Tour Stage 19 Preview

A massive day in the Alps, today’s stage is harder than tomorrow’s dash to Alpe d’Huez as it’s got more climbs and more technical descents with no time for a breather before the underrated climb to La Touissuire.

It’s live on TV from start to finish.

Romain Bardet

Stage 18 Review: we’re getting two races for the price of one with a breakaway battle for the stage and a contest behind in the yellow jersey. All the better because the overall contenders are marking each other and defending their positions. The day’s breakaway was being chased by Giant-Alpecin and Trek Factory Racing despite both teams having men up the road, they didn’t want to reel the move in but to limit its lead to defend Warren Barguil and Bauke Mollema’s top-10 positions.

Up ahead things were much more aggressive. Romain Bardet made the day’s breakaway and the move kept shrinking on the way to the Col du Glandon. The Ag2r rider attacked over the top of the pass and exploited the descent to take 40 seconds lead on a group of 10 riders. Bardet isn’t great in a contre la montre but this was a race contre la monstre as he battled the demons of a bad opening week and, in the words of his own team manager Vincent Lavenu, the day when he was “game” for Stephen Cummings the “hunter”. Talking of hunting it’s been a Tour that rewards the bold stage hunters and if we include Van Avermaet and Sagan riding away in Rodez and Rodriguez in Huy then Bardet’s win marks the ninth stage won by an attack.

It makes you think: is it worth the likes of Vincenzo Nibali riding around finish seventh overall? What if he sat up, had an ice cream by the road and surrendered 20 minutes on purpose. No longer a danger overall to Froome nor Gesink he’d be allowed to in the breakaways and probably has the legs to win a stage.

  • Km 15.5 – Col du Chaussy (1 533 m) (D77-VC), 15.4 kilometre-long climb at 6.3% – category 1
  • Km 83.0 – Col de la Croix de Fer (2 067 m), 22.4 kilometre-long climb at 6.9% – category H
  • Km 103.0 – Col du Mollard (1 638 m), 5.7 kilometre-long climb at 6.8% – category 2
  • Km 138.0 – La Toussuire (1 705 m), 18 kilometre-long climb at 6.1% – category 1

The Route: some stages have had uphill starts but today opens with a first category mountain pass. It’s 15.4km long at 6.3%, hard enough but this is flattered by a downhill section before Montvernier meaning much of it is steeper with 8-10% a lot of the way and at times on a road not much wider than a car. So if anyone wants to go clear here they have to be near the front to start with. The descent is narrow before it picks up the wide ribbon of the Col de la Madelaine to drop back down to the valley.

The race then rides down the valley for an intermediate sprint and then back up and the road is never flat as it heads to the Col du Glandon and then the Croix de Fer. The Glandon start is easy and on a regular road, it’s the top third that’s the hard part with 9-10% at times before a brief drop and then the climb to the Croix de Fer, almost a big ring sprint for the HC mountain points with a gradient of 5-6%. The descent is fine before turning off for the Col du Mollard 5.7km at 6.8% and with some steeper sections before the small ski village. The descent starts easy enough but then turns on a side road for a shaded, gravelly descent with some tight turns on the way to St Jean de Maurienne… today’s start town.

La Toussuire

The Finish: the climb to La Toussuire has yet to enter the pantheon of mountain climbs, largely because the Tour has only visited twice but also because it’s a dead end and, as impolite as it may be to point this out on the day the town has paid for the Tour to visit, it’s ugly. But it makes for a fine test today with steep roads from the start. As the profile shows the road is steep from the start as it climbs out of the valley but the profile doesn’t show how irregular the climb is with flat then steep parts. That green flat bit above? There’s actually a downhill section. From there it rears up and levels out a few more times before the 3km to go point in the ski city of Le Corbier where the slope starts to level out.

The Contenders: when Chris Froome race here last time in the Tour de France he wanted to ride away for the stage win in La Toussuire but team orders told him to pace Bradley Wiggins. Now he’s the one giving the orders. He’s been the strongest in the race and is backed by the strongest team in the race. Nairo Quintana is the other obvious choice, the Colombian has been testing Chris Froome and we’ll see what he tries today, it’s just possible he goes for a long raid but more likely he sits tight and tries for the stage win and with it a chance to take a few seconds. The climb to La Touissuire is long and the flattening slopes near the top make it better to attack on the steeper parts with at least 5km to go.

