Tour de France Stage 11 Preview

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Hardly a metre of flat, if some riders tried to save energy yesterday then today was a reason. It’s only 108km and packs in four good climbs.

Julian A La Folie: a stage win for Julian Alaphilippe. He’d missed out in the first week’s stages, especially at Mûr-de-Bretagne but he’d been training in the mountains before and has his “climbing legs” now and having joined a 21 rider breakaway he left them all trailing, first to the Plateau des Glières for the mountains points and then again on the Col de Romme to collect the stage and the mountains jersey and with a big margin. It’s the first home win for the French in the Tour de France. Greg Van Avermaet could have sat up and said this isn’t his terrain but joined the breakaway and showed the same climbing form we saw in the 2016 Tour and the Rio Olympics and extended his lead, an unlikely scenario at the start of the day and got the day’s combativity prize as well.

Behind none of the GC riders attacked, as suggested yesterday the first stage sees rivals measure each other but another factor, once again, is Team Sky’s strength as they had five riders on the front for the final ascent up the Colombière and it could have been six had Jonathan Castroviejo not punctured at the top of the Col de Romme. To those who say their rivals should attack: they would if they could. Indeed the pace was enough to crack several GC outsiders with Rafał Majka, Ilnur Zakarin and Bauke Mollema losing almost a minute and Rigo Urán over two minutes, a significant moment to see last year’s runner-up ejected from the GC.

The Route: just 108.5km and an air of déjà vu, a copy of Stage 6 in the Critérium du Dauphiné. It’s uphill from the start out of Albertville via the Douron valley, an scenic ride and innocuous but still where Tom Dumoulin crashed out in 2016.

Then comes the climb of the Bisanne, 12.4km at 8.2% and a hard climb. It’s regular and at first snakes up past Alpine pastures where the prized Beaufort cheese comes from. It’s scenic but not stunning, a workplace rather than the stuff of postcards. The upper slopes are the steepest and the scenery fades amid the small ski resort of Bisanne 1500 before an open section up to the top of the pass. A small descent awaits as they cross over to the Les Saisies and begin the high speed descent back down to Beaufort.

Next up is the Col du Pré, this time the stuff of postcards with chalets and tight hairpin bends. After a steady start out of the town of Beaufort the tone changes when the road leaves Arêches and starts winding up through the pastures and it’s often 10% or more, all on a narrow road and one of the most scenic moments of the Tour. Over the pass there’s a quick descent and a passage over the Roselend dam and then a tour around the lake before the road climbs to Cormet de Roselend, plenty of 7% sections and then a long descent if measured in distance but short by time because it’s very fast (and dangerous because of the speed).

The Finish: 17km but not steep, the “summit” finish of La Rosière is really the Col du Petit Saint Bernard and just short of the Italian frontier, it’s mainly all on a wide road, a transport artery for thousands of years but the middle of the climb sees the race take a short cut and what they save on distance is made up with steeper slopes of 8-10%. Things level off before the finish again, terrain to turn a big gear on.

The Contenders: one reason the GC contenders took it steady yesterday was today’s stage. It’s going to be a lot more lively. The first climb should see a move go clear and if someone hopes to win they need to be a decent climber. Think Omar Fraile (Astana), Dani Navarro (Cofidis) and… actually given the reduced peloton and the number of teams with set GC objectives there are not so many breakaway climbers to pick from. Still with Urán’s plans going up in smoke is Daniel Martinez (EF-Drapac) released for the day? Fraile is strong pick but could be on duty for Fuglsang, the other are wild guesses.

But big attacks from the big names? Maybe on the final climb. Dan Martin (UAE Emirates) won a stage of the Dauphiné and it’s the same scenario, he’s down on GC but in good form so he has room to jump away, riders won’t shut him down right away. To a lesser extent Nairo Quintana is down on GC but he doesn’t have such an explosive jump and nor will others let him go so easily… while Mikel Landa may have the jump but if he moves the entirety of Team Sky will have to close him down, this isn’t a steep enough finish for the Basque.

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) was second here in the Dauphiné and we’ll see if he’s as fresh today, he used the lesser gradients towards the top to ditch his GC rivals and could do once again. Chris Froome could also try to exploit the steep slopes and go away. Among the others Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) won’t have it easy but yesterday Primož Roglič (Lotto-Jumbo) looked to be floating.

Dan Martin, Geraint Thomas
Roglič, Quintana, Froome, Yates, Landa, Fraile

Weather: warm and sunny in the valleys at 29°C but cooler and the chance of rain on the Cormet de Roselend.

TV: live from the start at 2.00pm CEST with the finish forecast for 5.25pm CEST.

Nicktarios July 18, 2018 at 6:22 am

I’m not sure he’ll show anything/attack today – but I’ve fancied Roglic for a podium since his excellent form earlier this season. Today will be a good test to see how he’s looking.

Marshy July 18, 2018 at 6:34 am

I put a bet on Roglic to place back in January.
At 80/1!!!

DAVE July 18, 2018 at 7:37 am

For the podium or win?
I agree on possible podium, wouldn’t surprise me although would be announcement of a new contender.

Ferdi July 18, 2018 at 10:25 am

Betting corrupts sports, and cycling has enough integrity issues already.

John July 18, 2018 at 12:25 pm

Agreed. There are plenty of other sites and forums to discussing sports betting. Can we keep this page as one where the focus is on sporting, not gambling?

The Inner Ring July 18, 2018 at 12:31 pm

It’s ok. It does get boring when people come to post tips and links to betting sites, this gets zapped instantly (not one day goes by without a gambling company emailing me to ask if I can include a link to their site in exchange for a payment: they get deleted, but there’s obviously a big industry out there). Someone saying they bet on X in February doesn’t add too much to the stage preview, it’s like saying you ate a sandwich in April 😉

Tommy V the boulangerie July 18, 2018 at 1:50 pm

What sort of sandwich?

