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The Moment The Tour de France Was Won

Pinch yourself, it’s over. After a glorious parade around Paris, the sun set on a vintage edition of the race which provided action and variety across three weeks. It’s impossible to pick one moment of the race but as a symbol let’s go with Egan Bernal on the Col du Galibier, he’s distanced everyone with a strong attack and it’s a move propels him up into second overall, now just 1m30s behind Julian Alaphilippe which puts him just ahead of his team mate Geraint Thomas and well clear of the others. Thibaut Pinot, for reasons we’d later discover, can’t close the gap and nor can Steven Kruijswijk and Emanuel Buchmann either.

Where to begin? A roundabout in Andorra where Egan Bernal crashed and had to skip the Giro? The road in Pouilly-les-Nonains where a gust of wind caught Chris Froome’s wheels? We could start in Brussels but in a Tour that would end with some “what if” questions, these freak circumstances helped shape things too.

The start in Brussels was a celebration of Eddy Merckx and more than a theme, the warmth of the public towards him was palpable. It was a jackpot for Jumbo-Visma with Mike Teunissen taking a surprise stage win and they won the team time trial stage win. In the moment the story was just how close gaps were but with hindsight it gave Steven Kruijswijk a head start over Emanuel Buchmann and his Bora-Hansgrohe team of 46 seconds and come Paris the Dutchman was third overall and on the podium some 25 seconds ahead. It’s too simplistic to say the TTT settled third and fourth place in Paris but it played its part.

The race returned to France and Julian Alaphilippe took the stage and the yellow jersey in Epernay and backstage once he saw the yellow jersey he burst into tears. Most thought he’d quickly lose his fizz as quickly as a bottle of champagne and it suited some teams to have him in yellow so that Deceuninck-Quickstep would work. Remember when we were asking if he could hold on to the jersey at the Planche des Belles Filles? He’d go on to be the star of the race and reach an audience that wins in Sanremo and Huy earlier this year can’t deliver. On the same day the field split and both Thibaut Pinot and Egan Bernal made it on the right side while Geraint Thomas just missed and lost five seconds. Almost anecdotal but at the time we were wondering about Thomas’s form and as we’ll get to later, this gap would count in a small way in the Alps.

Peter Sagan got his stage win in Colmar. He’s won the green jersey without winning a stage before but got one this time from a reduced bunch sprint and now wins the green jersey for a seventh time. He quickly built a lead and had no contest. The sight of him in green feels like a cliché every July but let’s note his consistency and how he left the likes of Michael Matthews scratching their heads and if Caleb Ewan was the fastest sprinter he was still far off the points classification because he saved himself by not contesting many intermediate points.

Toulouse photo finish

Ewan took three sprint stages and was the most consistent of the trio of top sprinters. Dylan Groenewegen and Elia Viviani had a stage each but were more volatile – Viviani was pace-setting in the mountains – while Ewan never placed lower than third in any of the sprints and all three were reliable compared to the others. Yet the Australian was never imperious, he won when it mattered but it was a close competition and the way the sprint finishes were spread out across the three weeks meant they were lively rather than repetitive.

The Planche des Belles Filles was the first rendez-vous for the GC contenders and came at the end of a hard day in the Vosges mountains where Dylan Teuns took the stage and Giulio Ciccone the yellow jersey. This time it was Super Planche as riders rode through the old finish to take a dusty track with a 22% gradients at the finish, a summit finish chased by a Strade Bianche segment and the Koppenberg stuck on top. It reads like a gimmick but raced like a dream, with dust clouds and footage of riders surging and collapsing in the final 200m was spectacular yet didn’t blow the GC apart. Alaphilippe lost the jersey but attacked while Thomas made a late surge to cancel the five second deficit he’d lost in Epernay and Pinot played it cool, it would have been easy to get carried away on his local mountain but he saved himself for the final ramp.

The stage to Chalon-sur-Saône was probably the most boring to watch in full with a forlorn breakaway from Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis) and Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Gobert) but kudos to them for trying when other teams hid in the peloton, the likes of Total Direct Energie tried to save themselves for the second half of the race but weren’t the baroudeurs of before and World Tour squads like Dimension Data and Katusha-Alpecin fared no better and now sit lower on the UCI rankings than Cofidis and Wanty-Gobert. Rossetto’s 32 and rode his first Tour, racking 809km in the breakaways, more than anyone else. Just starting the Tour was a win for Offredo, temporarily tetraplegic after a crash in the GP de Denain in March and he told L’Equipe’s Philippe Brunel how was rushed to hospital where the doctor said he’d had another Wanty rider in the very same bed, this turned out to be his late team mate Antoine Demoitié and once Offredo resumed training he had to be prescribed anti-anxiety medicine to keep going. Anecdotal but it shows everyone has their stories from the top to the bottom of GC, and the Tour, with its giant media caravan, can tell us so much. July must be what it’s like to be a football fan, with cycling filling out the pages of L’Equipe and sometimes making the front pages elsewhere too, add on total TV coverage and then after day’s sport you can take your pick of radio phone-ins and if you still have a quiet moment there are podcasts galore to tease out more.

The stage to Saint-Etienne is one for the ages. A breakaway of just four riders seemed too small amid the Beaujolais vineyards but Thomas De Gendt would take one of his best wins, he hardly lost any time in the final kilometres. Alaphilippe put in a late attack and Thibaut Pinot jumped away with him. It put Alaphilippe back in yellow and put goosebumps on Pinot: look closely at his legs in the picture. It didn’t need hindsight to see this move wasn’t going to change the race but it showed Alaphilippe attacking where everyone expected him to attack and still pulling it off while Pinot was in sparkling form, almost every day something was happening to make the race lively. Indeed earlier Geraint Thomas had crashed on the descent and escaped unscathed, and the way he bridged back showed his form.

The stage to Albi ended up as more than sprint finish thanks to the crosswinds and roundabouts. Alaphilippe – him again – was instrumental in pulling the race apart and Groupama-FDJ were among those caught out and they almost got back, one point Pinot and Fuglsang were 11 seconds away but it was their haste and panic that saw them burn up the chase and meant they finished 1m40s behind in Albi. Wout van Aert won the stage to mark his golden Tour debut and this triumph saved the blushes of Jumbo-Visma who had started the day with George Bennett fourth overall but they let him fetch bottles just as the wind got up. Bennett though came to support Kruijswijk and he and Laurens De Plus were the two most consistent lieutenants in the race, when Kruijswijk stepped on the podium in Paris it was in part thanks to them.

Simon Yates will be an unsung hero of the race. A late pick to help his brother Adam, he ended up winning two stages in the Pyrenees, alongside stage wins for team mates Darly Impey and Matteo Trentin. Forever seen as twins and subject to comparisons, the two now have very different records.

The Pau TT was a big day for a race defined by its climbs. Recent editions of the Tour have had few kilometres of time trialling and this time the only individual TT came in the middle of the race. The Tour was better for it, nobody would go into the mountains with a joker to play on the way out. Alaphilipe won, he set the fastest time at the first time check and it looked like he’d flounder on the flatter run back to Pau but matched Geraint Thomas and then sprinted up the final ramp into town to take back a few seconds more and finish the day further ahead on GC than he started. It turned out he’d visited the course for a recon which raises eyebrows about his approach the race, as if he’d nurtured ambitions for the GC all along. Then again you could look at the Tour’s route and see how he could take yellow at some point on the way to Pau and so riding a good TT would help to preserve the jersey rather than, and besideshe only lives a short drive away in Andorra. The win surprised some and even made some suspicious but this was probably the height of this year’s dopage talk and people surprised to see Alaphilippe climbing well and winning time trials but they might have missed him climbing well the previous year or winning time trials this year and before, but all this is narrative rather than facts, a Rohrschach test where people see patterns rather than knowing anything.

The Tourmalet summit finish was a set-piece stage and Movistar and Groupama-FDJ got to work. Ineos rode differently, partly because they didn’t have a lead to defend but several of their riders just weren’t riding as well and talk of “strategy” sounds like spin. Movistar fared worse, their pace-setting dropped Nairo Quintana and it was symbolic of their bizarre race, winning the team prize but at times riding each other down. The Colombian would still take a stage win in the Alps, a consolation after a hard crash earlier in the race. Groupama-FDJ looked more cohesive and David Gaudu thinned the lead group down on the upper slopes of the Tourmalet. Emanuel Buchmann launched the attack that sunk Thomas, this was the first glimpse of the defending champion losing his crown and rounding the final hairpin bend Pinot attacked and put daylight between all the others to win the stage and lift his morale 2,115 metres high.

The next day while Simon Yates was riding to a second stage win at the Prat d’Albis, Pinot attacked with seven kilometres to go. This move changed plenty because for the first time Alaphilippe started to lose time, he tried to match the others as they tried to follow but was redlining and cracked, Icarus was beginning to lose a few feathers. Yet he went into the Pyrenees 1m11s ahead on GC and came out of them 1m35s ahead and was starting to look a lot more tenacious. We got a climbing pecking order on the climbs with Pinot as the aggressor who, thanks to his attacks and time bonuses, gained 1m41 on the two mountain stages to reverse his Albi damnation. Bernal was only just shaken off by Pinot but all on a slope that had eased off so it took force to do this. Buchmann was close and then further down came Thomas and Kruijswijk to make six contenders.

Stage 18 was the first big day in the Alps with three climbs over 2,000m and while Nairo Quintana won the stage thanks to a fierce attack on the Galibier out of the breakaway, behind Egan Bernal jumped quickly and opened up a gap on the GC rivals approaching 30 seconds. Thomas tried an attack and it was a curious move, explained later as a deliberate team tactic but do we buy this? Both Bernal and Thomas were competing for the win and it seemed to show. Still Thomas’s move didn’t come with much of cost for the team, he could try to see if he could make it but without reeling in Bernal. The day ended with Bernal now up to second overall and with the first option on the yellow jersey should Alaphilippe crack again and the Colombian was just five seconds ahead of his team mate, the same gap caused by the split in Epernay all those days ago. It didn’t give Bernal automatic rights but it did show him climbing faster and now able to show he was ahead. What we didn’t know was Pinot was injured and telling a soigneur at the finish “I could hardly pedal… it’s ruined“.

Up until this point we’d had a Tour à la Netflix with days of Hitchcockian suspense and cliffhangers. But Stage 19 was if the gods decided to sack the screenwriter and draft in Werner Herzog. First Pinot, a central character, was written out of the script to heighten the pathos. He’d torn a quadriceps muscle, a rare injury, the kind you get in football or contact sports and he was out of the race before we could see what he’d do in the Alps. Then Herzog struck again, this time as clouds gathered over the Graian peaks and within minutes the wrath of nature was pitted against the race, the route white with giant hailstones while further down the mountain rocks poured over the road. It was all diabolus ex machina, an unsolvable problem sent from the heavens. Within minutes the race director and UCI commissaires decided to stop the stage and retroactively apply the times taken at the top of the Col d’Iseran for the overall classification. Unsatisfactory but probably the wisest decision in the circumstances but leaving a big question as to whether Bernal would have rode into Tignes with Simon Yates to become the uncontested race leader or whether Kruijswijk and De Plus would have reeled him back. Perhaps David Lynch wrote this section of the script and things are meant to be this vague? More realistically it’s the flipside of the Tour de France and indeed any bike race as it takes place outside: there’s no stadium with a retractable roof, there are no breaks because of rain and roads across the mountains are opened and closed many times a year, vast resources are spent ensuing the Tour can pass sometimes but a sudden storm can change the course of a race.