Both Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali are attacking but their moves have been closely marked and if Contador tries for the stage win then Nibali might chase because he wants the glory and so they cancel each other out. Alejandro Valverde was in trouble on the Glandon yesterday, a short term problem or a real sign of fatigue? If it was just a missing energy gel then he can still deploy that sprint, especially if the lead riders end up cancelling each other out like on the Plateau de Beille.

Can a breakaway stay away? Sky won’t want to chase too hard from the start and there’s only Movistar to share the controlling duties. Thibaut Pinot could try again but he paid for his efforts two days ago in yesterday’s stage and could sit out today’s racing to be stronger tomorrow, ditto Pierre Rolland who fought hard for second place yesterday. Otherwise look to Rigoberto Uran, Wilco Kelderman, Simon Yates or Rafal Majka for strong riders in the third week who have been climbing well but missed the move yesterday.

Nairo Quintana, Chris Froome
Majka, Uran, Valverde, Thomas, Contador, Nibali

Weather: hot and sunny with 33˚C in the valley and a mild 18˚C at altitude.

TV: live from start to finish with the arrival expect at 5.45pm.

If you can’t find it on TV, you’ll find it online with Cyclingfans and for links to feeds and streams.

110 thoughts on “Tour Stage 19 Preview”

  1. With Valverde so close to the top podium, and having Quintana blocking his way, plus Valverde’s getting older so he won’t have many more chances of winning the Tour, you just know things are getting tense at the dinner table over there at Movistar. Like Hinault and Lemond in ’86, and LA and Contador at Astana with Bryuneel–little brother Nairo better be careful too!

    Today’s Queen stage might even see Valverde attacking his team “leader” Quintana. Bring it on, baby!!!

        • 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.
          For me, second is nothing – particularly as he’s already achieved this. Far better to come fourth having tried to win. But that doesn’t seem to be the ‘professional’ mentality.
          Christ, even Schleck tried it once.

          • And surely Bardet now has to go for the KOM jersey? Get that and it’s a very successful Tour – well worth sacrificing some placings on GC.
            Yes, he’ll be tired, but Rodriguez looked knackered yesterday.

          • He’s only 25. When he’s 30 and has won the Tour at least once already then 2nd place will be something he can risk losing. I imagine he is more interested in beating Valverde than Froome now, out of pride. It would be great if he goes for an all or nothing attack a la Schleck or Sastre but I’m not expecting it.

          • I don’t think NQ can do it and he knows it. But another 2nd isn’t going to add much to his palmares – and no-one is going to suddenly think he’s rubbish if he goes for 1st and comes 4th.
            I think he has little to lose.

          • …and I suspect we’ll all remember Schleck’s attack that day for longer and more clearly than his several podiums on GC.

    • Valverde was starting to look a bit cooked at the top of the Glandon yesterday – a summit finish would probably have blown him away, so perhaps that will occur today ?

    • This came up in an earlier post but if anyone could provide some background for this recurring story that Valverde is waiting for an opportunity to attack Quintana (that isn’t ‘he did it to Rodriguez once’ or ‘He’s just a jerk like that’) I’d be interested to hear it.

      This isn’t me demanding evidence, I’m legitimately curious. Also, you all keep hyping me up to see intra-team drama and it never happens, stop toying with my emotions! 🙂

  2. I think Valverde is just riding now to secure his 3rd spot and first-ever Tour podium. If Nairo wants to try anything bold, not so sure it’ll be with Valverde’s assistance if it means any risk to that 3rd spot.

    • You get the impression Movistar aren’t even interested in the prospect of Quintana trying to win the overall anyway.

      It’s a shame two of the top riders are in such a conservative team. Froome’s probably the best, but we haven’t seen him being tested in the way he should have been.

      • True, but I think the bigger disappointment has been Alberto Contador’s lacklustre showing, he’s clearly feeling the effects of the Giro.

