The Moment The Race Was Won: The Tour

Chris Froome attacks on the road to La Pierre Saint Martin, dropping Nairo Quintana, putting both time and doubts into all his rivals. This was the moment the race was won.

Do the maths: You can compare Quintana’s 1m28s loss on Stage 2 to Froome and compare this his final deficit to Froome of 1m12s. Was the race decided in Zeeland? Arithmetically this works but La Pierre St. Martin seemed a more definitive blow to Quintana. Quintana might even have signed up in Utrecht for losing two minutes during the unsuitable first phase of the race. Losing 1m10s on a summit finish clipped El Condor’s wings. Being overtaken by Richie Porte must have left him with that Greek feeling of a deficit he could never overturn, not only was Froome better but Sky was  whole. Quintana seemed subdued, stunned and it put Movistar on the defensive. The remaining Pyrenean stages became a procession with Movistar riding cautiously.

Was Utrecht just three weeks ago? Maybe the the confusion comes from an opening week that felt like April as it borrowed spring classics. The Big Four was an easy label but the four made the top-5 overall, joined by Alejandro Valverde. The disappointment was the lack of fight with Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador never in contention.

Alberto Contador was losing time from the Mur de Huy to Alpe d’Huez. The Giro-Tour double will remain unfashionable and that’s bad for the Giro. It means a lot of stars will continue to put their eggs in the basket marked “Tour-July”, spend May in training camps and so the Italian race, as wonderful as it is, risks resembling a nursery for promising riders.

Still, Contador has the Giro to his name. Vincenzo Nibali has spent the whole season playing catch-up with disappointment in Tirreno-Adriatico and the Ardennes Classics. If Alexander Vinokourov’s frustration became too public, too cruel at least we could understand his frustration when Nibali was dropped in Mûr-de-Bretagne. A consolatory stage win in La Toussuire helped but he’s probably facing the Vuelta now and the strange prospect of fighting for team leadership alongside Fabio Aru and the Sky-bound Mikel Landa.

Tejay van Garderen asked to be included with the big five. Presumptuous but he didn’t make a mistake between Utrecht and the Pyrenees. During the opening week US broadcaster NBC asked French TV for more images of the American to which the producer replied along the lines of “you’ll get them when he does something”. He left the race ill and a quick recovery should be possible, we’ll see if he tries the Vuelta. BMC built their race around him but still delivered plenty with three stage wins for Rohan Dennis, the TTT and Greg Van Avermaert’s victory in Rodez.

BMC were one of the teams giving us the curious sight of parallel trains protecting their leaders. Sky, Astana, Etixx-Quickstep and Tinkoff-Saxo were all visible. It looked like the chariot scene from Ben Hur with each leader being pulled by their workhorses. It’s effective because it’s exclusive: only a few teams can afford the horsepower to make it work.

The opening week was defined by its variety with different terrain and the yellow jersey changing shoulders regularly although crashes meant Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin leaving the race with their yellow jerseys. The cobbles came and went with the big names bouncing to Cambrai without problem, except Thibaut Pinot, undone by a derailleur cable; he was ill at the time too and his brain disconnected. The opening week left the sprinters ruing the lack of opportunities but proved a ratings hit and the absence of time trials was compensated by stages resembling the spring classics, an alternative method to weigh down the climbers.

Citius, altius, fortius goes the Olympic motto but La Pierre St. Martin was a case of too fast, too high, too strong. The first summit finish didn’t so much give us a clue as to the final winner, it revealed everything. Or did it? Some talk turned dopage and even motors and we got the annual Sky-storm that has accompanied each of the teams wins.

A variety of hypotheses emerged and left Team Sky on the backfoot. For all the spend on “performance” and talk of how important sleep is to a rider you wonder if Froome was loosing sleep over the aggro. He handled it well enough himself, fielding questions rather than ducking the topic and even confronting Laurent Jalabert live on air after his clumsy RTL radio appearances. Could more assiduous PR work in France ahead of the race have made things easier? Sky cultivate mystery, talking up their use of sports science but without telling us what this involves. This vacuum gets filled with questions, some loaded. Unreasonable? Say bonjour to a sport where trust is so low that people think motors are being used.

The crowd became a factor at times with boos, punches spitting and even the tale of a cup of urine thrown at Chris Froome. It was an ugly side but with reports of 12 million people roadside there will be some cretins. The Tour remains a free, open and popular event. Long may it stay this way.

Peter Sagan drew plenty of cheers. They changed the rules so he upped his game and wins the green jersey by a large margin, and all this despite André Greipel’s four stage wins. But there’s something of the Peter Pan about him, riding like kid on a BMX pulling stunts in the street than a racer, too keen to show his skills than hide until the finish line emerges. The race is all the better for his showmanship but his palmarés could have more lines.

Nairo Quintana ends up second and in the white jersey, a copy of 2013. Could he have done more? Even with hindsight it’s hard to see where he could have ambushed Chris Froome. Team Sky were stronger than Movistar and as useful as Winner Anacona and Gorka Izagguire were, the Spanish team never had a third man to rival the likes of Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas. Will Quintana win one day? It’s possible, he’s one of the rare pure climbers capable of such a feat because he’s not calamitous in a chrono. With Quintana travelling is better than arriving, watching him try to make up for lost time is exciting. The pride of Colombia remains a draw for any stage race.

Geraint Thomas

It’s difficult to break through in the Tour. Can we call Geraint Thomas the revelation of the race? He’s hardly a new name and even his climbing ability isn’t new given he started the season with a win in the Volta ao Algarve, was second to Richie Porte on the Col de la Croix de Chaubouret summit finish in Paris-Nice and then matched the best in the recent Tour de Suisse. It was a pleasant surprise to see Robert Gesink finish sixth after so much misfortune in his career and Mathias Frank finally got the breaks he needed too. Ruben Plaza, aged 35, was a strange revelation of the race with a stage win and powerful racing in the third week. More promising was the debut riding by Warren Barguil who handed the first week very well, the Yates Brothers saved Orica-Grenedge and Alexis Vuillermoz was excellent too. Merhawi Kudus and Emmanuel Buchmann get mentions for decent rides for their age.

After revelations, who was invisible? Cofidis had a terrible time once Nacer Bouhanni crashed out and climbers Nicolas Edet and Dani Navarro didn’t compensate, viewers in France saw the jersey more during ad breaks than in the race. Michał Kwiatkowski had a sad Tour, a loyal team mate before he abandoned but we know he can do so much more. Thomas Voeckler, la langue française, was almost as absent as ex-speaker Daniel Mangeas. Of course The biggest flops go to Luca Paolini who managed to test positive for cocaine and Lars Boom who showed up with low cortisol levels and not much else, he left the race ill before the Pyrenees and Astana started the race with a petit polémique over its MPCC membership. As Tours go one cocaine test and a quarrel over MPCC was as scandalous as it got.

Daniel Teklehaimanot

The battle for the best climber competition never got going. Iconic, popular and celebrating its 40th anniversary, the polka dot jersey wasn’t feted like it should be. Daniel Teklehaimanot’s first week efforts feel more exciting than the Pyrenees and Alps combined. What do do?

The Verdict
As the curtain falls on the 2015 Tour de France was this the race we hoped for? No because we never got the contest between the Big Four that had been so enticing for so much of the year. Everyone survived the opening week but with hindsight La Pierre Saint Martin was too much too soon. It set a test that Froome won and others blew, the Briton’s success accentuated by the implosion of Nibali and Contador that day.

The Tour is a play with 21 acts and multiple story lines and if the Big Four was quickly reduced to one, the daily fight for stage wins kept the entertainment going, think of Stephen Cummings, Simon Geschke, Romain Bardet or Thibaut Pinot and the manner of their wins from breakaways.

The Alpine finale proved exciting as Nairo Quintana tried his best and reduced Froome’s lead to a relatively slender margin, the 11th narrowest lead despite a race where you have to go back to 1969 to find a top-20 spread so far apart. Close but Froome was tested on the plains, over the pavé, up the passes, down the passes and even in the pressroom. He won every time.





206 thoughts on “The Moment The Race Was Won: The Tour”

  1. Undoubtedly this was Froome’s greatest victory to date and in my opinion although he only managed a repeat of second place, this was Quintana’s greatest result yet too. Next year should be even better!

    • I’d agree with that. This Tour was a harder one to win for Froome than in 2013 and the course suited Quintana more. Swing it back the other way a little with more ITT kilometers and Froome has more room to breathe.

      Talk of Froome and Quintana, as well as the final GC, show that although talk of a “big 4” might have been somewhat on point it wasn’t accurate in terms of who could win. The fact is that only one of these two was ever going to win. Third place is over five mintes back. Nibali and Contador almost 9 and 10 minutes down respectively. Only 15 riders were within an hour of the winner which I believe is the fewest for almost 20 years.

      Quintana and the parcours made Froome up his game then. But Froome proved worthy. I hope we get 2 or 3 more Tours in which these guys fight head to head. Or maybe we only have to wait a few weeks for the Vuelta 2015.

  2. A good rather than a great Tour. Enjoyable, naturellement but not gladiatorial on GC. Congratulations to Froome, a worthy winner and a thoroughly decent human being.

  3. I mentioned after stage 9, the 28km very hilly TTT, that I felt it was unnecessarily hard after such a full-on first week.
    Many teams had been reduced in numbers by previous crashes, and even the top teams’ riders were in agony by its end.
    Despite the mammoth effort required, the TTT did not produce notable GC splits. Nor was it good viewing really, for me.
    Movistar had to race extremely hard to limit the losses on the flat, in what was an event that Quintana may have feared would lose him more time.

    The first rest day followed the TTT, with the complications that can bring.
    And it was then in to the Pyrenees, with the La Pierre St Martin finish noted above by Inrng.
    Quintana’s time loss there was most unexpected.
    But was the seeds sown by the TTT / rest day stages arrangement ?

    • It certainly seemed that way to me too. Sky seemed to have firmly targeted the stage as vitally important and went into the Pyrenees like a sprinter out of the blocks while the other big hitters seemed to be aiming to ease themselves into the change of terrain following the TTT and rest day.

  4. A fabulous race I thought.

    Quintana’s time will come but it may require another similar climber’s course. However I do think the climber’s classification needs to revert to its previous incarnation. Froome won as a by-product of going for the GC. The double points for mountain stage finishes and the downgrading of the 3rd & 4th cat climbs meant that most of the time the polka dot jersey wearer only had it on loan. Surely not what the viewers (or sponsors) want.

      • I used to think the same thing until it was pointed out to me that in this case Froome was the best climber and deserved to win the poka dots but rather it is the GC competition that instead of being a reflection of the best overall rider is too climber dominant. It should instead have been influenced by other terrain eg. TT, the opening week or descending skills

        • Well, as a matter of fact this Tour’s *best climber* was Quintana. But let’s say that Froome was taking it back after Quintana “stole” it from him in 2013… 😉

          • What tosh! “As a matter of fact”, i.e. quantifiably, Froome was the Tour’s best climber – he climbed more summits in higher positions than anyone else, that is what the polka dot jersey measures. You may prefer how Quintana climbs, but that does not make him a superior climber on the evidence of this race.

          • It’s not necessarily “tosh” as Quintana was superior at La Toussuire and Alpe d’Huez while Froome was better at La Pierre St. Martin and they were level, ie in the same group at the Plateau de Beille. It shows that the climbers jersey is an excercise in arithmetic to be debated… on considerate terms.

      • The Polka Dot jersey does not measure time. It measures position over the climbs weighted towards the winner of mountain top finishes. Tell me, how many mountains did Quintana actually win?


