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The Moment The Tour de France Was Won

Gerain Thomas, 2018

How to compress three weeks into a single moment? The story of Geraint Thomas’s win is a more gradual matter, still if there was a day and moment it was at the ski station of La Rosière were Thomas jumped away, passed earlier escapee Tom Dumoulin, took the stage by 20 seconds, collected the time bonus and put on the yellow jersey.

The chart shows the GC standings of the top-5 over the three weeks. As you can see the others fell away from Thomas quickly, Chris Froome lost 51 seconds on the opening day; Primož Roglič and Steven Kruijswijk suffered in the team time trial and then Tom Dumoulin’s losses add up on Stage 6 at Mûr-de-Bretagne. Dumoulin rode into Romain Bardet just before the crucial finish at Mûr-de-Bretagne, forcing him to stop for a new wheel and chase back, this cost him 53 seconds plus a 20 second time penalty for a blatant draft behind the car. This accounts for two thirds of Dumoulin’s time losses to Thomas, then come 30 seconds in time bonuses taken by Thomas, against 12 for Dumoulin, the net 18 seconds equate to one fifth of the lead to leave just 17 seconds in straight racing of which the 20 second gap between Thomas and Dumoulin at La Rosière was the biggest gap between them. It’s a marked change from recent editions where we’ve seen riders more or less match each other until a time trial stage when suddenly they fall away from Froome. Here the lesson here isn’t one of addition and subtraction, more one of equality between the first two. Thomas looked the strongest and the most assured, he even never had to attack.

Still Thomas’s win has a touch of serendipity, not from the race but the circumstances prior to it. Froome and Sky were tempted into the Giro-Tour double, then Froome’s salbutamol saga meant Thomas was promoted internally in the team. He’d had a quiet start to the season, off the pace on the summit finish stage of Tirreno-Adriatico won by his team mate Michał Kwiatkowski who’d also beaten him in the Volta ao Algarve. He came down from Mount Teide to ride Paris-Roubaix, continuing his interest in the classics and reviving the voices that pipe up every spring to say they wish he’d stick to the classics. The Tour de Romandie was quiet, Sky’s new recruit Egan Bernal outshone him. But things changed in the summer, he won the Dauphiné and with this became a Tour contender and with hindsight his move at La Rosière in June was the template for his triumph a month later that set him up to win the Tour.

Leadership was a story during the month, if only because he’s plastic, a rider moulded into the needs of others. Initially one of the UK lottery winners on the GB track programme, he was placed with the Barloworld team with the idea that a road programme would build him up for the track, he even rode the 2007 Tour de France for the team where since the race started in London they thought it would be good to have a Brit. If being a Brit got him a precocious start in the Tour de France ironically it kept him off the road, he was on the track more than the road and won gold in the Beijing velodrome in 2008 and joined Sky on its inception in 2010. Once again Sky had a grand tour winner on their roster but it took them years to discover it.

Still the mutation to stage racing isn’t recent. 2014 saw him win the Bayern Rundfahrt but it was 2015 that he made the switch, he won E3 Harelbeke but was second overall in the Tour de Suisse (pictured) and was sitting fourth in the Tour de France until the penultimate mountain stage. He was a rider to watch for 2016 here wondering if he’d prove more talented than Chris Froome if he could establish himself as a leader. Things started well with a win in Paris-Nice but the rest of that year didn’t deliver any results. 2017 was better with Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of the Alps leading into the Giro only for him to crash out at the foot of the Blockhaus in a crash provoked by a badly-parked police motorbike. Weeks later when sitting second overall he crashed out of the Tour de France on the descent of the Col de la Biche. In short he’d been a stage racer for four years seasons now but perhaps never put his foot down to demand team leadership, there were no declarations about becoming top dog and if he was protected for the 2017 Giro, Mikel Landa had the “1” on his back, he was the Prince Of Wales but never asked to be King.

Thomas is still on the market and can probably name his price but this only means he’s more likely to sign for Team Sky given their quasi-unlimited budget. Whatever the offers cash-rich squads like Bahrain-Merida, UAE-Emirates make, they can pay cash but won’t deliver the depth of support, the same train of riders. Once again we saw aristocrats of the peloton like Lord Kwiatkowski and Viscount Poels playing domestique in July and handsomely paid for this of course. Egan Bernal’s inclusion in the team was surprising at the start but with hindsight it was essential, without him Sky’s train would have come up short on the summit finishes and his efforts to pace Froome back into contention on the Aubisque ensured the team got two riders on the podium.

Fernando Gaviria

Go back to the start and Stage 1 saw a crash split the field with the likes of Chris Froome, Richie Porte, Adam Yates and Nairo Quintana losing time, with hindsight all would be on the back foot for the next three weeks. Lawson Craddock fared worse, crashing into a spectator and riding as the lanterne rouge all race long. Fernando Gaviria won the stage, taking the yellow jersey, points jersey, white jersey and Quick Step took the team prize meaning the Belgian team wore every jersey at some point during the race, the only prizes they missed out in July were the Souvenir Henri Desgranges (Nairo Quintana) and the Supercombatif prize (Dan Martin).

Dylan Groenwegen wins in Chartres

Gaviria would take another stage, Peter Sagan won two and so did Dylan Groenwegen in the first week. Peter Sagan quickly donned the green jersey and would win a third in Valence. They’ve changed the points scale in recent years to make the contest closer only he’s again the runaway winner, winning stages, contesting bunch sprints and intermediate sprints, including those on a mountain stage. His charisma and presence must delight Skoda, the green jersey sponsor. Only the Tour gathers all the sprinters for sprint royale and the old kings Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish and André Greipel were deposed by the young princes before leaving the race. Arnaud Démare got a stage and Alexander Kristoff collected the rewards for hauling himself around France with victory on the Champs Elysées.

BMC won the team time trial and fears that the overall classification would be set in stone proved excessive with 10 teams within a minute of the stage winners. Dan Martin won at Mûr-de-Bretagne, he jumped and the others hesitated, the story of his race and he helped to spice up many a mountain stage.

Elsewhere we had the usual wildcard breakaways and the inevitable bunch sprints and complaints that the race was boring to watch. There could be ways to enliven the flat stages but the danger is the fiddling brings gimmicks or adds complexity without achieving anything, a bit like the bonus sprint points during the first week.

One way to enliven things is to add cobbles. Tour de France creator Henri Desgrange tried to scare the riders and whip up the public interest, for example if crossing the Tourmalet wasn’t enough in 1910, he spread tales of marauding bears to redouble the fear factor. The stage to Roubaix borrowed a touch of this, justifiable fear even if the GC contenders all stayed together with the exception of Richie Porte who crashed out before meeting a single cobble. John Degenkolb delivered the feel-good win while many others were feeling sore and the stage manage to cast shadow over the Alps as several GC contenders were left nursing bruises, injuries and wounds. It doesn’t take much of an injury to make you sleep bad, it doesn’t take much missed sleep to start feeling sluggish on the bike 10 days into a stage race.

The Alps began with a stage of sumptuous beauty, a lap around the opal waters of Lake Annecy and the traverse of the Plateau des Glières and then the double Romme-Colombière climbs where Julian Alaphilippe won the stage and took the mountains jersey, “the French superhero costume” as L’Equipe put it. Alaphilippe finishes as a convincing and satisfying winner of the mountains jersey, on the attack early in the mountains but also winning a stage in each mountain range.

La Rosière saw Thomas triumph as mentioned above and also saw plenty of GC contenders fall by the wayside. Romain Bardet, Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali were distanced while Jacob Fuglsang, Adam Yates, Ilnur Zakarin and Bob Jungels had their GC hopes extinguished for a year. Meanwhile Tom Dumoulin might have been caught on the final climb after an audacious breakaway but equally impressive manage to pick up the pace later on and even pipped Froome for the time bonuses.

The stage to Alpe d’Huez ought to be remembered for Steven Kruijswijk, sitting sixth overall, going in the early breakaway and then attacking them all to go solo with 73km to go. If not then for Geraint Thomas coping with attacks from Quintana, Nibali and Bardet before lining himself up for the final corner onto the Avenue Rif Nel so that he came out lengths clear of the others and punching away for the stage win with the yellow jersey. Only the raucous crowd grabbed as many headlines. There were big efforts to contain things, alcohol sales banned on Dutch corner, more ropes, barriers and police than ever and anecdotally fewer crowds. Vincenzo Nibali once quipped that “the mother of imbeciles is always pregnant” meaning that there’s always a supply of fools and we saw several of her sons on the Alpe, someone tried to thump Froome, others setting off flares to waft acrid smoke into the riders and then one person with a loose camera strap downed Nibali. He got up and almost reached the lead riders who’d been marking each other but had fractured a vertebra and quit the race. He’d been dropped the previous day, his attack had fizzled out minutes before so chances are he might not have weighed on the race although he could have been a catalyst for the third week. The race is unlikely to go back for some time.

As well as a few fools the race didn’t always have the joyful, free, family atmosphere of usual. We need to be careful not to latch on examples that over-exaggerate, the Tour remains a popular festival. Still the race started with a PR problem, one day Chris Froome was persona non grata, the next he was exonerated just before the race started and this was a case study in pro cycling’s institutional problems will get a closer look here in the coming days and weeks. Short of interviewing the crowds it’s hard to ascribe accurate motivations for the booing but there must be a combination of boredom with Team Sky winning six of the last seven Tours (and we’ve heard the boos before); the drip of stories about Jiffy bags, the British parliamentary enquiry and more although little of this reached much of the French media. The salbutamol did through and it dragged on for months only to be resolved just before the Tour started. Readers here may debate weighted gravity urine samples and remember past blog posts about the possibility of Ulissi falling foul of the salbutamol test alongside accounts of Sky’s aggressive medicalisation of permitted substances and the age-old stories of TUE arbitrage. Roadside many people heard about a positive test for a strangely-named banned substance during the Vuelta and made up their minds. Simplistic? Perhaps but we’re all guilty of heuristics, including Dave Brailsford whose rest day rantings made life harder for his team this month and quite probably next year too.

Astana took two mid-mountain stages with Omar Fraile and Magnus Cort Nielsen, a good consolation after Jacob Fuglsang’s GC bid never started and he was questioning his own future as GC rider in the heat of the moment. The two wins came after two huge battles to get in the day’s breakaway. We now take for granted the limitless TV coverage but it’s stages like this that make the full coverage worthwhile, add in the good weather – it rained briefly on the stage to Luchon and was damp for the early starters of the Stage 20 TT – and the visual experience was sumptuous.

The Pyrenees saw Julian Alaphilippe take his second stage win. Adam Yates crashed on the final descent and Alaphilippe radioed his team car to ask about waiting but was told in blunt terms to race on. Behind the GC riders marked each other, saving energy for the following day’s 65km dash. The stage wasn’t an attack-fest but it was decisive with Nairo Quintana taking a consolation stage win and Thomas withstanding a flurry of attacks from Dumoulin and Primož Roglič, the Slovene going from dark horse to podium contender. Chris Froome cracked and we got the rare sight of him beaten on a mountain stage and for all his visual discomfort on any summit finish we got the “tell” of his tongue hanging out. The significance of the finish could be long-lasting with the Col du Portet a valuable new resource in the Pyrenees when the race needs a high altitude summit finish. In the moment Quintana got a win and Movistar sealed the team classification which matters to them. They did bring their trident but Valverde was more of a road captain and if they didn’t take the fight to Team Sky they did enliven the race with Valverde going up the road again and again as a relay, Marc Soler was impressive and Mikel Landa was left smarting after crashing on the cobbles.

Nobody else could take on Team Sky. Ag2r La Mondiale tried a couple of times but they lost three riders including Alexis Vuillermoz who was taken out by a spectator like Nibali, unlike Nibali his exit didn’t get much attention but it depleted and already run-down team. They’re left with the white jersey of Pierre Latour, the first time the team has won a jersey competition in Paris but the best young rider prize was hardly a competition. Latour was working for Bardet a lot, just as Egan Bernal was working even more for Froome and Thomas. Guillaume Martin tried to attack Latour but he’d been carrying a broken rib since Roubaix.

The final mountain stage saw several riders launch with 100km to go. As much as we’d like to see this on the first mountain stage it’s not going to happen because the rewards are slim, possibly a stage win and maybe a few seconds but the risks are high, of being caught and dropped. Just ask Steven Kruijswijk about climbing Alpe d’Huez. Still the final stage was full of action and the podium positions were in play all the way to Larun. The final TT was especially technical and Tom Dumoulin won by a second ahead of Chris Froome while Geraint Thomas seemed to back off, either to ensure he made it home safely or to help his team mate win the stage.

The Verdict
A slow start, it took until the second Sunday to break the torpor but from then onwards there was plenty of action and suspense even if the introduction of the pavé brought action for one day at the cost of injuries to many GC contenders. From the Alps onwards there was action and suspense and again look at the list of stage winners and there’s no surprise or fluke winner. Froome’s previous wins were achieved with a knock-out blow such as Ax-3-Domaines or La Pierre Saint Martin and last year he always had the final time trial in Marseille as insurance, this year leadership and resilience were still issue for Thomas late into the race, even after he’d won atop Alpe d’Huez in the yellow jersey. Yet the alternative scenario was typically Froome winning rather than the others, Sky’s mountain train is cycling’s version of football’s catenaccio.

Thomas finishes first and if he’s an unexpected winner the result is indisputable, it’s hard to imagine the scenario where Dumoulin could have beaten him. All this on a very hard route, incomparable to the course almost designed for Bradley Wiggins in 2012. It ends with an intriguing scenario for the future, Thomas’s thoughts at the moment probably revolve around relaxation and recovery and maybe the team call him up for the Vuelta, but what hopes and ambitions will be take into next year? He’s 32 and first-time winners of the Tour in their 30s like Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre and Bjarne Riis tend to have only had the one Tour win in them, see Fausto Coppi for the exception. Similarly, once invincible in July, Froome is probably due a long vacation but what for 2019? The same for Tom Dumoulin who only decided to enter the Tour de France late, second in the Giro and then waiting to see how he felt, what can he do with a clear run. Ditto Primož Roglič, he’s collected one week stage races this season and now finishes fourth overall, he only took up cycling in 2012.

 

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Conor Monday, 30 July 2018, 10:31 am

    Pedantic Slovak/Slovene mix-up alert for Roglič

    Thanks for the rich and detailed coverage of events off and on the road, adds so much to the Tour

  • not yoda Monday, 30 July 2018, 10:33 am

    The last remark on mountain trains. I am completely in agreement with your insight on mountain trains. I wonder is there difference between the current Sky train and Postal train of old? Not in terms of doping/non sporting, but how the tactic is executed?