        I guess we’ll have to wait until 2016 to see the “2014 Tour that never was”. It’s a surefire bet that Froome will be targeting it again, but it’ll be interesting to see if Contador puts it all on the line and really tries to give him a run for his money. It might be the rose-tinted spectacles of the past, but I think Contador is still a solid second out of the big 3 GC contenders.

        At least this experience will stop Oleg Tinkov shouting nonsense about a Grand Tour Triple again…

        • I’m expecting in 2016 the ‘big four’ will all skip the Giro and it will be all about the Tour then maybe the Vuelta as well. 2016 Giro looks like Aru’s to lose. All depends on parcours of course. Contador will want to retire with one last shot at the Tour.

  3. Am I the only one who doesn’t understand why Quintana, Nibali, Valverde, and Contador will attack and then sit up 15 seconds later with Froome only halfway across the gap. Or Quintana attacking, then looking back and sitting up. This is the Tour de France, if you are going to attack and you want time, go all in! Nairo could use some more Jens Voigt.

    • Sky aren’t going to respond to any attacks other than from the Quintana and Valverde, if Contador or Nibali go up the road, that then becomes Movistar’s problem, so Sky can sit back.

      Also it seems to me that rather than “waiting to launch a big attack”, it is more likely that Quintana is on the absolute limit, and isn’t attacking because he can’t. Valverde cracked just before the top of the HC climb yesterday although he managed to get back on to the front group during the descent, and for those waiting for Quintana do jump away and leave Froome in his wake, well if he hasn’t done it by now then when will he? Or to put it another way, can he?

      Let’s go back to 2013, Quintana launched two big attacks on stages 8 and 15, both times he was reeled in by Froome and then dropped. On stage 18 when Froome hunger flatted he did gain some time, and on stage 20 he basically let the Colombian ride away for the stage and came home with still over 5 minutes’s advantage heading into Paris. Basically, unless disaster strikes Froome, it’s his tour to lose, and aside from the fantasy land that Phil and Paul live in where Quintana is the better climber and is just biding his time before launching a winning move, this is likely to remain the case.

          • I think so. It was just embarrassing hearing them mention Big Tex as they felt compelled to as Beloki corner featured in “that” descent the other day. There was a tone of regret there, and as Cyclocosm pointed out in one of his rantcasts, even in 2013 after this all blew up there was no mea culpa from P&P apologising for their years of cheerleading, defence and denial.

          • If they had any decency they’d have retired after it came out. (Or just because they’re so insanely bad at their jobs.)
            And that’s before you factor in their business links with Armstrong.

    • It’s just not easy to do. Everyone is hurting already in the front group and to accelerate and ride away just doesn’t look possible. Also Froome’s high cadence style means when Quintana attacks his response isn’t immediate, if you are (or if rather he is) already at 100-110rpm it’s hard to go to 120 right away so he seems to slowly pick up the pace.

      • Is Froome’s high cadence style unique? and it is something he has always done? I presume that it moves the work from the muscles to the blood, but is there an advantage in it that would make other riders consider increasing their RPM?

      • On the ITV podcast they talked about “testing” attacks, which I presume means they throw in a little attack just to see if Froome’s having a bad day. As soon as he responds strongly they back off to keep their powder dry for another day. That’s one theory anyway. I’ve no idea how accurate it is.

      • You reckon it’s harder to accelerate with high cadence? I thought that was reputed to be one of the benefits of high cadence – that you can accelerate more easily. I certainly find it easier to go from 100rpm to 120 than from 70 to 90.

        • If you’re already at or close to your max then finding even more torque is hard. Maybe you can find it for 5 seconds but for longer it’s probably safer to wind things up more steadily, maybe change up a gear.

      • It seems extraordinary that these type of cadences are possible on gradients like this for such relatively small power outputs. Especially on standard (non compact) chainrings. I’m lighter than Froome but (assuming I could do it which I can’t) I reckon I’d need to hit 600+W to get anywhere near 110-120.

    • I’m not sure about anyone else, but I see the difficulty riders have in making attacks stick as decent evidence to a lack of doping; that the riders can’t just up the pace and ride away, closed mouthed and maintain that pace. It seems to me that riders now are much closer to their limit just to keep things together, so to attack with a sustained effort is really difficult.

