Tour de France Stage 16 Preview

Sprint or breakaway? Today’s stage is accessible to the sprinters but it’ll depend on their teams and their ambitions and whether they can wrestle with the many breakaway hopefuls who’ll want to pick off the stage, the last non-Alpine opportunity before Paris. Many others will fancy their chances in a breakaway. A spicy finish in the Swiss capital awaits with climbs and cobbles before the finish line.

Stage 15 Wrap: mid-mountain stages are often promising on paper, disappointing in reality but yesterday’s Jurassic jaunt delivered plenty with a 28 rider group surging clear on the first climb of the Col du Berthiand after earlier moves had failed, including one Thomas De Gendt who made what the French call une attaque boomerang as he surged forward and then seemed to come straight back. This would cost him his polka dot jersey.

Tom Dumoulin and Vincenzo Nibali were among the first to stir as the race approached the Grand Colombier but their early moves cost them by the time the main climb came and Ilnur Zakarin and Rafał Majka were among the strongest. As the two crested the top Julian Alaphilippe was chasing and so was Jarlinson Pantano and Séb Reichenbach. The latter pair used their skills to close the gap on the descent until Alaphilippe had a mechanical near the end of the descent and he was ruled out of the stage. Majka and Pantano stayed clear for the first passage across the finish line but this presented Majka with a problem given the Colombian is a much faster finisher. Majka attacked twice and went clear through the scenic “lacets” section of the climb but Pantano kept plugging away and was joined by Reichenbach and then Pantano put his descending skills to work once again to catch Majka. The Pole looked nervous in the finish and as much as the tried to manoevre Pantano the outcome seemed inevitable.

Jarlinson Pantano is a Swiss knife, he can climb, descend and he can sprint and he duly won the stage. With IAM Cycling ending he was assured of a job given his talents but after his victory in the Tour de Suisse and now this his value is soaring.

Behind the GC battle was quiet. In the words of Cyrille Guimard on RMC Radio “there was Wout Poels and there were all the others“. The Dutchman quickly reeled in attacks by Fabio Aru, Alejandro Valverde. It took more time to get Romain Bardet back but Poels just got him before the descent. Froome was “only” left with Poels as they rode into the finish but only after Mikel Nieve had crashed and Geraint Thomas had punctured. It was proof rivals wanted to attack but those that dared were boomerangs. Froome even briefly feinted an attack to see who was watching him. In the meantime Adam Yates appeared to be holding on by his fingernails and Tejay van Garderen was dropped and slipped two places down the GC.

The Route: 209km out of the Jura and over 2,000m of vertical gain. The start is in the middle of nowhere and all the better for it, Moirans – population 2,227 – is a charming village in the Jura, a corner of France that merits being on map of every cyclist.

The roads rises and fall a lot along the way but without particular difficulty. The sole marked climb of the day is the road to Mühleberg, 1.2km at 5% so nothing to worry the sprinters.

The Finish: an urban finish in Bern with plenty of plot twists in the shape of tight bends, climbs, descents and cobbles as they cross the Matte, the old town of Bern.

With 2.4km to go they go under the Nydeggbrücke bridge they’ll take in a moment and begin a cobbled climb that curves up and ends with a sharp 180° bend at the top and the cobbles continue as they cross the Nydeggbrücke. These are urban pavé but rough enough to rattle bikes and rob speed.

With 1.8km they swing left and start the climb up Aargauerstalden. It is listed as 600m at 6.5% but measured at 560m at 7.5%. This is not what the sprinters want but at least they’ll be grateful it’s on a big road that curves gently so they can get in the slipstream. The final kilometre is flat and straight before the finish outside the Stade de Suisse.

The Scenario: break or sprint? The longer the race goes on the more the chances of a break succeed and now we’re into the third week the chances of a move sticking are high. Several sprint teams don’t have to toil from the start, Dimension Data for example can say “we’ve won four stages” and point to Lotto-Soudal to get on with it. However the terrain at the start is less obvious for a breakaway, when we saw the Business Class breakaway from Andorra to Revel it formed over the giant climb, here the roads are not so selective.

The Contenders: if the finish line was 500m earlier then Peter Sagan would be a much stronger contender but the long finishing straight means his sprint rivals have a chance to get into place for the finish. If he gets in a breakaway and it sticks then he’s an obvious choice. Given the hilly finish and his proclivity for going up the road Sagan remains the prime pick here.

Greg Van Avermaet is another pick and ditto Michael Matthews as both have a fast finish suited for today’s stage. Both went in the high quality breakaway to Revel.

Would you bet against Mark Cavendish? His form is good and his confidence is higher but this is a tricky finish for him and all the other sprinters.

How many of the sprint teams will work to set up a sprint? If you’re getting that nagging feeling the Tour is about to come to an end all too soon then imagine how it feels for André Greipel and Alexander Kristoff who haven’t had seized their chances. It’s for this reason Lotto-Soudal and Katusha may work hard today to set up a sprint. The same applies to a lesser degree for Etixx-Quickstep and Marcel Kittel.

Perhaps the race leaving France brings the first French stage win comes via Bryan Coquard? He’s an outside pick but with his light build he’s suitable for the finish only, like Sagan, he’d surely want the finish line drawn at the top of the climb.

