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Rest Day Wrap

Most people visit Andorra for the skiing or to buy tax-free cigarettes so the Tour de France’s summer visit makes an odd choice. As the race prepares to leave the Pyrenees here’s a look back at the opening phase of the race and a quick take on what’s coming up.

Sunday’s stage to Andorra was a grind, first in baking heat and then a hailstorm on the final climb that was halfway between exfoliation and bruising. Tom Dumoulin won thanks to some economy on the way, he was not working in the break nor sprinting for the mountains competition which left him with some energy to go on the final climb and use his time trial abilities to plough on up what is a long but not steep climb. Dumoulin and the previous success by Stephen Cummings show the Tour is not always locked down.

We got a flurry of attacks from the GC contenders on the final climb to Arcalis  yesterday. Team Sky had used their mountain train tactics all day then broke with this with an attack by Sergio Henao. They’ve did the same the previous day too. It’s an obvious bait and switch: Henao remains a danger on GC and cannot be ignored by the others but if he’s brought back then Chris Froome can counter. Dan Martin made a flurry of attacks which had people wondering why. Perhaps it’s simply because he can? He was hanging with the leaders and felt able to go and go again and kept jabbing at the lead group like a fencer probing an opponent. He’s looking better than ever, his past wins in Liège-Bastogne-Liège have seen him race efficiently but yesterday he looked to be giving it everything to go clear.

The confusion at BMC Racing continues, confusing only because if the Tour de France is an exercise in hierarchy then it confounds many when a team shows up with two equals in Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen. The co-leadership story has been questioned all year, almost if one rider were to express a musical taste then “divisions” are appearing. What really matters is the ability to race together, to achieve common aims. Only it’s here that things aren’t playing so well, the two are not yet playing off each other. Changing form and fortunes of make this a dynamic situation. Porte was attacking on the climb to Arcalis but this was probably the right thing to do, if he’d stayed behind to tow van Garderen he could have perhaps helped save 10-15 seconds but van Garderen would still have lost time. By contrast if Porte can track Quintana and Froome and the other climbers he can hope to take time in the time trials and even get back into contention for the podium. In spite all of this perhaps Greg Van Avermaet’s been the biggest advert for BMC frames?

Nairo Quintana Chris Froome wheel

Talking of tracking moves Quintana’s wheelsucker routine came in from plenty of criticism but there’s an element of cost and benefit here. If he had managed to get away, a capital and bold IF, then what could he have done, taken back 20 seconds in two kilometres. With a headwind on the climb to Arcalis that would have been good going but the rewards small. Worse, having the yellow jersey now is a burden. It means the bother with daily press conferences, being asked the same questions 20 times a day, shaking germ-laden hands, being late for the massage. This time last year Froome left the Pyrenees with over three minutes on his nearest rival, now it’s just a matter of seconds.

Froome’s stage win and the breakaway on the descent of the Peyresourde was exciting. There’s talk it was premeditated, he started the day with a 54T chainring but if you’re able to have a mechanic to change your bike to suit a different course every day you’d have a 54T or even a 55T for the Peyresourde descent given it’s such a long downhill with so few corners. Sky remain the dominant team, they have more riders left in the finale than the others and this is locking down the race to some extent but tactics like Henao’s attacks mentioned above are changing from the formulaic image inherited from the Wiggins era; as a thought exercise imagine what would have happened had Henao done that when Wiggins was riding for the win.

As well as frustration with Quintana’s stoicism there have been several “it’s boring” comments about the first week. It’s always been this way, whether in recent blog posts or columns in L’Equipe from yesteryear, for example the wonderful report that “the stage slumped into the the most mournful lethargy” from 1968. A lot of France is flat and featureless so even if a stage distance is shortened from 220km to 120km you still won’t get action: there simply isn’t the terrain to exploit, especially if the wind doesn’t get up which explains why the Tour has been keen to use the pavé of the North of late and in the absence of this to spice things up with an uphill finish here and there whether in Cherbourg or Limoges.

Tour de France crowds

It does make for bad TV if you sit down for hours only to see minutes of action don’t say you’re not warned by the daily previews here. All this is to view the Tour de France from the sole viewpoint of a screen. TV maybe king but the roadside crowds are the race’s loyal subjects and to chop 100km off a stage or two is to deny hundreds of thousands of people the chance to enjoy a day out by the road or decorate their villages in yellow. Besides if the second stage finished atop Alpe d’Huez many would complain the contest is over, a three week victory lap awaits. Or just look at the Vuelta were people complain the repeated summit finishes deliver repeat results.

As well as what we see there’s what we don’t see. Several teams have had a quiet time. Cofidis are bereft of Nacer Bouhanni while Christophe Laporte’s three top-10 finishes don’t get him the same “wow” that Dan McClay enjoys, the New Zealand-born Brit (why so many British cyclists born abroad is a headscratcher) has helped ensure Fortuneo-Vital Concept are visible, along with Armindo Fonseca’s long solo raid. Direct Energie have been backing Bryan Coquard for the sprints to the point of saying non to Sylvain Chavanel going in the day’s breakaway when the race rode through the town of his birth. Which leaves Bora-Argon 18 as the breakaway fodder. Among the World Tour squads several seem to be struggling to get noticed but there’s plenty of opportunity to come, for example Orica-BikeExchange have traditionally thrived in the first week of a grand tour but they’re said to be sitting it out to wait for opportunities later on.

The next week sees the sprint and points competition resume with a hill late on tomorrow’s stage and then a flat finish on Wednesday. As suggested in the pre-race look at the points competition there are a lot of pure sprint finishes where Sagan can place but not win meaning he can surrender 20, 30 or more points. The odds still suit Sagan, he’s able to go in the breaks in the mountains but we now have a contest rather than a formality. How long will Mark Cavendish continue? It’s hard to see him leave the race while wearing the green jersey and the coming week has two nailed-on sprints in Montpellier and Villars-les-Dombes.

There’s also a battle in the mountains competition with Rafał Majka and Thibaut Pinot pulling ahead. Both are in an interesting position, Pinot trying to salvage something after coming into the Tour de France either short on form, stale or weighed down by the pressure depending on the source you read and he leads a team built around him: FDJ’s Tour is Pinot’s Tour. Meanwhile Majka challenge could see Tinkoff taking two of the three jerseys in the race.

Tinkoff of course wanted a third jersey but Alberto Contador’s two crashes and talk of a fever saw him abandon the race yesterday. Could he have won? We’ll never know but as we saw yesterday when he started the stage on the attack he would have lit up the race trying.

Rest days are just for reviewing what’s happened but also forward-looking and we get sponsor and team announcements. Alberto Contador is set to ink a deal with Trek-Segafredo but remember people can sign pre-contracts in private but they cannot sign the formal contract nor announce so much as a handshake until 1 August. Still plenty of business is being done and Andorra is full of rider agents. One missing element is the Bahrain team linked to Vincenzo Nibali. L’Equipe reports that ASO has not even heard from the mooted team about showing up to launch – ie to request accreditation – or make an announcement, let alone invites going out to the media to come and relay the message. It seems the team is on track as Brent Copeland says. Maybe it just doesn’t want the publicity?

Who will win the Tour de France?
Time to revisit the ratings. Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana remain the best placed. Nothing is certain for them but it’s the battle for third place that’s wide open. Richie Porte looks the most complete rider given the mix of climbing and time trials but he’s over two minutes down following his expensive puncture in Cherbourg, still if he can keep climbing with the best then he will slowly overhaul the others given the riders in contention will worry about the Ardèche time trial on Friday. Porte could still have his annual jours sans what is telling is that mentally he’s still in the race, he’s not turned to stage poaching or the pursuit of polka dots.