      It might make the racing slightly less explosive, but it’s just so much more credible.

      • I agree with that and its showing in the riders’ faces as well, genuine pain and exhaustion is visible more so than before. Not scientific I know, maybe its just the heat but I’ve been watching races for a long time and this year’s tour looks real to me.

        • yup… in addition to a few other things we are seeing, the inability of a rider to grind away from the chasers like he is riding downhill speaks volumes…

          even when froome put a minute (wow, a WHOLE minute : sarcasm : ) into quintana the other day (after movistar did sky’s job for them until the 10k mark), you could see how much effort it took and what it took out of him… not too long ago, we would see guys get off their bike after an effort like that and look as fresh as a daisy…

  4. The polka dots looks interesting all of a sudden with four clear contenders (five, arguably). Surely Fuglsang or Rodriguez will go for a long raid. Bardet, too, if recovered and not dreaming of Huez. Froome will score summit finish points surely, which might just get him back in the dots, but I could see him sprinting for earlier points if the opportunity presents itself. The way he pipped Quintana the other day for no reason other than to assert dominance…it’s not the sky way, but why not go for more?

    Otherwise, tomorrow is the day Contador overtakes Thomas.

      • Indeed, Bardet surely took those early points with a purpose and kept enough power dry for the finale. Nice to see the dots on a Frenchmen that is a genuine contender (if not this year) and hope he can back it up tomorrow with a strong ride. No small ask.

  5. I reckon Cav’s got his ticket for the autobus already today…I hope he can get through it and smash it on Sunday on the Champs Elysees like the good old days….

      • His sprint train broke down in Belgium this year. The Etixx squad this year is clearly not strong or well-drilled enough to dominate the sprints against the likes of Lotto-Soudal and Giant-Alpecin. When they tried in the early stages they were thoroughly out-witted and out-muscled, which invariably left Cav high and dry come the last 500m.

        His only win came when Mark Renshaw got him into the last km and just left him to follow other wheels and in my opinion, he’d be better off continuing that tactic. There are plenty of other sprinters teams to do the donkey-work.

  6. Not many have mentioned (David Millar did on the ITV podcast) but it looked as though Froome was actually on the rivet for the first time last night (Aussie time) at the top of the “Lacets”. He just couldn’t close the small gap in front of him and was floundering around for a gel or something in his pocket while Thomas was charging on the front unawares (chasing Nibali I think). The first sign of weakness?

    Out of the GC riders, I think it’s most likely Contador that throws the kitchen sink at this today and we’ll see who collapses first: him, Valverde or Thomas. For all the hype of the “big four” at the beginning of the race, it does look quite feasible that all of them could finish in the top 5 (I’m assuming the Welsh tank engine finally runs out of steam in the next day or two (although I really hope it doesn’t)).

    • Indeed. Looked like the elastic was stretching a bit. Also, Thomas kept turning round to see where he was.

      I’m sure Movistar have been watching that a few times over the evening.

    • I think we’ve already seen that Thomas won’t chase Contador. It looks like Thomas is riding for Froome and Valverde is riding for third (but Thomas WILL be asked to chase Valverde so it may all end up being effectively the same).

      • Any chance of Thomas dropping Froome on La Toussuire and then being called back 😉

        (sorry I’m sure I’m not the first person to make that comment somewhere on the net!)

        • only 3 ways that is happening….

          a) froome and thomas are alone close to the end, and froome sends him on his way… unlikely, as froome wants every second he can get… as improbable as it might be, he could still give away a massive amount of time on huez if thingss go wrong…

          b) froome completely bonks close to the end, and a stage win is in sight for thomas (even then i don’t think he’d leave him behind)…

          c) thomas “does something” overnight that i personally do not believe he would do…

  7. in other news, cycling news is trying its best to keep the froome must be doping story alive – in this they
    quote the ‘expert’ who claims he must have averaged 7.2w/kg assuming 408w and 67.5kg. i’m pretty sure that gives 6.04w/kg, so the ‘experts’ can’t even do their sums right. wtf? he rode away one *one* climb by 1min – hasn’t this been done by the winner in basically every tdf? this biased treatment is ridiculous – particularly when key rivals are known dopers, or on a team which many people want thrown out for doping.