Fabian Cancellara is the local. The Cancellara of old might have tried jumping clear in the finish here and exploiting the cobbles but maybe today he’s more likely to go in the breakaway.

Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish
Kristoff, Coquard, Kittel, GVA, Matthews

Weather: sunny, warm and 25°C and a peak of 29°C at the finish in Bern. A light breeze from the north but nothing tactical.

TV: the finish is forecast for the later than usual slot of 5.50pm Euro time. No other race attracts as much TV coverage but if you can’t find it on TV at home cyclinghub serves up a pirate feed.

128 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 16 Preview”

  1. Not exactly the exciting stage people was hoping for yesterday GC wise, still the battle for the stage win is exciting. Thanks again for the great review.

    • An outside pick but surely Matthews is faster? Few races offer much chance to a local rider, none more so than the Tour de France where a team has to back their strongest rider or get beaten. Still “Alba” would be a good choice from a breakaway.

    • During an interview on ITV4 Matt White of Orica just said that Albasini wasn’t currently in great form, or at least not in top form anyway.

  2. Been thinking and Froome as yet has not proved himself on cobbles, could today be the day he attacks over the cobbles and wins what should have been a sprint finish?

    • Did you not watch the Tour last year? Froome was well to the fore on the much vaunted “cobbled stage” and even mixing it with the likes of Nibali.

      • I certainly did, was attempting to make a ‘joke’ comment about Froome’s ability to surprise. Next time I’ll wait till after my first espresso…. but if it did happen…..

  3. Thanks Inner Ring for another in depth preview.

    It may be my relative inexperience of watching the Tour but why aren’t the GC riders trying to do more against Sky? I know there are still some big stages left but surely they need to take time from Froome wherever they can. Is it that Froome and Sky are just too strong and every move is marked or is it that everyone else is too scared to try anything and potentially drop down GC?

    • Scared for the most part, Sky are ridiculously strong currently but also riders like Mollema, Yates etc if you had asked them before the tour would they take 2nd/3rd on GC they would say Yes. Why risk a high finish, especially for the likes of Mollema who is 30 now, that would be the attitude.

      As much as we might want them to attack, there are UCI points available etc, also I think we give too much credit to teams trying to work together. It doesnt really happen.

    • The others just cannot attack as the pace set by Sky is too high..
      It was visible with Aru/ Valverde and Bardet (who tried more to drop Van Garderen than attack Froome, I guess)..

    • Tejay is on his level, yet dropped..
      Wout Poels was stronger than any of Froome’s rivals. As Valverde said, impossible to get away at that pace. While some may have a suspicious déjà vu regading Sky, I think it’s credible Poels has this progress this season.
      Still the current dominance is bad for the race, and in the Alps guys will just race for podium, 5th, 10th,… controlling each other . The dominance also turns into arrogance, which harms the more positive image Froome acquired with some active moves.

    • A lot of the challengers are on their own by the time the attacks usually come. Mollema and Yates especially are often the only members of their teams left in the lead group. Hard to risk an all out attack knowing that if it fails you’ll tail off the back and ruin your chances. This is the value of a strong team and why Poels is worth his weight in gold to Froome.

  4. “Froome was “only” left with Poels and Sergio Henao but only after Mikel Nieve had crashed and Geraint Thomas had punctured.”

    …i thought Sergio was dropped before Thomas, and certainly before Nieve crashed.

    When Froome told off Aru for putting Diego on the front and turning up the pace, it showed how humiliating this has become for everyone else that is going for GC.

      • Is the Rosa thing definite? Insane list of climbers they’re collecting there, also interest in Kelderman reported. Landa hasn’t worked out yet, hope Rosa doesn’t fall in the same trap.

      • Geez. Rosa’s going there too. Their list of super domestiques is getting ridiculous.

        Team Sky is so strong that Nicolas Roche didn’t even make the TdF squad, and now it is even deeper.

        I have a question, when Froome told Aru off for putting Diego on the front, why would Aru/Astana listen to him? Hats off to Froome for putting on a great show so far, but his team’s dominance is ridiculous and the subservience of the other GC riders and their teams is brutal to watch. It looked like a training ride yesterday with Poels on the front for 2 climbs and 50km.

    • I have Degenkolb over Cav today. I know Cav is strong atm but he seems too lack some on the hills. Its not like the same Cav we saw in Copenhagen. My top 3 is Sagan, Kristoff and Conquard.

      INRNG thanks for the great previews. Its the first thing I read in the morning 🙂

  5. Who would’ve said that the stage to Bern would announce itself as relief from the show of Sky’s chorus line of little unglorious climbing prostitutes, who would earn respect if they disregarded money and privileged glory.

    • Beautifully put.
      I’ve often wondered how many of their riders go up hills thinking ‘I wonder how I’d do if I was riding for myself?’
      Mind you, now I tend to think it’s more likely that the rest of the top ten is thinking ‘I wonder how much more money I would have if I was riding for Sky? Neither the result nor my racing style would be that different.’

    • Climbing prostitutes disregarding glory? Wout Poels won L-B-L, Landa was the team’s leader for the Giro – and with Nibali and Aru on his former team his chance of taking that role this year would have been slim. Nieve won a stage of that Giro. Thomas won Paris-Nice. Kiryenka is World TT Champion… Harsh, Ferdi.