Steve July 18, 2018 at 8:51 pm

Betting is why organised sport even exists, so that posh rich fellows could wager on their employees fighting or racing each other within agreed criteria. Two centuries later sport is certainly corrupt, but there are many other reasons why beyond gambling.

RQS July 18, 2018 at 11:38 pm

Your history of man kind is a little narrow. Ever hear of something called the Colliseum? Just a hint that sports and gambling existed well before 1800.

Steve July 19, 2018 at 5:01 pm

I think you’ll find there was quite a large gap between the ancient Olympics and the modern Olympics. Though you’re not exactly contradicting my point are you.

Tovarishch July 18, 2018 at 6:58 am

Whilst Sky might have set a strong pace, Luke Rowe is not exactly a mountain goat and I would have thought someone would try and take the initiative up to Plateau des Glières. If not there when a very steady pace is being set, where?

Larrick July 18, 2018 at 7:52 am

Exactly. Multiple teams have a domestique they can afford to use up to get rid of the likes of Rowe. If you’re going to say there are too many Sky riders on the final climbs able to dictate, then that’s not the whole picture. They’ve only got all their climbers there because Luke was able to do a 6k 9-10% climb continually on the front without interruption.

Ben July 18, 2018 at 8:25 am

I understand it was a pretty strong headwind over the Glières, as well as on the Colombière, so it was crazy for anyone to attack – unless they wanted to burn a load of their matches for little gain on the first day of three in the Alps.

Gregario July 18, 2018 at 8:39 am

Almost the whole climb of the Glieres is shaded and sheltered from the wind. There is no way the wind was a factor there. The reason nobody made a move there was the long valley road afterwards.

Larrick July 18, 2018 at 9:11 am

To add to Gregario, it wasn’t about attacking at all. It was about using a couple of teammates to up the pace enough to drop Rowe. It really didn’t need much. Then if Sky want to control they’re now a man or two down plus those guys aren’t there in the valley. Instead you’re using the climbers and then there’s the obvious knock on effect for the last two climbs. Going back to Glieres and what could have been tried, what did Frank or Durasek or Gorka or Ten Dams etc etc achieve yesterday? Hanging about and being dropped as soon as the pace rose. They could have been employed to get rid of Rowe and the like. They didn’t and won’t because it’s like being the only team chasing down the break when you’ve the 4th or 5th best sprinter on flat stage.

The Inner Ring July 18, 2018 at 9:40 am

You could use up your climbers to get rid of Rowe but it doesn’t achieve much for the final except leaving you without your climbers while Rowe sits up and cruises in. Note Frank has an injury after crashing on the cobbled stage and if Ten Dam had been used up then Dumoulin would have been without his “body double” in case of a bike change.

Larrick July 18, 2018 at 10:40 am

It could just as easily be Geschke or Haga etc. I’m not even sure you’d be using them up. The higher pace required to drop a guy whose main job is the flat shouldn’t decimate any of the climbing domestiques. It also messes with the plans of Sky. They have to either take back over which they would want to do or change their strategy. Even if it’s only a minor tweak it’s surely better than doing nothing. It just feels like the sprint analogy I gave has credence. They’ve not used up any of the train to chase the break but then there’s not a stage to win anyway. The sprint teams usually come to an agreement and send a guy up each. I find it surprising 4 or 5 of the GC teams don’t do the same thing to disrupt Sky.

Titch July 18, 2018 at 12:39 pm

Agreed… Surely Bahrain could have used Izagirre to help with this rather than sending him up the road. I always think that Sky partly look so strong because they are very single minded in their approach to what they are trying to achieve. Bahrain bring a sprinter and are sending their domestiques in breakaways when you have a class GC guy to support. What was Gallopin doing up the road for AG2R or Gesink for Lotto Jumbo?

People knock Sky for a lot of things but they all put their personal ambitions to the side to help win the yellow jersey. If other teams want to challenge Sky they need to stop hedging their bets for me.

The Inner Ring July 18, 2018 at 12:41 pm

Titch: they were sending support riders up the road, the idea is when the leader attacks, say over the Col de Romme, then they have a team mate waiting for them ahead who is fresh and ready to tow them along for as long as possible. They’re not going in the break for glory, it’s a team tactic.

Titch July 18, 2018 at 2:09 pm

Ahh maybe I read it wrong. I will always defer to your superior knowledge 🙂 I was just very surprised with Izagirre especially as it looked to me like he was still pretty committed at the end.

Augie March July 18, 2018 at 6:59 am

If you’re looking for climbers who can get the jump on the big names I’d give Adam Yates at least a chainring, he won that last stage at the Dauphiné in just such a fashion.

Also a typo on the first paragraph, it should read GVA extended his lead.

The Inner Ring July 18, 2018 at 9:08 am

Yates should be a pick today, I’ll put him in with one chainring right now. His Dauphiné stage was won thanks to the steep pitch at the end but he can sprint in a small group on a flatter finish too.

RQS July 18, 2018 at 11:45 pm

That’s twice you’ve condescended in two days and neither time has it made you any more prescient. Stick to your guns tomorrow. No more cheap rings…. 😉

Anonymous July 19, 2018 at 4:07 am

I think you meant consented not condescend

RQS July 19, 2018 at 8:26 am

I think I meant what I said!

Gian July 18, 2018 at 7:09 am

Thanks for the write ups Inrng.

One thing I never understand is why don’t other teams try to disrupt the Sky train? Could they not try to place riders in the way or is it just too hard to do or not the done thing?

Augie March July 18, 2018 at 7:18 am

Sky’s usual tactic is to set such a pace that any attack would involve a rider pushing themselves into the red and likely crack. However as INRNG suggested yesterday everyone was likely saving themselves for today. It’s not normal that a Paris-Roubaix winner like GVA would put time into all the GC guys which shows that it wasn’t exactly full gas (to use a tiresome cliche) on stage 10.

Gian July 18, 2018 at 7:35 am

Thanks for the reply. I’m not saying another rider should attack but could they disrupt the train. Do other teams not have at least one or two riders capable of getting into say third wheel of Sky’s train and breaking their rhythm?

