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Tour de France Stage 6 Preview

The first mountain stage and a hard summit finish made even tougher today thanks to an extension to the habitual finishing straight, this time there’s an extra 900 metres on top culminating in a final ramp of 22% to the line.

Stage 5 Review: a lively start to the stage with wave after wave of attacks until four riders, Simon Clarke (EF Education First), Toms Skujiņš (Trek-Segafredo), Mads Würtz (Katusha-Alpecin) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) had a gap. It was the ideal move for the peloton, as the quartet might be, the peloton could control a small move. Sunweb and Bora-Hansgrohe did most of the work to filter the moves and then kept the breakaway on a tight leash leaving spectators to enjoy the stunning scenery of Alsace in the height of summer. In the finale Bora looked to have run out of riders but Sagan resembled a bowling ball alongside skittles and got the job done with ease and was able to sit up and celebrate before the line. He looked less at ease on the podium, anxiously adjusting the goggles placed on him, it looks contrived but Sagan pulls off stunts that others can’t.

The Route: 160.5km and a mountain stage. It’s not the Alps but there’s 4,000m of vertical gain. After 20km across the plains it’s uphill to the intermediate sprint and then directly onto the Markstein, 10km at 5.4% which sounds gentle but there steep sections nudging 10% on the way up, a flat section and then it kicks up again to the mountains point… and then keeps rising again to the Grand Ballon. The descent afterwards is long and down a main road before turning right to tackle the Col de Hundsruck, 5km at 7%.

The Ballon d’Alsace is listed as 11km at 5.8% but this depends where you draw the start point, in total it’s 13km at 5% but there’s 7km at 7% in the middle making it hard work and the first big mountain tackled by the Tour de France, in 1905 but not the first mountain pass, neither the first climb over 1,000m. There’s a regular descent and then a breather across to the small Col des Croix, a regular road with some good 7% ramps towards the top and followed by a more gentle, longer descent.

The Col de Chevrères was last used in the 2014 Tour and there’s a small valley approach road with not much room to move up and teams, presumably Ineos, will be driving the pace here. The actual climb is savage going from 14% to 19% and with some tight bends – it’s so narrow and steep some of the race caravan is forbidden – and with the 8-5-2 second time bonus at the top. There’s a descent in two parts, first a small road – Geraint Thomas crashed on a hairpin here in 2014 – then it opens up to the town of Plancher Les Mines.

The Finish: A sharp right turn and the road soars. The climb is only 7km long and averages 8.7% which is steep enough. The reality is that it’s frequently much steeper, the opening ramp is 14% and that first red part of the climb on the profile? It includes a brief descent. After a long steep ramp to the first hairpin, things then ease with a variety of steep inclines and flatter sections. The finish sees the road get progressively steeper. In the past the final straight was 300 metres between 14 and 20% but now they’ve paved an upper section and “Superplanche” is 900m longer and involves a gravel track – heavily worked on, it’s smooth and regular – around the side of the mountain and then the final section is tarmac which is no relief as the road reaches 22% for the last 150m to the line.

The Contenders: Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) seems the safe choice, he’s climbing well and has a strong team to pace him into position and in any case we’ll see how he and Geraint Thomas are doing, this is a selective climb to the point that the last time they rode the Chevrères-Planche combo in 2014, three of the top-4 that day finished on the podium although this year’s long duration, high altitude finale might tilt things. Still Ineos/Sky’s modus operandi has been to hit the first summit finish hard… or was that Froome’s method?

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) is the local pick – his father is mayor of a town 15km away, and the local undertaker too – but living a brief warm-up away from the foot of the climb doesn’t make you faster, it might just help you pace yourself up but the climb will feel totally different today going from a deserted forest road to a noisy sports arena. Knowing a descent fully helps much more. But he seems in great form too, only sharp climbs like this aren’t his best climb, he’s better on longer ascents.

Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) used to be a local too when he was an U23 racing in France (the same outfit as Warren Barguil, Guillaume Martin and others) and this is a big test for him, he’s a prototype rider for a climb like this.

Today’s finish has a touch of Vuelta craziness to it and so maybe Mikel Landa will enjoy it but he’s never fared well here, his form is unknown and the fight for position might be hard. The climb is probably to intense for Quintana to win on even at his best form but Alejandro Valverde could do it.

