that race dropped out.
Look at this year’s Tour – a rider like Uran has (unsurprisingly) worked out that if he follows the train as best he can and never attacks he can get onto the podium. Sensible riding? Yes. Good riding? Yes. Exciting riding? No.
And he is one example of many who ride like this.
When Sky’s top team is in a race they dominate and control that race.

There are so many technologies that cycling does not use – so why must these be used? And powermeters could be blanked off so that they can be read – and posted online – after the race.
(Incidentally, I’ve never heard anyone ‘bleat on about wool jerseys’ – that is always and only used as a riposte to those who suggest that not every technology has improved cycling.)
Of course the riders and the teams want as much technology as possible. And they want to field their strongest teams and not be limited financially (and Contador only suggested it once it would no longer impact on his finances).

The riders and teams have only one interest: winning.
Many viewers prize seeing an entertaining race over the name of the winner.
One would have thought that the authorities would also wish to have more entertaining racing.
Financial limitations might also help long-term stability for teams.
Exciting racing would most likely attract sponsors. Outside the UK blip is cycling becoming more or less popular? (I don’t know – it seems from non-British people I speak to that they are losing interest.)
The changes I suggest might work – or might not. Worth trying.

RonDe September 10, 2017 at 12:49 pm

You speak much truth there and I won’t argumentatively deny much of it… whilst, of course, still disagreeing with the conclusion. Yet perhaps another race this week is also instructive. I’ve been watching the Tour of Britain. There are 6 men per team (so hard to control) and its not been the greatest weather. Sky’s “top team” is not there. In fact, Sky aren’t even winning (not that I care much to be honest). But the racing is very, very boring for all the little elements of chaos that have been introduced. Each day the template is that the smaller teams each have a man in the break which gets 3 minutes for 160kms before the bunch pull them back and we have a sprint.

And this leads me to a thought if we transpose this to grand tours. Wouldn’t restricting teams’ ability to control races with manpower and/or technology actually INCREASE the amount of control they tried to exert? If I’m Sky in a Vuelta with 6 men (or Quick Step if its a sprint stage) I don’t give any break 10 minutes. I give them 2 or 3 at best. We already saw this in the Tour with teams of 9 and multiple teams interested in the same outcome. So one reason I’m against your ideas for changes is that, actually, I don’t think you’d get the result you’re looking for. Less ability to control means a tighter grip not a lesser one and more teams would be interested in engineering the same outcome. Its not some obvious recipe for mano a mano racing.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 1:08 pm

This year’s Tour of Britain has been dull because of an almost entirely flat parcours – hence it being brought back for a sprint in repetitive fashion.
There’s no way of knowing if reduced team sizes would produce more exciting racing: there have been good and bad races with more/fewer riders.

Assuming what you suggest happened, I don’t think breaks getting less time would be a bad thing: they’d just have to work harder to stay away.
I don’t think it would happen, though: I think the sprint teams are never going to let breaks get away on flat stages and GC teams are always going to let harmless breaks go away rather than waste their energy.
This would not have an effect on the GC race as harmless breaks don’t impact on that.

I think the GC race would be less controllable because teams would have 1 or 2 fewer domestiques in the mountains. (And if they got rid of one of their riders who they predominantly use on flatter sections then one of the ‘mountain’ domestiques would have to be used more and would consequently be more tired.)
End result: team leaders would be more isolated, more often.
And if it did work, try 6.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Regarding the ‘UK blip’ in popularity:
I’d suggest that ITV showing the ToB live rather than the Vuelta is indicative of the popularity of cycling in Britain being largely based on patriotic fervour rather than a love of cycling – why else would showing the ToB win ITV more viewers than the Vuelta?
If/When British riders become less successful these people will probably lose interest.

RonDe September 10, 2017 at 1:41 pm

So your argument is that “true fans” or “core fans” and their views matter more than any that popularity in one place or time might bring? I might equally suggest that the argued lack of interest in other places is because they don’t win anymore. For example, no Spaniard on any grand tour podium this year, the first time this has happened since 1965 so I read. We regularly seem to wonder these days if an Italian will win at the Giro or a Frenchman in France. If the argument is we must always be bound by history then I don’t have much of a rebuttal to make. All sports seem to follow the money is my observation.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 1:53 pm

No, my point is that these fans won’t be there in the long-term.
All things tend to follow the money – usually to their detriment. That includes sports.
The people I speak to say they’re bored of cycling not bored of their own nations winning. But it’s not a statistically viable sample.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 2:00 pm

*their own nations not winning

Jorgelito September 10, 2017 at 10:44 am

I don’t really agree with your statement “Nibali fails to deliver with a worthy opponent”. Did you see last year’s Giro? He had at least two: Kruijswijk and Chavez. Scarponi put on a great effort but Nibali too.

RonDe September 10, 2017 at 10:56 am

Good riders to be sure but with only two grand tour podiums between them (and none at that time). When he faced Quintana with 2 wins and Froome with 4 he finished behind them. That’s my point of comparison.

For What Its Worth September 10, 2017 at 11:38 am

Great summary RonDe. I think you have covered most points. I’m itching to see Froome and Dumoulin go head to head

Rens September 10, 2017 at 11:39 am

Nice takeaways 🙂 But remember that Nibali absolutely crushed everyone in the 2014 Tour de France when Contador and Froome’s lack of bike handling skills saw them forfeit on the cobblestones where Nibali showed his greater versatility. Other than that performance I agree with your observations although consistently finishing on the podium of a Grand Tour is nothing to sneeze at 😉

I would also like to add the questionable performance of Contador, who hasn’t done anything noteworthy after the clenbuterol incident, showing his usual level in stage 3, and then suddenly from stage 4 towards the end appears to be back at his pre-clenbuterol level.. Yeah right..

Nick September 10, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Contador has won 3 grand tours since returning from his ban. Only Froome has won more in the same period, and 2 of Contador’s wins involved him directly beating Froome.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Froome crashed out before reaching the cobblestones.
‘Contador, who hasn’t done anything noteworthy after the clenbuterol incident’.
‘consistently finishing on the podium of a Grand Tour is nothing to sneeze at’

RonDe September 10, 2017 at 12:55 pm

Contador and Froome are both great champions with mutual respect for each other. Both beat the other fair and square and I have nothing to add to that. They both recognised the talent and the challenge inherent in the other.

