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Tour de France Rest Day Review

Le Tour’s turning out to be a vintage edition, a three week game of snakes and ladders with riders going up and down almost every day. Julian Alaphilippe’s looked brittle yet leaves the Pyrenees with more of lead than he went in with. Thibaut Pinot’s had the best weekend, taking back more time on Saturday and Sunday than he lost in the crosswinds to Albi. Steven Kruijswijk’s strong and the longer Alpine climbs should suit him more plus his Jumbo-Visma team look very strong. Ineos aren’t out of the race either with Geraint Thomas still second overall and Egan Bernal was the last to hold Thibaut Pinot’s wheel on the Prat d’Albis. Then come a list of riders with nothing to lose and as we saw yesterday on the Mur de Péguère, riders like Landa aren’t waiting for the final climb to launch raids.

Estimates claim 7 million people in France are watching the Tour, giving the broadcaster a crushing 50% audience share but it makes you wonder: what the other 60 million French people are doing? Some have tuned out and turned up as the roadside crowds look big (note: yesterday’s Prat d’Albis was only open to cyclists and people willing to walk up). It helps having two French riders in the lead, and yes this angle is exploited by the home media but it’s the variety, surprise and uncertainty that must be boosting ratings.

Tour de Trance” headlines L’Equipe today and it’ll be better to return to why it’s been a great race once it’s actually finished, otherwise it’s trying to review a restaurant mid-meal but for now the ingredients, service, venue and courses so far have been exquisite. The route with its Eastern bias has ensured varied geography which has helped deliver route à la Netflix with some dramatic opening scenes and then regular cliffhangers. We’ve had peripeteia galore, take Pinot losing time only to take it back, Ineos not (yet?) weighing on the race, Alaphilippe as a bicycling Icarus and more, think Thomas De Gendt’s stage win and even the sprint stages have seem the honours shared rather than serving up repeat episodes.

Ordinarily the Tour would be heading into the Alps with a pattern established in the Pyrenees. In recent years this means Chris Froome or Geraint Thomas in yellow and a deflating sense of inevitability as the focus for sport switches to the stage wins, the podium places and even the dreaded team prize and people start arguing over race radios and powermeters. This time it’s all so open and given the racing so far predictions seem foolhardy. Still, let’s review where each rider stands…

A rider who holds the yellow jersey at the mid-point of the race has a 70% of winning in Paris and their chances only increase as the days go by. Only this is not a usual Tour and Julian Alaphilippe looks vulnerable, he looked likely to crack on a climb and the first fissure came yesterday although it was self-inflicted because he tried to follow Pinot’s attack when if he’d stayed with Geraint Thomas he might have managed his losses better but that’s hindsight and as we’ve seen he’s not a rider to stare at his powermeter or ponder on yesterday. Still he went into the Pyrenees with 1m12s on his closest rival, Geraint Thomas, and came out with 1m35s on Thomas so he continues to confound expectations but with news that he apparently reconned the Pau time trial course ahead of the race, what if he’s had private ambitions of a high finish all along? But his problem is the mountains ahead. Today’s rest day and tomorrow’s sprint stage will do him plenty of good but the three Alpine stages are probably too much, the question is if he’s dropped on, say, the Galibier how much can he limit his losses? He’s got 1m35 to Thomas but seems to be matching him and perhaps his best answer is to track Thomas?

Read this blog’s pre-race preview and Thibaut Pinot‘s challenges were set out: “he can end up on the wrong side of a split in the bunch” and “he seems prone to illness”. The first issue can still occur even if the forecast for Nîmes tomorrow looks benign rather than a raging Mistral wind like the Mistral could blow (updated 4.00pm); the second is still a concern and apparently Groupama-FDJ soigneurs are wiping down hotel doorhandles and the team bus with bactericide. One third concern was the pressure but Alaphilippe’s carried some of the burden and Pinot seems relaxed in front of the cameras, more fluent than ever. He’s the strongest in the mountains and this should be advantageous but when and where to attack? Probably late on the first Alpine stage à la Tourmalet so he can overhaul Thomas and Kruijswijk, then grind down Alaphilippe after. Easier said than done and if he rode rivals off his wheel on the Prat d’Albis, he only took 18 seconds on Buchmann and Bernal in 7km.

Dave Brailsford must be tearing his hair out or perhaps chewing down his finger nails as for once Ineos don’t seem invincible any more, the fortress has crumbled, the spell broken. All the pre-Tour talk about team leadership felt a stale, questions in search of a story, but now it’s a live topic and there’s still no obvious answer. Geraint Thomas is the closer on GC but Egan Bernal has climbed better over the weekend and seems to have momentum with him. This is hardly a decision for King Solomon, it’s better to have two cards with the team pacing both into place and then letting them race. But it’s a tricky position, if Bernal is to rise up the rankings then he can’t try to slip away in the final moments of a stage and snipe a time bonus, he needs to launch with several kilometres to go and what if this sinks Thomas who is left isolated and loses more time? The team’s having a tougher time but will they sit back and soak it up or will they gamble that finishing third or fourth and winning the white jersey isn’t what they’re spending north of €40 million a year for? Jumbo-Visma look very strong with George Bennett and Laurens De plus and Steven Kruijswijk should find the upcoming long climbs to his liking but of the names cited so far would he sign for a podium place today? It’s hard to see him going solo but everything is so closely packed he can wait to pounce. Emanuel Buchmann is in a similar position if not more, you wonder if Bora-Hansgrohe are plotting Unternehmen Podest or “Operation Podium” because they can plot a route to the podium and if he’s hovering around third going into the weekend then who knows what happens on the final mountain stages but he’s climbing very well and not afraid to attack either, he’s come this far and has a genuine shot at the win because he’s climbing so well.