The final mountain stage was cut short because of weather damage. We saw Vincenzo Nibali win, adding another golden line to his palmarès and once again Movistar confused. Julian Alaphilippe started the morning second overall and started the stage with French TV asking if he could win the stage and reclaim the jersey but he was too polite to say much in return. Indeed Jumbo-Visma got to work early on the climb and this showed their ambition was to crack Alaphilippe rather than Thomas and Kruijswijk and they duly got their team leader onto the podium in Paris. Romain Bardet was dropped but won the mountains competition and saved his Tour with this. The sight of him in full polka-dot kit on the final stage was audacious for someone who’d only crossed one climb in first place – the Port de Lers – but don’t hate the player, hate the game. This year’s competition saw HC climbs given double their usual points and so tilted it away from Tim Wellens who had worn the jersey for much of the race but he struggled to score at altitude. Perhaps the solution for next year is to revert the scale, rewarding the riders who score throughout with more points? The danger with fiddling in order to revise one year’s result and in this instance you could end up rewarding someone who is dropped on the big climbs. It’s much more a contest defined by its winner rather than one that makes the rider, for example Alaphilippe’s win last year for example was satisfying, he made the jersey his own.

Finally the chart above shows the GC standings throughout the race. For a lively race, the lines still track each other, this wasn’t a story of wild swings in fortunes, of rising and sinking fortunes; it was snakes-and-ladders for Pinot and Alaphilippe but less so with the others who had a more gradual advance to Paris. The blue line of Alaphilippe rode high for far longer than anyone expected and his challengers curves only started to tilt up well beyond the half-way point, until then Alaphilippe was taking time all over the place, from Brussels Pau via Epernay and Saint-Etienne. Thomas rode the steadiest of races but how could he have converted this into a win? Kruijswijk and Buchmann rode similar races, the German faring worse in the two time trials but rivals in the mountains, Kruijswijk’s podium place was a steady ride and Buchmann never got the better of him but the German is six years younger and still a work-in-progress. Pinot’s line is the most dynamic, that big fall on Stage 10 cost him but he closed the gap in the Pyrenees before it all ended. For years he’s had an ambigous relation with the Tour, a debut stage win, a triumph at Alpe d’Huez but also four DNFs but this time he says it’s all about the Tour and he promises to be back.

The Verdict
The favourite won and Ineos picked up where Team Sky left off with a podium 1-2. Only it was all so different. This was a glorious three weeks with action, intensity and variety, not just because the overall winner wasn’t obvious until late but the daily stage battles and varied route delivered plenty. The best ever? Maybe not thanks to the weather going rogue for two Alpine stages, plus Pinot’s absence left a vacuum. It’s been an edition to savour in the moment and scored some very high TV ratings and now it’s done the 2019 Tour surely passes the “DVD test” because you’d buy the DVD highlights video to watch over winter. You’d buy a DVD player as well.

For much of the three weeks Bernal’s win was possible yet often uncertain and at times unlikely. The route through the Vosges and Massif central brought variety and drama with riders willing to exploit it, none more so than Julian Alaphilippe who enlivened the race, whether the early stage wins or turning defence into offence. He cried when he saw his yellow jersey, as did Bernal such is the power of the 100 year old icon. If Pinot’s absence dampened the stage and the finale of the race, the neutralisation of Stage 19 iced things. There was little else to do and taking the times while not awarding the stage win is probably the wisest conclusion, yet still unsatisfactory. We’ll never know whether Bernal would have ridden onto victory Tignes but he’s got time on his side to show us. He’s won Paris-Nice and the Tour de Suisse so far this year and this win was earned rather than delivered by the commissaires. He was ahead on the Galibier and opened up a big gap on the Iseran. Among the GC contenders only Pinot was superior in the mountains while at Val Thorens as Bernal sat up to shake hands with Thomas he’d distanced Kruijswijk and Buchmann so the podium feels right.

It’s the first Colombian win in Paris after Fabio Parra, Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Urán have stood on the podium and about time given the country’s passion for cycling and a production line of talent, we could have seen stage wins from Fernando Gaviria and Miguel Angel Lopez had they rode and watch out for the likes of Daniel Martinez, Sergio Higuita and Ivan Sosa soon. The first of many for Bernal? As a general observation the sport has seen plenty of riders who looked set to dominate only to flop. Yet on specifics Bernal seems grounded, mature beyond his 22 years – he almost gave up cycling to go into journalism, briefly attending a private university and didn’t have one of those mythical upbringings where he had to ride 15km uphill to school on a rusty bike and then pedal 15km back home uphill – plus he is a complete rider who can handle mountains and plains alike. Still this was hardly the victory of a cannibal, he didn’t win a stage, his time trial saw him lose almost a minute to Pinot and Kruijswijk, he was dropped in the Pyrenees before making the difference in the Alps and it’s the closest podium of all time so he’s far from invincible.

We’ll see what 2020 brings. Usually snippets of the route leak out in the final week of the race but so far there’s nothing beyond the advertised grand départ in Nice: possibly the Puy Mary in the Auvergne, maybe a detour via Switzerland and most likely some surprises. The good news is that 2020 is an Olympic year and the Tour de France has been brought forward to avoid a clash with the Tokyo games so there’s even less time to wait until it starts all over again.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Augie March Monday, 29 July 2019, 4:19 pm

    It’s apposite you invoke the names of various film directors because this Tour de France really did feel like a movie, one with a great cast, quality drama and exciting action, only for it to fizzle out at the end. It’s like the studio gave notes to the screenwriter with orders to “wrap this up quickly within a couple of pages”, and so they killed off one of the main characters and had a sudden deus ex machina resolve the plot.

    I know that many others are hailing this TDF as a glorious edition that will loom large in the history of pro cycling, but I feel that may be an overreaction to a series of dull Tours dominated by one strong rider that we’ve been used to of late. As I said the other day, the race should be decided on the road, any time where the race jury get to make a decision that changes the outcome, no matter how extensively it’s justified after the fact, will always be, at least to me, most unsatisfying.

    • Lukyluk Monday, 29 July 2019, 5:01 pm

      The Tour de France is the new Game of Thrones: everyone was riveted to their seat for 18 stages, only to be let down with the finale.

      • oldDAVE Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 5:53 pm

        This is funny.

    • Evans J Monday, 29 July 2019, 6:37 pm

      It was a brilliant TdF and the best we’re likely to see for quite a number of years to come, I suspect – the most open, certainly.
      But like you, Augie March, the ending left me disappointed. It looked like Bernal was the strongest, but because of the curtailment of Stage 19 we don’t actually know that.
      As it was, the biggest chunk of time he took was at a finish line that wasn’t there when he crossed it.
      No-one’s fault – least of all his – but unsatisfactory. There was no good answer to the situation, but I’d like to have seen the stage annulled combined Saturday’s stage being repeated on Sunday to provide Alaphilippe’s rivals more of an opportunity to take back the time he would have been – unfairly – given back.
      More disappointing in many ways was Pinot having to leave the race, as he was the only rider who looked like he might be Bernal’s equal.

      • KevinR Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 9:25 am

        Repeating the stage is a nice idea but in reality is pie in the sky

    • Larry T Monday, 29 July 2019, 8:01 pm

      +1 Some positives from this edition: Nobody was hit by vehicles in the caravan. Very few TV shots of costumed morons running in the road. No spectators knocked any of the riders off their bikes, though there were a few close calls. Bradley Wiggins was great on the moto for Eurosport, especially his digs at INEOS’ Dave B. French riders were up there trying to win rather than not to lose.
      Negatives: Mother Nature’s untimely actions. French TV director managed to miss a bunch of attacks. The usual illogical actions of the French police in charge of road closures.
      One final big positive: The Inner Ring blog. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think this is now the only interesting thing on the ‘net that has (yet) to be completely taken over by the advertisers who pay the bills. There’s Shopping Tips, The Shill of Cycling, the Journal of Competitive Shopping and on and on. Some might ask the readers to pony up some dough but it’s no secret the advertisers pay the bills and call the shots. You’re all we have left. Please don’t sell out Mr. Inrng – setup an online donation scheme so this forum can continue to serve the readers rather than marketing-mavens of an industry that cares little about sport except for it’s marketing opportunities. Vive LeTour! Vive The Inner Ring!

      • Esteban Monday, 29 July 2019, 9:58 pm

        +++Agree

      • J-Man's Dad Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 12:18 am

        Super +1 on your final big positive, Larry T.

        Inrng consistently produces the best content anywhere on Pro Cycling. I cannot over estimate how much I enjoy reading this blog, and the (usually) intelligent and informed discussions in the comments. All year long.

      • Frood Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 7:27 am

        Hear hear, chapeau inrng for the excellent coverage. I’ve been glued to this site since I stumbled across it some years ago. There’s no gimmicks (or rather the gimmick is quality insight) and as Larry said, the lack of ads is truly refreshing.

        A piu tardi, inrng!

      • Nick Knatterton Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 7:48 am

        Agree fully with the big positive.

        Mr INRG will hopefully wear the yellow jersey for bloggers in the years coming again by a wide margin. I guess in GT terms it translates to a lead of more than an hour over the second best.

        Thank you so much.

        Also thanks to the commentators. Missed Gabrielle.

        • Nick Knatterton Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 8:26 am

          Should be “Gabriele”

      • Eddie C Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 9:49 am

        A marvellous post. Merci beaucoup et vive Inner Ring!

      • Tom K Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 3:18 pm

        Couldn’t agree more; I pay a lot more for publications I get a lot less out of.

      • GC hopeful Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 3:18 pm

        Great writing INRG!!

      • oldDAVE Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 5:52 pm

        I do agree – but I wouldn’t begrudge INRNG taking some more ads or asking for crowd funding. It’s very well deserved.

        • KevinR Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 11:15 pm

          oldDAVE – neither would I.

    • sam Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 5:09 am

      it was like the end of monty python and the holy grail: great build up to a fantastic climax only for the authorities to show up and arrest everyone.

  • JeroenK Monday, 29 July 2019, 4:47 pm

    Thanks for the great coverage.

    Everyone good luck surviving the grand tour black hole until the Vuelta. At least there is the MTB world cup in Val di Sole coming up next weekend, which has a brutal DH race. Anyone got any other means to prevent one to slip into the void?

    • Lukyluk Monday, 29 July 2019, 5:15 pm

      Only a temporary fix (the season will end, at some point) but San Sebastian is coming up and usually makes for good racing (both men and women version). European championships are a week after that and gets good TV coverage.

      Then if the flattish races like Arctic Race of Norway or Binckbank Tour (new Eneco Tour) aren’t your thing, the Tour de l’Avenir has nice mountains and sometimes provide a good show – the quality of the TV production has increased over the years, the racing is a bit more variable but some stages are always going to be entertaining.

      • JeroenK Monday, 29 July 2019, 5:38 pm

        No season ending issues here, as I am in the Netherlands, so there’s a good supply of CX racing on TV.

        • Ecky Thump Monday, 29 July 2019, 11:18 pm

          Do as I do, Lukyluk, and bury yourself in the archives of this blog.
          There’s hours and hours of joy to be had in there.

  • Stanley Monday, 29 July 2019, 4:54 pm

    Loved this tour, best I can remember for a long time and warm thanks for this site’s excellent coverage

  • jc Monday, 29 July 2019, 5:23 pm

    Have to agree that the “moment” the Tour was won was Egan Bernal’s attack on the Galibier. It led to Julian Allaphilippe being dropped and put Egan Bernal in pole position to take yellow. For all the post stage polemic it is very difficult to see how there would have been any other outcome if they had raced up to Tignes. It is just about possible to make a case that Egan Bernal would have tired and G could have bridged across, Julian Allaphilippe might well have caught the G / Steven Kruijswijk group on the descent but would have been dropped again on the climb into Tignes. However this all seems very tenuous to say the least, in all probability Egan Bernal would have just pulled out more time on everyone else. No effect on the final result beyond bigger time gaps.

    Watching Thibaut Pinot abandon was very sad. I am not sure if he really will be “back”. Unfair it might be but he does have a history of not finishing races for all sorts of reasons and there was always a lurking feeling that despite all the promise “something” would happen to derail his chances and so it proved.