        • Looks like you and a lot of other guys really don’t get it.
          The “polka dot jersey” is totally arbitrary. It’s an *attempt* to reflect *something*. Obviously, it will always represent… itself, among other things: that’s why it doesn’t make sense to say “Froome won it because he won it”.

          The objections most people are making are two different ones:
          1 – maybe a separate and conceptually different contest makes the race richer (this is what people who prefer the “old style” are saying)
          2 – if the intention of the changes introduced was to reflect “who the best climber is”, this year it failed its objective anyway, since Quintana was “the best climber”, the definition of which *is not* “the polka jersey wearer” nor synonyms of the same kind like “the one who got more point in uphill finishes and the such”.

          If you “race” with your friends sometime (let alone following pro cycling), you’ll easily understand that the best climber is, to put it very simply, the one who generally *climbs* faster, not the one with more kick in the final sprint, which, additionally, could also be on a more or less flat terrain (as on a mountain pass), not to speak of the fact that the sprint could even be something you don’t want or need to fight for, thus becoming like those 3rd or 4th category climbs which once could decide the competition and have now been nearly excluded from it.

          Which explains how was it possible that Froome was the better climber in 2013 but Quintana had the jersey and the other way around this year.

          Hence, first of all we (or, better said, ASO) must decide what to do with the polka dot competition, then you must try to achieve a result representetive of your intentions while partially respecting tradition (which is why we don’t see even more radical changes).

    • A “King” of the Mountains to be dependent upon 3rd and 4th category pimples? There’s enough of that strain of anti-monarchism in smaller stage races.

      Not in GTs, thanks. Not in Le Tour.

  5. It was an interesting tour.

    Perhaps, the moral of the story – the transfer to the alps – with a rest a day and subsequent summit finish – did many of the racers in.

    Sky got the sports science right around the rest day, the transition from spring to hot, and the big climb – maybe the organizer inadvertently handed it to them on a plater.

    The climbers jersey competition was done in by the double points at the finish for the GC guys.

    For my taste the ITT was the right length.

    Was it fair that all the Sky riders got to sleep in separate rooms, and the other teams doubled up – thus transferring germs and sleeping patterns back and forth?

    Would we have had a completely different tour – with a slightly different stage configuration?

    • Having a such a short time trial and then having the TTT the day before the mountains left the beginning of the TDF unbalanced.

    • Worth pointing out that Sky riders still got sick, whatever the sleeping arrangements – Kennaugh ended up having to abandon, Porte sick in the final week etc, and I think Konig suffered too

  6. You have any idea how your opponents will ride, and develop a plan accordingly.

    The script went something along the lines of Froome having a good week in the Pyrenees, then fading in the last week. While Quintana faded less/improved in the third week. Like in 2013. Despite Froome’s assurances that this wouldn’t happen, it did.

    But the script also said that Froome would struggle and lose time in the first week; on the cobbles. Maybe not so bad compared to Quintana. But certainly compared to Nibali. Just like in 2014.

    Froome had less of a lead going in to week 3 than in 2013.

    So, no, where the race was one was in those early stages. Or possibly in the week 3 in the defence. But week 2 went to wveryone’s plan.

    • Think I prefer inrng’s psychological take myself. It may have been premeditated but the attack was a masterstroke supremely executed. With the benefit of hindsight, it was in effect a massive bluff that both gained and, perhaps more importantly, bought time for Froome and his team. If Movistar rode solely for Quintana it may have been different.

  7. It’s selfish of me but tomorrow is a bleak day. It’s all over.
    Froome has been magnificent throughout the 3 weeks. Sincerest congratulations to him and his brilliant team. Alas even today he couldn’t avoid the minor indignity of some ingenious guerrilla marketing by the golden arches. And steer clear of the knighthood Chris, it ain’t cool.
    Geshke’s reaction to his win was a great moment. Tears have seemed a fashionable sporting accessory in recent years but the rawness of his emotion really knocked me back.

  8. Well, I thoroughly enjoyed that. Firstly, thanks to Inrng for the most intelligent and entertaingly written analysis to be seen anywhere; the speed and thoroughness of your summaries and previews is amazing… And always even-handed, which I love – a refuge from the polemic!

    Well done to Froome, who is winning me over. My snap analysis of the whole tour, for what it’s worth… Sky won through thinking through and having a plan for everything, and through giving the impression of being unbeatable in the first two weeks. I have a feeling that Quintana just didn’t realise how much time he could take off Froome until it was too late. Although they looked it at first, Sky were far from unbeatable and my feeling is that we have seen some very real, genuine, human performances these last three weeks. Which is reassuring; maybe I’m naive but it’s nice to see riders looking knackered and and weak in the third week of a grand tour…

    Looking forward to next year already. I have a feeling Quintana will be very hard to beat!

    Thanks Inrng.

    • Quintana was very hard to beat this year. What people underestimate is how hard Chris Froome is to beat. To my mind his best ride of the Tour was up Alpe d’Huez as he fought to hang on, clearly not in rude health himself. And yet even on this climb only Quintana climbed the mountain faster than him according to the timings. Great guts and will to win.

  9. Froome has won me over with his professionalism, and his qualities as a rider make him a worthy winner. If he attempts a repeat next year I hope to see more measured treatment from cycling “journalists.” These days it seems that the torture of riding the Tour does not stop when they get off the bike, and for me that is one of a few reasons that I consider the Giro a fine alternative. Makes one want to not only congratulate Froome for winning, but also thank him for putting up with this stuff for the sake of the sport. After 3 weeks of Tour comments on, both congratulations and thanks are in order for yourself as well. Fabulous work.

  10. thanks to Mr. Inr Rng, my main source of cycling information (next to pcs, data nerd as i am) i really enjoyed this tour, froome proved that he is the strongest, most balanced rider and his team superior to all the others. I hope Bardet can up his game a bit next year and avoid the huge time losses he suffered in some of the stages, i somehow like the guy (and hope he succeeds with his diploma which he does next to his cycling). And Proud of Mathias Frank, he proved to be a real fighter. And yeah i want to see more of Emanuel Buchmann, the germans just need a decent gc-guy

  11. As it’s often – but not always – the case, a Tour that relied heavily on team strategies. In that sense, even if I agree with inrng about the impact of Pierre-San-Martin, it’s emblematic that the single difference which would have changed the final result happened during Zeeland’s stage.

    Generally speaking, Movistar really gave it away, racing a lot of crucial stages with Valverde’s podium as their top priority, and lending a big hand to Sky in the process, taking care of attacks which .
    It was quite obvious even before the start that Froome was going to suffer if an high climbing rhythm was imposed before the final climb. In retrospect, it’s quite telling to give a look to climbing times during the stage and compare that with final results on the last climb of each mountain day.
    That’s why I think it’s not adequate to match one-on-one the Movistar’s gregari with Sky. If you decide to rise rhythm it’s not like the other team’s strong riders can stop you. Sky rode, whenever they had the occasion, with a rather reduced tempo during most of the hard stages. Give a look to breakaway dynamics and compare that with Tour 2014 or Giro 2015.

    Besides, I’m neither that sure that, properly used, Izagirre or Anacona would have been *that* worse “as a third man” when compared to Porte… at least, that’s not what the GC says. Without naming the fact that the Movistar’s “second gregario” was pretty stronger than both Sky riders – a pity he wasn’t riding as such: until the last couple of days it was nearly the other way around (there are good quotes with Movistar explaining that they decide not to force attacks nor rise speed on the penultimate climb because Valverde was around).
    Movistar preferred to use Izagirre or Anacona (and Castroviejo) to build up their GC… in Team Classification! Keeping Valverde in sight could make sense if they really decided to use him as a long distance menace, but it wasn’t the case: nor it seems that Sky would have taken the bait, nor they really tried until it was quite late. And, when they tried, Froome started to lose time!

    Sadly enough, I’ve started this Tour with the impression of a tacit alliance, and the last two mountain stages didn’t really wash away that sensation, which was reinforced in several occasions, even apart Movistar’s internal management and task setting. If it were so, it’s evident that the two strongest teams can be very effective in cutting out the rest of the field when, viceversa, rival teams are struggling, and not only because their captain’s respective troubles (the Giro for Contador, Nibali’s *falsa partenza*), but also because of lack of depth and/or cohesion in the teams as such.
    Though, this are just unproven concerns.
    What is proven is that Movistar had a number of priorities conflicting with an all-in fight for the yellow jersey. I don’t think that’s about Quintana not having the strength before the third week: it’s really more about the way you set the race, to get to the final climb with a definite performance frame – or not.

    In that sense, I’m partially with J_Evans when he expresses doubts about possible future triumphs by Quintana in the Tour (even more so, if the course goes back to a more balanced style), although he’s clearly an impressive rider, presently the strongest climber around and with unknown improving margins given his young age (note that unknown doesn’t mean “sure” or “huge”).
    I’m not sure, though, that it’s all about the flat or the TT. It’s more like that, as a simple but rarely stated fact, the faster you climb (above or well above 20km/h), the more you go slightly shifting the scale towards power when contrasted with power/weight ratio. And that’s one of the (many different) reasons why riders around or below 60kg struggle a lot in the Tour, with its 6-7% climbs. But that’s also another important reasons to try and push hard along every climb of the stage, if you want your “pure climber” to shine in the last one… It’s not like you need a slaughter, it’s enough to put in a steady tempo, something that Movistar could do.

    All that said, huge cheers to Sky and Froome. I don’t like them nor their riding style, but they really stepped up during this Tour. There was a sort of a physical *superiority*, but it wasn’t the main factor as in other races.
    Savvy use of the gregari along the whole race (Astana style, I’d say!), best and biggest advantage taken in the stage more suited to their characteristics, perfect first week. What I appreciated most was Froome’s cold-minded reaction and strong character when he was put under pressure. I really saw a change in him during last Vuelta: I think he really needs to thank Contador for this important Tour win, not only for the “abanicos” in Zeeland but, perhaps more important, for the lessons learnt last year (the credit goes to Froome, I mean, but it was an important experience, indeed).
    As it’s often the case with the Tour, it’s a race which makes a little sense (pleasure of sheer boredom apart) for some 16-17 days out of 21, but it can deliever a couple of brilliant high-intensity moment and, anyway, the whole picture tends to make much more sense that the single snap-shots.

    • Great analysis, Gabriele! I was about to write something about my similar impressions but now I don’t need to deal with that anymore. I could not have done it as good as you anyway.

      Movistar gave the win away in a TdF which might have been Quintana’s best chance when his career will end in some ten years. That doesn’t mean he will not win the TdF one day but it won’t become “easier” than it was this year.

      They could have ripped the race (and Team Sky) apart in quite a few stages but they decided to wait until the very last stage when Valverde’s podium place was (almost) 100% secure. Is there any other imaginable reason than that? It’s a Spanish team with a Spanish sponsor and a kind of old and traditional thinking general manager, so maybe it’s as simple as that.

      As the race was ridden the overall strongest rider with the best strategy won. The most impressive thing was witnessing how much Froome has improved in many other aspects of the sport besides riding his bike fast up a mountain. If his learning curve continues to rise like this he will be really hard to beat in 2016 and beyond.

      Seeing the fatigue in a lot of protagonists especially in the last week I’m voting for cutting the GTs short by one week but still keep two rest days. I suppose we would see a more interesting race and it would also make sense in order to support the development to a cleaner sport. One could do it as an experiment for a year or three and then decide whether it makes sense to go back to the three weeks format. I know how much of a change that would mean especially for the TdF with all its tradition, but at the end of the day it’s still a bike race or at least this should be the most important aspect. And why not change the character of the Tour each year? It does not always have to be a race dominated by the high mountains. There might also be editions dominated by lumpy medium mountain stages but we certainly don’t need many flat sprint stages. When guys like Greipel win close to 20 races a year there’s no need to make sure they have more than a handful of chances in a GT.

