The Tour de France will use a starting grid to place riders ahead of Stage 17, the ultra short stage of 65km from Bagnères-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan. It’s been in the rulebook of the race for some time but seems to have caught attention recently.
That’s the screengrab of the rules. The idea is that riders will be placed on the start according to their position on GC in order to have the leaders at the front of the race which helps as the stage is uphill from the start. It’s not unusual, obviously visible in any cyclo-cross or mountain bike race but also in a kermesse or criterium where they call the big names and local heroes to the start first. It’s uphill from the start but hardly the Lacets de Montvernier, instead it’s via the Col de Peyresourde, a veritable highway of a climb known for its long straights and wide roads so leaders wanting team mates by their side need not wait for long. It’s a great mise-en-scène to make the start of this stage even more dramatic.
See the “B” on the profile above? This is another novelty in the Tour de France rules for 2018 is the “bonus point”, an intermediate sprint with no points for the points competition but instead with time bonuses of 3-2-1 seconds for the first three riders to the point and only for the first nine stages. It’s designed to spice up the race for the yellow jersey a bit more, but what chance the Stage 3 team time trial sees the GC prised apart with large gaps?
Talking of the TTT Lotto-Soudal used a “speed gel” in the Dauphiné TTT, a lumpy paste containing way to smear dimples on the skin and make the body more aerodynamic. It’s effectively a fairing and so out of the question under the UCI rules and won’t be at the Tour.
Good news in Switzerland as Richie Porte leads overall and Tejay van Garderen is looking like a valuable mountain domestique, there’s no talk of co-leadership in July. There’s no firm news on BMC Racing’s future but plenty in the public domain to suggest the team is struggling to find a replacement headline sponsor for 2019 and beyond. Without this secure financing the services of Greg Van Avermaet, Richie Porte and others can’t be secured and others on the team won’t be hanging around to wait for better news.
The Route d’Occitanie starts today? “Route what” some might say but this is the old Route du Sud race in the south of France renamed after a regional merger encouraged the newly enlarged region to back this race. It’s been televised for the last two years and should grow a stage longer next year or at least soon according to the race boss in the local press thanks to the regional backing. It’s also been a pioneer race, opening up new routes into the Pyrenees for the Tour de France to use soon after. Stage 3 is the Queen Stage. Don’t call it the Tour d’Occitanie though which is a controversial skyscraper project in the region’s capital of Toulouse.
Bidon villes: Cycling in France this summer? Cycling past vineyards but not a drop to drink? No following team car? You might want to stop along the way for a drink only to find many village cafés have closed leaving you without a place to drink and unwilling to do the clack-clack cleated walk around a supermarket to buy a bottle. So website https://www.eau-cyclisme.com is worth remembering, it lists fountains, taps and other sources of drinking water.