    • Benoit Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:28 am

      Little difference in the execution of the tactic I don’t think. It’s the most risk-averse means to success in the tour, but it relies entirely on having 4-5 of the top 10-15 strongest riders in the race. We know Postal achieved this with “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”, and while no-one can be certain that Sky are completely clean, it seems clear that for the most part they’ve simply bought the best talent in and paid them enough to suppress their personal ambitions.

      • GeorgeY Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:01 pm

        We also know that former track specialists like Cavendish can become successful sprinters but only Team Sky has managed to convert the likes of Wiggins and Thomas to climbers and in effect to GC winners!

        • Kilo Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:58 pm

          Is it more the case that they can translate a pursuit background into a road tt rider who can hang in on a climb rather than an out and out climber. Merckx, Kelly and Moser to name a few were all GT winners who were fairly handy on the track too so I’m not sure it’s such a shock for riders to go the other direction. Wiggins also displayed his GT potential before Sky

        • CA Monday, 30 July 2018, 6:53 pm

          Correction: Slipstream converted Wiggins to 4th on GC.

          I think the track aspect just shows where Britain’s top cyclists showed how big of an engine they have, it doesn’t really show any significance here.

          Wiggins and Cavendish didn’t need the track racing to develop, I think it was the only reliable cycling that was available to them.

          • dm Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:33 pm

            So much nonsense spoken about Sky converting track riders to GC contenders. Simon Yates – the definition of a pure climber at 58kg – won a Gold medal at the World Track Championships in 2013. He’s never ridden for Sky. Track was the only route available for British youngsters to emerge, it’s where their talents were developed, not necessarily where their long term strengths lay. Please, try a little harder, these are such poor attempts at casting shade. Tom Dumoulin is the definition of a track rider, only ever a time triallist for much of his career – just like Wiggins – but second at Giro and Tour de France in same season. Does that make Sunweb suspicious? And for the record, Tom Simpson won an Olympic medal on the track for GB in 1956, before forging a career on the road…just a few years before Sky were formed. Oh, and Eddy Merckx started his cycling career in the velodrome….

          • CA Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 5:39 pm

            dm – exactly, you can’t credit brailsford with creating these top riders who started on the track.

            Many top UK riders got their start on the track because that’s the avenue available in UK, whereas others get their start in crits, mtb, etc. It’s not about the manager, it’s the local racing scene structure that helps the rider along.

    • Big Mig Monday, 30 July 2018, 8:29 pm

      From memory I don’t remember the US Postal train being as omnipotent as Sky. Froome/Thomas/wiggins haven often started (and even finish) the last climb with teammates but I don’t recall this being a regular feature of Lance’s wins(*!). Happy to be corrected if anyone has trawled the video archives.

      • CA Monday, 30 July 2018, 9:26 pm

        I suspect it is impossible to objectively argue one way or the other, but I think Postal/Discovery was just as dominant.

        • Rupert Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 1:26 am

          I was certain Lance and his cronies was doping during his second TdF victory. Why? Because by then he rode high in the mountains surrounded by a number of virtually unknown US team mates – it didn’t make sense. Lance’s narcissism extended to his belief that he could pull the wool over anybody’s eyes. That deceit certainly worked in the USA, it didn’t work so well in Europe.

          • CA Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 5:40 pm

            Yes Rupert, we know Lance and his cronies doped… let’s ignore that for the moment.

            USPS/Disco was dominant similarly to Team Sky.

        • StevhanTI Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 11:28 pm

          seem to remember that too. Hincapie, Hamilton, Landis, Heras, Leipheimer, were the Geraints, Bernals and Kwiats of their day. Not to forget guys like Vandevelde, Pena, Rubiera, Zabriskie who were more than able parts of the mountain train. To me it has always looked like Sky is US Postal sans the elaborate doping scheme. Same tactics, same big money. Also Brailsord must be about as disliked as Bruyneel by now and that’s even before his team has been unmasked, kind of an achievement.

          • Anonymous Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 1:47 am

            Sorry, which ones of “Hincapie, Hamilton, Landis, Heras, Leipheimer” were World Champions like Kwiatkowski or multiple Gold medal winners like Thomas or arguably the number one young talent out there like Bernal? All of these happened or in Bernals case, were being said, before they joined Sky. The similarities between Postal and Sky are superficial. Great in this day and age as it means the majority who couldn’t string a coherent thought together have something to easily hang their hat on.

          • Anon Friday, 3 August 2018, 1:03 am

            Doping methods have evolved, new doctors with new science are winning, and Pro Cyclists start to dope at a much earlier age.

  • KevinK Monday, 30 July 2018, 10:36 am

    Nice summary! Quick correction, Sagan had 3 wins, not 2. Amazing to me is that he also had 12 top-8 finishes out of 19 road stages. If he had busted his ass late in the tour, he may well have notched 4-5 wins, too.

    By my quick math he’s finished in the top 10 in 65 out of 115 road stages in his TdF career (I’ve excluded TTT and ITT). I read elsewhere that before this TdF he already had the record for top-10 finishes – is that true?

  • Clive Monday, 30 July 2018, 10:42 am

    Inrng I’m sure many would agree with me when I say thank you for your excellent coverage of the Tour, we all enjoy and appreciate the work that goes into it.

    For me the race was always intriguing and engaging, even if it wasn’t exciting every day. A week ago it seemed that any of four riders could still win, although in the end it is hard to see how Thomas could have lost without a stroke of bad luck, he never seemed to show any weakness.

    • Mol Monday, 30 July 2018, 12:32 pm

      Plus 1. Been fantastic. Thanks

    • bouncer Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:47 pm

      +1.
      Chapeau.

    • madblack Monday, 30 July 2018, 3:35 pm

      Wholeheartedly concur! Thank you inner ring!

    • davidk Monday, 30 July 2018, 3:50 pm

      +1

      Inrng – really appreciated your insightful analysis and comment. Thanks.

    • Nick Knatterton Monday, 30 July 2018, 3:58 pm

      +1
      Fantastic coverage, which I enjoyed immensely again.
      Would love to wear an INRNG cap and jersey. Now that I could venture some money on non-necessary items, there are only socks left at Prendas. Any chance of having a new edition soon?

      • BenW Monday, 30 July 2018, 5:26 pm

        If they do, definitely do it. The Santini stuff is lovely. I repped both cap and jersey on the Dunwich Dynamo on Saturday night, and saw a lady in a jersey too. I only saw one GCN though. So it looks like you’re winning, INRNG 😉

        • The Inner Ring Monday, 30 July 2018, 7:06 pm

          Thanks and now the Tour is over, time to think about supporter kit sales and more, more on this in the coming days/weeks probably.

    • AndyW Monday, 30 July 2018, 5:38 pm

      +1!

    • CA Monday, 30 July 2018, 6:53 pm

      Absolutely, thank you Inrng

    • dimitri Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 7:21 am

      +1, thanks Inrng and respectful commentators; great mid afternoon break to relive what happened in hours too early for some Down Under. Exiting to hear there are rumors regarding supporter kit etc.

    • Divad Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 9:20 am

      Hear, hear! Thanks so much. Always exemplary.

    • Mike Gutierrez Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 12:18 pm

      Plus one. Thanks for the insightful commentary.

      • Steve Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 6:57 am

        Another salute to the greatness of this blog. I’m currently five thousand miles from home, but still feel connected.

  • Pilgrim Monday, 30 July 2018, 10:43 am

    Thanks for this summary which tops off three weeks of indispensable reading.

    I’d have to disagree with the characterisation of Sky’s tactics as ‘catenaccio’. Isn’t their approach actually aggressive and attacking? “We’re going to hit you with a relentless stream of pace so fast that you can’t attack us.” That doesn’t strike me as particularly defensive.

    Sky dominating grand tours isn’t down solely to money or style. It’s also down to the failure of other teams to think outside the box. A team with Quintana, Valverde, Landa, Soler and Amador should have been better able to challenge Sky. And don’t get me started on Katusha! Outside of Kittel, Zakarin and Martin where is their huge budget going?

    But there’s another point there too: Sky dominate the Grand Tours. That’s it. They are to 3 week tours what Quick-Step is to Spring. We don’t hear suggestions that UCI should change the rules just for them, do we?

    As a side note: it would be really interesting to see a breakdown of teams based on budget per UCI point.

    • not yoda Monday, 30 July 2018, 10:59 am

      I agree with the failure of Movistar. They did try too little maybe too late but also had little to show at the end.
      Lotto NL Jumbo showed how it should be done to everyone.
      Katusha was quite shorthanded at this tour but does not grant them reprieve for the rest of the year.

      I tend to agree with the catenaccio bit though. As far as I can follow, the Sky super domestiques would be leaders in other teams but they stay at Sky because of the money. An anecdocte is EF’s leader Uran makes less than a Sky super/luxury domestique like Poels/Kwiatkowski.
      Traditional mountain tactics is to attack by surges of acceleration, which expend energy and the following of these attacks result in ‘cracking’ thus losing plenty of time.

      The development of technology in the sport, not least time gaps, GPS, radio and especially power meters has enabled this defensive approach. A high constant speed might be the best way to ascend as quickly as possible, this is set by domestiques riding at tempo.

      Traditional attacks, as we saw multiple times by Dan Martin this tour, can be closed and neutralised by the domestiques leaving the leaders only to cover attacks in final km or launch their own attack to take the stage win and time bonuses available.
      This gives rise to the long range attacks, like Majka, Kruijswijk and Landa, where a rider far back in GC creates a gap early in the stage then try to hold this advantage despite a lower overall speed until the end. Not many of these survive the end of the stage, not one at this tour I believe in the high mountains. Alaphilippe is an exception, but he is not on the radar of GC contenders and his stage win was not on the hardest mountain stages.

      • Pilgrim Monday, 30 July 2018, 12:00 pm

        But I’m not convinced that the sole reason for Poels, Kwiatkowski etc to sign for Sky is ‘they’ll pay me more to be a superdomestique than Team X will to be leader’.

        Surely someone like Kwiatkowski is thinking “I’ll have opportunities to win monuments and maybe Sky can turn me into a multi-stage contender like they did with Thomas”. Why would he want to leave that to be a leader of a lesser team?

        It isn’t the money, I’m trying to say: it’s the opportunity. Work with teams that haven’t sorted an answer to Sky or work with the team which hasn’t got a scooby how to beat them. Looked at that way it’s Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors.

        I would be extremely wary of seeking wholesale changes to how a professional sport operates on the basis of one or two outlier teams. Cycling is more cyclical (no pun intended) than most other sports. There will be a post Sky era as assuredly as there was a post Merckxx era and a post-US Postal era. I’m not convinced that taking power meters away stops Sky winning so frequently.

        • DUNCAN Monday, 30 July 2018, 1:14 pm

          I’m just not convinced Kwiat & Poels can win a Grand Tour.
          Kwiat’s yet to stick with the best in the high mountains (although this may be because of work)
          & Poels generally has a bad day, not recently as he’s had ‘off duty days’ but previously.

          And even if they could whatever team they might have backing them they possibly know couldn’t beat Sky so why not take leadership in the one races they can win and some one week races and a huge pay check? For both it seems like the best of all worlds? Aside from possibly some Grand Tour stage wins.

          Maybe things will change but from what I can see at this point both have made the right decision.

          • Pilgrim Monday, 30 July 2018, 1:28 pm

            Didn’t we say all of that about Thomas though? And yes there’s an attrition rate – Kennaugh and the Henaos and all that, but MK finished 49 on GC despite blowing himself up halfway up all of the big final climbs.

          • Sam Monday, 30 July 2018, 1:54 pm

            Substitute Thomas for Kwiat and Poel.

          • DUNCAN Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:57 pm

            No – Thomas is a little step ahead of Kwiat in climbing – ie he climbed with the best in 2015 – and his collapse came with workload, and Poels has actually ridden for himself pre Sky.

          • madblack Monday, 30 July 2018, 3:52 pm

            “I’m just not convinced Kwiat & Poels can win a Grand Tour.” ha! That’s exactly what I still thought 72 hours ago about Thomas!
            In fairness though the inner ring actually provides a compelling line of arguments that should have made me think differently earlier.

      • Sam Monday, 30 July 2018, 1:58 pm

        Didn’t Uran use to be ex-Sky? He did sacrifice money for more leadership opportunity, though there might be more to the story. It hasn’t worked out too badly for him.

        • BenW Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:56 pm

          He arguably underacheived at Sky, much like Landa did. A mixture of reasons for both, obviously.

    • Ecky Thump Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:06 am

      I’d agree with your points there.
      On the football analogy also, I’d compare Sky’s train to the “gegenpress”.
      It’s an aggressive pressure applied to opponents, rather than falling back in numbers?

      Many thanks to our excellent host, as ever, and to all posters for some enjoyable and interesting reading.

      • Richard S Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:39 am

        Well how exactly would you go about winning a bike race by dropping back? A bit of creative thinking is needed. Sky are defensive because they set out to stop others doing what they want to do, they want to control the opposition rather than not worrying about the opposition and just trusting their man to be better. Dave Brailsford is to cycling what Jose Mourinho is to Football, a control freak with.

        • Ecky Thump Monday, 30 July 2018, 12:06 pm

          The “press” is aggressive defence from the front, rather than a more passive defence like catanacio, is a better way of putting the analogy.

      • StevhanTI Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 11:33 pm

        For a tactic like that you need strong players with exceptional motivation and discipline, quite why only a German name describes it correctly. Also a very good summary of SKY.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:07 am

      Catennacio for me, Sky don’t really attack, they asphyxiate, and I see it as gradual process rather than an attack.

      Quick Step don’t dominate that much in the spring though, the story is often how they’ve failed to win races despite expectations. One day races are more variable, something in the moment can change the outcome of a race while a grand tour is a gradual, Bayesian process.

      • not yoda Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:25 am

        Which is why one day races are so glorious! But there are so many of them it quickly attaches anonymosity to the word classic. All hail the monuments of cycling!

      • Mike A Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:57 am

        Asphyxiation is aggression, just in a different way. It works, and while it works don’t expect them to stop doing it. It’s up to the other teams to find a way of stopping it. Even decreasing the team numbers to 7 won’t help. AG2R would have been left with even less survivors!

        Fantastic coverage throughout the Tour (and beyond). Thank you Inner Ring.

        • Anonymous Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 12:15 am

          Mike A,

          Doesn’t seem possible but Your statement,
          “Even decreasing the team numbers to 7 won’t help”
          made Me think about imposing a HANDICAP.

          The only way HANDICAPS may be helpful is to contribute some imaginative new way to resolve ongoing Sky domination in a manner that salary caps could potentially be an answer to as a way to even things out…

          Options in addition to leaving things as they are (which I’m in favor with):
          Salary Caps
          Smaller team size in races,
          HANDICAPS.
          Any new ideas…

          Personally, I think things are fair but recognize it’s not quite fair… Sky (in this conversation) is not gaming the system; they simply are rich and that’s nothing new in the world of what riches can accomplish.