    Are there any more words left to describe Julian Allaphilippe’s performance. I did wonder if the yellow jerseys he was wearing had been imbued with some sort of Harry Potter style magic, once he lost the jersey he lost his extraordinary strength. Can he come back and be a genuine contender? No idea whether he can turn himself into a climber but perhaps more pertinently would Patrick Lefevre really want to acquire the top class mountain domestiques necessary for such an attempt. I believe he himself mentioned Flanders as more realistic goal than winning the Tour.

    For all the talk of “the most open Tour in years” Ineos take first and second, in the end pretty comfortably and in Egan Bernal they have a rider who can potentially win GTs for years ahead though youthful promise is not always fulfilled. I know this is not viewed favourably by some but as a team they are at a level (for the Tour and to some extent for all GTs) above the rest. It is not simply about money, or perfidious Albion, or Dave Brailsford’s fictional abilities in the dark arts (though he does have an unerring ability for foot in mouth crass comments) or whatever.

    Two key advantages. Firstly a complete concentration to the exclusion of all else on winning the GC, no distractions, stage wins, sprinters etc. Some of the other teams are trying to adopt a similar approach; Groupama – FDJ, will always wonder what if, Movistar, the most disorganised team win the team prize again!, Astana, Michelton – Scott. Is it really good for the race if more teams use this approach? If Jumbo Visma come back next year all in for Tom Dumoulin or Bora for Emu Buchmann does that mean no Dylan Goenewegen or Peter Sagan? Surely having the world’s best sprinters is as important as the best climbers? Perhaps an unintended consequence of reduced team size?

    Secondly, team spirit. I realise there will always be comments along the lines of “its easy when the riders are paid so much” but it is more than that. Last year Chris Froome rode for G when it became clear he was the better rider on the road, same this year G rode for Egan Bernal. Both years they have crossed the finishing line in harmony. Sure both Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas would have preferred to win themselves but they also acknowledged that they are part of a collective and that means working for others. This is not an easy thing to pull off, look at Movistar and plenty of examples from the past. Some riders clearly don’t get on with it, though not sure many have flourished after leaving (Mark Cavendish was a bit different) but those that do stay are clearly happy to buy into the whole thing. Sunweb seemed to have tried to do something similar and that looks as if it is ending in tears. Again perhaps Groupama- FDJ were succeeding with this but really need more than one individual to build around. Deceuninck Quick Step manage something very similar in the classics with the “wolfpack” thing but this does not transfer to GTs. Whether Ineos can continue to achieve all this with a roster packed with even more potential GT winners is something that will keep the cycling media occupied for some time to come.

    Overall I thought the race was an interesting edition even if it did not live up to some of the hyperbole flying around. Stage 10 into Albi was my favourite, crosswind stages are often the most unpredictable and exciting. In general the mountain stages were not the most memorable, too much riding tempo until the last moment plus of course the weather issues. The finish to Prat d’Albis was the best racing though without the grand scenery of the high passes.

    As ever thanks for producing such first rate, interesting and knowledgeable writing.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 29 July 2019, 5:48 pm

      Still think there was lots until Stage 18 which made it a great race, the storm iced things from then on but there was so much more before.

      I’d still say money is Ineos’s biggest advantage by far, they can focus only on GC because they don’t need to have Plan B with the sprints which Jumbo have had to as insurance, and then you can buy team spirit because a rider who knows they could double their salary by countering team orders will do one thing compared to rider who is already being paid more than they’d get elsewhere in the market. But this year’s performance, helped by a sub-par Kwiatkowski and Moscon, meant the race finished without talk of scapegoating power meters and radios and talk of salary caps, the “something must be done, this is something” syndrome. We’ll see for Bora and Buchmann, the talk is RCS will pay generously to have Sagan in the Giro and this must suit everyone from management to Buchmann and Sagan himself who can ride something different and presumably share in the spoils. There’s also what’s next for Bernal, apparently he was on the team bus in Paris yesterday already talking about what to do in next year’s Tour, raising the issues himself and so, for now at least, he’s already thinking of the Tour.

      • Pilgrim Monday, 29 July 2019, 5:56 pm

        “I’d still say money is Ineos’s biggest advantage by far,”

        Perhaps, but it’s more money + effective decisions + heightened people/process/strategy management.

        Spending the cash is one thing: making it work is another. As Katusha prove year after year.

        • -gareth- Monday, 29 July 2019, 6:07 pm

          Indeed, football is riddled with stories of obscenely wealthy teams massively underachieving… money is necessary, but it is not sufficient.

        • The Inner Ring Monday, 29 July 2019, 6:16 pm

          Katusha don’t have much budget these days. When they did they had GT contenders like Menchov, Rodriguez etc but the money’s dried up and they could run out of road this season and fold. UAE is probably the best example of a big budget but few results but the management is changing their, it’s changing from a family business.

        • KevinR Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 9:37 am

          Money can’t buy true team trust and spirit. Look at Movistar. Although it does secure the best riders.

        • Morten Reippuert Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 12:08 am

          Money is the advantage. No team (inkl Katusha) has been close since 2010 and the difference has just grown year after year.

    • Richard S Monday, 29 July 2019, 8:30 pm

      Re your point about the sprinters, arguably it’s more or less already happened. There were only really 3 sprinters in it. The two best French sprinters weren’t at the biggest French race, one because his team were all in for GC the other because his team seem to prefer to go through the Tour completely unnoticed. If Sagan goes to the Giro and Ewan is injured we’d be down to the crumbs.

  • oldDAVE Monday, 29 July 2019, 5:36 pm

    Thank you as always for great coverage INRNG.

    Special tour even if the ending wasn’t what we’d hoped with the weather but think it’s clear Bernal would have won… only Pinot felt a realistic challenge in hindsight (and I would be happy as Larry if he’d won) but if your body doesn’t hold out what can you do…

    I for one think, although many say Alaphillipe is already a GT rider now, he’ll struggle to get onto a podium let alone a top step whatever changes in training he makes… but so what, he’s a joy to watch and despite the beard I’m more of a fan now than I ever thought I would be.

    Feel like the course deserves huge amounts of praise also.

    And Gabriele…. where are you?

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 29 July 2019, 5:51 pm

      We’ll look at Alaphilippe’s GC chances later this week I think as part of some debrief things following the race. As you say the course was good.

      • Cristian Stefanescu Monday, 29 July 2019, 9:29 pm

        I think the plan for Ineos was to take yellow in Pau with Thomas and then ride defensive with Bernal as liutenent, as they did last year which i’m sure they could have pull it off. We could say Alaphillipe is the main reason this tour was so beautiful, he saved us from last years dull afaire.

      • Alex# Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 12:27 am

        “Als je je op de Tour wil voorbereiden, heb je daar maanden, zo niet jaren voor nodig. Misschien keer ik een van de komende jaren eens terug om mee te doen voor de zege, maar volgend jaar zeker nog niet”, vertelde Alaphilippe aan Sporza.

        Ook zijn ploegbaas bij Deceuninck-Quick Step Patrick Lefevere raadt hem aan minstens twee jaar te wachten om voor de Tourzege te gaan. “You never know, maar als je ziet wat voor raspaardjes er nu rondrijden, zoals een Bernal. Ik zou hem eerlijk gezegd aanraden om nog twee jaartjes te wachten. Maar ze luisteren niet altijd naar mij”, zei Lefevere.

        Eerst wil Alaphilippe zich wagen aan de Ronde van Vlaanderen, kondigde hij aan. Volgend jaar wil hij daar zijn debuut maken, nadat hij Milaan-San Remo, Luik-Bastenaken-Luik en de Ronde van Lombardije al meermaals betwistte. Al langer denkt hij aan deelname aan ‘Vlaanderens Mooiste’. Vorig jaar nog sprak hij met WielerFlits over deze koers. “De Ronde zou mij moeten liggen, al heb ik nog niet zo veel ervaring op de kasseien. In de toekomst wil ik mij er zeker eens op toeleggen.”
        Translation.in Short. It takes month/years to prepare for tour. Not next year maybe later. Patrick L says. He better wait 2 years.
        We’ll see him in de Ronde van Vlaanderen next season

        • jc Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 11:08 am

          I think this just amplifies the point about team focus. DQ are well known and have achieved great success in one day racing, they have had success in the Tour but with sprinting and stage wins. From the beginning Sky / Ineos have targeted the Tour, after some early experiments eg Cav. the focus has been on one thing, the yellow jersey. Even the performance in other GTs has, until recently, been mediocre at best (Chris Froome’s retrospective win at the Vuelta is somewhat odd). For Sky / Ineos this has made sense, it is the biggest bike race (biggest sporting event full stop) in the world so their success there has kept the sponsors happy. For other teams it is a big risk they need success too and their focus needs to be spread wider, less on the Tour more getting as many wins as possible during the entire season. This give Ineos an advantage in July but is a potentially risky strategy.

        • Irungo txuletak Thursday, 1 August 2019, 9:17 am

          Ja man, maar lefevere is always quite conservative in his approach. Remember Boonen who ended up doing the pavés and not to be seen in the remainder of the season.
          I am sure Alaphillipe has what it takes to win each of the 5 monuments, but I think we some specific preparation and a route that helps, he is able to take a grand tour too.
          All in all, I would say that his versatile profile is a bit like Valverde’s. Maybe a bit stronger in ITT and a bit less climber. Main difference: this way of racing with so many moves and aggression.

    • Richard S Monday, 29 July 2019, 6:21 pm

      I’m curious as to why you think he can’t become a GT contender no matter what training changes he makes? I’m not saying you’re wrong but if Wiggins can go from a pursuit rider to a Tour winner and Thomas from a pursuit rider, to a classics man to a Tour winner why can’t other riders undergo similar transformations? He already has an excellent power to weight ratio and a good time trial, I think he could with a fair wind and an agreeable course. But that’s not to say I think he should put all his eggs into that basket.

      • omegaman Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 9:25 am

        The comparison is a stretch Richard. Did Thomas really go from track to classics to stage racing? Perhaps in focus but hardly with equal success. I recall Thomas won E3 one year and has a Paris-Roubaix top ten but he was a classics “contender” more than a favourite. He was not even as good as Mr perennial bad luck himself, Sep Vanmarcke. In the end, he chose stage racing over this and for good reason – he was clearly better suited to it and winning a race of discipline and consistency can be planned for much better than the randomness inherent in a one day race/win.

        Alaphilippe is a different case because he has already won multiple prestigious one day races – and its not hard to imagine him continuing to do so. He lost decent chunks of time on 4 mountains stages this year – the skill he is obviously missing – and the question is does he want to adapt himself for a possible but far from certain grand tour win in a way which must necessarily negate his powers in races he is already proving capable of winning? I think not only should not not do that, he shouldn’t want to. He clearly enjoyed his time in yellow and so he should. But that doesn’t mean he should re-focus himself on chasing unicorns. If we know anything about grand tours in this century its that not only do you need to be the best rider, you also need to be in the best team.

        • Richard S Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 10:30 am

          ‘Did Thomas really go from track to classics to stage racing?’ I suppose the easy answer to this is yes. In 2012 he didn’t ride the Tour in order to focus on winning gold in the Team Pursuit at the Olympics. In 2015 he won E3 Harelebeke, was in the winning break at Gent-Wevelgem, was a favourite for Flanders and was the leader of Skys ‘classics squad’. Since then he has refocused on stage racing with much success.

