Tour de France Rest Day Review

A deserved rest day and as the riders soft-pedal around Bern and the surrounding cantons in the sunshine they can see the Alps on the horizon.

Chris Froome looks comfortable in yellow and he’s been here before. It’s generating frustration among some as his wearing the yellow jersey was some kind of spoiler, we know what will come during the final Alpine act. He’s in a commanding position but there’s plenty of racing to go.

Froome and Team Sky have tried to court popularity with risky moves on the descents and flat although this no PR strategy, it’s racing instinct. Yet all this just adds to Froome’s cannibalistic repertoire when popularity, at least when viewed from the roadside in France, is often defined by defeat as much as victory, you cannot spell panache without ache. Over the decades cycling has embraced the concept of the “moral winner”, a rider who should have won but was denied by circumstances and they went on to enjoy enormous popularity. Think René Vietto in 1934 who gave up a wheel to a team mate, then his bike, and lost minutes only to find the public on his side, riding in to Paris to find the crowd waving banners marked “Long Live René Vietto, moral winner of the Tour”. The same with Raymond Poulidor the ultimate exponent of pou-poularité during the 60s and 70s. In a small way Julian Alaphilippe got some when leading down the Grand Colombier he jammed his chain and lost hope of winning the stage, nevermind that he’d have struggled to stay clear for the remaining 33km. There’s a psychology or sociology doctorate waiting for someone willing to explore why the French public often prefers valiant losers.

Froome almost had his Vietto moment, the deus ex machina hurdle to overcome with That Crash on Mont Ventoux. Not that he could choose the story, the commissaires made their decision and presented it to him rather handing him with a menu and letting him choose the outcomes. Besides the Tour is not a popularity contest, it’s just that it’s curious to imagine a parallel universe where the commissaires shrugged, Froome lost time and had to fight back. In reality he’d have taken the yellow jersey back in the following day’s time trial so the struggle against adversity would have lasted less than a day, hardly a struggle against the odds.

Back to winning this race and on the Grand Colombier you wondered if Froome was looking down at a bar-mounted Kindle as he sat tight on Wout Poel’s wheel, the Dutchman as a faithful retriever by his side to fetch any game that dared to take flight. His team look as strong as ever, the absence of Mikel Nieve and Geraint Thomas in Culoz wasn’t a sign of weakness but bad luck after Nieve crashed and Thomas punctured. Still at times Froome has looked strained too and in yesterday’s post-stage interview he was coughing a bit. The sign of a problem… or the sign of trying to look too hard for problems?

Froome remains in a commanding position with 1m47s on Bauke Mollema and 2m45s on Adam Yates and neither has looked threatening to him so far. If you’d presented this scenario to Mollema and Yates while they lined up for the start they’d have signed up faster than the tide gallops across the bay of Mont St. Michel. They’d each love to win the race outside but this is an asymmetric contest where they’re surely more worried about falling down the overall classification than they are climbing up it. Like it or not – and you surely don’t – the combination of publicity and ranking points make a high placing something worth defending. Mollema and Trek must crave that photo of the Champs Elysées podium. The same for Adam Yates and Orica-BikeExchange and both have staying power, they might fear the dreaded jours sans but have shown abilities in the third week of grand tours to suggest they won’t fade away.

Quintana Ventoux

Nairo Quintana is in fourth place at 2m59s and will not be satisfied with this, he’s unlikely to set up camp and defend this position. However has got the ability to do anything about it? He doesn’t look like he’s got it but we’ve not got much to go on. He has been run ragged by the Mistral wind, most visible in the time trial where he lost 125 seconds but surely he paid a price on the other stages too such as the stage to Mont Ventoux where the wind was slicing the bunch to pieces.

Movistar are probably the only team capable of unlocking the race but don’t look strong. While Team Sky luxuriously deploy their workers on a shift pattern around Froome with some days on and other days off – not a novel policy – Movistar have had to use climbers on flat stages to shelter Quintana and look how they suffered on the Col du Berthiand, the first climb of last Sunday’s stage in the Jura mountains where Jesus Herrada abandoned and Winner Anacona, normally a crack climber, was dropped. Alejandro Valverde is promising but has been playing a conservative role in the service of Quintana.

Some people say “why don’t Movistar do this or that” but the Tour de France is a bike race and it’s important to remember this from time to time. It not Pro Cycling Manager, neither chess where team manager Eusebio Unzué can place his pawns on the board at will. For Movistar to break up the race on the flank of the Grand Colombier they’d have burned through riders and if Quintana attacked he’d find Chris Froome sitting on his wheel, all while knowing Froome has been climbing and time trialling better. In other words Quintana would know he could be countered and distanced.

Astana are another team that could try something only they look even more underwhelming than we’ve used to, the baby blue team are not as visible as normal. They did try to stir things on Sunday but it led to Fabio Aru’s brief attack, a move surely launched too early on the climb to be significant. Meanwhile in an interview with Nibali, L’Equipe mentions a possible launch date for Nibali’s new Bahrain team on 7 August, there’s no news during the Tour.

Away from the overall classification to a different kind of ranking and Mark Cavendish looks set to leave the race today. If so he goes home with four stage wins to take his career total of Tour de France stages to 30. This is bringing comparisons with Eddy Merckx as Cavendish closes in on Merckx’s record of 34. However this is an unsatisfying comparison, at best a wonderful record to have but fundamentally an exercise in arithmetic. Both are different riders in different times so comparisons are awkward. Cavendish arguably the greatest sprinter of all time even the passage of time and the retrospect of history will settle this. He is certainly among the pantheon of great sprinters and has won almost everything possible and in the case of the Tour de France, won everything several times over. Arguably the only things missing now are Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Tours although easier said than done given these races have been tweaked for TV with more hills thrown in. Can Cavendish surpass Merckx’s record? Yes but look at André Greipel, the sprint hero of the Tour a year ago and now floundering in the sprints.

Ag2r La Mondiale have announced an extension of their sponsorship to 2020, on top of the contract that went to 2018. They’re not big budget but they’ve got a clever set up with long term financial backing and an U23 feeder team that produces some of France’s best riders, it’s brought on Romain Bardet and the promising Pierre Latour and there’s a promising pipeline too. The feeder team requires riders to spend part of their time in education as well as racing.

