The Moment The Race Was Won: The Tour de France

Chris Froome Ax 3 Domaines Tour de Frace

Stage 8. The race heads to its first summit finish at the ski station of Ax-3 Domaines. Nairo Quintana lead over the previous climb but with 5km to go the Colombian is caught. Porte gets out of the saddle and accelerates with Chris Froome on his wheel, leaving Alberto Contador, Roman Kreuziger and Alejandro Valverde behind. Froome turns this into an attack and rides solo, as pictured above, to win the stage and take the yellow jersey. This was the moment the race was won.

Of course picking one moment during a three week race is reductive, the equivalent of standing so close to a painting in a gallery that you don’t see the whole picture. Indeed the Tour de France is so vital and definitive to the season that the three weeks alone can’t be seen in isolation. But Froome took the yellow jersey here and never looked back.

The race opened in Corsica to show off the island’s beauty and disprove Antoine Blondin’s rule that “The race is sufficient in itself, it finds greatness in its own means. It ennobles the scenery more than it borrows from it.” But paradise is never perfect, and a stuck team bus combined with the inevitable pressure and prestige of an opening win meant beaucoup crashes as Marcel Kittel won the day.

Orica-Greenedge left Corsica triumphant with stage win for Simon Gerrans but went even better when the race reached the mainland with a win in the team time trial with a margin of victory of just 0.76 seconds and then yellow for Darryl Impey. Several sprint finishes saw André Greipel and Mark Cavendish take stage wins but rivalry diluted their points score leaving Peter Sagan to score points. Cannondale did a great job on the roads to Albi to eliminate the other sprints and the Slovakrobat took the stage. Sagan had a good race but “only” one stage win, many saw him winning more.

The Pyrenees arrived and we got the familiar image of Team Sky setting the tempo but it wasn’t the same as last year with several of their riders dropping off the pace. Back in 2010 when Team Sky was launched they announced the goal of winning the Tour de France in the future; people smiled, it was the kind of claim all major teams have to say. Peter Kennaugh was touted as the contender and he proved valuable this year but Richie Porte was instrumental.

If the race started with a stuck coach then Stage 8 saw many get stuck on the subject of coaching. Froome’s time up the final climb was reportedly the third fastest ever, a more powerful performances than likes of Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich. Many made a logical deduction that riding faster than arch dopers mean doping. My view? Well I wrote a piece in April to answer the regular question received by email, “is such-and-such doping” because how am I supposed to know? If I knew then I’d either have the scoop of the year or I’d be dialling WADA. Instead we face an uncertain prospect. As I wrote in my column for 2rHD, data is democratic these days, anyone can use watts either via strain gauges on their bikes or get estimations from websites like Strava. Power analysis is here to stay and the race became an unwitting advert for SRM because if some doubted the rider, they trusted the data generated by the product.

Apart from one Alpine shower the race enjoyed three weeks of glorious sunshine but a cloud remained over Chris Froome. Suspicion wasn’t just from internet forums, La Gazzetta Dello Sport ran a front page header and the images above show more. In cycling the pendulum has swung from pro-Armstrong cognitive dissonance to heightened scepticism. It’s understandable but bizarre at times to see suspicion get more column inches than actual positives with star figures in athletics. Sky’s managers often say they focus on “process not outcome” by which they mean if they do the right thing then things will turn out right, you don’t worry about others. So successful in sport, it felt like this was their PR strategy too, only with the media what others say about you is half the point of communication. Something went wrong and for a team so picky about optimising conditions for its riders it didn’t learn many lesson from last year where suspicion and accusation made Bradley Wiggins boil over. Management swung into action during the final week, giving SRM data to L’Equipe, briefing journalists in private sessions and even inviting French TV to tour the team bus; small gestures but it helped calm the storm.

But it’s not clumsy PR unique to one team. Trust and credibility are fundamental problems for pro cycling. The sport is stumbling and few institutions are trusted. When Sky talked about sharing power data, it was with WADA, not the UCI. It seems the only way now to get credibility is to import it, whether via independent commissions, Deloitte, WADA or asking the coach of a rival team to review your power data. As long as this institutional crisis continues then trust is scarce.

But back to the racing. Stage 9 was long, stressful and tiring… and that was just for viewers watching the stage live at home. A fast start from the beginning saw repeated moves by Garmin-Sharp but the drama came in seeing Froome isolated, he was forced to close down moves by Contador and Valverde. The image above might look like it was taken on the last climb but it’s from the first climb of the day. The longer the stage went on the more riders were tired so the isolated Froome could track his rivals. Quintana tried but the matches had been used up and Dan Martin struck to win the day.

Tony Martin had two close scrapes in the race. The first in a crash on the opening day where he was lost a lot of skin. The second came in the Mont-St Michel time trial where the world time trial champion held of Froome by just 12 seconds. Thomas De Gendt was third, an enigma who can be so strong, yet invisible the next day.

Stage 13 was another highlight. Scan the results and Mark Cavendish won in St Amand Montrond, you’d think sprint finish but instead we got a thrilling one-day classic where the race split up in crosswinds. It wasn’t even that windy but just enough for OPQS and Belkin to shake things up. Valverde was the loser, losing 9.54; with hindsight and cold arithmetic this cost him a few places overall but probably not the podium. Valverde’s loss would be Rui Costa’s gain and perhaps Movistar even benefited? Writer Ed Pickering was right when he said waiting for Valverde was the best thing for Costa because once he was no threat on GC he got into breaks and was able to take two copycat stage wins. Movistar brought plenty to the race beyond Costa, Valverde and Quintana. Their tactics and audacity put Sky and Froome under pressure and provided a challenge we didn’t see last year. A mention too for Bauke Mollema who finished in sixth place, a good ride backed up by Laurens Ten Dam and Robert Gesink and the rest, the Dutch team had a good race although their success was through steady riding rather than relentless attacking.