      Especially when considering the increasingly frightening financial situation of the sport where it’s really hard to find sponsors any change which has the potential to inspire more attractive racing should at least be given a chance.

    • great points gabriele…
      only point is that I think part of the reason why Froome lost time in the last few days is related to some illness in the team, rather than Moviestar different tactics.
      PK was out, Porte on antibiotics, GT with off days (although we could argue was the other way around, the surprise was soo many good days), Last days was clear that Sky tempo was much slower than on Pyrenees and other races (as you mentioned, also previous tours).
      Going back to La Pierre Saint Martin, it was Moviestar doing tempo in the begging of the mountain. Most of the reduction on the peloton was done by them and after that Sky just finished the party. So i guess they got cautious about attacking too soon.

      • Hmm… no: apparently, they were pretty slow in the Pyrenees, too, no way better than the Alps, at least climbing (except LPSM).
        Portet d’Aspet and Aspin were *notably* slow. Tourmalet would have been too, if Astana didn’t start to put in a selective tempo in the last 8 kms. And all the same they didn’t succeed to make it fast as a whole, either! Sky, let’s say, had shown they preferred a softer rhythm.
        I agree that they had used different strategies in other races: however, they tend to prefer a “monoclimb” kind of stage for Froome.

        Porte and Poels weren’t bad at all on the Alpe d’Huez, so I’d rather believe that the team was *managing* them someway than that they were ill the couple of days before and suddendly became dominant (some ups and downs can happen, obviously, but not to this extent).

        On LPSM we had a good display of “Movistar working for Sky”. They hoped it could work for them, too, I guess. But that’s not the kind of behaviour I think it was needed from them; there wasn’t much they could do, in that stage, and, anyway, maybe it was good as it was: gaining a lot of time on everyone else but Sky. Whereas they sure needed to ride otherwise the stages with more climbs. Cycling it’s not just the moment in which you materially *attack* or *prepare the attack* pushing a crazy pace uphill… there’s a reason because of which they race some 150-200 kms along three weeks, even if ASO and most teams looks like they forgot that.

        How to race LPSM stage to hinder Sky’s tactics is a really good question, whose answer couldn’t be but very complicated. Yet, even assuming that this particular stage went as it went, there’s still a lot you can do – if you’re Movistar and Quintana is your captain – to gain a minute or so in a couple of other stages.
        On the other hand, the other big guns just… shouldn’t have had such a bad day *that day* 🙂
        One and half a minute would have been more reasonable both for Nibali and Contador.

    • +1 I’m no fan of the Green Bullet and his team’s tactics confused me as well. Not so much gregario lusso for Quintana but not a total rival either. I doubt The Condor will ever find a Tour route more suited to him than this one and Movistar couldn’t stick the knife in when they needed to. Too little, too late as Froome faded in the third week – similar to his last Tour victory. Last year Nibali put the knife into his rivals in the first week, this time Froome/SKY did it to him (and the others) in a similar fashion. I dislike Murdoch, SKY, Froome, etc. but have to admit the best team and best man won Le Beeg Shew 2015. That’s the way it should be.

    • thank you gabriele, you should get Money for that. as for quintanas chances and the tour route. the route is made by men. For the sake of excitement they probably wont neither make a route totally against or totally for him (given he will be a dominant mountain rider in the coming years)

    • Brilliant analysis, Gabriele.
      Let’s hope that the other teams learn from this Tour and finally stop allowing Sky to ride to their tactics (they’ve had since 2012 to think up something).
      STS – I think the fatigue is all part of what makes a grand tour great: it’s the ultimate test. Would NQ have had any chance in a two week race? Wouldn’t two week races be a bit similar to the one week stage races that we already have?
      But I like your other points.

  12. I think the mountain points competition was better before the point reform. There WAS a competition! Double points on mountain top finishes clearly hurts, unless it is only a cat1 or less.
    The green is fine.
    So was the yellow. I mean the lack of long flat TT is good.

    • There wasn’t a competition this year? It changed hands three times in the last week!
      One more place on Alpe and there would have been a different one again, a fresh winner – Quintana.
      What were all these mountain competitions ‘before the point reform’? Examples, please.

      • Surely if Nano Quintana had won on the Alpe d’H he would have been one point behind Froome? He would have got 50 (25×2) rather than 40 – he would then be on 118 to Froome’s 119.

        Agree with your point apart from that.

        NB with one point available on the roll into Paris it would have made even the final stage interesting.

  13. Thank you for all the excellent comment and analysis. The two unsung here’s here were Nico Roche for holding on in the TTT when Pete K blew up and Walt Poels for sticking with Froome on the Croix de Fer where if he had gone, Movistar would have taken tine.

    • I have to agree with that – Poels on Friday, and Porte/Poels on Saturday – without those guys Froome would for sure have lost more time on both those stages.

      Seems to me Froome was slightly ill/fighting something over the last 2 days. Maybe just the accumulated fatigue, but he was not the 100% Froome of the Pyrenees.

  14. Whilst the big 4 battle that we were all waiting for never quite materialised, we have to remember that this is sport not cinema. As such, you can’t get the perfectly scripted drama everytime but that’s what makes it even more special when it does happen because it’s real.

    A thoroughly enjoyable tour nonetheless with some wonderful and informative articles by inrng as always.

    Thank you!!

  15. Congrats INRNG!
    Great analysis and great coverage!!
    Agree that La Pierre was the defining moment. Moviestar came up strong to the climb, leading the peloton and than Sky took over and smashed them.
    This had a huge effect on their tactics.
    Indeed, I think they did the only thing they could do. Keep a strong tempo and pray for an off day from Sky and Froome and they almost got it. Attacking in the wrong day could end up all their ambitions.
    Lastly, a quick question, the final points classification have a few riders with negative points. What happened?

  16. Couple questions that id be interested in other people’s thoughts:

    On a purely numerical basis, if Quintana had not lost time in the wind, he would have won the race.
    Does this mean that (putting aside the “yeah, but part of cycling is not getting caught in the wind” responses) Quintana was the better cyclist or do you think Froome could have rode harder if he had needed to?

    Also, and he probably wasnt doing this, but the dopage talk died down towards the end of the tour and that may have been because there were other people riding quicker up a hill then Froome. I would have thought in that situation that it would be better for me to not win a stage and just manage the time difference then to try and win another stage and have my performance shadowed by ridiculous speculation.

    • Froome didn’t really look like he could throw something more on the road. He was even sprinting, most of the times…!
      The question maybe is if they would or could have prepared him and the team differently in case of need, hence creating the condition for him to perform better.

    • Interesting questions.
      I believe Froome was a worthy winner, and the better (quicker) cyclist over the three weeks. He gained time in the ITT, on the flat, cobbles stage, punchy stages like Huy & Bretagne, and even the LPSM mountain top finish.
      Quintana only ‘won’ two stages over Froome, the last two days in the Alps. Other than that, it was managed parity. So he wasn’t able to make his one area of strength count.
      Whereas the opposite was the case with Froome and Sky, they made the most of their advantages.
      I understand Inrng’s point. The LPSM stage was case of Froome invading Quintana’s territory if you like.
      So I suppose that was crucial.
      Equally though for such an experienced team as Movistar to be riding towards the back of the peleton on a day of flat terrain, along the coast, with crosswinds and a storm blowing in has to be unforgivable in hindsight. Quintana was team captain, so between him and the DS, this was a vital error and, in my view, the most crucial one of the race.

      No comment to your second question !

        • What I said was, that there was a conspiration of events, that seemed almost pre-ordained in their timing – the storm and subsequent high cross winds, the crash, the surge by Tinkoff Saxo.
          At that exact moment there was nothing that Movistar could have done.
          But their initial error, in hindsight, was to have been caught at the back of the peleton.

    • Froome could have rode harder on the Alpe d’Huez if he wanted to, clearly he wasn’t as strong as Pierre-St-Martin but there was not much to gain from trying to follow Quintana on the last climb.
      Stage win was out of reach as Pinot lead was too big, the polka jersey was in the bag already with Bardet being dropped, the crowd being rather dense and hostile would have made passing Quintana difficult.
      Trying to follow the movistar rider would have been almost a strategical mistake at that point, Froome would have been isloated, without any teammate to assist in case of a mechanical , responding to attack also greatly increase the chance to go over the limit, loosing even more time.
      Staying with Porte and climbing at cadence was the most logical strategy that day.

      • ‘Froome could have rode harder on the Alpe d’Huez if he wanted to’ – how do you know this? That’s a belief; not a fact.

        • Sure, everything outside of GC and stage results are opinions and open to interpretation. He could not have gone faster is also a belief.

          What is more likely ?
          Froome gave absolutely everything he had left on that climb at the risk of going in the red and actually loosing the maillot jaune or he kept it under control for most of the climb, going slightly under his max

          I don’t think he could have climbed as fast as Quintana that day but I do think he could have loss less than 1’38 if he really needed to.

          • I think he was close to his limits, and was not at 100% – not far off, but I think a 100% Froome could have stayed with Quintana.
            Instead there was a reliance on his team-mates, and they (and he) did well to limit the time loss.

          • If he really needed to, as you yourself pointed out, he would have a had a not-negligible chance of “going in the red and actually loosing the maillot jaune”.

  17. Two honest questions:

    1. Mysteries in a very measurable sport. Nibali underwent tests to find out what was wrong with him. Did they ever find anything out? It just seems a bit strange, all this discussion of power, vo2max, weight, efficiency… and then you can’t perform and no can find out why?

    2. Did Froome ride a helicopter on the rest day before La Pierre Saint Martin? I remember reading this in Wiggo’s bio, I think. Just trying to figure out why was Froome so much better than the others on La Pierre Saint Martin. He didn’t seem to demonstrate consistent superiority on other climbs. I’m wondering if Sky handled the rest day better, also if team budget has something to do with it.

    Honestly thought this was by and large a boring tour. Even the penultimate stage was overblown; you knew soon enough that Quintana wasn’t going to be able to pull enough time back. Last year wasn’t excellent but the first week was better (cobbles were much better last year), there was also the fight for the podium which didn’t materialize this year.

    Giro and Vuelta’s have been more exciting, even if they haven’t drawn all the top contenders.

    • 1. The map is not the territory. The test is not the race.
      And, anyway, the sport isn’t that measurable. You can measure the what, not the how, let aside the why.

      • Fair enough, but I doubt that’s how Slongo prepares Nibali for the race. Surely there is lots of effort to time the peak in performance. So that’s my curiosity, from a physiological point of view. Assuming that effort was done, what happened?

        Contador: did the Giro. Fatigue.
        Tejay: got sick.
        Nibali? By last year’s numbers, he should have been more competitive with Froome.