Kupepe September 11, 2017 at 10:24 am

You pretty much nailed the modern cycling era …

Cycling is getting to become a team sport. You can’t solo wins anymore.

TTs who turn to GC have the advantage. They got power and they change their bodies to climb. They win, since it’s easier than getting a climber to be able to TT.

Dumoulin seems to be a young Froome. But Sky has started refreshing its roster. Moscon, Pauwls (or whatever its spelled), Thomas, Kwiato will continue the Brailsford system.

2018 and 2019 especially will be very interesting from Bora’s Side.

They got:

Rafal Majka
Leopold Konig
Peter Sagan

Incoming:

Pete Kennaugh (Team Sky)
Daniel Oss (BMC Racing Team)
Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Drapac)

Oss is a beast in the flats and in the beggining of the mountains and could make a wonderful duo with Sagan like Knees/Stannard

Konig/Kennaugh/Formolo help protect Majka on the mountains ? Kennaugh has experience and has shown its worth .. Formolo was 10th in Giro 2017, 9th on Vuelta 2016

Fear the Germans when they put their mind on something

JH September 10, 2017 at 9:40 am

Wout Poels. What’s he up to again?

I was thinking that if Froome had finished ahead of Poels, then the Green Jersey comp. would have been sewn up in Team Sky’s favour.

Then I looked up the prize money (thinking that might be a nice little bonus to share out among the riders and crew): €11,000

Oh well.

Guess the Green Jersey doesn’t matter when you are as well funded as Team Sky.

Wandering into a completely different area, I couldn’t by Sloane Stephens’ comment on being handed the cheque for winning the Tennis US Open – $3.8million or about 287 years to match that with the Green Jersy comp in La Vuelta.

So what started out as a question about team tactics throwing away a certainty at a competition, became one a bit aghast at the disparity between values of cycling.

Either way: two points. Why throw away a chance at a competition, why is the prize money so low? (TV revenue + Sponsor surely pays the Tennis prize money, not tickets sold to the crowd).

RonDe September 10, 2017 at 9:49 am

Trentin still has to win the stage or Froome wins the points too. But, yes, if he cared yesterday he would have finished 2nd and sown it up. However, Froome said after the stage yesterday that they attacked so that Poels could win the stage so this relatively minor goal (in the context of his palmares) seems not to have been in sight. Still, I wonder if they might throw a spoiler out there today and get greedy? Trentin needs to win the stage (he must do this) and get some points of some kind in the intermediate sprint as Froome is 26 points ahead with a max of 29 available today. If Trentin gets no intermediate points at all or only comes 2nd then Froome bags three jerseys here and not two.

Richard S September 10, 2017 at 10:01 am

I don’t know how far the points go down in the intermediates but I’d say Quick Step could cover them all if needed. As good as Sky have been they aren’t sprinters. In the final there’ll be enough in there to stop Froome getting up and anyway, he’ll be at the back getting the choreographed team photo thing. They’d be best off just leaving it to chance. Trentin is far from nailed on in a flat out and out sprint.

RonDe September 10, 2017 at 10:10 am

4,2 and 1 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd. 25 points for stage win but only 20 for 2nd. Hence why Trentin must win the stage. Doesn’t really matter what he gets at the intermediate so long as its something. I imagine he would win on countback if its a tie (more stage wins) but I’m not sure.

DAVE September 10, 2017 at 3:53 pm

For £11,000 it might be a hit worth taking PR wise to not have all the jersey’s at the finish…
Vuelta’s fault for a daft system but not a great look taking every jersey for Sky…

DAVE September 11, 2017 at 12:09 am

Well… I was very wrong on this…

Irungo txuletak September 10, 2017 at 9:59 am

Adios pistolero.
I am happy he could find a good level for his final race. Without his attacks, it would have been a more boring race, too.
A pity to loose such a rider. Now this is true that in the last years he struggled to be a true contestant for GT victories. Froome proved to be a tough rival for him too (but the opposite is true as well…).

Ecky Thump September 10, 2017 at 10:21 am

Great win for Contador.
A Seven Nations Army couldn’t stop him 😉

Red Hare September 10, 2017 at 3:22 pm

+1

Jorgelito September 10, 2017 at 10:45 am

+1

hoh September 10, 2017 at 12:27 pm

I read somewhere (couldn’t find the source) that AC told FC that he wouldn’t be attacking him in a attacking anymore and both had a good laugh about it.

Judas September 10, 2017 at 3:51 pm

Yes. Was a great win and a great finale for Contador.
Happy to see Spain get a Vuelta win, even if I found it incredibly suspicious to see Contador on a level I don’t think we’ve seen in years and with seemingly endless energy. But I have no proof, and if you’re suspicious of one you’re probably suspicious of all, so will celebrate with all instead.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 10:10 pm

Froome winning two GT is not suspicious, Moscon mutating to mountain goat, normal marginal gains. Bertie winning a stage: suspicious. The talking points in haterland are getting funnier and funnier.

Junker September 11, 2017 at 12:08 am

How many times do people need to say about Moscon to you?

1 His first GT we didn’t know how he might perform.
2 There had already been thoughts he might be a GT contender one day.

There has been no mutation? He performed in P-R, doesn’t mean he can’t perform on the mountains? Plus it’s not like he won the Angliru?

He’s clearly an incredible talent, as has widely been known for a number of years, it’s just been brought to the attention of a wider audience – clearly you being chief among them.

Junker September 11, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Once again – different Anonymous.

Anonymous September 11, 2017 at 1:37 pm

Sorry, that post above was TO Junker, not FROM.

ErnieC September 11, 2017 at 1:02 am

+1. Are there any teams that do not have a dodgy past via riders, DS or other staff?

Oracle September 10, 2017 at 10:06 am

@Richard
Don’t look to prize money, but to salary.
It’s totally different.
I have no idea who is sponsoring Nadal, but ‘everybody’ knows that Froome is part of Sky.