          On this part we agree. What you are saying is that Alaphilippe is an excellent one day racer but in the Tour lost time in the mountains. He could re focus and risk losing some of his ability in one day races but we both agree that might not be wise. All I’m saying is that he could. The talent is there. All he has to do is refocus his training in the same way that Thomas has and join a team that promises to provide him with 3 or 4 top mountain domestiques. A course that suits him wouldn’t go amiss either – not too much high altitude, plenty of punchy finishes, a couple of hilly time trials. He doesn’t necessarily even need to change that much. Who’s to say that if he hadn’t been leading out sprints and forcing splits in the first week, and having to fetch his own bottles in the mountains, he wouldn’t have had a few more beans left for when it mattered?

          • omegaman Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 2:01 pm

            Well I am to say, for one. Another might well be Patrick Lefevere who, I have just read, says Deceuninck will have other objectives than the GC in Tour 2020.

          • Richard S Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 4:48 pm

            There always is one.

          • Digahole Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 6:37 pm

            Alaphilippe could certainly improve his performance in the mountains by switching the balance of his training away from VO2 max to http://FTP... he’d probably get less bang for his buck but he’s already beaten the majority of GC guys in this field without that focus or a team around him so a podium, at least, seems realistic

  • Megi Monday, 29 July 2019, 5:44 pm

    Leaving aside his actual performance in the race, surely the moment the Tour was won was when Egon Bernal suffered the injury that kept him out of the Giro. Otherwise, this would have been a “The moment the Giro was won” column.

    • oldDAVE Monday, 29 July 2019, 11:49 pm

      Yeah good point, why not go further back to the moment Bernal was born?

  • Pilgrim Monday, 29 July 2019, 5:46 pm

    As always, this site is an essential companion to the Tour. Thank you for the time, effort and passion.

    That’s two grand tours down and two fascinating editions. Some ask for la Vuelta to match or exceed but the recipe is there.

    Lopez? Thomas? Dumoulin? Roglic? My diary is already booked up for Stage 9 on 1 September. That could be the stage of the year.

    • oldDAVE Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 5:49 pm

      basically the Vuelta seems to never disappoint!
      although is Dumoulin fit? I’m not sure he’ll be there?
      interesting to see whether Roglic could handle gradients if he goes.
      wondering if Simon Yates will ride or not as that would be 3GTs???
      also interested to see how many riders follow the Froome formula and ride Vuelta… have a feeling Thomas might unless he’s scheduled for next years Giro… if I were Kruijs/Buckmann I’d go, what’s there to lose?

  • DJS Monday, 29 July 2019, 5:59 pm

    Many thanks for the great coverage!!
    For those fearing the void: https://dotwatcher.cc/race/transcontinental-race-2019
    Where earlier today – and after 2 days racing – a female racer was in the lead!

  • Nick Monday, 29 July 2019, 6:20 pm

    Many thanks for another year of excellent coverage: by some distance the best English-language cycling site.

    And well done for avoiding the “Game of Thorens” pun in relation to the disappointing final stages.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 29 July 2019, 6:35 pm

      Thanks and Val Thorens is pronounced a bit like “Val Torrence” so the rhyme with “thrones” would be too much of a stretch.

  • Gregario Monday, 29 July 2019, 6:42 pm

    This is what a well designed parcours gives you! You may say that the riders make the race and it’s true but you got to give them the platform to do that. I praised the course before the start of the race and the riders delivered accordingly. A shame about the ending due to the weather but what can you do. I would say that the Tour was very lucky in terms of the weather in the past. Even though thunderstorms are very common in the high mountains in summer, the Tour managed to escape them recently. This year the weather is very violent, with a terrible rainy spring, a long winter with mountain passes closed till the end of June and now severe thunderstorms and heat waves across Europe. A sign of things to come?
    I wonder how next year’s route will look like. The start in Nice looks promising already and there are rumours about the race not ending in the Alps or Pyrenees but in the Jura or Vosges range. That would be a great idea to make the course even more interesting, because those regions are more suited to provide the stage for a possible GC shake-up than the high mountains.

    • Digahole Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 6:39 pm

      A healthy dose of Vosges and home roads for Thibaut maybe? 😉

  • some guy Monday, 29 July 2019, 6:50 pm

    You’re a great writer and I really enjoy all the work you put into this blog! Thanks for another tour guice, c’etait magnifique 😀

    • oldDAVE Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 5:47 pm

      it really is true.

      it’s bizarre (and hopefully not true!) that this could be your only cycling journalism and I guess you’d make nearly nothing from it in that case (going by the lack of adverts)?

      the writing is so good you should earnin’ serious coin from it!

  • DonB Monday, 29 July 2019, 9:11 pm

    Thank you so much for the wonderful race coverage. Great insights and wonderful racing. Bike racing has such an amazing combination of individual talent and team tactics and luck. Bring on global cycling! Imagine the number of young people in South America and France inspired by this race. Also I know you put a lot of work into this and would love the opportunity to donate to support your work in place of buying merchandise.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 29 July 2019, 11:20 pm

      Thanks, I need to find a moment to look into a donations feature for this blog. It’s more complicated than it sounds but would help to sort this in order to help cover the hosting, software and more and if enough people are supportive, to lift things here to a better level but we’ll see, more news soon.

      • Joe K. Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 6:50 am

        Don’t make the move too soon to commercialize this blog. I like it just the way it is so far–poor starving artist (journo/cyclsist) who can’t afford to do other things in life except for writing and cycling. Your suffering is our joy!

      • KevinR Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 9:45 am

        Do it quickly please Mr Ring!

      • Ian Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 11:05 am

        I’ve often wondered if the Patreon platform for donating would work for you? That way those who don’t want to / can’t set up a subscription or donation don’t have to but those of us who can (I’d happily pay a small monthly donation) would be able to. I’m sure you’d have enough subscribers to keep the wheels turning and you still have total control over everything.

        • Dave Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 11:19 am

          I’m sure patreon would work , seems simple enough to set up and widely used by youtube content creators

        • KevinR Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 11:24 pm

          I too would happily pay a small monthly subscription, especially if that means everything stays under INRNG’s control. I suspect there are a lot of us here thinking the same.

  • Greasy Wheel Monday, 29 July 2019, 9:37 pm

    Fantastic coverage and writing again. Thanks.

  • Jack W Monday, 29 July 2019, 9:41 pm

    As ever your blog is one of the things which makes this sport worth following. Thanks for all your work.

    I had a question about something Bernal did as he left the final podium (or on the way up to it? can’t remember). He stopped to greet his family members and made a series of gestures to each — touching the shoulder then forehead, I think. It was quite moving and I’d never seen it before — does anyone know its significance, or is it specific to their family? Either way, the look in the younger Bernal’s eyes as Egan came off the podium was something special.

    • Sergio Monday, 29 July 2019, 10:02 pm

      They were making the sign of the cross on each other, I think. Though I’d never seen it either.

      • The Inner Ring Monday, 29 July 2019, 11:22 pm

        I think so too. His brother Ronald was a surprise visitor in Paris and is apparently a good junior in races already too although hopefully he can enjoy cycling without having to be the “new Bernal” too.

  • Galibier Monday, 29 July 2019, 9:47 pm

    “Rossetto’s 32 and rode his first Tour, racking 809km in the breakaways, more than anyone else.”

    Is there a list available somewhere which shows the total km spent in breakaways for all the riders?

    Thank you for the quality writing throughout the season.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 29 July 2019, 10:53 pm

      L’Equipe published a table of the breakaway totals, Rossetto was first on 809km, then his team mate Berhane on 582km and Offredo on 561km.

  • -gareth- Monday, 29 July 2019, 10:21 pm

    I felt a little bit sorry for Bardet, his comments about his own performances during the tour suggest that he would probably rather have worn a polka dot outfit that was a little more discreet.

    It’s a shame we didn’t get to see Pinot in stage 19. I remember Froome happily pointing out that Pinot was “pulling harder than anyone” after a stage in the Dauphine, I suspect he had lined him up as a genuine tour rival at that point. Still, it just felt to me like Bernal transcended to a different plane when it really mattered and I’m not sure even a roaring Pinot could have done much about it. But Pinot has time too.

    Hopefully high mountain passes won’t be abandoned, if they do that the power balance might shift toward the Giro.

    As for Bernal’s future, if he is able to benefit from being part of a stable team that fully respects him he should win a hatful of stage races, if he chooses to move around a lot then I’m less certain.

    Thank you for this site, please don’t stop any time soon… I’m not as knowledgeable as most who contribute here but it’s a nice cesspit-free corner of the internet where I can follow the only sport I’m still able to get a bit emotionally invested in.

  • Jerome Monday, 29 July 2019, 10:41 pm

    Couple of typos in this paragraph:

    Nairo Quintana WAS WON the stage thanks to a FIECE attack on the Galibier out of the breakaway, behind Egan Bernal jumped quickly AND opened up a gap on the GC rivals approaching 30 seconds. Thomas tried an attack and it was a curious move, explained later as a deliberate team tactic but do we buy this? Both Bernal and Thomas were competing for the win and it seemed to show. Still Thomas’s move didn’t come with much of cost FO the team,

    Thanks for a great few weeks of journalistic effort!

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 29 July 2019, 10:54 pm

      Fixed, thanks… and your corrections prove the “journalistic effort” needs a bit more work

  • Jerome Monday, 29 July 2019, 10:51 pm

    It might be my Australian bias but i do feel that Ewen deserved green for his sprinting efforts as clearly the top sprinter at the race. I know green has been sewn up by Sagan for the next decade but perhaps its time to drop the intermediate sprint points, and to further reduce points on mid-hilly stages to tilt it further back to the flat fast men. For my mind green should reward best sprinting rather than best overall finisher.

    The issues with the pokadot would be solved by recording climbing times rather than the lottery of a defacto points race that is hoovered up by the breakaway.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 29 July 2019, 10:57 pm

      The climbing times suggestion is good… but imagine if it’s won by someone who punctures before a climb and then surfs the convoy to get the fastest time? Also it’s not obvious who is the fastest, the waiting public want to see the rider crest the climb first rather than someone who started in 87th position and surged to 36th on the climb. I’m sympathetic to what you suggest but it might be a harder sell to the general public… we’ll see though, it could be a model adopted in this year’s Vuelta and maybe the Tour next summer 😉

      • noel Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 8:54 am

        it would also be embarrassing to see Demare or some other sprinter win it….

    • omegaman Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 9:11 am

      The green jersey is a POINTS jersey not a SPRINTER’S jersey. Hence why in the Spanish equivalent you can have Froome racing Trentin to win it. If you want a sprinter’s jersey then base it on positions in race finishes and at intermediate sprint points. That will average out the best sprinter much more efficiently.

      On polka dots I agree you need a winner who is actually a demonstrable superior climber in the race – like Alaphilippe last year, in fact. Bardet absolutely wasn’t that this year but then neither was Wellens who was this year’s “mop up the cat 3 + 4 climbs” guy. It is, once more, a shame stage 19 was weather curtailed since I think Bernal might have provided a more worthy winner in that case. Its a further shame Ineos played the pro game on stage 20. Bernal only needed to finish second on the stage to win polka dots anyway. Instead he finished 4th, seemingly unconcerned with stage or mountain honours in preservation of Thomas’ 2nd place. Either way, the polka dots this year now have the whiff of an unjustified booby prize.

      • brent sword Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 11:36 am

        Thanks for the blog.
        On the matter of the points jerseys I am happy as they are as they serve there purpose. You can always tweak them. But I would consider these jerseys are not meant to reward the best sprinter or climber. They are meant to enliven the race and breaks with some action and give some teams something to aim for. Same with the team award.
        Of all the awards on offer I think the team award is the one that could be lost and replaced with something else / better.

        • KevinK Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 11:23 am

          I completely agree with you. Regarding the green jersey, the best sprinter in a GT is the one who wins the most stages, which seems to be sufficient reward in itself. The points jersey rewards repeated high finishes and a willingness to expend serious energy on intermediate sprints. Sagan, with 9 top-5 finishes and multiple times jumping into breakaways or racing hard for the intermediate sprint (and therefore burning up a lot of juice that would be useful at the end of the race), is a perfect example of that. He’s so good at it, it wasn’t much of a battle, but it did enliven some otherwise less scintillating racing.