Among the others it’s hard to see an obvious pick. Dan Martin looks excellent in the mountains but is he consistent and can he time trial? The same for Adam Yates, Bauke Mollema and Romain Bardet.

Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana
Dan Martin, Richie Porte
Sergio Henao, Adam Yates
Valverde, Bardet, Mollema

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Larry T Monday, 11 July 2016, 3:45 pm

    Don’t take this as complaint, but just observation: Porte, currently @ 2:10 and a guy who has blown up in most (all?) of the Grand Tours he’s raced as team leader gets 3 chainrings as a potential TdF winner while Aru @ 1:23 a past winner of La Vuelta and 2nd at Il Giro, gets 0 chainrings. Am I the only one that finds this odd?

    • MikeF Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:05 pm

      While Porte may have blown up in most of the Grand Tours he’s raced in, at least he hasn’t blown up in this one – unlike Aru.

    • Mark Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:07 pm

      I think IR mentions Porte’s TT ability in his summary. Definitely an area for improvement from Aru. Also, noteable that despite BMC’s dual leaderships “issues”, they appear not to be having the same infighting that accompanies Astana trying to incorporate Aru and VN?

      • J Evans Monday, 11 July 2016, 5:30 pm

        It’s not looking good for Aru (although Astana seemed to have no problems the other day regarding Nibali helping him out) at the moment, but he has come back in grand tours before now. Hard to pick a favourite for third: could be any of about 7 or 8 riders – all of whom have their flaws. I’d put all the others on one chainring after CF and NQ.

    • cthulhu Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:17 pm

      I wonder, maybe the second Valverde is supposed to be Aru…?

      • Flanaghan Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:29 pm

        Or maybe Van Garderen?

      • The Inner Ring Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:30 pm

        None, it was just a matter of order and I thought I fixed it before the piece went up. Should be sorted now.

    • Nick Monday, 11 July 2016, 5:47 pm

      0 chainrings for Aru is a little odd, but Porte being ahead of him at present isn’t, as Porte has kept up with the Froome group on the uphill finish and Aru hasn’t.

      • The Inner Ring Monday, 11 July 2016, 5:52 pm

        Aru got dropped yesterday and lost time. If he can’t take time in a summit finish, when can he? Perhaps he can recover for the Alps, it was the weather etc that did it for him but he’s not looking like a strong prospect right now.

        • Ron Monday, 11 July 2016, 6:53 pm

          Aru rides for Astana, they always revive after the second restday.
          I find the chainrings a bit odd tho, bit optimistic/ form of the day. Porte is already behind and hasn’t got his bad day (form wise, not luck), Henao works for Froome so will drop like Thomas last year and Yates and Martin never shown to keep up in a big stage race.

        • RQS Monday, 11 July 2016, 11:53 pm

          Agreed. It’s been strange to see some of these riders fold in the first real challenges in this tour. Both Aru and Nibali have looked shadows of their former dominant selves. Pinot looking distinctly ordinary. Equally the sprint machines have been all at see. Kristoff and Matthews have seemingly forgotten their sprinting shoes, while Kittel and Greipel must think they’re caught in a time warp circa 2009-2011.

          What are your thoughts on Froome grabbing yellow? He seemed surprised to find that he had it on Saturday, as if he wanted to leave it on Van Avermaet’s shoulders one more day, which is what I think Sky would have preferred.

          The stress of maintaining the jersey for a measly 16 seconds seems a heavy price to pay. None better than Sky to weather it, but given their team collapses in previous years not desirable.

    • gabriele Monday, 11 July 2016, 8:59 pm

      What I also find very odd is Dan Martin’s position. I’m not saying he can’t win, it just be hugely worrying.

      • Philip Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 8:56 am

        Didn’t Martin get dropped near the top of Arcalis?

    • Nicktarios Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 5:42 am

      Porte has blown up or had bad days when he was expendable as a climbing domestique for Sky. at the giro last year he lost 2 mins to the puncture penalty and then was sick.

    • David Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 8:46 am

      Those two performances you highlight for Aru saw him start well and perform consistently throughout, something he’s not done in this tour. He aint coming back to the podium

      • gabriele Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 8:13 pm

        In the 2015 Vuelta he had been constantly losing time in most uphill finish of the first week, only gaining some seconds on La Alpujarra, on stage 7. After stage 10 he was 1’13” back.
        No need to say that he wasn’t “performing consistently throughout” Giro 2015.
        Which doesn’t mean at all that he’ll be able to do well in this Tour, too, but your premise is simply false.

  • jc Monday, 11 July 2016, 3:58 pm

    I wonder what odds could have been had for two Brits and an Irishman filling the top 3 spots going into the first rest day?

    I do think Nairo Quintana’s tactics are odd, he has made no real effort to attack. Unless he has become a much better time trialist (not that he was bad in the first place) his assumption must be that Chris Froome will fade at some point. Given that this tactic has been well advertised in advance and also that Sky themselves must be aware of the issue, it seems extremely likely that serious efforts have been made to change training regimes etc by Sky to nullify this. Perhaps the ride up Ventoux will bring more clarity.

    I rather like having the “boring” stages on in the background, listening to Carlton Kirby and Sean Kelly chunter on about the passing French countryside or some minor cycling reminiscence is as much part of summer as listening to Test Match Special commentators describe the passing busses or thanking Mrs Smith for the delicious cake she has sent in (apologies to non UK readers who wont have a clue what I am going on about). As Mr Ring has pointed out it is very much part of French culture having the Tour pass through your town or village, so the more that can be be accommodated the better. Brings in money too as many places pay for the privilege.

    • Ecky Thump Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:14 pm

      I’ve been an ITV4 man myself, and this is a good opportunity to thank all there for a thoroughly excellent job so far.
      Free-to-Air cycling knowledge, passion and experience.
      Turning me into a couch tatie though…

      • Anonymous Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:21 pm

        Though not a fan of Boulting, I am coming from the Duffield era after all, the average punter will learn more about racing insights/tactics etc. from David Millar in this Tour alone, than the previous 10 years easy.

        • gastro george Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:39 pm

          Second that – Millar’s contributions have been a welcome breathe of fresh air, and he seems to be a good clear communicator – most info is easy enough to understand for even those with only a passing interest.

          • J Evans Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:42 pm

            Boulting’s OK, no complaints; Millar is excellent. Overall, it’s just a huge mercy not to have to listen to Kirby (except for the first hour or two when Eurosport starts earlier – then it’s a brutal reminder). And Kelly has been phoning it in for years. Still, could be worse – the US still gets Sherwen and Liggett.

          • Bikeaholic Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 5:32 am

            Australia get Sherwin & Liggett for the last 50km of the stage. Before that we get Mat Keenan and Robbie McEwin. Keenan has good knowledge and can banter whilst Robbie has ex-pro insight and is surprisingly articulate. Sherwin & Ligget have no idea. I think it’s time they retired to the TOC.

          • Maglia Nera Monday, 11 July 2016, 6:18 pm

            Agree that Millar has been very tactically focussed and Boulting is a vast improvement on Kirby. Also, switching between Eurosport and ITV4 means UK viewers can avoid advertising breaks and makes for pretty much uninterrupted coverage which is great. The new ITV4 team make Eurosport’s coverage seem tired.

      • Uphodhill Monday, 11 July 2016, 5:22 pm

        Agree, itv4 has been excellent – with no Phil and Paul. I’m grateful as Kirby is becoming more and more insufferable – or have I just lost all patience for his repetitive, innane and endless nonsense?