        • Hard to know, but here are some very hypothetic ideas:
          1 – he focused his prep on the last week (as opposite to Froome or Quintana, for example), considering that the race could be decided there… well, albeit it wasn’t exactly like that, it wasn’t that far from being true. The problem is that he (or Slongo) probably thought that he could cope with the first week out of natural superiority on that terrain – but it didn’t work as well as they hoped, partly out of bad luck, partly (a little part) out of bad form, parlty (a big part) out of team troubles;
          2 – the first week was very team-oriented. Astana was having huge cohesion troubles. Those days I was lucky enough to have (still) some time to write 😉 so I remarked that sensation on these pages well before it was blatantly confirmed by what followed. Even Huy showed problems teamwise, realtively poor form apart;
          3 – psychological problems. The head is what matters the most in cycling. Nibali wasn’t as “tranquillo” as his mythology would like to present as an infrangible state of him. In the crosswinds he clearly panicked, and that grew in some sort of anxious way of racing which suffocated him. Towards LPSM it was evident that he had blown way worse than his legs could imply. It became apparent when just a couple days later he could afford a very fast climb to Plateu de Beille, after a “transition stage” where he was feeling good on the Tourmalet but failed to change his rhythm in the finale; your “legs” can’t bring you with the best if it was them which were keeping you more than one minute behind, say, Pauwels;
          4 – lack of kick. He knew what the best way to corner Froome could be, and went for it, according to his characteristics. Preparing for long range, long duration efforts. I think we can say it definitely worked – when he won the stage he inflicted on Froome one of the most significant single blows in quantitative terms (not to say that “he could be a menace for Froome”, just to remark the impact of that spectacular move). Despite the long range action, he could climb – alone! – the whole final KOM as fast as the best group, save Quintana and Froome, obviously. And on the Alpe he showed hadn’t been finished ouot by his effort on the previous day, either: he climbed it less than a minute slower than Froome (but in worse racing conditions). Very well. Ok, the problem is that working a lot on that shaves away a little sharpness: and Nibali never had a lot of that (it could be observed even in his very good 2014 Tour, imagine that). The lack of flaming acceleration, given the way the race developed itself along the first two weeks, proved itself a major fault: the stages were being ridden slowly with fast finale, usually with some sort of sprint in the closing kms. Combine that with the psychological problem, and you can see Nibali shutting (unwillingly) his engine off when he feels he can’t anymore follow the rush of a relatively numerous group (Gallopin or Yates are good examples, for a number of reasons, check their positions during some of the stages were Nibali lost most ground).

          These factors, even if I hadn’t guessed all of them right, feedback each other in a “perfect storm” which explain Nibali’s crisis.
          That said, I was impressed by the way he could surge back, both in terms of GC and in terms of racing attitude. It would have been nearly impossible for most riders, seeing how he was feeling and riding during the first two Pyrenean stages.
          He definitely has an uncommon character and a good deal of class. I was really disappointed by the first half of his race, but symmetrically hugely satisfied by his second half, despite a result inferior to what can be expected on the start line (the podium), but kind of unthinkable right after LPSM.

          • Thanks, Gabriele. Very interesting. Goes to show much has to be aligned for these things to work out. There hasn’t been a consecutive winner in the last five years or so, right? I wonder if there’s something there, too.

    • 1. I dont think anything was wrong with him… almost everytime Nibali faces a top GC he loose it badly (exept for one Tirreno-Adriatico, but even there was a rainny day where he has an edge). His top performance and avg performance has a huge gap. Most of the year his is just an avg GC. So not surprised by his performance
      2. I think Froome is actually the best climber. The not expected was the last 2-3 days where not only him, but Sky in general seems weaker.

      • 1. Nibali 2014-2015 is quite different from the rest of his career, so it doesn’t make sense to mix things up. Nor it make sense to mix short stage races with GTs. The question here is the difference between the very high level achieved in the last week and the previous ones, which hasn’t been that normal for him during any part of his career. Hence, your lack of surprise probably depends on lack of analysis.
        2. Curious how Sky and Froome appearing weaker during the last week was sort of an unexpected exception, while Nibali having a bad first half of the Tour should be considered *the rule*. PS: Quintana is clearly the best climber around. He proved better than Froome on climbs more suited to the Sky rider, which could put big time “uphill” on the Colombian only on slopes which averaged less than 5%. Big ring material for me, imagine the pros. Very well done, I mean, but don’t call it *climbing*.

    • For 2. apparently spent part of the rest day riding their bikes on static trainers inside a heated truck as a means to sweat and prevent the dreaded water retention. The magic formula? Who knows but they did it and the others didn’t.

    • In Froome’s winner’s press conference he stated that he choose the exact spot to attack on LPSM whilst doing a recon 3 weeks before the tour.

      He chose a steep section about 5-6km out which was followed by a more benign slope for the last 4k. The reason being that he had intended to gap his rivals about 5-6k out in an all out attack and then, as the slope levelled off somewhat, use his superior TT ability to maintain/increase his gap to the finish. Worked a treat

      • People talk about Sky’s money, but a lot of what they do seems to be good thinking: this and the heated trucks, for instance.
        The criticisms should be levelled at their opponents: why aren’t they trying new things?
        The financial disparity is still a big issue, but there are lots of things other teams could also be doing.
        It’s much the same as people criticising Sky’s tactics. I find them dull as well, but it’s up to the other teams to counter them (see gabriele’s post above for how).
        The other teams seem to be stuck with the ideas they have – where’s the new thinking?

        • Why aren’t they trying new things? Because they can’t afford them. No other team has a heated/aircon truck for mechanics. Europcar’s J-R Bernaudeau wanted to bring motorhomes to the Tour years ago but he didn’t have the money (he was the first to bring a restaurant truck).

          • The big worry for me is if Sky sign all the riders rumoured. Not only will they be all the more dominant, but that’s so many talented riders just being used in the train.
            Whatever one thinks about Sky, they don’t add to excitement.

          • It’s sad that SKY’s insanely huge budget gives them such an advantage, especially in the doping/financial crisis pro cycling’s in at present. Who else is going to put that kind of money into a sport (if they have it) when the risk of scandal and negative publicity is so high? Of course Rupert Murdoch thrives on this very thing so it’s likely he doesn’t care, but I think it makes it very tough for teams to find backers these days. Of course that’s not all SKY’s fault as pro cycling let the doping culture take over the sport and now we’re seeing the effects of short-term thinking by Verbruggen and Co.

          • Or equally, Larry, that Sky are the trail-blazing saviours of a once-dying sport.
            Boldly going where no one dares (or will pay) to go !
            Only time will be the judge there..

          • I’d say it’s some wishful thinking describing a team they throw cups of piss at as trail-blazing saviors of anything, but then I don’t spell savior with a U. BigTex was once looked upon by many as a savior of the sport, don’t forget. His team had plenty of whiz-bang, expensive ideas as well..remember his F1 project for example? It might be time for some sort of limit on the money that can be spent, though I’ll admit up front that would be very hard to control.

        • That’s the point Larry in a nutshell.
          Cycling can’t keep using the LA years as a barrier to progress.
          Progress can be achieved cleanly surely.
          Most, if not all, of Sky’s so-called marginal gains are not new ; they’ve been around in other elite sports for years. And the money that they invest is not, in relative terms to other elite sports, actually that excessive.
          It is the fact that cycling fans can’t bring themselves to believe that (a) progress and change should be made and that (b) that if it is attempted, it is somehow a drug cheaters conspiracy.

          I truly hope Sky are clean, I believe they are, and their example could induce other sponsors to be attracted. It would be great for the sport if there were 10 super-rich pro teams. Imagine the battle royale for the Jerseys then ?
          The TdF is under funded massively for what it is. MTN Qhubeka’s team prize was just over 52,000 euros, the teams using 1 and 2 star hotels, etc etc.
          Compare this to other elite World events and it’s laughable.
          It’s about time that the sport cast off the chains of drugs, and I hope that Sky can show the way.
          This might not be a popular viewpoint, but I believe it has value.

          • Whatever, but “show the way to cast off the chain of drugs”? You joking?
            I’ll put it down short and harsh, sorry for that – but they have got an hell of a *doping mentality*.
            Like most sports people and cycling teams, absolutely: but nobody is telling me that Etixx will show the ethical path, or Movistar will move us to the stars above us through moral law within us.
            Whether they’re actually doping or not in a technical sense, Sky and the rest.

            “If it ain’t positive, it ain’t doping”… That’s fine if in your mindset the problem with doping is *the cheating thing*. You’re using substances which aren’t on the forbidden products list, maybe because they’ve been developed only recently, or you’re getting due prescriptions. All within *the rules* (without even imagining any involvement by the UCI).

            Though, that’s not as good if one dislikes doping for a couple of reasons more: riders’ health (way more important than cheating) and unbalanced competition (secondary but not insignificant).
            In that sense, hiring notorious team doping doctors, administering opiates without therapeutical need, abusing corticosteroid with the old asthma excuse, feeding on ketones, increased cancer risk because of nitrosamines, overfeeding and subsequent extreme weight loss – nothing of that looks particularly appealing as a way to be shown, nor what I would expect from a deeply assumed antidrug stance.
            From my POV, Sky understood and perfected the 2000s cycling, of which they are the ultimate expression. Changing things is another chapter, probably another book.

          • You seem to think that money is the answer to everything: if your aim is to make cash, that’s what you’ll achieve – you won’t necessarily achieve a good sport.
            ‘It would be great for the sport if there were 10 super-rich pro teams.’ – how would that be good for the sport? Has that been good for soccerball?
            ‘Imagine the battle royale for the Jerseys then’ – why do you believe that having ’10 super-rich pro teams’ would suddenly produce 10 equally talented top riders?
            (Drugs have nothing to do with any of this.)

          • Gabriele, I’m not sure what you’re actually trying to say there.
            What is a “doping mentality” if they’re not actually taking banned substances ?
            There’s a definitive list of banned substances.
            Apart from the mess that is TUP’s, I’m not aware that Sky have flouted that.
            There are extreme sacrifices that elite riders must make, but that is the case in all elite sports.
            We tend to forget our heroes when they retire, but there are very few ex elite sports performers who do not carry a physical legacy from their careers later in life.

            JE, there is a great financial disparity in pro cycling, as you have pointed out.
            But only because sponsors are frightened away by the spectre of drugs.
            There is ample talent in the ranks, and if other teams could match Sky’s level of investment, that talent needn’t all be hoarded by 2 or 3 top teams.
            Investment in riders and their preparation works.
            Unfortunately it does not come cheap.

          • SE: The magic of money didn’t make Froome that much better than Quintana (if at all) and it won’t bring through 10 Froome-esque riders (there will only ever be 2 or 3 top riders – always been the case and that’s being human).
            Most crucially, although the drugs issue undoubtedly hinders sponsorship, the money that Sky invest will never be available for other teams, because cycling just isn’t that big.
            Therefore, it might be better to limit the funding of teams – rather than chase the imaginary big bucks – in order to reach parity.
            I think what Gabriele is suggesting is that Sky might not just be getting where they are with superior sporting practices.
            They could be taking a variety of substances, perhaps whilst just staying this side of the ‘legal line’ – but not necessarily the moral one. (The TUE is one example: if you’re too ill to ride, you should not be allowed to take a substance that makes you well enough to ride, whilst also enhancing your performance.)
            I’m not saying I agree or disagree – I have no idea. Cycling is far from free of drugs, though: look at the number of asthmatics there are – seems almost a pre-requisite.

          • SE: give a look to CIRC report about gray areas.
            Or to the researches about doping culture.
            Riders start being used to take legal substances. They rapidly grow used to the pharmacy, to trust the team doctor, to take what they’re told.
            Sky likes to walk on the border line. I can’t see that as a change in mentality.
            A lot of negative effects elite tennis player or footballers brings with them along the years are indeed due to doping.
            It’s also true that doping/pharmacology, to a certain extent, can apparently reduce the impact of elite sport on the body (Fuentes’s thesis) – but in the broader picture it isn’t like that (overriding bottlenecks in physiology, hence putting unbalanced pressure on different parts of the system).