Jorgelito September 10, 2017 at 10:46 am

You must be the only one that doesn’t know Nike sponsors Rafael Nadal.

Mattgc September 10, 2017 at 11:14 am

I didn’t know. I don’t have any interest in tennis, but if Nadal had Nike emblazoned across the front of his top like Sky then I probably would.

RQS September 10, 2017 at 10:07 am

Will Froome go for the 2018 Giro? Sky have yet to give this race their full attention and the filip of Froome being the current winner of all three before the TDF is surely enticing.

Regarding the green jersey: as much as €11,000 Euro’s is nothing to be sniffed at, I think the Sky riders earning mean they will not miss €1,000 thy would receive, and if Trentin manages to win it creates a greater sense of goodwill about Froome’s win. So perhaps a political expedient, though equally Froome could’ve have been giving Poels as much opportunity to rise up the standings as possible.

E_Pi September 10, 2017 at 2:00 pm

My guess is that Kerrison & Froome will return to their traditional training in 2018, and Froome will target a 5th TdF against a refreshed Quintana, the rival he most relishes challenging himself against. But where he goes from here will be interesting to follow.

DAVE September 10, 2017 at 3:49 pm

+1
5th TDF is too good to ignore.
Pos Giro year after if ever.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 4:17 pm

If you win 5, you surely want to try for 6 – put yourself ‘above’ the others.

hoh September 10, 2017 at 10:32 pm

May have to add “after AC’s retirement” regarding Quintana. Surely AC was on his mind more.

Bilmo September 11, 2017 at 10:38 am

I think the obvious burn out for Quintana this year after 4 consecutive GTs rule the Giro out before you even consider how important the Tour is to Sky.

I wonder if Froome gets to 5 wins next year he may try a Giro/Vuelta double the year after. By this time Sky may have somebody who they could put into the Tour for the win and spare Froome.

I also think 5 TdF wins is as many as you need to be considered a great, winning all 3 GT’s is the next step (Lance spoiled winning more than 5 Tdfs 😉 ).

Michael B September 11, 2017 at 12:00 pm

If Froome gets to five he will definitely go for a sixth. I can only see him targeting the Giro if he won six TdF, which is a big ask. I suppose he might look at the Giro if Dumoulin begins to dominate the Tour but that’s far from certain.

Personally speaking I’d love to see Froome at the Giro or targeting LBL but Sky don’t fund the team for any goals other than the Tour. The others have no profile whatsoever in the UK (sadly). The only time the Giro or Paris-Roubaix were seriously covered by the media here was when Wiggins targeted them.

I’m looking forward to seeing next year’s TdF profile. Can they design a route which is appealing to Dumoulin and Quintana? Maybe a mountain TT? Or high mountains for NQ and cobbles for TD? Nibali would like that too, and Froome will go for the Tour regardless.

Michael B September 11, 2017 at 12:04 pm

Not forgetting Zakarin who I think has more to give and doubtless another rider will graduate to the elite GC category. Maybe Roglic? Then there’s the long roll call of world class climbers who can’t TT…

Hop Hop September 11, 2017 at 12:09 pm

Dumoulin and Quintana are polar cycling opposites. Like the Giro, they’d have to design days for both and see where they level out. I understand there’s a 35kms TTT on stage three. Much scope for fun and mishap there but its a team game. All three grand tours this year were won by teams pulling for their leader.

Eskerrik Asko September 10, 2017 at 10:25 am

Perhaps the most emotionally satisfying (read: playing those strings of sentimentality) stage win since Igor Antón arrival in Bilbao in 2011 – with the same undercurrent of feeling that this is almost too good not to be scripted and directed in some manner. But it’s road cycling and I love it!

A much better Vuelta than I dared to expect. All it took to really enjoy practically all of it was to actively pay no attention whatsoever to Froome, Team Sky and the general classification (or, to be precise, on the topmost place of the GC). And once we were in the green northern part of Spain it was all great!

PS Cantabria is where my next cycling holiday will take me!

Jorgelito September 10, 2017 at 10:47 am

+1
Froome said it himself: his hardest GT win.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 10:30 am

Froome – and Sky – will want TdF no. 5 (and maybe even 6) much more than they’ll want a Giro. Also, he suffers in the cold, it seems.

DJS September 10, 2017 at 10:33 am

Thanks for the great previews, insight and daily Diaz comments!
A dream final victory salute for Contador, well deserved after so many attacks that enlivened the race and of course a fantastic career. Kudos to Froome for pulling off two consecutive GT wins – something that often has been deemed impossible in this day and age.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 10:39 am

Fantastic race thoroughly enjoyed! that’s all it doesn’t need a personal monologue a million words too long.

Kurious Oranj September 10, 2017 at 1:46 pm

Why slag off someone who has thoughts about a sport we all enjoy? If you don’t want to read them, don’t click on the comments, it’s easy to do. Complaining just makes a nasty environment for everyone.

Claude September 10, 2017 at 3:47 pm

+1

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 10:13 pm

So why don’t you skip over the complaining comments then? You can’t ask others to ignore comments while complaining about those who disagree.

SArover September 10, 2017 at 11:06 am

Thanks to innerring for a great site, reviews anf previews yet again.

Congrats and goodbye to Contador. It is a hard goodbye. It’ll take some time to look at the peloton and not see him dancing on his pedals.

He leaves as one of only 2 riders (Hinault the other) to have officially won all 3 GT’s twice and unofficially the only rider to have stood at the top of all three GT’s thrice as the winner

Kit September 10, 2017 at 12:04 pm

+1

DAVE September 10, 2017 at 3:46 pm

+1. A joy to read everyday.

STS September 11, 2017 at 12:31 am

+1

Blackzed September 10, 2017 at 1:55 pm

Reader since three seasons but commenting for the first time.

First of all, many thanks to inrng for putting out the quality work which seems to come out as effortlessly as Condator dancing on his bike. Also, kudos to the readers that they seem to acknowledge the fact that this blog is like a cosy Irish pub to discuss and share the love for this beautiful sport on a pint and not the boxing ring as seen elsewhere. Lately, there have been some unpleasant comments but I hope it was just flaming passions and not deliberate trolling/insulting.