      • But look at say Landa in 2015 Giro vs 2016 Tour. In the Giro he was like a dog straining at the leash, he lit up the race. In the Tour he’s been like a dachshund pulling a sled.

          • But then look at Poels in other races this year (L-B-L, Fleche Wallone, some early season stage races) and he’s been totally liberated. What is true for Landa is not necessarily true for all and ridiculously harsh on all Sky cyclists.

        • For information, I understand that Landa has been suffering with sickness again at this Tour. In any case, he’s not had a trouble free year.

          • Ouch, I really hope the guy isn’t ill again!
            If he doesn’t overcome the effects of the Sky cure in the next years, I’ll always blame them for the shame of spoiling such an athlete. Landa has been one of the most remarkably healthy and physically solid riders in the peloton along his whole career… until this year. Why become lighter and faster if you can’t race properly? Especially if, OTOH, you could race decently – and more than decently – without harming your health’s equilibrium?

        • He’s a domestique here and naturally rides differently. Would it make sense that Sky attacks at this point? It’s up to other teams, but given the strong Sky team it’s obviously difficult. Not that exiting to watch, but Sky is here to win, not to animate at every cost. Besides, they did entertain the first half.

    • Ignorant comments. Let’s say all these superstars were elsewhere. You’re really suggesting they are giving up “glory” to backstop someone else to a win? How many of them would be on a Tour de France winning team elsewhere? Al what other team does Poels get nurtured to be the rider he is now? Which other team enable Geraint Thomas to win Paris-Nice (like Richie Porte before him)? And mentioning Porte… He went elsewhere to have his own chance. How is that working out? BMC got themselves a slightly better Tejay. Worst of all I think you overlook the fact that not everybody can win and that there is no shame in being a top, well recompensed lieutenant.

      It seems to me you have zero clue about cycling.

      • Sorry to be so nasty. But something has to be done about the dominance of one team, it kills the race. One way is to put pressure on those riders who accept to help Froome instead of doing the glorious sportive thing: to challenge him.
        Another would be to demand that Froome goes for double Giro/Tour of Tour/Vuelta. What we are seeing is just too easy for him and Team Sky. What is intolerable is to accept what’s happening as a fact of life.
        Not everybody can win, but everybody should try. Henri Desgrange identified team-racing as the single most important threat to the Tour de France. Landa, Poels, Nieve, Henao and the rest are proving he was right. Porte did the right thing moving to BMC, of course. Let’s hope he really challenges Froome.
        US Postal apart, no single Tour de France has seen such team dominance since 1986’s La Vie Claire. And, thank God, that year, sorry for my “distinct lack of understanding of how pro-cycling works”, it wasn’t what we are seeing this year.
        Perhaps the problem is to argue against people who simply want Froome and Sky to win, and who don’t care for the kind of race they are made to watch.

        • They’re hardly dominant. One race, albeit the biggest race, and even then plenty of fans don’t have it as their favourite. It’s made the Tour into a procession, but there are other things to watch.

        • But the problem that people want sky and froome to win exists really only here and on some news-sites. In other places it is the opposite or about totally other things. So maybe here is simply the wrong place to argue or discuss such things.

        • There is no comparison to the 1986 La Vie Claire and the current situation with Team Sky with regard to Hinault/Lemond, if that is what you are referring to. In fact, Lemond was originally employed as a co-leader so how does that situation stack up with the current Sky setup. Hinault himself had many loyal French lieutenant’s in that team or “prostitutes” as you like to call them. Your term not mine.

      • I don’t agree with Ferdi’s harshness (the problem is the system, why insulting the riders? Even if they wanted to live cycling just as a job, I won’t judge them for that) – yet I suspect that those who harshly replied him might be relatively more ignorant and less understanding than him when pro cycling is involved.
        But that’s just a vague suspicion… “no evidence” 😉 (I must acknowledge that I’ve been reading some interesting comment by RonDe).

        That said, I’ve got the feeling that Geraint Thomas could have already won way bigger than a Paris-Nice (that’s nothing if you don’t win two or three or seven of ’em in a row) if he was in a team with a better focus on Classics.
        And even if he didn’t, like, say, Flecha or Hincapie, yet he’s risking that those riders will be remembered as way greater than him, despite specific victories or results.

        And here’s the point about cycling… it’s not only about what you win (which matters, no doubt).

        Many of those deluxe gregario riders might have contributed to the GC fight – which, by the way, is really low-level, this year – and might have forged their place in cycling’s memory through their attempts or actions.
        And you don’t necessarily need to ride in a spectacular way, like, say, some Vinokourov or De Gendt or Pantani or Krujiswijk or Chiappucci (deliberately mixing up periods and quality levels), there are a lot of Beloki, Tonkov, Zülle who found a place in cycling history tackling GC instead of selling themselves out as gregari. Compare that with Heras, one of the strongest climbers ever, who’s begging normal courts to get some Vuelta back and who, despite the Vuelta he won thanks to USPS charity, allowing him some “personal time”, never shone as he well could have.

        Purito might not be worth a Landa or a Porte, on a physical level, but he could up standing out way more than them. Any Rujano could finish his career with two or three images which every proper cycling fan will remember of him dealing with the strongest Contador ever or battling for a podium in the Finestre. Henao is hugely better than Rujano and might finish his career without anything comparable, not even by far.

        These are personal choice, but this is also part of what cycling is. Decades ago as well as in recent years. And in the future, too.