    • I think he was referring to maximum power (as W/kg), not average power for the duration of the climb . Silly and sensationalist anyway – no one really looks at the max power for an endurance rider from what I can gather. Anyway, you can hear the bitterness in the voices of the cycling news team in their podcast. The Liberacion guy (who I assume is a knowledgeable journalist) frames everything up as “we’re just asking questions as the defenders of the Tour”, but it’s all pretty pathetic. I’m enjoying the racing and I’ll leave the rest to the CADF and the UCI.

    • As Tricky Dicky says don’t confuse the recorded power for one climb with the estimated Maximal Aerobic Power… although you’re not alone, loads of people have done this all week.

      I’d still like to know the answer to the “Gesink question” of how the Dutchman seems to have produced more power but finished behind Froome.

      • I suppose this is where all the +/- 1 – 6%’s come into play.

        On another note that I haven’t heard answered, when we watch these guys go up mountains they tend to never go in a dead straight line. In other words, they travel further than the length of the climbs are marked as. How do those working at figures like power to weight get this right?

          • Are you saying that when these guys, who are watching on tv, come up with an ave w/kg on a climb for a particular rider as they did with Froome on stage 10, the distance travelled, if incorrect, doesn’t effect the numbers they produce? I thought it would but happy to be wrong.

      • Heard on the cycling podcast a few days back, the FDJ team physician is trying to setup a voluntary power passport system as well as workshop to help Journalists understanding the numbers around Christmas time in Pairis. A move ignored by most of the press.

        By his estimation, the advantage Froome had over Qiintana in terms of power is smaller than the margin of error of most calculations.

        That said, the Gesink number is an actual reading, it’s indeed interesting to see how he produced more power yet came in much slower.

        • Well Gesink was out on his own for much further – I think nearly double the distance that Froome was. Surely that must have some bearing ?

      • I might have missed something… But to these calculations take into account bike weight? Surely as a percentage of total (rider and bike) weight they are more significant for smaller riders e.g. Quintana? I know Tim Kerrision gave a much higher weight than Froome probably actually is, but did this include the weight of his bike? (Sorry, bit late to the watt party now.) Would this be an answer to the Gesink question? Simply that Kerrison’s calculation included Froome’s bike weight?

        • of course, i forgot that – that brings it down to ~5.5w/kg. Sounds pretty reasonable to me – LA used to do 6.2 or something if I remember right.

          presumably for the Gesink question, it will also depend how evenly the power is applied – a constant application of x W/kg will give a very different time to an average x W/kg.

        • Surely lower frontal area & amount of time spent sitting on someone else’s wheel would effect how fast you got up a mountain & be reflected in a lower power requirement for the same speed. I’m struggling to remember how much time Froome & Gesink spent sheltered on that climb

          • Gesink attacked just after the start of the climb – 10km from the summit. Then Rafael Valls caught up with him until Valls couldnt hold onto his wheel any longer. Then Gesink was out on his own again for ages

            So Gesink 1) had little shelter, and b) blew his stack with that attack (which rhymes)

            It helps if numbers are considered alongside the context of how a race plays out…

      • How did Gesink get up there? Froome had G, riding smoothly and then put in the attack and was very smooth. If Gesink didn’t have the man infront, or had to accelerate more (less economical with his effort) would that affect things? there are also the margins of error between power meters etc.

        • didn’t we also see something similar with Nibali in the early stages? he showed more power that a few that had posted them up, but finished behind, because he was chasing I guess.

      • If the Gesink data is that which is on Strava then it finishes almost a kilometer before the end of the stage. He will have used much less power over that last km and it would drop his average.

        • in the middle of this debate we fail to compare apples with apples. there is no baseline or agreed parameters of measurement. pretty useless unless those are in place. If we aren’t even comparing the same distances, as you point out, then it just goes to show they aren’t even covering the basics (how far, how quickly…….)

      • If we’re going on the Strava numbers, we can also compare Gesink’s results for the climb up stage 10 to ten Dam and van Rensburg. Going by the published figures for their weights – the w/kg you get from calculating vie VAM from time, and from simply dividing power by kg don’t match up 0.2 to 0.3 W/kg discrepency.