With hindsight, I think Chris Froome deserved the win even though personally I would have loved to see someone challenging his quest seriously. That guy seems at least from his interviews a nice down-to-earth but ambitious guy. I don’t intend to repeat what has been said about the sky tactics but the words like Robots doesn’t acknowledge the hard work by the riders no matter how boring/grinta-less it looks. I by no means am a fan of sky and their tactics but one must accept for better or worse they have altered the GC tactics and other teams are thinking about strategies to challenge them for ex. Sunweb are probably trying to figure out a similar team-plan with TomDom, Wilco, Oomen, Geschke or potential Landa/Quintana duet from Movistar. With current sky tactics it is highly improbable to expect only one strong gc leader/climber can take on the whole team which works with just one goal in a three week stage race.
Congratulation to Froome and his teammates.

Nibali, I like that guy as a racer. The way he rides his bike is beautiful to look at of all the gc guys. Let’s hope he comes stronger next season with a stronger team.

Someone was asking about an objective definition of grinta/panache someday here. Well, the last 9 Kms yesterday rode by Contador, were pure panache. Just looking at the numbers of that ascent makes me heavy in my stomach, but that guy, knowing that it’s his last real stage of life, dancing away that ascent through the crowds was a pure pleasure to look at. One of those mythical images of road cycling for sure. No wonder why he is such a likable racer.

All in all the GTs are over for this season, lets wish the next year brings more exciting racing from GC perspective.

Well, I don’t want to open the Pandora’s box here but I pray to the god, if it exists at all, that none of these riders are involved in cheating. I just don’t want to get disappointed by having to come to terms with rooting for riders and watching races with a child’s excitement later to be declared as just another unfair puppetwork.

So, I’m off to ride my bike in the wet roads outside here in Munich, preparing myself to embrace the void of the coming winter.

DAVE September 11, 2017 at 12:05 am

Great post.

STS September 11, 2017 at 12:39 am

Indeed! You should not have waited that long with your first post. Guys like you could stop the rather sad decline of the average level commenters recently shown here which ostensibly made others who regularly posted quality comments in the past stay away.
My cyclist’s thoughts are also occasionally drifting to the coming winter. It’s that time of year again. But as long as we don’t have to ride in hurricanes we’ll make it, right?

Monrath September 11, 2017 at 9:38 am

+1
I for one have also noticed the absence of those who used to contribute to the high quality of this website.

ErnieC September 11, 2017 at 1:06 am

My hat off to you Sir.

Frank Carbo September 10, 2017 at 3:36 pm

Vuelta thoughts:

1. Chapeau to Chris Froome. Brilliant ride: he vultured seconds at intermediate sprints, he won puncheur finishes, he struggled manfully on bad days, he rode away from opponents on certain climbs, and he smashed the time trial. He really has become a complete rider. I think his position as prohibitive favourite and his dominant performance with a dominant has us taking for granted a little what an awesome achievement this double actually is, as is the fact he’s been the nearly man in the Vuelta for so long. His unfailing decency and politeness — and almost reticence and shyness — combined with his tenacity and fighting spirit on the road makes him hard to dislike, even if I feel bad supporting a Manchester United/Real Madrid type team.
2. I find it difficult to like Contador. He’s a doper, and one who came up with one of the more ludicrous excuses I’ve heard for his positive test.
3. Sky has some serious talent, and pour all that into one man, like an army finding the gap in the opposition lines and throwing all their weight at that centre. They really have mastered the art of the Grand Tour. I hope Thomas, Poels or even Landa can pick up the Giro or Vuelta next season.
4. The Vuelta is brilliant racing, and this was still an entertaining GT, despite two disappointing mountain stages last weekend.

Great stuff. Thanks to INRNG for working so hard to keep us informed with the best cycling analysis around, and to all you for the great debate.

See you for the worlds and the Lombardi.

Duncan September 10, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Agree with every word.

Billybob Thornton September 10, 2017 at 4:06 pm

Contador bridges two eras. He can be applauded for how he rode if not always for what enabled him to do it. It will always be Contador* (asterisk).

Frank Carbo September 10, 2017 at 4:20 pm

I was less impressed than most with the way Contador rode. It’s easy to be the rodeo clown, entertaining through crowds, when you do don’t have to consider the GC. I got the feeling that he’s almost become a caricature of his former self. And he was never _that_ attacking in his doped up pomp.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 4:35 pm

Whereas everyone’s clean now – but just as fast as when they were doping.

We don’t have any idea what they’re doing now.

RonDe September 10, 2017 at 4:58 pm

Check the climbing times. They aren’t as fast. Contador on the Angliru yesterday was much slower than Contador on the Angliru in 2008. And slower than Horner in 2013.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 4:59 pm

And the climbing times, generally, as opposed to comparing times on a single climb?

RonDe September 10, 2017 at 5:07 pm

Times from ammattipyörälly on Twitter for last 10kms of the Angliru (average 10.29%)

Heras 2000: 35:05
Heras 2002: 36.18
Contador 2008: 36.23
Horner 2013: 36.15
Contador 2017: 37.36
Froome/Poels 2017: 37.16

Say what you like about these times but the 2017 ones are not “as fast”.

RonDe September 10, 2017 at 5:08 pm

From the times I see reported on the climbs from race to race they are generally slower than 15-20 years ago.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 5:37 pm

Never looked myself, but there seemed an awful lot of people writing stuff in the cycling media who disagreed. Then again, I don’t trust them any more than I trust you or anyone else. That’s why I’m firmly in the ‘don’t know’ camp – and, for me, the ‘don’t know’ camp can’t be without suspicions.

Frank Carbo September 10, 2017 at 5:55 pm

@ Anonymous:

I’m not naive enough to think everybody is clean now, and even if the majority are within the rules, that there aren’t things they’re taking that night be soon illegal but aren’t now (I think Maria Sharapova was caught out with something similar when she was banned) or which are right up to the doping red line, breaking the spirit of the rules if not the letter. But I also believe that, while it’s important to keep a healthy cynicism — and that there’s a fair amount of smoke around team Sky, if not actual fire yet — we should view people as innocent until proven guilty. Dan Martin gave Paul Kimmage a great interview in the Irish Times recently that gives me plenty of hope. Wiggins, on the other hand, is pretty much dead to me. But to say, “they all did it and probably still are,” is to fall into the trap that dopers want us to step into, and specifically disgusting characters like Lance Armstrong.