        Millar is great at explaining tactics, Boulting has been OK, and their studio team is close to an infinite amount better than Eurosport’s ludicrous pair of Ashleypants and Flecha. And I try to love the loveably incoherent LeMond I really do…

        • J Quinn Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 9:46 am

          Spare a thought then for us antipodeans who still have to suffer the P&P commentary on SBS after our local commentary team of Keenan and McEwen do the warm up then get the cultural cringe shove. It really is tedious having Liggett ( suffering from advanced white line fever) continually getting it wrong and Sherwen is just a mouthful of cliches.

    • cthulhu Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:31 pm

      I have to disagree on Quintana’s tactics. So far non of the mountain top finishes have suited him especially, the Alpes this year are much more his playground with more irregular climbs than the Pyrenees. Trying not to lose any time and let Sky and Froome wear out with the burdens that come with the yellow jersey and then attack in the later mountain stages that suit Quintana better is a valid tactic which he folowed quite well until he let go of Froome’s wheel on the descent to Luchon. He really didn’t need that bidon there and then the hesitation to close the gap and wait for somebody else to do that was quite rookie-ish. But the time gap ist still manageable. Additionally, Sky is doing well in controlling the bunch, leaving any escapees enough advance that any relay tactics won’t work because they are either too far away or only get caught when the favourites are already a full throttle and of no help anymore.
      In my eyes the tactical game between those two is quite thrilling, unfortunately no third party could take advantage of their stale mate so far to spice things up. And that is really a shame Contador had to quit, because I don’t think he would won this year, but he’d definitely had at least tried something.

      • J Evans Monday, 11 July 2016, 5:39 pm

        The idea that Quintana failed to follow Froome because he was getting a bidon is right up there as a media invention with the idea that Froome invented the pedalling whilst sitting on the top tube position. (Not saying he was the first, but I saw Mohoric do it on the way to winning the U23 WC road race in Florence in 2013.)
        NQ failed to follow because he was tactically inept. Follow immediately, then get Valverde in front of you.

        • The Inner Ring Monday, 11 July 2016, 5:55 pm

          Quintana was getting a bottle at the top of the climb, it’s not fiction. You’ll see it in the videos.

          Everyone says Mohoric did it first but Kwiatkowski was doing in the 2013 Dauphiné before. I’m sure some amateur did it decades ago but it’d be good for the sake of curiosity to find the first pro who used this tuck and pedal.

          • J Evans Monday, 11 July 2016, 6:09 pm

            I didn’t say Quintana wasn’t getting a bottle, I said that getting that bottle wasn’t why he failed to follow Froome.

          • J Evans Monday, 11 July 2016, 6:22 pm

            You can see on this video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1e7N-6wbiMQ – that Quintana picks up his bottle before the KOM line. Then Froome attacks. Quintana doesn’t follow very closely and then swings off to the side, presumably in the hope that others will do the chasing. Don’t know why he did that as the next rider is Henao and then a BMC rider (Porte, judging by the size). Valverde is some way behind. Quintana then continues to elect not to chase, freewheeling at some points. When you’re one of the top two riders, obviously you have to chase the other top rider.
            Interestingly, you can also see – right at the start – Henao look back for Froome to come through, so Henao seemed to know what was about to happen.

          • Nol Monday, 11 July 2016, 6:26 pm

            It also wasn’t the first time Chris Froome used that technique in race conditions.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBiD2Sl5HPo

          • cthulhu Monday, 11 July 2016, 8:32 pm

            @J Evans
            If you read correctly, I did not say he lost the wheel because of the bidon, but because he waited afterwards for someone else to close the gap. He went for the bidon, which was more a psychological thing than anything he physically needed at that point, and then didn’t close that gap but looked back. That was clearly visible in the TV footage and his misjudgement. What he should have done, was the same as he did all week before, stay glued to Froome’s wheel, which he for one moment did not.

          • J Evans Monday, 11 July 2016, 10:43 pm

            Sorry cthulhu, you’re right: others have said that it was because he was getting a bidon, but you didn’t.

          • Vitus Monday, 11 July 2016, 11:57 pm

            The only interesting thing about the bidon is to imagine how the anglocentric crowd here would have called it unfair, if a Quintana/Bertie/Nibali attacked while Froome grabbed a bottle. Nibali was “unfair” cause he didn’t wait for another rider who couldn’t descent well in the Giro.

          • Nicktarios Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 5:51 am

            Quintana can be excused for not immediately chasing Froome I think. Did anyone reasonably expect that Froome would hold the lead all the way off the Peyresourde to the finish? I’d imagine not. It was reasonable for Quintana to do what he did, with expectation that Froome would think the better of his attack, and the bunch would naturally close the gap before the finish. Admittedly he got it wrong, but his decision to sit up is being judged from hindsight only. I wouldn’t have chased if I was him, with Valverde in the group.

          • J Evans Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 9:35 am

            Vitus, it’s never unfair to attack when someone’s grabbing a bottle, because that’s a 2 second job, at the most: it doesn’t stop you following the attack and it didn’t stop Quintana. (Also, Froome was in front of Quintana so could well have been unaware that he was grabbing a bottle.) It’s also never unfair to keep riding as Nibali did in the Giro. Going downhill is a skill and SK didn’t have enough of it: it would clearly be preposterous to stop the entire race and wait for him. (Those suggesting that probably don’t understand the idea of when the race stops and when it doesn’t – I’m not sure how ‘Anglocentric’ comes into it: none of the protagonists were native English speakers.)

        • Whaleoilbeefhooked Monday, 11 July 2016, 9:51 pm

          Mates and I were doing the crossbar thing on Raleigh Chippers, Choppers and Grifters in the late 70s early 80s (then on Viking racer), like every other kid in the area. Still got a few lumps and scars on the noggin from the inevitable offs descending in the “Easy Rider” position and its variants. Once we knew air resistance was the enemy it must have been intuitive. Not claiming we were first either just nobody filming it #:-)

          • Vitus Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 1:04 pm

            You kids did that at 100km/h? That’s brave.
            Every kid can do that at local road at 30km/h. We’re talking of serious riding.

      • CA Monday, 11 July 2016, 7:59 pm

        cthulhu – I agree with you on Quintana – he’s waiting for the really difficult climbing stages to attack. The climbing we’ve had so far favours Froome and I think Quintana’s riding like a real pro by staying well within his limit. It’ll really help him on the more severe climbs.

        As a side note, I agree that the race really would’ve benefited from a healthy Contador.

    • Anonymous Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:45 pm

      Test Match Special is so obviously what Carlton Kirby is aiming at – and failing by a long way.

      • Tomski Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 9:36 am

        Anyone else catch when he was talking about his time as a radio presenter in the south pacific? Alan Partridge Gold!

    • Elliot Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:50 pm

      18th July 2013 – 1st day of the Lord’s Ashes Test and Alpe d’Huez. I didn’t get much work done that day.

      • Anonymous Monday, 11 July 2016, 9:00 pm

        Same again this year! Bastille Day 2016, Ventoux, first day of the Pakistan Test at HQ. Perfect

        • Elliot Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 9:35 am

          I hadn’t realised that – yippee!

          (hope the boss is out of the office on Thursday…)

    • hoh Monday, 11 July 2016, 9:54 pm

      OMG, they even talk about the buses. As a foreigner who’s been in Britain for some years, I knew test match is boring, didn’t realise it’s that boring.

  • Anonymous Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:07 pm

    I”m rooting for the two Valvede twins, only one ring each.

  • J Evans Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:18 pm

    ‘As a thought exercise imagine what would have happened had Henao done that when Wiggins was riding for the win’ – he’d have been called back; as Froome was.