            Doping mentality is: I’m going to take substances which aren’t really needed to practice my activity, and which may imply collateral long-term negative effects on my health, and which change the body’s metabolism rather than supplementing deployed resources. But they rise performance for the simple fact of taking them, with limited relation to training or technical improvement. Are they on the list? No? Excellent.
            Once you as a rider have accepted that, *the list* becomes a very relative thing. Among other thing, because it *is* a relative thing. Contador lost a Giro and spent months out for something that will probably become legal in a couple of years time. Ditto for Bugno. Caffeine in that dosis is now legal. Self-transfusions were legal. Altitude tents are legal in some countries, not in others.
            If you just rely on the list, the riders aren’t going to be heroes at all. They’re pharmaceutical cannon fodder (any reference to fodder beet is purely coincidental). Oh yes, cannon fodder was called “heroes” during those WWs cycling happily celebrates lately.
            They are circus animals anyway? Maybe it’s true, but it’s not a motive for consenting any sort of approval of this situation.
            Let alone applauding some freedom from “the chains of drugs”. “The chains of prohibited substances and known doping practices” is a better formulation.
            They won’t test positive, ok. So what? A lot of people weren’t. That’s not the problem. NBA has a huge problem with performance drugs, call it doping or not. Making it legal doesn’t help with the aspects I’m more worried about.

          • JE,
            Money clearly helps.
            Have a look at some videos that are around of Sky’s logistical facilities – their HQ in Belgium, Mobile Kitchen, Mechanics facilities, Tour Bus and motor homes, Jaguar support vehicles.

            Pro cycling has always been aligned with commercial interests. It exists to sell something.
            That’s still the case, more than ever.
            My point is that the entry level, in financial terms, to the very top level of pro cycling is not that restrictive in comparison to other sports.
            Look at the amounts that sponsors are pouring in to other sports.
            The money is out there, its just a matter of attracting it in.

            But the sport needs to be more open. The teams do. Until that happens, cycling is limiting itself. But a *doping mentality* ; I don’t agree with that.
            Are we to assume all other elite sport is free of these unethical practices ?
            They’re obviously not. Lionel Messi undertook a course of HGH as a youngster, the widespread use of cortisols in contact sports, huge muscle mass gain in some power sports.
            It goes with the territory.

          • G,
            Forgive me, our replies crossed and I did not see your last one.
            However, I can’t accept that a legal *doping culture* as you put it is any different in its potential long-term impact as say the physical effects of a rugby player (joint replacements by the time they are 50 or 60), ex-jump jockeys with metal plates and pins throughout their bodies as the result of a lifetime of falls, ex footballers contracting concussive-related conditions from heading balls in their playing life (look up Jeff Astle) etc etc.
            That is the price of an elite sports performer.
            It’s a choice that they make.
            Just because the riders are taking supplements, or taking ‘pills’ or ‘injections’, doesn’t make it more evil or damaging than the examples I’ve shown above.

          • Other sports are no way a positive model in doping practices. Most of them don’t even have anything like a serious anti-doping fight. Tennis, football, NBA, NFL…
            If that’s the route Team Sky is tracing for everyone, fine.
            again, I wouldn’t call that “casting off the chains of drugs”. I would see it more like the famous episode of Spanish people yelling “¡Vivan las cadenas!”.
            And it would be paramount that equality of treatment was implemented: you can’t threaten to kick a team out because “they haven’t got the right social policies which prevent doping” (an interesting stance, IMHO, if it was done bona fide), while at the same time accepting or even encouraging that sort of pharma-attitude which, indeed, we know ends up fostering doping.
            “This is how it works in other sports” is a poor excuse: cycling shouldn’t be doing a lot of things, if “other sports” were the reference.
            No ISSUL report, no surprise tests, no investigations about the past.
            That’s how other sports work.
            I definitely wouldn’t imitate them: though, the most important thing is that you copy them – or not – in a coherent and equal way, unless truth was that the alternation between tolerance and inflexibility is only a political club. That would be extremely irritating, wouldn’t it?

          • SE: very interesting debate, anyway.
            Besides insisting on what I’ve just wrote, I’ll copy and paste again something I’ve written above.
            “Doping mentality is: I’m going to take substances which aren’t really needed to practice my activity, and which may imply collateral long-term negative effects on my health, and which change the body’s metabolism rather than supplementing deployed resources. But they rise performance for the simple fact of taking them, with limited relation to training or technical improvement. Are they on the list? No? Excellent”.

            Note that most conditions you name (at least, not those which are doping/pharmacology related, which anyway support my point) could hardly be removed from the cited sports as such.
            They are not *supplemented* (added) to the sport. Sadly, you use your body and it gets damaged. Also note that whenever possible protection are introduced.
            What I call *doping mentality* introduces new, unnecesary risk exposure only for performance sake. You could hardly play rugby without physical clash, or ride a bike without risking to hit the deck.
            But you could perfectly abstain from taking performance enhancing drugs, even if they’re legal or you’ve got a prescription.
            It becomes an arms race where whoever has the less respect for riders’ health obtains bigger advantages, forcing the others along the same path. Very similar to illegal doping, indeed. Being legal doesn’t make it better.

          • Gabriele,
            If you call taking legal substances a *doping culture*, then I am afraid that your analogy must apply to many other sports too.
            Look at modern rugby players. How are they putting on such huge muscle mass ?
            Sports science pervades all elite sports now.

            To call pro cyclists ‘circus animals’ is unfair.
            All elite sportsmen make the lifestyle choice, and all suffer the consequences later in life.

            Cycling fans should not beat themselves up about this.
            The cyclists are doing. choosing, to do things to themselves that us mere mortals cannot comprehend. As long as it’s in the rules, and those rules keep apace with science.
            You can’t ask anymore.
            But the sport should just be open about that.

          • Gabriele / JE
            Interesting thoughts, thank you both.
            I will conclude with two final ones :

            – the long-term legacy of the elite sportsman. It comes in varying guises, I guess. Physical and physiological amongst them. Concussion, arthritis, broken bones and artificial replacements, to the unforeseen ills of supplements and the like. Maybe only research into the morbidity / mortality levels of ex elite sportsmen could put some kind of context on the damage.

            – finances. I prefer to see a race to the top, rather than to the bottom. That is, attract much more sponsorship and drive up investment for all.

          • To add, it would be interesting to compare the long term health of elite cyclists / other sports with that of the general population.
            Whilst we all wring our hands about the *doping culture*, is it anymore damaging than practices like smoking, poor diet and obesity, binge drinking, night shift working, and other problems that we all live with.
            What is a doping culture anyway ?

          • Our society (our societies) is, indeed, victim of a general pharmacological/doping culture. You could apply my above-sketched definition to many phenomena related to drugs consumption – not only entertainment drugs – in our society. You can even keep the word “performance”, even if it maybe doesn’t mean climbing a mountain pass in this more general context.
            That’s why our society isn’t prone to shake away “the chain of drugs”. That’s why SKY, among many others, won’t.
            I’ll leave the debate, now, suggesting a read. Narrative. “Infinite Jest”, by David Foster Wallace. Have fun! 😉

  18. As you say Inrng, it’s hard to imagine that anyone who wants to be the best GT rider, will attempt the Giro – Tour double and that might not hurt short term but long term it could become a problem for the organisers.

    Some of the big names, who concentrate on the Tour, will always be likely to ride the Vuelta. It makes me wonder if the Giro might not eventually bite the bullet and go for a 2 week race instead where riders would feel far more comfortable about completing the double?

    And no, I’m not trolling Larry T 🙂

    • Yes you are! 🙂
      (friendly speaking)

      We don’t have that many GT, please let’s abstain from taking away any of them.
      Besides, I’d anyway avoid to erase the one which tends to provide better entertainment – and probably better cycling, too.

      • Don’t get me wrong, I’m also a fan of having all three GT’s stay at 3 weeks but then we don’t need to make it work financially.

        Whilst there’s young Italians like Aru and Formolo coming through, I’m sure the Giro will be fine but if there’s no home interest and those that turn up are the tier 2, or even 3, GC riders, then they might have no choice but to change things.

      • +1.
        Why do people want to deprive us of GTs?
        If you have three 2-week GTs, you’ll watch the same people winning the same style of races with the same tactics.

        • I’m not as sure as you, J, on this one. Why not try for a few years and find out how it works out? They can always go back to the tried (and “tedious” – your words 😉 ) three weeks format if the shorter two weeks format does not have the desired effect of inspiring a more vivid style of racing.

          • Once you shrink a race it is very hard to grow it back again. RCS will never agree to a shortened race, it’s taking a sports event with 3 weeks of TV rights payments, 3 weeks of stage start/finish, 3 weeks of sponsor promotion and cutting this by one third with no compensatory gain.

          • I only said the GC battle was tedious – and it was, up until d’Huez.
            But that was because of Movistar’s tactics – not the length of the race.
            And it was not indicative of all three week races.

    • Could the Giro possibly be moved up a couple of weeks in the calendar? Is the spring weather in Italy feasible for that to happen? I wonder if that would give riders enough recovery time to still be able to attempt the Tour.

      • In addition to INRNG’s comment, moving the Giro up would also mean shifting around the Italian cycling calendar. At the moment, there’s a nice stretch with Tirenno-Adriatico in early/mid–March then Milan-San Remo then Giro del Trentino and then the Giro itself. Trentino is probably the only movable feast on that but it serves as as a warm-up to the Giro so where would it go? (You could make a case that it – as long as it went to a visible place later on the calendar – it would also help even out the Italian be a bit more balanced).

        I would imagine thought that moving the Giro up might also limit options around hosting the opening stages in some other countries.

      • It’d be great if they could swap the Vuelta and the Giro around – then Giro stages wouldn’t be at risk of snow closures and the Vuelta wouldn’t be too hot

    • Don’t forget the Giro turned down the calendar change when the Vuelta switched from the spring to fall. The Giro doesn’t need all the big names, the course and the weather make it interesting (most of the time, 2009’s sop to BigTex being one exception) enough for true fans of the sport. For North Americans it’s kind of like the way the playoff games to get into the Superbowl are often more interesting than the Superbowl itself. I’d much rather see La Corsa Rosa muddle through this crisis than become an Italianized version of Le Beeg Shew. The TOUR is the Tour and will likely always be the most hyped, most commercialized of the GT’s while the Giro has its own personality. The Vuelta I know little about (never seen any of it in-person) though hasn’t ASO pretty much taken it over these days? The calendar swap might have been good for them, offering a 2nd chance for those whose season has not gone well so far, but the Giro would never have worked in that time period….I’m happy RCS turned that offer down!!!

      • Larry, would you please explain why running the Giro in September would be not as good as doing in in May. I understand that the often bad weather adds to the drama and might prevent a Sky rider from winning 😉 , but I’m really curious to find out how a Giro later in the year would work.
        I have to admit I don’t value tradition, so I really would like to know the substantial reasons why May seems to be better for the Corsa Rosa than September.

  19. For those down on TTs I remind people that the two most exciting Grand Tours of recent years, the 2011 Tour and 2012 Giro were both decided on the final competitive day of racing in the time trial…

    I know fans tend to dislike the 2012 Tour route, but honestly the way that Tour was raced was more due to the field than the parcours: the two strongest riders were also on the strongest team, no Contador, defending champ Evans off the pace, Schleck history and Nibali not at the same level as Wiggins/Froome. If you re-ran that course with this year’s riders, you can’t imagine it wouldn’t be a more interesting race, in that instance Quintana’s “wait until the final climb of stage 20 to attack” tactic would not even be an option, you’d need to go hard early in order to bank time.

    Ultimately, it’s the riders, not the course, that makes a race. Therefore the commonly proposed solutions to make Grand Tours more exciting – 300km stages! More HC climbs! Six man teams! No race radios! – ultimately miss the point. You can have dull and defensive racing up a legendary mountain pass, and exciting and attacking racing up a small hill in the suburbs, such as the final climb in stage 2 in Yorkshire in 2014. A well-balanced course, the best riders and may the best man win.