The stage to Lyon was another thriller with Julien Simon going solo with 15km to win. Huge crowds roared him on and millions of French viewers screamed him on. Alas, he was caught with one kilometre to go. Matteo Trentin won, the moment to look at the theme of monopoly. OPQS and Argos-Shimano won 4 stages, Sky and Movistar took three to leave most squads empty-handed.
Chris Froome Mont Ventoux Tour de FranceMont Ventoux saw another Chris Froome win, his high cadence attacks took some by surprise but it’s not new, go back and see the 2011 Vuelta; he wasn’t allowed to attack last year. He’s obviously efficient but stylistically he looks like someone pushing a supermarket trolley whilst talking into a phone wedged on their shoulder. Meanwhile Quintana perhaps got some tactical improvements to make. His early attack was great to watch but perhaps a more economical late attack could have got him the stage win; let’s hope he doesn’t become too clinical as his presence made the mountains compelling.

Chris Froome gel Alpe d'Huez

Froome had his elbows tucked in to win the Stage 17 time trial, taking time on the final descent to beat Contador by just nine seconds. Talking of arms, the next day saw Christophe Riblon wave with joy to win the Alpe d’Huez stage as he got the better of Tejay van Garderen on the final climb of Alpe d’Huez. Lower down the mountain and Chris Froome ran out of energy. With the crowds roaring riders struggled to use their race radios and Froome was raising his hand as if calling for the serveur in a café. Richie Porte duly brought an energy gel which came with a giant bill. The illegal feed generated a polemic but the substantial point is that this was as bad as things got for Froome, he saw off isolation on Stage 9 but here was some physical weakness and he lost time.

It all led to the Semnoz, a mountain above Annecy. In the past Christian Prudhomme and Jean-François Pescheux have appeared too romantic, promising attacks and suspense when in reality stage racing is a gradual process and we can’t have action every day. But come the final climb and seven out of the ten places in the top-10 changed, tension that few could dare imagine when the route was launched and fitting send off for Pescheux, who retires as race director.

Quintana won the day, taking the stage and the mountains competition. He’s being tipped for big things of course but remember this was the most mountainous time trial in years, the first time trial was short and the second had two Alpine climbs. In other words he’s a contender for the podium but it’s not guaranteed. Meanwhile the slope was too much for Contador who slipped to fourth place overall. He deserves praise for trying but let’s leave the steak jokes behind and say it out loud: he’s not the same rider without the USDA-endicted Jose “Pepe” Martí. Whatever has been happening this year he remains a grand tour contender and he says he won’t rider the Vuelta so we’ll see what 2014 brings. As for Froome, he’s surely already the favourite for 2014 but note he’s the only rider from the top-10 in 2012 to make the top-10 again this year. Nothing’s certain.

Paris hosted the traditional final but with a twist, a sunset finish on the Champs Elysées with the route extended to include the Arc de Triomphe. Kittel won again, breaking Cavendish’s Elysian run and and making six stage wins for Germany. Behind, Chris Froome sat up with his team mates and rolled in across the line in celebration.

Snap Awards
Revelation: Michał Kwiatkowski (Quintana was a more confirmation)
Best team mate: Richie Porte
Best team: Movistar
Invisibility cloak: Lampre-Merida
Missing in Action: Jurgen Van Den Broeck

As ever all finishers get a medal and they deserve it. One of the joys of the Tour is the extra coverage the race attracts, with more interviews, photos, podcasts, radio and more and it brings us tales of every rider. Chapeau to Svein Tuft (Orica-Greenedge) who is the lanterne rouge.

The Verdict
A vintage edition. Sure, Froome started as the favourite and once in yellow his lead was never threatened. But the first week saw the yellow jersey jump from rider to rider and the race for the other places was so full of surprises and it took the final mountain to decide most of the top-10 places.

Doping suspicion was part of the process but for once it was just that, there were no rest-day raids and no positive tests during the race. Instead the flat stages brought surprise with a variety of sprint winners, although the green jersey contest was fixed early. Both the Alps and the Pyrenees brought suspense too with teams willing to task risks. The centennial edition proved more than a round number, no more so than the spectacular finish in Paris which took an already glamourous venue and turned it into something magic. 348 days to go until the start in Leeds. Vive le Tour!

134 thoughts on “The Moment The Race Was Won: The Tour de France”

  1. Enjoyed the race and thanks for your coverage. Froome vs Quintana vs Nibali is already plenty to look forward to.

    When is the route announced?

    • I suggest some more awards to keep the bleakness at bay.

      How about the “Stealth” award to Joachim Rodriguez Oliver (I love Phil’s pronunciation…) for keeping his powder dry until the parcours suited his metier.

      Or the “defeat from the jaws of victory” award to OPQS for making 4 stage wins seem like a disappointment.

      Thanks for your usual entertaining coverage Mr Ring.

  2. Great coverage. Looking forward to a “moment the race was won” video? Vuelta looks good this year. Nibali for a Giro / Vuelta double?

  3. Great tour! Can’t wait for 2014.

    Really happy about Froome’s win. He raced like a true champion and left no doubts about his worthiness. Only time will tell on the doping question but I don’t let this bother me as I can still enjoy the racing on the day!

  4. gotta think Ryder will ditch the Giro for a proper run at the Tour next year, TVG should get his preparation sorted, Nibbles will show up with his Giro (and Vuelta) trophies safely in the cabinet, Uran riding for OPQS, Quintana with a year more experience in when to attack and when to hold back, Talansky will benefit from this year’s experience, Costa too, Betancur maybe… who cares if Contador, Valverde, Evans, Wiggins etc turn up or not – the baton has passed I think

      • In complete agreement with the above statement(s); Uran at OPQS will be a fantastic prospect, even if they have to split the team for GC/Sprint points, & Betancur was missed in the AG2R lineup, he was the highlight of the Giro for me. Talansky was a big surprise too – top 10 in his first Tour is no mean feat and hints at big things to come. You may also add Kittel to the list of young contenders – I think the green jersey could be his if A-S play it right.