        • The 2 Olympic golds and Commonwealth title (a big deal for a Welshman, as it’s the only opportunity to represent Wales, not GB), will help with Thomas’ long-term reputation. Though do agree that he could do more with a greater focus on the Classics, and Henao should be searching for his opportunities too.

          • Agreed about the importance of Olympic Golds, but the track is often seen as a separate branch of the sport (see polemics about Wiggo). Out of a romantic POV, I do love when riders share time on track or CX and road, but to be realistic, Thomas’ will be seen as “two” careers – and his road career is well below his potential. Maybe I’m blinded by being quite a fan of his talent, yet I think he’s got more to show – and I still hope he will. Besides, I guess that Sky and British Cycling have strong common points, being close to be the same thing (see the Cummings complaints), but they still are two different things, and at the end of the day Thomas won his medals with the National Team.
            The Commonwealth title may mean a lot to him and the Welsh people, but it’s worth nothing (no offence intended) in terms of cycling palmarés.

          • Agreed on Thomas, it feels like Thomas is only scratching the surface of what is possible for him in the Spring Classics. It’d be great to see him really focus on the one-day races.

          • Nice for Geraint, but nobody will ever remember a Commonwealth title in the cycling world, except for the winner maybe. Team pursuit track titles are also nice, but for long-term reputation classics results are far more important

          • From reading Thomas’s book, the point you make about the Commonwealth title is true. He knows it’s not as prestigious, but it means a lot to him. And he seems very happy in the British Cycling / Sky set-up, he is well paid, has excellent support and gets to race his bike.

            I like the guy and would like to see him win more races, but if he’s happy doing his job as it is, then good luck to him.

            (And I reckon he’d be a cracking commentator/pundit in years to come)

        • Mind you, I can see why calling them prostitutes might be considered an insult by some people, but I disagree. It’s a very pertinent and easy to understand (no one here mistook himself about the meaning) parallel between two professional choices people make. I use this very natural parallel, for shock value of course, but also because it asks difficult questions about dignity, glory, authenticity and the power of money.
          For decades good riders have sold themselves as domestiques, and for decades fans have called them whores. Tit for tat. Automatically. Nothing new under the sun.

          • I’m not convinced Thomas is that interested in his legacy. He treats racing like it was still Mandy Cycling Club, out with his mates on a club run. He avoids putting pressure on himself (which I think he hates) but is very well paid and will continue to do so for a few more years.

          • This was aimed at Gabriele’s big comment about how riders are remembered – although I still like Ferdi’s original line (it was funny and I don’t see ‘prostitute’ as insulting).

    • It seems to me that it’s fine to criticise the comment, but less fine to insult the commenter.
      But that seems ever more common on these pages.

      • +1. This is an absolutely superb site with lots of hours and passion for cycling put into it by the author. What we – as commenters – should be doing is self-policing what we write here to save INRNG from having to step in as some sort of moderator. I think ‘okay to critique the comment, not okay to insult the commenter’ is what we should have in mind.

      • Indeed.
        Maybe all who feel that they can comment about other people, as against what they say, should give a thought to how awful the world is becoming and take some responsibility for their part in making it a little better.
        This is a wonderful site and a great forum, let’s keep it so.

      • I disagree. Had he wished to do so, the commenter could have found any number of less inflammatory ways to articulate his thought. Having chosen a deliberately insulting term, it is within the realms of expectation that others would point out that the commenter was being deliberately insulting, as well as stating that the comment was an insult.

        Deliberately inflammatory rhetoric leads to a heated debate. If one wishes for commentary on the ideas, rather then the progenitors, this can only be aided by a careful, perhaps even neutral, choice of words.

  6. 5 wins for Dimension Data, rather than 4. What a Tour they’ve had.

    I was wondering about Henao yesterday, too. Seemed to be Sky’s second climber in the Pyrenees, but wasn’t very visible yesterday. Maybe just his long absence from racing is starting to catch up with him in the 3rd week?

    Anyway, doesn’t appear Sky need to be unduly worried. Although you never know in the Alps…

  7. History shows the case for super domestics metamorphosing into GC contenders is generally unproven, even ex Sky riders illustrate the weakness in this assumption. The major problem would remain, how to be consistent over three weeks and beat Froome. These riders are Professionals, earning a decent living by riding hard for a team hardly makes them prostitutes. One suspects they have made a judgement call, and decided on which side their bread is buttered.

    Like life, professional bike racing and teams, at PT and pre. PT days level have always been dictated to a certain extent by money. It is a Professional sport, where money is a significant player.

    If Sky or Froome are not to your taste, Professional teams outside the Pro Tour and the amateur scene still provides exciting racing – although the team element of course is still present and prominent.

    • Agree. As a super-domestique, one needs to be “on it” for perhaps 7, 8 stages of the tour – and rarely all the way to the line. A podium GC rider has to be on it for 20 stages, including the sprints and transitions.

      Look at how Poels and Henao rode the first week, back of the pack taking it easy. Meanwhile Froome was still placing top 20 on sprint stages.

      Charly Wegelius’ book “Domestique” gives an interesting view of the difference between a leader and a helper – and how one takes great pride in doing a team job, as opposed to the individual glory. I’ve certainly got as much enjoyment from racing as a teammate for someone else!