Jacob Fuglsang (Astana) gets to test his form and his knee and given his form this season he should be close, he looked good on the sharp climbs to Epernay. Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First) should be close but the win looks unlikely.

Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) won the steep finish on the Peyragudes runway  in 2017 but so far the form isn’t obvious. Specialist picks for such a steep climb include Michael Woods (EF Education First) who excels in steep climbs and Dan Martin (UAE Emirates) who does too and was second here the last time in 2017. Outsiders like David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) could feature but the stage win looks elusive.

Can Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) stay in yellow? His cousin Frank thinks yes and if you think his family would say that, Frank is is coach too who should know what he’s talking about and apparently he is lighter than last year. It seems difficult, his limit is handling multiple Alpine-style climbs and it’ll depend on Steven Kruijswijk’s climbing, Egan Bernal taking time bonuses and more and his style isn’t to turn the final climb into a private time trial, he’ll want to follow the wheels and fight.

The breakaway has a chance today and some might go up the road without thinking of winning the stage because if Tim Wellens has 17 points in the mountains competition, first place across the first five climbs today brings 10+5+2+10+2 = 29 points. But who could win all these climbs who is down on GC and not on team duties today? Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) himself and if not team mate Thomas de Gendt.

Egan Bernal
Thibaut Pinot, Adam Yates, Michael Woods
Valverde, D Martin, Landa

 

Yellow story: the yellow jersey is a genius sports marketing idea. Teams in pro cycling operate on the basis of sponsors coming in to get their name on the team jersey only the biggest prize in the sport is shedding this branding for the yellow jersey of the race. It’s got its own sponsor in LCL, a bank, and a manufacturer in Le Coq Sportif and yes, a panel for the team sponsor branding.

Weather: cloudy, a top temperature of 24°C.

TV: the stage starts at 1.05pm CEST and finish is forecast for 5.40pm CEST / Euro time. It’s a big stage but the GC action is likely to happen late. The Col de Chevrères approach begins around 4.55pm.

{ 105 comments… add one }
  • Strickly Amateur / The GCW Thursday, 11 July 2019, 6:28 am

    Geraint Thomas, no chainrings?

    • Lion King Thursday, 11 July 2019, 7:08 am

      He’s no where near the same rider as last year. I’d say 0 rings was right.

      • jc Thursday, 11 July 2019, 7:43 am

        Dont think this finish would suit G whatever condition his is in. I am dubious about Adam Yates but if the winner comes from the GC group I think it will be from Inrng’s list.

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:24 am

      I just can’t see him winning the stage, he could place but we’ll see, it’ll be an emphatic win if he makes it. In Ineos DS Portal’s own words (translated), “G likes the long climbs a lot, a bit less steep, especially for the start of the Tour because he’s lacking race days. We’re looking for Egan to have the legs and a bit of a gap between them“.

      • brent sword Thursday, 11 July 2019, 11:39 am

        I think back to the first time I saw this climb in 2012. Froome, evans and wiggans.
        I guess froome and evans have some form for the short steep finishes but wiggans was right there.
        So its possible with the right team of pacers the shorter explosive climbers can be put of the game. The pace would have to be major right from the start. In 2012 there was porte, rogers and then a small amount of froome to do the pacing.
        Probably no repeat as ineos does not have quite that firepower unless bernal does the pacing and there is a lot of depth this year. But I think I would give Thomas one chainring because last year he showed a great ability to sit in and then have one final push to the line.

    • jc Thursday, 11 July 2019, 6:05 pm

      Clearly the way to prepare for the Tour is not to race and fool everyone about your form…..

  • Strictly Amateur / The GCW Thursday, 11 July 2019, 6:33 am

    Is Simon Yates healthy? In the break for the win?
    What’s going on?

    • Digahole Thursday, 11 July 2019, 7:00 am

      Matt White in TV yesterday said his job is to save himself for week 3

      • The Inner Ring Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:25 am

        They did this in the Vuelta last year with Adam cruising around until the third week to help Simon on some crucial mountain stages.

  • Ecky Thump Thursday, 11 July 2019, 6:42 am

    Interesting point about the possibility (or should that be likelihood) of the Skineos train tactic being deployed today.
    Presumably so, as you state.
    It’s a tactic that was around long before Team Sky but one that has become very much associated with their stage racing, largely because it favoured Wiggo and Froome’s TT-based strengths.
    As Bernal develops, and evolves his own leadership, we can wonder if he’ll follow this pattern or if another style may favour him?
    You get the impression, at this point, he’s capable of climbing in any manner he chooses.
    But that doesn’t seem to fit with the Skineos method which is more about adopting control rather than reacting.