    • The… 2012 Giro…? Specific fandom apart, it has been widely tipped as the ugliest Giro in years! 2011 Tour was fine but I’m not sure it makes even the top five of the last ten years – even if, yes, it’s around there.
      It’s the riders that make the race, but the course favours or not a definite kind of racing – it can even arrive as far as allowing or not a specific kind of racing.
      If you’re a rider who gets better when several climbs are tackled, there’s nothing you can do when you find many “monoclimb” stage (something the Giro indulged in during recent years – not a specific reference to this Tour, which instead had a very good balance in this sense).
      Every rider of one-day races will be able to tell you how different the game becomes when you go over 200 km. That can be applied to stages, too: with a certain length available, riders and teams *may* decide (or not) to transform it in a *different* game – if the length isn’t there, you can’t do it anyway (physics, physiology and all that stuff).

      • Ugly in what way? Tight GC battle and point competition going down to the final day, big stages such as the Stelvio? I fail to see the problem. Likewise with the 2011 TDF, yeah Voeckler spent a lot of time in yellow, but the real battle was see-sawing back and forth behind him. Obviously you can rule out the editions since that were over GC-wise by half way though, but what else in recent years tops it? The Lance vs Contador battle of 2009? The shenanigans in 2006 where the admittedly exciting racing is somewhat undermined by the fact they took the title off one doper to give it to another? The only objections to either of the races I named would be anti-anglo rider sentiment.

        Also long races play differently in one day races compared with a GT stage. I watched the whole Giro this year and the 264 stage 7 was the least interesting. Organisers can’t just make a really long stage and assume it will magically become a Milan-San Remo-esq event, what actually happens is the teams throw out the anchor and save their energy for the shorter, sharper mountain stages or a TT.

        • Giro 2012. Pure boredom until the last three or four stages. The Tour is that way, but the Giro isn’t. Basso’s team controlling the race in an obsessive manner, shutting down any meaningful move, even when it made little sense. Very little selection on most mountain stages. Quite low level of the top GC contenders. The Stelvio stage was great, but that’s not enough for a Giro.
          It is the Tour that may be saved if it has one great stage and a couple of good ones.
          In fact…
          As for the 2011 Tour, as I said I quite liked it (emotionally speaking, it instantly became one of my favourite Tours)… but, hey, let’s face it: the GC fight was quite *constipated* for some 17 consecutive stages ^___^ I can’t remember the details, but I was quite horrified by Jelle Vanendert triumphing on Plateu de Beille and nearly making it on Luz Ardiden. People were marking themselves a lot (and, frankly, there was an excess of sprints, too). Until *the last three says* (not counting Paris), only the long range action of the Norwegians had put some flavour in the race. Do you *really* remember it all, or are you filled by the fond memories of Galibier, Alpe and the ITT (impressive mountain stages, decisive ITT)?
          That’s enough to make a decent Tour, and Cadel winning adds to the magic. But it doesn’t make a marvellous GT in general terms. That same year, Giro 2011 was better (for those strange folks who are cycling hardcore fans 😛 it’s not about having it uncertain to the last metre, you know?), Giro 2010 was a long way better, Giro 2015 idem, Vuelta 2012 was undoubtedly better, Vuelta 2007 ditto. The Tour 2009 was better, like it or not.
          And that’s enough to push the Tour 2011 out of the top 5 of the last 10 years GTs, or to make it really struggle to enter, depending on opinions.
          Which was just what I was writing.

          About the long stages. It’s a GT. A stage race. Stages don’t need to work on the fly. The stage you name marked the start of a series of four averaging 218 kms. The effects were to be seen in the following days, when, for example, on a pretty short climb Aru, Contador, Porte and Landa were able to build a more-than-40″ gap over the rest of the field. Whereas normally they would have been dropped by Liège specialists on a climb like that. Not to mention the chaos on the unpromising flat Adriatic stage that followed.
          That said, what I affirmed isn’t that an hard course will force an hard race (see this year Tour on the mountains, except for the last two Alpine stages…), but that many courses will make it very complicated to imagine any sort of creative racing. When you write “what actually happens” you’re plain wrong. It may go that way or not. Plenty of examples… you may remember some Stelvio 219 kms long stage? (yes, the one you named above) The 229 kms long Gardeccia stage the year before? The 222 kms long Montalcino stage in 2010, or the 218 kms long Zoncolan stage that same year?
          *What actually happens…* o__O Please!

          PS As for the anti-anglo-anger paranoia, I thought you should have noted one thing or two about me as a commenter to rule out that (generally quite silly) hypothesis. It’s to spare this kind of assumptions that I chose not to remain anonymous (an option I respect quite a lot in itself). Not that I like all the *anglo* riders, I just tend not to take into account that factor. I could number a good number of riders I like or dislike for every… how would you call them? “Race”? “Culture”? “Ethnicity”? “Breed”?

      • Yes, the more variety of stages the better – include long ones, short ones, monoclimbs, many climbs.
        Then, leave it to the riders.
        You can never tell which stages will turn out to be the good ones.
        But I would limit TT to a total distance of no more than 50km – otherwise, it favours the TT guys too much (see the Indurain Tours just as much as the Wiggins Tour).
        I’d also limit TTTs to no more than 15km – favours the big teams too much.
        And why not a mountain TT? It’s been years.

      • I would suggest that this Tour was not balanced in “monoclimb” vs “multiclimb” stages. It really had only one monoclimb stage – that to La Pierre St Martin.

        The monoclimb stages tend to suit Froome and Sky, whereas they can be vulnerable on multiclimb mountain stages. So like the lack of ITT km in this Tour, the lack of monoclimb stages was another way that reduces the favourability of the route for them. I therefore think Froome and Sky deserve even more respect for managing to win on this course. For me Quintana rode a great race overall too, it was just not quite enough.

    • “Its the riders not the course that make the race” is something that should always be remembered. In less informed places than this blog I’ve seen a number of comments to the effect that Quintana was 1.56 down after Stage 2 and its echelons as if this was somehow bad luck on Quintana’s part and Froome somehow got lucky and stole the Tour.

      What none of these comments respect is that Quintana still had 18 stages after that to put this right but in those 18 stages he only made a net gain of 44 seconds.

      To my mind that’s simply excellent time management and textbook defence by Froome and Sky.

  20. I don’t know about the riders, but as long as it’s not proven that inrng’s excellent *reporting* is fueled by doping, I will continue to enjoy cycling for a little longer. Thank you Mr. Inrng!

  21. As a whole race, this Tour gave me nothing. Not like last year, when it seemed to be a natural, alive way of racing. It is the secon time in many years for me that I am glad that it is over.

    • What Tour were you watching !!

      OK the GC battle we hoped for may not have materialised (until the last 2 days anyway), but :
      – the 1st week was excellent for the variety
      – 1st Pyrenees stage was the expected big Showdown
      – Rest of the Pyrenees was dull from GC point of view, but breakaway wins and action.
      – More breakaway wins & Peter Sagan alone provided interest in the transition stages
      – Alps finally did provide a GC showdown of sorts, and the result was in the balance on the last day in the mountains.

      Don’t know what else you want ?
      In comparison, last year the Tour was over once Contador was out, all we got was Nibali dominating a weak left-over field.

  22. Whilst it is clearly true that stage 10 was the decisive day, for me the moment when I became convinced Chris Froome would win was stage 3 on the Mur de Huy. There was an element of luck in stage 2, yes being attentive and on the front is important but the squall was short lived and the split was partly caused by a succession of roundabouts, illustrative of lessons learned but not decisive.

    However the sheer will and determination Chris Froome showed up the Mur de Huy was very illustrative. He literally elbowed his way to a great position then powered away from all the other GC contenders, another 100m and he could have won the stage. There really was no need for this, a safe 5th or 6th would have done, with less energy expended. However he had decided he needed to take time whenever he could and also to stamp his authority on the race, he ended up with the yellow jersey (which he didnt really want at that moment) and never looked back.

    Sky’s problems in the last two mountain stages coincided with Geraint Thomas’s problems. Until then G had always been there whenever there was a challenge. The combination of Froome and Thomas was just too powerful for any of the other teams, thoughts of Movistar attacking successfully prior to when they did seem pretty fanciful. Perhaps G just went too deep in his efforts or perhaps it was the after effects of his crash. He and Sky clearly have some thinking to do, does he concentrate his efforts on the classics and be content with a super domestique role in GTs, or does he dedicate himself to the year round effort & focus needed to be a real GC contender?

    As always INRNG is one of the best places for informed sporting comment not just cycling, well done.

    • In an interview immediately after the final stage Thomas sounded like he wants to contest a GT as a leader/protected rider. The best of luck to him. I’d rather he concentrated on the classics but it’s highly unlikely he or Sky will consult my opinion. I do however remain open to an approach.

  23. I switched off my telly after the stage 12. The race became too predictable and I totally lost my interest. I remember having had the same kind of bored feeling through the Indurain years. I still love the sport but I will concentrate more on Giro & Vuelta in the future.

    • How I wish I could do this, too – but I love the Tour. With the ugly sides and the beautiful moments. And you can do nothing against love.
      But I have to say the dissapointment this year is huge, probably because I had hopes for this Tour (and they had nothing to do with the so called “Big four”) – something I didn’t have some time.

    • Each to their own but surely you must regret missing the stage wins by Cummings, seeing Bardet descend the Glandon or Sagan going down to Rochette, watching Quintana scale Alpe d’Huez? Even if the yellow jersey was decided earlier it was tested in the Alps and the daily stage battles were very good.

      • Well put (as always – thanks!)

        The best thing about Le Tour (arguably) is that it is more than the sum of its parts. There’s so much more to it than just the race for the yellow jersey, as highlighted so brilliantly in this blog (blog! which is astonishing on its own given the quality).

        Every day had some excitement; who takes the stage?; how will the French do?; battle for green; battle for break-aways and the list goes on… Unfortunately (or perhaps not), these subtleties go unnoticed by most non-hardcore cycling fans (which excludes most of this blog’s readers).

        • I learnt during the LA years to treat the tour as a series of one day races and let the GC ‘come’ to me. By taking away, from my foremost thoughts, the ever present knowledge that the top guys were probably all doping, I could try to enjoy each stage on its own merits.

          It’s a habit that’s stuck and means no matter what’s happening in the GC, my focus is one stage at a time. I imagine if the spring classics had some massive prize at the end based on performances over each race, many cycling ‘fans’ wouldn’t watch PR if their fave didn’t have a chance and one rider had already sealed the overall win.

          Some people will never be happy just to enjoy the racing.

      • I too was bored by the GC “contest”, but continued watching for the stage wins, Cummings, Bardet and Pinot being my highlights.

        I find it difficult to enjoy the defensive racing that the Tour encourages. Each year it seems the Tour is won by a single attack (if we’re lucky) and limiting one’s losses or perhaps a crushing TT victory. Very worthy I’m sure, but it doesn’t excite me in the way the classics or individual stages do.

        I hate to say it, but it seems that the performances of the GC winners were more exciting when they were doping. If you want to win a 3 week race clean, you can’t do much in the way of exciting, attacking racing.

        • Just one more legacy that the dopers have left us – unrealistic expectations of the races. 150kms head to head attacks are completely unrealistic. Guys can’t go out on a limb anymore because, if they do, their opponents pounce and then use teamwork to preserve any lead. Tactics evolve. Currently, we are very much in the era of gain a lead and defend it.

          • Nonsense.
            Lots of people argued the same during the (very boring) Armstrong years.
            While we’ve seen great attacking rides in years when sport science simply couldn’t provide a doping as effective as blood doping.
            Doping or not – admitted that we could seriously assume that “cycling is finally clean(er)” – the effects on racing are *not* defined in a deterministic way in one sense nor in the other.