Elsewhere Simon Yates has two stage wins. Mitchelton-Scott had come with ambitions for Adam Yates but he’s 33 minutes down and Simon’s success is more than a consolation, especially as he can hope take a stage in the Alps too and Daryl Impey has a stage too. The stage wins have been hogged by Jumbo-Visma with four stage wins, Deceuninck-Quickstep and Mitchelton-Scott with three each, two for Lotto-Soudal and one each for Bora-Hansgrohe, Bahrain-Merida and Groupama-FDJ. This leaves 15 teams stage-hunting the remaining six stages and the point here is the majority of the teams have a big interest in sending riders up the road so expect gruelling starts to the stages which will only make the race harder, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

King of the mountains is Tim Wellens but he looks like a prince about to get toppled. He’s got 64 points after scoring points all over the first two weeks while Pinot has taken 50 points over the weekend weekend to move into second place. Given the action for the overall classification this contest has yet to come alive but Wellens and De Gendt should still try while Romain Bardet has started harvesting points too and Simon Yates could aim for this too.

In the points Peter Sagan is comfortable in green with Sonny Colbrelli second in the points competition, Michael Matthews in third and Elia Viviani in fourth 100 points behind. It’s Sagan’s to lose now because Viviani would have to win in Nîmes tomorrow and Paris just to close the gap to Sagan… assuming the Slovak didn’t score a single point either.

Finally what’s next? Tuesday is a large loop around Nîmes with a likely sprint finish, the last chance before Paris. Wednesday sees the race head for the Alps and a stage for the breakaway with a late climb before a fast descent into Gap – but not that descent, it’s the Col de la Sentinelle rather than La Rochette – and there will be a big fight to get in the break. Thursday is the first of three Alpine stages with the long, hard climbs of the Vars, Izoard and Galibier. Friday crosses the Iseran, Europe’s highest paved mountain pass before a slog up to Tignes. Saturday’s stage has three climbs with the last one to Val Thorens 33km long and harder it looks on paper. This much we know, the question is what will happen? There seem to be six possible winners in Alaphilippe, Thomas, Kruijswijk, Pinot, Bernal and Buchmann all within about two minutes. Mikel Landa is further down on GC but still one to watch, Movistar’s free radical is climbing with the best and if he continues his remontada then the risk is could threaten to photobomb the podium picture the others might crave. This time next week it’ll all be over.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Db Monday, 22 July 2019, 12:38 pm

    What a race. What a blog!! Keep it up

    • Edmilo Monday, 22 July 2019, 3:20 pm

      This is an amazing race and we the spectators are being treated to a special time in TDF recent history. Everyday is like a single day classic. Thanks to Inner Ring for concise reporting without the commercial dribble that other feeds believe is what cycling fans want. Please keep it coming.

    • Larry G Monday, 22 July 2019, 9:03 pm

      +1

  • ocaz Monday, 22 July 2019, 12:42 pm

    It has been an incredible Tour so far which in some ways has probably been helped by not having likes of Froome and Dumoulin in it and INEOS not having a clear leader as Bernal and G would have worked towards Froome’s goal one would think, which would have made them even stronger. It is great it is so wide open going into the final week.

    It is interesting that some have pointed out if only Pinot hadn’t lost time in the crosswinds but I personally don’t think he would have attacked in the way that he has if hadn’t, of course this is all hypothetical.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 22 July 2019, 2:07 pm

      I’d agree on the point with Pinot and the crosswinds, it might have given him something to fight against.

      • Jovelo Monday, 22 July 2019, 2:22 pm

        Yes ans perhaps Pinot is the type of rider more at ease attacking when he feels good rather than riding defensively with the jersey and calculating between his watts and whether if he should mark rider A, B or C?

  • shadow Monday, 22 July 2019, 12:44 pm

    Superb summary, as usual. Conclusion?
    Seems to me to be open to anyone in the top 6 who has a combination of super strong climbing skills, tactical nous, a strong team and maybe some luck too.
    A superb edition of Le Tour.

  • RQS Monday, 22 July 2019, 12:53 pm

    Great round-up of the last week. Thomas still seems far from out of it. Pinot would appear to be the main danger. Though 1m 35 can be a tall order to overcome, especially when you consider he’s lost time almost everywhere he’d be expected to gain. It’s been a good tour even if I do consider Alaphilippe’s form too good to be true. Perhaps if Rohan Dennis (or even Roglic) has been there to compete we would have been able to peg his performance more accurately. The revisionists have labelled Thomas’s TT as sub par, but were it not for an unbelievable negative split by JA we wouldn’t have labelled it so.