    However, still fun to ponder if Team Ineos will change their stage racing way to fit Bernal – and have an explosive team to match – or if he is moulded more to what we have hitherto seen?

    I think Thomas will lose further time to Bernal today, the road is deciding early.

    • Adanmanuel Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:35 am

      excellent analysis

    • brent sword Thursday, 11 July 2019, 11:45 am

      Sky don’t just use that tactic alone. Sometimes froome and co have attacked earlier in a climb.
      What the train does is allow you to put your opponents under pressure when they are weak and save your leader when he is weak. Keep things tight when you are not sure. Particularly useful when you are the better TT.
      Hard for me to express what I mean. But early in a tour froome has great form and they smash the first hill finish with the train sacrificing for froome. Other riders a bit underdone (Quintana) hoping to ride into the 3rd week get caught out and lose ime. In the 3rd week the train keeps a lid on things managing the gaps and efforts for froome to a minimum.

      • Anonymous Thursday, 11 July 2019, 3:07 pm

        I think hes pointing towards the initial real gc test. Think Axe3domaine or Paris St. Martin times where one by one train pulled and peeled off until froome went. Porte would catch and pass second place in both occasions after getting back into a rhythm. Even Planche de belle fils in 2012 same thing and was first time we saw it from team sky with froome peeling off for bradley only to swing back and pass cadel.

  • CGradeCyclist Thursday, 11 July 2019, 7:12 am

    Something that has been really bugging me – the design of this year’s polkadot mountains jersey!!

    The polkadots are much smaller than usual, much more tightly packed on the jersey, and very regular & lined up with each other. I usually LOVE the polkadot jersey (I have one hanging in my cupboard), but I HATE this year’s design… I don’t think the manufacturer has changed, so not sure what is going on??

    • J Evans Thursday, 11 July 2019, 7:18 am

      CGradeCyclist, I knew there was something about it, but couldn’t figure out what. You’re right, it looks rubbish.

      • John Andrews Thursday, 11 July 2019, 7:28 am

        Agreed – something was bothering me then i saw the regularity of the red pennies and it doesn’t look so classy as previous iterations.

    • Nsbronx Thursday, 11 July 2019, 7:28 am

      Cmoooon. Was just telling a mate how the polka dot is so much better this year compared to the last few. Those where awful… Although i must admit the 90s version is even better

    • Digahole Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:24 am

      +1!
      And the polka-dotted hoardings as well! It’s all wrong!

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:33 am

      You’re right, it’s a new design. It could be linked to the switch of sponsors from Carrefour to Leclerc, both supermarkets.

    • Mancuniancandid Thursday, 11 July 2019, 9:17 am

      “but I HATE this year’s design…”
      Dude, chill, it’s only a jersey!

      • CGradeCyclist Thursday, 11 July 2019, 11:34 am

        *lol* One only has extremes of emotion on the internet… 🙂

        It is a very ugly jersey though… 😉

    • J Evans Thursday, 11 July 2019, 10:26 am

      While we’re at it, the green jersey looked much better when it was darker, as did the yellow.

    • LowGrade Friday, 12 July 2019, 1:17 pm

      Got to agree with you as I’m finding it very distracting. Not normally this anal about stuff but it’s just plain wrong.

  • StevhanTI Thursday, 11 July 2019, 7:19 am

    How about the possibility that one of the Movistar or Astana riders who were sent up the road early, takes it. Pello Bilbao for instance

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:23 am

      They should send someone up the road but it’s hard to pick a name, Omar Fraile could do it for them too.

    • RQS Thursday, 11 July 2019, 1:29 pm

      I agree with the sentiment. But like Inrng, I just can’t see the big teams letting anyone off the hook today. It’s a big day and they don’t want to miscalculate the lose change. It’s still early to be carrying the yellow all the way to Paris, but equally a mis-step and too much time conceded and it makes the road to Paris a lot harder.
      There will be better days for a break to have a go.