          And what would a cycling HANDICAP be, anyway.

          • The GCW / Strictly Amateur Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 12:45 am

            Anonymous, I AM not, Handicaps, The GCW…

      • BenW Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:58 am

        “the story is often how they’ve failed to win races despite expectations.”

        I find this interesting – somehow the story becomes about the “not winning”, but the other side of that is that they’re usually still right at the sharp end when beaten and that goes almost unnoticed.

        Are Quick Step liked because they’re seen to be interesting?

        Also, as an aside, beyond the World Tour, events aren’t mandatory for a World Tour team to be at, so presumably all teams ends up with a differing number of race days per year as a team? I’d be interested to see percentage-wise wins:race days.

      • Sam Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:02 pm

        One important diff with QPS is they tend to have the approach of firing a revolving line of riders and see who will stick, so it seems more attacking and spread the opportunity around.

      • Greasy Wheel Monday, 30 July 2018, 3:26 pm

        For me, the football reference would be Mourinho’s Chelsea.

        The biggest budget
        A team that was defensively superb, and relentless
        They could press home their advantage against weaker teams but they always knew against the best they could win it with a set piece (TT)
        And a manager who increasingly alienated non fans the longer he was in position and the more controversial comments came out of his mouth!

      • Chris_SK Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:15 pm

        It’s definitely Catennacio. Luke Rowe is not attacking the group, when he is riding tempo for the first 2 climbs of the day.

        • David Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 10:54 pm

          “Luke Rowe is not attacking the group, when he is riding tempo for the first 2 climbs of the day.”

          Neither is he really ‘asphyxiating the race with his pace’. This seems to me to be hugely overstated. Generally, the ‘Sky train’ is mostly riding at a relatively conservative pace. It’s just that none of the contenders wants to put their nose in the wind when all the others can sit in the wheels of Sky’s domestiques and then blow them away later when they’re still fresh. If Sky’s domestiques all fell away and other teams still had them left, they’d be playing exactly the same role.

      • Anonymous Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:15 pm

        One of the knocks on Sky 12 months ago was that they had never won a Grand Tour except the Tour de France. That’s a similar story to Quick Step in terms of failing to win races despite expectations.

      • AndyW Monday, 30 July 2018, 5:50 pm

        In this Sky strategy over-stated? Perhaps it also applies to some one-week stage races, but Sky’s tactic of asphyxiation seems to be particularly focused at the Tour. From what I remember, Froome’s Vuelta win (and podiums) haven’t relied on this, nor did the Giro win (until then, Sky seemed to be cursed by *not* making a notable impact at the Giro) – Haig and Nieve, for example, looked stronger domestiques than any Sky riders for much of that race. The relatively steady gradients of the Tour simply seem well-suited to this strategy. Alternatively, is it because Sky can only expect their superstar domestiques to perform this role in unison once a year?

        • MT Monday, 30 July 2018, 7:12 pm

          It’s an interesting point about TdF being especially well suited to “asphyxiation”; I’d be interested to hear other views on whether you could have a train riding tempo up Angrilu or Mortirolo, the two sister tours seem better suited to unpredictability. I agree with you that Sky’s might be considered a TdF strategy, not a GT strategy. It could be that a Sky or a USPS have never thrown their weight Giro/Vuelta, but your suggestion sounds credible. Last person to defend a Giro title was Indurain and before that Merkx. Relatively recently Heras twice defended the Vuelta, supported as Big Mig was by the Spanish cycling federation. Is the it course or the prestige that divides TdF strategy/dynasties from the others?

          • Greasy Wheel Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:12 pm

            MT – I think the steeper the climb the less drafting benefit.
            Eg at 40kph I’ve read that the drafting benefit is about 25%
            But air resistance is proportional to the cube of speed
            So if the peloton is going at 20kph (as it will do on a slope of about 7.5%) there will still be a benefit of around 3% (one eighth of 25%).

            Now, push the gradient up to 12-13% and the speed down to say 12-15kph, then the drafting benefit may go to just 1%.

          • Matt Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 8:42 pm

            I agree. I think Sky’s focus has been around the TDF and therefore concentrated their resources around his (strong super domestiques) – which allows them to do the asphyxiation. In The other GTs haven’t had such a strong team to allow the domination. Question – if a salary cap came in would they load their eggs into the TDF basket and populate the other GTs with a weaker team?

    • Anon Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 12:27 am

      If catenaccio is ultimately about preventing successful attacks one the team has taken the ‘lead’, then I’d say it fits perfectly…

  • Paul Davies Monday, 30 July 2018, 10:50 am

    Great summary, and great coverage over the past three weeks; thanks for your efforts.

    So pleased to see Thomas win; he’s so understated and humble, always working for others, it’s great to see him get his time to shine.

    Just a note – Thomas didn’t win at La Rosiere in the Dauphine, he finished behind Pello Bilbao.

    • Paul Davies Monday, 30 July 2018, 10:55 am

      Also, Quintana, not Thomas, won the Souvenir Henri Desgranges.

  • Steppings Monday, 30 July 2018, 10:52 am

    Very pleased to see Geraint win, he’s put in the spadework over the years, taken the ups n downs and now grasped the prize when he’s had the chance too. Not a foot put wrong the whole 3 weeks and what a coup for Wales having a Tour winner! A much celebrated Tour win, fantastic.

  • Kit Monday, 30 July 2018, 10:57 am

    Fantastic write up, thank you! So much detail and insight.
    One piece of pedantry – Quintana won the Souvenir Henri Desgrange on Col de Portet, rather than Thomas, I think?
    I would really love to hear your insight on the thing that many people are talking about, which is that despite the route being very far from being a “Wiggins Tour”, the TTers are coming out on top. Heading into that final ITT, the top 4, all close on time, were in the very weird position of the TT extending rather than clawing back their lead. 2011 this wasn’t. The TTers this year were also the fastest uphill, with Bardet, Landa, Kruijswijk, Martin, Quintana all miles off the podium, and at times dropped easily uphill. I can’t recall a time when TTers didn’t even need a TT to drop their skinnier competitors. What do you think?
    Thanks again for being a brilliant guide throughout the Tour – I can’t even imagine the Tour now without this blog. “Primoz inter pares” being my personal highlight!

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:00 am

      They TT riders are doing well but they’re not really TT specialists, otherwise the likes of Stefan Küng, Maciej Bodnar and Tony Martin would be winning grand tours. The list of Tour winners for the past 50 years has very few pure climbers, perhaps Sastre, Pantani, Van Impe and Bahamontes only in the post-war period, the others from Gimondi to Merckx, Hinault and all the rest are all rounders.

      • Ecky Thump Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:09 am

        Aren’t TT specialists?
        The Tour’s top 4 has all three ITT World Champion podium finishers, and Thomas has been National ITT champion.

        • Cinjet Monday, 30 July 2018, 8:10 pm

          They are excellent or even the best TT riders but they aren’t just TT riders, they can also climb very well and that makes them GC specialists. If you compare them to true TT specialists they weigh much less.

      • Kit Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:15 am

        I hear you but respectfully disagree; Thomas is British TT champ, wins prologues and TTs all over the place, nearly won the final ITT; Froome had bronze at the Olympics, bronze at the Worlds, also wins more ITTs than he doesn’t in stage races; Dumoulin is ITT world champion! Roglic one of the few who has pushed Dumoulin and beaten him recently.
        All have won more ITTs than Tony Martin has for a couple of years!
        I know a GC winner is an all rounder, granted, ought to be, but this year all 4 top TTers *won uphill* and didn’t even need a TT. Had we removed the only ITT in the Tour the top 4 would have been the same, albeit with a switch between Froome and Roglic in the order. TT guys are beating climbers at their own game.

        • KevinR Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:38 am

          Have to say I agree with this. They’re all-rounders who specialise in time trials and climbing. And they’re all pretty handy at descending!

      • Ishisht Monday, 30 July 2018, 12:16 pm

        I’ve been wondering about this too, coming up with the same list of pure climbers as winners. Since a GT basically by definition requires being able to do everything well (this probably being even more true about the TdF than the other two) I think it would be difficult to engineer a course that would allow a pure climber to win, especially given Sky’s ‘catenaccio’. If anything, including more (flat) ITT kms may motivate TT specialists and allrounders to emphasize power over weight and thereby actually create opportunities for specialist climbers, though probably more for stage wins than for the GC.

        In addition, I will add my voice to the chorus and say thanks for the excellent coverage!

        • JeroenK Monday, 30 July 2018, 1:22 pm

          What you need in long climbs is exactly the same as what you need in ITT’s: Being able to produce constant power for a significant duration. The current GC contenders are so light that they have become really good climbers. Bram Tankink showed some data on Vive le Vélo that showed that the average weight of the top 10 TdF GC has declined steadily, but body height has not. Until some 10-15 years ago, only small guys could climb fast, but taller riders seem to have cracked the code of being thin whole still producing great power. They can now match smaller guys on power to weight, while being superior on the flats on pure power alone.

          Could it also be that because of that, on cobbles and in crosswind condition, they put the small guys under a lot of pressure, fatigueing them for when the real climbing starts?

          The pure climber is dead – long live the new pure climber. They are not 1.60-1.70m anymore, but 170-180m. I think if you want to break the deadlock of strong teams, don’t introduce more climbing, but more explosive climbing. It’s the Amstel Gold / LBL type stages that give the long range break a shot, as well as heavier types like Sagan, Gilbert, GvA, small climbers like Yates, GC contenders like Thomas, Froome and Dumoulin and everything in between except Niki Terpstra like big guys.

  • Ian Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:02 am

    Just a quick comment to say thanks for all the fantastic coverage both of the Tour and throughout the season which thoroughly adds to my enjoyment of the sport. Also a nod to the below the line comments which generally are also intelligent and add to my knowledge.

    Growing up in South Wales watching grainy pictures of the all conquering La Vie Claire team whilst bumbling about on my bike I never ever thought I’d see a Welsh winner of the Tour. Felt good to pull on my Welsh cycling socks for the commute into work this morning.

    • Guy Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:29 pm

      Me too. Raced against Geraint (and Luke Rowe) when he was Junior. Crazy to think he’s TDF champion.

      I still want to see him return to the Classics though!

  • Dani Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:08 am

    “Thanks for this summary which tops off three weeks of indispensable reading”

    +1

  • BC Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:21 am

    Thanks. An excellent summary as usual.

    I would issue a caution about one point. The UKs Parliamentary Committee report presented by the Chairman, an MP self publicist called Collins, was wheeled out to the press under the cover of Parliamentary Privileged. The report came from people who wouldn’t know a non existent jiffy bag from the rear wheel of a bike. They appeared unconcerned that their conclusions were unsound and in some aspects unfounded. There was also a political angle which may have escaped some readers. The report contained much supposition and little sound evidence. It certainly would have been throw out of a court of law, but its method of release does not allow a challenge.

    It must be against the very principals of justice that accusations can be made and those accused given no chance to repudiate or challenge such serious accusations.

    • BenW Monday, 30 July 2018, 12:09 pm

      Hello Sir Brad 😉

    • hoh Monday, 30 July 2018, 12:53 pm

      And leader of the committee was implicated in the London expanse scandal a few years back.

    • RQS Monday, 30 July 2018, 8:02 pm

      You must be wilfully overlooking the select commuters fimdings then. Doesn’t matter what the politicians did before or after, Sky were severely tarnished, and all their claims of transparency all being a one way mirrror.

      • BC Monday, 30 July 2018, 9:20 pm

        RQS. You are correct. Not only SKY but British Cycling and two or even more individuals have felt the adverse impact of the Media and Sport Committee’s disingenuous report. I repeat what I said earlier. This this was a document put together and published by politicians without those being accused given the courtesy or recourse to question or object before or after publication. It is a report, not a legal finding, published under the shield of Parliamentary Privilege – no recourse to challenge the findings. I give you but one example. The Committee criticized the failure of a ‘paper trail’ for the infamous jiffy bag. There are serious questions as to whether the jiffy bag ever existed, and if it did, who was the recipient and what did it contain. The Committee decided it did exist and whats more who was the recipient. Without the slightest shred of evidence other than hearsay. They were politicians acting as judge and jury, and worse they refused to hear some of the witness’s who volunteered to give evidence.
        Don’t give this report too much weight, the findings are open to serious questions. Unfortunately as your comment indicates the damage has been done.

        • Nick Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 5:13 am

          “There are serious questions as to whether the jiffy bag ever existed,”

          Not that serious, surely, given that both Freeman and Brailsford have said it existed, Brailsford in evidence to this committee.

  • KevinR Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:25 am

    Chapeau Thomas de Gwent. The immediate question is does he go to the Vuelta and try to do a Froome? I’d imagine he would be up against Nibali. But who else? Miguel Angel Lopez (five mins behind Froome at the Giro)? Richard Carapaz (even further behind)? What happens next season at Sky will be interesting. Froome will want that fifth Tour as he’s not got long left at the top so will he target it and will the defending champion let him (we know what happened with Wiggins on that front)?

    • Pilgrim Monday, 30 July 2018, 1:43 pm

      The Vuelta could be really interesting (even more so than normal!)

      Chaves and SYates
      The Movistar Trident
      Lopez
      Nibali on a mission
      Pinot

      Team Sky have something of a quandry. I can’t see Froome or Thomas going for it but the cupboard isn’t bare behind them. Henao, Henao, Rosa and a first GT for TGH and Sivakov?

      • DUNCAN Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:55 pm

        Desperate for Pinot to win.

        Defo TGH is going to Vuelta, have a feeling it’ll be stage hunting – which is great for all of them.

      • Brian Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:27 pm

        Porte?

    • paul Tuesday, 7 August 2018, 11:08 am

      Lol

  • JEB Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:40 am

    Is Dave Brailsford the most successful person in cycling ever?
    More Olympic gold medals than you can shake a stick at, 3 different tour winners, 6 TdeF wins in total, all 3 grand tours and a monument.
    Or is that a massive oversimplification, just right place right time? Or a case of momentum within British cycling leading to more success, i.e. a well funded successful Olympic campaign (or 2 campaigns) producing the interest and motivation within British cycling to look for bigger/other targets and a case of success breads success.

    • DUNCAN Monday, 30 July 2018, 1:27 pm

      Lance was calling him a buffoon on the his podcast the other day.
      A few bad quotes does not a buffoon make.

      Brailsford success is so prolonged and impressive it cannot simply be luck.

      For the track you get the sense he saw an opportunity: as a discipline it was lagging behind other sports in the sense that back then well spent money could elevate one country above the others via tech/professionalism etc. I know this is true of all sports, but track cycling had a greater gap that a smart programme could target and make what became British Cycling out of. To actually pull this off though, and develop talents to their fullest and bring on board plus manage game-changing coaches is incredible in itself.