  5. I’d agree it was a vintage tour but with the cavaet that it frequently felt vintage only in hindsight. The lead that was built at Ax 3 was so early and seemed so comprehensive that any of the following amazing days racing brought a gut “there’s no competition left” reaction. I guess I kind of preferred it that way overall though. There was so much to pick through at the end of each day.

    PS. Your coverage was impeccable as always. Well done

  6. I’m a huge Cadel Evans fan and was hoping for him to be competitive during the Tour, but what happended to him? He started out badly and just got worse. He cracked on just about every climb, bombed out in the time trials, and ended up about an hour and a half down and came in at 39th overall. I guess it gives more credence to the impossibility of successfully doing the Giro/Tour double, and to the fact that he is well past his best. I would hate to see him carry on like this next year and end up being a domestique for someone 10 years younger, so lets hope he retires gracefully at the end of this year.

    • I think a lot of it also comes down to it being hard to go your hardest when you know you have no chance. Once he had already lost so much time and knew he had no chance, his motivation went out the door

      • Once he’d lost all GC chance on Mont Ventoux he took it easy for a few days hoping for a stage win, so that’s why he lost time on the time trial was no good. But it didn’t work, he had completely run out of puff and had to be paced through the last couple of stages. A bit of Aussie co-operation on show as Stuart O’Grady in particular helped him out.

  7. “Doping suspicion was part of the process but for once it was just that, there were no rest-day raids and no positive tests during the race”

    Not keen on people saying this. Sure there’s no scandal but not catching anyone isn’t because there isn’t anyone to catch.

    Obviously you know that, but a lot seem to invoke it as proof of a step change in cycling from 3-4 years ago.

    • I agree, just saying that the media event was speculation rather than the usual police raid.

      For what it’s worth riders in the peloton do feel there’s a change in the peloton. Perfect? No, but a lot better. Whether it can last is the test.

      • Inrng,

        I admire your optimism as well as your writing. But, the way things worked on Alpe didn’t look to me like weakness. Porte had enormous power throughout too. Like Froome, where was this power prior to Sky?

        Can you think of a better team to win the TdF with a Yorkshire start in 2014? Let’s not forget ASO bidding on the Tour of Britain either. ASO also orders the tests run on the riders with the UCI’s last anti-doping report stating less than 20% of all in-competition testing pay for the EPO test.

        In 10 years time, the finish will probably be revised by another doping controversy.

        • If ASO had the ability to choose successful teams depending on where the next year’s race was going to start, don’t you think the French would have done rather better over the last 25 years?

  8. Great summary!

    I really appreciate all your previews this year (again)! It helps me understand the racing so much better. Thank you!

  9. I’ll admit I’m a big fan and I could be way off… but if Andy Schleck is finally back to 100% next year he could be contender again

    • I agree. It was nice to see him back, even if only at 95%. He was often with the elite group in the mountains, losing out only when things got really heated in the last few km. He’ll be back I’m sure but with Froome’s time trialling, I can’t see any climber beating him on GC for a few years.

  10. Nice article, but your paragraph on OGE is a bit misleading. You write: “Orica-Greenedge left Corsica triumphant with yellow for Simon Gerrans and Darryl Impey” — but Bakelants was in yellow when the race left Corsica, Gerrans didn’t take it until stage 4 with the TTT win, and Impey took over on stage 6.

  11. Hey Inrng,
    Where did you get that quote by Antoine Blondin ?

    Do you have a book (français or english) to recommend if we want to know more about this personnage ??

    And many thanks for the TdF coverage.

  12. Admirable coverage unlike anything else online or in print. Thanks for your tireless efforts that give us fans a cut above the rest!

    I’m gonna stay positive (no pun intended) and bank on no post-Tour dopers being exposed, at least not any GC contenders. I hope that this has been the cleanest Tour in decades.

    Chris Froome is the real deal, the whole package. And he’s got a demeanor that is likable on many levels. He stayed focused, answered difficult questions quite well, and kept his head where it needed to be, focused on the goal. His attacks were brilliant and animated several stages. Kudos on a hard-earned, deserved win! (Must also tip my hat to Richie Porte, without whom Froome may not have finished on the top step — Richie was like Jens Voigt out there)!

    Speaking of Jensie, wow! Almost 42 and thinking of 2014! Biggest heart in the peloton…

    Also very happy for Quintana, so young and already on the podium donning the polka dot and the white jersey! Yes, the mountainous TT certainly helped Quintana this year, so 2014 will likely be much more challenging for a podium finish. Movistar, though was a confident, united, shrewd team over the three weeks and made this 100th edition compelling. Congrats to Rui Costa as he out-shined Valverde.

    Looking forward to Nibali in the Vuelta with 11 summit finishes!

    2013’s been an exciting season, and my hope is that like a wound healing with time, that past experiences and new-found integrity are in the forefront of the minds of today’s riders, as naive as that sounds.

    • Chris Froome is the real deal, the whole package.

      And where was this power on Barloworld? Where was Porte’s GC domination prior to Sky?

      With Quintana, the absent Uran, and Talansky, there is at minimum some lower-ranked history to justify top-10’s.

      • Where was this power on Barloworld?

        Some examples include his ride in the 2008 Vuelta Asturias mountain time trial and the final time trial of the Tour de France. In 2009 with the mountain stage of the Tour Med. All this on a low budget team.

      • Porte has been on the radar for several years, since leading the Giro as a neo pro for several days. He has also many top TT finishes (including in the third week of grand tours). Hardly out of nowhere.