  • J Evans Thursday, 11 July 2019, 7:21 am

    Hopefully, my prediction is as woefully inaccurate as ever, but if the usual script is followed, this is where Ineos’ rider – Bernal – puts substantial time into his rivals that they never look like taking back. He could even go into yellow and stay in it. Let’s hope I’m just being a moaning, pessimistic tool.

    • jc Thursday, 11 July 2019, 7:50 am

      I would suspect Ineos would be happy for Julian Allaphilippe to keep yellow. Not sure they can engineer that outcome but the media hullabaloo around Egan Bernal taking yellow would be huge, a bid distraction from racing. There is a long way to go before the next real challenges and much better all round for the (a) leading French rider to have the jersey for the time being. A few years back Tommy Voekler manged to hang on to it for much longer than anyone anticipated, I seem to remember him putting in a huge effort up the Galibier in a vain (?) attempt to hang one for just one more day.

      • StevhanTI Thursday, 11 July 2019, 9:27 am

        You know who, of the true contenders, is closest to Alaphilippe? It’s Kruiswijk I guess, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him don the maillot jaune late this afternoon. I also think that would suit Ineos perfectly, let the Jumbos burn through their domestiques in the Alps, and then do a number on Kruijswijk in the Pyrennees. Quick-Step are much too level-headed to let themselves be taken away by yellow fever.

        • DJS Thursday, 11 July 2019, 9:48 am

          This year the Pyrenees come before the Alpes.

      • J Evans Thursday, 11 July 2019, 10:29 am

        Ineos have never previously been reluctant to take yellow early and then dominate the race: that’s their regular MO.

        • jc Thursday, 11 July 2019, 11:47 am

          That’s true but it would be different with Egan Bernal, his young age, new kid on the block etc etc would create a huge media circus. It would only add to the pressure. Compare Egan Bernal’s comment about how he was managing an extra hour’s sleep per day and how that all adds up over a three week tour (another of those marginal gains along with silly expensive wheels and better chain oil!) with Julian Allaphilippe’s comment about how he had come to admire Chris Froome more as he now understood the huge amount of extra time simply wearing the yellow jersey takes up.

          If it were to be G moving into yellow I would agree but even though Egan Bernal seems very level headed and happy with all the media blah I cant see how it would be anything other than a negative at this stage. I agree it is very likely to happen but could be to the detriment of his final result.

    • Digahole Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:37 am

      Yeah, that’s likely to be the script, but he’s so young and inexperienced that I t’ll be intriguing to see how he handles the pressure right through to those final huge stages. Then so impressive if he does hold it to Paris. A lot of road between here and there and far less demoralizing than seeing Froome take it 🙂

    • Richard S Thursday, 11 July 2019, 10:08 am

      I don’t think it would be the end of the world for Bernal to go in yellow today. He’s looked a class act in his career so far but being in yellow for over two weeks is a lot to ask of a 22 (?) year old. Re Kruiswijk, I might be wrong but I see him more as a 3rd week alpine grinder rather than an explosive short climb guy. It’d be good if any of Pinot, Bardet or Alaphilippe, or even Barguil, do well today just to see France getting in a tizz.

    • irungo txuletak Thursday, 11 July 2019, 11:44 am

      I am afraid you are totally right… Just let’s hope you are not, but frankly I don’t see something else happening.
      Regarding the jersey, even if they take it today, I don’t see them fighting for keeping it in the next coming stages.

  • De2r Thursday, 11 July 2019, 7:38 am

    Does anyone know how much Sagan is getting paid to make himself look so silly on the podium in those ski goggles? I’d guess it must be substantial. Maybe ASO should have a rule about bringing inappropriate props to a podium ceremony? Or am I alone in thinking how wrong this looks?

    • Gregario Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:00 am

      Agreed, annoying as hell. In a sport where even sock length is being measured, a ban for bringing ski goggles to the podium seems appropriate.

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:54 am

      Pro cycling exists in part as product placement but it does look contrived, the old practice of taking your sunglasses onto the stage was half understandable even if it always looked a bit fake and in the words of one rider “paid shit” too. This just looks more staged, there’s probably a 20 page contract drafted by a big San Diego law firm behind it… but it probably pays well as it’s so visible and we’re talking about it.

      • RQS Thursday, 11 July 2019, 1:31 pm

        I’ve noticed the ski goggle look being brought in elsewhere. It seems to be a fashion thing with ‘young folk’. It’ll pass, but this sort of product placement is surely what his sponsor desires.