UHJ July 18, 2018 at 8:20 am

While that sounds like an “easy” way to disrupt the Sky-tour de force, it is not considered commes-ils-faut to “break” another team’s working order in this way.
Also, you don’t see sprint trains interrupted until they are down to 1-2 lead-outs. Same thing.

BobW July 18, 2018 at 8:47 am

All that would happen is Mr Moscon riding alongside you and gently explaining you were in the wrong place.

RQS July 18, 2018 at 11:59 pm

Climbing has been described as slowly asphyxiating yourself, until you have to breathe. The goal of the Sky train is to set a pace where other riders/teams do not feel like they want to expend the energy in trying to breakaway or out pace Sky.

The part of the equation that generally gets lost is that although riders can cycle faster, and can sure enough breakaway if they put themselves in the wind they will expend 25-30% more energy. By keeping the pace up there is still an aero effect, and the riders who escape early pay a huge energy price for being out of their own (witness Mikel Neive unable to sprint to the finish).

Riders then tuck in to conserve themselves with the hope it comes down to the final climb. If Sky didn’t do this there would be endless attacks, with the possibility of a large enough group coalescing up the road, or possibly chasing the closest GC rider down but not being able to close all the attacks.

Thus, having Rowe do all the work early on is neither here nor there when a long open road and plenty of wind lies ahead.

Tomski July 18, 2018 at 7:30 am

Great to see Navarro’s name being mentioned but I fear he will come up short, as he did in the Dauphiné, unless he gets a huge gap in the break.

I always wonder why he went to Cofidis having served a great apprenticeship under Contador at Astana.

The Inner Ring July 18, 2018 at 8:51 am

Cofidis needed a climber, he gets publicity for them in the Vuelta too but he was at Astana when they were coached by “Pepe” Marti… now serving a life ban.

ATWJ July 18, 2018 at 12:39 pm

Knowledgeable and acute point, again: any possibility of INRNG doing a piece on team managers, or even a short series? After the Tour, of course.

jc July 18, 2018 at 8:03 am

Chapeau to GVA though cant see him repeating the feat today.

I know it is a short stage which usually brings aggressive racing but not sure we shall see much GC action. As we saw in the Dauphine with the steep climbs being a long way from the finish there is time for anyone who is dropped to chase back. In addition tomorrow seems likely to be much more decisive so riders might hold back. I guess those hoping for the (mythical 🙂 ) big push from Movistar will have to wait for another day. Maybe another day for the break though the long drag to the finish might mean they get dragged back by the Sky train.

On the subject of Sky, is this the strongest team they have ever sent to the Tour? The 2012 group was strong besides Wiggo ,there was Chris Froome, Richie Porte and Michael Rogers as climbing support, a sprint unit lead by Cav along with Berni Eisel and Edvard BH plus Christian Knees and Kanstantsin Sivtsov for the flat. The current team clearly has no sprinter (let alone the world’s best ) and is pretty much mountain focused. It seems to me stronger than the others I can remember. Is there a case for saying it is the strongest team of recent times from whatever team?

Pablo_W July 18, 2018 at 8:32 am

Re Sky – yes it is a very strong team – can’t argue with that from a GC point of view, possibly the strongest yet. They are so disciplined and focused on yellow in Paris. No question to date of the ultimate objective. This may change if G doesn’t crack and can stick with Froome over the next 2 Alpine stages.

RonDe July 18, 2018 at 8:48 am

Exactly half of the GC competitive stages of the race have been given. Here are the gaps:

Thomas
Valverde +0:48
Fuglsang +0:50
Jungels +0:58
Froome, A.Yates, Landa +0:59
Nibali +1:05
Roglic +1:14
Dumoulin +1:20
Kruijswijk +1:23
Majka +1:40
Bardet +1:49
Mollema +2:06
Quintana +2:07
D.Martin +2:39
Zakarin +2:50
Uran +4:46

I ask you to consider one thing: imagine the 31kms ITT on stage 20 is actually today and that these gaps now are the gaps then. Who would be happy with that and who is on the outside looking in? Thomas is certainly happy and his team mate Froome no less so. Dumoulin and Roglic would fancy their chances. Valverde might think he could get a top 5 from there. But the rest, especially those more simply climbers, are feeling the chill wind of underachievement.

There aren’t many mountains in this Tour and those that there are don’t seem very decisive. Obviously we know that yesterday Sky riding at high tempo was enough to dissuade any attacks. Today, I imagine, might be the same. In the Dauphine the same stage had the four top guys together because the last climb isn’t very selective. That will leave two mountain finishes, on Alpe d’Huez and the Col du Portet, and stage 19 which ends downhill. Its not a lot.

So who is sitting pretty? You can all groan now because Froome is sitting pretty. He seemed comfortable yesterday despite a couple of punctures. If last year’s Tour is anything to go by the top guys are all climbing at close to the same speed and genuine breaks on a French course are hard to generate, especially if teams are working against guys (Nibali, Dumoulin) who seem to be alone. Yesterday was ridden at a threshhold pace no one dared to go over. Sky were strangling the opposition. Today seems like it might be a repeat performance. Yet Quintana, Bardet, Dumoulin and Nibali, Froome’s biggest threats and yet all behind him on GC, need to find somewhere to snap the Team Sky elastic. Movistar stand out as the team with most cards. But when are they going to play?

Every day that ticks off with things unchanged helps the defending champion.

jc July 18, 2018 at 9:06 am

One small thing that might be of no moment at all. At the top of the Colombiere Alejandro Valverde appeared to be dropped for a short while. Possibly he decided he didnt need to put in the effort for whatever reason and could easily rejoin the rest on the descent but maybe he is not so good on the big alpine climbs. If so Movistar might not quite have the cards to play some assume.

kim jong vaughters July 18, 2018 at 9:15 am

In a Movistar vs Sky train head to head who would crack first? My guess is Movistar would because three of their team are looking out for number one. There is a reason Unzue teams don’t beat Sky in the Tour.