  13. While it is easy to say that Contador is not the same rider with out Pepe Marti, I think it is also easy to say that Team Sky “handing over” Chris Froome’s data was a big show. Anyone other than passing fans of the Tour will know that Froome joined Sky in 2010 and before that he hand’t really shown any potential to be a Tour winner. Sky only turned over data from 2011-present which is after he was showing that potential. What Sky really need to do is show his 2010 data to see the progress he made that brought him to the level he is at today and Sky also need to start showing more of this “transparency” that they said they would show from day one. Unfortunately in today’s cycling it is the rider who must prove they are innocent and not innocent until proven guilty; that is the Lance Armstrong era legacy. Team Sky have a duty to prove Froome is innocent and so far they have done an extremely poor job of doing so

    • I’m not sure the teams have a duty to prove innocence… In the UK you are innocent until proven guilty, I much prefer that to guilty until proven innocent.

      • …but equally we’ll all allowed to be sceptical. It’s not about innoecnet or guilty, or duites to prove this or that, it’s about the image of the rider, the team, the sport.

        I’m not that surprised that Froome has shown consistency during his time at Sky. His progression within that time is excellent but gradual. However, the rather dramatic improvement from Barloworld to Sky is a bit harder to accept and I’d like to hear of an expert analysis of those numbers.

        • Could it be that Sky’s training, sports science, etc is of a higher level than
          that of Barloworld! Also in terms of Froome’s ability it could be said that
          he is coming into his prime at the right time for him, and for Sky!

          The inherent problem with skepticism, as used by many, is that it naturally leans toward negative
          conclusions, thus leaning toward psuedoskepticism, while it ‘s true purpose is to question/investigate, without drawing conclusions.

    • I agree Sky could do better and am finding it hard not to be skeptical, but why would Froome’s 2010 data (covering improvement) be so important?

      I was under the impression that anything used to dope requires repeat and consistent usage, if not in the immediate lead-up and during the big events.

      • Al,

        The common wisdom regarding WADA’s tests is they are about 3 years behind the doped athlete in terms of doping technology. Right now for example, there is no test for AICAR and no tests for a number of peptides and the most common testosterone test is easily circumvented. Chances are excellent, if it’s new PED technology we won’t find out about it for a few more years.

        One of the things the sports federations that signed onto the WADA standard don’t like to discuss is they (the sports federation) is in complete control of the anti-doping process. They can, and have, not processed doping positives.

        So, dope or no dope, there are plenty of gaps in the system for the determined doper backed by their sports federation Sky to flourish.

        • +1 Perhaps it’s my dislike of all things Murdoch, but I found this edition of LeTour to be rather dull. Dominating rides take the air out of the race and as Inner Ring noted, the race was over pretty early. I hope for 2014 they come up with a good course for Nibali, I would love to see him liven things up supported by a strong team.

  14. Thank you INRNG for the wonderful insight, the blog complimented a really thrilling tour to the end. Who would have thought 2nd and 3rd on the GC was that memorable ?

    I thought TJ Van Garderen captured the essence of why we love the sport, the all-in and desperation of Stage 18 – everyone on your blog has been there on some ride and in some part of the world before, to ultimately lose to whomever , but we ride again another day.

  15. Zac – as has been said on here before many times it’s impossible to prove someone is innocent. And I know this was the first post-Armstrong confession Tour but personally I felt some of the media questioning of Froome was a little excessive and took away from my enjoyment of the cycling.

    Thanks, though, to Inner Ring for the excellent coverage. Role on the Vuelta and the World Championships.

    • I agree that the questioning was excessive, but Team Sky, a team who has everything planned, seem surprised by the questions and answered them poorly. I’m just saying that Sky has to do more than they have

  16. Why is everything doping wise on Sky’s shoulders?, there should be co-operation and transparency from all teams, every single one.

    I thought it was a great edition, so much happened, it really was a great watch.

    No mention of Purito? he was class in the last week.

    • There is more on Sky than others because Sky has made such a show of being clean. Firing those with pasts that were murky, Wiggins reactions last year, Sky insistence that they are transparent. Plus, Sky has been the dominant team which raises more questions which puts the responsibility on their shoulders more

      • I’m not sure what category of logic that falls into but it certainly isn’t one I recognise. Sky have to prove to you that they are clean (an impossibility) while Movistar and Katyusha (!) don’t have to do anything. I’d advise you to have a serious think about your own objectivity.

          • Actually, proving they are clean is impossible. No matter what evidence they present, one can say it is fabricated and independent observers can’t have 24/7 access. They can always be ‘hiding something’.

          • Sorry, but pseudoscientific analysis isn’t proof of anything. There are so many variables missing from these “analyses” from the bleachers that their results and conclusions contain significant uncertainty. These analyses are perfect for skeptics to latch on to so that they can confirm what their biases tell them.

            It is also impossible for any cyclist to prove their clean because any proof will result in someone saying, “Well, the test doesn’t exit yet to find the doping agent they’re using.” You can’t gain traction in someone else’s self-consistent universe.

  17. Inrng congrats on the coverage!
    By far best analysis and info!
    Shouldnt Gilbert, Cunego and BMC also get a prize?
    Gilbert and Cunego deserves probably the “TdF is my vacation” prize
    and BMC deserves the “I have no ideia what we did wrong” prize or the worst “$/results” prize
    By far the best tour I’ve seen… true drama (although Froome looked very good from the start).
    Hopefully next year we can see a bigger battle: Froome, Nibali, Purito, Shleck (?), Quintana, Contador

    • BMC were at least visible thanks to Tejay van Garderen’s move.

      Manager John Lelangue has been pushed out this morning, resigning for “personal reasons” but in reality he’d spent some of the last three weeks arguing with fellow DS Yvon Ledanois and in disagreement with the riders who wanted to attack but were told to shepherd Evans despite it being obvious his overall challenge was not going to happen. I did write a short paragraph saying “if cycling was football, BMC would sack its managers” but pulled it out to make the piece shorter.