      With road cycling, his own track success brought Sky’s cheque book that has unpinned all their success, so even though it may be financial doping, Brailsford should take the credit for even attracting the backing. Then he clearly used the track programme as the template, and (for me at least) it has been a surprise considering how well drilled previous teams had been that there was some much room for improvement on the road, even if their methods/tactics aren’t dissimilar to Postal etc *(this is not a doping accusation).

      So really it seems to me that Brailsford (as long as doping isn’t the case) deserves more credit than almost any other coach/manager in history. First he takes a historically weak cycling nation and turns them into multiple gold winners on the track. Next he uses this success to put together one of the (if not the now…?) greatest team in cycling history. Maybe he has some luck that Wiggins, Froome, Cav, Geraint came through on his watch, but it seems like all of them would be also rans right now without Brailsford.

      The man is cycling’s Alex Ferguson.

      • Augie March Monday, 30 July 2018, 1:54 pm

        Just one more reason not to pay attention to what Lance has to say.

      • Larry T Monday, 30 July 2018, 1:57 pm

        PLEASE…can we leave BigTex out of things here? His fans know where to find his blatherings. The dope-cheat got to keep all of his ill-gotten gains. The only revenge now is to deny him relevance and attention – the two things he craves… and his money can’t buy. Thank you.

        • DUNCAN Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:33 pm

          The problem is… I agree… but he and Hincapie are doing a good job on Stages…
          Sometimes the most dislikable people are actually quite entertaining…
          I’ve learnt multiple things from a daily dose of their podcast (not as much as the Cycling Podcast) but still: they include: The Keytones food Sky are apparently into and Bobby Julich came on to chat about. The speed at which a led team should hit the corners on the cobbles to back up the pack that Sky didn’t.

          I tried to ignore it, but when the competition is Bespoke or ITV podcasts… Stages is a step ahead (but still behind Cycling Podcast obviously).

          I was actually quite shocked at the Bespoke reporting of the TT… they seemed to think Geraint had blown up and lost rather than slowed to be cautious? I’m used to the BBC getting cycling stuff wrong in their reporting but not their actual commentators. It’s clear Geraint would have won the TT if he’d gone full gas.

          And ITV podcast is unlistenable now, shame because I like all those on it, but the just laugh at bad jokes for 20mins solidly these days.

          • timr Monday, 30 July 2018, 5:40 pm

            Agree about but LA (brash, often wrong). George Hincapie (and indeed Johan Bruyneel and other guests) come across as genuinely knowledgeable and worth listening to as a consequence.

        • Anonymous Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:22 pm

          PLEASE…can Larry stop telling everyone what to do, what to think and what to type?

          • cd Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:27 pm

            Nah. That’s what I come here for. I like to know who to shake my fist at.

      • Tovarishch Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:42 pm

        Not enough recognition of Peter Keen, the man who stated it all.

        Bobby Jullich had some interesting things to say.

        • noel Monday, 30 July 2018, 3:54 pm

          I think Brailsford lucked out with Ellingworth also

        • Anonymous Monday, 30 July 2018, 9:30 pm

          And what about coaches like Salzwedel and van Eijden, Oh, wait they’re not British, so Brailsdude gets all the credit for work others did as coach. It’s like InnerRing said the other day, people often credit Brailsford for inventing training at Teide, while others did that long before. It’s like spinning a legend.

          • z unblocked Monday, 30 July 2018, 9:45 pm

            It didn’t help that there was an apparent insinuation in the media that Sky (rather than cycling teams in general) were going to Teide to evade dope testing… that kind of reporting spreads misunderstandings.

      • Gelato4bahamontes Monday, 30 July 2018, 3:34 pm

        Cyrille guimard, ds at Renault and super u, 12 grand tour victories(7 tours, 3giri,2 vuelta) with van impe, hinault and fignon.
        Think I read somewhere that the most successful ds of all time in terms of wins was lomme driessens but then he had merckx and then martens working for him.
        Think db has some way to go yet.

        • Tovarishch Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:12 pm

          Another Celt.

        • DUNCAN Monday, 30 July 2018, 6:05 pm

          I dunno I feel like the Olympic golds track succes and forming a team that leads a unknown cycling nation to the top has Brailsford ahead, but even so he only has one TDF, one Vuelta and a couple of Giros to go… hard to see him not hitting that at this rate!!!

          • Gelato4bahamontes Monday, 30 July 2018, 6:18 pm

            Unknown cycling nation? Tom simpson1965world Road champion and three monument wins, Robert millar tdf kom, three gt podiums, reg Harris four times World professional sprint champion….

        • Fuggitivo Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 2:18 pm

          Worth noting that Guimard was way ahead in terms of “Marginal Gains” although there was no trippy title for it.

      • Larz Monday, 30 July 2018, 6:03 pm

        “The man is cycling’s Alex Ferguson.”

        From my memory, Ferguson won the championship with Manchester United many times despite not having the largest budget. This is not the case with Brailsford who by far is having the largest budget in cycling.

        This is not to say that he hasn’t been brilliant at building Team Sky. He certainly has. All respect for that.

        From a communications perspective he is a bit of a nightmare and I think he has contributed to Froome being fairly unpopular. The whole transparency and credibility angle has been shot to pieces long a go.

        • DUNCAN Monday, 30 July 2018, 6:07 pm

          This had me spitting out a few corn flakes!!!

          I bet you’d have a few footballs fans laughing at the thought Alex Ferguson’s Man Utd were financial underdogs!!!

          • Larz Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 9:21 am

            Never said they were financial underdogs. But they seem to be at least matched or even outspent in the long run by Chelsea. It does especially seem like spending in Man Utd. was increased a lot after the retirement of Alex Ferguson.

            http://www.punditarena.com/football/sokeefe/chelsea-manchester-united-spending/

            According to this article on Velonews Team Sunweb has half the budget of Team Sky and Movistar less than half the budget of Sky.

            https://www.velonews.com/2018/07/tour-de-france/rival-tour-de-france-teams-resigned-to-skys-budget-advantage_473476

            I don’t doubt the brilliancy of Brailsford in terms of making Team Sky what it is (I doubt his skills when it comes to Public Relations). But in terms of financial resources it is far from level playing field.

          • Phaedrus Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 9:58 pm

            It depends how far they look backwards…and how you consider the details of their history. Ferguson took over from Atkinson as there was a very real fear that they were about to face relegation!

            Ferguson started in ’86 and in the 1st 2 years finished a lowly 11th. Man U were only listed on the stock exchange/floated in ’91 and their success in raising the capital was largely due to their very extensive fan base (and the success’ in ’90, their win over Crystal Palace supposedly saved Ferguson’s career). All that capital however would never have been possible without the massive fan base, much of which was thanks to Busby in the ’60’s and players like George Best, who was one of the first to have a media personality outside of football.

            It was only after this, with players such as Beckham, that Man U became the financial juggernaut we now know it as. Smart branding (media presence increasing interest of on-the-field)and the simplistic cycle of success on the field leads to more television time, leads to more revenue, leads to etc.

            All as a long winded way to say that nothing is ever that linear. Man U weren’t always rich. Ferguson wasn’t singularly responsible for their success. Rather, the inherited media position, coupled with creating a winning team and some smart branding of both individuals and club (and some luck) transformed them.

            The same with Sky (except they have never needed to raise the capital through a public offering).

    • CA Monday, 30 July 2018, 9:46 pm

      Brailsford is definitely successful, but I don’t think he had a level playing field. If you gave many other managers significantly more money than any other team they compete against you would have the same outcome.

      Regarding the Olympic titles, yes he had a lot of track medals, but there are a lot of different track events.

      But beyond the results, Brailsford’s record is far from squeaky clean. The whole marginal gains approach is a grey area at best, as we know that even if they never broke the rules, they used performance helping techniques that are not available to poor amateur riders. Us as a fanbase should be more sophisticated and therefore more cynical of his record so I’d definitely not say he’s the most successful in history, because everything was weighted in his favour. Eddy Merckx’s manager or Big Mig’s or Buyneel or Hinault’s are up there in the same conversation.

      • DUNCAN Monday, 30 July 2018, 10:26 pm

        I think you’re slightly ignoring the big part of the argument:

        IE: Brailsford (along with Keen and a brilliant team) took a nation who had no real interest in cycling and made them world beaters. He then used that achievement to earn the money that makes it not a level playing field. So whatever this playing field is, he kind of created it, which along with his wins across the board is why I find him so impressive. There are people who’ve won more, but have any of them taken an entire country to the point of dominating the sport across multiple disciplines as he has?

        I’m not saying the money hasn’t helped, nor that it’s a good thing for the UK to dominate. Just saying he’s done it and that’s why I’m impressed by him specifically.

        • Fuggitivo Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 2:21 pm

          And they probably learned from the Leander Club (Rowing)

        • CA Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 5:51 pm

          Hmmm… I think you’re revising the order of events and giving Brailsford way too much credit.

          Looking at the resurgence of British cycling, how much of this resurgence can you credit to Wiggins and Cavendish? Neither of these guys developed under the Sky umbrella, and both of these guys were the biggest British cyclists pre-2013/2014.

          Cavendish didn’t do a single thing on Team Sky and Wiggins was already huge and had a full career pre-Team Sky.

          The other guys have mixed experience under Sky while they developed. Froome developed in South Africa (nowhere close to Sky), Thomas had some development under Sky’s umbrella, but certainly not all of his development.

          Honestly, Team Sky had a massive sponsorship budget that allowed them to sign these guys as free agents – Kwiatko, Castrov., Richie Porte, Bernal, Eisel, etc. As part of the Sky team, they obviously improved, but few of them started from scratch under the Sky umbrella and therefore their development isn’t entirely owed to Brailsford. Brailsford spent most of his time signing free agents with a much bigger budget than other teams, which hints to my original point, it was not a fair playing field.

          • noel Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 10:56 pm

            isnt the point that he created that financial superiority himself… he grabbed the opportunity presented by Keen and the Lottery, and identified the goal (ie plentiful Olympic medal potential under Hoy, Pendleton etc), and gathered individuals like Ellingworth, Sutton, Boardman, Salwedel and managed the process so that when the London 2012 popped up they were pefectly positioned and managed (ie ignoring World Cups/Champs that didnt matter etc). Then Sky were prepared to back him when he said ‘give me 35m/yr and I can win you the TdF…’

          • Alchemy Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 9:07 am

            Your timeline is mixed up. Brailsford, Keen etc have been on this program for British Cycling (track) since the late 90s/early 2000s. Cav, Wiggins, Thomas were all part of this. Way before ‘we’ll win the Tour in the next 5 years with a British cyclist’. That success on the track led to the whole Sky thing to enable them in achieving this massive goal Brailsford came up with. It’s only recently (last 3 years?) that the two (BC and Sky) have been forced to split.

            To the Manchester Utd comparison with Alex F, this is pretty fair.

          • CA Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 6:32 pm

            I see what you guys mean, in that Brailsford helped create a really successful British track program. I wasn’t familiar with his history in the sport. But I think that’s part of the overall point, track cycling is important, but the most successful track cyclists/programs aren’t necessarily the best cyclists of all time so having success in track doesn’t make Brailsford the best manager on the planet.

            Next, if you then go and say his record on the road makes him the best manager in history, that makes more sense. However, Team Sky appear to have crossed ethical lines that gave them advantages that their competitors didn’t, similarly to Lance, Big Mig, etc. I suspect the marginal gains program includes pharmaceutical help that I as an amateur would not have – even if they did not specifically use banned substances.

  • jc Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:46 am

    As usual the best cycling comment site around, even with the somewhat dubious accolade from Lance Armstrong.

    Hopefully Geraint Thomas’ victory will put an end to the rather condescending comments about his ability. He rode and finished a Tour at 21, has won 2 gold medals and won a string of stage races, he has been one of the top cyclists in the world for some years now. He has had some bad luck over the years but has also ridden pretty selflessly for Chris Froome. In retrospect it is now clear he came in to this race knowing he had a big chance to win, it is also now clear the Team Sky management believed he could too. He dealt with all the “leadership” questions perfectly, seemingly deferring to Chris Froome whilst stamping his authority on the race where it mattered, on the road. He rode a well nigh perfect race, winning two stages in succession including the rare prize of winning on Alpe d’Huez in yellow. He was tactically astute making other contenders work when Sky ran out of riders. Possibly he could have won the final TT but there was no point in risking a fall. Simply he was the best rider in the race over all types of terrain. I hope his win means Oakley start making “his” glasses again. I lost my pair which I much preferred to any of the replacements I have got.

    I thought Chris Froome looked a much happier man by the end, seemingly a huge weight gone from his shoulders. I know serial winners hate loosing but I think the pressure was all getting too much and was affecting his performance, I am sure he will be back next year.

    I think Sunweb are going to be Sky’s main rival in the years ahead, they might not have quite the budget but they have the same sort of focus on details as Sky and in Tom Dumoulin a top, potentially, great rider. Certainly they are more of a threat than the tactically astute but strategically naive Movistar.

    • DUNCAN Monday, 30 July 2018, 1:38 pm

      “I thought Chris Froome looked a much happier man by the end, seemingly a huge weight gone from his shoulders. I know serial winners hate loosing but I think the pressure was all getting too much and was affecting his performance, I am sure he will be back next year.”

      I don’t agree his performance was affected by pressure, this wasn’t the case at the Giro, and really father-time or just four tours on the bounce are more likely explanations.

      I do though, really think Froome has shown everyone his true colours this year.
      He’s respectful.
      He’s exciting.
      He’s obdurate in the most impressive way.
      I would like to say he’s honest there but realise we probably won’t know this categorically for years.

      I cannot think of a sportsman I’ve ever had this much admiration for.
      He never seemingly once tried to undermine Geraint or throw his weight around.
      He managed to pick himself up and get back on the podium having looked out of it.
      He gave us the best racing day of the year in the Giro.
      And he’s also been pretty dignified under incredible pressure of the salbutamol case and fan animosity.

      The only thing I don’t like is he lives in Monaco and doesn’t pay tax!!!
      Oh and obviously he’s the Nigel Mansell of cycling and soooooo boring (and I say that in a nice way).

      I really don’t think we’ll all know what we have with Froome until he’s gone – by far the best rider of this generation and really nice guy to boot.

      • DUNCAN Monday, 30 July 2018, 1:42 pm

        (I would say similar of many other riders – I’m always impressed at how Nibali has maximised his potential and earnt all his palmares the hard way, Philippe Gilbert determination plus him riding on a broken knee cap is probably the most impressive single effort I’ve seen from any cyclist probably going back to the bloke who controlled his bike with an inner tube in the 1920s! The list goes on… Sagan has become a great winner who’s always the right side of competitive, GVA I get the impression is a hard working nice guy, etc etc – this is the best sport for heroes)

        • allsideways Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:37 pm

          Phil Gil’s actions were heroic, perhaps too heroic now he has an elephant’s left leg.