  • R Monday, 22 July 2019, 1:12 pm

    I was thinking this morning that, in hindsight, losing time in the crosswinds could eventually turn out to the benefit of Pinot. Extrapolating backwards is tricky, but imagine he now sat 10 seconds behind Alaphilippe and over 1m ahead of his closest ‘true’ rival. The pressure and focus on him would be huge and it could change the way he races, moving from offensive to defensive, which doesn’t seem to suit him. Surely his dream scenario is to take yellow on Saturday? All the glory, less of the pressure.

    • Jovelo Monday, 22 July 2019, 2:25 pm

      I have the same thought

      • KecinR Monday, 22 July 2019, 11:18 pm

        Me too. But I’ve also had the thought that Ineos are playing the long game and maybe Thomas and Bernal are going to come on strong in the Alps. I don’t get Kwiato and Castroviejo getting dropped quite so early and I don’t get the Luke Rowe/Kwiato video on the Tourmalet like they’re out for a social ride. Are they holding back for those days with several 2,000m summits?

  • Gargatouf Monday, 22 July 2019, 1:15 pm

    No chainrings this time?? Too difficult to predict ;-).

    I am pleased to have been proven wrong with my pre-tour prediction, thinking it would be another Ineos stroll, them taking the yellow jersey in the TTT and not letting it go until Paris.

    I think the momentum is with Pinot. He is clearly the strongest climber at the moment, so hoping it will continue. He has taken about 1.30mns on Alaphilippe and almost 2mns on Thomas in a couple of stages. If he can do the same in the Alps, I believe he will win the Tour as I can’t see Alaphilippe keeping the yellow. Hopefully, the Alps stages will be interesting and hoping nothing silly happens (illness, falls etc… ) to the contenders until Paris so we can have a great end to the race.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 22 July 2019, 2:09 pm

      No chainrings, it’d take too much time. Alaphilippe is still in a good place, Pinot had a great weekend but can he keep it up, Thomas is still second but has been going backwards uphill, Bernal and Buchmann both have their chances and Kruijswijk is looking cool and has a strong team but once we start to extrapolate beyond this it’s impossible, like trying to imagine a chess game several moves ahead only on a hexagonal board with six different players.

      • jc Monday, 22 July 2019, 3:00 pm

        Dave Brailsford clearly has been reading this blog for a few tips, quote from his press conference

        “Nobody is really controlling the race as such,” Brailsford said. “It’s way more exciting but it’s more like chess in another sense.” 🙂

        • kavan Monday, 22 July 2019, 5:48 pm

          Or maybe Inrng is David Brailsford.

        • Digahole Monday, 22 July 2019, 11:21 pm

          DB gave an interestingly upbeat interview to the Bespoke podcast today saying that he was enjoying this years race, the new tactical elements and challenges etc. Even that it was not only good for the sport and the Tour, but also good for Ineos! Actually quite refreshing to hear him genuinely relish the challenge

  • jc Monday, 22 July 2019, 1:19 pm

    As ever a first rate informed summary.

    I think the weather and altitude will play their part over the next week. The heat is going to be an issue and will affect some riders more than others.

    I know he keeps being written off though he is still there but I thought Julian Allaphilippe’s media statements yesterday were an admission of defeat and “Allez Thibaut” but maybe he is playing a game however he did look completely spent. The lack of any team support is also telling.

    The Ineos soap opera goes on, perhaps Dave Brailsford’s toughest challenge so far. One of the Eurosport commentators suggested that perhaps G’s struggles on Saturday had affected his confidence which meant he hesitated (too much time spent discussing on the radio) when he should have ridden on.

    I suspect a number of rider’s hopes will be left on the slopes of the Galibier, hopefully there will be more than one contender left standing. I doubt we will see anything as epic as Andy Schleck riding away on the Izouard to victory atop the Galibier whilst Cadel Evans pedalled furiously in the valley to keep within striking distance in the TT and another French hero fought valiantly to defend the yellow jersey though lost it the following day. Likely to be compelling viewing over the next week.

    • IanPa Monday, 22 July 2019, 1:30 pm

      Great summary, excellent coffee read as usual.

      Hope the weather stays cool, Pinot is a known disliker of the heat and as he has been main animator the past weekend, can we hope for cool and damp weather..

      Happy for any of the top 6 to win this race, all come across as nice guys, which cant be bad for the sport outside of us ‘full-time’ followers.

      • The Inner Ring Monday, 22 July 2019, 2:06 pm

        We’ll see with Pinot and the heat, it’s been hot all along so far and he was training in a heatwave prior to the Tour too.

  • DieHard Monday, 22 July 2019, 1:34 pm

    One of the best Tours in a couple of years, thanks to the absence of big guns Froome and Dumoulin.

    Everything still possible, but most riders will have to attack. Pinot should now definitely have the morale to try, Bernal should be going for it as well, with Thomas potentially sitting behind simply following and saving energy. Alaphilippe has to defend rather than attack (perhaps apart from Wednesday), Kruijswijk should probably attack as well as the 3rd week is always his strongest and he has an attacking spirit.

    And as the mountains jersey competition clearly shows: the big mountains still have to come. Saturday and Sunday were warm-ups.