    As always, having a variety of stages is the key: that’s why people complain about lots of sprint stages, the Vuelta’s repeated sprint climbs, etc. The idea of shortening stages wasn’t part of many people’s complaints, as we know that this would be ludicrous.
    A few stages for puncheurs would be good. As would a 230km stage with many mountains. Yes, the riders might simply negate it, but they should be given the opportunity – then we can criticise them for not taking it, rather than the race organisers.

    Being in yellow early, both times, didn’t prevent Froome from winning it.

    ‘Orica-BikeExchange [are] said to be sitting it out to wait for opportunities later on.’ – sounds more like an excuse for the team doing nothing, apart from Yates, obviously. Why would you not take an opportunity if it was there? It wasn’t there. And unless they can do something tomorrow, Yates aside, it’s not likely to be.

    Damn right the Bahrain team don’t want the publicity. Just when you think Nibali couldn’t be in a worse team. If that team happens, the UCI should be too ashamed to ever use the word ‘ethics’ again.

    • Nick Monday, 11 July 2016, 5:51 pm

      Orica have 2nd place and one of the jerseys. That’s not too bad for Week 1.

      • J Evans Monday, 11 July 2016, 6:07 pm

        To quote myself: ‘apart from Yates, obviously’ and ‘Yates aside’.
        And how much of his success has been down to his team helping him?

        • Nicktarios Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 5:57 am

          Impey has been active in breaks on a few days, and Matthews/Gerrans are contesting the stuff they can (admittedly without much success). On mountain stages the team is obviously 100% behind Yates. What else do you want them to do exactly?

          • J Evans Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 9:38 am

            Matthews being anonymous is the biggest surprise. Gerrans might be passed his best these days and there are no stages for him anyway.

          • J Evans Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 9:39 am

            *past

          • noel Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 9:46 am

            watching the Backstage Pass vids, its almost as if Bling isn’t on the race – he hardly ever appears, even in the background… being airbrushed from history already?

  • Tom J Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:20 pm

    “(why so many British cyclists born abroad is a headscratcher)”

    It’s to balance the non-British cyclists (like Dan Martin) born in England 🙂

    Tom

    • Anonymous Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:24 pm

      Because when they do well their British, and when the don’t their not really British! Like that great Brit Andy Murray winning Wimbledon, again. Haha

      • M Monday, 11 July 2016, 5:56 pm

        No.

    • M Monday, 11 July 2016, 5:58 pm

      The real question is why so many Irish cyclists are born abroad. Bennett, N Roche, Martin, Brammeier, Dunne, English, Irvine and Mullen all come to mind as born outside the Republic.

      • Vitus Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 12:00 am

        Well, Ireland has a long history of emigration, so that shouldn’t come as a surprise. And Britain a long as invaders…

      • David Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 1:33 am

        …and Christopher Juul Jensen!!

  • ShortsNL Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:23 pm

    This ‘ghost team’ seems to be a recurring thing in cycling. Whether it’s Alonso or Bahrain sheiks, there always seems to a rumer of a big pocket team coming into the sport as of recent years

    It must have it’s effect in contract negotiations and salaries as well.

  • Joe K. Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:28 pm

    “Valverde” appears twice in the single chainring.

    As for the four chainrings being blank, I agree with INRNG that it’s still a mystery about the condition of other contenders (or pretenders) like Aru, and now that Contador is out, I might move Quintana on to the four chainring section. Other than Froome, it’s too open to call at this time.

    I like how you put Henao at two chainrings even though he’s on the same Sky Team with Froome^.^

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:31 pm

      Henao has the freedom to do something and surely Sky want to keep him riding high precisely because he can act as a foil to the others? It’d be a bit lèse majeste to see him actually riding away but it would cost Sky a lot less than it would cost Movistar who’d see another Colombian riding into yellow.

      • Sam Monday, 11 July 2016, 5:38 pm

        As a huge Sergio Henao, I’m loving seeing him ride so well. Would love him to get a shot at a stage – but that’s not really the Sky or Froome way in the Tour

        Never know tho!

        • noel Monday, 11 July 2016, 6:19 pm

          Sam – I never had you down as a fat Colombian!

          • gabriele Monday, 11 July 2016, 8:56 pm

            Imagine if he was a huge Betancur ^__^

            (Disclaimer: I don’t always appreciate the jokes on Betancur’s woes with weight, given the context of present cycling, but here I really couldn’t resist, sorry!)

        • morten Reippuert Monday, 11 July 2016, 8:56 pm

          Henao = irregular blodpass values.

          • Ferdi Monday, 11 July 2016, 10:42 pm

            And coached by UCI boss’ son. Awkward to be the one who has to mention itm as if it was one of those things that it’s normal to overlook or forget to mention.

          • Vitus Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 12:02 am

            Only relevant id riding for Astana or other teams which are not Sky. Like all Russians are always “shady” unless their name rhymes with Irienka

          • Eskorrik Asko Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 7:12 am

            The inevitable nitpick: Vasil Kiriyenka is Belorussian, not Russian.

  • Anonymous Monday, 11 July 2016, 4:37 pm

    in backing heat and Andorra is be full of rider agents

    Probably “baking” and “is said to be”

    I think Quintana is the smartest of all of the GC contenders. Herrada riding in with Quintana is very good for Movistar.

    Froome isn’t under much pressure at the moment.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 11 July 2016, 6:04 pm

      Fixed those things.

      As for the rest the Pyrenees are done but there’s two weeks of racing to come.

  • The Commish Monday, 11 July 2016, 5:09 pm

    Could somebody please give Purito some credit? I know the question was “who is going to win the tour” and fair enough, it’s not going to be JRod. But we all know the real question is who is going to get on the podium and I would argue you should consider the guy who has 5 grand tour podium finishes.

    • Vitus Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 12:07 am

      I give him credit, no question. He’s the biggest surprise so far, my dark horse from now on. But still can’t decide if he just had his one good week or he fooled everyone on purpose with his lazy riding so far this year. Anyway, now that he declared retirement after the season, he has nothing to lose at all in his last Tour

  • SilverSurfer8 Monday, 11 July 2016, 5:35 pm

    I’m actually kind of entrigued with Quintana’s strategy. You could see in the final climb yesterday, he was holding back. He knew that climb didn’t suit him especially, so no point in wasting energy for no gain. It was a smart, though unspectacular non-move. Though most saw it as a wasted opportunity, he is waiting and saving energy for the terrain that suits him.

    Think of it this way: Who gained any ground in the CG fight yesterday? Who expended the most energy? Who expended the least energy? Who benefited the least? Who benefited the most?

    As Quintana has been criticized for waiting too long to make a move, this strategy is especially daring. It could work, or fail, but at least he has a plan to win, unlike the rest of the pretenders!

    • Kit Monday, 11 July 2016, 8:01 pm

      +1

  • RonDe Monday, 11 July 2016, 6:11 pm

    Don’t blame the flat nature of much French countryside in week 1 for the boring race. Blame Nairo Quintana and Movistar. The diminutive Colombian has been following his older team mate’s tactics to the letter in this Tour and wheelsucking his way to the upper reaches of the standings. Movistar, as Brailsford has complained, have felt no need to share any workload nor animated the race in any way. This is simply boring from the Spanish team and, frankly, they should be drawing the flak that Sky would get in similar circumstances. Presumably Nairo thinks he can get what he needs on Ventoux and Finhaut-Emosson but in that case I hope Froome destroys him. Froome is trying to win the race the right way. Quintana is doing nothing but follow. Dull dull dull.

    • Kit Monday, 11 July 2016, 8:09 pm

      Complete nonsense. Quintana has competed the Tour twice before, and lost to Froome both times, and both times both have had similar teams too. Why on earth would he attack now to gain say 20s as inrng says, forcing him to defend with a weaker team for two weeks?
      Instead he’s hanging on, and apart from one descent (where without bonuses he lost just 13s), limiting his losses better than anyone else on GC except Yates. Instead of taking it as boring, I think it’s exciting – The two main contenders still separated by mere seconds! Far more boring was last year Froome taking a big time gap on everyone and successfully defending it for the whole race. I mean, chapeau, but that’s less exciting than this closely-marked scenario.