          Johnny Hoogerland’s effort to complete the stage (and tour) in 2011 having been catapulted into barbed wire will take some beating for me though.

          • Tomski Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 7:28 am

            Lawson Craddock riding all but 100 odd kms of this year’s tour with a fractured shoulder blade surely gets on this list (as does G’s ride in 2013)

      • jc Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:22 pm

        Absolutely agree, Chris Froome has been sadly under appreciated. His achievements put him right at the top of any list of “great cyclists” along with Eddie Merckx etc. Wiggo & Chris Hoy got their knighthoods which was deserved, Chris Froome should get the same recognition when he decides to call it a day

        • Anonymous Monday, 30 July 2018, 9:27 pm

          “along with Eddie Merckx” Eddy won everything, he was an allrounder, not a one trick GT pony. Where is Froome in classics and monuments? Not even on the startlist. An peach is still a peach and no apple

          • DUNCAN Monday, 30 July 2018, 10:19 pm

            You prefer apples to peaches? What sort of madman are you?? Peaches are the kings of fruit?

          • DUNCAN Monday, 30 July 2018, 10:21 pm

            Also… wowzers… such a snorefest pointing out Merckx won classics etc as well…
            Yeah he’s the greatest cyclist of all time? Course? No one will touch him, Hinault up there too – doesn’t mean you can mention an Indurain, a Lemond or a Froome is a sentence with him. They’re all amazing. Also… a one trick GT pony… blimey, you have high standards, I think that’s a pretty good trick!!

      • Canocola Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:59 pm

        I’d agree that Froome has certainly never failed to produce results under pressure, but agree with jc above that he seemed to be in a really happy place by the end. Perhaps it was the sight of a man realising that he could be satisfied and comfortable with working for someone else, without the pressure and in the knowledge and pride of doing a good, professional job of it. Dare I suggest that it enabled Froome to work out a few things about 2012? Proving to himself that 2012 and the emotions around it was a unique circumstance may well have come as relief.

        I also get the impression that watching Thomas step up to the yellow jersey gave Froome an opportunity to realise just what he’d personally achieved. It also gave him some space to just get on with racing, which is where I think Froome’s heart lies. With Thomas, Dumoulin and (now) Froome all coming across as pretty decent blokes, this turned out to be one of the most likeable podiums in recent years.

  • ocaz Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:55 am

    Really pleased for Thomas a genuine nice guy and a funny character. I remember him slimming down and moving away from the classics type rider I thought he would be, and thought his grand tour ambitions would but fruitless especially the Tour de France. Although very happy to be proved wrong!

    It does appear based on Brailsford he was targeting this specifically. I wonder how far the plan actually went? As it was clear Froome was still not 100% after the Giro even with the extra week but the key for me was 51 second of the first day he gained on his team mate/leader that probably sealed the deal as they only way Froome could gain that was for Thomas to give it back by just dropping it or Froome attacking with the risk of brining Tom along for the ride and an attack he probably wasn’t capable of pulling off with the Giro in his legs.

  • Larry T Monday, 30 July 2018, 12:08 pm

    “Hopefully Geraint Thomas’ victory will put an end to the rather condescending comments about his ability. ” Perhaps. But I can’t help remembering back when Nibali won and comments here (and elsewhere) centered on what many called an opportunistic win, since so many GC contenders crashed out, got sick, didn’t race, etc.
    Thomas wins after many GC contenders crash out or get sick, while the two guys behind him on GC both raced a grueling Giro d’Italia one month earlier….and one of them was a teammate.
    Will those Nibali critics say the same things about Thomas? My bet is they’ll claim this situation was totally different, when the only really big difference is their man won.

    • RonDe Monday, 30 July 2018, 12:19 pm

      When Nibali won Contador and Froome crashed out. These are, without question, the two best GC riders of this century so far. They were unquestionable threats and Nibali beat the rest of the field by huge gaps accordingly. In 2018 Thomas’ two biggest threats finished second and third. And Porte and Nibali do not compare to Contador and Froome. Nice try though.

    • BenW Monday, 30 July 2018, 12:35 pm

      Well, it is different. Froome and Contador both looked in decent nick in 2014.

      Lack of Porte is the big question mark for me, really. In terms of matching abilities, hes a decent climber and a strong time trialist. Beyond Porte, who would there have been? Uran maybe, but he hadn’t offered much. Obviously you think Nibali but I can’t see that – he’d have been fun in the mountains, blown away in the TT.

    • jc Monday, 30 July 2018, 12:47 pm

      Do I detect the whiff of sour grapes? My memories of Vincenzo’s Tour were him winning in Sheffield and then leaving he other contenders behind on the cobbles. By the time they got to the mountains Chris Froome and Alberto Contador had gone and there was no one else left to seriously challenge him. However he looked to be the strongest rider in the race whatever happen to others. No need to insinuate otherwise.

      I would suggest that this time the only real potential contender who “crashed out” was Richie Porte but he was already nearly a minute down before he went, was he even a contender? As Inrng says there is a good deal of doubt how serious a contender Vincenzo really was and he was more than 2 minutes down before the Alpe stage.

      G beat the field, no ifs or buts. One of the great stage racers, holder of all 3 GT jerseys, his own team mate. Tom Dumoulin was a very serious competitor. Plus a whole number of other real contenders.

      • Larry T Monday, 30 July 2018, 1:53 pm

        Yep, pretty much the response I was expecting. Thanks.
        Get back to me once Thomas has won the other 2 GT’s and a monument or two. I won’t hold my breath.

        • Tovarishch Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:01 pm

          That’s probably a good idea.

          • BenW Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:50 pm

            Starting to wonder if Larry is Ranger.

          • RonDe Monday, 30 July 2018, 3:02 pm

            Best comment of the Tour!

          • Simon Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 12:17 am

            Nice one Ben! : )

          • Lucifer Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:53 pm

            You’re always looking for the bad in people Larry!

            ‘Those who say x y z about Nibali’

            You can say Nibali got a little lucky in 2014 but still think he’s a great and deserving champion?
            Nibali’s had an amazing career and fully earnt everything but it’s hard to argue he’s on Froome level when the two are at peak form, so Froome crash did help him, but it would be a shame for such a great rider to not have won a Tour.

            As for Geraint, he beat the heavy weights on the road, so no one will question as they did for Nibbers – but again, Geraint isn’t Froome… in the same way Wiggins wasn’t.

            I don’t think people’s comments are as inflammatory as you seem to.

        • RonDe Monday, 30 July 2018, 3:06 pm

          Larry, why have you suddenly made it a competition between Geraint Thomas and Nibali? Are you so insecure about the Italian (whose feats speak for themselves)?

          How many Grand Tour winners did Nibali beat in the Tour in 2014? Geraint Thomas beat three and none of them crashed out.

          • Liam Monday, 30 July 2018, 3:26 pm

            And the three GT winners Thomas beat have all beaten Nibali in the last 2 years as well. Nibali is hardly unbeatable.

        • Anonymous Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:29 pm

          Practice what you preach, Larry. You always go on about wanting to see civility and respectfulness in the comments. Walk it like you talk it.

    • gyros Monday, 30 July 2018, 3:32 pm

      This is pretty sour grapes from you Larry to intimate that Thomas beat nobody or that the somebodies he did beat either crashed or were tired. In my view he beat a far better group of riding talent in this Tour than your Italian hero did in any of his four wins. The Tour in 2014 is a glaring example. Where Nibs beat JC Peraud (WHO?) into 2nd place and turbo peanut into 3rd, Thomas beat Dumoulin and Froome with 7 GT wins between them.

      There’s no comparison Larry.

    • Duncan Monday, 30 July 2018, 5:17 pm

      Geraint Thomas wins Le Tour de France …

      … and Larry T turns the subject to Vincenzo Nibali.

      You received some calm and sensible responses Larry, to why Nibali’s Tour win was less impressive than it would have been had Froome and Contador made it to the finish line with him, and not beaten him. You then replied in curt tone, and switched it from your first attempt to devalue Thomas’s win, to a less relevant but more plausible attempt to place his cycling achievements in general, in comparison to Nibali. I think there are few who would argue against Nibali’s breadth of wins, so you can save your words on that one, and besides – like much of what you have to say – readers here have heard it from you quite a lot of times before. So give them a break, and allow the rare good nature of this blog and commenters to flourish … please.

      There are occasions when I read something from you that seems reasonable, considered, humourous or enriching, but I think it’s fair to say that a lot of your comments are either about promoting your favourite rider or encouraging ill-feeling on a rider or team that you dislike. It’s nothing new for any of us here unless we turned up yesterday and sadly to me, seems as closed-minded as those who you rail against, mainly wishing for “my rider/team” to win, or at least be thought of more highly.

      Most of all, it is telling that many of your comments are to add negativity in some form (I apologise as I am aware I am doing just that – but with a view to longer term positivity) rather than something positive, encouraging, celebratory, cheerful, or any of all the other ways that can add to a person’s daily experience in a pleasing way here. Sometimes it’s better to be quiet if we cannot say something pleasant, especially if we’ve said it all before … on which note I will take my own advice. Thanks and no hard feelings.

      • WC Monday, 30 July 2018, 5:49 pm

        +1!

        • DUNCAN Monday, 30 July 2018, 6:09 pm

          (The above ain’t me – I don’t think having a bogey commenter on a blog is the worst thing in the world!)

      • Larry T Monday, 30 July 2018, 7:31 pm

        Thanks for the thoughtful response and critique. Is there a way to point out bias and xenophobia in a non-negative way? The comments that claim Thomas’ Tour win is somehow worth more than Nibali’s do so by claiming Nibali was not as worthy an adversary as Contador and Froome despite his palmares. And as I recall, neither of those guys went out of the race through no fault of their own, I think they both crashed out…and not by being yanked by a pectator’s camera strap.
        That’s my issue. Froome and Contador didn’t make it to Paris, but Nibali (just like Thomas) beat everyone who showed up to race and made it to Paris.
        But Nibali’s 2014 win was characterized by commenters here and elsewhere as lucky and opportunistic while Thomas here and elsewhere is being proposed for knighthood, despite last year’s runner-up (Uran) a former winner (Nibali) and everyone’s favorite (Porte) all going out while the two remaining big threats to Thomas both had to be feeling the effects of a very tough Giro d’Italia. Both men raced everyone who showed up… and won. Those who laud Thomas while denigrating Nibali’s performance exhibit the very negativity and bias you complain about. I just tried to point that out and see what the responses were. I got my answer. No hard feelings.

        • Duncan Monday, 30 July 2018, 8:15 pm

          Well, agreed that there is plenty of not-so-open-minded bias from camps opposing your views, too. Personally I would wish for less of the negativity on both sides, life has enough to get stressed over or upset about without adding to it in this realm of a spectator of racing bicycles, one of life’s leisures.

          Thanks for the response.

        • Fuddsker Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 12:52 am

          Larry, the point is that you were the one who (again) inserted this into the conversation. You wrote:

          “Is there a way to point out bias and xenophobia in a non-negative way? The comments that claim Thomas’ Tour win is somehow worth more than Nibali’s do so by claiming Nibali was not as worthy an adversary as Contador and Froome despite his palmares…”

          There were no comments claiming any of this until you, predictably, decided to inject it once again.

          • DUNCAN Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 7:38 am

            Geez Larry… bias and xenophobia…

            As Fuddsker mentioned you brought it up.
            Then everyone above is very complementary of Nibali (obviously)

            And more to the point – aren’t two things allowed to be different so people’s opinions are slightly different without it being bias or xenophobia?

            You’re just letting your own bias get the better of you and seeing things which aren’t there.
            Nibali won a very well deserved Tour and is a brilliant rider. Even if he got a little lucky his two main rival crashed he still won it and that’s great. We all like and respect him. Thomas likewise. The only difference between the two victories in regards to this debate: is that there are more real GT contenders these days, so if Froome and Dumoulin had crashed like Porte and Nibali we would be saying the same, very well deserved and pos a little lucky. But Thomas had conversely the luck that the two strongest GT riders currently did not crash so there’s less of an opening to say whether things could be dramatically different. But you’re right maybe they would have been should Nibali and Porte have stayed upright. But you must see why people are less likely to jump to that conclusion given Porte’s GT record of not crashing or collapsing being poor and Nibali’s apparent weakness on the first climb and recent history of being beaten by Froome or Dumoulin? It’s not xenophobia just understandable thinking – which doesn’t make it right but just not something to castigate.

  • RonDe Monday, 30 July 2018, 12:14 pm

    So Sky win again and no one is surprised. Except its Thomas and not Froome. The question becomes now if the Welshman will be more Wiggins than his current team mate. Can we imagine Geraint becoming a multiple Grand Tour winner? Should he do La Vuelta now riding not as a dubious support rider but as a Tour winner who was barely troubled? He would surely have as much chance as a Porte, Nibali, Landa or Quintana provided he had the collective might of Sky behind him. But what of Froome and Dumoulin? No rider has ever podiumed three Grand Tours in the same year. I wish one of them would try. They are the two best GC guys out there.

    • kim jong vaughters Monday, 30 July 2018, 12:29 pm

      Preferably both. Their head to head is the best thing about Grand Tours right now.

    • jc Monday, 30 July 2018, 12:56 pm

      I suspect Geraint will spend some time partying and coming to terms with what he has achieved before working out what to do next.

      Chris Froome is looking forward to a new family arrival cant see him wanting to spend the requisite time preparing for the Vuelta. Maybe he might be up for a tilt at the world Championships.

      I suspect Tom Dumoulin is unlikely to be in Spain either, he has already made comments about heading for the beach post Tour.

      • Dork Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:48 pm

        100%

        Froome, Geraint and Dumoulin will pass on Vuelta I think.
        This is great for Movistar as they need the Vuelta big time to rebuild their season.
        Plus it will give us a chance to see who should lead them in the TDF next year between Quintana and Landa.

        If I were Landa, I’d be kicking myself for following team orders at Astana now. He could have a Giro in the pocket already…

  • noel Monday, 30 July 2018, 12:36 pm

    not quite sure I buy the much touted ‘sky domestics would all be team leaders away from sky’ narrative.- well, they might get the contract but I’m not sure they would be successful – Porte, Nieve, Siutsou, Kennaugh, Konig etc never turned into winning leaders, I’m not sure Poels, Henao, Lopez etc would either. Uran has had limited success, Landa still has to deliver, Rogers was at the end of his career, and perhaps Bernal is the exception that proves the rule.