      • I agree and Poels, for example, is hardly doing his reputation any harm pulling back every cheeky whippersnapper who dares go off the front ALL BY HIMSELF. Would Poels win the Tour if he was racing elsewhere? Has to be a dubious proposition at best. But I think he’ll be very happy with his performances this year as it is, highly paid super domestique or not.

  8. Great preview as always!

    I’m not sure about Adam Yates “holding on by his fingernails” though. Throughout his career he’s always sat at the back of the group up the climbs, punching tickets as other riders go past him.

    The ease with which he moved up when Tejay Van Garderen was dropped, seemed to show a rider with legs to spare!

  9. In fairness to Ferdi I think we all understand how it works…doesnt mean we cant be frustrated by it and consider alternatives like smaller teams or whatever. The giro was distinctly ‘better’ (IMO) because with teams saving other riders for the tour it was man on man from a long way out….weaker teams is the answer then. So how to make this happen? Salary cap would be one way to spread the talent but then if challenged in court it would fail.

    Anyway…surely we’re all able to be a pissed off then when we understand why, particularly when there seems to be an element of bullying /piss taking/ridicule from sky when someone else does try something.

    • I guess this is where we differ then. I want to see the best against the best. The Giro provided very very little of that and given that the Tour is assuming all the more importance these days I think it is feted to stay this way. After all, its been proved now that if you do the Giro then Tour glory will not be yours. I don’t expect Froome to do ever do it, for example, whilst he still thinks he can win the Tour.

      • “The best against the best”… generally true for half a century or so 🙂 , a bit less true in recent years, pretty much false this year.
        “The best” isn’t only… a couple of the top riders, it’s also a deep field, which the Tour is lacking of in every sense (breaks apart – but that’s a consequence of several riders having turned down GC).
        A deep field is more important since it generates more complex situations you’ve got to deal with. Last year was a fine example, this year is pretty much null.
        Besides, why would I want the best if not to see them racing? No use to have the best pedalling around France if there’s no race on. They could as well be the worst or whatever, if they don’t need or don’t want or just can’t show that. Being excited by mere names is sort of fetish, even if it has got some Borgesian or Proustian literary flavour.

        • Gabriele, you are talking nonsense. Pretty much every decent GC rider (by which I mean past winners, podium contenders) in cycling started the Tour. The Giro had just Nibali and his challengers were a kid who probably isn’t even the best GC rider on his team and Steven Kruijswijk who has proved nothing about himself so far. The fields are completely incomparable and NOT in the Giro’s favour.

          • But it was a more interesting race to watch. And, if I’m honest, I like watching Chaves ride. OBE Backstage Pass is more interesting with Chaves compared to Yates.

            There’s an element of entertainment in watching someone like Poels put in a physical performance of no small brilliance. But it doesn’t help the racing.

          • Have a look to the TdF’s present top ten.
            If you speak startlists, the Tirreno and the Vuelta, sometime the Catalunya, too, have better ones… it’s also about how you race, what your conditions are, what your intentions are.

            At least Chaves is a more established GC rider than Yates!
            In the future things might change, but that’s what it is now.
            The Tour is better because it has two of the top riders, Froome and Quintana, but Valverde has brought his better form to the Giro, this year.
            If Aru turns the engine in (no motor pun intended) during the last week and generates some real competition, that might change the perspective. It’s a rookie in this race, however, and the TdF is a *someway* different race, indeed.

            Until now, the TdF’s GC is full of guys who didn’t have the *slightest* idea of what’s like to fight to win a GT along three weeks (6 out of 10? Two of the others being… Aru and Valverde!) – and that counts, it counts a lot. The Giro finally had some five GT podiumers in the top-ten.
            Note that I’m not saying that the Giro had a *better* field this year, not at all, I’m just saying that the Tour isn’t “the best against the best”. We’ve got two *differently-shaped* field, none of them excellent, but while the Giro had got several more competitive riders, albeit most of them more suited to the Giro than to other races, the Tour simply lacks numbers to fill that GC with proper names, it’s just a two-men thing, even if Quintana was to finish 5th or 6th.
            Defending this TdF’s GC level is simplist at best.
            OTOH, you’d just need to watch them “racing”. Only one guy is racing at all. And the climbing in the Pyrenees was most of the time one of the most depressing things ever, laughable level. Again, why do you need the best if they race the worst?

          • Pretty difficult to justify Yates being a better GC rider at this stage. That may well change over the years. But then again the best of the three may not have raced a grand tour yet this year.

      • And you define “these “the best” only by Froome and who can beat him, cause he’s the best *for you*. You only know and value the Tour, whoever is on Giro or Vuelta podium isn “the best” cause only one race counts, one that gets more and more boring every yea, the one where the cart pusher rides. But someone told all the new cycling fans TdF is everything, any other race is nonsense.
        Well fine if some see it that way, I prefer to do otherwise.

    • +1 jkeltgv.
      We’re all aware how and why Sky’s domination happens – they have excellent riders who get to rest on some days during the Tour.
      Doesn’t make it interesting.
      We also understand that for riders like Mollema and Yates a podium would be career-defining.
      That doesn’t apply to Quintana, which is why all my complaints have been about him and his team.
      One wonders how much longer can the Tour go on boring people before they lose interest?
      Do people really want to see the best riders doing little, rather than slightly less good riders actually racing? Seems some do.
      The salary cap could only work if ASO could be allowed to enforce it – i.e. outside the WorldTour. If they get to choose who they invite then everyone would have to abide by their rules.
      Never going to happen, though. For them it’s about money, same as everyone else.