      • Jeff Thursday, 11 July 2019, 4:06 pm

        Not quite the same as Sagan’s oversized goggles, but Alaphilippe brought a heavily branded pair of sunglasses to his podium ceremony the other day which had logos covering the lenses.

        Agree that it looks contrived. Maybe we aren’t too far off from Sagan bringing a stovetop or shower head to the next podium ceremony. At that point they’ll have to limit the riders to wearing what they wore while on the bike?

        • Jovelo Friday, 12 July 2019, 2:02 am

          But if Sagan has to haul a stovetop through the Alps I dont think he’ll make it to Paris.

    • DJS Thursday, 11 July 2019, 9:52 am

      Next thing you know they have him carrying a shower head or cabin on to the podium (see https://www.hansgrohe.de/ or the ads on facebook). But agreed, ski goggles are even worse than baseball hats on the podium.

    • AK Thursday, 11 July 2019, 9:58 am

      Those are not ski goggles. 100% is a cycling clothing company, they make apparel and protection mostly for the gravity disciplines. These are mountain bike goggles. Not quite what you would wear in a TdF but Sagan was also in the Olympics on a mountain bike so nothing inappropriate about this.

      • The Inner Ring Thursday, 11 July 2019, 10:03 am

        They’re for motocross, too big for MTB unless you’re doing downhill only?

        • AK Thursday, 11 July 2019, 11:18 am

          100% makes mx stuff too, and it is hard to tell them apart from the photo but I think these are the type of goggles you would wear in a downhill race. That is a UCI discipline with proper world championships and rainbow jersey for the those who are wondering.

          • Bazzzzzzza Thursday, 11 July 2019, 11:43 am

            soooo…. once again…… we are focusing on Sagan… yes, Sagan…. looking like or doing what British folks think is acceptable or not. Nonsense.

            He can wear, do, say, dance however and whatever the heck he likes, without being bashed buy casual pundits.

            He is Sagan.

            Why can we not focus on the fact that zany is fun…. the reason the whole sport struggles so so badly is that it just isn’t fun…… fun is needed fun is essential, Sagan is fun, daft goggles are fun. Let us encourage more fun into our amazing sport.

            I guarantee you, it will not detract from custom, tradition, the way of doing things, the seriousness of GC racing, the etiquette etc etc blah – more fun will only provide a modern balance to the sport in this fickle Instagram world and adapt to the post digital revolution of how we now consume “things”…. Fun is demanded, fun is imperative, it doesn’t matter if its real or not. Fun is Fun.

            Give them Fun.

          • Ecky Thump Thursday, 11 July 2019, 12:12 pm

            Well, I’ve learned something new today anyway.
            They do look like cycling goggles, 100% Armega Goggle Lightsaber Red Lens?

          • RQS Thursday, 11 July 2019, 1:34 pm

            Someone got out of the wrong side of bed…..
            Agreed that Sagan can wear what he likes (I think they look cool, and stupid at the same time).
            But people can say he looks like a joke. I don’t think anyone here thinks Sagan takes himself too seriously, and most would say he’s a refreshing personality in the peloton.

          • Richard S Thursday, 11 July 2019, 1:47 pm

            Zany, otherwise known as annoying.

    • Richard S Thursday, 11 July 2019, 10:10 am

      Sagan definitely cannot pull off those ski/motocross/welders goggles on the podium. He looks a total prat. He seems to be paid specifically to wear them on the podium, maybe that is why he was so stressed after coming 2nd the other day.

      • Chris_SK Thursday, 11 July 2019, 12:58 pm

        Is that stressed that he missed the opportunity, or stressed he had to dress up like a pillock?

        • Tomski Thursday, 11 July 2019, 9:08 pm

          These guys wear skin tight Lycra for six hours a day, but ski goggles look ridiculous?

          • Anonymous Thursday, 11 July 2019, 10:21 pm

            The grumpy old white man here are just more interested in podiums than actual bike riding. Guess it’s cause they wake up when they see girls.
            Normal fans don’t give a tuck. They already switched channels when the daily champagne&flower boredom began.

  • Larry T Thursday, 11 July 2019, 7:51 am

    Landa gets a chainring while Nibali (who won this stage in 2014) gets not even a mention? Conventional wisdom says both should be tired from the Giro so…?