          Same for the polka dots – the true best climbers (like Bernal clearly was this year) get the reward of the yellow jersey as often as not. Let the guys who can climb a little and are willing to gut themselves by chasing breakaway after breakaway have their reward. Or the riders who can’t TT but go all out on the HC climbs.

  • plurien Monday, 29 July 2019, 10:53 pm

    We may come to look on this as the height of the sport for a while – until the next good one. Make the most.
    Sorry to sound an off-note on what has been a wonderful Tour but there are some big black clouds in the next valley as teams scramble for finances and futures. With the news of some obscure transfers for top riders, it’s apparent there aren’t the oligarchs there used to be. Same for the organisers, who are finding it ever harder to make a media pitch. The womens’ sport is not making progress like it was and the second tier mens’ teams are struggling. The domestic racing scene in many countries is sadly curtailed which means there’s no longer the same ladder into the top ranks. Many countries still don’t have the collegiate route because the domestic pro scene died and it’s not a priority when there are so many other sports that get their moment on the TV.
    We’re all in danger of clinging to some golden age, I know, but this year we have been able to enjoy our Alaphillipes and Pinots, Bernals and more but really the sport needs to move on and recognise things are not what they used to be. The Capos have had their day. It’s time for a new economics for cycle sport. Anyone got Bernard Tapie’s number…?

  • OcciTanie Monday, 29 July 2019, 10:55 pm

    Le Tour did not finish yesterday –
    it became complete only today with INRNGs Wrap Up of the while thing. – thx a Million!!
    “… Fortunately there are no stories about bernal of 15km uphill to school and 15km uphill back home…” – my todays favorite

  • Anonymous Monday, 29 July 2019, 11:07 pm

    The whole interview in the L‘Équipe with Offredo is worthy of „interview of the year“. He describes not only how it felt to be haunted by the shadows of „what could have happened“ in harrowing words, telling how he almost felt guilty, that he could walk again after finding out, that his dead team mate was at the same hospital, but also gives us an insight into the mind of a rider, that we usually don‘t get.

    I always get angry at the people – here and elsewhere – , who sit on their keyboard and say: „They should have attacked there, they are stupid, because they did not do this or that“without even giving a tiny thought to how it might have felt to the athlete or at those people, who think, that only winning counts. I get angry at them, because they don‘t allow athletes to be people. They dehumanize them as tools for their entertainment and degrade them with judging them without even blinking with a cruelty, that freezes my heart. Offredo tells in the interview how much problems he had with accepting his talent. How he in the beginning, when he often was 3 minutes faster than the peloton, tried to exhaust himself, so that he would get caught. He was afraid of the win. Of what would come after that. Of what it would make with him. What if he does all for the win, thinking then it all will be worth it, he will be hapoy and when he arrives there, there is – nothing. This fear is big enough to control a whole life.

    Not every rider feels this way about winning. Some think or feel more, some think or feel less. But all are human beings with the psyche of a human being and nothing is as straightforward as „he is stupid, because he doesn‘t attack“.

    I am so thankful for this interview and that it is mentioned here, because it brings some reality into it all for those people, who want to pretend, that when doing sport, people suddenly become robots, doesn’t have to be regarded as human beings and stop being driven by their psyche, their fears, anger, joy, hope, shame and so forth. It is the same nonsense, that says „politics and sports are separated“. Of course they are not, politics uses sports all the time and vice versa, just think olympic games, team sky, team bahrain, team uae etc..

    To me simply ignoring this, like ignoring the feelings of the athletes, the social psychology of a peloton, is simply abusing athletes, exploiting them. Using them as people use prostitutes – for their own entertainment/satisfaction, but not seeing them as people outside of their function. But when you watch professional sport, you have a responsibility, because after all you are the reason the whole thing happens! Sport fans always complain about sanitized sport, about money or cheating in sport, about this or that, but strangely never wonder about their own role in this.

    Of course not every great race/ride needs to be looked at under this point of views, sometimes it simply is enough to enjoy a great race, but with denying the athletes their humanity generally (only using it, when it furthers the entertainment of the watcher, when he agrees with the athlete), people do wrong. The very least is, that we finally acknowledge these realities and take them into account, when we judge athletes.

    • Thinktank Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 2:26 pm

      Great comment. If I may suggest: the biography of former pro (and GC hope) Dominik Nerz reflects a lot about the mental state of a rider. It tells the story of a very talented young man who forced himself into anorexia and therefore ruined his own body. There is also a part about falling and not treating concussions at a time where Stig Broeckx (hope he’s doing well btw) had his horrific accident.
      Afaik this book is only available in German (yet): Michael Ostermann – Dominik Nerz: Gestürzt. Eine Geschichte aus dem Radsport.

      • Anonymous Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 3:57 pm

        Thanks. I wondered about Nerz back then. I knew/read it was about the head injuries, but remember thinking, that there was more to it. I will read that book, thanks for mentioning it. I think there are far more riders and athletes in general than people think, who have serious problems. And that they are never allowed to be themselves, because they have to promote an image is part of the problem, gotten worse through social media and the fact, that nothing is hidden or private anymore.

        Yesterday night I watched the doc about Pinot’s Tour and three scenes stuck with me:
        1. When FDJ lost the time in the wind and the reporters put their mics under Pinot‘s nose at the finish and he turns around trying to get away – he looks exactly like a haunted animal, looking for a way out, a safe place. But there is nowhere to go.

        2. The swagger with which Pinot wrote his ITT after being before DEVASTATED, destroyed, shamed by losing the time in the wind. You have to see the documentary to understand how deep he was hit by that loss. A timetrial to me is very much about self belief (and of course the legs). You are alone and have much time to listen to yourself and your doubts. But the swagger with which he rode after all that – impressive! That was to me the moment I began to believe in his chance to win.

        3. When he sits with Madiot on his bed after leaving the race. There Madiot fights for Pinot‘s soul. You literally can see the war raging from side to side. Madiot succeeds in pulling Pinot to his side, but as he stops to speak, Pinot’s pain immediately jumps up again, pulling him back to the other side. Pinot is ready to give up, it is just too much, he really believed in his chance and still couldn‘t reach his goal! He has not any longer the heart to hurt himself, to believe in something just to be hurt, to suffer so much. Because these riders often suffer more than we can ever understand. Pinot is in the process of losing his belief. But Madiot has nothing of it. Because HE still believes. And he fights. He fights for Pinot‘s soul. And you can see, how he slowly he wins. It was very touching. And it reminds you, that people are people. They were that, when Shakespeare wrote about them and they are it when a man fights for the soul of another in 2019.

        Just those three instances show how gut wrenching, exhausting, demanding on your psyche, your emotions a race is. Of course not every race is so high stake and has such drama, but it happens often: A team mate crashes hard. You have a bad day and suddenly a whole team lost it’s purpose, because you are out of the GC. You crash hard. Team mates argue. You realize your team plans without you next season. The hotel is hot and you are so exhausted. Cycling is such a demanding sport in so many different ways and we simply have to take more care of the riders. All of us. And in all that I haven‘t even said a word about the drugs/medicine riders use, which also affect your psychology!

        Re anorexia: I often wonder why cycling does nothing against riders looking like skeletons. Ski jumping at least tried with regulating it through the bmi (I think). It is crazy, that cycling sells itself as healthy and green, when the pro riders actually make themselves unhealthy and races seriously pollute the environment!

        • Thinktank Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 5:36 pm

          Thank you for showing your observations about the Pinot documentary. I didn’t know that there would be one yet so I’ll definitively have a look into it. Your observations show a lot about what kind of person Marc Madiot seems to be. Or at least what we know about him when seeing him on TV. He appears to be even more obsessed by cycling than lots of other DS’. And if you think about how much even he has invested in Pinot within all these years it may appear logical that he would like the dream of Pinot fighting and winning to continue – eventhough he should be well aware that with this injury it is even a wonder that he was even able to ride the first kms of this stage.

          I have to say that this passion is one of the reasons why I fell in love with cycling. However, to be fair, sometimes the boundaries between fighting through pain in order to win (or even to stay in the race) and ruining someone’s health are not that clear. In Nerz’ biography there is this story about Toms Skujins who had a bad crash during the Tour of California. He fell on his head while descending and could not even stand upright. Yet the mechanic arrived with a new bike and Skujins got back on his bike (it was mentioned that he wanted to do it himself) and swerved around before falling down again. After getting on his bike again he finally managed to descend and finish the stage. The interesting thing about this case is that he has no memory about this fall and the kms after it. If I recall correctly his memory didn’t even come back until well after the stage. There are even more stories about athletes experiencing similar falls and not recovering properly which is somewhat strange if you think that the only reason why a rider gets his/her contract is because he/she is healthy and able to race.

          However, as I mentioned before, it is one of the reasons why I love this sport so much. Stories of riders climbing up Mont Ventoux in agonizing pain because they’ve broken their collarbone a few stages ago. Riders who do not only fight until they’ve reached their limit but even longer than that. There has to be a boundary though and in my opinion it is where a rider could have long-term-health issues. Then he/she should be prevented from riding on, no matter how loud that “put me back on my bike”-cry may be. Thankfully, the tour is a good example of a race with many doctors accompanying it in order to look for the safety of the riders.

          And conversations like this one are the reason why I love this blog so much. You always learn something interesting and get new insights!

          • Anonymous Thursday, 1 August 2019, 2:39 am

            I remember Skujins crash well, how he stood in the middle of the road, trying to get on his bike. I think after this people began to be more aware of concussions in cycling. Bouhanni had quite a dangerous concussion, too.

            I have made my peace with the fact, that I like to watch people suffer while they ride their bike. After all they don‘t suffer for nothing. They get satisfaction from it, it is their identity and even, if most don’t love cycling like they used to when they still were amateurs, at one point in their life they loved what they were doing. But I don‘t have made my peace with riders damaging their body just for success. I always think, that there must be a netter way to do this sport than that. But of course with certain teams embracing hyper capitalism, it will only get worse than better, if they get their way. Luckily finally every day more people wake up, realizing, that they were sold a bundle of lies about capitalism, so my hope is, that in a couple of years monetizing something ever more has become so uncool and unthinkable, that maybe even certain teams leave cycling alone for good, because they see no chance any longer for their „ideas“.

            I don‘t think Madiot is necessarily obsessed with cycling. I think it is more a proxy for doing something meaningful, lasting. For giving young people something, that means something. I guess that is also why he is so personally involved. I‘ve read his book in parts and I think he sees all this from the point of view of a farmer: He does something for the society around him, for the young people, just like he got help, care and a job, when he was young, so the next generations can reap the rewards of his work and can then add their part, too and this way there is a continuation, a development.

  • Ecky Thump Monday, 29 July 2019, 11:30 pm

    A thousand thanks Inner Ring, all fellow commentators.
    All the ITV4 crew also, loved the Tour coverage.
    The Paris wrap-up last night was lump in the throat time, the perfect setting.
    And especially all the riders and teams, heroes everyone.
    Allez Pinot, merci Julian et merci Eddy.

  • AndyW Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 12:13 am

    To echo a few other comments, this Tour does feel a little over-feted. The stages themselves were excellent, but for me, some of the suspense and excitement was removed by having two strong Ineos GC contenders controlling the race. Some recent Vueltas and Giri have provided more real suspense (especially with weaker teams trying to control more difficult terrain). Can’t blame Ineos though!

    Saying that, the quality of every single stage win was fantastic (with the unfortunate exception of stage 19) – sounds silly, but so many wins were masterful: de Gendt, Trentin, Yates x 2, Nibali, Quintana, van Aert, Pinot, best sprinters in the world having fair contests, even the TT was great.