    I think Sky management are very good at identifying specific roles and specific riders to do those jobs – Kwiat and Castro being a prime examples.

    • Tovarishch Monday, 30 July 2018, 1:07 pm

      Without Froome or Thomas who will lead Sky? I think only Wout Poels is a real candidate. Perhaps they were saving him.

    • Larry T Monday, 30 July 2018, 1:50 pm

      Ex-USPS and Discovery team members suffered the same fate for the most part. The similarities are rather striking but of course we don’t know what the end-game will be for SKY vs BigTex’ squads. It’s a real challenge not to wonder if there’s something hidden that we may not know about for awhile…if ever.

      • DUNCAN Monday, 30 July 2018, 1:55 pm

        At the same time… we’re nearly 10years in… conversely to what you say, isn’t it hard to not wonder if something were going to come out on the Postal scale how it would not have come out already? Especially with Postal as precedent meaning the focus on Sky is far more intense than it would have otherwise been.

        I’m willing to believe with a healthy cynicism until something is categorically proven.
        You seem to have already made up your mind Larry, rather than ‘wondering’, and it’s quite hard for Sky to every prove a negative when people start at that position.

        • Larry T Monday, 30 July 2018, 6:59 pm

          I have confessed to love to hate SKY, but your Postal/Discovery argument is flawed. The reasoned decision on BigTex came out a looooooong time after those teams were just bitter memories for most. And this wondering about SKY isn’t just me, in case you’ve not been paying attention.
          Here’s someone with far more knowledge about this stuff than everyone who comments here put together IMHO
          http://sportsscientists.com/2018/07/can-we-trust-the-tour-sky-and-chris-froome-le-monde-op-ed/

          • DUNCAN Monday, 30 July 2018, 10:16 pm

            Slap of the forehead Larry.
            I’m commenting on the forum of the most well informed and well written blog out there.
            I write with reservations about all cyclists, and know of the accusations out there because of INRNG’s brilliant coverage.
            Obviously we cannot live in ignorance, but you’re mind is made up before it’s categorical and you’re looking for anything to confirm it because you dislike the team.
            It’s undermine’s all your arguments as you ignore the counter.
            I’m a bit clueless how what I said rePostal is flawed – all I said is because of Armstrong and Postal the scrutiny on Sky is far more intense, not sure what’s debatable there?
            I definitely think they may be guilty, you can’t follow cycling and not, my only point was it’s a little surprising if there’s something that it’s yet to be found.

      • Jef Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:03 pm

        Eh? Of those listed above, Porte, Landa and Konig are the three who might be expected to be team leaders somewhere else. Porte is a leader and has done about as well at BMC as he did at Sky. Konig was a leader before he joined Sky and has been largely crocked since – he had more days in the saddle in his last season with Sky than he has had in the nearly 3 combined since then. Landa has had a worse season this year than he did in his second with Sky but his best year remains 2015 when he was with Astana.

        There are plenty of red flags regarding Sky but there’s no pattern of the abilities of their best riders unexpectedly dropping off a cliff when they leave the team.

  • noel Monday, 30 July 2018, 12:38 pm

    I imagine Moscon was sitting at home watching the fun and games in Paris and reflecting a little…

    • Justin Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:39 pm

      I was thinking about this a lot.
      It takes a certain type of guy to lash out after 800meters of a stage.
      And that guy is someone you could imagine doing all he’s accused and charged with.
      But quite often those who are the worst at that age see the error of their ways and become the most respected in the peloton. I can see that Sky may now have to sack (although those accusing Sky of being liars for saying one more strike and you’re out previously are twisting their words as I understood that to mean one more occasion of racism and you’re out) but I hope he’ll find a home where he can grow and learn from his mistakes to become the rider he’s so clearly capable of being.

      • KevinK Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:20 pm

        You’re right that people sometimes change, but it’s usually only after they’ve been slapped down, and slapped down hard, by circumstances that they themselves created. Without consequences, bad behavior is usually reinforced, which seems to be the case here. Would he have thrown the punch if he’d been sanctioned for the Reichenbach incident, or effectively sanctioned after the Kevin Reza slurs? In the case of this punch, I noted that Brailsford suggested that Moscon had been provoked – he seemed to be setting up a defense that this there are two sides to this, and that being kicked out of the TdF was more than amble punishment.

        My guess is that Sky won’t do anything meaningful in terms of discipline, given the huge talent Moscon has shown, and that he could become something of a pariah within the peloton. Which would be a shame, but to the extent that Sky and Brailsford’s closest models in pro sports seem to be the New England Patriots and Belicheck, it’s what I expect.

        • Anonymous Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:36 pm

          What was his bad behaviour in the Reichenbach incident?
          Do you assume that everybody who is accused of something is guilty?
          Or does that only apply to people that you don’t like?

          • KevinK Monday, 30 July 2018, 8:35 pm

            I notice you didn’t mention Moscon’s other behaviors, including blatantly cheating during the World Championships. The man has a clear pattern of impulsive, aggressive, inappropriate behavior. In a sport where riders tend to keep their mouth’s shut, he’s had multiple incidents where other riders have called him out. I don’t know if he caused Reichenbach to crash, but his pattern of behavior inclines me to believe it. Especially knowing just how easy it is to cause someone to crash in a high-speed bike race without doing something as blatant as he did in the Tour.

            What’s most troubling about him is that he seems unable to rein himself in, even after he’s done things that are threatening his ability to have a professional career.

      • Megi Monday, 30 July 2018, 8:48 pm

        Peter Sagan was no angel as a younger rider – remember a certain podium incident?
        No-one outside the Sky TdF eight knows exactly what it felt like to have to ride through so much vocal and physical antagonism day after day, though Froome’s comment that the booing strengthened the team bond may give an indication.
        I hope that the French rider and anyone else who was on the scene, including Moscon, have given a full and accurate account of what led up to the punch to Sky, though there is the obvious temptation for both the French rider and Moscon to exaggerate their opponent’s part and downplay their own. The film clip can’t tell the whole story – it doesn’t have sound.
        In a similar incident on the Giro both riders involved were thrown off the race during the stage.

        • KevinK Monday, 30 July 2018, 10:08 pm

          Aside from a single incident of Sagan mugging for the cameras and childishly pantomiming pinching a podium girl’s behind, what else did he do exactly? And is that really comparable to a racist attack or a physical assault or outright cheating? Frankly (and as many other professional riders have said), there is never and excuse for taking your hands off the bars and trying to physically assault another rider.

          This kind of “whataboutism” is a sure sign that people don’t want to discuss the matter at hand, which is Moscon’s sorry behavioral pattern.

          • Larrick Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 6:04 am

            Sagan was very lucky not to get disqualified two years ago (maybe 3) for chasing a rider and trying to knock him off his bike whilst on a cobbled climb. It was caught by the heli camera but not noticed on commentary. This was in the days, unlike in Moscon’s case, where video evidence wasn’t used. Sagan had a reputation too albeit different to Moscon. As some of the riders said after the Gesbert incident, Moscon is known to retaliate but, as Valgren stated, he “doesn’t hit hard”. There’s lots of pushing and shoving in the peloton and you can’t give in but there’s obviously a difference between standing your ground and retaliation. Moscon obviously has a short fuse. I imagine in this case, as Moscons job was to police the break away hopefuls for that stage, Gesbert accidentally or purposefully blocked him in. That’s not an excuse for his behaviour but the reason. I’m not sure why Moscon didn’t just say, do that again and I’ll make sure a break doesn’t go with a Fortuneo rider in it for the rest of the race. Even a bluff would have had an effect. I agree that doing nothing reinforces the behaviour but he has already suffered some consequences. Being DQ’d and his previous behaviour both definite and possible being again in the media plus the opportunity to finish with your teammates in Paris will be felt, let alone not sharing in the 1st and 3rd placings. I imagine a monetary fine of significance my also sharpen the mind. I can’t see how sacking him only for him to be picked up instantly on a big contract by another team is much of a deterrent.

  • Ben Monday, 30 July 2018, 12:41 pm

    When Sky was formed I thought that Geraint was the British rider most likely to win the Tdf within 5yrs. I came to think I was wrong. Het Mr Thomas ! Thanks for the coverage Inrng. I found it such an exciting race, the differences are so subtle in these days of well coached, well nutritioned riders, riding within disciplined supportive teams. If you ignore the details it may not be dramatic like the old days, but that’s because the margins are so fine when the contest is between multiple riders making negligible mistakes competing at the top of their game. I’m bemused that Sky is being branded as negative racing so soon after stage 19 of the giro. Yes they used the team strength to suit having the strongest rider already wearing the yellow T-shirt in this race, but that’s the way it ought to be done if you have the team and the strongest rider in the race already leading.

    • DUNCAN Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:41 pm

      True… but I think it’s the level of support… their riders behind Froome and others are so good that the blow every other team out of the water… it’s fair for many to feel this is financial doping.

      • Ben Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:32 pm

        If budget is the reason then Katusha, and BMC ought to have been dominating similarly, with their similar budgets, and UAE ought to have run them close for the podium. For me its more that Sky convinces it’s riders to push themselves in training, and nutritionally, harder than other teams, and has convinced its riders to buy into the team philosophy, and most cohesively ride grand tours as a team unit.

        My surprise is that other teams haven’t caught up. It’s not Team Sky’s fault that their opposition is weaker, and it’s not their job to wait for weaker teams or to let ‘vanity’, energy wasting, and suicide attacks arrive.

        • The Inner Ring Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:53 pm

          Katusha and BMC’s budgets aren’t similar to Sky, there about €10 million less. UAE had the lowest budget in the World Tour last year but this is ramping up.

          • Mike A Monday, 30 July 2018, 5:07 pm

            So, if there budget is 25% less than Sky, has their performance justified their budget? I would say no, in both cases.

            I’m surprised UAE had the lowest. I just, wrongly, assumed they were well funded because of the name alone.

  • nortonpdj Monday, 30 July 2018, 1:38 pm

    Grateful thanks to the seemingly omniscient Mr.INRNG
    And thanks also to the many contributors who (almost always) keep the comments section relevant, respectful, considered and informative.
    Vive le Tour!

  • DUNCAN Monday, 30 July 2018, 1:50 pm

    (DAVE still)

    This Tour has just made me think what a positive, affirming sport, and specifically event, cycling and the Tour de France are.

    It feels like an average edition, in that the winner never got pushed which is a shame.

    But I can’t put my finger on exactly why I finish every TdF feeling so much better about life, the world and humanity? There are just so many nice stories that come out of the event, even in the not so great years, so much that makes you think ‘I’m really happy I just spent weeks watching that’ – is it the landscape? is it the timeframe? is it the brutality of the distance?

    Fans do bad things still, but I guess none as bad as full hooliganism. Riders seem to sometimes fight but again not as bad as crowding a ref etc. Some people are rich, but nothing like F1s gaudy money-is-everything ugliness. Maybe it’s just the honesty, I can’t remember one edition where it didn’t feel like the right person won, it’s a sport where flukes can’t really happen, and really most of the time people get what they deserve.

    I couldn’t love the TdF any more.

  • Utah Monday, 30 July 2018, 1:58 pm

    Riding Paris-Roubaix and GC for TDF in one season is rare, let alone winning GC. I wonder if you’d have to go back to Merckx to see that

    • Ben Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:37 pm

      Greg Lemond used to try but never won PR. Sean Kelly won the vuelta in 88. Hinault won both Pr and Tdf in 81, in rainbow jersey.

  • PitPony Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:09 pm

    Just a quick thanks for the detailed day-to-day reports. Excellent knowledge and exceptional style of writing.

    Vive La Tour !!!!

  • Johnny Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:36 pm

    Tour TV coverage is great now with full race coverage.

    Still rubbish compared to INRNG though.

    Many thanks, really enjoyed your articles this year again.

    • DUNCAN Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:46 pm

      TV coverage has so much space to develop.

      Why can we hear from other commentators on European networks as they race, considering they’re all sitting together?
      Why can the sort out showing the sprints in a split from the helicopter and finish cam at once so we can see what’s going on.

      People chat money, but both of those are free and just need a little foresight – surely a quick chat between the Spanish commentators and British isn’t too much to ask, both would benefit and it just requires an agreement before the tour.

      Things that involve money that we should have by now – a multi-lingual head of the race bike correspondent a la David Millar in the Surrey Classic who does a few networks, Flecha speaks Spanish, English and French I believe…

      Plus more on screen info from those little gps things on each bike.

      Plus team radios.

      Cycling TV coverage is just so so poor.

      • DJW Monday, 30 July 2018, 6:58 pm

        My feeling is that FR2/FR3 coverage here in France was excellent – though not impartial – with Jalabert and Voeckler providing expert analysis, frequent in-race interviews with DSs in team cars, and each evening the substantial Vélo Club, analysing the stage, with more specialist comment, and frequently featuring the day’s protagonist.

        I assume you are referring to UK coverage though many IR readers and contributors are in mainland Europe and further afield.

        • The Inner Ring Monday, 30 July 2018, 7:05 pm

          I’d agree, the French coverage is very good, tastes can vary for Jalabert, Rousse and Voeckler. Having two motorbikes in the race adds plenty although Vélo Club is still a bit of a review of what’s just happened and post stage interviews, light on deeper analysis but people can get Eurosport. Local coverage in Italy for the Giro is good too on RAI and Sporza do a good job on their home races and beyond, eg the Vive Le Vélo show during the Tour offer a lot of analysis.

          One problem for cycling coverage is the cost of it all, all the helicopters, aircraft, mobile broadcast and more, plus lodging and transporting commentators makes it one of the most expensive sports to film, produce and broadcast and often the audiences are not so big.

          • Big Mig Monday, 30 July 2018, 8:36 pm

            I just wish the European broadcasters would make a highlight shoe along the lines of ITV4, I’m sure this would increase the audience with a well produced evening summary. I’m in France and find myself watching the ITV4 summary show rather than FR2/3, especially for the flat stages.

          • DJW Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 7:57 am

            I thought at first that Marion Rousse was just there for some gender balance and to be ornamental (“une potiche” or decorative flowerpot in local parlance). In fact she is often better informed, prepared, and quicker to identify riders than both Voeckler and Jalabert.

          • Paul Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 1:26 pm

            +1 for Marion Rousse who was an excellent antidote to the over-enthusiastic (although frequently interesting and very tell-it-like-it-is in the peleton) Voeckler and the miserable Jalabert. Her only false note was stage 21: what was she wearing in her hair ? Had she just been a bridesmaid at someone’s wedding?

            There are plenty of good female cyclists in the UK that could do the same for ITV and start to enhance the public awareness of womens’ cycling.