  24. First, many thanks to INRNG for three weeks of well written first class analysis.

    I don’t know how many posters are/were aware that Froome had/has been poorly since the Tours final rest day.

    For what it is worth I thought it was a great Tour, with many surprises along the way and endless sub-plots. A worthy winner in Froome.

    Regrettably the event and Froome in particular were poorly analysed by some of the host countries media. The spectacle of the Tour and the riders reaction to the supreme efforts required, support the view that the sport is gradually winning the battle with doping – not won, but moving in the right direction. That sections of the media and public are unable to recognize these advances, is to be much regretted. Even more unfortunate is witnessing the French tearing apart their own national treasure The Tour de France.

    Where were these same media outlets when they were needed in the LA years ?

    • The description of “The French” is odd because the whole country has different views, many indeed are indifferent to the race. It’s a bit like the French thinking all the British drink tea, carry umbrellas and sing God Save The Queen. Still the scepticism you reference is a result of the Armstrong/EPO years, Le Monde for example stopped publishing the race results in those years. Far from being torn apart the race has enjoyed record crowds (13 million apparently) and some of the highest TV audiences ever.

        • They’ve tried already but it didn’t work out. Pinot seems unsuitable to Sky’s system, Bardet is but is under contract until 2018 – the sport’s longest contract I think – and Barguil is under contract and said in a recent interview that he too wants a family life.

          Just signing a rider of X nationality doesn’t do much alone. Look at Sky with Deignan and Roche and all the sceptics in Ireland for example.

          • I suppose a better question is why haven’t any of the French Grand Tour hopefuls other than Barguil signed for foreign teams, and why don’t they tend to historically? You wonder what a guy like Pierre Rolland could have achieved in a big money team with expert coaching, possibly more than his mostly ineffective flailing about and the odd stage win.

          • This is a shame for the French riders because they are, in effect, settling for less. It is not plausible that a FDJ or AG2R rider could win the Tour. The teams are not good enough.

          • Why do you think Bardet would be suited to Sky? He seems to have a very carefree/reckless manner to his racing, for example attacking on a technical descent he hadn’t ridden before. He’s spoken about loving to attack all the time, the feeling of seizing the moment and risking it all. He doesn’t seem like a Skytrooper to me.

          • Gingerflash: because Bardet buys into all the training and dedication side. He’s paid for his own powermetre at Ag2r, got the team to hire full-time coaches, insisted on wind-tunnel tests, gone by himself for altitude training camps (complete with sports science journals on the subject in his baggage). Pinot by contrast seems unformattable, adept at training too and he went to the Canaries for a training camp but he needs time to switch off, play around etc.

          • @Gingerflash
            Same could be said about Landa. Who actually signed with Sky. At the end of the day it obviously comes down to the money for most of them given that the part of their cycling career when they can really earn good money is comparatively short.
            Bardet might indeed be an exception though since he seems not to rely on his racing only with regards to earning his living. I would also hate to see him join them.

          • Sky could be a good team for Bardet – IF he gets to lead, not just another engine for the mountain train. How likely is that though ? Froome will be sky’s top man for the next few years.
            Would love to see Bardet on a team that could give him the technical and manpower backup to have a good go at the GC.

      • Wait, we don’t all carry umbrellas and drink tea? 😉

        Indeed I agree, “The French” have as wide a range of ideas and opinions as everyone else. It is sad to see sections of the media stirring things up and casting doubts over the race that this year there was no real evidence for, but that behaviour was not limited to the French media.

        The spitting/urine incidents that occurred were awful, but again we don’t know the nationality of the perpetrators and the race has had incidents like it before so its sadly not that unusal.

        I am pretty new to cycling (both watching and participating!) and I have to say I have really enjoyed the coverage on Inrng, and the race itself. Cummings stage win was probably my favourite but I have found it really exciting. Maybe its becaus I am not that used to it! Looking forward to the next one.

      • Inrng. I was clearly referring to sections of the French media, TV, newsprint and public, not the entire nation. That some of this unsubstantiated vitriol and innuendo has rubbed of on some of the general public should not be a surprise to anyone.

        The image you conjure up concerning the French view of the British is as correct as the British view of the French as cheese eating, berets wearing bicycle riding onion sellers !

        I can’t argue about the roadside numbers, but I had heard the opposite, that numbers were down. That the TV audiences have increased is excellent news.

    • “sections of the media and public are unable to recognize these advances, is to be much regretted”

      Unfair on the public, whose opinions are influenced largely by the media. Having ex dopers in the media though, is just asking for trouble. These people will always express a doubt, whoever is winning, to try and justify their own poor decisions and actions. It’s sad that they are given the oxygen of publicity.

      • Looked to be below his best in the Alps – tired or ill, or a bit of both ?
        Pete Kennaugh was ill and well below his best, Porte too reported to be ill for a few days.

  25. Great review Inrng, not much more to add only that may the spitters, boo-ers and the sour grapers be struck with trapped wind for a good few weeks to come, you deserve it.

    • And that was clearly NQ’s only chance of victory even before we knew CF was weak.
      As I said in the Stage 19 preview: ‘A long range effort is Quintana’s only chance of beating Froome, but you just know he isn’t going to attempt it: too scared of losing second.’ And I was far from the only one.
      Bravery is needed to win races.

      • Until G’s awesome run of performances finally snapped Sky had Quintana and Valverde covered. They knew it and weren’t prepared to lose what they had in what they thought was a forlorn hope for more. That was probably the right calculation but it left them with too much to do when G was gone and Froome became under the weather. However, as I said above, people should never underestimate Froome. Even though he was clearly suffering he still outclimbed everyone in the race up Alpe d’huez where only Quintana had a faster time.

        • All I can suggest is that you read Gabriele’s post above: might help you gain a little more objectivity.
          Stating opinions as absolute facts only shows your bias.

          • Seems to me RonDe is saying something pretty similar to yourself, just giving an alternative viewpoint on Movistar’s motivations.

          • I love this blog.
            Unlike others, it’s never full of keyboard bigmouths telling other people what they should do, what they should think.

          • “Stating opinions as absolute facts only shows your bias.”

            You mean things like, eg.

            “And that was clearly NQ’s only chance of victory” and
            “A long range effort is Quintana’s only chance of beating Froome” and
            “Bravery is needed to win races”,


          • What was “not objective” about my post? All you have stated is that you prefer Gabriele’s view to mine. Your point of view is very much based in the OPINION that if Quintana attacks earlier he wins. How do you know, as a fact, that he could attack earlier? How do you know that he doesn’t crack if he does?

            As for Sky having Movistar covered, they did. That is as much a fact (and one that seems to be a consensus to me) as anything you’ve stated here. It was only when G went missing that the chance to expose Froome became a reality. The only other option is that Sky were vulnerable, Movistar knew it, but inexplicably did nothing about it. I don’t happen to believe that. I think Movistar balanced their attacks and that, in the end, they did all they could.

            Maybe watch the races a bit more and rely less on “Cycling Manager” type scenarios?

          • RonDe:
            Two quotes:
            ‘NQ attacks earlier, maybe he wins’
            ‘Sky had Quintana and Valverde covered’
            The ‘maybe’ is the key part.
            One (mine) is a ‘what if…?’ statement.
            One (yours) is a statement of fact.
            And it is not a fact: in the last two days, Froome might have been riding within himself and keeping Quintana covered; or he might have been riding to his limits and would have lost more time had Quintana attacked earlier.
            That’s why my point of view is neutral (hence, I’m criticising Quintana) and suggesting possibilities, whilst yours is biased and insisting that Froome/Sky were definitely superior.
            (Another option to your list is that Sky were vulnerable and Movistar didn’t know it. And due to their lack of bravery, they never found this out – until it was too late.)
            (Also, this: ‘It was only when G went missing that the chance to expose Froome became a reality.’ is not the case. Froome was exposed when Quintana attacked. Froome had other helpers – Poels and Porte. You thinking that ‘G’ was so mandatorily necessary for Froome just exposes your, presumably nationalistic, bias more.)
            Maybe you need to be a bit more open-minded and knowledgeable before you start making clearly refutable ‘facts’ – or casting aspersions about whatever “Cycling Manager” is.
            That you can’t even see that your statement is not a fact means that I’m largely wasting my time here. As I say, Gabriele’s post explains – in some detail – what Movistar could have done differently. But you are blinded by your ‘Froome is best’ bias.
            Fact: if Quintana had gone for long range efforts, he *might* (highlighted for your sake) have cracked Froome.
            Fact: you have no idea whether or not that would have happened (neither do I, but I don’t claim to).
            And with that I am done with you: I notice that a lot of the regular, knowledgeable posters didn’t bother posting during the Tour – something I probably should have done myself; and will be doing increasingly from now.

          • I’m with Rush. Evans, your opinions on cycling are sound and interesting. Could you please try to limit yourself to expressing those, and stop addressing comments directly to other posters? Your free writing advice is out of place on a cycling blog. It also has a tendency to expose a rather obvious gap in your self-awareness (when you criticize that of others…), which is presumably the opposite of what you are aiming for.

            Also, please consider not responding to this post.

        • Maybe you should consider that people, in cycling, perform differently in different race conditions.
          It’s not a sort of collectible cards game like Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh ^__^
          For example, avoiding to stroll over Aspin, half Tourmalet, Core, Portet d’Aspet, Manse etc. Geraint would have found *very* difficult to be able to cover Valverde, let alone Quintana. Unless he was doping hard, I mean – but luckily, we didn’t have enough clues on that during this Tour.
          Note that Movistar didn’t even have the intention to try and rise the tempo, ’cause in that case they wouldn’t have sent their best gregari up the road taking care the team GC (neither trying to bridge on them!… until the last two stages).
          Guess who suffers when you climb several mountains too fast and even asked the team to slow things down a couple of times? Besides Froome, I mean 😛
          Yeah, him – Movistar’s captain.
          However, Froome was clearly the top guy, Quintana the only one who could match him (and, given the unbalanced course, probably beat him, with a different team strategy), whereas Nibali and Contador were, for different reasons, clearly underperfoming. Nevertheless, they both tried something interesting, adding value to Froome’s victory (I’ve begun to doubt that without Nibali and Contador’s early moves Movistar would have had that much success even in the last two Alpine stages). What was decisive was team strategy: Sky was simply perfect (chapeau… or chateau!), in a lot of little tactical details; Movistar apparently achieved their main tasks, unwilling to put them at risk to try and snatch the maillot jaune. Astana was truly a disaster (Nibali thanking name by name just three of his teammates!, and… leaving Vanotti out for Taarame, Boom’s cortisole etc., Scarponi’s illness, Fuglsang tragicomedy, Vino tinkoffing around o__O), Tinkoff team had too much Giro in too many legs.

          • This was a reply to RonDe’s first comment or so, a great deal above – essentially about Geraint Thomas covering Valverde & Quintana.
            I hadn’t read thoroughly what followed, and in hindsight I’m sorry to have replied in a joking but maybe slightly provoking way, given that too high a level of conflict had been already established.
            I really don’t think the different opinions deserve this kind of polemics. They aren’t even that different, I suspect, just a matter of perspective.
            I was quite nauseated by part of the debate during the Giro, and one of the few reasons of solace for not being able to surf the internet during the Tour was to keep away from the absurd media wars which have been raised. Let’s not make this like football, I beg you guys ^__^

          • Nuanced debate about what might have happened/could have been done differently doesn’t work with people who are saying ‘These things all definitely happened and nothing could be done to change them’.
            Apparently, these people can’t even see that “A long range effort is Quintana’s only chance of beating Froome” is not saying that Quintana could definitely beat Froome.
            But that’s because in their eyes their favourite rider was definitely the best: RonDe – ‘Froome/Sky were definitely superior’ – pointless to even try to debate with such an opinion.
            This blinkered Sky fandom can be seen elsewhere and is just as preposterous as the anti-Sky bias that we’ve seen.
            I totally understand how you felt during the Giro – and from now on I’m no longer responding to fanboys.