  18. Thanks for the coverage. Was excellent as usual.

    The stages in England are already known by the way, and they look surprisingly good, esp. stage 2.

  19. Thanks for the great coverage and interesting articles around the race not just on the race itself which added so much. Also really good to read the below the line comments as always which are in general thoughtful, knowledgeable and respectful. Can’t quite believe that the next edition will be in the town where I live. Can’t wait.

  20. Today many journalists question the performance of Froome in the high mountains, but that’s not the question, he has the morphology of a climber, and he already showed his quality in this domain. The real questions are : 1) Last year he made an enormous Tour de France with only 19 race days. All the other riders need races to come in form. 2) Where almost all the other riders pike for example in the spring classics and later in the Tour, Froome and Wiggins last year can hold a big form for a very long time. 3) For a rider with 1m 86 and 68 kg he is developing never seen 470 watt in the first time trial. (Tony Martin – 480 watt; other morphology). Sky is reinventing the sport and that is hardly believable. Cobo too won the Vuelta a España.

    • Good questions. The most important one is missing, though: How did he change from being a mediocre rider to an all conquering one in one season? Stuff like that is not possible, i’d say. I didn’t believe Armstrong, i don’t believe Froome.

    • Brailsford has always said, ‘just because something has always been done that way, doesn’t always make it the best way.’ That thought process leads to better equipment, better diet, better analysis and better training.That’s what he did with the Olympic team and he just replicated it with the road race team.
      I’ll try and give you an example, using just the bike. Both riders, A and B, are equal in all aspects including talent. Rider A has a standard bike and last year used the juice, B has a standard bike and doesn’t juice. This year A has the same bike and has stopped using the juice. B still doesn’t juice but has improved his bike. It’s lighter, it’s more aerodynamic. It has better brakes, gears, wheels and tyres as well. Remembering they are equal, is it not obvious that B would be faster than A.
      That is just one part of the equipment. Improve all the equipment, and do the same with diet, analysis and training, and it’s not hard to understand why they/he is going quicker.
      Reinvention does happen in sport, think Dutch football in the 70’s or Moneyball in baseball (analytical, evidence-based, sabermetric approach to assembling a competitive baseball team, despite a disadvantaged revenue situation).
      Try to work things out, instead of going for the easy, cynical answer.

    • On the peaking point, isn’t this also consistent with a less doped peloton? If in the pre-biological passport days, people would rarely perform at the same level in every race because they were often fatigued from giving a blood bag, wouldn’t it now be more “normal” for the rider who was strongest in March or April to also be the rider who was strongest in July?

    • If you’ve got a PHD in sports science then your accusations may be credible. However, assuming you’re not a doctor of sports science, please stop the pseudo-analysis of various cyclists performances. With any winning performance by a cyclist these days, you and your like-minded peers immediately jump on the doping band wagon.

  21. Brilliant coverage as ever. And as a Brit I’m made up that we wait 99 tours for a Champion and we get 2 in a row. Next year’s far from clear though, there’s a very balanced and talented GT field compared to only a few contenders at the end of the 00s.

    I hope the numbers Sky provide to WADA can be shown to prove (as good as can be) that they’re clean. Suspicion will never go away, but if WADA can say they’re fine, then surely that will take away a lof of the rumours.

      • It’s not so much bureaucracy. WADA is mainly about toxicology, the detection of banned substances and it’s not there to review power data or other performance aspects like swimming strokes. Reviewing race data is something reserved for cycle-coaches, although WADA or an equivalent panel of experts could review data from the athlete bio-passport data.

        • Weather it’s WADA, British Cycling, UCI, or other teams coaches, no-one with any credibility will ever say that a drug test, analysis of tests or power data proves any rider or team is totally clean. All they can say is that they can’t find any proof. The more that people don’t find proof the cleaner the rider/team is likely to be, it’s virtually impossible to prove a negative. So, much of the media will continue to hound anyone deemed suspicious for better and for worse.
          I’d rather journalists asked some awkward questions sometimes than believe that the sun (or moon) shines out of a riders shorts again.

          • Serge,

            Do you realize that there’s no boundary between British Cycling and Sky? Sky’s success is accurately sold as a win for BC.

            Do you know the other federation/pro team that was set up like that? U.S. Postal, and before that Motorola. Both were extensions of USA Cycling.

            You also seem not to understand the sports federation has complete control over anti-doping. WADA knows sports federations are protecting dopers. So, “no proof” is proof of nothing.

  22. I would have liked to see more of a discussion around Stage 18. I am still appalled by what happened. And I am British ! Every serious rider knows that if you get the knock (bonk) and you can’t get sugars then the impact on performance can be very serious. All the training in the world will not save you, and to this end I feel there is more of a shadow over Froome than doping allegations. In my humble opinion if he had seriously blown on D’Huez the whole race could have changed. Interested to hear any reasoned arguments or other points of view. I have nothing against Froome and want to be happy but this bothers me.

    • What is there to be appalled about? OK it was against the rules but these rules are not black and white. If it helps, think of them as parking tickets, you can sometimes park and get away with it, sometimes you are caught and pay the fine. These in-race rules are the same, many teams and riders got fined, time penalties and more throughout the race. There are of course other rules for safety, anti-doping, gambling etc but taking a gel, getting a sticky bottle or being caught peeing during the race are part of it.

      • Will you have access to the full list of penalties? Perhaps they would put a stop to this crazy ‘Off with his head’ attitude.

        • All figures in Swiss Francs:

          Movistar Team 2700
          Omega Pharma-Quick Step 2000
          Team Sky 1400

          Euskaltel-Euskadi 850
          Vacansoleil-DCM 800
          Belkin Pro Cycling 750
          BMC Racing Team 750
          Garmin-Sharp 750
          Europcar 700
          Astana 500
          Cofidis 450
          Ag2r-La Mondiale 400
          Cannondale 350
          Lampre-Merida 300
          Lotto-Belisol 300
          Orica-GreenEDGE 250
          Sojasun 200
          Team Saxo-Tinkoff 200
          Argos-Shimano 50


      • True, under the current rules it was no great infraction.