        So this could mean either Gesink’s power metre was reading 14 watts too high, or Gesink was having to do 14 watts extra work – and as being on your own for 40 minutes up the climb versus sitting on someone else’s wheel to the finish could account for as much as 20 watts difference, this isn’t entirely implausible.

        Alternatively Gesink could be 2.5kg heavier than the 70kg listed on procyclingstats. Or VAM is nowhere near as accurate as many internet pundits like to think.

        • Or his new model Pioneer power meter isn’t so accurate either. Given the large discrepancy in power readings reported between Pioneer and other brand meters in product testing, who can know?

      • The Gesink question seems quite obvious to me?

        Gesink attacked early, and was on his own for almost all the climb.

        Froome spent almost 2/3 of the climb safely hidden behind Movistar and his own teammates, and therefore saving a lot of wattage.

        It’s not like Gesink actually lost all that much time to Froome.

      • What’s worse is the Maximal Aerobic Power was extrapolated from an estimate of sustained climbing power (ugh) and does not match the typical range of the ratio of MAP to sustainable power. I’ve tested clean *masters* riders with a MAP of nearly 7W/kg. IOW we also need to know how MAP was defined in that item. Without the definition, it’s a pretty meaningless number, badly interpreted by people who have no idea.

        As for the Gesink to Froome “power dilemma”, ceteris paribus, the power to weight ratio will be higher for the rider that climbs faster.

        There are still a few differences that can reduce the relative power demand for the faster rider by a solid handful of watts or more, e.g. a solo ascent for slower rider vs getting some draft shelter for faster rider (more head wind, the greater the draft wattage benefit), or a lighter bike relative to total bike + rider mass).

        The issue is less about actual W/kg, but rather the quality of the measurement and estimations of W/kg. There are two big sins being committed by many commentators. One is conveying a false sense of precision and accuracy of the numbers. The other is the fallacious use of power data/estimates as a dopeometer.

        It’s partly why I keep saying estimations from speed data should come with error ranges.

        As for the equipment used to measure power, well the artificial inflation of power reading from non-circular rings is a very real phenomenon, and it’s not a consistent error – it will vary due to various things (in particular the eccentricity of the rings and the inertial load, e.g. flat v climbing).

        Then we have the situation of riders (e.g. Sky) using a prototype power meter, with no independent testing of it measurement performance, and other riders (e.g. Gesink, Ten Dam) using a new brand of power meter that also has no independent verification of accuracy. A recent power meter review showed a 9-12% difference between a Pioneer and another popular brand of power meter on road rides. Yikes. We have no way of knowing which is right or wrong, or most probably both are wrong.

        Without a quality verification process, I strongly recommend people be careful how they interpret such data.

        This is all power meter 101, but unfortunately there is a lot of ignorance on such basics, even from some that call themselves scientists and who should know better.

        • Thanks for this, it explains plenty.

          I want to do a piece on power and performance but it’s as if each sentence would have to branch off into several directions, so to mention a power metre is to mention the margin of error, then the changes for temperature, zero offset etc.

          • Happy to help if needed. There is data I would trust more than others, but people would be surprised how often basic power meter mistakes are made by pros (even with the best meters). In any case, performance is, and always will be, multifactoral.

      • On the whole W/kg thing – does a rider lose weight (especially in hot conditions) during the race ?
        I know that footballers can lose a couple of kg in sweat during a 90 minute game.
        With energy gels, drinks etc, do pro bike riders actually lose weight ?

  8. I am believing everything I see in each stage and enjoying the racing. if it comes out in 6 months time or whenever that x rider was doped, then hey ho, bad for them and bad for the race. However, it doesn’t harm me, it doesn’t effect my life or my crap attempts at riding a bike fast. Too much this year about dope, watts, Vo this and Vo that, crap journalists, petty jealousy and a tiny tiny fraction of supporters who were probably suffering too many sherries. I have watched well over 25 Tours now and its more enjoyable than the ugly times of the recent past.

    • Good post.