Anonymous September 10, 2017 at 4:43 pm

What the rodeo clown did yesterday did look easy – well said, well thought through.

ErnieC September 11, 2017 at 1:10 am

Re Point 2. Have a scratch around on Google ans his excuse is very possible. Tests on tourists returning from China have show similar levels of Clenbuterol. Used in animal feed. Hard to say if it was an honest mistake or not considering some of the teams he rode with.

Mark H September 11, 2017 at 3:51 am

China is not Spain though and Contador had not been to China at the time of the positive. Michael Rogers tested positive for Clenbuterol, but was absolved because he had eaten meat in China.

Chris September 11, 2017 at 5:24 am

Let’s not forget that AC’s excuse also involve the beef being driven 150km from Spain by a friend (later the Spanish Cycling Federation President). “My dog ate my homework” level excuse from AC and Astana (a fine, totally not suspicious, team).

ErnieC September 11, 2017 at 8:45 am

Is there a team that has no suspicion in it’s past?

ErnieC September 11, 2017 at 8:44 am

Point taken, but it certainly MAY have happened with meat from Spain – the possibility exists no?

Frank Carbo September 11, 2017 at 9:47 am

Contador didn’t eat Chinese meat. He ate meat of EU origin. I don’t know how much meat the EU tests every year, but I saw the numbers once — in an article pertaining to this matter — and it was huge. The fact they didn’t find any clenbuterol tainting, yet Contador just happened to have found a steak that slipped through the net is stretching credulity. He is also another rider whose performances in his days of winning Giros and Tours and climbing verbier, etc, were prima facie suspicious, dancing up mountains away from known dopers as he was.

Anonymous September 12, 2017 at 9:46 pm

You obviously have no idea about the numbers of food scandals in the EU, and the lack of funding for food testers here. There is nothing like a narrow testing net. Loophole is the default.

The Inner Ring September 11, 2017 at 10:08 am

It is possible but it is a low probability, this product is not allowed for sale in the EU. It is why some athletes are absolved after visiting places like China or Mexico where it is used and why the Tour of Beijing (and presumably the upcoming Tour of Guangxi) are almost vegetarian races because of contamination fears.

The topic was ruled by the Court of Arbitration for sport, some blogging on it here http://inrng.com/2012/02/contador-cas-verdict/

Oracle September 11, 2017 at 10:41 am

Nobody knows for sure, but:
– A source of Clenbuterol is found in Mexican meat.
– Contador won the Grand Premium Cancun at October 18th 2009
– All makes sense after reading the following

—- Behind the Scenes of the Contador CAS hearing with Michael Ashenden —

So to be clear, red blood cells were transfused on Monday or Tuesday. Plasticisers were introduced to Contador’s bloodstream at that time. Plasma, stored in a non-plasticised bag, was infused some time before Wednesday to mask the first transfusion, and Clenbuterol enters his system at that time. His blood values indicate that he was on a blood doping and masking regimen. Was the one day gap something Contador’s lawyers sought to create doubt? Was that where they took advantage of the fact that WADA was using two separate arguments to advance the transfusion theory?

Ashenden: First of all, let me reiterate that I did not say Contador transfused. I said that its possible that he transfused, and I presented the panel with one coherent scenario. Having said that, yes, your summation is an accurate portrayal of the scenario I presented to the panel.

Ashenden: A central pillar of Contadors rebuttal was the one day gap between the first appearance of plasticisers and clenbuterol. He claimed that were a plasma transfusion to have taken place Wednesday it would have caused a second peak in plasticisers. Paragraph 399 sets out Contador’s defence, specifically his expert claimed that DEHP metabolites should have been detectable along with the clenbuterol. As I mentioned earlier, that is simply nonsense, because plasma is preferentially stored in non-DEHP bags and therefore no plasticisers would be introduced from plasma stored in that type of bag.

ErnieC September 11, 2017 at 11:15 am

Thank you.

Anonymous September 11, 2017 at 1:51 pm

That whole article is worth reading – google: ny velocity ashenden behind the scenes

Frank Carbo September 11, 2017 at 3:39 pm

I don’t want to put Contador in the dock and judge him – I’m not qualified for that. However, he started his career with ONCE, he was implicated in Operation Puertohe rode for a Johan Bruyneel team, most of his Astana teammates in the early days, like Savoldelli and Kashechkin were found to have doped, he was found guilty of having doped by cycling authorities and then the CAS, his performances during a couple of his Tour wins were suspicious (Verbier being the most famous example) were prima facie suspicious. I am not sure why, exactly, there are so many folks on this board willing to defend him, and this is the reason I cannot enjoy some of the near obsequious tributes to the man. I’m told I should be thankful for what he’s brought to cycling. The only thing I can think of, through his associations, his words, his actions and some of his performances, is yet more confirmation to the casual fan that cycling as a sport that did not take its opportunities, especially post-Festina, to clean up its act, and is irrevocably broken and dominated by cheats to the exclusion of those who might not want to risk their health or conscience to follow their dreams. He’s a villain, not a hero.

Whataboutism doesn’t cut it as a defence for me.

Anonymous September 11, 2017 at 4:17 pm

Did cycling take its opportunities, post-Armstrong, to clean up its act?
Are riders taking corticosteroids (legally) out of competition?
Is that OK?

Anonymous September 11, 2017 at 4:18 pm

I.E. did Contador just do what was done at the time? Are riders now doing much the same thing? For me, you can’t just judge it on ‘Who was caught’.

Frank Carbo September 11, 2017 at 4:52 pm

You know, Anonymous, the fact that in communist Russia everybody was poor didn’t change the fact that, as individuals, they were poor. Pointing out that other cars on your street are also decrepit does not mean that your car is any less of a rust bucket.