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:55 am

      Hard to see him winning a summit finish, the last time was Risoul in the Giro in 2016 and now he’s older and more tired. Landa’s more enigmatic, capable of it perhaps and he climbs faster than Nibali normally.

      • Larry T Thursday, 11 July 2019, 12:25 pm

        Fair enough, a difference of opinion. We’ll know soon enough 🙂

  • Motormouth Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:06 am

    Fingers crossed Nibali, Kruijswijk and Uran all make it through still in contention!

    Have a feeling Valverde will go for it. Would be amazing to see Pinot strike gold as well.

  • MrJones Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:10 am

    Is Barguil going for the mountain jersey? 🤔

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 11 July 2019, 9:50 am

      He’s interested but says he’ll need to lose time on GC in order to have space to go up the road and he’s still just 2mins down on GC, largely thanks to the TTT.

  • nortonpdj Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:11 am

    I’m another old curmudgeon who feels that ski goggles are inappropriate on the podium, unless they were worn during the race.

    • Larry T Thursday, 11 July 2019, 2:04 pm

      The gag IS getting a bit old. What’s next – will he drag a faucet or range hood up there? But I’m an old fart who thinks baseball hats have no place in cycling, so there’s that.

  • RQS Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:31 am

    What about Bardet? He needs to make up time.

    I presume that with the sniff of a victory and wanting get some time on rivals no break will be allowed to go (or at least the gravity of the leading pack will not allow one to escape).

    How about Ilnur Zahkarin? He was skulking about at the back of the pack yesterday. Either he’s out of form or was saving himself. A third answer is that he’s demoralised with the news of Katusha folding next season and doesn’t care. But today has potential for him to showcase his talent.

    • KevinR Thursday, 11 July 2019, 11:01 am

      I’m sort of getting the feeling of it coming down to the same trio that battled it out in the Worlds – so Valverde, Bardet and Woods. Money on Woods this time (but not much!!)

      • RQS Thursday, 11 July 2019, 1:36 pm

        I was similar conflicted as to why Woods isn’t in the mix too, but I imagine this is down to previous form during this season. I’m sure Inrng has his reasons.
        This stage reminds me a little of the one Bardet won in the 2017 Tour on the Peyresourde…..with a steep finish, so not sure why he is discounted.

  • steve marks Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:52 am

    I was wondering about Ciccone? he is lieutenant to Porte I suppose, but should he lose the necessity for that duty?

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:57 am

      Porte has to be the plan (unless until he isn’t any more) and until recently has been one of the very best on 20 minute climbs, if not the strongest in the world. But his confidence seems down, we’ll see.

    • RQS Thursday, 11 July 2019, 1:43 pm

      Ciccone is not a bad climber, but he modus operandi is really getting in breaks and this is not a day for breaks. As Inrng suggests, he’ll be on GC duty.
      I expect Porte to fail miserably, which should then unshackle him for the rest of the Tour. I don’t want to get down on Porte, but in recent times he’s never failed to disappoint, and signs so far are that he’s not performing anywhere near where he should be.
      It’ll be interesting to see what Thomas does. In the interview with ITV4 yesterday he suggested Bernal for the win, and as he did so, he seemed to catch himself, as if ‘I’ve just revealed that the team are not racing for me!’
      I could be reading a lot into that 5 second excerpt, but that’s how it struck me. He quickly followed it up with ‘it’ll be good to see how I do’, but I think it was too late to take his comments back.
      However, the tactic could be to rest the jersey on Bernal, with Thomas taking a strong lead towards the end of the Tour, but I can’t see that as being a credible tactic.

      • steve marks Thursday, 11 July 2019, 3:16 pm

        Ciccone is only 24 does he have a modus yet? Does him not being on GC duty mean Porte is out of it, or is he going to try something later? either way I too expect Porte to fail miserably.

        • RQS Thursday, 11 July 2019, 4:26 pm

          I suspect if he had the sort of engine that allowed him to compete at the sharp end of a climb he’d be Trek’s GC guy. He can climb, but not with the best of them. He may, of course, develop, but he’s more in the mould of Thomas de Gendt or Pierre Rolland. Someone who has the ability to stay out in front. As you say, only 24, but he’ll have to do more sitting in the wheels at the front end of the GC to get himself out of the pigeon hole I’ve sat him in…..it’s a thorny position. Stick or twist – a problem for many a good (but not great) pro.