          • JE,
            where / when could this ‘long range attack’ of Quintana’s that you keep repeating have worked ?
            At which stage/s, with the relevant factors in context please…?

          • SE: really? I have to explain this again? (I have already said this on – Inner Ring asked: I answered [Doctornurse also gives a good answer]. I was also saying it before Stage 19 – see the preview. I was far from the only one.)
            There were many different hills where Movistar could have attacked – you can look them up for yourself.
            I’ll give one example of specifics – the most blindingly obvious one: Stage 19, Croix de Fer. The bottom of that climb was about 80km from the finish. Following it were two more climbs – cat 2 and cat 1 – both of which were steep and challenging. In between these climbs were two descents. There was no flat between the climbs. Ergo, a long range attack might have succeeded – particularly as without the flat bit, the effect of having team mates around you is reduced. Quintana could have attacked anywhere on any of these climbs.
            (The same could largely be said about Stage 20 – although there was the short flat section between the two mountains.)
            As many have pointed out, had Movistar not been so conservative Quintana might have won. Movistar could have ridden in a more attacking fashion, using all their men for Quintana, rather than being averse to losing Valverde’s podium. This probably held Quintana back, as they probably rode slower than he was able to go (Gabriele has spelled it out for you above – it’s a long post, but a beauty).
            I really can’t see how me saying this – and, remember, it’s only a ‘MIGHT’ – is controversial.
            The only reason people are taking such umbrage about it is because they desperately want to believe that Froome/Sky could not possibly have been beaten.

          • And by Stage 20, Quintana knew that Froome was comparatively weak, so attacking on the first mountain might have been a better idea than trying to recover 2.5 minutes on d’Huez, which was always extremely unlikely.
            They did try this, to an extent, but only with Valverde helping, who held Quintana back. Rather than waiting for Valverde, Quintana could – and in my view, should – have continued his attack. Movistar had domestiques ahead for the flat bit between the two mountains (and they could have planned to have more), ready for Quintana – thus negating that problem of him having to ride in the wind on the flat bit.
            Had Movistar used their domestiques (including Valverde) with more intelligence – as Sky did – throughout the Tour, they might have had some fresh ones with Quintana on the mountain before d’Huez. They might also have used them on other mountains.
            None of this is terribly otherworldly, complex, or beyond the realms of possibility.
            This is all stuff that is pretty standard thinking in cycling.
            I don’t consider myself a cycling expert, yet I thought of this – before Stage 19. Therefore, Movistar should have (and undoubtedly did, but chose to ride conservatively).
            And, crucially, none of this is anti-Sky or anti-Froome. If anything, it’s anti-Quintana and anti-Movistar. But it isn’t: it was Movistar’s bad decision, in my view, not to attack more and it was Movistar’s decision not ride near the front on the Zeeland stage. This was also Quintana’s fault: he was not unlucky – Barguil managed to be in the front group, so there are no excuses.

          • I can somehow understand Movistar: Valverde will retire sooner or later. He chased that podium a long time (and yes- I am happy for him that he got it), Quintana is young and with his qualities and character will have other chances. And even if they had tried to put it all on one card, it was questionable, they would have succeeded. They go home with Quintana and Valverde on the podium and as the best team, which is marketingheaven for every sponsor. So I think it wasn’t only conservative tactics during the whole race, no, I think at some point along the way they made the decision not to sacrifice Valverde’s chance and the team-price at all costs for a vague try at the maillot jaune. If Quintana’s attack succeeds while not hurting their other goals, fine, if not-they have a great result and the future is bright with Quintana (who I think is happy at that team). In the end managers, ds etc. are no robots, they are people-so telling Valverde, who was their big star for a long time, that he has to step aside after all the years he rides with them, just when he can already see the podium in Paris materializing with himself on it, is probably too much to ask.

          • You might well be right.
            My personal view is that if they did that it was a terrible decision – for me, 2nd and 3rd is nothing and the team prize means squat. But that is just my own personal view.

          • JE,
            I purposefully said “in context”. That context was the oppressive heat but mainly the intentions of the other GC teams also.

            On stage 19, Contador attacked on the first mountain, Col du Chaussy, cutting the group and leaving Froome with only two team mates. But there was a re-grouping on the descent and 30km flat valley. On the climb to Croix de Fer it was Astana that drove the pace, and a Nibali acceleration that reduced the group to five – Contador, himself, Froome, Q and V. It was at that point that Nibali attacked, the ‘mechanical’.
            Tinkoff Saxo then took up the chase on the final climb and so high was it, that Quintana could not “have attacked as early as I’d have liked”.

            Stage 20 : Quintana’s words again – “We designed a strategy from far out. We attacked on the Croix de Fer (stage 19) but we could not get away like we thought. It wasn’t to be and we gave it all in the final climb. The plan B was Alpe D’Huez”.
            The helpers were up the road, all Columbians if you recall, a very imaginative plan.

          • Just because NQ says these things doesn’t mean he’s being completely honest. He could well be remaining diplomatic so as not to upset his bosses. Also, it might be easier for him, psychologically, to put all the blame onto Zeeland, rather than to admit to himself that perhaps he could have won.

      • Shleck’s long range attack in 2011 will remain one of my favourite stages of the last few years. It didn’t pay off in GC terms but it was a pretty fair effort and will probably be remembered by many long after Evans’ winning moves are forgotten.

        Would have been nice to see more sign from Quintana that 2nd wasn’t really worth much to him; win or bust.

    • given the course, it would have been a pretty large disappointment if he wasn’t closer than 2 years ago…

      i’m not sure what bearing it has on next year’s race though… all it really meant was that on a course essentially devoid of “races of truth” (which was widely considered to be as favorable as it’s gonna get for quintana), he got closer to froome…

      unless christian has decided that the race of truth is no longer necessary in the tdf… which would be a very sad thing….

      • I’ve defended TTs elsewhere, but we shouldn’t forget that Proudhomme has arrived to his present place after years in which the TT (both individual and team) was friendly called “the dop-o-meter”. That may produce sort of a cultural bias.
        I agree it would be a pity to lose TTs, even if they’are… risky.
        The best option is probably to engineer so called *technical* TTs, like the Giro beautifully did in 2015 (Prosecco), 2014 (Barbaresco-Barolo), 2013 (Saltara), 2009 (Cinque Terre), 2008, (Urbino), 2007 (Verona)… Long, with flat stretches, quite decisive or at least important, favouring “heavy” riders, still not that deterministic about pure power. In beautiful places – so people don’t get too bored.
        Vuelta and Tour tried to follow, but it’s not always that easy to find the right mix. Anyway, I hope that all the blind nationalistic Italian press complaining about the Giro’s ITT (one of the highlights, for me) won’t make Vegni change his attitude.

        • fair enough on the first part… i understand where that is coming from… that being said, the same rationale could likely be used to eliminate mountains, as in the fora where doping is debated endlessly (thank goodness it isn’t that way here), the obsession seems to focus a lot on climbing ability….

          as you say, it would be a pity to lose tt’s… i’ll admit, i’m one of the few that actually likes to watch them, but i also believe that the race against the clock “belongs” in a gt… i understand we are unlikely to get two “long” ones per tour, but imo, there needs to be at least one 50km tt…

          couldn’t agree more with the last part… i don’t read the italian press (unfortunately, i don’t speak italian), but it would be a shame if they complained enough to change vegni’s thoughts…

      • One thing to consider is that Froome trained specifically for climbing this year. He talked about changing his physique for this year’s race. Note that he wasn’t very good (compared to his previous perfomances) in the first TT. If there is a longer TT in next Tour Froome will train accordingly. That means he will take more time off of Quintana in the TT, but should lose more time in the mountains as his climbing suffers. He would have to find the happy balance where he is strong enough to build a lead in the TT and then hold off Quintana in the mountains, more in line with his 2013 performance.

  26. There’s no doubt the KOM competition has been marginalised for a while now. Perhaps they need an innovation such as timing riders from the base to the summit of climbs and awarding points accordingly. Combine that with positional points and it could make the competition more interesting.

  27. This year TdF shows me with you are not the best climber, you will need to have better descend skill than your competitors.

    Some stages I paid more attention on downhill and some riders than anything else and then it comes the young French trio (Bardet, Barguil and Pinot) and Uran.

    Often I saw Barguil dropped of main contender group on the long climbs and reunited with it on the flat after long downhill, well in some moment of the race G Thomas and I discovered why. Bold or reckless? Meanwhile on the breakaways he was absent. I thought this strange because if you are a climber in a team of sprinter, there is certain freedom for try some breaks, at least I see that on the most of average or small teams this happens. Maybe he missed the moves or lack of certain ambition as pointed for inrng in Barguil’s family life wish.

    Bardet and Pinot otherwise spiced the race and try to win wherever the can. I was happy for their wins. Pinot definitely needs to train a lot on downhills. I feared that crash on d’Allos would shatter his mind. Bardet was more successfully on descend but has room for improvement when comparing his with Uran’s style while earlier they were trying something on stage La Touissuire.

    • Barguil was there in his first TdF to learn. And he was very well positioned in the GC. No team with a rider around his GC rank let him the freedom to join a breakaway. When Bardet and Pinot had the freedom to go in a break, they were way down in GC.
      And “lack of certain ambition” cause of “family life wish” is just bad kitchen sink psychology….
      He did his first Tour and he did good.
      And his team are not solely a team of sprinters. One non-sprinter named Geschke (not Geshke) won a mountain finish. Another had to abandon in first week.

    • Lack of ambition? Barguil was very upset that he didn’t get to race the Tour last year. The team thought it was too early and it was quite public that he was unhappy with that decision. Lack of ambition… This year he was selected and he was there only to learn, like Vitus already explained and like it can be read in every second interview the team gave about him. And how does the mentioning of the wish for a family live mystically morph into “lack of ambition”? He is 14th in his very first Tour de France! Lack of ambition…

  28. Sky’s approach seems more like an innovative tech company than a old school team, mired in tradition. They studied what went wrong last year in the first week and fixed it. By contrast, Movistar’s approach was to limit its losses in the first week. They seemed to have no thought at all given to gaining time!

    Sky saw a way to improve their athletes’ performance after the first rest day, and implemented it, to great effect. I guarantee you next year we will be hearing all about first rest day marginal gains by all the other teams!

    It’ll be interesting to see what Sky comes up with next year, to stay ahead. Any guesses?

    • by the time you mention adam, it is too late… he has already killed and eaten you…. 🙂

      he is a MAN… just the thought of completing 12 gt’s in a row is mind boggling….

  29. Following up the huge debate with Special Eyes and J_Evans above, about drugs and so, have a look to what Phil Gaimon wrote today:

    Open to debate, yet very interesting as an insider POV.

    As an aside, I fail to see why he feels tribulus is okay.
    – because it apparently doesn’t work in humans (taking it for the placebo effect: smart move, indeed, I do that sometimes – not with tribulus)?
    – because “it’s natural” (a plant)? ^___^ [joking]
    The question is that *if* it worked like in animal testing, it would be for testosterone somethink like CERA for EPO, a substance which induces your body to naturally produce another substance (which it wouldn’t produce otherwise under those same circumstances), preventing the need to recur to synthetic or anyway more detectable versions.

    However… the whole article just proves, and that’s Phil’s point, how complicated it is to set clear boundaries, despite the faith we can have in *the list*.

Comments are closed.