Larry T July 18, 2018 at 10:07 am

“There is a reason Unzue teams don’t beat Sky in the Tour.” Couldn’t be that SKY has double the budget of Movistar, could it? Nah, it’s those “marginal gains” we hear so much about.

kim jong vaughters July 18, 2018 at 11:03 am

Not a fan of capitalism then Larry? Those Bahrainis are hardly paupers you know but you never complain about Nibali’s financial advantages do you? They appear to be going down the Sky route (adding Rohan Dennis and other high rollers next year it seems) but I won’t expect you to complain in their case. Your narrow-minded, partisan views are are as one-eyed as they are predictable.

PS Quintana did beat Froome in the Vuelta so the budget factor would not seem to be quite as insurmountable as you wish were the case. Unzue can’t use that excuse and, to be fair, I’ve never heard him use it either.

Larry T July 18, 2018 at 1:43 pm

KJV- Actually I’m much more of a Marxist if you really want to know. What financial advantages of Nibali would I complain about? Based on this I don’t see them
https://www.velonews.com/2018/07/tour-de-france/nibali-it-may-seem-boring-but-thats-modern-cycling_472562
Finally, ignoring the massive budget differences between teams like SKY and most of the others really fits in with “narrow-minded, partisan views are are as one-eyed as they are predictable.” IMHO.

Tom L July 18, 2018 at 9:33 am

He had gearing problems, and had to put the chain back on. Easily rejoined after that..

Souln July 18, 2018 at 3:59 pm

After the stage Valverde said that he just had a problem with gearing

Richard S July 18, 2018 at 10:02 am

I’d argue that if the TT were today then Froome would be bang out if luck because he wouldn’t be taking a minute off Thomas. At some point if he wants to win and Thomas remains in top form Froome is going to have to attack his own team mate to win this race.

RonDe July 18, 2018 at 10:10 am

I think you’re probably right. But I didn’t say Froome would win if the ITT were today. I said he’d take the standings as they are and take his chances. The fact that this is only a hypothetical means that the there are still several days in which anybody could drop. In a previous scenario one of the guys to do that was Thomas. In fact, can you see any of the GC guys above Froome being there in 10 stages?

Liam July 18, 2018 at 9:12 am

Good riding from GVA yesterday but surely a last hurrah. Thomas to be in yellow tonight.

Gregario July 18, 2018 at 9:23 am

What are the odds on Froome attacking his teammate in the yellow jersey on Alpe d’Huez? It happened before with Wiggins and Porte.

Tovarishch July 18, 2018 at 9:38 am

Attacking his team mate? He could well go on the attack and it would be up to Thomas to keep with him. Froome should have more to worry about than Thomas.

DAVE July 18, 2018 at 12:41 pm

Yeah, I just don’t think this is a big deal?
We haven’t even seen Froome’s climbing legs yet, he could be dropped today you never know!
Plus, the positions are clear, Geraint is a lone wolf who’s been given the chance to freelance as a plan B. Froome is a multiple champion who has the reigns of the team to go for the win, unless the scenario arises that Geraint ends up with a ten minute lead and the yellow jersey?

I wonder more about Landa today and tomorrow. And Bardet. And Quintana. What have they got when they have to take time?

Tom July 18, 2018 at 1:41 pm

“It happened before with Wiggins and Porte”

When exactly was this?

Kilo dan July 18, 2018 at 9:34 am

T Van G for today, he’s obviously been saving himself and probably needs to demonstrate to BMC’s new sponsor he’s not an overhyped burden. Either him or one from Froome or Nibali.

The Inner Ring July 18, 2018 at 9:35 am

I think he’s signed for another team, he’ll be slipstreaming, wearing argylle knitwear and have free language lessons next year if the grapevine is to be believed.

Davo July 18, 2018 at 10:24 am

Hopefully he has managed to negotiate a salary that reflects his true worth.

yoda July 18, 2018 at 10:54 am

Yes, I’m sure his salary will be much smaller in future.

Leo S July 18, 2018 at 11:02 am

Given the strength of his negotiating position, and having read Phil Gaimon’s book, that seems unlikely (unfortunately!)

RQS July 19, 2018 at 12:06 am

Vaughters has turned slipstream into an American refugee camp of sorts. TJ has not done anything to impress for a good while. It’s a predictable move, but not a strong one for EF-Drapac.

Ronan July 18, 2018 at 9:37 am

At the other end of the race kittel, groenewegen and cav all came in 28 seconds ahead of the time limit. If the fireworks go off in the GC today there could be problems for the grupetto.

Also, there’s no final descent to bomb down to make up time.

Augie March July 18, 2018 at 1:21 pm

They’ll be fine, there’s safety in numbers and the officials in the past have shown they’re unwilling to relegate a large percentage of the field on such a day so if needs be they’ll loosen the time cut.

Anonymous July 18, 2018 at 1:27 pm

Well timed, they had 27 seconds of wasted effort! 🙂

The Inner Ring July 18, 2018 at 1:29 pm

That was the past and there’s supposed to be a stricter policy now but yet to be tested. The delay today though has been specially extended, a pre-emptive help to the gruppetto.

RQS July 19, 2018 at 12:08 am

The descent down the Glandon should help them. Huez will still be a beast.

Tom July 18, 2018 at 9:39 am

Here’s hoping Pozzovivo, one of the Izaguirre brothers, or even Nibali himself goes with Barguil today. ‘Wawa’ was chomping at the bit yesterday (before realising there was no point) and will surely look for big KOM points, and since it’s a relatively short stage, putting in a bit of effort may reap rewards for a GC contender. Froome would do it if he needed to, history shows.

The Inner Ring July 18, 2018 at 9:52 am

Nibali sent Izagirre into the move yesterday as a relay point, same for Gallopin in the move yesterday fr Bardet. We’ll see for Barguil, he still looks a touch short of form as he could barely get 10 seconds on the front group yesterday, but perhaps his move yesterday was designed for maximum visibility to signal he couldn’t take time and then to retreat, “reculer pour mieux avancer” as a French general once said.

kim jong vaughters July 18, 2018 at 10:14 am

Tom, what you call “chomping at the bit” I call “lacking form and out of sorts”. He didn’t realise there was no point. He simply didn’t have it to give.