The road ahead: the week ahead is very promising with a collection of hard stages that feature some of the Alps more unusual climbs. Just as you cannot reinvent the wheel you cannot pick roads out of nowhere but plenty of novel climbs await.

  • Tomorrow’s Stage 17 has summit finish at the Emosson dam was used in the 2014 Critérium du Dauphiné and is arguably as hard as Mont Ventoux only it comes right after the HC-rated Col de la Forclaz and there’s more climbing before
  • Stage 18 is a 17km time trial, most of it uphill and with a couple of surprises on the slopes
  • Stage 19 has a cruel uphill start uses a lot of small secondary roads in the first half of the stage, fingers crossed it’s ambush country but if not it’ll reward the breakaways on the way to the Le Bettex ski station but there’s no ski station main road approach, they take a short cut at the start with a very irregular, steep road
  • Stage 20 (pictured) is up and down all the time and finishes with two tough climbs each with their awkward descents; the descent of the Col de la Ramaz has been closed to traffic at times but fingers-crossed the race can pass.

Will the yellow-jersey change? It’s possible but seems unlikely and since it’s hot on the rest day how’s this for a cold shower: the climbs above are hard but the valley sections in between suit a rider with a strong team. Still the rest of the top-10 could be like herding cats as riders try to claw back time. If – big if – Quintana gets back in the game he’ll fancy a podium finish at least and seems the only rider in the top-1o capable of reversing the situation but this is highly conditional and he could be fading. Richie Porte was looking strong on Mont Ventoux and could also move back up to prove just how ruinous one puncture can be. Dan Martin will be interesting to follow if only to see if he can maintain into the third week and was Fabio Aru’s flurry on Sunday the sigh of returning confidence?

Chris Froome
Nairo Quintana
Richie Porte, Bauke Mollema, Adam Yates
Romain Bardet

116 thoughts on “Tour de France Rest Day Review”

  1. Most are not complaining that the Tour is boring, bu that the GC ‘contest’ is boring.
    You say ‘there’s plenty of racing to go’, but do any of us really believe that there will be much racing for the GC?
    We haven’t seen much from them yet. Fair enough Yates and Mollema, that’s understandable.
    Movistar have tried nothing – from the beginning: before they were weakened. No excuses.
    If Froome did lose it from getting sick that wouldn’t make the others look any better.

    • Movistar have tried three things that I can think of, all before they were weakened by the loss of Herrada.

      They ran the train on stage 5, which maybe where the photo above comes from. They put two strong men in the break on the Arcalis stage then sent Valverde up to bridge to them, dropping Contador on the way. And Quintana attacked twice on the lower slopes of Mont Ventoux.

      In the first attempt it burned out their riders with little or no effect on anybody else; the second attempt failed when Sky gathered their forces off the first mountain and hunted down the break with Stannard, Kiriyenka and Rowe; the third attempt got a few metres each time before being reeled in with only Dan Martin being dropped from the chasing group.

      It is not a case of ‘tried nothing … no excuses’. It is a case of ‘tried some things that have not worked and not been good enough’. Yet. They still have four days to keep trying.

      • Don’t really agree with you Eusebio. When they sent men ahead Sky just let the break go making the guys in front functionally useless. Sky in general have been happy for breaks as it mops up bonus seconds.

      • The train was a waste of time – completely the wrong place to do it, as was obvious at the time.
        Those Movistar riders have never been used as a bridge – just to get team GC points.
        Valverde sat up when he broke away and went back to the peloton.
        Quintana’s attacks – his only time – failed.

    • Movistar saying they’re weakened by loss of Herrada is nothing but pure excuses.

      They clearly have barely attacked. They say they are “trying” to attack, but trying doesn’t mean anything.

      • You aren’t understanding that the finish line of the race is in Paris, the race is a cornucopia of UCI points, and the result IN Paris will make or break getting a contract next year for many riders.

        Any efforts made so far have not pressured Froome/Sky at all. So, riders settle in and hang on as best they can waiting for an opportunity that probably won’t come.

        • And what do UCI points count for when there aren’t enough teams to fill the WorldTour?

          Not that Movistar would ever have to worry about that anyway. And they are the only team I am complaining about.

        • The race finishes in Paris?!? Oh, really…. thanks bud.

          Right, and Quintana’s career will be made if he wins in Paris, not if he continues to finish 2nd, 3rd or 4th. I think I understand the race dynamics pretty well, thanks. You pointed out the exact problem – Quintana’s just sitting in, while he has Valverde at his disposal, but he’s also just sitting in. It’s ridiculous.

  2. Yates will surely stick at it for a podium and Mollema is more likely to want to hold than attack. Getting on the podium for either would be an amazing achievement, if for differing reasons. The Froome/Quintana thing is deja vu except Sky are stronger and the Colombian apparently weaker. So no change there then. Froome’s ace in the hole is the time trial on stage 18 where he will surely gain more time even if on the other closing stages he rides defensively and parcels out his efforts. Hard to see anything but a Froome win for a man now 5th all-time in the table marked “Days in the Yellow Jersey”. A better stat though is that Quintana has never yet worn it.

  3. Still four stages to go so a bit early to draw conclusions, however for me the big difference is partly Froome’s sheer desire to win but mostly team strategy. Sky have been very clear focusing on Chris Froome winning, there is no plan B or distractions. Everyone else either has multiple objectives or has not picked the right team. Yes it could still go wrong but the difference really shows.

  4. Serious question, not insinuation. Why is Froome so good in the Tour? Currently there isn’t a rider to come close, and there doesn’t seem to be a chink in his armour – this year he’s been the fastest climber, TTer, descender, he’s unaffected by wind, he even places high in sprint finishes.
    For a rider who seems to struggle in almost any other race but his “Tour prep” Romandie/Dauphine, it just seems a bit weird. Again, I’m not insinuating, it’s just weird. Contador was amazing in the Pais Vasco, Quintana in the Catalunya, say, Nibali set alight the Lombardia, the Tour of Oman etc, Valverde is strong all season. But Froome can seemingly only manage the Tour, but when he does do it, he makes everyone else look like amateurs. It’s bizarre!