      • J Evans Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 9:43 am

        If he comes good later, as you say, then yes. But that’s a big ‘if’. And I think he could afford to take the yellow now, because he’d lose it come Friday’s TT – unless he slaughters Froome on Ventoux.

    • channel_zero Monday, 11 July 2016, 8:26 pm

      It’s very unfair to call out Quintana for negative racing.

      Quintana can take a risk that is very unlikely to work and try to get a lead now AND use up reserves doing it, then suffer later, likely falling off the podium.

      Or, he can let Froome work hard and tire himself, while he manages his GC position, waiting for a more favorable opportunity to attack Froome. This tactic has him very likely on the podium.

      Which one of those tactics gets him a better contract next year?

      • STS Monday, 11 July 2016, 10:38 pm

        “Which one of those tactics gets him a better contract next year?”
        I’m not so sure as you seem to be with regards to the answer. Sagan already got one of the best if not the best contract in current professional cycling BEFORE he started winning really big races. Sure he had won the green jersey and some stages of the Tour but he had neither won any big spring classic nor the WC nor any other monument. As much as he was known for his entertaining style on and off the bike he was also known for his near-misses. But that did not keep a huge number of people from loving that guy and cheering for him already then. And that’s what as a team sponsor you’re really considering a great return on investment. Richard Virenque is another example.
        But I agree that Quintana is not that kind of guy. The surest way to stardom for him is certainly winning the TdF. And his fans in Colombia would love him for that achievement. And his team manager Unzue surely also values a GC win higher than hundreds of thousands of cycling fans world-wide praising him for his entertaining style of racing.
        In hindsight, in cycling’s history books, the Indurain years are considered as some of the most boring in TdF history, though. Big Mig certainly doesn’t care though.

  • bswh_ Monday, 11 July 2016, 6:14 pm

    People are actually racing for the KOM jersey!

  • nevman Monday, 11 July 2016, 6:33 pm

    Sky have wrong-footed the other teams twice so far-on s7 Movistar were clearing expecting the usual `Froome attacks on the first mountain stage tactic` and pulled hard to no avail as Sky sat back.
    Then there was the s8 attack into BdL-spectacular riding even if as described as like a frog on a skateboard (Lionel Birnie I think).No one saw that coming and it entertained as well.
    Barring the usual exceptions Froome has this nailed on and the other team DS`s need to have a word (with themselves,of course).

  • Ronan Monday, 11 July 2016, 6:59 pm

    I was wondering what the tactic was for Movistar to send two men up the road and then do nothing? Did Sky clock this tactic and then give the break so much rope that the Movistar guys were too far up the road to do anything.

    • gabriele Monday, 11 July 2016, 7:15 pm

      Originally, it was a strategically strong attack, with Valverde up the road with them for about one hour, some 50 kms or so and the whole Bonaigua, but then someone decided it was better for him to sit up and shake hands with Froomey coming back to the bunch. No comment!

      I was just wondering… having the whole stage live on TV didn’t help to get what was happening in the race, did it?
      I don’t blame people for deciding not to watch (or not being able to), even if the first hour or so is usually something you should absolutely try to have an eye on, when we’re given the precious opportunity.
      But… how is it possible that such an interesting theme hasn’t been tackled by the journalists or TV commenters? It’s not like there were many other interesting things to speak about. And people go on wondering about what sense the Movistar two-men move did have, hence I suppose there’s “public curiosity” surrounding the subject.

      • Kit Monday, 11 July 2016, 8:12 pm

        In fairness, with V sitting so high on GC at the time, wasn’t it a deliberate move to let the break be allowed to go? Without him it would cause Sky etc no bother. But if V had scraped yellow as non-leader, would be harder to attack for Sky.

      • Anonymous Monday, 11 July 2016, 8:14 pm

        Pretty sure the Froome Valverde handshake was because Valverde had accepted that Sky and Froome weren’t going to let him get away, and so he came back. It was a mixture of ‘I tried’ and ‘Well done’. You see it all the time when a peloton decides that someone too dangerous is in the break.

        Coming back was the only sensible thing to do – if the break knows that the peloton won’t let them get away because Valverde is there, then the break won’t work with him. If, however, Valverde accepts that, and so returns to the peloton, the break still contains two team mates who can allow themselves to be dropped and work for a bridging Quintana later on.

        • gabriele Monday, 11 July 2016, 8:46 pm

          This was no stage for a “bridging” action.
          Fostering the break, Movistar would have burnt Valverde, Herrada and Anacona, for sure (are they going to win the Tour with them?), but this was going to have a cost for Sky: primarily, the impossibility to stick to the desired pace. They were climbing Cantó with Stannard and Rowe pulling the peloton, imagine that.
          However, truth is that apparently Movistar had *no* intention to attack Froome yesterday. In that sense, obviously, changing Sky’s script was simply no use.
          Maybe it was some mind game, like, attack me with everything you have and as you please, I won’t loose a second.
          As I wrote elsewhere, Movistar must feel very confident.

          That said, there were *five* couples of same-team riders in that break, plus, besides Movistar, IAM had three men, too. A lot of those men clearly hadn’t anything to grab from the last uphill finish.
          I acknowledge that they didn’t like to work while being chased, but if the teams involved had decided to go for it, there’s nothing Sky could do to stop them.
          From seven to nine guys could have easily been deployed in full commitment to build a gap while at the same time keeping, each of them, their designated captain under proper cover in the break. That’s why a twenty-some men break is *usually* very dangerous in the first part of a stage race… not yesterday.

          • Nicktarios Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 6:08 am

            But that’s the trouble with the 20 man break, if they get even the slightest whiff that they won’t get reward for their efforts it’s almost impossible to get such a big group to collaborate. And with so many in it the mentality will always be that “someone else can do the work”. If Valverde stays in the break there’s no way they can take time, the break won’t work together to assist Movistar, and Sky won’t give the break much rope. The 3 Movistar guys pulling the break all day won’t hurt Sky that badly. I wish it were different, i’d have loved to see the break get the gap they did with Valverde in it, but sadly that is a dream I think.

          • gabriele Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 2:02 pm

            Nope. If you’re chased, you know that your only hope is collaborating, and while that’s hard when first swords are needed to work, on the contrary when several teams have got more than one rider available, it normally flows quite well. The burden is on the peloton, who needs to find as many riders to keep things under control.

            You can easily see how the others didn’t stop working just because Dumoulin was sucking wheels.

            Also note that Movistar could or should have told to the rest that they weren’t going for the stage, since that was going to be a strategical move. Fine, if Valverde actually wanted the stage, I’d agree that we have a strong case of personal ambitions hindering team strategy.

            That said, if we want to speak the truth, I’d agree that most team won’t be happy to create any trouble to Sky.