      You know until recently I was always worried about who was and wasn’t doping, riders still competing today who had previously been caught doping, can we trust the racing, etc, etc. When the Giro was on I made what I thought was a jokey post, although looking back it does come across as a trolling effort, about comments one of the Giro officials made about the respectability of the race, and I listed the top ten at the time, and most of the contenders whether individually or team wise had some connection to doping. One of the best posters on here, gabriele, replied, and he made a lot of good points. From that moment on I decided I would change tack and just try to enjoy the racing. The past is the past and we can’t change that. As for the present I’m just going to enjoy it and if, if at a later date in the future I find out that such and such rider or team were cheating I’ll just have to accept it. Watching the race this way as been like a breath of fresh air for me, before it was from a more negative viewpoint and now I’ve moved into the positive. I’m even, shock horror, hoping that Contador can do something special before the end, and I certainly can’t imagine me thinking that thought a few months back.

      • Nice post – I’m kind of thinking the same way. I’m pretty sure Sky are clean, and that the peloton as a whole is mostly clean these days, but I’m prepared to be disillisioned at some point in the future.

        Contador’s performance to me is re-assuring – he looks like he’s on his 2nd GT in short order (ie he’s cooked). Similarly Froome in the 2012 & 2014 Vueltas – ran out of gas (2012 2 GTs in a row, 2014, under-prepared after injury).

    • Agreed. Let’s not forget that cycling is a really, really hard endurance sport. Sport is about winning, you don’t win without finding some sort of advantage, and as in all walks of life a proportion of people will try to gain an advantage outside the rules.

      Personally I watch it for the entertainment value (and the heli shots of stunning scenery, guilty) and while it’s true that my entertainment is reduced when I see someone winning that I believe to be a cheat (coughValverdecough), I can still enjoy the exploits and the tactics in ‘real time’ while passing over them in terms of ‘history’.

      As long as the cheats continue to get busted and the governing body is not turning a blind eye, I’m satisfied that efforts are being made.

      • I have to say even Valverde seems pretty human to me – OK he has history (unacknowledged), but I give him the benefit of the doubt.

    • + a lot….

      for as much griping as people are doing about “the gc battle”, the day to day racing this year has been a lot of fun to watch… far better than the normal “let the break get x amount of minutes, chase it, etc.” routine we get in most races (not just tdf stages, but most races period)…

      multiple stages with races within a races, the general brilliance of sagan, the whole “mtn story”, the “we don’t care if the break gets 10 miles ahead, you suckers chase it if you want to protect your 9th place” strategy of sky, the mistake that movistar made in stage 10 of cooking their team and essentialy bringing sky’s top riders to the 10k mark on a free ride), the general brilliance of sagan (can’t be mentioned enough 🙂 ), etc…

      if the only reason why people watch is for the gc, i can see how they might be “disappointed” (of course, they’d be disappointed most years)…. but “watching the whole race” (at least from this seat) has been rather enjoyable (other than the bad crashes, i hate crashes)…

  9. So disappointed with how movistar are racing. If you won’t risk a podium to win the tour you don’t deserve to end up in yellow. Valverde is closing down moves that might lead to a situation that puts sky under pressure and attacks that at best are only going to create a second or so are the most we’ve seen from them. Hoping for something dramatic from them today

  10. You list Simon Yates as “strong riders in the third week who have been climbing well but missed the move yesterday.”

    Simon Yates was in the in the big break on yesterday’s stage

  11. I’m not too bothered what happens today, as long as its interesting! The mountain stages, other than the very first one with Froome’s incredible attack, have been remarkably unremarkable. There have been some lively breakaways and some good racing at the front end of each stage, but we all want to see some GC action lets be honest. Movistar have been disappointing, with Valverde tracking every speculative move from mid to lower top ten guys. They have been negative and defensive, I think we’d all have rather seen Valverde’s energy spent taking it to Sky earlier on in the stage. You get the impression though, and they are only impressions, that Valverde is much more interested in his own position than helping Quintana, and that Movistar have decided that Sky are essentially unbeatable so are looking backwards rather than forwards. I suppose there are lot of valuable World Tour points, not to mention prize money, locked up in 2nd and 3rd. Also, just as a thought, has Froome held back since that first mountain stage? He was superior that you’d think he could have gone again and again, a la Nibali last year, and totally underline his dominance. Have Sky decided its not worth the risk of more media ranting or even that Froome would be too vulnerable going it alone through swathes of angry supporters lining summit finishes? It’s a sad state of affairs of that’s the case, and the racing would be just as fake with someone holding back as it would be with someone blazing everyone into the dust with supercharged blood. If Froome is capable of winning by getting on for 10 minutes, like plenty of folk have in the past lets remember, then he should be allowed to crack on and do so.