    • Careful Kit, the internet bedroom conspiracy theorists are just waiting for an opportunity like this. I agree though, its a fascinating question. His legs on the podium look like two small twigs. Mr Puniverse would be jealous!

      • I don’t think it’s about internet bedroom conspiracies. We all know how deep doping went and plenty of us think it still goes very deep. The “days in the yellow jersey” rankings top 5 contain 3 people to my knowledge who definitely doped (Merckx, Anquetil, Armstrong), so in some ways it’s an ugly crowd to be part of, even if a rider is a saint.
        I simply meant that I’d like to understand what the difference is independently of a discussion of doping. Perhaps I’ve said too much & feel free to delete comments if this derails things.

      • Team Sky marginal gains approach – cover all bases, leave nothing to chance. As for puny legs, every podium photo I’ve seen of him this year has had me thinking how BIG his thighs are!

    • This comment may only stand until tomorrow afternoon but…

      Here’s the thing. This has not been a vintage year – so far – for Froome climbing in the mountains. There’s been no stage like up to Pierre St Martin last year, or Ax 3 Domaines in 2013, where he has dropped all his rivals by 1 min or so.
      Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t need to, or because of the type of climbs we’ve had so far. It doesn’t seem to be his form, based upon the rest of the race, but it is strange.

      The real differentiating performance has come in the TT, as well as his opportunistic attacks on a descent and in to the wind.

        • Thank you. Finally, someone points out what we were deprived of by that crash – a further Froome attack. There’s been lots said about hope Froome was lucky to get the time back he originally lost – I thought he was unlucky in that the crash deprived him of an opportunity to put more time into Quintana (on a day when Quintana had already shown he was clearly struggling).

        • Perhaps, but when the accident happened the time difference was being reduced (it has been calculated from video footage that the real time difference in that moment was about 11″). We don’t know what was going to happen later, but we know exactly what was happening in that specific moment.
          Hard to imagine that he was going to put 1′ into the rest in those 1500 mts. or so…
          Besides, I doubt that any lifetime form would have ever allowed Mollema to get back to Froome launched in a Ax3 Domaines / LPSM attack.

      • That ITT, too, made a factual time difference, but wasn’t really devastating, if you consider the extra advantage which heavier riders were granted by the presence of the wind (and, yes, it was a hilly TT, but way less so than the Chorges one in 2013, for example).
        I’d say that Froome either has really switched his prep towards the third week, and in that case we’ll start to see him sealing the GC with some serious attack tomorrow, or he hasn’t been as strong as in previous years, which might mean troubles in the next stages. Who knows…
        For sure, I’m in a tight spot as a fan: obviously, I’m rooting for Quintana, but I’m afraid that if the waiting game gets eventually rewarded, we might see more of this slop in years to come!, whereas Froome has been at least minimally proactive – albeit the bullying boss style is helping me to keep my “integrity as a fan”, refraining myself from switching sides and starting supporting him eh eh eh 😛

    • I think it massively helps Froome that he is Sky’s number 1 rider on a team which views the Tour as the number 1 priority (well above anything else). Not only is his season entirely tracked around that but also that of his team, including the other riders on the squad and all the background work that comes along. I’m not sure you can say that many other teams are all-in like that, even setting aside the seeming budgetary discrepancies. For sure, riders like Quintana and Aru have been targeting the Tour. But Astana sent a good squad off to the Giro to support Nibali and Movistar – even if they had a superb Tour – would need to be visible and strong at the Vuelta. Other GC teams have brought sprinters or other leads. (e.g. OBE with Matthews, Tinko with Sagan). Downside is that – as happened a few years ago when Froome got injured and pulled out – your season looks rather emptier. For him, along with many others whose Tours and seasons look fallow, that means a trip to the last chance GC saloon of the Vuelta.

    • Froome never will do well in Catalunya/Pais Vasco because usually at least one or two stages (if not most of the race) are cold and/or wet. These aren’t conditions he favours in terms of temperature. Froome has said before that he likes it hot. He has also placed well in the Vuelta of course and arguably should have won it.

        • RonDe has a point.
          Froome sometimes did well despite the rain and the cold (Romandie 2014, for example? But I could be wrong).

          Yet the situation you remember, hoh, was Andalucía, very hot and dry, like Oman (where Froome collected a couple of short stage rage victories – which are the ones against the most qualified competition, in his relative palmarés).

          As a side point (without any meaning for the subject that is being tackled), he beat Contador by 2″, which is as legitimate a victory as any else, but which shows that he wasn’t *hugely* better in terms of form. He also took advantage of a situation in which Contador rode quite *prodigally*, not thinking too much about the effectiveness in terms of final result.

    • Not bizarre in the least. Sky has assembled the best GC support team money can buy. Period.

      Sure, Froome could be a contender on a lesser team – he’s got the skills. But surrounded by Henao, Kiryenka, Landa, Nieve, Poels, Rowe, Stannard and Thomas? Good lord – that’s an all-star lineup. Not a weak ling in the bunch. Sky is doped to the gills on $$$.

      • ‘Sky is doped to the gills on $$$…’ always an interesting one, as it carries the connotation that they are doing something illegal or underhand……this sport has found itself in a strange spot where success on or off the bike is as much despised as celebrated. I’m not sure there is another sport quite like it.
        They didn’t steal the money, they earned it didn’t they?

        • There’s also the fact that their budget is only a few million higher than Katusha or BMC. So either Sky are really good at spending and allocating it or Katusha and BMC are really bad?

          • Even bearing in mind the pinches of salt that INRNG recommends we take with our discussions on team budgets, a couple of million probably covers the salaries of the mountain train we have seen railing up the inclines these past few weeks.

          • This definitely helps. In any of the major international pro sports, 2 or 3M doesn’t buy a lot of talent, but in cycling, that could easily be 4-7 top climbing domestiques.

          • CA/STS: the going rate for a good mountain domestique is double that, even seven figures in some cases with generous teams like Sky, Astana because to have someone capable of regularly being in the front group on the final climb of a mountain stage in a grand tour and then sacrifice their chances for a leader is a very exclusive role.