The big chance for cycling was after Festina, but Cancer Jesus came along and corrupted the whole thing by ruthlessly seeking any means (fair but mostly foul) to improve his chances of winning the Tour, and psychopathically using his powerful connections and the threat of litigation to silence the press, while enforcing the mafia-esq omerta among the peleton. To argue that ‘everybody was doing it’ is to fall into the trap of accepting _his_ preferred narrative. It’s not that he was cheating and – aw shucks – was caught, but that he corrupted the entire sport just as it looked as though it might have a shot at getting its act together.

In that context, Contador isn’t as bad as Armstrong. However, as far as I can see, Contador is very much part of the culture of seeing doping as a necessary and accepted part of cycling, and that everybody else should keep out of the private business of the cyclists who do. As I said above, at every stage of the most successful part of his career, he was part of teams, or associated with individuals, who systematically doped. If he wasn’t doping at his first team, ONCE, or under Bruyneel, or with Astana at any time around the end of the first decade of the 21st century and the start of the second, he was probably the only one in those setups who wasn’t. If he wasn’t, he must have felt like a terrible outcast, given that under Bruyneel, and Astana in general, and at ONCE, doping was a feature not a bug. Yet in all this time in those places, he apparently saw nothing. The Armstrong revelations must have come as a terrible shock to him, despite what we have discovered from Landis and Hamilton as how it all worked as a part of team life, and despite being (albeit in its later iteration) part of that team. Likewise, the news that almost countless Astana teammates during his years there were all caught or outed as dopers must have rocked him to the core, given he never once raised a red flag as a clean rider amid all these brazen, doped up cheats.

But he _was_ caught. Given his team history and associations, it would almost be a surprise if he wasn’t doping, wouldn’t it? _Of course he was doping_. And then he was allowed back into the sport, _more popular than when he was exposed as a cheat_, feted by a whole nation apparently on the back of a slimy publicity campaign, and lionized during his final GT by an infuriatingly myopic, amnesiac media corps. So forgive me if I do not join in the adoration for a cheat, and a cheat making it basically impossible a sport I care for to ever become credible or for talented young men to pursue their dreams or fulfill their talent.

And no, variations on ‘what about X’ aren’t going to hack it as a defence.

Sonja Neteu September 10, 2017 at 3:55 pm

I would very much like that an outsider, such as Molano del Manzana, wins the final sprint. ☺

Wakey September 10, 2017 at 4:02 pm

Great Vuelta this time…just fab.

I really don’t like these final days. I remember many years ago a TdF finishing with a time trial on the last day and it was really good. I’d end every GT on a time trial if I had my way.

Junker September 10, 2017 at 5:25 pm
RonDe September 11, 2017 at 1:26 am

What a guy.

MOSCON September 10, 2017 at 6:59 pm

is it official has Froome spent more days in a Grand Tour leaders jersey in a calendar year than anyone else?

AP September 10, 2017 at 11:14 pm

This article claims he has equalled Merckx’s 34 days.
http://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/comment/tour-vuelta-double-places-chris-froome-among-true-greats-cycling-350533

I suppose that Merckx’s record is also the outright record(?)

MOSCON September 11, 2017 at 12:04 am

I’m genuinely desperate to know if that was culled from this website. Came up in comments a few days ago but it was elaborated which year and when Merckx did it?

AP September 11, 2017 at 12:30 am

Yeah the discussion is in comments for stage 15 on this site.
Nobody there seems to claim it as 34 though…

RonDe September 11, 2017 at 1:33 am

I did my own research. Merckx won 33 jerseys in 1972 in the Giro and Tour (some were split stages). Froome has won 34 in 2017, 15 in the Tour and 19 in the Vuelta.

AP September 11, 2017 at 2:02 am

I have Froome wearing yellow 13 days and wearing red 18 days: totalling 31 days.
Merckx 1970 had 13 days in pink, 18 in yellow ignoring split stages.
So they are tied on 31 not 34 as the article claims.

RonDe September 11, 2017 at 10:25 am

That’s incorrect counting AP. For example, in the Vuelta red jerseys were awarded to two other people, each for one day. There are 21 days in the Vuelta and so 21 – 2 = 19 days in red for Froome. In the Tour Geraint Thomas received 4 yellow jerseys and Aru 2 making 6. 21 – 6 = 15 days in yellow for Froome. This definitely means Froome has 34 days in leaders jerseys 15 + 19 = 34. Merckx received 15 pink jerseys in 1972 and 17 yellow ones making 33. These are the highest totals I’ve found.

RonDe September 11, 2017 at 10:27 am

Damn. 16 pink in 72 for Merckx I meant to say!

Duncan September 11, 2017 at 10:55 am

Ronde – just a quick question re your maths.
Agree with 21 days for the race, but on the first day, no-one is in red, so don’t you have to do 21-1-2 = 18?
Not sure myself!

RonDe September 11, 2017 at 10:59 am

A jersey is awarded at the end of each stage. So 21 jerseys are awarded. Froome got red at the end of stages 3-21. Count from 3 to 21 and you’ll get 19! With the Tour its similar. 21 are awarded. Only 6 went elsewhere so Froome must have 15 since 21 must be the total.

Nick September 11, 2017 at 11:21 am

But is a leader’s jersey awarded at the end of the final stage? He’s not the leader at that point, he’s the winner. On that basis, if you count Day 1, you shouldn’t count Day 21.

RonDe September 11, 2017 at 11:28 am

Nick, if someone won the jersey on the last day, day 21, would we say they had won 1 leader’s jersey. Of course we would. And of course a jersey is awarded at the end of the final stage. 21 jerseys in total in today’s grand tours.

Nick September 11, 2017 at 11:43 am

I don’t see that this is a matter of course at all. On Day 1 there is no leader, and after the race has finished there is no leader, but a winner. It seems artificial to claim that people are “wearing” or have “days in” the leader’s jersey in those circumstances. There should be a difference (of 1) between jerseys won and jerseys worn.

Bilmo September 11, 2017 at 10:31 am

Both Merck and Froome have 34 day but Merckx has 37 jerseys as there we split stages.