        What I’d prefer to see is a 5 minute penalty. I agree with Neil insofar as this should be part of the racing. Bonk, lose time. If he’d totally gone it would have been many minutes lost . A simple draconian penalty would mean no-one would do it. You would have to add water from the team cars as otherwise they would have pure glucose in the drink bottles, but no assistance inside of 10 km, except a wheel/bike. Knowing the current environment there would be 20 guys with mechanicals changing bikes with new bottles on them, but still.

        But maybe that’s in the too hard basket, like having no race radios except for commissaries with safety information, distance to breakaways etc.

        But hey, I’m still waiting for someone with enough TV clout to say “We’ll sponsor the sport/buy the TV rights, BUT we get live data from the bikes, bike cameras, etc etc”. You know, like every other sport on the planet. Only TV dollars could make that change.

    • Take a deep breath Neil – it is one gel for chrisakes and its ingestion was probably more a placebo affect than anything. if you are appaled by that then you have to be appalled by sticky bottles, drafting team cars and the rest.

      Sticky bottles used to annoy me too but actually I think they have almost become a caricature of pro-racing – so I smile when I see it. Reminds me of fake dive in football…

      • Sticky bottles are ridiculous, you see it so often you almost become numb to the fact it’s blatantly disregarding the rules. For a domestique trying to pace back with 10+ bottles, you can almost say fair enough, but when they do it for a single rider out in front on a climb, it’s a real joke.

        • Name one rider in the Tour who didn’t once draft a team car or 20 to catch back up to the peloton after a flat, pee, or trip through the caravan to visit the team car.

      • I agree with what all have said to Neil, but to be clear about “bonking” or “hitting the wall,” as we say here in the states, taking a sport gel DOES make all the difference in the world. Had Froome not taken on sugar, his muscles would have continued to slow or “freeze up.” When experiencing glycogen debt, as this phenomenon is called, athletes usually suffer extreme fatigue to the point that it is difficult to move.

        Most of an athlete’s glycogen stores are depleted after long periods of exercise without enough energy (sugar) consumption. Glycogen depletion can be thwarted during exercise; carbohydrates like sport gels (with a high glycemic index) can convert to blood glucose rapidly if ingested in a timely manner. The best possible result of these tactics replaces sufficient glucose consumed at heart rates above approximately 80% of maximum.

        That gel that Froome consumed was exactly what enabled him to finish the stage. It’s not a placebo effect. If you’ve never experienced bonking followed by ingestion of some kind of high-glycemic “sugar,” then you can’t know the incredible, instant energy the body gets from this ingestion. It’s quite amazing. One minute you can barely turn the cranks another revolution, and the next you’re “back in the saddle” and able to finish the stage with that utilized energy.

        That 20-second penalty and fine was worth every penny for Froome.

        • Also, if Froome would have lost say another two minutes without the gel, he would definitely have been attacked on the Grand Bornand stage, which is a very difficult stage to control. Could have been an very different Tour.

  23. Just to echo what others are saying – thanks for the excellent coverage and insight.

    Also to the many ‘regular’ commenters – good to see an adult level of debate, rather than the tiresome dogma and illogical stuff in certain other places (I’ve stopped reading comments on any article)

    My first stop every morning – coffee and INRNG !!

  24. Thanks INRNG for the great Tour coverage – an excellent blend of taking a more thoughtful considered approach to the big events of the race, as well as highlighting some of things that get overlooked elsewhere. I also appreciate the increasing blend of humour in here, which is done without flippancy or detracting from the thrust of the piece.

    Fantastic as well on giving the invisible cloak award to Lampre-Merida. I would heartily recommend their daily news articles from the Tour which have provided me with a couple innovative excuses that I can use to my boss to cite effort in the face of seemingly zero results. (“I tried to perform a spurt that could add positive esteem to my participation”).

  25. Excellent work INRNG over the past 3 weeks, you deserve a prize at least.

    I have every respect for Chris Froome, he fought many battles and it could so easily have gone pear shaped given a bit of panic, hunger, bad recovery, minor illness etc etc etc. the doping chatter didn’t spoil it for me, I take the view that what we saw was credible from those that rode well. Hope there are no revelations to come in the next few weeks. Disappointing to see some riders underperforming, wouldn’t fancy being called to BMC’s post race trial.

    Best stage for me was 13, I love a good mugging in the crosswinds and for Cav to jump on that tail he must have thought Christmas had come! I just hope next year that all the main big hitters are fit and able.

      • Apologies if it’s a question I should know the answer to, but while an athlete is serving a ban for doping offenses are they still eligible to be drug tested or does that only begin once they’ve finished their ban and can compete again? I only ask that because I’d heard the positive effects of doping before the body returns completely to its normal levels can be fairly long. Contador had only just finished his doping ban when he began the Vuelta, hadn’t he? P.S., I’m not suggesting anything because I couldn’t possibly know, I’m just asking how long it takes for the bodily effects of doping products to return to zero after stopping using them. Could you spend two years beefing yourself up without being tested or detected and then come back and start competing again with a two year gap in your bio passport, etc., that would therefore not allow any comparative testing against your performance levels aside from data that’s two+ years old? If so that would sound like a nice little loophole to use, that would still give the body a nice but undetectable boost for a while until it eventually wears off. Or I might not understand how it works properly, in which case no worries.

  26. Sure wish the lead would’ve changed hands more – would’ve made for a more interesting race for me. I really enjoyed seeing Quintana in action – I hope his success continues. Same for Kittel – great to see him win 4 stages in all.