    • anon Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 2:07 pm

      I think those over-egging the pudding of Tour 2019 are the romantics who want a French win, riders who rely more on individual style than brute team force, etc. I’ve no argument with their right to like or want this but, by the same token, neither am I convinced that this year’s Tour was that great either. Alaphilippe is what he is and its easy to like him but by the same token he was never really going to win. I thought last year’s Tour was better and we didn’t know who would win that or what the podium would be until the end of stage 20 either.

      • Digahole Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 6:53 pm

        I’d appreciate you using your real name Mrs Thomas

        • Mrs Thomas Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 2:12 am

          It wasn’t me but I can’t help but agree to the comment in part at least.

          If you look at the race stage for stage then 2019 beats 2018. However as so many regular commenters around TdF time here like to do, putting on the ‘Sky/Ineos “It’s boring” Hindsight Goggles’ (SIGH), the GC battle was more unpredictable and for longer than last year. Of course, if you actually for one moment thought Ala could last and that poor T-Bo wouldn’t have something go wrong, then maybe you thought it could still all change early on stage 19. If you did though, it’s funny how hindsight and emotion can keep people from seeing their own inconsistencies. This has an Ineos win written all over it just like last year but the ‘suspense’ about which one of two riders would win out indeed lasted a stage longer as Anon points out.

          • Digahole Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 7:50 am

            “If you look at the race stage for stage…” – This is how we watch races, looking back at the whole would be “hindsight” 😉
            But you knew the outcome beforehand, so all the action of the race was inconsequential anyway.
            Makes sense.

        • Mrs Thomas Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 8:17 am

          That’s my poorly explained (read sarcasm) point though. I do watch the race stage by stage and GC is just part of that. I take each stage as it’s own race. I therefore am never disappointed over the whole race. There’s always good stages. I saw my first highlight package of the Tour in the 70’s (why G doesn’t realise I’m too old for him I’ll never know) and can honestly say it was only during the LA years where I switched off and that wasn’t because of boredom.

          It’s the people that complain that seem to know what was always going to happen. You know their names. They were complaining before the race and have for the last several renewals, about how “boring” it is for the same team to win. Ask them to explain why the outcome means that it must have been boring. You might make sense of their whining. I never have…

          • PaulG Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 8:50 pm

            So much for Sky dominance….They didn’t get a rider in the Top 10…….

  • hoh Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 1:12 am

    Once Sky was the largest hurdle Colombian cycling had to get over for yellow. Now Ineos delivered first every Tour winner from that country. Such is the strange events of life.

  • Captain Dan Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 2:02 am

    Thanks again INRNG for the wonderful coverage. I was wondering if anyone has seen any comment/explanation from Kwiato with regards to his performance at this year’s Tour? I have loved watching his exploits in the past – shelling riders off the back, throwing away his sunglasses and then coming to a stop, watching the remnants of the peloton ride struggle on. It seemed very unusual for a rider that is typically so reliable.

  • Dave B Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 2:12 am

    This is obviously the best cycling blog out there, and the only one tha

    • David Friday, 2 August 2019, 8:31 am

      Was there a mudslide in the route of this comment?

  • Henry Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 2:44 am

    First time long time…. Such a fanboy of this site, and really appreciate your work. The sport can be challenging to follow from the States, but your insight and detail make me feel as though I’ve seen every stage. Thank you!

  • Cd Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 3:45 am

    Another chapeau for the great coverage on here. My one request though – could you post the previews a bit earlier so I can adjust my fantasy team before I go to sleep on North American time. 😉

    I thought it was a good tour, not great. I love dramatic mountain stages and 18 was amazing, but the rest were blah.

  • Cedrik Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 4:12 am

    My guess is InnerRing is Tim Krabbe. Cycling literature today, more than most days. Thank you for all off your hard work and analysis. Like most of your followers, I get InnerRing withdrawals when you take your well-deserved breaks, thank you. And, no, I don’t actually think you’re Tim Krabbe, but there were flashes of The Rider in today’s post.

  • piwakawaka Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 6:22 am

    Pretty sure Yates and Bernal would have smashed that stage, Bernal for the Tour and Yates for a third stage, such an anti climax but it seems the best man won, thanks for the great site, + one for a donation button, I just don’t want anymore stuff!

  • Pax Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 6:59 am

    Inrng – thanks for the wonderful tour updates – very well done (as always)

  • omegaman Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 8:58 am

    If we’re supposed to be sad for Pinot then we should also reemphasise his lack of hardiness. Pinot DNFs A LOT. Now it may not always be for the same thing and this particular injury may be rather strange for a bike race but Pinot always seems to end up with something wrong with him. To me, this can’t be a coincidence and no one can be that unlucky. Pinot, I maintain, can be cracked in the very physical sense that term implies. For all his panache in the Pyrenees he only actually got 26 seconds on the eventual winner Bernal on stages 14 and 15, hardly a knockout blow when the longer and higher Alpine climbs were the ones the Colombian was waiting for. Bernal got it all back +4 seconds on the Galibier stage. The speculation that Pinot could have matched or beaten Bernal in the Alps is just one more example of something we’ve had a lot of at this Tour, the speculative “what if?”. The fact is before the race started Bernal was favourite with many bookmakers and if he wasn’t his team mate Thomas was. They finished 1+2. The result was what was supposed to happen and the French romance of Alaphlippe, who lost time on FOUR mountain stages – 15, 18, 19, 20 – there’s the reason he’ll NEVER win the Tour – and of Pinot – who must learn to finish consistently before he can win – never really in the end threatened that. Bernal, as our host points out, isn’t invincible. But he is 22 and I doubt anyone thinks he’ll get worse when he’s 23, 24, 25, etc. But he wasn’t a nailed on winner and his own absent team mate, Chris Froome, would likely have won this Tour much more easily in his place. But that battle is – perhaps – for another Tour.

    • Richard S Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 9:14 am

      RonDe, that’s you isn’t it?!

      • Larrick Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 2:24 am

        It might well be, RonDe (that rhymes…) but the poster is pretty much bang on and between them, jc and omegaman back that up.

        It’s just a shame you can’t play out the same scenarios but swap the names around and see what sort of responses people would give instead. Would G attacking like Pinot in the Pyrenees elicit the same wonderment? Would Kwiatkowski instead of Alaphilippe gallantly falling short have people also in raptures or would it be endless talk of some issue with a doping strategy?

    • jc Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 11:24 am

      Whilst I think you are being a bit harsh on Thibaut Pinot I agree with your general point. He does not have a great history finishing GTs and that means there is always a question mark hanging over him. It must also be very difficult for the rider himself not to feel those same doubts, the latest incident just adding to them. Whether he can really overcome all this is very difficult to say. Professional cyclists by their very nature are extremely tough individuals both physically and mentally but they are not robots and just like the rest of us have weaknesses as well as strengths. Whether Thibaut Pinot can overcome his own challenges (it did look as if he might have done) will be something to see in future years, maybe even at the Vuelta?

      As for Ineos, I agree, from the start I thought the most likely result was two Ineos riders on the podium. Despite the team not being as strong as in some previous editions they still won comfortably enough though Chris Froome must have been looking on with some regret. A fit Chris Froome would surely have had a very good chance of securing that fifth title. It might have even been 3 Ineos riders on the podium, that would have stirred up things even more!

      • omegaman Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 2:16 pm

        In this respect I ask myself about the tactics of Jumbo-Visma. They decided to “do a Sky” and have Bennett and de Plus pulling a train of riders to help Kruijswijk to the podium. In the absence of too many notable Ineos domestiques, van Baarle, Castroviejo and, sometimes, Poels being the exceptions, weren’t they just doing Ineos’ work for them? On stage 20 they basically pulled Bernal and Thomas to 4th and 5th on the stage while SK dropped at the final. I’m not sure that tactic is so great when Bernal and others stand to be the ones to gain at the end. If Jumbo want to do that in future years I’m sure he’ll be very happy with it that even if his team don’t show up someone else does the tactic he wants anyway. Its a tactic which relies on having a rider who can explode at the end. Kruijswijk isn;t that and you have to wonder if there other star turns Roglic and, potentially, Dumoulin, are either.

        • Vegar Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 2:33 pm

          Jumbo-Visma raced against Alaphilippe and did it successfully.

          On the original route, perhaps Jumbo or Bora would have the nerve to race against Ineos as well as JA but probably not and it probably wouldn’t have worked anyway.

        • Digahole Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 7:10 pm

          Maybe be if Bennett was still a GC threat they would have played it differently, but as it was what were their alternatives?
          Easy to say retrospectively, but the fact is that they cracked Thomas on the Tourmalet and contributed to the same in Foix… why not try again?

  • Lukyluk Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 9:17 am

    He tore his vastus medialis. It’s not an injury that you get from exhaustion, it’s caused by a shock. These comments on Pinot sound really harsh. No telling what would happen, but those “many bookmakers” you reference also had Pinot as a favorite before stage 18.

    Also, pointing out that speculation on what might have happened is pointless, and wrapping up your comment with “Chris Froome, would likely have won this Tour much more easily in his place” seems… ill-advised?

    • Anonymous Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 10:36 am

      Thanks for pointing this out (the kind of injury). It fits exactly with what FDJ said. It is astonishing how difficult it is to let go of an opinion once we have formed it (including for me!). People have made up their mind, that Pinot is „fragile“ in a negative way and reality won‘t get in their way!

      I find, that Pinot has changed since his great week in italy last autumn. He has a new purpose, has conquered something, that eluded him before. He did that once before, reinvented himself once before, when – after crashing – he got problems descending and worked hard with his team to overcome this, including driving in race cars!

      This „fragility“, that some seem to see is to me more, that he engages life/the situation fully. He is not contend with riding along, he wants to taste it, be it, feel it. This helps you in some situations, because you are able to change and grow – as with the descending – but it can also mean, that you sometimes give more than you have to give.

      It is really rewarding to look at athletes/people not with our own eyes (sorry, sounds strange, but I can‘t express it differently), but instead look at them as they are. This way we see things -for example something beautiful, like Pinot, a man, who grows, who takes on the challenges and gives us all he has in an honest, human way – we would never see another way. But who knows, maybe one has to be “fragile“ to see it like this…

      • md Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 11:27 am

        Beautiful comment – you’re crossing into poetry there.

        The beauty of vulnerability, almost the inverse of the glory of the champion. Behind the champion there is the potential for hidden agonies, lies and compromised integrity, in the vulnerable we see a purer the strength.

        Inrng is a great blog.

        • Anonymous Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 12:59 pm

          Thank you! You express it very well: Everything has it‘s own taste, it‘s on rewards. Winning straight forward, because you were simply the strongest and winning, while overcoming yourself.

          And when we always judge, we become unable to see this: that life has different tastes. This is of course a sign of our times. But what we lose with this is so immense. In some way you could even say we lose our humanity with not allowing others theirs.

      • omegaman Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 2:22 pm

        The opinion that Pinot is “fragile”, if it is held, could certainly be based on very sound evidence. For a start, simply look at his grand tour record. Its a toss of a coin if he finishes at all quite often. Tour 2019 and Giro 2018 are not isolated incidents. Looking at only the last 4 years he has a DNF or DNS in each of those years in a grand tour. No amount of poetry or romance about his style of riding can cover over such facts. And so the view comes to prominence that endurance is a problem for him.

        • Richard S Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 4:53 pm

          I’m not sure endurance is the right word. He’s won 260 odd K Lombardia after all. I’d call it fragility. Physical and at times mental. I like Pinot and I think he enlivens any Grand Tour but the fact is he hardly ever finishes them. I hope he does well, I’d take his style over the various crabs that cling on in the mountains, but he’s always going to be a long shot.

          • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 5:36 pm

            Pinot seems to be the subject of a lot of myths, “he can’t descend”, “he doesn’t like the heat” and now “he’s fragile”. I don’t think there’s anything too specific, it’s just unlucky, a bit like, say, Tom Dumoulin who crashed out the Giro and I think has crashed out of two of the last three Tours he’s ridden etc. Sometimes it’s just a matter of luck, one interesting stat on the subject is Froome and just how many races he’d completed, he almost never crashes out.

          • Digahole Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 7:15 pm

            Ditto L.Armstrong

          • Digahole Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 9:54 pm

            *I meant in relation to your comment on Froome rarely crashing… not on Pinot. Though LA had his own kinda myths going on I suppose

          • Sean Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 10:29 am

            Groove rarely crashes out? That doesn’t sound right. Just off the top off my head:

            Dauphine 2019
            Vuelta 2015
            Tour 2013

          • Sean Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 10:30 am

            Haha. Froome, not groove. I was sure I checked that too.

          • Cedrik Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 2:39 am

            Would be an interesting analysis to look at the grand tour dnfs of major players to see what patterns emerge. Like many, I like Pinot. Like many, it appears to me he dnfs more often than other grand tour podium contenders. I hope he heals well and comes back strong.

          • Larrick Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 3:15 am

            Inrng- The ‘myth’ around the heat issues for Pinot mainly come from his own statements which may or may not be overblown depending on your view.

            From last years Giro. “It’s not ideal, with the heat,” Pinot said when informed that the temperature is forecast to soar to 39 degrees on Friday afternoon. “It doesn’t suit me at all.”

            When he won Stage 20 to Alpe d’Huez in the 2015 Tour de France, he’d previously suffered from what he described as “heat-fatigue”. Before his first Giro attempt he said he hoped the cooler temperatures would be a plus.

            It’s not just GTs that he has his issues, the week long stage races have shown similar ups and downs. Talking of which, who can forget Mad Marc Madiot leading Thibaut around Magny-Cours in a sports car back in 2013 (I think), to help him with his descending issues? He’s worked on it and improved, just like his TTing. As you pointed out during the Tour, he has installed a sauna at home to help so again is trying to overcome a weakness by doing something practical. All to be applauded but I’m not sure “myths” is the right term. There are facts behind them, whether the issues is still there or like in the case of his descending, not anymore. Maybe a ‘hangover from the past’ would be a better describer?

          • Richard S Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 12:49 pm

            Its not a myth if its true. Pinot doesn’t finish a lot of Grand Tours, I’m not making that up.

          • oldDAVE Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 5:15 pm

            *(Froome crashed out of ’14 TDF – I think you have made INRNG’s point – taking into account he’s ridden Paris-Nice, Romandie, Dauphine’s etc since ’12 he has only crashed out/abandoned three races. That’s very few.)

          • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 8:20 pm

            I’d go with “hangover from the past”, he had specific problems in one Tour and basically sat up on a descent and from them onwards Pinot was seen as a bad descender, you see it popping up even after he’d been on the podium in Lombardy; the same for the heat despite winning on Alpe d’Huez, winning the French TT championships on a very hot day. The point is he’s worked on his weaknesses but these labels can stick with him. It’s something that applies to other riders too, eg Mark Cavendish was always a hot head but has grown up a lot compared to the early years, Tim Wellens wins in the rain and for a long time GVA was always second.

    • Anonymous Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 10:38 am

      It wasn’t a common cycling injury that’s for sure. So maybe the comment was a bit harsh but the fact remains Pinot hasn’t finished quite a lot of grand tours for one reason or another. To finish first, first you have to finish.

      • KevinR Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 10:39 am

        Oops that was me.
        Thanks for your blog INRNG. Required reading.

      • Anonymous Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 11:28 am

        You are right. Sorry, that I seem not to be able to explain my point better: I don‘t think it is fragility why he dnfed. I think he did not finish some races, because he – at points where others would stop – keeps on giving and trying. So others arrive in Paris in place 132, while Pinot doesn’t arrive in Paris. And neither the one nor the other is better or worse- it are just people with different characteristics, who then experience different things.

        He never gives up, unless something stops him. The same with the descending: Some would have just lived with it. But not Pinot. He tried and tried and tried till he was satisfied with it. This is characteristic of him, to keep on trying, means also, that when he fails, he fails totally. But it also means he can win spectacularly. You can‘t have one without the other. And therefore you can‘t judge one as bad „being fragile“, while you jusge one as good „having panache“. These things belong together.

        And that is exactly what I mean with „looking at it not with your own eyes“: When you take it in without immediately judging and opinionating on it you will be able to see what I just described. But if you look at it with prejudiced eyes, only from your point of view, already knowing beforehand what your opinion will be, because you always bend everything so it fits your emotions, you will only see things in black and white: strength and weakness in a darwinistic way. That is a sad way, because there is so much more to life and being human than one kind of power/might – who is the best. The guy, who gets last might be just as proud and happy than the first and to me it is more than wrong to discount everybody and everything, who is not at the top of the foodchain.

        Maybe now it is clearer what I mean?

        • omegaman Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 2:26 pm

          By the same token, saying he is fragile, as I have, need not be a criticism. I don’t think Pinot’s fragility makes him a bad cyclist. I simply think its a factor to take into account. It might even be ripe for the poetry of the vulnerable athlete others have mentioned above. I just don’t think it should be ignored as a factor in thinking about the man or his chances – or lack of chances – of winning grand tours.

          • Jeroen Kooij Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 3:45 pm

            Omegaman, how is ‘lack of hardiness’ not a criticism? I don’t have anything against criticising riders on visible behaviour or quotes, but this is a judgement call on how strong he is mentally, which is pure speculation. If anything, he seems quite strong. For example: A few years back, he got dropped on descents and he worked on that until the point that it was not a weakness anymore.

            Saying someone is fragile is cherry picking, in both riders and their racing periods. Froome’s relatively incidentless streak is more of an anomaly than the norm. Riders get sick and crash all the time. Some seem to have less luck than others (seems like life in general?) in a certain period, but can have years of good luck after.

            Your comments on JV tactics are quite pointless I must say. They had a goal and they worked towards it. They optimised SK’s result in the best way possible. Have you ever ridden above 2000m? I doubt you know how it feels while going hard and what the risk is of an attack that you cannot hold. These riders know themselves really well. If you want to see volatile supercharged racing, it’s back to the period of 80s to late 2000 and you know what that means.

          • Anonymous Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 4:45 pm

            I get what you mean and I hope you get what I mean. I doubt we will ever get on the same page – which is fine – (extra for you steve!), because you search for limitations, while I look for (god, that sounds horrible!!!) possibilities or reasons. You probably think my approach goes too far, while I don‘t think your approach goes far enough and I certainly don’t think it is helpful, because if we just judge people and leave it there, we miss most of the times half the picture.

            If Pinot would have taken your approach and said: I am a bad descender, that‘s the way it is, he would have stayed that for the rest of his life. But that is just not the way he is and in some cases this influences situations in a good way (becoming a good descender again) in others it influences it sometimes in bad ways (going to deep, being too passionate and getting carried away). But the take away from that is (for me) not, that he is a now again a good descender and is fragile, but, that he is the master of his own story. In all consequences, good or bad.

            It is something different to me, if a rider has for example asthma and therefore has to leave every second race or can‘t stand riding in the peloton like cummings or has an anger problem and flips out every third race or is too shy to be with his team mates – then I would maybe use the word „fragile“. When there is a problem, that is always the same and maybe even out of the hand of the rider. But I don‘t see Pinot in that way. Quite the opposite. To me he is really solid and strong, because he keeps on finding ways to change bad situations into good situations or times.

            Like I said: You look at what happened and say he is limited, I look at what he did with that and see the possibilities.

        • Steve Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 2:51 pm

          No, it’s even more obscure. You are the main reason INRNG should restrict comments to those prepared to register their identity, rather than hide their pointless waffle behind the dreaded anonymous label (though your overuse of German punctuation makes it easy to spot and ignore your ramblings).

          • Lukyluk Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 3:23 pm

            It wasn’t my intention to start a feud. Also my comment was meant as a response to omegaman (8:58am) and I must not have clicked the right button, which might have created some confusion.

            I understand the comments that say that Pinot has had trouble at the end of grand tours in the past, be it susceptibility to illness or weaknesses in certain climates (notoriously dislikes the heat, for instance). I’ll leave it to you to discuss whether it is an effect of his riding style (if so, the world is unfair, because it’s a pleasure to watch) or just an inherent Achille’s heel.

            The point I was trying to make is that the injury he suffered *this time* has nothing to do with those supposed weaknesses, it’s just due to a bad hit in the inner thigh. If he was hit by a truck, he’d have been forced to abandon the race as well, without anyone discussing his physical ability to finish a grand tour.

            Full disclosure, I’m a Pinot fan, which might have prompted a stronger response than what was warranted.

          • RQS Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 8:29 am

            Just as a comparison, Marco Pantani rode 15 GTs and finished 8 of them (DNF is the others, though of course 1999 he was effectively forced to leave the Giro).

            The thing about Pinot is while his contemporaries have abandoned it is more usual that he has abandoned for reasons of illness, while other GT riders are more likely to abandon due to a crash injury. A real shame, as those last three stages were set up for a real battle royale with Bernal. I hope he can come back to the same level next year and his luck is better. Unfortunately, in order to have ‘Tour form’ you need to be on the razors edge. It only takes a scrape to knock your body off that razor and something gives.
            No one is talking about Jakob Fuglsang, who must have been a top 5 contender before the Tour, and mostly because he crashed and fell off the razor early in the race that early crash. Luck is a commodity which needs to be in your locker at the TdF

          • D Evans Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 11:20 am

            While I agree that it’s a pity when people use the Anon label, (partly because it’s hard to tell if it’s the same Anon making more than one comment), I deplore the tone of your comment. One of the best things about this site is that the comments remain polite.

  • md Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 11:18 am

    An enlivening race. The parcours was fresh. French riders brought brio and panache. Dynamic action and closely matched GC riders were balanced beautifully across the dynamic terrain.

    Big thanks to inrng.

  • Jovelo Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 11:27 am

    Some may say that I always have bad things to say about Sky/Ineos but frankly Bernal’s sunglasses are U-GLY!! What gives, kid?
    More seriously great Tour, great moment for the sport, will be interesting to see how Bernal/Alaphilippe/Pinot evolve in the coming months and years (frankly the other contenders were no half as exciting as those three)

    • Tomski Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 12:22 pm

      160 blokes wearing helmets and skin tight kit (plus padded crotch), shaved legs and sci-Fi shoes but the shades are ugly…

      • Jovelo Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 12:24 pm

        I stand by my statement. It is the camel that breaks the straw’s back. Or something like that.

    • Dave Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 12:27 pm

      Nearly as bad as the Yates boys sunglasses

      • Jovelo Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 12:36 pm

        Oh my god I forgot those.

        • oldDAVE Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 5:32 pm

          Yeah. This is a bit daft. Think we can get over someone’s shades.

          I always have a feeling that those hitting out at riders fashion are also possibly not the most fashionable people on the planet… especially as Bernal’s shades are probably one of the best in the peloton… all those in the photos above aside from Sagan’s and Yates look like £3 numbers from Decathlon.

          Fashion’s a weird thing, I find with cycling the vast amount of cycling fans are middle aged men or men with next to no idea about fashion who still seem to have very clear ideas on what cyclists should and shouldn’t wear! It’s very strange, there’s an idea of what a cyclist should look like based on the past and people miss when something is new and interesting.

          Admittedly – although I wouldn’t say or pretend to know fashion myself, and I stuck up for the Contador yellow onesy and Hushvod all white world champs outfit previously… occasionally there’s something that’s so hideous I get weak at the knees and succumb to hypocrisy – Yates Giro helmet last year and Bardet’s final day polka dots this year are pretty indefensible. For Bardet, I don’t care about them being full body, it was just the miss-match!