RonDe September 11, 2017 at 10:57 am

Name the stages because having counted (and accounting for split stages) I don’t see how Merckx has more than 33 jerseys.

E_Pi September 11, 2017 at 11:00 am

Yes if I use Merckx 1970 and treat split days as one day, I get the same as the article (34 days).

RonDe September 11, 2017 at 11:04 am

Yes. I was arguing 1972 is 33 jerseys. Merckx in 1970 had 37 jerseys but over 34 days due to split stages. Sorry for the confusion.

Bilmo September 11, 2017 at 11:26 am

To be honest I’m only passing things I have seen on Cillian Kelly’s twitter feed – @irishpeloton
I think by all accounts he is the stats man of choice when it comes to these things.
I didn’t even know what year it applied to, just the numbers.

RonDe September 11, 2017 at 11:33 am

Fair enough Bilmo. Your 37 jerseys in 34 days does apply to Merckx in 1970. So Froome has matched the number of days but due to the peculiarities of the 1970 Tour de France, which had a prologue followed by 28 stages over 23 days, he doesn’t match the jersey number.

GrahamG September 10, 2017 at 9:24 pm

Still can’t get past the fact Froome has such an ungainly style – its really unappealing.

Great athlete though, no question.

Richard S September 11, 2017 at 8:41 am

Same. It’s like it if Carlton Palmer was the best footballer in the world

Dan September 11, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Lolz

Stoneglider September 10, 2017 at 9:50 pm

Many thanks Innrng and the Daily Diaz for the information and commentary. Vuelta the best GT of the yaear.

BC September 10, 2017 at 10:09 pm

+1 Thanks Innrng and ‘Daily’ Diaz for the brilliant and informative previews.
An enjoyable race from start to finish. Blog comments and discussion, with a few notable exceptions, followed the exceptional quality of our host.
Long may it continue.

JEB September 11, 2017 at 12:02 pm

Thanks Inrng. Great previews and coverage, glad to see you were spot on with lots of your insight, you haven’t lost your touch.
Shame about the comments boards, they seem to have gone down hill recently, hopefully they will pick up again.
I would say that I come here for the great insight you provide, but stay for the comments and alternative perspectives put forward by the loyal followers. Not much reason to read on when the comments are less about cheering on favourite riders, or raising interesting questions and instead they are just put-downs or negative comments. But that’s just my opinion.
Keep up the good work.

Michael B September 11, 2017 at 12:30 pm

Agreed, huge thumbs up to INRNG as ever. The thing about the doping “debates” is that both sides are entrenched and opinions never change, they only harden, which seems to leave every discussion back to doping with some posters.

Ultimately this is, with all due respect to our host, a fairly niche cycling blog. 99% of readers are already very familiar with the subject of doping and well read on it. Rehashing the same arguments that have gone on for years is just a bit dull. We’ve all read it a million times. But poster thoughts on tactics and racing are much more interesting, as are the historical stories that the likes of Gabriel educates us on. I still think there’s a high enough proportion of posters who offer that, and INRNG is always the first website I visit when I open my browser…

ZigaK September 11, 2017 at 1:27 pm

Gabriele, not Gabriel. It’s the same with Cesare, Daniele, Emanuele, Ercole, Felice, Ettore, Felice, Michele, Pasquale, Salvatore, Simone, …

ZigaK September 11, 2017 at 1:32 pm

One of the peculiarities of the italian *culture* – and it is great, this variety that is still ingrained into the ever more globalising world. Let’s try to keep it that way as long as possible.
I didn’t mean to snark at you, I apologize if it was perceived as such.

Michael B September 11, 2017 at 2:02 pm

No problem, and apologies to Gabriele for the typo if he’s reading!

BenW September 11, 2017 at 2:37 pm

x2 to this. Nailed it 🙂

Also, many thanks to INRNG for another GT of excellent coverage. Indispensable and a real privilege – no apparent bias either, which is refreshing indeed. Can’t wait for next season!

Anonymous September 11, 2017 at 3:15 pm

I mostly agree, but if you ignore doping completely you repeat the mistakes of previous years. When people have new questions about certain riders – and I’ve only seen questions on these pages, not outright accusations – those people are shouted down; as they were in the past. There’s a balance to be achieved, in my opinion.

Gargatouf September 11, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Can I ask a question. It’s probably a stupid question, but will ask it anyway. Is Froome’s double mainly down to the world class team behind him?

Anyone that attempted 2 GTs in a row (whether Giro-Tour or Tour-Vuelta) was out of contention of one or the other, or both, pretty quickly, except Froome. Everyone that has attempted 2 GTs in a row had at least one bad day. Froome probably had half a bad day when he lost 40 odd seconds on Nibali (was it Los Machucos stage?). Everyone else’s bad day(s) saw them losing minutes.

Just interested to see what the difference is between Froome attempting a double and the others?

RonDe September 11, 2017 at 12:42 pm

My theory is they essentially did a grand tour negative split, coming in undercooked for the first race and performing better in the second. Froome has basically admitted as much himself, saying that his climbing in the Tour wasn’t quite there and that he was not at his peak when the Tour began. All those who tried the Giro-Tour double had to work really hard to win the Giro though (or to not win it in Quintana’s case) meaning they arrived in France having already done too much. And none of them even podiumed as a result.

Gargatouf September 11, 2017 at 1:04 pm

But if he was not at his peak in the Tour, why did he win it, against riders that peaked for it? Is he really that much better that a Froome at, let’s say, 90% of his abilities can keep up with the Sky train and match other GC contenders who peaked for the same race?

If I’m not wrong, he said after this year’s Tour that it was the most difficult one he won, so you would think that he had worked hard to win it, like whoever worked hard for the Giro. But whoever worked hard for the Giro was cooked for the Tour, Froome was barely cooked for the Vuelta.

RonDe September 11, 2017 at 1:13 pm

A lot of reasons. Having the strongest team counts for a lot as when he had the broken wheel in the middle 0f the Tour and lost 40 seconds but was relayed back by team mates. Another reason is that Uran seemed happy to follow and get 2nd. Bardet was always going to lose in the time trials since he rarely even seems to ride a TT bike. Quintana was toasted and Contador off the pace. Porte crashed. Personally, I think Froome gambled he could win it not as his best really. Turns out he was right.