          • steve marks Thursday, 11 July 2019, 4:34 pm

            I was looking at stage 2 of the Haut Var this year that’s a few scalps right there on a climbing stage. Only the future will tell for sure but given their respective ages and experience I’d take Ciccone over Porte as my main man.

          • RQS Thursday, 11 July 2019, 6:27 pm

            I’ll get my coat….

          • RQS Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:48 pm

            I wouldn’t disagree with that. But only because I wouldn’t ever have Porte as my main man. Trek are a bit of a weird team. They probably don’t have a massive budget, but I just wonder how they have ended up with their mish mash of riders. Why did they hire Porte? Perhaps they need the World Tour points from the Tour Down Under.

      • Anonymous Thursday, 11 July 2019, 5:33 pm

        Looks like Ciccone didn’t gave a tuck about your advice.

  • R Thursday, 11 July 2019, 9:14 am

    If something’s happened at a press conference that makes people talk about it, job done for Sagan. Not as if any rider’s comments from a presser is going to be of real interest to many people.

    • J Evans Thursday, 11 July 2019, 12:13 pm

      Yup, I care just as much about what goggles Sagan wears – he can turn up in a tutu, it’s not my concern – as I do about cyclists expressing the same banalities over and over again in interviews. Fine if they keep these interviews for when nothing’s happening, infuriating when they put them on in the last 20km or whatever.

  • Facespaz Thursday, 11 July 2019, 9:18 am

    Can someone clarify the whole Pinot’s uncle being the mayor/undertaker thing? Thanks.

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 11 July 2019, 9:39 am

      Régis Pinot is the mayor of Mélisey, population 1,680, and about 15km away from the foot of the final climb today, and he works for a funeral services company.

    • Cassandra Thursday, 11 July 2019, 11:57 am

      French Mayors are very significant in the local hierarchy and economy . Though elected, they often stay in power for many years, and the competence and interests of the mayor can set the tone for the prosperity and conduct of the ‘commune’. In larger towns they have quite substantial budgets under their control, and they are the main route for linking in to larger regional budgets, and getting a piece of the pie for their area. So people do actually say ‘ oh, his father/ uncle/ sister is the mayor’ , and it is a meaningful remark.

      The undertaker? ….well, it’s a steady income.

      • J Evans Thursday, 11 July 2019, 12:11 pm

        True, wrestling pays well.

      • Gelato4bahamontes Thursday, 11 July 2019, 12:58 pm

        Vinsentinis family were undertakers and I believe he now runs the business

        • The Inner Ring Thursday, 11 July 2019, 1:01 pm

          Lucien Van Impe started out as apprentice carpenter making coffins too.

      • RQS Thursday, 11 July 2019, 1:49 pm

        In many areas being the mayor runs in the family. It can give a family a lot of power in a locale. Many Mairie’s have the lists of previous encumbents and quite often they they have the same name for generations e.g. Lefevre . It’s like a regional mafioso. I stayed in one place where a local woman had fallen out with the Mairie and they basically isolated her. So being a mayor is a big deal.

  • Brian Thursday, 11 July 2019, 9:51 am

    Will be interesting to see how Bennett goes today, especially if Alaphilippe pops. It’s the sort of climb that suits him, and it’d be nice if he got a chance to try snatch yellow.

  • DJS Thursday, 11 July 2019, 9:59 am

    Today’s ride is a compressed form of the 3 Ballons cyclosportive which is an absolute gem. Sometimes it finishes on the Planche dBF, the times I rode it not. The Chevreres is indeed very tough, narrow, and I hope they sweeped the road because it can be full of loose little stones. Definitely battle stations in the run up to that climb.

  • Steve L Thursday, 11 July 2019, 10:02 am

    re 2014. Seven of the top eight on the stage were in the top 8 of the GC at the end of the race, not just the podium (only Richie Porte was missing who, presumably, was on team duties later in the race). I wonder whether the result will be as significant today?

    • Nick Thursday, 11 July 2019, 1:56 pm

      in 2012, 7 of the top 10 on the stage ending at Planche-des-Belles-Filles finished in the top 10 on GC. And like 2014, the guy in yellow at the end of the stage won the overall.