    • Because his whole focus is on one race. Everything he does is aimed towards winning the TdF. training programme, race schedule even diet. A couple of years back he made some noises about missing the Tour to take on the Giro which stopped pretty rapidly. The TdF is by far the biggest race and it is the one all the sponsors want exposure in so they expect those with the biggest pay cheques to be there. As recent years have shown a Giro / Tour double seems not to be a good idea (though Valverde is doing OK this year). Doing the Vuelta after the Tour seems possible though again recently doing well in the Tour seems to preclude doing well in the Vuelta. Chris Froome is very fortunate to have an employer who is happy to see him pretty much focus on one race, most (perhaps all other) teams can not afford to do that

      • and yet I have a feeling that if Froome managed a Giro win then it would not satisfy the naysayers. it would be incredible to see him try next year, 100th edition and all. i assume it will be absolutely brutal.

    • …….this comment makes no sense – you haven’t done your research….. Froome wins or is a favourite for or places highly almost every non-one day race he contests? He generally chooses Dauphine/Romandie (&wins) but most of those you noting as him doing badly in he has either not entered, or won in a different year or had a reason for missing out (illness/crash) – see Oman and Catalunya victories below.

      Valverde and Nibali are just better at one day races. Nothing weird in that. Maybe he’ll change as he career goes on and it’s lack of focus rather than talent. But The above isn’t really a question it’s a mistake.

      1st Overall Tour de Romandie
      1st Overall Critérium du Dauphiné
      1st Overall Tour of Oman
      1st Overall Critérium International
      2nd Overall Tirreno–Adriatico

      1st Overall Tour of Oman
      1st Overall Tour de Romandie
      2nd Overall Vuelta a España
      6th Overall Volta a Catalunya

      1st Overall Tour de France
      1st Overall Critérium du Dauphiné
      1st Overall Vuelta a Andalucía
      3rd Overall Tour de Romandie

      • Oh my, seeing it exposed like that drives home the fact, that he really has not much of a Palmares. And no, n-Tour de France and Dauphine-wins don’t equal a great Palmares. Really not. That’s fine, focus is elswhere. Just important not to confuse the two things.

        • Seriously winning the Tour de France does not equal a great Palmares?
          Maybe you are confusing a great Palmares with your own more narrow definition, I assume victories in one day monuments.

          • Great Palmares means winning a lot of different races throughout your career. There is no such thing as a TdF win equals everything else . Unless you make that rule up for your private views. Which wont match with the rest of the cyling world.

      • @dave
        Perhaps you should do some deeper research too, besides a mere list of final results.
        As showed in detail on this website some time ago (right after the Giro), Froome tended to win short stage races when the opposition wasn’t really at it.

        It’s not pure chance that he’s won a lot at the Dauphiné which is typically deemed as counterproductive in terms of Tour preparations. Good for him that Sky elaborated a preparation including a fine peak in Dauphiné, but it’s not a race where the competition is as high as in Tirreno-Adriatico or even Romandie.

        If we consider the level of the competitors involved, Valverde and Contador are hugely superior to Froome in terms of victories in short stage races, as is Quintana. Froome is more or less on Nibali’s level – thanks to his victory in last Dauphiné (which wasn’t included in the statistics I worked out in that moment).

        Even if we don’t want to consider the competition, Tour de France apart he won two Romandie and three Dauphiné, in terms of relevant short stage races.

        That’s less in terms of quantity, quality and variety than what Quintana or Contador have got, comparable in terms of quality but inferior both in quantity and variety to Valverde’s results in short stage races; finally, it’s slightly superior to Nibali in terms of quantity, comparable in quality and similar in variety.

        Which means that we’re left with the same final result… even if we don’t even start to think about the fact that the others guy have fared *pretty well* in other GTs, too.
        Not to speak of one-day races.

        • +1 gabriele, this is sort of how I’m seeing it too.
          Take Valverde, even when he doesn’t win he’s consistently up there. In the Tour Froome seems to never be less than 15th, often much higher; but any other race and he’s often nowhere to be seen. It’s not just about overall GC placing, he demonstrates a level of race command in the Tour that he just doesn’t seem to show elsewhere, and why with so many stage wins can’t he do one-day races? I know they’re very different things, but virtually every other GC contender is capable of at least showing well in these.
          And it really only goes so far with the “he’s got a strong team” stuff. He has an incredibly strong team, who are incredibly disciplined, but at the same time we’ve all seen teams that are struggling with a weak leader. Landa springs to mind, hauling Aru along and champing at the bit, (although Aru later displayed excellent form); or Froome himself, making Wiggins look bad in 2012. But Froome is the real deal, he’s plainly *personally* strong rather than just team-supported, as his TT performance shows and his uphill attacks bear out.

    • In which race he did before the Tour did he “struggle”, exactly? All I see is a bunch of wins, no struggle in sight.

      In one of them he had a mechanical on a crucial climb, so he rolled in easy and won the queen stage next day.

      • No time for me today, but you people should stop spreading false information. It really harms the average quality of the debate.

    • It’s also worth noteing that Froome’s entire year is now focused on the Tour. This year he came in with a little less racing so he’d ride into fitness so to keep a little fresher in the last week. Every TdeF Froome has done is built on what he learnt the previous time, he adapts and learns to be stronger and make it more difficult for others to exploit any weakness he has previously shown.

    • In previous years he has had more to prove in terms of team leadership ability and also internal politics vs Wiggins. He needed to win those week long races to give himself and the team confidence. Now he is into the prime years of his career, he has no need to do that. In fact it is better for him to step back and allow his lieutenants a chance at a win to build better team cohesion. He also had some bad luck in Romandie this year. In terms of one day races with his descending and sprinting surprises in this tour and increasingly more agrressive racing style he is starting to look more and more like someone who could actually win in the Ardennes and Lombardy, perhaps even MSR. Whether Sky have the tactical ability to deliver that with him I’m still not sure, eg this year’s LBL was an unusual edition. Alternatively he has cybertronic quads and green blood, who knows?