Anonymous September 11, 2017 at 1:49 pm

I think Froome might well have won both without such a strong team – I’d have liked to have seen him do it, or at least try.

Michael B September 11, 2017 at 12:52 pm

There is no “right” answer as it’s theoretical but I think Froome would have won the Tour on any of the major teams. He has the strongest team because Team Sky want the best rider, especially if he’s British as it’s even better PR.

Let’s not forget that without a team behind him, while acting as a domestique for Wiggins, he finished second at both the Vuelta and TdF. If he had been the protected rider at either he would have won them too.

Cycling is a team sport and having the likes of Kwiatkowski or Poels is a big advantage, but when it comes down to it he still has to put out the watts when it comes to the crunch moments. He’s a phenomenal athlete and I hope next year’s TdF route sets up a battle royale between Froome and Dumoulin.

Gargatouf September 11, 2017 at 3:54 pm

@ Michael B, I understand that cycling is a team sport, but everyone is using fatigue (understandably) as an excuse for GC contenders not being able to mount 2 challenges on 2 successive GT’s but that does not seem to apply to Froome. You say it yourself that he had to put the watts on the Tour and then in the Vuelta, so just curious why the likes of Bardet, Aru and at a lesser degree Simon Yates, Meintjes at the Vuelta and Quintana and Pinot at the Tour , or anyone else that has attempted 2 GTs in a row over the last 2 or 3 years since they have kind of come back into “fashion” can’t keep up, but Froome can do it?

I mean, if it wasn’t for bad Sky tactics last year on the Formigal stage, Froome probably would have won the double as well.

JEB September 11, 2017 at 4:57 pm

I think modern training methods might also play a part. Things have certainly got more scientific since Sky came about and employed many of the people from the highly successful British track cycling arena. They have the budget and the inclination to spend it on either scientific research or understanding scientific research in their quest for ‘marginal gains’. I believe that historically teams would have ‘old school’ ex-road races themselves as coaches, and possibly one-man-band ‘scientist/doctors’ like Dr Ferrari (ignoring the doping part he also set sessions). Sky have probably run forecasts and models and examined the rider data to see how to maximise recovery and chances a successful double.
So yes, I believe a significant part of it is because he has a ‘world class team’ but by that I mean more than just the having world class riders to support him in both tours (but that too is incredibly important).

Michael B September 11, 2017 at 6:51 pm

Froome’s a little older than those riders which brings greater stamina. Bardet could have won the Tour if he could time trial as well. Throw into the mix that Froome might also just have more physical capacity. Plus there’s the whole marginal gains thing which is a different debate itself! Lots of variables…

Daniel September 11, 2017 at 1:03 pm

I love your blog. But such an epic stage 20 deserves those few words about it?

Anonymous September 11, 2017 at 1:30 pm

Fantastic riding by Froome to take the points jersey – this is the kind of exciting racing, with him doing it alone, that I’ve wanted to see.

RQS September 11, 2017 at 2:05 pm

I was thinking the same. But kudos to Froome, he did it the hard way. Trentin was not too upset – to be fair, it might have been academic had Froome finished second on the Angliru, he just spun out some ‘drama’ for the finish.

Michael B September 11, 2017 at 12:17 pm

Yeah, the Giro was very well designed in that respect. Although you suspect Froome is enough of a master at both disciplines that a very long TT is needed for Dumoulin to take real time.

I didn’t realise the route had been announced and I’m not sure what I make of a 35km TTT. NQ might as well target the Giro/Vuelta if that’s the case, and even SunWeb could lose significant time to Sky in a long TTT.

Hop Hop September 11, 2017 at 12:19 pm

It hasn’t. But the first three stages in north west France have been trailed. It is to be confirmed.

Ecky Thump September 11, 2017 at 4:00 pm

I personally don’t think that Dumoulin is quite ready to challenge Froome and, perhaps crucially, his team, just yet.
Those ramps on the Tour and Vuelta would have killed off Dumoulin.
But, the way that his climbing is progressing, another season or two could put him there.
Which, coincidentally, you’d have to think that Froome’s peak may have passed by then.
The pathway seems set, for me.
I still have an inkling that Valverde’s loss for Movistar at the Giro was absolutely crucial too.
A Valverde / Quintana double act would have presented a big problem to Dumoulin.

Michael B September 11, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Fingers crossed for some Classics-style stages then.

Michael B September 11, 2017 at 6:46 pm

I think it depends on the route, the amount of ITT miles and how much the rest of Sunweb buy into Project Dumoulin. With Geschke, Oomen, Kelderman and ten Dam he has some very good climbing domestiques if they all fully commit. Add to that Mattews and Theuns (who I believe they’re signing) and you have some great mid-mountain guys too. Of course that relies on them all committing to the cause which, as we’ve seen with Barguil, is never guaranteed. It’s not Team Sky but it looks a very strong line up nonetheless.

Frank Carbo September 11, 2017 at 12:18 am

RonDe, I got the impression that the pace wasn’t being pushed like it might have been. There was a fairly big-sized group until quite close to the top. I got the feeling that everybody was going to put in a big attack in the end and we saving themselves.

Watts September 11, 2017 at 9:14 am

The weather means you can’t compare the times for this ascent.

Dan September 11, 2017 at 2:48 pm

I thought that… Pellizotti lead for a fair chunk of the climb.

And whilst I’ve brought his name up: Why was he pulling for so long? Why didn’t he either 1, attack so that Nibali could try and bridge, or 2, save his legs for later in the climb when the gradient really bites?

All he did give Sky a breather and then he was cooked (leaving Nibali exposed) as soon as the pace went up.

Junker September 11, 2017 at 4:50 pm

hard to say, what looks like bluffing recently is actually as fast as many can go taking into account energy for later in the climb

DAVE September 11, 2017 at 4:48 pm

To hide the fact Nibali was struggling.
It was a tactical play so Zakarin etc might think Nibbers would attack so 2nd place didn’t slip away.
Nib knew victory was gone after the crash (he said so in an interview after)

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