    Has Kruijswijk what it takes?
    Can Pinot be the best climber in all mountain stages?
    Will Bernal be able to keep going in the 3rd week (this is his 2nd grand tour ever)?
    Is Thomas on an inclining or declining shape of form?

    As for Alaphilippe, I think he’ll have to throw in the towel Thurday or Friday.

  • Tom J Monday, 22 July 2019, 1:35 pm

    I wonder if eight rider teams is showing its effect, especially on Ineos – less margin for error if one of the domestiques isn’t on full form; and a higher combined workload. With nine rider teams, there was more opportunity to allow riders a day off if they weren’t at the top of their game; now each rider has to ride each day. It’s clear that Ineos haven’t been able to control the race on the last climb as before – even when they have appeared to have five or six riders left at the foot of the last climb (as on the Tourmalet) several have only been there after getting dropped on the previous climb and a chase back on, so have been dropped quickly a second time.

    • John Irvine Monday, 22 July 2019, 6:47 pm

      I think it is. The peloton seems to thin out fairly quickly, and the overall scale of the whole race seems more intimate. Even sprint trains seemed thinner in the first week. A good thing, I think.

  • oldDAVE Monday, 22 July 2019, 2:03 pm

    Come on Pinot! That’s all I have to say.

  • Richard S Monday, 22 July 2019, 2:06 pm

    Excellent summary of an excellent race so far. As you say the race is usually as good as done by now with Sky in the lead and the comfort blanket of a TT to come. I think praise definitely has to be given to the route this year, as well as the riders of course. I’ve got a feeling the Alps are going to be a different kettle of fish to the Pyrenees. Such long climbs certainly haven’t been Alaphilippe’s bag, thus far. Also the heat. When you have a Brit, a Dutchman, a German and a Colombian from the cool air at 3000m as competition does the advantage lie with the natives?

  • brent sword Monday, 22 July 2019, 2:16 pm

    Its hard to see Alaphilippe winning even if he was the best, and there are others potentially better at backing up every day and conserving. No matter how good Alaphilippe will be he is always vunerable. Any moments weakness will ne exploited as he has no quality team support. And with so many in contention marking so many will be close to impossible. He will break eventually if the others play hardball and don’t gift him a train.
    Pinot has improved in strength and confidence over the past 2 years it is really good to see. Riding with such gusto every mountain stage seems a step to far. Quite a chance for a bad stage and undoing the gains but time will tell.
    For the non-inoes I would guess Kruijswijk is the best placed. A steady smart racer so far even if Pinot is the more dynamic. Buchmann is a dark horse as well obviously.

    • Jovelo Monday, 22 July 2019, 2:35 pm

      I think the two main factors now for Pinot are heat and illnesse. I think he took the right decision attacking in the Pyrenees, after all he had time to gain on his rivals, he must attack at some point. Better to enter the alps with a 20 seconds deficit, which can be gained on the second half of a last climb, than with a 2’30” deficit which can only be gained by mounting a risky attack far from the finish line. Which is impossible if you start to get really tired or ill.
      Time will tell!

  • Martijn Monday, 22 July 2019, 2:33 pm

    TJV have four wins at last count 😉

    Otherwise all agreed, great tour.

    • MRJ Monday, 22 July 2019, 9:18 pm

      And all four wins by different people! Teunissen; the team in the TTT; Groenewegen; and WVA. That’s kind of impressive in its own way.

      I am supremely impressed with the team’s evolution… and can only wonder at how they’d perform next year if they were to throw all their horsepower at the Tour. Dumoulin as leader, with Kruijswijk, Roglic, Bennett, de Plus, WVA as support. The addition of Dumoulin (if those rumors are true) would seem to be the “last piece” missing from their puzzle.

      • Digahole Monday, 22 July 2019, 11:28 pm

        Would be an amazing battle against a Sky-strength INEOS

      • Martijn Thursday, 25 July 2019, 1:15 pm

        But what if Groenewegen leaves when he does not get a chance at the Tour De France??

  • Anonymous Monday, 22 July 2019, 2:38 pm

    I suspect the winner’ll be somebody who hasn’t yet dominated many headlines, and I think intelligence and racing experience will be critical from now on. (That’s why I rule out Bernal, unfortunately: I think he’ll follow everything and end up with nothing.) Can Pinot really blow them all away again? Even Froome has to employ his biggest attacks sparingly. BTW, it’s good to see Pinot’s team employing marginal gains professionalism with the sanitation thing when they too have a shot at GC victory.

    Finally, I hope Alaphilippe hangs around a while longer because I’ve only just learnt how to spell his name.

  • Jostein Monday, 22 July 2019, 3:02 pm

    Very nice and interesting read, as always!
    One point about Pinot and GroupamaFDJ, I don’t see much comments about the strength of the team, but aren’t they looking quite good so far in the Tour? Both in the TTT and other stages in the first week (bar the crosswind stage), and now also in the mountains? I would think this would also be a good help for Pinot on his (I hope!) way to yellow 😀

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 22 July 2019, 4:24 pm

      They’re looking good, they have a climber heavy team with Gaudu making an impact, Reichenbach was up the road to help Pinot when he bridged across and they were instrumental with Bonnet, Ladagnous and Küng in containing the breakaway at 3 minutes on the stage to the Tourmalet which ultimately helped Pinot win the 10s time bonus.