Tom July 18, 2018 at 11:26 am

That’s entirely possible, I even thought the same at the time. But I’m going to break the habit of a lifetime and be optimistic!

Anonymous July 18, 2018 at 2:06 pm

Wawa is an appropriate nickname for Barguil this past year with his pouting, crying and whining. He’s been all piss and wind.

Anonymous July 18, 2018 at 4:34 pm

Piss and wind, coincidence that’s also your middlename?

David July 18, 2018 at 9:55 am

I still find it odd when people talk about Sky riding at a high tempo. They didn’t even gain time on the break on the final climb and some of the riders have said the pace wasn’t high (one example being Adam Yates) until Martin attacked. The finish time of the GC group was also close to the slowest time on the Tour schedule.

Today’s stage could be interesting, but why have the climbs in that order? The least interesting climb is last and I’m sure riders will probably be saying tomorrow that they didn’t see the point in going early because they knew the power riders would be able to pull them back on the low gradients of the final climb.

kim jong vaughters July 18, 2018 at 10:16 am

What does that say about Uran, Majka and Jungels then who found the pace so hard they dropped from the GC group? This “slow” pace was quite destructive to their ambitions.

David July 18, 2018 at 10:37 am

It says they were on really bad days. I think the quote from Adam Yates (available on Cyclingnews.com) sums it up best. As you can see, he does say it was a hard day, which it was given the mountains, but he also says the pace on the climb wasn’t actually that fast.

“It was a hard day – a hard day after a rest day, and sometimes that catches people out,” said Yates. “I was feeling pretty good, and I saw just before the end that some people were struggling, so I moved up just before the top, and then Dan Martin attacked almost right away. I was in a good position just as Sky started drilling it.

“It wasn’t really fast on the climb; Sky were just controlling it. They were never trying to bring the break back or go for any stage win – they were just riding to stay out of trouble. When Dan attacked, they had to chase him because he’s a danger man, so in the last few kilometres, they went pretty hard.”

Anonymous July 18, 2018 at 1:37 pm

I think you read wrong what he says. Fast or not fast is relative to what you expect. If you expect them to blow all matches, it was not „fast“ as they didn‘t do that. In that respect their tempo wasn‘t „fast“, because they weren’t going for the stage win. But in relation to possible attacks, that sticks and don‘t bite you in the ass, the tempo was indeed fast. It still was a high enough tempo to kill attacks. First because sky did a TTT the mountain up and had almost the whole team there while other riders were almost alone and second because every rider, who wants to attack must not only match that tempo, but be much faster (at least for a short time to get away). Plus, when the whole peloton says it was headwind, then I believe them it was headwind. Anything else is a bit foolish.

Aside from anything I am so tired of people blaming the road for the lack of integrity in cycling (because if there would be integrity in cycling, no team could get away with what sky does and without sky we would have normal races again as the rest of the peloton is mostly on the same level. It is just sky that sticks out, it is postal reloaded to the T). I am tired of reading/hearing: The stage was too long, too short, too steep, not steep enough, too tricky, not tricky enough, too wide, not wide enough – goddam, it is the responsibility of the riders to make it a race. And every one, who curses sky, everybody, who complains about boring races, but still watches, enables what happens (I don‘t watch. Like others I switched off cycling when froome began to dominate the giro and haven‘t switched on again. I only read cycling right now).

Anonymous July 18, 2018 at 3:15 pm

Dominating is your ‘proof’ huh. Quickstep?

Nick July 18, 2018 at 11:28 am

The peloton climbed the Col de Romme yesterday about 2 minutes slower than the Shlecks and Contador did in 2009. But they climbed the Colombiere about a minute faster than those guys.

David July 19, 2018 at 8:01 am

“why have the climbs in that order?”

Geography?

Chris July 18, 2018 at 9:57 am

How do you see Barguil performing today – he isn’t mentioned in your preview? He launched a silly attack yesterday, but eventually lost the time he needed. If he has found his good legs he should be up there for the stage win…

Richard S July 18, 2018 at 10:00 am

Yesterday was the point we reach every year when it dawns on us that the mountain stages we so look forward to at the tour every year are going to be a Sky strangled massive anti climax. More of the same today I’d imagine, someone might get lucky and snipe 5 seconds.

Larry T July 18, 2018 at 10:15 am

I had that same sinking feeling…to the point I decided to miss my chance to see the stage finish live today and instead snooze through it on TV. I hope by writing this I’ve set myself up to regret it and it’s a cracking stage that will keep me awake – with people racing to win rather than not to lose.
Vive LeTour!

HairyBearCub July 18, 2018 at 11:31 am

Ahhhhh yes. It’s Sky’s fault no one had the balls/energy/wherewithal to take the race to them.

I’d agree with you quite a lot of the time but Luke Rowe was on front for most of yesterday which hardly demonstrates Sky ‘strangling’ the race. More other teams were saving themselves having identified this as a ‘dead rubber’ day.

Blame Sky when it’s appropriate but don’t blanket blame them every time a ‘GC stage’ doesnt excite you

DAVE July 18, 2018 at 12:37 pm

Not sure Larry is saying that to be fair?

He just said it was a boring stage – which is kind of true?
And however exciting Froome can be, the Sky train can deaden things for the neutral.
Not always their fault, but you can see why people would blame them?

Larry T July 18, 2018 at 1:29 pm

Why can’t one blame SKY when they put 5 guys in front of Froome and set a pace that snuffs out any hopes of attacking? It was dull when BigTex did it (though nobody is going to argue its effectiveness) and it’s dull now.
It would be dull if Bahrain-Merida did it for Nibali (though I can’t claim I wouldn’t be smiling a bit as SKY was dealt a taste of their own medicine) or Movistar did it for Quintana.
Plenty of folks posting here have their faves and I’m certainly one of them, but where we differ is when it seems so many would be over-the-moon watching a dull race strangled by a super-team, as long as their hero was the one in yellow.