      • Even if ASO are outside the WorldTour, it’s not as simple as everybody having to abide by their rules. If they have a dominant position in the European market for bike races, the EU will intervene if somebody complains about their rules being anti-competitive (which a salary cap often is).

    • Professional sport is supposed to be entertainment and cycling is rarely entertaining when one team can lock the race down to make it predictable. I don’t blame Sky for doing the best thing to win the race but it is really dull to watch Wout Poels stifle every attack. My preferred solution would be to reduce the team size to seven riders and maybe allow one extra team in. It would do no harm to rider safety if the bunch was a little smaller and a team like Sky would have a tougher choice between taking climbers and rouleurs. The current team size was set at a time when GC teams used to take a sprinter and a rider or two to try and win stages from breaks. In this era of teams focusing on one rider and with disproportionate budgets between teams, a nine rider team is too big and potentially too strong.

      • Good point about teams being used to have different kinds of goals in the same race in another era (even if specialised teams used to be there in the past, too – still, the richest ones used to try and go for different objectives at the same time).

    • One approach that might be considered is a squad salary cap. This would not stop any team paying superstar salaries to individuals but it would be much more difficult for one team to simply buy up all the best talent.

      Whilst some of the recent comments have been ill informed I can see that for the good of the sport there is a need for a reasonably level playing field. While some teams will always have more money than others (I suspect a realistic squad salary cap would exceed the total budget of some teams) this might help promote more of a contest between individuals rather than have one team steamroller everyone else.

      • Salary caps don’t work unless there is a very strong desire, amongst all teams, to make them work. It’s amazing how much some rugby player’s wives earn for washing their husband’s shirts 😉

    • “Anyway…surely we’re all able to be a pissed off then when we understand why, particularly when there seems to be an element of bullying /piss taking/ridicule from sky when someone else does try something.”

      Am I the only one who hasn’t got the faintest idea as to what you’re talking about with this?

      • Reportedly, Froome went near Aru to ask him to stop the forcing, telling him something like: “why would you make your gregari push so hard, the poor guys? What’s that for if you don’t have the legs to attack?”. That sort of thoughtful details by Froomey.

  10. This Sky situation with Froome will be exactly the same NEXT year and maybe the year after until either Froome becomes too knackered or too rich and realises there is more to life than yellow jerseys. Sky will become so complacent they end up blowing smoke up their own backside and don’t notice there’s a new kid on the block, that’s if they haven’t already signed up all the new kids. There are some promising new kids already so I say lets hope they don’t want part of Murdoch’s dirty cash.

    Cancellara for todays stage, his hometown swansong to Le Tour.

    • As long as Sky are in cycling its somewhat naive to think they won’t try to acquire the best riders and put to together Tour teams that are as impregnable as possible. And you’re right about Froome. He will ride this Tour-winning train as long as his skinny legs are up to it. Assuming he wins this one, hardly a stretch at this point, I’d expect he will want to match the 5 the greats have. Not unforeseeable.

        • Is this prediction coming from the same school of thought that laughed when Sky said they wanted to win the Tour within five years? Or the one that said Quintana was sure to beat Froome this year?

          • Last year he did… in a non-Valverdian parallel universe.
            Well, and he already beat him a couple of times this year, but we all mean the TdF of course 😉
            Anyway, if Froome has been able to win two or three TdF after having been the pre-2012 rider, Quintana might still win some TdFs gaining the needed time on Froome in flat ITTs, imagine if he’s got some Andean virus or whatever? Everything is possible!
            Just joking, Quintana must blame himself for his attitude last year… an unique occasion on a hugely (unfairly) favourable course. Attitude is also needed to win races, I can see him risking to become the new Ullrich, at least results-wise (harder to make it weight-wise!), if they don’t turn some switch.

  11. Team Sky are the ‘Juventus’ or ‘PSG’ of their league. The only answer is for the other teams to improve quickly, because at the moment they are defeated before they set off.

    ‘bullying /piss taking/ridicule from sky’.
    This is just confidence from Sky, and unfortunately, submission from the other teams. Are Barcelona accused of bullying /piss taking/ridicule when they comfortably beat their rivals? Is Djokovic? Are the All Blacks?

    • Well, at Juventus people were locking referees into closets when they didn’t obey the orders, I’d call that bullying, indeed 😛

      • I’m more into Bundesliga, and I compare them to Bayern München, who buy every other rising star of other teams, just cause they have 10 times more money, just to let them sit in the stadium and weaken other contenders. They win every championship in boring ways. And still are the loudest when it comes to bully referees or other teams. Well, you’re successful with that strategy, but hardly make friends. Except for people who jump on very success wagon.

  12. The way to beat Froome is for all the other main teams to gang up on the Sky superteam from day one of the race and put crazy speed into them rather like the pell mell battle of Astana and Saxo at Contador’s last Giro. Movistar, Astana, Saxo, Katusha or their future equivalents may not match Sky’s line-up individually but can match it collectively. If Sky’s team isn’t set about and reduced in this way, Froome will simply scoot up the road in the final kilometeres and collect his time gaps as is his usual habit. If the other teams can neuter Sky in the first two weeks then thay can fight it out amongst themsleves in the third week. It’s not a difficult theory – most elite races on the club circuits work in a similar way except that the big boys burn off all the smaller fry first before racing among themselves, but the principe is the same -prepare the destruction before racing yourself.