    • Davesta Monday, 22 July 2019, 4:25 pm

      David Gaudu is certainly proving to be an exceptional super-domestique in the mountains. As are De Plus & Bennett for Jumbo Visma…

      Indeed it’s interesting that where both these teams have strong climbers selflessly supporting their leaders deep into mountain stages, Ineos by comparison are looking fairly exposed. But then, at least their domestiques aren’t dropping their leader ala Movistar!

  • Gybemeister Monday, 22 July 2019, 3:10 pm

    Great insight and equally mesmerizing analysis.
    Q: Who will benefit most by rest day and subsequent sprint stage? Likewise who will be hurt most. My guess Ali and Thomas respectively.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 22 July 2019, 4:22 pm

      Just updated the piece above because there’s now a rising chance of crosswinds for tomorrow. We’ll know better tomorrow but it may not be the plain procession and sprint either.

      • -gareth- Monday, 22 July 2019, 6:15 pm

        Alaphilippe and Thomas could be interested, I doubt these 2 can rely on the climbs. In any case, the weather conditions could be influential over the next several days.

  • DJS Monday, 22 July 2019, 3:11 pm

    What a fantastic race this year!
    Kruiswijk spent ten days between Dauphiné and TdF in Tignes, at altitude (as per Strava). He has ridden the stage to Tignes while there and is probably quite aware of the other Alpine difficulties as well. He also did reconaissance of some of the earlier stages (Planche de belle filles, for example). I don’t know where the other contenders have been hanging out recently but Kruiswijk is definitely prepared.

  • Anonymous Monday, 22 July 2019, 3:16 pm

    The tactics from here in for everyone but Ineos seem straightforward:
    DQS – Alaphillipe to hang on on the climbs as long as possible. The only decision is which attacks to try to follow, and when to pace himself or let others chase if they will.
    JV – Use their strong train to limit losses to Pinot, and possibly Bernal, Buchmann and Landa, in order to cement the podium place for Kruiswijk.
    FDJ – Use Gaudu to isolate the rival’s leaders early on the last climb of each of the 3 Alpine days, then Pinot to attack as early as he feels he can make it stick. Aggression needed to get past Thomas and Bernal, but he’s shown he can do this.
    Mov: Surely all-in for Landa now to get a stage win and podium spot.
    Ineos – what to do? They have to gamble for the win, so if it was me, I’d vary instructions according to Alaphillipe’s situation:
    Option 1 – Alaphillipe dropped with >5km to go on the last climb of the day – Bernal to ride for Thomas, maximise the gain on Alaphilippe and get Thomas into yellow.
    Option 2 – Alaphillipe still there with <5km. Bernal and Thomas to alternate attacks. As the senior rider, Thomas to decide who goes, but no attacks and therefore pacing Alaphillipe to the top not an option.
    Option 3 – Pinot, Kruiswijk or Buchmann attacks – both riders to try to follow. If only one can, they ride for themselves. If neither can, back to option 1 or 2, again depending on where Alaphillipe is.

    This would seem to be the best approach to get either of their riders into yellow, and would make for fascinating racing. If Thomas isn't able to attack Alaphillipe, but Bernal can and make it stick, it's going to get very close between those two, and Pinot, as well as Alaphillipe if he can stay within 30s on the big climbs like he did yesterday. Could we have a 4 or even 6 way race for overall victory on the final climb of Val Thorens?

    • Jostein Monday, 22 July 2019, 4:04 pm

      What a spectacular scenario your ending will be!

    • Chris_SK Monday, 22 July 2019, 7:40 pm

      Looks good…and pretty straight forward providing everyone has the legs. I think there will be a couple from the 6 who have bad days or fall away – probably Buchmann or Alaf as for them it’s unfamiliar territory.

      Pinot can be vulnerable, but he looks super confident now re: his ability to use aggression to gain time.

      SKY might be riding for Bernal by Saturday’s stage – which could change the dynamic completely for Kruiswijk and Pinot – his ability to attack from long range is obviously better than Thomas’ tempo and attack at the top tactic. on such a long final climb, he could overturn deficits greater than a minute never mind a few seconds.

      Kruiswijk and Buchmann have been mostly conservative so far but both have the ability to mount a raid on the final climb and damage the others.

      Landa currently not a factor – but another couple of days digging out a minute or so, he might be close enough to have an impact on how Friday/Saturday are raced…. and that kind of outside influence could still wildly swing the outcome of the race – the earlier it blows apart, you would have to expect the less likely it is Alaf will hold on for example.

  • Felix Monday, 22 July 2019, 3:23 pm

    Dave Brailsford in an interview with the Gaurdian today: “If a French guy won the Tour de France then I think it would be a brilliant thing for the sport, for the Tour and it would be something that would light it all up,” he said. “We’d have to go back to the drawing board but I think it would be a shot in the arm for the whole sport.”

    “Shot in the arm”? Awkward choice of words unless it was a deliberate dig…

    • Lukyluk Monday, 22 July 2019, 3:46 pm

      He meant: for the whole team. They’ll be back in a jiffy.