  27. We could really benefit from a well informed Inner Ring piece on rider development across different background (and the different infrastructures which supports their development in their background) in general and Chris Froome’s development in particular. That would help a lot in answering questions like “how Chris Froome turn from a mediocre rider into a Tour Champion” or “did Chris Froome came out of nowhere?”. It would also be interesting to compare the lives of developing riders in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Britain, Austrailia, USA, Russian, Colombian and Africa.

    In my opinion, many here in Europe took some of the infrastructures available too much for granted, and couldn’t quite understand the difficulties riders like Quitana (Columbia is certainly richer at least in terms of cycling culture), Sagan (though he’s likely been spotted by the very efficient sports development programme in most eastern block countries) and Froome had to overcome to get to where they are. Things like richer cycling culture, better equipment, weekly club run, almost year round armature racing, many development squad to pick from and many pro-teams to graduate into would all affect a rider’s development. How large an effect do they play? To what extent does the lacking of them mask up a rider’s potential?

    And perhaps more importantly, how does that affects a rider’s mentality. For a rider from less privileged background, the somewhat muted start of their career means they won’t be given the same start treatment as the likes of Andy Schleck. They would also have different expectations and ambitions. For a rider like Froome, they’d be content with being a good domestique, which means sacrifices for their team leaders and resting up during ITTS or once job is done. Would being a domestique mean that they don’t always show their true colour at races and they always get under valued?

    People would also like to talk about bilharzia in Froome’s case though I don’t see how that would contribute to the conversation. Froome hater would tell you straight on that it was used to mask doping while Froome believer would tell you that it’s a reverse-EPO. Then there’s also the little question of transparency in his treatment (whilst Sky has published probably everything, but people don’t always bother checking up). If anything, the “bilharzia argument” further prove the fact that even the most throughly studied scientific facts are prone to subjective reading.

    • It’s an impossible article to write. You can cover the irregular background and the obstacles he had in his way and I’m reading a biography about him and the unconventional background. But this is all narrative, it’s hard to separate narrative from fact. You’d to take a clone of Froome and bring him up in France or Italy in cycling culture etc.

      • I suppose the point of the article wasn’t to prove Froome’s clean. That would be impossible and apart from Froome himself and a few close associates within Sky, no-one would know for sure he is clean. And if hard scientific data can be read both ways, of course the personal story of a rider can as well.

        However, in the past few weeks, people seems to get the idea that you have to shine and beat everybody else in your junior years or shine very early in your career (eg. Quintana) to become a legitimate contender of grand tours. The common wisdom on the internet (and thankfully not here on this site) seems to become: pick-up mid career = doping.

        I think this is not true. Many factors affect a rider’s performance at a young age, and the level of support one can get chief among them. I was hoping that an article about the different level of support riders may receive coming from different background would make people realise that there might be legitimate reasons, other than doping to explain big improvement mid-career. Would this article prove Froome’s innocence? Definitely not and nor should proving Froome’s innocence the purpose of the article. Instead, I believe such an article could help to bring more prospectives into the discussion.

        • I know that here in Belgium it has been a complaint for some time by coaches
          that the current young generation of riders do not have the strength of
          character that used to be a staple of aspirant pro’s, that they are a ‘verwend nest’,
          spoilt brats! In some cases there have been young riders ‘handed over’ by coaches
          to 50+ ex pro/semi-pro’s to work the young ones over (especially ones who have, or
          have had, their own kids and know how to deal with the youngsters)! Easier to achieve in cycling when you are are many km’s from home and the kid says he’s had enough. Can’t exactly
          stop…has to keep on going to get home! Let him sit on my wheel for 10km or so, then throw him back on the front! Such aspirants are showing remarkable improvement!

          Coming from South Africa I do understand the strongly-ingrained sports culture, and how
          most popular sports there are team sports (rugby, football, cricket), and how mental grit
          is highly valued (“do it for the team”), but also the S.A. culture in general does not suffer
          spoilt brats gladly, especially true the lower the income group you go! I guess that would also
          be significant for a poor-ish boy from a single mother in Kenya! All he needed was opportunity,
          support, time to develop, and a planetary-core-deep will to achieve! Froome’s first coach, a mountain bike team leader in Kenya said of him that he was an almost emaciated, lanky teen who did not look like much, but recognised a single-mindedness in him, a hunger, that made all the difference!

    • hoh,

      Froome’s reported discovery and treatment of Biharizia has little relation with medical reality.

      Biharizia treatment is a cure. Cure, as in no more live parasites. The medicine is available worldwide. The treatment has been around for so long no patents protect it. There’s no need to travel for treatment. Side effects for the treatment last 24-48 hours and most report dizziness.

      Why was another story presented?

      • Your comments are very close to trolling, channel_zero. You seem to have decided that Froome is definitely doping, and are now looking for every bit of mud to fling that you can.

        I love this blog for the intelligent and even-handed comments; I haven’t heard any serious commentators suggesting his Bilharzia diagnosis is a conspiracy. When this line is trotted out I start to see the shadow of a troll… Please let’s keep things relatively rational.

  28. Thank you for the great coverage, insight and tip off for the humans invent podcast. It has added an extra layer to my enjoyment of the tour. The final finish line sprint had whetted my appetite for the battles to come and agree that next year could see a number of strong GC contenders to challenge Froome. I’d be surprised if Sky don’t learn from this tour and ride stronger as a team, have been very impressed by OPQS.

  29. Personally I thought the race for 2nd to 10th was interesting. Froome’s dominance rather spoilt the event as a competition for me and my own reluctance to accept what I saw has rather made me question whether I can continue to enjoy watching bike racing. This wasn’t someone who gradually rose through the ranks to become dominant, nor was it a 22 year old revelation. It’s a guy who has transformed, in the space of 3 years, in the middle of his career, from pro-continental level nobody to producing some of the greatest performances the sport has ever seen, eclipsing even many dope-fulled rides.
    I’m just disappointed that my own doubt has prevented me from enjoying what might actually be a genuine, phenomenal performance.