  • STS Monday, 11 July 2016, 7:04 pm

    I agree that NQ’s tactic of not attacking now and waiting for the last week to really try and take the jersey is smart. And IR elaborates why. Thanks! That’s especially true for someone like NQ who seems to detest press conferences and having to talk more than what is absolutely necessary. So your explanation is probably spot on.
    BUT, … at the end of the day those guys are all racing for our entertainment although some of them don’t seem to get this. Will I consider NQ a great racer and his team a great one if he wins the TdF with 32 seconds after taking those from Froome on the last summit finish of the race? Surely not. So all the sponsor’s money is somewhat lost on me and if I were a sponsor or team manager I would rather pay some guy like Adam Yates or Steven Cummings (or Sagan) better than a TdF winner NQ simply because they liven up the race and thus attract more sympathy to their teams and sponsors by doing so.
    I agree though that NQ is probably the “wrong” guy for that kind of approach. But that keeps me from rooting for him and although I certainly don’t like Sky would rather see Froome and Sky win another one than NQ and Movistar with their defensive strategy. Simply because team Sky actually races and Froome attacks.
    It’s comparable to what was going on at the football EC the last four weeks. Portugal won but apart from the Portugese people no one enjoyed the way they were playing. So for many neutral observers (without nationalistic preferences) the whole tournament is considered a disappointment. Football will not lose fans because of this but for cycling to become bigger and attract more sponsors from outside its own bubble teams should think about how to contribute to making the races more spectacular. Sunday’s stage finale with so many GC contenders fighting it out was promising but it would leave a bad taste in my mouth if the one guy wins the GC in the end who did the very least to contribute to the excitement.

    • gabriele Monday, 11 July 2016, 8:20 pm

      Why do you think that Quintana is the “wrong” guy? Until 2015 he’s been proving right the opposite.
      That is, if I got it right and you were speaking of “attacking style”, whereas if you mean that he’s the “wrong guy” since he’s got real chances to win the Tour (unlike Cummings or Yates), hence he must be more prudent, I could share your point.
      I can see the third week perspective, but I also see it the other way around: you can’t just believe that Sky haven’t thought anything on the subject when all the world was vocal about it. Today was a rest day: I can’t believe that yesterday forcing things with Valverde in the break or at least trying an attack on Arcalis with Quintana would have had a huge cost that couldn’t be partially recovered today. You won’t have many occasions to catch them on the wrong foot and change the game: you can only do that if they need to go *slow* like it was this week…
      For sure, Sky will try to test Quintana on the flat both on Tuesday and on Wednesday, and I think they’ll really try to kill him on the 120-160 flat kms before the Ventoux. In that sense, maybe saving up energies was a good idea. But I’m not really sure it works exactly like that…
      However, making Sky unconfortable thanks to the Valverde action would have been paramount: if Movistar expects gratitude from the other teams that were in that break, I’m afraid they’re being very optimistic. But, hey, who knows.

      • STS Monday, 11 July 2016, 10:19 pm

        Gabriele,
        IMHO Quintana is the “wrong guy” to expect fireworks from him. Racing for the sake of the racing, attacking to liven up the race, and see how they can benefit from it, either because they think they are the strongest and want to fight it out or simply because they like racing like this and are aware that most fans want to see racing like this. And if the fans like your style of racing your market value will benefit.
        Contador obviously is the name which comes to my mind first when looking for examples. I agree that there are not many of that opportunistic breed left, with Nibali being another prominent agent. But maybe Dan Martin and the young guns like Alaphilippe, Yates develop into that kind of rider. Bardet showed signs of that in past editions of the Tour, not sure he’s still in that camp.
        In general it seems to me that this style of racing is not encouraged by most of the DS or team managers who obviously want to have more control over what their racers do on the road. With Team Etixx Quick Step being one exception. That’s at least what I read from the numerous statements from Dan Martin saying that his recent progress although he’s already 29 is mainly due to the team wanting him to race aggressive.

        • gabriele Monday, 11 July 2016, 10:32 pm

          Well, as I said, I think that Quintana’s pro career from 2012 and until 2014 (included) is stating the opposite.
          Truth is that from 2015 on he’s generally become a more straightforward rider.
          Though, the vast majority of his early victories as a pro – as I’ve extensively reported elsewhere on this blog – had come from long-range attacks, well before the last climb or however quite far from the finish line.
          OTOH, Contador 2008-2010 (the “strongest Contador”, as some say, even if I wouldn’t agree completely) was a quite linear rider who favoured short (10′-15′) outburst of power besides a careful management of his overall skills and options, otherwise keeping his powder dry.
          Which means that racing style may indeed change a lot.

          However, I think that Quintana’s got a notable racing intuition; if they don’t tame that, too, we still might see something interesting from him, even if he might have considered opportune not to go on the attack until now (something about which I myself have got several doubts).

          • J Evans Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 10:23 am

            +1. I think Q’s riding in Unzué’s style, rather than his own.

  • Ecky Thump Monday, 11 July 2016, 7:22 pm

    For all the criticism that Movistar are attracting, they’re currently sitting atop the Team Classification as they did last year.
    It’s something that they put great stock by, perhaps too much so and goes someway to explain their more defensive tactics?

    Maybe there are contractual gains to be had from this, or it’s seen as ‘one in the eye’ for the monied teams.
    But, in analysing Movistar’s ambitions and motives, we’d have to take into account this situation.
    Any idea why this is so, Inrng?

  • TDog Monday, 11 July 2016, 7:27 pm

    Hard to fathom BMC and Movistar’s tactics to Arcalis. Movistar sends two men up the road to support Valverde when he bridges. Then leaves them out there when Valverde drops back. Makes sense if they are pawns to be used by Quintana later. Otherwise a waste of energy. TJvG must be scratching his head as to why Porte didn’t support him. It is now every man for himself on BMC.

    • Steppings Monday, 11 July 2016, 7:39 pm

      I could only fathom that the weather toward the stage end made this tactic irrelevant for Movistar. Other than that, the best I can come up with is that when Valverde scurried back to the bunch the other two said we might as well stay!

    • channel_zero Monday, 11 July 2016, 8:38 pm

      Frequently, there are rolling negotiations about who is permitted to be in a breakaway and letting Valverde go several minutes up the road was not approved. Valverde did the rest of the break a huge favor by falling back. The alternative was Sky would have chased them all down.

      Without a doubt, TJ can go very well for about a week. After that, something always ruins his chances. On the Arcalis he was not strong enough to consistently stay in the lead group.

      Porte likely used up some valuable energy on the Arcalis that will come back to haunt him in the third week. He needs to wait.

  • CA Monday, 11 July 2016, 7:52 pm

    I think NQ has a plan to go all-out and attack, but in specific areas. It looked like he was just being patient the last couple days, but also it looked like he was riding well within himself.

    Some people seem to be complaining that this year’s tour has been boring so far… but doesn’t the really careful riding indicate that the peloton is way cleaner than in the past? That’s my interpretation of the racing.

    • gabriele Monday, 11 July 2016, 8:06 pm

      No, it doesn’t indicate anything like that.

      By the way, why should they be much cleaner than 12 months ago all of a sudden? Because of the supposed new tests? Oh, yeah, people really stopped doping when new tests were introduced. In the past, I mean.
      Doping is a by-product of the political conditions. These don’t look much different from 2014 or 2015 (two editions whose first week was way better), hence you might believe they’re equally clean or equally doped, whatever you prefer (I’m Schrödingerian in that sense ^__^), but that doesn’t work as a justification for the poor racing we’ve been treated to this year, until now at least (…crosswinds from tomorrow on?).

      • CA Monday, 11 July 2016, 11:29 pm

        Yes it does. Indication doesn’t imply proof, but it appears to an educated eye that things might be better than the past.

        I don’t want to argue semantics with you, I know you’ll out-type me 🙂

        • gabriele Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 12:27 am

          “An educated eye”?