    Anyway, the polka dot battle should be good at least today and maybe Contador and/or Nibali will try an all or nothing attack from the stage start. Here’s hoping

    • I very much doubt Froome has been holding back. Its just not in his nature

      I will not be at all surprised to see him win today or tomorrow.

      But 10 mins? Adding 7 mins over these two stages to his 3min margin over Nairo? Nah. I think thats la-la land in what is presented as a clean Tour winner.

      • No I meant cumulatively over all of the mountain stages, he obviously wouldn’t get that much in two unless everyone else fell off! To be fair the days of massive wins were generally when they had two or three big TT’s where someone could take a couple of minutes in each.

  12. Interesting that it’s increasingly looking as if both the Giro and Tour will have a winner from one team and then another team coming both second and third.

    Much as I’m enjoying this Tour “á deux courses par jour”, I can’t help thinking that last year’s Vuelta when the top four were punching it out day after day was more interesting in GC terms.

  13. As I think any Étape participants will concur, today’s is a very tough stage, adding up to more than the raw numbers suggest. Technical descents, particularly the first half from the Col de Chaussy and off the Mollard, and minimal flats gives a parcours with no respite. The only moment to relax is the last 2 km of descent into St Jean de Maurienne, just before you turn hard left to start winching your way up to La Toussuire, where the steep ramps below and above Corbier in the last 6 km push blown legs to the limit. If racing is fast at the front the autobus may have a hard time making the time cut.

  14. It seems an age since we had a really close finish to a TdF where we are sitting on the edge of our seat on the last Saturday.

    I would suggest that this situation is in part down to two factors, the race always ends in the high mountains and as such the GC contenders have gauged their training to allow for a race that in general follows the pattern of flat – mountain – transition – mountain.

    Last year and this year we had some rather interesting early stages in the north of France, and with this in mind maybe a slight change to the pattern of the race could shake it.

    Therefore I suggest:

    Week one: Flat at the start Mountains at the end
    Week two: Flat at the start Transition at the end
    Week three: Mountains at the start – spring classics routes/Normandy coastal (i.e. cross winds) before Paris at the end.

    My reasoning for this is the GC teams will have to get their “classic riders” through the mountains, which is something they don’t have to do now.

    Any thoughts?

    • With the team numbers all being reduced after almost 3 weeks of racing the spring classic routes would likely be a procession for the GC contenders with time gains only due to crashes/punctures & mechanical issues. Finishing in the high mountains means that the GC guys have to outride their rivals to make time gains ahead of Paris.

      • agreed… the current formula (although i’d prefer the last “real stage” be a long tt) is more than acceptable to me….

        plus they would “get their classics riders through” the same way they get the flatlanders/sprinters through, they’d ride home in the grupetto…

        i, for one, would not like to see a “cobble crapshoot” in the last week of the tour…

        tangent… looking at the rosters/number of riders left in the race right now is pretty good rationale for not shrinking the size of gt teams…

  15. Cyril Gautier is great to watch yesterday and today: his eyes wide open, totally wired, talking to and taking care of Pierre Rolland, bringing him where he needs to be-just for Rolland to make the wrong move yesterday. I so hope today it goes better and if they should end emptyhanded again, at least they have nothing to regret

      • I’m curious if Sky are holding off for a big attack day tomorrow, for Froome to only have 1 rider with him today, and riders like G falling off the back, Porte disappearing the last two days… is it really fatigue or just planning?

        • Maybe the heat.
          But I think there is the hand of planning in there. Porte had a big smile for the camera and I think that he will be closer to Froome tomorrow.
          Thomas looked properly blown, “nothing in the legs”.
          No silly doping accusations against GT now I trust ?

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