      • Froome has zero form in one day races and has a far worse sprint than the likes of D. Martin, Valverde, Kwiatkowski, Alaphilippe and so on.
        Froome’s advantage is on long climbs – far longer than on one day races.
        As for him having a hope of winning MSR…

    • This is in no way shape or form linking by doping, but could the same have been said of Armstrong? His focus was the tour, and a few other week stage races? So the pattern for Froome is very similar in terms of all in, and very best team for the tour, but rest of the year he uses for preparation and invariably his strongest teammates are off elsewhere getting glory themselves, eg Thomas in the Suisse. (It’s in my opinion that he gets to the wins in a different way to Lance, but the pattern of focusing on one trophy is similar)

      • I think many of the brand new British fans–since 2012!–don’t recognize how much of what they say is what Armstrong/Postal themselves, or their defenders, said.

        • (I’m not making the accusation that Sky is doping like Postal. I’m pointing out the irony of Sky’s defenders, trying to defend Sky against doping allegations by comparison to Postal, ending up saying all the same sorts of things as Armstrong/Postal defenders.)

    • “For a rider who seems to struggle in almost any other race”

      There’s your problem, he doesn’t seem to struggle in those races.

      I am genuinely struggling to think of him ‘struggling’ in any stage race. At the Vuelta after winning the Tour, perhaps, but that can be explained by tiredness. A year or two ago he beat Contador in literally every race the two of them entered in the run up to the Tour (and then won the Tour itself).

      Sure, like any rider, there has been the occasional race where he’s been put out of contention due to illness or mechanicals, but usually when he rides a race he either wins it, or is close to winning it.

      • I’ll help you with your – allow me to say, pretty poor – memory.

        You would have been right if you had said that “almost any other race” is a bit exaggerated, yet Froome is indeed struggling in about one half of the stage races he enters, and in pretty much every one day race.
        Which means that, TdF apart, even excluding his pre-2012 years, he’s still struggling in the *majority* of the “races” (one or more days) he actually competes in.
        If we were to exclude the immediate preparation for the TdF, he’d be really struggling in “almost any other race”. But I wouldn’t go that far anyway.

        He was far from winning in…
        Tour de Romandie 2016 (people should watch the stage before spreading “mechanicals” cheap talk and lies). Volta a Catalunya 2016 (can’t remember the specific excuse).
        He struggled in half of the other races he entered before the Tour, and Dauphiné apart we’re speaking of HST ^__^
        Exactly the same goes for 2015, just switch HST with Andalucía (a more serious race, indeed, but not a top one, either).
        Same rate for 2014, but he fared well in Romandie and blatantly failed in Dauphiné. The prep race this time was Oman. Struggling in half of the stage races, again.
        2013 was the exception, doing great in most races he entered before the Tour, still being pushed against the ropes in Tirreno-Adriatico.
        In 2012 his only decent GC performance was the Tour. Before 2012 he was a different rider, I’d dare to say (or we should really admit that he’s struggled in most races he entered during his *whole* career).
        At the Vuelta he was always more than decent, but at the same time hugely far from his Tour levels, whether he had done the Tour before or not. Which means that’s a race which is suited to his characteristics, but he never could express himself as when he’s perfectly polished… towards the TdF.

        • So basically you’re saying that he ‘struggled’ in races he wasn’t necessarily targeting to win.

          Whatever. I see in another comment you try to claim that doing well in the Dauphiné is usually counterproductive – totally ignoring the fact that in recent history the winner of the TdF has always done well at the Dauphiné. I’m not even going to bother trying to argue with that kind of mindset.

          • Gabriele isn’t trying to “claim” anything. Like Gabriele helped you with your -not very good – memory, I’ll help you with the missing knowledge:Read about the correlation between Dauphine and Tour and the belief/evidence that racing the Dauphine is bad, if you want to fo good in the Tour(here on this blog, in every book about cycling history). This is common, absolutely basic cycling history knowledge.

            It is very good for you, that you saw yourself, that you shouldn’t argue with anyone without the needed knowledge and memory.

          • Perhaps I didn’t explain myself well out of sheer irritation – truth is that it’s quite depressing to read again the same silly story, like: “in one of them [Romandie] he had a mechanical on a crucial climb, so he rolled in easy and won the queen stage next day” after having debunked it a few days ago.

            Sure, people don’t have to watch races neither do they need to read everything which is posted here, but it’s still annoying to see them writing on the subject without having the slightest idea.

            I mean, Froome had a mechanical (I’m not doubting about that, just in case it’s what you understood), but he tried very hard and very long to get to a not-so-fast-climbing peloton and failed, despite being already among the cars. That’s not “rolling in easy”. The next day he wasn’t a GC contender anymore, hence they let him go in a break – and “he won the queen stage” by a handful of seconds.

        • Have you been drinking too much vino Gabriele? Froome had a mechanical in Romandie 2016. This was the sole cause of him falling off GC. Any false rumours of yours that he was struggling are put to bed by the fact he won the Queen Stage of the race very soon after! Without the mechanical at exactly the wrong time he would have undoubtedly challenged for the win.

          In the Dauphine 2014 he famously crashed and gave himself some new scars which, I don’t doubt, physically affected him for the rest of the race.

          By all means give another point of view. But, please, not a jaundiced and blatantly see through one.

          • @ RonDe
            Froome did have a mechanical, but gabriele is right that he struggled to get back on. If you watch the video, it’s plain that he was trying hard to get back on. He was off the pace that day. There’s nothing wrong with that, or suspicious, loads of riders have a jour sans, poor Porte is famous for his. But this is definitely what happened here, he didn’t lose 17 minutes to a mechanical and a sudden change of plan. We’ve seen lots of examples of Froome fighting to get back on and succeeding brilliantly, like his chain drop/Nibali attack last year.

        • @ Gabriele et al
          lots of de ja vu today.
          You are picking your facts on stage races.
          Yes, Valverde and Nibali have both great Palmares on one day races, but in stage races, since 2012, Froome is significantly better then all the others.
          Lets look at ALL HC and WT stage races.
          – Froome has 22 races, won 40%, podium in 60%
          – Contador has 19 races, won 36%, podium in 58%
          – Quintana has 20 races, won 25%, podium in 45%
          – Nibali has 23 races, won 21%, podium in 39%
          Besides, Froome has raced 14x vs at least 3 of top 5 stage racers. contador 13, Quintana and Nibali 10.
          Those are all the data… you can argue that Nibali prefers other races and whatever, but in stage racing Froome is above them all since 2012
          Nibali if wasnt for the Giro (I wont question if was luck or not), since his TdF win in 14 his best result is a 4th in TdF 15. His other 8 results te best position was a 5 in Romandie.
          Below Nibali results in stage races since TdF 14 (in brakets Froome result):
          – 7 in Dauphine (12)
          – 5 Romandie (1)
          – 21 Paris-Nice
          – 12 Oman (1)
          – 12 Dauphine (1)
          – 10 Romandie (3)
          – 16 Tirreno Adriatico
          Only 3 times Nibali finished a stage race ahead of Froome (TdF 14, Dauphine 14, Tirreno 13) vs 8 for Froome
          He wins head to head vs any of the top racers.
          I understand that many dont like the guy… I just dont understand why we dont recognize him for his achievements. He is the best stage racer since 2012, with the best results.