  • gabriele Monday, 11 July 2016, 7:59 pm

    I don’t buy the “it’s always been this way” argument. No, it hasn’t. And no, I’m not speaking of heroic times but of the last five or six years.
    I reckon that a Tour might end up being fascinating thanks to his last week or so, think 2009 which became exciting just from stage 15 on.
    That said, such an enthralling denouement doesn’t make in any possible way the first part more exciting and, no, having a stage race which delivers some fun or technical interest from scratch doesn’t mean at all to have your GC sentenced.
    The GC is usually far from sentenced, during and after the Giro’s first week, and we’ve got exciting racing every day or so.
    Same goes for the TdF… sometimes… think 2010 or 2011.
    We can have better racing, why should we settle for a boring TdF? It didn’t make much sense to complain after three stages, but after nine stages there’s more material, also to assess that overall quality hasn’t been high.

    I acknwoledge that in recent decades this had been the way the TdF was.
    That was one of the factors which led the race to become hugely dependant on charismatic figures who could bring in new markets, without the sport needing to be interesting in itself.
    It was all about the bigger than life (or death) character, the usual dosis of nationalism, the rewarding (for the hordes of newbies) predictability of the results out of pure superiority and overall control not only over the race but also over what surrounded it. Nike, Coca Cola. Great, why should you need to have fine racing when you’ve got those guys in?

    I think that’s fine to admit that this year things didn’t really work and maybe it’s better to go on along the path that had been traced during the last few years.
    I can digest a boring first half of the Tour without making a tragedy of it, but I think that it’s important to say that it isn’t that good, hoping that future races might be improved.

    Part of the responsibility lies on Movistar’s shoulders, that’s very true (even if much really depends on the underlying politics, I’m afraid) – yet, another significant part is due to poor course drawing. Emending that won’t necessarily make the race better, but it will raise the chances of it to happen.
    It’s not true that “it’s impossible to do otherwise because of French geography”. Other Tours are there to prove that false. However, it’s enough to take advantage of secondary roads, or look for a more rolling and winding (not necessarily “windy”) terrain. That’s easier in Italy? Probably so. But, even if I don’t know France too well, I struggle to think that you can’t find adequate roads, given that the peloton can ride as far as 200-250 km in a day.

    And, another thing: I don’t know what “people” complain about when speaking of the Vuelta, but personally I’m complaining about the fact that they repeat a very similar kind of *stage structure*, implying a fixed *effort structure*, for most stages.
    The problem isn’t at all that final daily results repeat themselves (they often don’t: little daily difference in form or time picking for your attacks do have a – relatively – great effect on such explosive efforts); the problem is that you’re testing the riders again and again through the same situation, which, even more important, involves just 5′-10′ of action. Few previous climbs (or far from the finish) to create strategic variables, you can’t even decide to set a tougher or lighter climbing rhythm throughout the stage to see if there’s eventually an effect on the rivals!
    I don’t expect to have 45′ or so packed of action in every stage, but I expect that to happen at least some 6-7 times in a GT. And “action” isn’t simply climbing, at least it’s not just climbing together at a steady pace. If you set different scenarios, it’s also more probable that riders will try something, because they might hope that even if they lose time under certain conditions, they might be better when things change a bit.
    Recent Vueltas have been disappointing from these POV, that’s all.

    • OJT Monday, 11 July 2016, 11:58 pm

      At least ten separate +1s in this post. To raise one question: I wonder, perhaps the experience of the 2015 Giro has changed how the big teams tackle the first week of a GT now? i.e. They’re overly worried about burning out before the final week.

      • J Evans Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 10:30 am

        ‘At least ten separate +1s in this post.’ – me too.

  • 50plus Monday, 11 July 2016, 8:12 pm

    Richie Porte tactics? Anyone care to explain to me?
    I agree absolutely agree that Porte should attack and not wait for TvG, as said by INRNG above. What I don’t understand is Porte pulling for Froome once his attack failed while TvG is loosing time behind. We could see this several times and already. First time I noticed was at the Dauphine, when Porte could have sat in and take the stage. Does he still have a part-time contract with Sky?

    • Anonymous Monday, 11 July 2016, 8:19 pm

      He was trying to set a tempo to limit attacks (and keep his time gaps over everyone else). He was doing that for himself – presumably he was on the limit and wanted to discourage digs.

      If Froome and Quintana just look at each other, then Porte both might struggle to respond to attacks, and also might lose the time he was gaining on the rest of the field. His only options were to attack himself or set tempo.

      • The Inner Ring Monday, 11 July 2016, 8:21 pm

        By working he can also distance others behind which he needs to do in order to climb up the rankings. Clearly unhelpful with TvG behind but that’s my point above: two leaders but they’re not playing in tandem.

  • Ken Monday, 11 July 2016, 8:32 pm

    The 2016 TdF is boring? Let’s review week 1. There are eight riders within a minute of the GC leader, and this blog is full of lively comments about tactics. Peter Sagan is predictably in the hunt for green, though a certain Manxman staying in the race makes victory less than a sure thing; it’s worth tuning in for the intermediate sprints. And the King of the Mountains? Anybody’s guess! An aging champion puts in a valiant effort before withdrawing. BMC adds enough drama to start a soap opera. Even the weather turned a day in the sun into an ordeal. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

    • gabriele Monday, 11 July 2016, 8:53 pm

      Most of the factors you name don’t add much in technical terms, besides, perhaps, proving that the general level has been low.
      I like the side-narratives and their psychological implications, but that makes for a *readable* story, not for a good race.
      And, yes, I love old cycling chronicles written by great authors, absolute level writers or poets, when the show wasn’t on TV – hence I greatly appreciate the *debate* or the *chatting* part, as it’s easy to notice, but we may also get it with a fine race on top of that.

      • Anonymous Monday, 11 July 2016, 9:12 pm

        In other REST DAY NEWS, would love to see Alberto in new kit next year.

        • Megi Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 9:43 am

          Perhaps that’s the real reason behind his departure. He doesn’t seem to be getting on well with his current team. Tinkoff appears to have been yet another of those teams with dual leadership but unlike the others, has sorted it out conclusively.

    • Anonymous Monday, 11 July 2016, 9:42 pm

      Sorry, but have to say it, because although I expect some silliness during the Tour de France,the last days it deterioated too fast for me. I (and maybe others,too) chose to be quiet toward this “live.y discussion”. because it is hard for me to say something to it without being impolite and I kind of hoped it would stop. But it didn’t.

      “Lively” discussion doesn’t mean it has substance or knowledge or own thoughts or understanding of the situation or objectivity or merits in it. This rightfully doesn’t matter for the ones discussing something “lively”. But for others it may indeed matter. I really don’t say this to stop the lively discussion about the 5 things everybody talks about (Porte,Froome,TVG and how bad Movistar and ASO are). Just to say that I have a different point of view and very, very different expectations. Which is no problem, I’ll just stop reading the lively discussion of “tactics”.

  • gabriele Monday, 11 July 2016, 9:58 pm

    I was having a look at the usually very reliable chainrings and while I was dwelling on the fascinating possibility of Dan Martin winning the Tour, I noticed that among the contenders listed above only Froome, Quintana and Valverde have ever got a *top-5* in *any* of the GTs, if I’m not wrong (let alone podiuming, or winning).
    Porte is at least a nice short stage races specialist, but the others, as good as they might look like, always struggled to prove themselves as winning horses in short stage races, too, they’ve won one of them at most in their pro career! Again, I might be wrong, but I think it’s more or less like that. Of course Adam Yates is still very young (Valverde, Nibali, Quintana, Contador, Pinot or Aru had better results when they were his age, but that doesn’t mean much – Froome or Purito didn’t! And the likes of Wiggo or Evans or Peraud were even practicing a “different” sport), well, Yates is young but the rest ain’t that super-young either.
    We’re sure having a generational shift, but a lot of names who apparently are now at it with the Tour have grown up without showing anything significant until now, perhaps because some of them have always focused mainly on the Tour itself, without huge rewards (Bardet, Mollema), or perhaps because some other just weren’t good enough when a GC – or a GT – was involved.