          • Davo Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 7:30 am

            Have to agree about Marion Rousse. Obviously does her homework. Voeckler on the bike is a good addition. Sylvain Chavanel next year possibly?
            But what has happened to Jean-Paul Olivier? Has he retired or taken the devils shilling and gone to Équipe 21? TDF not quite the same without him bimbling on about a 12th Century monastery.

  • Alex Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:36 pm

    When SKY hired Bernal. That’s when they won it LOL

    • Jungels Monday, 30 July 2018, 2:46 pm

      +1

      This guy is unbelievable.

  • hoh Monday, 30 July 2018, 3:30 pm

    Interestingly that two Froome misfortunes (puncture 2012, crash this year) has sorted the leadership problem for Sky.

    And he acted quite gracefully in both instances. Even a cooled down Wiggins realised Froome wasn’t so Mich attacking him as trying to secure his second place against Nibali (he wasn’t as confident about his Time Trialing back then).

    For me one of the highlights of this Tour is the genuine affection Froome & Thomas showed each other. Both Thomas & his wife were genuinely disappointed when Froome didn’t get the stage win on stage 20 and are really happy when they realised that Froome got back onto the podium.

    • RonDe Monday, 30 July 2018, 3:40 pm

      There is a behind the scenes video which shows that as you may be referring to. Thomas thought Froome had won the ITT when he crossed the line and was shocked to learn he hadn’t but then relieved again when he heard Froome had made the podium. Once Froome realised he wasn’t going to win the race he became the willing domestique of a guy who has been a part of many of his own successes. Its a nice touch even if not supplying the narrative of conflict and discord many would prefer.

  • WS Monday, 30 July 2018, 3:31 pm

    Good for Geraint to have won after so much riding in the service of others. He’s a genuinely likable guy and deserves all the celebration back home in Wales. That said, with Team Sky now very much tainted by the various scandals, as a British fan this feels nowhere near as special as when Bradley Wiggins won in 2012, a time when a British winner was a huge novelty and we thought Team Sky were a breath of fresh air.

    • Larry T Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 7:42 am

      Thanks for sharing this. I want to believe there are British cycling fans out there who are not raving SKY fan-boys who ignore all the scandals associated with the team in a jingoistic fever and you’ve proved it.

      • Dime Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 9:22 am

        Just witnessed one of the most straightforward wins I have ever seen, and I have been watching the Tour, as a Brit, for over 30 years! As for Sky, never had time for that team, was never a breath of fresh air for me. Cycling has never been about this team or that team, its not football and never will be. I appreciate and follow character, talent, class, guts, panache call it what you like. This “fan boy ism” is so alien to me in the cycling world and seems to be shaped at least in the UK by the development of Sky and look at the shit its brought about. Well done Geraint, now I can truly admire a Tour winner as someone genuinely likeable.

      • Martin D Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 5:26 am

        We’re not all desperately disappointed middle aged ex England football fans – but there does seem to be a few of them knocking around here.

        I’d have commented more during this tour but I haven’t wanted to add to the current weight of Brit dump on the comments here.

        Anyway. Thanks Inrng. A llongyfarchiadau boi i G. Thomas.

  • hoh Monday, 30 July 2018, 3:31 pm

    Not saying that Froome could win without the crash, but the decision will be much more difficult for Sky management to make.

  • noel Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:02 pm

    for all the celebration of Wales’ TdF win, I thought Rowe did a pretty stellar job this year, which considering his accident last year must have given him enormous pleasure.

    I’m already looking forward to seeing him stretch the field out on the Taaienberg next spring…

  • Tieske Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:06 pm

    Agreeing with the Sky-Catenaccio analog, I have to say that Sky is even worse.

    As the team with the biggest budget and the best riders, you have a certain obligation towards the sport and the public. Playing it this defensive is hurting everything expect themselves.

    • Pilgrim Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:40 pm

      I’d argue that they have no such obligation and who else is it hurting? You can no more Sky proof the peleton than you can Sagan proof the maillot vert.

      I don’t buy the “I don’t like Team Sky = they are defensive” argument. They’re not going out doing the equivalent of winning 1-0 every time.

      Was Froome’s attack on the descent off Peyresourde in 2016 defensive?

      Was the Froome/Thoma/Bodnar/Sagan attack in the crosswinds to Marseille in 2016 defensive?

      Kiriyenka and then Kwiatkowski setting a blistering pace nobody can attack from isn’t defensive.

      Thomas sprinting for victory in two successive summit finishes isn’t defensive.

      What people are effectively asking is for Sky to be more dumb.

      In a professional sport it’s the job of competitors to workout how to beat the big beast. That they haven’t is down to what looks like some pretty inept strategy.

      • DJW Monday, 30 July 2018, 7:38 pm

        Lappartient has announced the intention of creating an “attractivity commission” to look at ways in which the offering can be improved. One of the ideas suggested was a team budget cap with the perception in France being that Sky are dominating the TdF (the essence of cycling for many here) by buying the best riders and support. The problem for France is that many think that a French rider should win riding for a French team. Even with an unlimited budget that objective would seem difficult with perennial hopes Bardet and Pinot failing to progress and the new generation (Martin, Gaudu…) likely to be overtaken by Bernal and company. FDJ have an increased budget thanks to Groupama and are said to have Kung for 2019. Will that be enough?

        • The Inner Ring Monday, 30 July 2018, 8:04 pm

          Even if every team had the same budget, the money is spent differently because they’re subject to different laws and regulations in their own countries. Vincent Lavenu said only in the last few days that French teams have high payroll taxes (a topic covered before at http://inrng.com/2013/10/french-cyclings-taxing-problem/ if people want more).

          • DJW Monday, 30 July 2018, 8:32 pm

            Quite so. It’s also the case that different teams have different objectives many wanting to win with any nationality whereas the two French WT teams want to win the TdF with a French rider – though the support of other nationalities is acceptable. Would they want a Porte, Aru, Yates, Quintana, Roglic or Landa even if they had the means?

    • paranoid Monday, 30 July 2018, 7:19 pm

      What “obligation” is this Tieske? Is this in the rules somewhere? If Tom Dumoulin was at Sky would it still apply? What about if Roglic suddenly starts winning all the grand tours and Lotto NL Jumbo suddenly find a mega-sponsor?

      This is just more fantasy nonsense from someone who doesn’t like or support Sky and so wants one arm tied behind their back. If Sky weren’t the richest team someone else would be. And thats even if you think riches alone is all that counts.

      PS it doesn’t. Lotto NL Jumbo had two guys in the top five too and Roglic could, maybe should, have been on the podium. Sunweb are hardly moneybags either.

  • Gargatouf Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:07 pm

    @ Inrg, do you recon each GT to have such great in depth summaries of the routes and the final kms of each stages? I seem to remember in your ITT preview that you had rode the course 2 or 3 times.

    I love GTs as this website is my first port of call in the morning when I get in the office. I sit down, check my emails briefly to see if there’s anything urgent. If it can wait, I have my breakfast reading the preview of the stage.

    Thanks again for the blog.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 30 July 2018, 5:10 pm

      The whole route isn’t ridden in advance, just the new things usually. So for the Tour there was no need to check out things like Alpe d’Huez or the Tourmalet-Soulor-Aubisque etc but novelties like the Plateau des Glières, the Stage 20 TT route and so on merited a visit. I tried to ride all of Stage 17, the 65km one, but couldn’t reach the top of the Col du Portet, there was too much works traffic as they were resurfacing it. It’s the same for Paris-Nice, the Giro and the Dauphiné previews too, either I’ve lived/got family/vacationed/raced/ridden etc on the roads before and can remember them (and they are part of the Roads to Ride series here) but if not then the crucial places get visited and noted in advance (and added to the Roads to Ride). Similarly other previews like Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders and Lombardia return to the same roads all the time so no recon needed.

      The Vuelta is different, much more reliant on maps, Google etc for 2/3 of the route and this is much more error prone.

      • DUNCAN Monday, 30 July 2018, 10:09 pm

        This is amazing.

        • not yoda Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 12:29 am

          understatement of the tour

          • Megi Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 9:09 am

            And explains why this blog is so good. Thank you Inner Ring for everything not just in this TdF but generally through the year.

  • Anonymous Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:19 pm

    The thing I liked the most about the Tour 2018? The consistent boos. I hope everybody keeps them up (of course without physical aggression) till sky and brailsford become too big a liability for races, other teams and the uci.

    • Anonymous Monday, 30 July 2018, 4:52 pm

      “of course without physical aggression” – of course, of course – how correct of you. Delightful.

    • Charlie Monday, 30 July 2018, 6:55 pm

      Your life must be fun

    • paranoid Monday, 30 July 2018, 7:23 pm

      I’m not sure I follow the endgame of this hateful suggestion. So the crowds keep booing and…. what then? They somehow just go away? They are banned because people boo them?

      I think you’ll find that, like any unpopular big team in sport, the boos acted as a point of focus and bonded them together more strongly.

    • Fuggitivo Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 5:46 pm

      From Paul Howard’s Book:

      (On Poulidor) “He was even whistled and booed as the Tour finished in Paris, an experience which he said helped him understand how Anquetil felt when exposed to a a similar reaction, even if it was for different reasons: ‘Yes, I was whistled for finishing eighth. They whistled me because I’d lost and had been a disappointment. They booed him because he won too much”

      There is nothing newer than history.

  • Wayne Monday, 30 July 2018, 6:45 pm

    Firstly just wanted to add like everyone on here how enjoyable reading this blog has been during the Tour, so thanks and long may it continue. I also wanted to second those who’ve said how disappointing Movistar have been. I would go as far to say they were terrible!!! One stage win from that team is just not good enough! Ok they won the teams GC but who really cares about that? Can anyone remember who won it last year? No, me neither! I just don’t understand why they race the way they do, does Movistar (the company) have as their goal the teams classification? If they’re really serious about winning the Tour they need to put everything behind Landa and give up on Quintana, he just doesn’t have what it takes to win the Tour.

    • Anonymous Monday, 30 July 2018, 9:46 pm

      I really wonder why Movistar and any other team except Sky doesn’t fire their DS an put any random commenting guy from cycling blog in their seat. They all know better. Does Movistar have no cycling fantasy game expert department? How dare. Losers

      • Wayne Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:04 pm

        Hahahaha well if you could explain what Movistar do every grand tour I’m all ears

  • Othersteve Monday, 30 July 2018, 7:13 pm

    Thanks all for interesting comments, and INRG for your masterful leadership.

    I have a question, will Disney control 21 Century Fox assets including team sky?

    Will James Murdock still be chairman of sky racing if Disney controls that asset?
    If Disney controls Sky racing will it still lose any UK influence?
    Might it be registered in the US?

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 30 July 2018, 7:28 pm

      There’s a stockmarket battle for Sky at the moment between Disney and Comcast but either way it looks like James Murdoch could be stepping away from things going by the press reports. He’s been a big backer of the team so we’ll see what new owners do.

      • Ecky Thump Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 12:29 am

        Have Comcast withdrawn its bid to buy 21st Century Fox in the last few days?
        There’s may be a suggestion that the sports elements of Fox may not be included in the buy-out (i.e. Sky Sports could remain outside of the deal) but where this leaves Sky’s continued sponsorship of the cycling team is unclear at present.

        • o Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 2:19 am

          Ecky, I believe you are correct. Comcast bailed, WSJ reported a couple days ago that Disney met with Murdoch’s lawyers for 15 minutes and it appears to be a done deal. SEC reported not too have any objections.

          Does Disney really want a UK bike team?

          Might explain TJV rumors token American, if sky goes to disney?

          • Anonymous Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 8:47 am

            Like to see that, team goes American, hires TJV, the great white non-delivering hope and make him a GT winner. ROFL

      • Larry T Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 9:22 am

        I would think James Murdoch could bankroll the team out of his own personal funds if he chose to do so. But does he like cycling that much? It’s one thing to spend other people’s money on your pet projects and quite another to put up your own funds. I would also think Murdoch and Brailsford have been discussing this very subject since the sale idea was hatched?

    • Tovarishch Monday, 30 July 2018, 9:02 pm

      My guess would be that the 35M Sky spend on the team is money well spent. As long as they keep winning the Tour, with a Brit, they will get much more, targeted, publicity than they could get from any other form of advertising. Front page on all the dailies, headline news on prime-time arecworth a fortune to the marketing men.

      • noel Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 10:11 am

        it says something about the bad smell that still lingers over cycling that the relatively small cost of running a top-tier cycling team hasn’t appealed to one of the big French industrial champions for a while – Total, Vivendi, LVMH, Banks, Car Cos, Axa etc are all massive companies – I imagine Sky/20th Century Fox sit there scratching their heads thinking ‘this is great, why isn’t anyone else doing this…?’

        surely the PR gain from funding a proper run at getting a Frenchman on the top step would be huge ( in addition to all the international exposure), particularly if they knock the increasingly unpopular Sky off their perch…

        • Larry T Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 12:06 pm

          Exactly! Unless you believe “bad publicity is better than no publicity” would you pony up the kind of dough currently needed to field a competitive World Tour cycling team?
          Despite the fact that for the companies you named the yearly expense would be “a second’s income shot to hell” as it is to Murdoch and Co. why risk it? You’re only a dope scandal (or three) away from having your team cars egged and your riders spat upon. Only 4-5 teams in LeTour are consumer product oriented companies – the rest are corrupt governments, gambling interests, the bike industry and what I call “rich chamois-sniffers” (those who bankroll teams out of their own personal fortunes just because they can) as the costs are too high and the risks simply too great.

        • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 12:38 pm

          Total is Direct Energie now , Ag2r La Mondiale and Groupama are very big companies too. There have been a couple of big names interested in sponsorship but backed off because of the doping image of the sport, they’re still waiting to see the sport prove itself and this is not just in France, it’s deterred a lot of other large corporate sponsors. The risk vs reward isn’t for them, we still talk about Festina and US Postal as synonymous with scandal and most executives and brand managers will just sponsor tennis, sailing or golf instead.

          Otherwise the big names sponsor the Tour, not the teams, eg Nestlé, LCL, Skoda, Carrefour etc.

          • z unblocked Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 1:33 pm

            It’s interesting that companies seem to think there actually is such a thing as bad publicity. Personally, I’m not convinced… Armstrong publicised US Postal, the mechanism and manner of how that happened is irrelevant to most people. As for golf: Tiger Woods still draws the crowds, and the number of customers who will actually go to the effort to boycott a company is small.

          • noel Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 1:35 pm

            so those Co’s pay up say 15m (?) to be second best, when 30m might give them a shot?
            I know it’s all a lot more complicated than this, but with all this focus on an impossible to implement ‘budget/wage cap’ it doesn’t seem like a lot of money considering the prize and prestige for a French company.
            I also think that the doping story is now a lot wider – take Athletics for example – so the negative connotations and risks are less now than they used to be .