Anonymous July 18, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Sky did that on the last climb. What’s the excuse to blame them for the 4 before that Larry?

cd July 18, 2018 at 4:22 pm

I just don’t understand this line of thinking. We blame them for going too hard? I mean Luke Rowe was on the front, or Castrovejo. It’s the other riders who were too happy to sit out of the wind who are to blame. The train is only effective based on who the caboose is – Froome, who like it or not is the most talented GT rider right now. Same with Armstrong (though that was something other than talent). People just like villains (Sky, Man U, Yankees)

Larry T July 18, 2018 at 6:38 pm

The SKY fans need to relax. While I hate the sponsor and the management, in many ways I think the riders are just pawns (well paid, but) in the game. If I had a massive budget to “beat ’em or buy ’em” like SKY has I might well do the same thing to insure GT wins.
BUT that doesn’t make the racing exciting and they do it because it’s terribly effective. Dull, but effective. They get the blame for making things dull just like Anquetil did.
I woke up today when Valverde tried to inject some excitement into the race and then again when BigTom made a go on the descent (great to see the “mow ’em down in the crono” guy change things up a bit) but then started to doze off when the SKY boyz lined up again. It’s like a Saturn 5 rocket as each stage is burned up and jettisoned while the other GC contenders just hang on or drift off the back. Dull.
But at least this time SKY changed it up a bit too, with most-everyone-else-on-here’s fave G. Thomas taking the stage and jersey. So while I still hate the team and its management, at least they changed things up a bit and kept me awake. Let’s have another go like that one tomorrow boyz!
Meanwhile, the GC battle’s getting whittled down to (I’d say) the big 3 of Froome, Dumoulin and Nibali at 1:25, 1:44 and 2:14 respectively. I’ll be very surprised if the fatigue of the Giro doesn’t take a bit out of those guys in the final week, which plays to Nibali’s advantage…and there’s always the polemics (real and imagined) between Thomas and Froome to consider.
I think it would be interesting to see Thomas attack Il Frullatore and really try to win…but it’s hard not to see the Wiggo/Froome situation setting the precedent.
Vive LeTour!

Tom July 18, 2018 at 11:35 am

Well said. Maybe because I did it last week 😉 I wanted there to be fireworks, just to be awe inspired by how much better they all are than us mere mortals. C’est dommage. But I will be lining the route tomorrow quand même.

JS 10 July 18, 2018 at 10:01 am

In many ways this stage c0uld be carbon copy of yesterday-the final climb isn’t steep enough to force a decisive attack.However, the battle to get into the breakaway could be quite entertaining as the composition has to be acceptable to the GC boys.Also Bardet better pray that he doesn’t have a mechanical, Im sure G hasn’t forgot his antics !

DAVE July 18, 2018 at 12:34 pm

I have that feeling to. Someone just needs to put their foot down on the first mountain.
It’s Bardet or Martin surely – Uran should get on that train if his legs have improved.
Maybe Bora might lend a hand if Sagan’s going for points and feels like giving Majka a bump up the rankings?
Movistar will sit tight and ride on others coat tails before putting the final nail in the coffin if the opportunity arises.

JS 10 July 18, 2018 at 1:14 pm

The danger here is not of who and when to attack,but the distinct possibility that Sky would launch a counter attack.Any attack by Bernal with probably Thomas would put the GC contenders into a complete panic as they would have no choice but to try and reel them in.Froome could sit in his chair waiting forPoels to tow him up to the front.The GC contenders would have a dilemma let Thomas go or stay with Froome.Either scenario would require Movistar to sacrifice one of Land or Quintana ,the others would have gamble and pick who to follow.

Dime July 18, 2018 at 10:35 am

Hopefully Thomas will do unto Froome what Froome would do unto Thomas if the gap was reversed. Never underestimate the appetite (greed?) of grand tour winners for more and more.

DAVE July 18, 2018 at 12:32 pm

Ha – this is being said everyday – what has Froome ever done to Geraint that’s stoked all this up!
They seem like friends, and Froome’s never been anything other than supportive to G?
Just seems to me like two pretty nice guys looking to win the TDF if the chance is there?
If Froome attacks or calls the shots with the team I don’t think G would or could have any complaints considering F’s a x4 TDF champ and holds all three GT’s currently?
If Thomas attacks, likewise Froome, as G’s made his intentions clear all year? But until F is 10mins down of G I don’t think it’s likely he will have any say in what the team’s doing and probably wouldn’t expect to.

Feels like quite respectful competition and if it becomes a rivalry I can imagine they’re two people who’ll sort it out on the road? Froome knows G wants this TDF and feels it might be his only chance so should expect him to be quite hardnosed. G knows Froome will keep trying to win till the penultimate stage?

May the best man win. The odds say Froome but who knows?

Cassandra July 18, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Team sky have made it very clear that Froome is the designated team leader.

Presumably G will do for Froome what Froome did for Wiggins ( rather less deservingly, IMHO).

How is it greedy to to want to do your job to the best of your ability? Is that what your boss thinks?

Dime July 18, 2018 at 1:10 pm

We’ll see.

Barbarossa July 18, 2018 at 1:30 pm

G’s an adult. He’s had plenty of opportunities to go to another team and be the guy. He hasn’t taken them. If you’re on the team of a 6-time GT winner and current best GC guy in the peloton he’s the leader, until proven otherwise. G’s always been a good soldier – sometimes/often not his benefit (palmares-wise, I assume financially he’s done just fine) and I doubt that will change now, or even if it did that Brailsford etc would tolerate it for an instant.

If it someone turns into 5 minutes or whatever instead of 1, different story, tho barring crashes/illness that seems very unlikely if not impossible. Not to mention G has exactly zero track record of managing a three-week GC effort.