      • Greasy Wheel Monday, 22 July 2019, 4:34 pm

        Chapeau, Lukyluk… chapeau.

    • Morten Reippuert Knudsen Monday, 22 July 2019, 5:06 pm

      Cortisone shot 😛

  • Ken Monday, 22 July 2019, 3:30 pm

    Everybody’s saying Alaphillipe will fade in the Alps. Wasn’t he King of the Mountains last year? He’d still be my pick, though Pinot also seems in great form.

    • jc Monday, 22 July 2019, 3:37 pm

      Thought the Cycling podcast folks used a good analogy last night. Imagine in athletics if a 800m champion is running in a 5000m race. If the other runners set a moderate or even fast but steady pace the 800m runner will manage to tag along until the last lap and then will beat them all to the line. However if the 5000m runners vary the pace sometimes fast, sometimes slow the 800m runner will struggle and will get dropped a long way from home.

    • Spofferoonie Monday, 22 July 2019, 4:12 pm

      The difference is that he was in polka dots by going in breaks rather than riding with the maillot jaune group, so he could ride his own pace and only had to get rid of whoever he was in the break with. Now he has to ride at other people’s pace (as he has no team to help him) against some of the best climbers in the world (sort of, depending who’s in the final group). It’s a massive difference and that’s what’s most likely to cause him to crack and lose time in the really big Alpine stages to come.
      He’s a good climber but he’s not the best climber (as evidenced by Tim Wellens somehow still being in polka dots this year – imagine if Wellens was in yellow, no one would think he was about to win the thing).

      • MRJ Monday, 22 July 2019, 9:30 pm

        I agree with all of the above and might just add that, by riding for GC rather than the Maillot a Pois, Alaphilippe cannot afford to take a “day off” and just cruise in with the grupetto. In terms of managing the stress and fatigue (both physical and mental), the fact that he now needs to be “on” every single day is a *huge* difference from what he did last year (as impressive as that was).

    • Adrian Holman Monday, 22 July 2019, 4:12 pm

      True but in this case the King isn’t necessarily the strongest climber.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 22 July 2019, 4:41 pm

      The others already make good points but I’d add that when he was going in the breaks last year he won some of the points by climbing faster than the peloton/GC contenders at times so he can do long climbs fast. But he almost cracked on the Tourmalet, if he’s pushed like this again and again he’ll lose time but it’s close, we could find the others don’t or can’t race it too hard. Alaphilippe could just track Thomas and see if this is enough. He could attack over the climb to Gap and use the descent to take more time even. This is sort of why I didn’t want to try and rank riders, it’s still very open.

      • Morten Reippuert Knudsen Monday, 22 July 2019, 5:17 pm

        Reg earlyer discussion if Alaphillipe has reconned stages for win, GC or KOM

        If i where Alaphillipe studying the racebook the Gap stage would have been my first pick ahead Champagne stage, ITT and St Etienne. Question is how cooked is he and how much energy will QS want to preserve before the final 3 +2000m stages.
        +30 seconds +10 sec bonus sure looks tempting plus its a stage that QS can controll.

        btw that road in the shade of Ventoux and Lure is quite nice ….though i prefere to ride in the opposite direction-

        • Lukyluk Monday, 22 July 2019, 5:44 pm

          Things have changed since the first week though. If Alaphilippe tries to get away he’ll have 4 GC teams immediately committed to an all-out chase, maybe even the leaders helping, not to mention Sunweb, Bahrein-Merida or Mitchelton-Scott that could want to take the stage.

          An attack by Alapbilippe seems doomed to me. He’ll be trying to save energy for the queen stage on Thursday. The breakaway has the best chance, plus the sprinters’ teams (DQT, J-V) won’t go all out to save some strength for the GC battle the next day. My pick would be the stage will go to a baroudeur like De Gendt, unless a sprinter-who-can-climb like Matthews, Felline or Trentin manages to slip away.

          • Davesta Monday, 22 July 2019, 6:51 pm

            I agree. Perhaps if it was a steep, technical descent he could try an attack near the top & put the other GC riders under pressure on the way down…but the descent is only a ~5% gradient, and with a couple of uphill sections along the way for good measure – it’s very hard to see him taking time against a committed chase on that road.

          • Digahole Monday, 22 July 2019, 11:41 pm

            Plus the climb is ~5%… tough to get away

  • Jeff Monday, 22 July 2019, 3:42 pm

    Thanks for an outstanding blog during an outstanding edition of the tour!

    Would love to support via a t-shirt or some gear on Prendas… is that coming back soon?

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 22 July 2019, 4:21 pm

      We’ll see. This is just an amateur blog but all the same there are some costs for hosting, software, for recon rides etc and if people want to help support then it’d be welcome, it’s something I need to sort out but one thing to tap out a post about the Tour, another to sort out kit, manage money etc. More news in due course.

      • MattF Tuesday, 23 July 2019, 9:03 am

        Amateur in the sense that you don’t make money out of it but professional in every other sense. Keep up the good work.

  • Flying Irishman Monday, 22 July 2019, 4:24 pm

    After a few years of complaints of dominant teams, riding to powermeter numbers and a general lack of suspense, this year is indeed a cracker. Sad that losing some big names equated to a better Tour but that’s how it is!