    • For a rider who seems to struggle in almost any other race but his “Tour prep” Romandie/Dauphine, it just seems a bit weird.

      Someone should ask Riis or Armstrong, or Landis, or Rasmussen how they did almost the exact same thing.

      • Yeah, I read that. Very interesting for Lemond to point this out in public. The question begs to be asked, but in 2026 will we look back with a completely clear understanding of what is happening – and will we still be praising Team Sky or is it going Postal?!?

        • In hindsight, Postal and LA’s biggest misstep was how blatant an sloppy they were.

          Any ruthless, cheating, professional sports team that is going to succeed, is not going to make those mistakes. So, we will most likely never know. In addition, the UCI’s tactics seem to be PR related and WADA and the IOC have just revealed to the world how politically malleable they truly are.

          All Pro sports seem to be following the lead of Pro Wrestling; entertaining (if you go for that), but fake.

    • Kit, Froome has great results in other races.
      Of course, as he focus TdF, there will be the best results.
      But since 2011, you can add:
      – 2nd at Vuelta 2x
      – 1st Criterium
      – 1st Oman 2x
      – 2nd Tirreno Adriatico (lost to Nibali in a crazy late attack)
      + Andalucia and Dubai
      Out of 22 WT and HC stage races he won 9 and was podium in other 4.
      His podium % is 59%. For comparison Contador has 58%, Quintana 45% and Nibali 39%

  5. As you gaze out to the Alps from your base, Inrng, perhaps give a thought to these words from Tolkien :
    “Far over the misty mountains cold
    To dungeons deep and caverns old
    We must away ere break of day
    To seek the pale enchanted gold”

    Not written about a cycle race obviously but there lies the same golden promise over the horizon.
    And the inspiration for Tolkien’s Misty Mountains was a childhood trek in the Swiss Alps.

    • Let’s hope there are no dragons in the mountains guarding the gold, or maybe not, Smaug is more likely to animate the race than Sky and co.

        • Astana and Tinkoff tried but both failed, now that Tink is off (blatant steal from Mr Ring) and Contador is out Astana is the only team that remains. Maybe Movistar will try something again this week but I doubt will see any fireworks from them.

  6. Froome is always coughing in interviews, I wouldn’t read too much into that!

    Last interview I heard with Cav had him talking about sprinting in Paris.

    • Same here. I find it bizzare that Cav would go home today – why not a few days ago, given he had no intention of going for yesterday’s stage?

    • Aaaarrgghh, he’s dropped out! Tough call. Knowing how much he loves the tour, but it’s a question of mathematics: there are four times as many tours as there are Olympics. 31 tour stages and no Olympic gold or 30 stages with a better chance of success in Rio…

      What’s equally annoying is how accurately INRNG predicted it this morning!

    • And not only in sports but also elsewhere…think Braveheart 😉
      I for one cannot hear a bagpipe without thinking defeat – glorious perhaps but defeat nonetheless.

    • Schalke could probably be considered the Raymond Poulidor of the German Bundesliga. Often close but no cigar. AFAIK, in their history they have been second nine times and in the last 16 years, they finished 11 times in the top 5. Yet, their last title was in 1958 😉

      If the concept of the moral winner equally applies in football, there are quite a lot of non-local fans Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United, etc. Then again maybe Froome has equally as many fans due to his success at the TdF. Not sure… 🙂

      • Yes, you are right. Everything has two sides: There are those that can identify themselves with the not winning side (to avoid “loser”), with the underdogs, the unlucky ones, the robbed ones and there are those who can identify with the (perceived) strongest, richest team, rider, player, just because of the power they wield. Maybe simplified: Romanticism vs Materialism (can find no good word for it)?

        It is very interesting, this emotional need for fairness, when this “fairness” can’t really be identified and in truth will never exist. But the most fascinating part is that life writes indeed such stories for real. I mean, come on, in a movie we would doubt a script delievering us this story – yet it has happened. And there are much more curious stories out there, of course.

      • I think people in some cultures naturally reach out to those who make themselves emotionally available and show weakness. Conversely, people who don’t are repelled and their failures enjoyed. Nibali cries after winning a stage of the Giro. He talks about how he might leave the race. He bares his soul (or at least gives the perception of doing so). Froome appears distant. He only display emotion when angry or if he thinks something is unfair. He show no weakness. He politely talks about the race not being over and stages being very hard, but its very hard to see through to a steely determination and a deep self belief. Publicly checking himself into a rehab clinic in the off season after falling of the wagon would very likely improve his popularity – sad, but (in my view) true.

        I’m not sure, but my impression is that all of the above might not apply to the USA culture though.

        • Excellent observation. You’re right. Large parts of USA seem to have fully embraced the right of the strongest and the winner takes it all. But the winner takes it all means in truth: The loser gets nothing.

          Personally this isn’t a world I would want to live in – neither as winner, nor as loser. But I see with deep worry that many adapt that, which only leads to ever more divides and opposing sides in the world instead of “we all are on this rock in space together, so let’s look after it, that we all can live as good as possible”. It is frightening and depressing at times.

  7. The racing should get more interesting since the top 5 will now have to defend their positions but let us hope that someone will put into practice the saying that you can’t win unless you learn how to lose.
    Movistar have to go all in…

    On a tangential rest day note, why is the yellow jersey forced to wear the organisers brand? Seems like another odd cycling plutocracy.

    • “On a tangential rest day note, why is the yellow jersey forced to wear the organisers brand? Seems like another odd cycling plutocracy.”