    • this tactic sounds better in writing than in practise – it’s basically not feasible.

      beyond teams simply not ever working together like this – you also have to have the leaders to take advantage….

      & on the flat it’s more likely to put other leaders in trouble than Froome and it’s hard to say the same’s not true in the mountains.

      Beyond everyone saying how strong Sky are, which is true, it’s got to also be said that Froome is (this year at least) simply better than his opponents. Even if they all attack him on the hills, you get the feeling, if he hit back he could ride most off his wheel in any case? & why would someone ever risk a decent position to attack at the start of the climb just for an opponent to benefit by attacking later on?

      Ganging up will never happen between more than two, max three teams. And even then would it really have any affect? Astana’s Aru isn’t going to trouble Froome, Quintana doesn’t look in the form too, I doubt Yates could either and he also doesn’t have the team to do it, and Mollema is best to just hold station and pounce if the moment arises.

      Porte so far looks like the only person who’d have the aggression, climbing ability to do something and unfortunately he lost too much time in the 1st week (with that puncture) & time trial.

      It’s just becoming more apparent (even if something dramatic happens) that Froome is the stand out rider of this generation. He probably could have won in 2012, very likely would have won in 2014, and should have also won the Vuelta in 2011. During what has now been a 5 year period he has been the best Grand Tour rider in the world, and will go down in a similar bracket to Lemond, and maybe Hinault et al once he’s finished. No one can really touch him, as Merckx said at the start of the year.



      • @ Dave

        You are probably right on Froome being the standout of his generation; what is interesting is that, so far, he has not actually dropped all of his rivals on a climb in this TDF (unlike 2013/2015 when he’d distanced his nearest challengers by a minute on the first major mountain-top finish).

      • You may well be right but the point is that Sky love order (look at Brailsford -not a hair out of place!) so if others want to beat Sky they have to create chaos. The Sky team has to be pressured constantly -no rest whatsoever. None of this rolling through the countryside chatting or handshakes stuff. Don’t allow Sky to give some of their domestiques days off at the back. Froome is certainly a champion but he needs his team to be strong and the aim must therefore be to weaken that team from the very start. No concessions to the nervous first week of keeping your own GC man out of trouble. Leave him to fend for himslef a bit more, put men up the road -make Sky chase all the time. If the others take your view there is little point in turning up to race him; much better to work out a way to beat him.

      • Agreed. Froome is beyond any doubt the Le Tour (not “GT” – despite his good Vuelta showings) rider of the 2013 – 2016 (?) generation, with the only 2014 exception, when he wouldn’t have won in any possible scenario.
        In 2012 he had no hope of winning the Tour, either, and, well, he lost the 2011 Vuelta against Cobo. Nonsense blaming team strategy when you lose against Cobo. OTOH, Froome’s 2011 will be studied by ufologists for many years from now.

        As for whether three years make a generation or not, is an epistemological question better left to philosophers and historians.

        I’m a big Quintana fan: nevertheless, he’d better show on the road something more before being deemed as one of the greatest GT riders of the, say, decade.
        Froome has been proving himself as the top Tour rider in recent years and a fine Vuelta contender, too. Still, it would be opportune to wait a bit more before even naming LeMond (the guy’s got a couple of World Championships, you know, and a podium in three out of five Monuments, having collected at least a top-ten in everyone of them – just to give you an idea of the *slight* difference between a cycling champion and an excellent TdF racer)

        Then I read something about Hinault

        • ‘In 2012 he had no hope of winning the Tour, either, and, well, he lost the 2011 Vuelta against Cobo. Nonsense blaming team strategy when you lose against Cobo.’

          I’m far from convinced that – and it’s his fault for not doing so – he couldn’t have beaten Wiggins in 2012. I think that’s a ‘We’ll never know’.

          In the 2011 Vuelta, the team strategy did cost him the race – and what kind of Cobo was he riding against? Certainly no Cobo we saw before or since.

          And why so certain that he was so bad in 2014? His form didn’t look great, but this seems unproven/unprovable to me.

      • “It’s just becoming more apparent (even if something dramatic happens) that Froome is the stand out rider of this generation.”

        If he is, he didn’t prove it on that Tour. Cause he didn’t have to, weak contenders. One good attack in a descent and one acceleration on the Ventoux and the rest is control by a team of expensive super domestiques, that doesn’t defy “outstanding” to me, sorry. Win 1-2 or GTs on your own, coming from a position that looked beaten, by pure physical strength, long range attacks, puling a Bertie, you know, and I give you the “outstanding” badge. Unless then, your good, of course. But no legend material.

  13. It would be interesting if Froome wanted to win another or both remaining Grand Tours. Which would confirm him as a versatile cyclist able to thrive in other races. He might even try winning more than one in the same year, after all that’s not been done for a while.

    Unfortunately I fully expect him to focus on the Tour for the next couple of years at least.

    • I wonder… 100th Giro next year, if I was him with 3 Tours in the bag*, maybe a different challenge would be appealing – and even an attempt at the Giro/Tour double.