I’m a fan of the dude but like everyone else I think he would’ve been better off (tho again, probably not financially) focusing on classics and one-week races. Kwiat is having the career G could’ve had, basically.

Anonymous July 18, 2018 at 1:43 pm

Hopefully we wont witness a Gentleman’s Excuse Me around France with the big trophy landing on the same mantlepiece!

k23435 July 18, 2018 at 10:43 am

Regarding attacking Sky yesterday:
According to the twitter feed of Ammattipyöräily the GC group were climbing up the Col de la Colombiere at VAM of 1750 m/h. That is quite a brisk pace.

Gregario July 18, 2018 at 11:27 am

The Stava data of Bardet even lists a VAM of 1781. Not much you can do while the pace it that high. Contador on Verbier in 2009 had an estimated VAM of around 1860 m/h on a climb of a more or less similar length, although wind might have played a role here. If, as reported, there was a headwind on Colombiere, there is no chance a single rider could have gotten away from the pack without blowing up.

DAVE July 18, 2018 at 12:32 pm

Thank you for these readings. Interesting.

Jovelo July 18, 2018 at 12:21 pm

Well, the Luke Rowe argument can cut both way:
-The pace wasn’t so high
and/or:
-Luke Rowe’s performance was (way) above what we expected of him…
The “Sky Train” yesterday reminded me too much of the “US Postal” train of yore…

Tovarishch July 18, 2018 at 12:34 pm

You see what you want to.

Anonymous July 18, 2018 at 12:30 pm

GC: Break away on the next to last climb, descend fast and do an ITT climb on the final mountain.

Anonymous July 18, 2018 at 12:53 pm

Could bardet win?

noel July 18, 2018 at 1:01 pm

was a shame to see Jungels dropping off on the first real test… was very surprised about Zak and Majka though…

Anonymous July 18, 2018 at 1:36 pm

Seeing the autobus rolling in so close to the time limit I began wondering about competition between riders there. Is it a gentlemanly group mentality of all sticking together and surviving, or might say Kittel and Cavendish see an opportunity to lift the pace a little, drop Groenewegen and so remove a key rival from the race?

The Inner Ring July 18, 2018 at 1:44 pm

Normally everyone works together but they try to stick to a set schedule/pace and if someone is suffering and putting this in danger they’re unlikely to wait.

ocaz July 18, 2018 at 2:15 pm

They did leave it quite close yesterday – 28 seconds. I know the race stewards can make a decision to extend the cut and I don’t know if the autobus was more than 20% of the starters yesterday but out of interest – do the race stewards/commissars give them a bit of a warning during the race to basically tell them to put more effort in or is it more about team managers telling them to get moving to avoid the cut? As the true time cut is a moving target during the race I guess so just wondered how they judge their effort at the back of the pack in terms of taking it easy but not too easy to avoid the risk of missing the time cut.

The Inner Ring July 18, 2018 at 2:17 pm

The team directors help via the radios etc and the riders do a lot of mental arithmetic, something that is not so easy after 180km etc. With experience riders know how much they can hang back on the climbs and how much they have to gain on the descent, often the best descending in the race is in the gruppetto, helped by the big riders dropping like stones but also because they have to take back time.

Foley July 18, 2018 at 7:23 pm

tweet from inrng:

“Katusha-Alpecin’s Rick Zabel included in today’s stage results, he missed the time cut by 5 seconds and commissaires showed clemency, so contrary to some reports looks like he rides on”

Michael Clark July 18, 2018 at 2:11 pm

Was a little surprised other teams didn’t push the pace a bit more earlier in the stage yesterday to get rid of Rowe / Skys other non pure climbers if only to ensure that Sky would get the jersey, and be burdened more with controlling things today and to push the leadership debate further to the forefront.

Richard S July 18, 2018 at 2:35 pm

Just watching the start of todays stage and thinking what a farce the green jersey competition is at the moment. There was an intermediate sprint about 1okm into the stage that only Sagan went for and he rolled through uncontested. What is the point in that? What is the competition hoping to reward? Currently Sagan absolutely dominates for 2 reasons. He’s the only rider capable of winning or podiuming on flat all out sprints and getting to these ‘intermediate sprints’ over the crests of climbs in the alps. And also, he seems to be the only person who wants to. Nobody even attempted to go with him today. Why not just have points at the finish line for the green jersey. Then although Sagan would probably still win he’d at least have to sweat a bit and would still have Gaviria and Groenewegen to worry about. At the moment with the points distributed as they are (25 for an intermediate sprint compared to the same at the finish on a mountain stage and about 5 for the same thing at the Gir0) there will be no contest at all and its a complete none entity. Sagan doesn’t even need to go for anymore points he’s so far ahead.

Before I get rounded on by nearly everyone this isn’t a criticism of Sagan , he’s racing as required to win, its a criticism of how that competition is organised.

Larry T July 18, 2018 at 4:36 pm

Reminds me of criticism of the polka-dot jersey awhile back. Seemed one could get enough points with long-range attacks and croak at the end when the rest of the climbers got serious and still end up with the jersey in Paris. Or have all the rest of the green jersey contestants just thrown in the towel vs Sagan?

ocaz July 18, 2018 at 4:53 pm

Well i think this is the issue, Sagan is unique in that he can do a lot of things very well and those who are in a chance for the jersey it just don’t want to try compete and potentially waste energy going for intermediate sprints when they keep their powder dry for sprint stages where they get a stage win plus add in the fact he had like a 100 point lead going into today’s stage so even if you contest it what do you gain on him at best a few points?

If anything they’re trying to make it more difficult for him by changing point weightings.

Andrew July 18, 2018 at 6:12 pm

I don’t know how many times they have changed it to try to make it harder for Sagan- he just keeps adapting and winning it. But for last year’s debacle, he’d have the record already. He’s going to put it so far away no one will ever touch it.