      • RQS Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 8:34 am

        The problem with the Yates boys sunglasses is that they sit beneath what appears to be the largest helmets in the peloton. Only their pointy little chins appear out the bottom. Not the best look. Though it makes it easy to spot them, like some sort of cycling wobble headed dashboard toy moving up through the riders.

        • Anonymous Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 12:22 pm

          The Yates boys don’t wear sunglasses, they wear enormous re-entry shields. Ban em!!

  • noel Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 12:05 pm

    I’m going to have to admit to a guilty pleasure on this Tour…
    Wiggo’s unvarnished moto commentary.
    There, I said it.

    my non-guilty pleasure continues to be this blog.

    • oldDAVE Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 5:21 pm

      That’s nothing… I’m all in on Wiggo’s moto, and in the eve I stick on not only Armstrong’s pod but follow it up with Johan B’s after thoughts…

      *(admittedly after listening to cycling podcast and cycling news podcast the next morning…)

  • GrammarJim Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 2:00 pm

    Grammar Police here: Past participle of ride is “ridden”. “Would have ridden” NOT “Would have rode”.

  • Nigel Mathias Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 2:51 pm

    A massive thank you to Mr Inrng for the coverage and insight. It’s such a pleasure to read this blog.

  • nortonpdj Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 6:44 pm

    Bardet and his team could (and should) have toned down the polka-dottiness of his kit and bike.
    Just the jersey would have sufficed.
    Whilst he doesn’t make the rules he must feel that this was a hollow victory.
    Has he no shame?

    • RQS Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 8:42 am

      Not sure I agree entirely about the hollow victory. While the abbreviated stages 19 & 20 did spoil the race (‘coitus interruptus’ as some poster put it) Bardet did what he needed to. With a longer stage I’m sure he would’ve pulled hard to get in a break and hover up some more points. Sadly the mountains jersey competition has on occasion failed to crown the best climber, or generate the same attention as the points race. Quite often it goes to some breakaway artist who has taken advantage of the GC race to bag all the climbs, and that is what happened here. Alaphilippe the year before could also be held out as a perfect example of this…..just like Sagan is not the fastest sprained.

    • Ed Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 2:29 pm

      TBF I don’t think Bardet had much / any choice in the paris stage outfit. The kit sponsor will have busted a gut overnight to get it made and delivered to the team in time for him to wear so it was either wear it or wear the ceremonial one given on the podium (with no pockets and a back zip) and upset a load of people. The last thing on his mind after the altitude finish in crappy weather will have been tomorrows outfit.

    • BenW Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 4:12 pm

      Seems a bit harsh on the bike front – only the forks and headtube and a little more are Polka Dot – no more than 25 percent?

    • Anonymous Thursday, 1 August 2019, 10:10 am

      Hollow victory? He raced the 3 weeks like everybody else, who reached Paris. He exhausted himself, he suffered like everybody else, he did not reach his goal like probably 140 riders also. He climbed the mountains fast enough to get enough points to win unlike all others. Hollow?

      Who do you think „deserves“ it more? Wellens, who is simply not a climber (I think he will be the first to say that), but a classics rider, who gets well over Murs and maybe middle mountains, but not over the real mountains? Wellens got many days on the podium out of it, which I guess was his goal. bernal, who never attacked the mountains, because he instead attacked the favourites? The kom was never his goal, he never raced for it – so how would it be better to give it to him?

      No, the only ones attacking the mountains were Bardet and Caruso. Between them they deserved the jersey. I find it disturbing, that so many people dismiss the hard work these riders did as „hollow“ or „undeserved“.

      If you say Bardet‘s win is hollow – who should have won to make it fine for you?

  • Digahole Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 7:48 pm

    Happy to read INRNG applying his trademark level-headedness and impartiality to Bernal’s win.
    It seems the majority of pundits have gotten carried away predicting 5 Tours, 7 Tours, the Bernal era!?- Yes, he’s young, mature beyond his years, an amazing talent and on the strongest team, but his win was far from evidence of the domination many are predicting. He was clearly the strongest to finish, but it’s not clear whether he was the strongest to start… he wasn’t even the clear leader of his team for the first 18 stages.
    A whole hearted applause for his victory, and for the realisation of the Colombian dream, but somehow I don’t think Froome or Dumoulin will be quaking in their boots

  • BC Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 8:00 pm

    Infrequent poster but would just like to add my appreciation for a wonderfully written, information packed and add free blog that concentrates on the actuality. Thank you INRNG for producing something unique and special. I would also be more than happy to donate if you set up a facility. Thank you.

  • PaulG Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 11:00 pm

    Not one of the Top 4 on GC won a stage….????

    When was the last time that happened…?

    • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 11:15 pm

      Kruijswijk did get a stage win in the team time trial in Brussels but you’re right that none of them took an individual stage win along the way. It’s rare to win the Tour without a stage win, Bernal is only the 8th rider to do this.

      • RQS Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 10:53 pm

        The biggest travesty about stage 19 was that they didn’t award the stage to Bernal even though he topped the Iseran first. Why not give him the stage if you ended the race there? But I get the nuance that the stage was annulled rather than abbreviated. But then why give the time gaps? It’s a mixed message, though I’d be over stating matters if I said I was exercised by it.

        • Razorback Thursday, 1 August 2019, 5:13 am

          I think is because they didnt want to give the time bonus.
          Bernal only got the bonus for the Iseran, but not the bonus for the stage.
          I think it makes sense.

  • Lynskey Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 10:36 am

    Thanks for the superb coverage, Inrng. It’s abundantly clear you do it for the love, but long may the enthusiasm continue.

    Must also say, your Stage 19 spiel above is one of the best passages on cycling I’ve read in a long time.

  • KevinK Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 3:55 pm

    Wonderful summary of a wonderful race. This blog had dramatically enhanced my enjoyment of following professional cycling. Thank you.

    I suspect we will look back at this year’s race and think how obvious that this was the end of hte Chris Froome era and the beginning of Bernal being a favorite for years to come. I have the sense that even without Froome’s crash this would have been the case, but we’ll never know of course. Froome hadn’t shown consistent signs of losing his mojo, but I don’t think he was his old invincible self, and over the course of three weeks I think that would have revealed itself.

    And, sadly, tenacious as Froome is, I know enough about healing from major injuries (esp. compound open fractures of the femur) to know that it’s unlikely he’ll even get to within 90% of his old self on the bike. In a world where marginal gains can be crucial, his injury is not a marginal deficit, like a hard fall with a concussion and a broken clavicle, but a massive deficit (notwithstanding reports from the team that he’s able to pedal a trainer with his uninjured leg, which is as meaningful as Wout van Aert saying he’s recovering quickly because he can arm wrestle as well as ever). There is no way to control or predict the recovery to such an injury, and among non-athletes success is when the bone heals sufficiently that one can walk fairly normally and without significant pain. Repeated surgeries and bone grafts are not uncommon, and full recovery, if that’s even achieved, can take a couple of years.

    Bernal is, as noted in the post, the real deal, and my sense was that he was holding back a little bit for stages 19 and 20. I think if those stages hadn’t been shortened, his margin of victory would have been greater. That said, if Pinot hadn’t pulled his quad I think he could have given Bernal a run for his money. It would have been so lovely to see that play out.

    • anon Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 4:35 pm

      I’m curious, what signs?

      Since 2017 Froome had transitioned to only performing in grand tours. He won the Tour in 2017 with no previous results in the year. It didn’t stop him winning the Tour/Vuelta double. 2018 started the same way and didn’t stop him winning the Giro in spectacular fashion and getting a 3rd at his fourth grand tour in a row making him only the second rider ever to get four grand tour podiums in a row. He looked on course to bag Tour #5 to me, and probably with ease. Of course, his injuries were serious. But as a 7 time grand tour winner he’s now a bona fide all time great. Write him off at your peril. He might have one or two wins left in him.

      • oldDAVE Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 5:08 pm

        I wholly agree with this.

        I think with all serial winners there’s a tendency to want to write them off again and again and whilst it is true Froome failed to follow all moves in the ’18 Giro and ’17 Vuelta it is also true that he was dropped on the final climb of the ’13 TDF but returned to crush the opposition in 16/17.

        I remember we were told Froome was ill in ’13 but many said he had a third week issue… this was swiftly disproved. And we were told he was ill again at the ’17 Vuelta yet many took this that he might not be the Froome of old, yet his incredible 3rd week performance at the Giro (for me at least) again reinforced how good he really is.

        I personally am willing to take that he was ill at the Vuelta and that he was pacing himself in the ’18Giro and then tired in the ’18TDF. All sound like reasonable responses to why he wasn’t his dominate best, and when you know this is a rider who has been the stand out GT rider since ’13 (when fit), I think it’s fair to say he’s earnt the benefit of the doubt, especially as he looked red hot in this year Dauphine before the crash.

        But I get why people might take his last three grand tours as him being past his best – we’ll never know if he does return a lesser rider. My instinct though is that this is people looking for a reason to say he’s past it rather than weighing up both sides of the argument, as surely anyone would be left on the fence at best in that case?

        • KevinK Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 5:57 pm

          I’ll admit that it’s more a gut feeling, influenced by knowing Froome’s age, and the fact that he’s had, as noted here, above average luck, as well as extraordinary team support. This year the support by the non-leaders was a substantial step below what it’s been, and frankly that didn’t seem to bother Bernal at all. Who’s to say how it would have affected Froome. In all likelihood, had Froome not crashed, he would have won this TdF. But Bernal clearly has gifts and abilities that Froome didn’t/doesn’t. I think Froome’s mental toughness and willing to train unbelievably hard is the key to his success, and at a certain point that isn’t enough to compensate for less-than-outstanding physical gifts, especially as one ages.

          As for his future, I have a large straw hat I wear on sunny days wear I want to embarrass my wife. I will eat that hat if Froome finishes in the top 10 of a grand tour in the future. I think his injuries are too catastrophic, the likelihood of imperfect healing of his femur too high, and his time off the bike will be too long. It’s a shame, he doesn’t deserve to go out this way, but elite athletes rarely get to choose how things go at the twilight of their careers.

          • Cedrik Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 6:48 pm

            I wish Froome a successful recovery and hope he can come back to the top levels of his profession. But I’m skeptical. Has any GT legend recovered from such a serious injury at Froome’s age? Not that I can recall, but my memory isn’t what it was. Has any frequent winner of major non-GT races done it? Seems like only a very few come back to even race professionally, let alone win and dominate. However, if anyone can do it, it’s Froome. I hope he can.

          • Digahole Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 9:46 pm

            Add to the mix the fact that only once before has a rider over 34 years old won the Tour (and that was in 1922) and it begins looking like a very unlikely scenario. But despite the fact that he ain’t my favorite rider, I tend to think that if anyone one can do it Froome probably can.

          • KevinK Thursday, 1 August 2019, 9:02 am

            @Cedrik – the only major injury I can think of in a top GT rider is Lemond’s gunshot wound. A very different injury, but still took him two years to come back.

            @Digahole – Froome’s age is part of it. If he were 25, I’d guess it’d be a 50-50 proposition that he’d make it back to an elite level. It’s not just his age, though. He’s been an elite GC rider for going on 10 years. Such riders (as opposed to sprinters and mtn bikers) have a significant rate of osteoporosis, and the amount of bone thinning is directly correlated with the number of years of such a riding pattern. Froome has also practiced nutritional restriction since before he was a pro rider, and I think his bone density is almost certainly much less than it would have been if he hadn’t been a cyclist.

  • Steve Thursday, 1 August 2019, 1:29 pm

    I wanted to make sure that I added – and echoed an earlier comment – that the Tour’s not officially over until I’ve read InnerRing’s wrap-up. Many, many thanks for the three weeks of coverage. This blog really is required reading. To paraphrase Tim Krabbe: A bike race consists of two parts: a bike race and M. InnerRing’s previews/reviews…

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