      * Of course, it’s not actually won yet

      • This is true, but he also arrived at the Vuelta last year nearly 2 kilos heavier than when he was at the Tour. It clearly wasn’t his primary focus, and I’m fairly certain that if it was he would win it.

      • The Vuelta is probably the race more suited to him, on paper. If the race stays as it is, he could make it even in a declining part of his future career. I’d be surprised if he never wins it, and a TdF-Vuelta double is harder than a simple victory but possible, too.

    • I’d like Froome to end his career having won all the grand tours. I certainly think he’s good enough and a Giro/Vuelta double is possible I think. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure it won’t happen while he thinks he can win the Tour. Its the greatest and most well known race or two lesser races more known only by cycling fans. Not much of a contest.

      • It depends on the athlete being interested in fans (not cycling-related ones) or in cycling. Not to speak about money 😉

        All the same, I think it might happen, Froome looks like a guy who needs to prove points. If we insist enough on how poor is riding only the Tour when you aren’t good enough for the Giro, I’m pretty sure he’ll win it next year or so 😛

  14. “Pantano kept plugging away and was joined by Reichenbach and then Pantano put his descending skills to work once again to catch Majka. ”

    Pantano passed Reichenbach on the descend “like an arrow” as the commentators of RAI television said. Impressive descending skills, I might add!!!

    • ….and Pantano is not in the Rio squad for Colombia? They could use those finishing skills down the Vista Chinesa! (Meanwhile, Uran is invisible in Poland finishing minutes behind Dayer Quintana on the hilly stage.)
      If he was racing , he would be a favorite, having won two WT stages with similar finishes in the last month. No one else has documented to be in shape and ready to such a degree. Uran, especially, seems to be having an off year. The only question mark with Pantano is if he can stand the distance in the olympics, it is a long one-day race.

  15. Essentially ASO designed a course with lots of flat stages, lots of multi mountain stages, and very little in between to a) give Quintana a chance against Froome and b) hobble Sagan in the green jersey contest. They failed in both regards, so I’d really like a course next year with as many lumpy medium mountain stages as possible. They tend to be the hardest to control and most entertaining GT stages. They’re harder to to in France than Italy or Spain due to geography, but for the sake of the race, ASO have to try.

  16. I am saddened that people don’t seem to realise how much SKY have invested in improving the future of cycling, and Le Tour in particular.

    By creating an all-powerful, all-conquering team, SKY have, we are assured by numerous learned commenters, ensured that the racing is boring, and thus a turn-off to the average fan.

    What is unseen is the reason for this – it isn’t, as many have assumed, in order to win races, but instead to ensure that future fans are put off from watching, or supporting cycling. This will, in turn, lead to much smaller crowds at the roadside, much improving rider safety, and removing incidents such as that seen on Ventoux a few days ago.

    Of course, some will point out that the strategy is currently failing badly, with the success and popularity of cycling only increasing – to these naysayers, we can only say that we trust in SKY’s long-term strategy, and we are sure that the intended slump in popularity will be along any day now.

  17. Just a thought, seeing Tony Martin away with Alaphillipe, currently 145km to go, wouldnt this spoil Cancellara’s dream of winning in his home town should they remain to the finish. It was very much with Cancellara’s effort that caught TM on the line after his mega solo breakaway in the Vuelta not many seasons ago. Tenuous link, but you never know!

  18. Just look at all the the multiple winners of the TdF. Even excluding a disqualified 7-time winner — he who shall not be named — the record is full of dominance by strong riders on strong teams. What makes the race exciting is there’s always a chance of an upset or young legs bursting onto the scene. That doesn’t seem ready to happen this year, but you never know. It’s not for nothing the Tour is the most popular race in the world.

  19. Yesterday’s stage was underwhelming in terms of GC but I have not been bored by this TdF and wouldn’t class it as a boring edition. Froome’s attack on the descent and gaining 12 seconds working with Sagan were exciting and unexpected moments. I’ve loved Cav’s resurgence and KOM jersey actually being a competition.

    Team Sky are dominant because they build with one clear focus and a team for that purpose. It is not all about budget – look at BMC. Quintanna hasn’t lived up to the hype, even without the sky train, he wasn’t able to keep up on Ventoux and his attacks were easily countered and he was dropped.

    Maybe teams need to work together and pool their resources to counter Sky’s dominance? Key issue most have it seems is Froome is protected by his super domestiques on big salaries other teams can’t afford. Shelling these riders will take some work with them expending energy to shut down moves multiple times which would require a concerted effort across a few teams in order to isolate Froome.

    Even still it is not solely sky’s fault, teams know the score and should develop tactics to adapt and counter this. Plus a lot of teams are happy to accept what they’ve got in terms of GC position and won’t risk attacks to lose that.

  20. To make the Sky domestiques work hard, it is easier to challenge earlier in the tour because at that point there are many credible contenders they need to respond to. In the last week, or in the last weekend as Quintana prefers it, Sky can focus their defence on only one or maybe a just a couple of real challengers. This is one of the reasons Movistar is struggling to defeat Sky year after year.
    As an example of the opposite, Nibali in 2014 attacked already on second stage and the knockout was complete already before they left the Vosgues. Nibali is a champion, Quintana may become one, but so far he has only won the giro on a controversy & confusion attack.

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