      Indeed – its definitely not beyond the realms of Rapha or any of the other suppliers to make a duplicate/replica kit that’s nominally identical but made of their own fabrics and templates.
      On a related note, it’s a nice touch of Tinkoff to get Sagan his own green jersey transfer with the World Champion stripes at the bottom.

  8. Send a Movistar guy in the break, don’t relay
    Have all the helpers protect Quintana and Valverde all day and carry bottles
    In the penultimate climb, dot Quintana and Valv up the climb while protected at 84 effort
    Descend using Valverde at 99 infinte relay until the flat comes, use helper from the break to pull.
    Quintana dot 84 up the final climb with Valverde protecting him, dot 99 when Valverde is spent.

    Win, PCM style.

  9. Speaking of where Movistar have attacked, how about a discussion where they haven’t. Should they have put the foot down when Froome pulled over after his team mates crashed on the approach to Ventoux?

    I think they should have and Froome’s act was itself a disrespect to the respect shown to the yellow jersey. People should wait for the yellow jersey, but not for his team mates.

    • it looked a clever bit of use of the jersey to me – Froome pulled straight over for a comfort break, conveniently timed for his boys to pick themselves off the tarmac… so attacking the yellow jersey while he took a comfort break could have been dressed up as ‘unsporting’ and against those unwritten rules. Possibly a bit too ‘clever’ from Froome, but he got away with it.
      I suppose you could argue that if you earn the jersey, you earn the small advantages that it conveys…

      • No, he didn’t, more like he took the piss.

        Racing had already started, it might have meant nothing to his position but the guys racing in the top ten who had split off some of their rivals in the crosswinds were certainly not happy about their hard work coming to naught because Froome didn’t want to leave without his bodyguards. Damn close to abuse of the yellow jersey.

      • Yeah, on a relative short descent, followed by a flat part. Nobody take a piss there in a normal race situation!
        Unless your mates just crashed 2 corners ago.

        • As Gabriel points out above, it’s never as simple as just looking at one event and extrapolating from that without taking a closer look.

          For the previous 10k the work at the front had been done by Sky and Orica. Neither were going to be continuing on so somebody else would have to take over. All of the other faves had helpers in the group behind and therefore wouldn’t have been to bothered with it catching up. Orica had been driving for Yates as Menjties and Barguil were in the chasing group. Once Gerrans went down that strategy went out the door. Froome stopping was convenient for a number of teams including Astana and Movi.

  10. Racing is about finding who is fastest, right? Up a hill, over a stage, over a week, over three weeks. I’m hardly Froome’s biggest fan but if he’s the best in the race, surely it’s normal that he gradually builds up an advantage over the course of the race: or rather – takes a few little gaps here and there while his challengers fall away.

  11. I personally can’t see anyone getting near Froome. He is the strongest rider but more than that his team is incredibly strong. In terms of a team that’s sole purpose is to win the GC on a hilly parcours they may be the best I’ve ever seen. I think Sky were a better all round team in 2012 as they were a bit more multi purpose.

  12. TDF is once again far behind Giro and Vuelta when it comes to emotions, changes in GC, changes during the race, fight for yellow. It’s because TDF mountain stages are useless. French love unproductive stages like 20th with downhill finish. What it serves for? Let’s say someone attacked on the uphill, went full throttle…. he will be easily reeled by 15 riders on the downhill. What is the sense of stages like that and what is the sense of creating such “mountain”stages? I believe just to break down sprinters. Let’s go further. Mountain top finishes this year? Two? One already de facto cancelled. Some would say, downhill finish stage with Froome 2nd was exciting. Yes, but just because Froome did something illogical and attacked there, gaining… 6 seconds, otherwise it would be another useless stage! Hope for big battle in the Alps, but again, these stages with their profiles give easy way to SKY to just defend and BLOCK every attack that comes from the TOP 10 so if you expect big battle in TOP10… Forget it, SKY will block everything unless Froome dies on one of those uphills and spectacle will begin then. Somehow Italians and Spaniards have creativity, prepare stages for big battles, but here…. Anyway I will be more than happy to come back here in the next days saying “I was totally wrong and it was a stage beyond my imagination”.

    • No, you’re not getting it. Mountain-top finishes, especially lots of them, is what kills the show, as everybody saves for the last 2kms. Mind you, the last (splendid) Giro had few mountain-top finishes, and the best, and most decisive stages had the biggest climb far the finish. Last year, the decisive Vuelta stage was broken over the Morcuera, far from the (downhill) finish.
      But what you had in both cases, is a leader that was not protected by a strong team.

      • I’m so tired of “mountain top finishes kill the show”, “no descent finishes”, “no, it’s the short uphills in Vuelta” discussions.
        How comes we saw all these same finishes in other times ending with great racing? Did climate change something to the mountains? No, it’s the riders and the style they’re racing nowadays, race radios and stem watching on power metres. Without that shit riders just gone on attacks on penultimate climbs, and the stage was a real race on the same mountain finishes they just ride together today, only to try to get minor gains in last 2k.

  13. “Richie Porte was looking strong on Mont Ventoux and could also move back up to prove just how ruinous one puncture can be. Dan Martin will be interesting to follow if only to see if he can maintain into the third week and was Fabio Aru’s flurry on Sunday the sigh of returning confidence?”

    This is very interesting, considering out of the “contenders” mentioned, the only one who could follow Froome and Porte on Ventoux was Bauke Mollema. Oh yea, and then he beat everyone except Froome in the time trial. He has more of a shot of keeping his podium place then Aru or Dan “I get spit out the back every stage” Martin

  14. I know Quintana does well in the third week, but I always find that suspicious. I also find it weird that Movistar seem so certain that he will find his climbing legs then.
    Surely they should really be ‘hoping’ for a good day. The third week is not the place to find form and his worrying.

      • So you don’t think it unusual a rider finds form in the third week of a Grand Tour? I’m trying to think of another top rider who miraculously improves in the same way Quintana has, and I can think of no one, except Virenque and Pantani…..though they really ‘rested’ on the flats.

        I was right about them too, and Armstrong.

  15. “Cavendish arguably the greatest sprinter of all time”…
    Tight fight, at least if we speak of modern, “pure” sprinters – and I’d still go with Cipollini (for now).