  • Thomas Thursday, 11 July 2019, 10:45 am
  • Mark Thursday, 11 July 2019, 10:54 am

    The question marks over the last KM might mean the start of the climb is ridden very defensively if so and hes in decent form then this could suit Valverde.

  • Max Thursday, 11 July 2019, 11:03 am

    Allez Pinot!

  • Sheldon Peterson Thursday, 11 July 2019, 12:39 pm

    I do not mean to troll, but Jeez, the writing here borders on incomprehensible.

    • Bazzzzzzza Thursday, 11 July 2019, 1:34 pm

      … so don’t troll.
      I am not convinced about the capitalisation of any interjection, never-mind jeez.

    • RQS Thursday, 11 July 2019, 1:50 pm

      Read on and learn. It’ll all come to mean something in the end.

    • JeffGoldblumIII Thursday, 11 July 2019, 2:00 pm

      3 points:
      It’s a free blog, just don’t read it.
      It’s perfectly easy to understand, the stage review could do with some shorter sentences but the rest takes no effort.
      Don’t be a bell.

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 11 July 2019, 2:26 pm

      Feedback good and bad always welcome, especially if you can explain why etc. The piece above is a bit rambling, had a roaring temperature yesterday and felt grim etc which might explain it or maybe it’s like this each day? 😉

      • RQS Thursday, 11 July 2019, 3:10 pm

        Are we going to have to send the broom wagon out to pick up stellar blogger? We will be bereft if there is no daily stage breakdown.
        Hope you feel better soon.
        To be fair to the above commentator, cycling has a language all of its own. I pointed my father-in-law in the direction of this blog and he struggled a bit. He’s an MD, and worked in pharmaceuticals, doesn’t read anything unless it has been peer reviewed, so it’s something that you absorb.

      • Cassandra Friday, 12 July 2019, 9:43 am

        Hope you feel better today ( aspirin taken with tea and lemon is a good febrifuge).

        I know little enough about cycling, but I am an avid reader, both of your blog and ( most of) the comments. How do you learn, except by trying things a bit above your current level?

    • cp Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:00 pm

      Incomprehensible is not a word I’d use to describe Inrng’s writing. Entertaining, knowledgeable, spiced with some excellent turns of phrase and wonderful puns in several languages, yes. Incomprehensible, even when written with a fever, no.

      I will not, however, say the same for all commentators! (Here I’d insert an emoji but I have no idea how to do so.)

    • Steve Thursday, 11 July 2019, 9:03 pm

      I have never been less than entertained by this blog. In fact, anyone struggling to comprehend it might reasonably question their own lack of education.

  • Ecky Thump Thursday, 11 July 2019, 7:01 pm

    Can someone explain what happened this afternoon??
    Teuns takes the win, Ciccone in Yellow, Thomas magnificent, Alaphilippe beats Bernal…
    And England wallop the Aussies at Edgbaston 😀

    • Larry T Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:37 pm

      I’ll admit I was scratching my bald pate. They JRA to the point a break has 8 minutes, then it’s “After you” “No, after you” until the final climb. But even then they go slow enough that Valverde pulls off, but then goes back to the front! Did they get rid of anyone except TJV today? Of course it’s just the first week so perhaps this stage was simply over-hyped?

      • Anonymous Thursday, 11 July 2019, 10:56 pm

        It looked to me like no one amongst the GC wanted the yellow jersey at this early stage. They wanted Alaphilippe to keep it and probably went one step better in the grander scheme.

        Disappointed that Landa couldn’t make his break stick though, you would think if they were holding back he would have stayed away?

    • Heleninsomerset Thursday, 11 July 2019, 8:41 pm

      I’m not sure, but wasn’t it good? esp the cricket 🎉

    • jc Thursday, 11 July 2019, 10:54 pm

      Easy for the cricket, “England” were led by an Irishman 🙂 🇮🇪.
      As for the cycling one small step in a three week drama.

  • Anonymous Thursday, 11 July 2019, 10:58 pm

    Ha ha ha ha ha Chapeau La Benjamin, you so wrong Mr Ring so so wrong!! ha ha ha

    • Cassandra Friday, 12 July 2019, 9:46 am

      To access the Cycling News BTL you put ‘cycling news’ into your search engine, and follow thelinks at the top of the page. You’ll feel much more at home there.

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