KevinK July 18, 2018 at 9:54 pm

Last year the intermediate sprints kept it interesting between Matthews and Kittel, at least until Kittel dropped out. The race organizers would have to make it a different kind of competition to keep Sagan from winning again and again. They could weigh the finishes more so it favors pure sprinters, and then you’d see Cav/Kittel/Gaviria (depending on the year) utterly dominate, and it would be even more boring. Or they could make the intermediate sprints much harder, in which case they’d mostly go to breakaway riders, which would prove what?

Today’s romp for the intermediate points were just a confirmation that the competition is over. Sagan was just too good during the first 9 stages. Perhaps if Gaviria hadn’t head-butted Greipel, and he’d managed to also take at least one of Groenewegen’s wins, then he would have been chasing the points today with Sagan. I still think it would be futile, but he’d at least give it a try.

Sagan is the only sprinter in the race who isn’t also stressing about the time cuts. He’s just on another level than the other fast finishers. In the first 8 road stages, he finished 2, 1, 2, 1, 8, 3, 2, 5. That’s incredible! How could someone with that kind of ability not run away with the points competition, especially when he can also get over the small mountains and grab his share of any intermediate sprint?

Davo July 18, 2018 at 10:36 pm

For those who say the green jersey comp has become boring KevinK has just proved you wrong. 2, 1, 2, 1, 8, 3, 2, 5 were his finishing positions until yesterday. Perhaps we should just accept he is a once in a generation type of rider and he will find a way of filling his boots until he gets bored. Talent should never be seen as common place.

Richard S July 18, 2018 at 11:10 pm

That’s kind of my point. Even without the intermediate sprints Sagan would be dominant. The intermediates have pushed it too far towards him. I don’t want him to not win, just that the competition makes sense. It was originally to reward consistent finishing, so just points at the finish equal for all stages makes sense to me. At the minute it’s a kind of hybrid sprints/breakaways competition.

KevinK July 19, 2018 at 7:12 pm

@RichardS – My guess is that the case you’re talking about (the intermediate sprint placed very early in the stage, and before any mountains) was actually aimed to throw a bone to some of the sprinters who can’t do what Sagan does so easily (both finish high in all manner of stages, and also get to the late intermediate sprints, after a couple of mountains, and mop up all the points left after the breakaway riders took their share). Gaviria was consistently getting more intermediate sprint points than Sagan up until that stage, I believe, and other sprinters were nabbing points, too.

I tend to agree that the green jersey could be only about finish line points, but then the problem of how to give the first 4.5 hours of a 5-hour race some drama rears it’s head again.

Anonymous July 18, 2018 at 3:09 pm

‘To those who say their rivals should attack: they would if they could.’
If that’s true, they might as well give up now. If the top GC riders in the world can’t go up mountains faster than Sky’s domestiques what hope is there for them?

a non July 18, 2018 at 6:07 pm

The rest of the race is now about which TEAM SKY rider wins the Tour. The so-called favourites got schooled by a masterclass today.

blue bidon July 18, 2018 at 6:28 pm

A way to go, but the performances of Froome & Dumoulin so far seem to suggest that the Giro/Tour double is very doable in the modern era, contrary to recent popular opinion. (Does the extra week really matter that much? I’m not convinced.)

motormouth July 18, 2018 at 6:43 pm

so it’s still early in the Tour to say it’s doable, let’s see in week three.

also this is the fourth consecutive GT for Froome in a row, not just the second.

Foley July 18, 2018 at 6:37 pm

“A way to go” indeed. NB Geraint Thomas fanpersons.

Charlie July 18, 2018 at 9:34 pm

What’s wrong with been a Geraint Thomas fan ? A really down to earth guy who always makes time to speak to media and fans . Oh I know, we are supposed to hate anybody who rides for Sky

Foley July 18, 2018 at 10:07 pm

Nothing wrong at all, I like G myself. I just think his chance of a podium is distinctly overstated around here, and the idea he’ll be able to challenge Froome is silly.

Bern July 18, 2018 at 9:01 pm

Lacking other options, I’d say a Thomas/Froome faceoff could develop into a quite entertaining show…

Anonymous July 18, 2018 at 9:07 pm

Does the time cut off need to be reconsidered for short stages? The flip side of short stages which are raced all out (or close to it) from the start is that it pretty much guarantees a number of sprinters will miss the time cut. It seems to me an unintended consequence of changing the dynamics of the stage to encourage more full on action. On the longer stages the climbers have more downtime when the sprinters can catch up a bit, and the longer time for the stage gives the sprinters more wiggle room too.

The Inner Ring July 18, 2018 at 9:09 pm

The time cuts vary, the shorter stages now have more generous limits so there has been adjustment and today’ stage had an extra allowance added on top too. You can see the tables/chart at inrng.com/tour.

Motormouth July 18, 2018 at 10:36 pm

It’s interesting because percentages skew based on distance/time, and you couldn’t imagine a more difficult ‘short’ stage than basically chopping all the flat parts off and leaving the mountain sequence haha.

I hope Cavendish can sue them and they’ll reconsider their time cut methodology as it leads to false time cut positives. 😀

Megi July 18, 2018 at 9:53 pm

Every sprinter left in the race will now be putting a great big black ring if they hadn’t already round Stage 17 (65 km with 2 x Cat 1 and an HC summit finish).
Expect to see them taking as easy as possible after Alpe d’Huez as they save energy for another titanic struggle against the cut-off point.

Had today’s stage been given 25 per cent for the HD like Stage 17, would that have saved Kittel and Renshaw – and would Cavendish have speeded up if he thought he had a chance to make the cut?

SArover July 18, 2018 at 10:55 pm

Last times a team was this dominant.

Contador-Kloden-Armstrong-Leipheimer

Schleck-Schleck-Sastre

Armstrong-Landis-Hamilton-Leipheimer

Anonymous July 18, 2018 at 11:53 pm

Go Thomas Go!!

EasyTiger July 19, 2018 at 12:45 am

I actually agree with the time cuts. It’s the Tour de France after all and not a casual ride through the French countryside. If a sprinter can’t hang then why should he be entitled to the chance at a stage victory. Kudos to the ASO for actually enforcing a rule.

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