    No need to say that if a richer dimension of the concept of “sprinter” was to be preferred (I’d dare to say, it is), figures like Van Looy or Maertens or Van Steenbergen would find themselves on a superior step. Quality in quantity over pure quantity.
    I don’t know what to do with Freire, either, but I guess that the guy is one of a kind and doesn’t enter easily this sort of “genre-based” all-time classifications.

    Cavendish has got more Tour stages, and that’s an important point (even if part of the problem was that for Cipollini the Giro mattered a lot more – and you really can’t say that the difference in sprinting field was significant as it became in more recent years), as well as having given more importance to finishing GTs and all their points jerseys – Cipollini’s got only a couple of them in the Giro, Cav has three, one for every GT.

    OTOH, Cipollini’s victories in other races were generally of a *significantly* higher quality. Way, way more stage wins in WT level races, like Paris-Nice (8-0), Tirreno (4-3), Catalunya (11-3), Romandie (12-2). Cav only shines a bit in TdS, where it’s 3-0 in his favour.

    Even more relevant to me, Cipollini’s got a way more solid score in the Classics, not only having come more often close to winning the Sanremo (and having at least a top 5 in the Paris-Tours), but also having collected a pretty much incredible top-ten in Flandres and having got some *three* Gent-Wevelgem, one of which in a quite spectacular fashion. Add to that one E3, arguably the most important pavé race after the Gent, Flandres, Roubaix trio (Cav’s got some Kuurne who Cipo hasn’t got, but they weren’t in Cipollini’s programme).

    What’s also very interesting is that they both faced top-level contenders, I’m thinking about Zabel and Freire in Sanremo (possibly the two strongest race ever for that specific race, as it became through time), and they both crossed swords with Petacchi, for sure not “the strongest sprinter ever”, but as surely *one of the strongest ever*, especially in his peak years, when, between 2003 and 2005, he was unrivalled and could touch high points barely achieved by the others.

    It’s also funny how I find both guys quite unpleasant, as for their public image and “visible” character, even if at the end of the day I’d prefer Cav in that sense 🙂
    Cav has also got a worthy track career, which would put him above Cipollini, but I tend to look at the disciplines as separate (even if that makes Cav a better athlete in general terms).

  16. Another point about the “Froome and the other races” question… It’s obviously a matter of *relative expectations*.

    Froome has proved himself, until now, more or less clearly above the rest in the TdF. Hence, what looks peculiar to some readers is that a similar superiority doesn’t surface as much along the rest of the season, year after year.
    When you’re indeed better than the rest, your margin might even allow you to race and win a bit more… Think Indurain making the Giro-Tour double when he felt he was really a step above the rest.
    If you’re a strong cyclist, that’s going to give you good results… in cycling… sometimes even if you don’t fight to the death to get them, they just happen.

    What’s curious with Froome is that it seems that precisely the contrary is what’s happening.

    An aging Contador has finished out of a top-5 of any stage race he’s finished like *once* in the last five years or so. And he’s been racing notably more than Froome. Same goes for Quintana in the last three years (that is, once he wasn’t a neo-pro anymore).
    Both Contador and Quintana aren’t one-day racers at all, that’s sure, still they can sort out the occasional good result out of pure physical prowess – it’s not like Classics apt for climbers don’t exist.
    Froome is entering one-day races, and yet he hasn’t had *any top 20* in his “second career”, or, to be more specific, in the last 7 years or so.

    As showed above, Froome’s performance outside the TdF are a bit more similar to Nibali’s. But Nibali is doing way more one-day races, not to speak of the results, and, generally speaking, he’s racing way more than all the rest.
    And we’d agree that, from what we see in the TdF, we’d expect Froome to be better than Nibali in “general skills” of stage racing…

  17. Gabriele, you have written more words on this post than Mr. INRNG did. For me, it is getting a bit tedious to scroll through these repeated extended posts. I really wish there was a hide feature on this blog so the posts by others don’t get buried under yours.

    • It’s not difficult to quickly run an eye down and not read posts you don’t want to. Sure you can manage. Gabriela writes a lot for sure, but he has huge amounts of knowledge to draw upon, and adds a lot of value to debates.

    • Oh no, now you’ve hurt Gabriele’s feelings!

      Anyway, one of his comments today contained a gem of a slip when he wrote of the “stage rage victories” Froome collected in Oman. Here’s hoping we’ll see more stage rage during the remaining TdF stages!

      PS One of the things that irritate and even annoy me about Wiggins and Froome is that their years of victories have given us wilfully ignorant relatively new cycling fans who are gripped by an elated sense of entitlement (to borrow an incredibly apt descriptive sentence by Ian McEwan from an entirely different context).

  18. Re: France’s historic love of a loser.
    In life’s pecking order, to enhance self-respect, it’s essential to believe that there are many disadvantaged on the pile beneath you and that your position is meritorious in comparison. But when you’re at the bottom this no longer works; an alternative psychological strategy is essential. The clear choice is to look up and praise the losers.

  19. I really think that it’s not over yet. The next stages on Alps will tell the truth of who’s good or not. I’m not sure if Mollema and Yates can defend themselves for so much brutal stages to come.

    I don’t bite this story which Sky’s performance is all about buy the bests and put them as deluxe gregari. I think Movistar has real good staff, but not the best approach how to use it. Let me explain myself: Movistar wants to be a major team on stage race contender and invest a lot on that, but not in one day races. On the Spring Classics the weather is bad (rainy, windy and cold), the roads not always are good and smooth and the race is full gas from start to finish. Anyone who finished a race like that is tough and skillful rider.

    When you check their results on Flandres, Gent, Paris-Roubaix, for example, it is real shame. They sent people with no traits for that kind of race (sub 65kg riders), just to fill obligations and had a lot of DNF. The only rider this year that shines was Erviti (spanish), but others with not DNF are Jasha and Rory (races Giro) and they could make a difference on the second week with a lot windy stages how Stannard and Rowe did to Froome.

    But a miscalculated selection or just thinking on third week alone made so far the Movistar’s light climbers unnecessary tired trying shelter their leader, Quintana complains a lot of treacherous windy stages and of organization. He didn’t compaint of Stelvio stage on 2014 because he was beneficiary on that occasion I think.

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