    • Larry T Tuesday, 23 July 2019, 3:40 pm

      I agree, but one might think those who run the sport would want to try to control things like “dominant teams, riding to powermeter numbers and general lack of suspense” rather than just leave them to chance?
      OTOH perhaps “marginal gains” have simply been equalized this year and we’d have enjoyed a cracking race even with those big names present? We can hope 🙂

  • irungo txuletak Monday, 22 July 2019, 4:26 pm

    great race this year. I can’t believe it after last years’ Tour that were so boring.
    The route helps of course, but there are also a collection of beautiful charachters there.
    As far as I am cocnerned, I believe that this year will be french: whether Pinot or Alaphillipe to take it. These are also the 2 that are doing the show.
    A pity Landa is so far in GC.
    Now, I won’t be surprised if this turns into one of the favourites going all in with an early attack in a difficult mountain stage. In the last days of the Tour, the other riders might be looking more at a good placing than at a potential win, and then waiting for others to pull…

  • Dave the rave Monday, 22 July 2019, 4:53 pm

    I have just done the Etape and the last 33km climb from Moutiers to Val Thorens is hideous – it was very hot yesterday and the heat sits in the first 12km of the climb and cooks you alive. No shade. No breeze. Narrow little roads. If a rider struggles with heat and its over 30 C they are going hate Stage 20 on Saturday.

    • Morten Reippuert Knudsen Monday, 22 July 2019, 5:24 pm

      Never did that (Done other +2000m rides from Mourties).

      Can only reconmend Granada -> Pico de Veleta (or just to IRAM) if you like desolate roads, heat, altitude and stunning views. Its tougher, warmer, longer, higher and more spectacular than Val Thorens+final 8k gravelroad or anything else you can find in the french alps. (I tend to find the frech alps borring).

    • J Evans Monday, 22 July 2019, 7:17 pm

      Saturday’s forecast seems to be cooler – ~27 instead of ~33 – than Thu and Fri.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 22 July 2019, 7:32 pm

      I’ll do a “roads to ride” piece about this climb in the coming days, it’s an important climb for the race and as you say the first section is a furnace if it’s hot.

  • Andrew Monday, 22 July 2019, 5:20 pm

    Ala “is” Asterix, I think. Where, oh where, is Getafix and his (UCI approved) magic potion?!!?

  • De2r Monday, 22 July 2019, 6:12 pm

    What do we think Patrick Lefevere is doing on his rest day? Will a lower ranked team suddenly be working for Alaphippe tomorrow? Or does he buy the allegiance of a couple of strong Pro-Conti riders by promising them a spot on the roster next year? Maybe I’m being too cynical; QS already has the strongest team if the winds blow tomorrow, so really what they would want is a David Gaidu type of climber. Those are probably hard to find & co-opt at this stage of the race.

    • Chris_SK Monday, 22 July 2019, 7:23 pm

      Enric Mas finished 156th yesterday. Unless there is some real problem, i would venture it’s because the focus is now on keeping Alaf as high up the GC as possible, and he need to save his legs to support in the Alps

      • The Inner Ring Monday, 22 July 2019, 7:30 pm

        Apparently he’s ill but it’s second hand info. He wouldn’t have been dropped by Viviani’s pace-setting yesterday on the Port de Lers, especially as he had the white jersey.

    • Andrew Monday, 22 July 2019, 7:24 pm

      Wishing he had Kwiato, Uran and Dan Martin back?

  • J Evans Monday, 22 July 2019, 7:21 pm

    The wind in one of the next two stages could be the biggest factor, I reckon. Is there any way FDJ can protect Pinot? Seems like they should be able to form a team echelon and not lose too much time, if Pinot cannot stay in the front group.
    The others have strong teams for the wind: J-V, Ineos, DQS, Bora.
    Amazing race. Just brilliant. And this is a fantastic summary, Inner Ring (very good comments too).

  • Wondering Monday, 22 July 2019, 7:31 pm

    An exciting edition of the TDF.
    Only one stage a TTT this year when lately there seems to be about 9 stages of a Sky TTT which is boring. I could also never figure out why GC guys didnt train for the upcoming Sky TTT in the last few years.

  • RonRon Monday, 22 July 2019, 8:40 pm

    Over by this time next week? Sob!
    Even if I still have a summer beach trip to look forward to, as well as the Vuelta, summer always seems a little bit over when the Tour is over. Already sad 7/29 looms.
    Would love to see Pinot win! Guy has quietly and professionally gone about his racing for years now. JA is a very likeable racer, but QS wins so often it wouldn’t be as fun.

    • Joe K. Tuesday, 23 July 2019, 9:35 am

      Seeing Madiot’s reaction to Pinot’s stage win makes me want to see his reaction if Pinot won the overall. If such an event occurred, medics should be on stand-by with a defibrillator (had to spell check that one) and an ambulance nearby.

  • Jeff Monday, 22 July 2019, 8:59 pm

    I recognize there are lots of factors at play, but I give Alaphilippe a lot of credit for the openness and excitement of this year’s TdF. He has ripped up the script of how a puncheur is supposed to ride in the TdF and inserted himself into the GC drama, causing confusion at the top of the table. At this point in any other Tour, the puncheurs would be targeting their stages and letting the GC boys fight it out in the mountains.