        • Tovarishch Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 1:03 pm

          The trouble is that it is only worth the money if you win the Tour. The Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix or the Tour of California do not generate anywhere near the same level of publicity and who, of the general public, remembers who finished second and surely not for which team. Sky are in it because Brailsford delivers.

          • Othersteve Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 12:55 am

            Tovarishch, can’t disagree on the principal you need to win the TDF for Eurocentric teams. I would submit to you that if a Specialized sponsored teams wins the ToC it would be great news to the Morgan Hill gang. 36 million people in California my trade in there old Schwinns varsities for a new Specialized. My point, markets are different for different sponsors which sponsor for different audiences.

  • Paolo Monday, 30 July 2018, 7:35 pm

    You wonder how Dumoulin could have won. Maybe he couldn’t, as Thomas was a match for him. But… if Dumoulin didn’t have that self-inflicted mechanic on the way to Mur de Bretagne… would he have taken risks to La Rosiere? Would he have been the one riding more defensive and counter-attacking on Alpe d’Huez? Because now it was Thomas who could be defensive and counter attack.

    • Canocola Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 12:12 am

      Dumoulin himself suggested that Thomas was simply the stronger rider, and given the way he shot off to pick up small gaps and bonus seconds it’s not unreasonable to suggest he could have gone from further out if he’d needed to. I think it might have been a different race had Dumoulin not had those issues, but there’s not much evidence out there that he could have won (bar a stroke of poor luck for Thomas, but he appears to have finally run out of that)

      • Steve Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 7:46 am

        The Sports Conditional is the least important of all the coulda woulda shoulda tenses. If the ref in the final had been competent Croatia would have won the World Cup. Maybe…

  • Good hevans Monday, 30 July 2018, 10:37 pm

    May I add a highlight that Inrng hasn’t mentioned?

    It stems from DavidBrailsford’s “rest day rantings ” and the incident when “Adam Yates crashed on the final descent and Alaphilippe radioed his team car to ask about waiting but was told in blunt terms to race on”. Alaphilippe’s sense of sportsmanship went beyond that in a magnanimous interview (in excellent English) in which he commiserated with Yates on his bad luck, and which he demonstrated the following day with a sympathetic pat on the back while they rode side by side. I’ve long admired Alaphilippe for his derring-do, but Alaphilippe, the gentleman, was new to me. The perfect riposte to Brailsford’s jibe about a “French cultural thing”.

  • Petit Breton Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:27 pm

    Fantastic read as always. To me Froome’s tell is less an inadvertent indicator of weakness but moreover a ‘TV tell’ for the cameras.

  • Louis le Blond Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 12:57 am

    THANK YOU, INRNG !! Your blog is second to none. And thank you to alle you ‘expert-managers’ for an wonderful debate in this forum 🙂

    My dream came true – G won the Tour 2018 !!!!!!

  • Dai Bank Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 8:19 am

    Given a Welsh winner
    Diolch yn fawr INRNG
    Thanks very much for great previews, managed to get the roadbook and between that and your insight had great preparation for each day.

  • Tovarishch Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 11:19 am

    Why does Sagan get a green tinted vase as a trophy but all the other are clear. Can’t they do yellow (or polka dots)?

  • Kevin S Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 11:48 am

    Wasn’t Coppi’s first win at 29? Just before his 30th birthday?

    • Ben Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 11:57 pm

      He had spent a chunk of his 20s in a British run prisoner of war camp.

  • irungo txuletak Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 1:07 pm

    What happens with Quintana?
    No Giro this year but again a poor GC in the Tour.
    I am not especially a big fan of the colombian, but this is quite disapointing. I think he needs to seriously rethink his approach.

  • irungo txuletak Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 1:11 pm

    Happy for Thomas, he deserves his win. But this Tour has been (yet again) quite boring.
    And this time the route was better: last stage in the Pyrenees for instance was very nice designed. The TT was also good.

  • Cilmeri Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 1:25 pm

    One additional aspect to note on Thomas’s career, in addition to what was mentioned in the article. I think he was a somewhat reluctant participant in the 2012 Olympics, and only decided to do so because the Olympics were in the UK – had they been elsewhere he would’ve carried on the focus on the road which he had properly started when he joined Sky in 2010.

    So I would argue that a year out at that stage held him back, so for those questioning a 32 (?) year old winning a GT for the first time need to bring this into consideration as well. If I was him I doubt I’d change anything about a fantastic career, but I think looking back now, if he had continued focusing on the road in 2012 and shifted to stage racing earlier rather than one leg in the classics and another in stage racing he would’ve had another GT under his belt by now (although not the tour given Froome’s dominance there).

    Still, I agree with the verdict that this will turn out to be a 1 time tour winner, and expect Froome to chuck everything at a 5th Tour next year.

    • Ben Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 11:44 pm

      He wasn’t reluctant, it was his choice. It was a home (GB) olympics and he wanted to win gold for wales. His gold was one of 3welsh golds (jade jones in taekwondo and Tom James in rowing were the other two) in London. If it hadn’t been a home games he did say he would have stayed on the road though.

  • Sam G Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 2:08 pm

    Sky arguably had 3 of the top 4 riders in the race. If Bernal had have been a protected rider i think he could have won it.

  • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 3:19 pm

    A note to say the original image at the top of Thomas winning at La Rosière has been swapped. It came from Getty’s archive where they let bloggers etc embed images. Only some readers might have seen it overlayed with a low-grade clickbait style advert which I couldn’t see. A pet hate is things like Outbrain on websites, it’s like having an open sewer below your articles so having one at the top of page was even worse.

    • Eskerrik Asko Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 6:09 pm

      On two or three occasions there has been some kind of ad banner or strip across an image or maybe two images in a blog entry. But funnily enough not on the top image of this entry. Go figure.

      I accepted it without a demur as a price one has to pay and not an irritating nuisance (like for instance constantly and ceaselessly blinking and changing ads or pop-up ads). But then again I never clicked on the ads and never had to find out I had stepped into a sewer.

      PS One more thank you for your Tour jersey winner and stage previews and the *tout* coverage probably won’t hurt!

    • BenW Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 4:57 pm

      I’ve seen those a few times from that particular source of embedded material over here but didn’t realise you weren’t aware – it did puzzle me that the adverts were never relevant, though.

      Speaking of open sewers, over at Cycling Weekly their pages below the articles themselves are now a relentless torrent of “recommended for you” effluent.

      I read a review of something the other day and customarily scrolled down to find the comments, and there weren’t any.

      But there WAS a load of “Recommended for you” content links and if you continued scrolling down, it continued loading. On and on forever, an endless Star Wars title sequence of irrelevance. Immensely disappointing.

  • hoh Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 8:14 pm

    The other thing worth noting is that Lotto actually rode in a very Sky manner in terms of team focus. Both Gesink & Kruijswijk are/were GC riders in their own right yet they all ride their guts out for Roglic.

  • Motormouth Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 9:24 pm

    I enjoyed this TdF, and I like Thomas as a rider and a story. I think he’s got at least one more GT in him, maybe not a TdF (because of Froome), but a Giro could be in the cards.

    I think any complaints about SKY’s riding in this tour being boring should remember that their leaders were neutralizing each other for a good part of it (Froome and GT), and then I got the impression GT was very unsure of his form or how to handle it as the leader. Everyone remembers the Yates implosion of ’18, and so was conservative. As others have mentioned I also think he looked stronger than he showed in efforts. Now, given repeated intervals if he had ridden like Roglic, he might have imploded — it’s very different to ride consistently than to have to yo-yo (which you see implode riders left and right, when attempting to disrupt the sky train) and recover day after day.

    The GC competition arc was interesting overall, LottoJumbo made a great race, Froome’s mystery kept the Sky train media drama spicy, Dumoulin always keeps people under pressure in interesting ways and just never gives up. Movistar in my opinion completely flopped and barely animated the race for the hype and firepower they were bringing. AG2R did a better job than them, and Bardet looked as if he was ready to just quit. It’s a pity it seemed a lot of gc contenders just had no form, for whatever reasons (Bardet, Quintana, Fuglsang, zakarin, barguil, majka, yates) whether it be team strength, injuries, illness, fitness, and two of my top picks – Porte and Nibali were taken out by crashes.

    The polka dots jersey competition was fun to watch, as was the initial white jersey comp before team duties took it’s toll. Then, the green jersey was Sagan’s from an early point, and that’s a story in it’s own right, but after all the sprinters washed out, seeing who of the hardmen sprinters had it in them to take a stage was still fun. I really appreciate a sprinter who makes it to Paris, and kudos to Cavendish for riding to finish his final stage, even out of the timecut.

    There needs to be a budget cap on cycling. I hate almost all of the ideas being given on how to modernize cycling more like other pro sports, but this is an obviously good idea. Newsflash: pro sports suck. Armstrong etal can blow their ideas out their rear mounted trombone… dear god, rider drafts and a focus on the individual rider, individual numbers… kill me now. But I digress.

    Cycling grand tours are a truly mind-bending endurance race, and every year when I look at the data I’m blown away we as humans can endure such efforts. I enjoyed the coverage on INRNG, thank you for your time and efforts as always. Gotta wear my supporter’s kit more 🙂 also thank you RonDe for not being insufferable about Bardet, or Sky. I miss you gabriele, wherever you are.

    • Ben Tuesday, 31 July 2018, 11:52 pm

      I see David Lappartient has now said he wants a salary cap and to reduce team sizes to 6. Another populist comment – without having properly considered and discussed it behind closed doors first – appealing to his electorate at a time of maximum interest, but risking the desertion from the sport of the big name sponsors the teams are forced to entirely depend upon, and he wonders why he gets told that he acts like a local mayor and unlike a president of a global governing body.

      For me, almost a year on, still way too many sound bites pandering to his public, way too little consideration of the effect of his words.

      • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 12:00 am

        Has he said this though ? Read the actual interview in French rather than some bad translations at https://www.letemps.ch/sport/david-lappartient-aujourdhui-un-cycliste-gagner-un-grand-tour-carburant-leau

        He says “Je suis contre un salary cap” which literally translates as “I am against a salary cap” (but goes on to consider a budget cap which is different, and something several teams have been asking for). As for the move to six riders, he seems to be saying that if you want to shrink teams down to have an influence in the race then you’d probably need to go down to six riders before it made any difference rather.

        Remember the move to shrink team sizes is something ASO, RCS and Flanders Classics demanded only for the UCI to say no to initially, before agreeing to it a year later.

        • The GCW / Strictly Amateur Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 12:51 am

          That’s the way I took it (only read headlines…) DL did not say He’s for “a salary cap.”

          6? Just for fun how about 1?

          This is getting to be quite a long thread & I’d like to comment in that direction but for now I just want to say thanks to all.

          Maybe at some point INRNG will produce a thread about that issue.

          I thought it was an ok race and where it was won is by GT entering to begin with.

          Cheers to a good bunch, all.

        • Anonymous Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 1:56 am

          “you’d probably need to go down to six riders before it made any difference ”

          I think FDJ would dispute that. They’d have finished last year’s tour with nobody.

        • Nick Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 5:33 am

          He says “Je suis centre un salary cap individuel … Mais je pense que nous pourrions réguler la masse salariale globale des équipes”. Unless “masse salariale globale des equipes” includes the wages of the DSs, soigneurs, mechanics, etc., then he does seem to be contemplating a cap on the total salary bill for riders. I’m not aware of anyone sensibly proposing a cap on individual riders’ salaries, only the team’s.

          • Davo Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 8:05 am

            It seems Lappartient is at best unclear, he doesn’t want to reduce riders salaries but does want to reduce some teams budgets. Roughly translated i think he means we would like to control some teams’ budgets but the UCI is not well enough resourced to manage it so we’ll probably reduce team size and hope that works.

        • DJW Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 8:11 am

          The perception in France and press comment was that the tour was boring. No doubt in Wales the TdF was considered a success, and probably in the UK too. The only way to change that French perception would be for a French rider to win, and whether the event was objectively boring or not, the French would be reconciled with thier Tour.

          The problem here in France is that cycling is now a world sport despite the European heritage. Reducing TdF teams to six, juggling with the race format, and even a team budget cap, is not going to make Bardet or Pinot a winner, and probably not Gaudu, Martin and Latour too.

          • Motormouth Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 10:46 pm

            Budget over salary is interesting and maybe more accurate to the idea behind it.

            Also reduced team sizes does not seem to help smaller teams as far as I can tell. Perhaps it even punishes them.

            I think casual observers would’ve found the race boring maybe, but those who watched every stage could maybe see and appreciate the story lines and attacks.

  • Cranky Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 5:25 pm

    People seem to naturally rail against one team being dominant. The Yankees in baseball, Patriots in NFL, Warriors in basketball now and Bulls, Lakers or Celtics years past, and Sky in cycling have all been held up as “problems” to fix. Yet, ultimately these successful teams are good for the sport because they force the level of play to increase. There are plenty of good analyses available by sports journalists way smarter than me who have shown repeatedly that s0-called super teams are not problems. Rather they are the cutting edge of that sport showing a new way to achieve success and greatness. Ultimately, they create a higher level of athleticism and team management.

    I am all for changing the routes up to ensure the most well-rounded rider wins. And, cobbles definitely do that! The reduction of the number of time trials helps fan participation. Let’s face it. for most fans a time trial is a fairly dull affair. The course this year was one of the best I remember for the variability of stages. The short mountain stage is something to keep playing with though the Monaco start was a let-down. But, reducing team numbers is not going to make pro cycling better. If anything it will reduce opportunities for riders. There is not enough sponsor interest to make up the differences with more teams. A reduced sized peloton is not going to be in anyone’s interest – fans, riders or sponsors.

  • Gorka Thursday, 2 August 2018, 11:06 am

    You don’t think that it’s mite like “the day the TDF was lost”? And it was the murmde Bretagne for Dumoulin. After that, he was chasing the whole time.

    When it was won? I think it was the TTT. Also, Porte’s and Nibali’s abandonments played a huge role.

  • SArover Friday, 3 August 2018, 4:14 am

    The ratings for the Tour are down.

    The public are turned off by the poor anti-doping efforts. We all have eyes.

    As with Armstrong, most defending Sky are supporting a fellow countryman via nationalism.

    1. Thomas is not just hanging with climbers.. he’s dropping the very best. Based on his transformation, Sagan could win the Tour if he really wanted it.

    2. Tom Simpson & Merckx doped so that’s poor comparisons.

    3. Cortisine is missing and unaccounted for, testosterone patches were ordered, TUES were applied for when riders weren’t sick, laptops are suddenly stolen, data is missing, jiffy bags are transported across a continent, biological passport has been failed but never explained (Henao), the doctor is too sick to testify but can publish a book, salbutamol levels are double the limit – but hey… this ain’t as bad as US postal and there’s no doping