    • Ginge – firstly, so unless a rider has won big (or nearly) by 23yrs of age then they should never progress? the guy was 13th in the ITT at the 2008 TdF with Barloworld, a team that was worlds away from Sky’s well planned, funded and executed year round machine. Brailsford signed him because he saw some potential. Throw the whole bilharzia thing on the top and it’s entirely plausible.
      – secondly, I think EPO levelled the playing field to the extent that we got used to tiny margins of victory. This race used to be won by 10-20 and occasionally 30 minutes. It is 3000km after all….

  30. Great article as always. I would debate two points:
    1) revelation was Purito. Confident in 2nd week and stating he was going to podium. He was 10th and no one had seen him. Amazing peak for a rider that wasn’t supposed to do good at the Tour
    2) invisibility cloak should be BMC. Lampre had Serpa that ended up with 3 awards:
    Best Moustache
    Best Giro rider at the tour
    Best Colombian over 24

    • I think Cyril Gautier’s Bugsy Malone-style moustache that he sported for a week or so could give Serpa a run for his money.

      On a more serious note, Serpa was best placed Giro rider in the TdF but Evans had better aggregate positions. (3rd and 39th, Serpa was 27th and 21st). Also, fantastic effort by Siutsou who was 37th at the Giro and 90th here – but who must have done more work than pretty much anyone else who has raced both.

      Considering the mountainous nature of the Giro and the Tour, you have to give great credit to Cavendish who must have suffered horribly on some days to get his 7 combined wins.

      • It was Jérôme Cousin with the moustache, as thick as his eyebrows. He did win the combativity prize on two days I think but both him and Serpa were more notable for their facial hair than their results.

  31. Mr/Ms Inring, thanks for hard work , your team/rider diplomacy and intellectual insights these last couple weeks.
    And to all the new and usual participants who make this site so enjoyable.

    To follow up on Razorback’s observations it would be interesting to see your analysis and commentary on the (results per the teams/$ spent) competing in this years TDF. BMC would be an obvious underachiever! Not sure Sky would be the over achiever either?


    • Great idea – I’d like to see that as well. I suspect, in reality, it would prove to be somewhat of a nightmare to work out the metric. But a post-race round up of each teams results against expectations pre-Tour might be interesting.

    • The results/budget thing is awkward. Some teams just had bad luck, for example FDJ with Pinot’s phobia and Bouhanni’s illness. But there seems to be a structural problem within BMC with consistently poor results, Gilbert has had few results and when he won the worlds last year he was riding for the Belgian team.

  32. Hoh makes an interesting point which this forum seems to have dismissed rather too quickly. froome was born and raised in kenya at an altitude of 7000 feet, offering a possible physiological advantage in his early years. it is the same advantage widely perceived to help kenyan distance runners dominate their sport, and also the one often used to explain colombian climbing success in cycling.

    the country has a clear and long defined tradition of distance running, but none in cycling at all. in running, studies (see danish sports science institute research in 2000 as an example) have shown young kenyan potential athletes with no previous training or coaching (and therefore no possible doping explanation) to have a higher number of red blood cells naturally, and therefore their bodies more effective at using oxygen. in the danish study, after three months of professional training, these young athletes were out-performing world class european runners.

    the obvious point here, is that africans dominate running, but have no tradition of cycling. factor in the technology and science of cycling, the prohibitive cost of entering the sport and it is easy to understand why. yet were the barriers to be removed, then it would not be outrageous to assume that the same kenyans could excel at cycling, under the right circumstances.

    with froome, he showed enough potential at various points, even with crude technology and no tradition, to be picked up first by a low level south african team, then by Sky. given the lack of development in his early years, it seems a spurious argument to suggest it is highly suspicious that he has come ‘out of nowhere’, and didn’t show early justification of his later talents.

    even ignoring the fact that not all athletes develop at the same rate or same age, the impact of history, tradition, and development of a sport within a particular nation has a fairly obvious impact on the development of an individual within that sport.

    it is, perhaps, no coincidence that colombian cyclists develop rapidly when they are exposed to the advanced technologies and training methods of the european peloton (setting aside the possible impact of advanced pharmaceutical practices in the same peloton). there is no reason to believe froome (and other african cyclists) don’t benefit greatly from their exposure to more advanced cycling cultures.

    not to say that this is an explanation for froome’s apparently late emergence; as the inner ring suggested, you would require an impossible study of two perfectly equal riders to provide that. there is, however, a fairly powerful argument to be made that kenyan athletes could make high level cyclists if they were not restricted by that nation’s lack of a cycling culture.

      • I’m wondering if there is also body shape that Sky work towards When looking at Wiggins, Froome and to some extent Nibali, it would seem the light, long limbed body is the way to win GT’s and the likes of Evans will struggle to compete

    • Don’t forget his genetically larger heart, his high cadence and riding the tour stages before the tour…..

      Oh wait, that was someone else…

  33. Great coverage, as always.

    I’d like to step away from the above discussion, and talk about the emotion of it all. I was in Paris on Sunday, and the atmosphere was superb. I, along with my sister, found a spot about 500m before the Flamme Rouge, to watch. (My first visit to the finale.) The talk was all positive, and the variation of nationalities really brought it all to life. British, Australian, American, Canadian, Colombian (and they made a lot of noise!) – all there for the same reason, a love of, and belief in, cycling.

    Each time the peloton came round, the applause was real, without cynicism. It was a delight to see the moment David Millar followed a wheel to form the breakaway, and the applause and cheering of those who were dropped by the peloton was almost louder than the peloton got. This was about people who love cycling, and try to believe in it.

    It was, frankly, magic.

    Yes, cycling still has it’s issues to deal with, but being in Paris showed to me that so many people still believe in a clean sport.

    Incidentally, when Millar rolled round three minutes after the peloton on the final circuit, on his own, the way he was waving to everyone made me think that this could be his last tour.

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