    • Anonymous Monday, 11 July 2016, 11:19 pm

      + 1

    • CA Monday, 11 July 2016, 11:47 pm

      Gabriele – you say Mollema hasn’t had huge rewards – how does 6th, 7th and 10th at the Tour sound, plus 4th at Vuelta in the past. Pretty impressive stage race performances.

      Same with Bardet, at 25, he’s finished both 6th and 9th at the Tour.

      • STS Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 12:10 am

        For him (Mollema) personally those GC places he achieved might mean success. But it makes you wonder what kind of value a rider like him has for a team with a big sponsor like Trek. I for one understand why they are looking for another GT-GC-contender.
        Bauke is a rider like Zubeldia (a little more “success”ful but less stylish on the bike 😉 ) who has close to zero impact on the race – the racing would not change if he wasn’t there besides the result sheet. If he would at least try to do a Rolland or Kadri and win an important stage or go for the KOM jersey.
        I agree with Bardet still being in his development years though. But he also seems to stall. I hope I err since he contrary to Mollema and some other guys seems to be someone who’s actually ready to risk losing.

      • gabriele Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 12:21 am

        I acknowledge that I didn’t remember Mollema’s 4th place at the Vuelta, which I should have included since I wrote “any top-5 in any GT”.
        But I didn’t check the databases. I can’t recall when that happened even now that you tell me, I guess it wasn’t exactly something you end up noticing like Dumoulin last year.
        However, if a cyclist has got that physical potential (he was really a prospect when he was 24-25 or so) and then you spend most of your career – he’s about 30 – without winning, like, *anything*? (has he ever seriously won a race?), well, that’s not what I’d call a huge reward.
        A lot of not-very-significant riders have hit a top-ten in the TdF… I’m also skeptical about top-5, but that’s something not many achieve, at least.

        I like Bardet, I love his riding style, he’s got indisputable talent, but he’s coming of age and he needs to really step up. Has he ever won *any* stage race? I can’t remember one. Have a look at PCS or Wikipedia or whatever for me, but I’d bet he never got any final GC in any top-level stage race (I’m not watching *every* race, that’s sure ^__^).
        Before this year’s Oman, against Nibali, and the Dauphiné, I think he hadn’t ever got a stage race podium, either. Few guys become true winners from scratch, without having practiced what it’s like to breath the thin air of high GC.
        I’m confident he’ll do better this year, he’s steadily growing and looks like an intelligent guy. Yet, reality is that he’s invested a lot of energies in the Tour (add to that the Dauphiné, if you please) while at the same time he hasn’t got many other big results which might have been at reach with a different programme for his seasons. He struggles to crack top-fives: if he doesn’t step up, he’ll remain an excellent supporting actor, winning spectacular stages from time to time. Which is better than 90% of the other pro riders, that is, something great, no doubt, but which is still far from becoming a TdF winner.

  • VeloClubManuChao Monday, 11 July 2016, 10:24 pm

    i don’t get the idea that Quintana has been negative and poor tactically so far.. The point of tactics is that you have a plan which I believe Movistar have which I presume involved still being in contention after first few mountain stages.. What makes Grand Tours special is there length.. When Quintana won the Giro he was the strongest climber but didn’t take the pink until Stage 16.. And the last two Grand Tours (Vuelta 15, Giro 16) clearly show that things can change right up to the end!

  • Hugh Monday, 11 July 2016, 11:09 pm

    “Meanwhile Majka challenge could see Tinkoff taking two of the three jerseys in the race.” Aren’t there four jerseys? Or maybe the white jersey is not considered as prestigious as the others (which I could understand). BTW, I’ve always felt a rider should only be eligible for the white jersey in their first tour – Quintana wearing/winning it last year seemed odd.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 11 July 2016, 11:16 pm

      There are four but the White Jersey is restrictive for obvious reasons so it wasn’t counted, it’s a good contest in some ways but arbitrary in others.

    • gabriele Monday, 11 July 2016, 11:26 pm

      You could as well have said that it seems odd to you that Adam Yates he’s wearing the white jersey this year, since it’s his second Tour, just as it was last year in Quintana’s case.

      Meintjes would be excluded, too. And Barguil, and Kelderman, and Buchmann, and Sepúlveda. They’re all doing their 2nd Tour de France.

      Alaphilippe, presently 7th in the white jersey classification, 40′ down from Yates, is the first true rookie. Classy guy, indeed. The French would be happy to secure that jersey, too.

      The problem is that what looked strange was Quintana wearing the white jersey, full stop. Not many guys can throw in such a performance in their first or second TdF.

      • Hugh Monday, 11 July 2016, 11:34 pm

        Fair comment.

    • Vitus Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 12:20 am

      Limiting White jersey to only rookies would make it a pretty dull competition or no real competition at all. I like to see the young guys attacking each other in the GC group. Like Barguil, Yates and Alaphillipe did the other day. Animates the race. Much better than to have one guy up there and the rest in the gruppetto.

  • Othersteve Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 2:27 am

    Perhaps we need a turn of fate to overturn the Sky apple cart. A wrong line, flat or crossed wheel by Froome when he is domestique’less. Then we have a new blog enlivened.

  • noel Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 9:39 am

    it would be quite interesting to see where Chaves and Cruiseship would have fitted into this GC battle….. somewhere close to the top I think (assuming a level playing field where they didn’t have a giro in their legs… the same for his Nibs I guess).

  • Carbo Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 12:19 pm

    I think that the issue with Quintana is that this tactic looks very much like the tactic that seemed passive and was a failure last year. If my memory serves me correctly, he could have attacked on the Croix de Fer, and perhaps earlier on the Toussuire on the antipenultimate stage. That when he did finally attack, he immediately took time out of Froome, who also lost a considerable amount on the Alpe, suggested that he might have been there for the taking. He might not have been, either, of course; however, Quintana didn’t even ask the question.

    On Sunday, going into the final climb, it wasn’t so much that Quintana didn’t attack that irritated me, it’s that when Froome broke, and Quintana was the only one to go with him, he refused to help. It might well be that he didn’t want to attack himself — and I understand that he might have targeted the more difficult and suitable MV and Alps to attack — but that he didn’t want to use the opportunity to take time out of Yates, Martin, Porte, Aru et al when he had a chance to (it seemed to me that the others weren’t as able to go with Froome and Quintana at that moment as they were to go with the attacks from Porte and Martin).

    Again, it all appears to be so very passive. Sport — any sport — is about asking questions of the opposition, and Quintana, it seems to me, doesn’t.

    • gabriele Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 2:05 pm

      Last year he had to wait for Valverde who was suffering.

      This year he could be blamed for not taking time on Froome, but not collaborating with Froome is the most logical thing to do in pure competitive terms.

      When you’re not wearing the jersey, if you’re fighting for the first place and not just for the podium, it’s in your interest to have other competitors within shooting distance.
      Aggression is refusing to collaborate with the leader, passivity is setting for second helping him out with the rest.

      • STS Tuesday, 12 July 2016, 2:28 pm

        For now let’s suppose Quintana (Movistar) has a match plan. In that plan Froome seems to be the only opponent they’re taking serious. So if Froome wants Quintana to consume some energy when Q doesn’t want to and expose his flanks he should not cover all attacks by Martin, Porte and others but seem to struggle and wait and see what Q does. You have to be ready to lose in order to win, right? I’m not sure though that Portal (or whoever pulls the strings at team Sky) is a cool enough gambler to go that way. But the Froome of 2012 and 2013 was climbing and TTing strong enough to make that tactic succeed.
        It’s a pity that Geraint Thomas is already out of the GC battle and Henao a much too obvious foil.