    Alaphilippe targeted the yellow jersey early on, exploited the cross winds, targeted the time trial and hung with the leaders on the first big mountains test. Even if he doesn’t hold on to the jersey in the Alps, he is largely the animator of the race so far.

    • Gelato4bahamontes Monday, 22 July 2019, 9:26 pm

      Except the first big mountains test was only a117 km sprint up the tourmalet. If it had been a full circle of death, my guess is ala wouldn’t be in yellow now, as evidenced by losing time on Sunday, though if had followed Thomas instead of chasing pinot…

  • André Smilgin Monday, 22 July 2019, 11:35 pm

    Fantastic review!! Chapeau, I should say 😉

  • KevinR Monday, 22 July 2019, 11:41 pm

    There are a lot of comments here about Pinot and Alaphilippe here. I get that because one has momentum and the other is holding back the tide. But Ineos riders still loom large. And I have a sneaking suspicion that they’re pacing themselves to the last week and not burning too many matches. As someone commented earlier, even Froome only makes a small number of attacks in any grand tour and maybe Pinot’s going to run out of gas. Or maybe not and Thomas is just short of last year’s form and Bernal is too inexperienced. It’ll be exciting finding out!

    • KevinR Monday, 22 July 2019, 11:48 pm

      Having said that, I’ve just seen a rest day interview with Thomas on UK TV and he sounded far from confident. In fact, he sounded hesitant and a bit defensive. Not like someone who believes he can win. Indeed, his demeanour was of someone who wasn’t happy with something- like the team deciding to back Bernal for instance. Again I could be wildly wrong and if I am, apologies Thomas de Gwent!

      • Greasy Wheel Tuesday, 23 July 2019, 12:48 am

        Some more bullish comments from Thomas post the last stage (“had good legs”, “didn’t want to drag JA back to Bernal”), but the reality I think isn’t quite so good: he only pulled back a few (5?) seconds on Pinot after Kruijskijk attacked, he said he didn’t want to help JA but Poels was working with the latter in the wheels.
        That’s not to say he won’t improve in the last week – crashing out of the prep race probably means he came in further below top form than the others – but I think you’re right to be hesitant.

        Thursday is going to be so fascinating. If I was Alaphilippe, I’d follow Thomas and no-one else. And if I was Thomas, I’d try and follow Pinot to stop him getting that 15 seconds, and hope to be able to follow on the last two stages… Tignes has a flat last two km and I suspect we could see a more defensive posture from some by then.

      • jc Tuesday, 23 July 2019, 1:07 am

        I didnt know what to make of it. G can be disarmingly honest at times dont think he is into all the mind game stuff. On one level he did seem a bit hesitant and unsure of himself on another he seemed upbeat and looking forward to the stages ahead. I think if he is going to win he needs to impose himself, like he did at Planche de Belle Filles, make a statement, whether that is cross winds tomorrow or first over the Galibier. That will answer the various questions surrounding him, it is certainly what Chris Froome would do. If he does not have the form to do so (or he does not believe he has the form) then the way is open for Egan Bernal or Thibaut Pinot.

        • KevinR Tuesday, 23 July 2019, 9:45 am

          If the Mistral blows strong today, expect Alaphilippe and Thomas to become best buddies again and their teams to rip it up and possibly put a lot of time into Pinot’s team that just doesn’t have the Classics power of Ineos and Quick Step. Maybe EF will do their version of Movistar’s crap tactics again and kick it all off only to miss out!

      • HVR Tuesday, 23 July 2019, 10:35 am

        I’ve just caught up with the ITV highlights and agree that Thomas sounds like he may have accepted that Ineos have to back Bernal. Seems sensible given the extent of high altitude mileage to come. I’d love to see a Pinot or Alaphilippe victory but I think Bernal will end up in yellow. The consolation of that would be that we’ll have seen some memorable mountain riding where at some point a young Colombian soars away from his rivals. Whatever, it should be a very exciting week .

  • Motormouth Tuesday, 23 July 2019, 4:35 am

    Thomas, kruijswijk, pinot for podium placings. I think T likely has it. Would love the coat hanger to finally have his podium, and Jumbo look strong to support him finally. Pinot will of course overheat and blow up.

    Second thoughts for landa, fuglsand or buchmann to make the podium.

    Amazing race so far – been a great year for gt racing!

  • Dariusz Tuesday, 23 July 2019, 5:15 am

    Firstly many thanks for all article which I start reading about TdF. The race is far away more interesting and difficult. Keep my fingers crossed for French riders

  • Tom Tuesday, 23 July 2019, 8:55 am

    A joy to read. Much appreciated for the insights and reporting. It’s been a great Tour.

  • brent sword Tuesday, 23 July 2019, 1:29 pm

    I wish bennet had not lost the time due to the water bottle silliness. He has ridden so well that he could have been a second card to play forcing the others to chase.

  • Anonymous Tuesday, 23 July 2019, 1:40 pm

    No obvious stand out favourite = a good Tour.