Tour de France Stage 17 Preview

The racing resumes as the Tour de France and a summit finish awaits. This time there’s no bad weather to cut the stage short and the barriers are in place.

The Route: a lesson in the Tour’s ability to appropriate the geography, like some invading army it changes the names on the maps. Take the “Côte de Saanenmöser”, it sounds a mere hill but in reality a proper mountain pass, with a significant delineation for the way it marks the border between German and French speaking parts of Switzerland. Still it’s 6.6km at 4.8% and steady, a railway runs alongside to give a clue to the soft gradient.

Next comes the Col des Mosses which is listed at 6.6km at 4.4% in roadbook and on the race website which makes it sound easier than the previous climb to Saanenmöser. Only it’s 13.7km long. The start of the pass out of Château d’Oex is steepest part and then the rest is 4% average. It’s a scenic “postcard” climb with lush pastures and wooden chalets and halfway up is L’Etivaz, a village which gives its name to a cheese only riders will be stocking up on gels and bars here as it’s the feedzone. It’s followed by a long descent, almost 19km to the Rhone valley.

Then comes a flat section past the Aigle and the headquarters of cycling’s governing body the UCI. It’s fleeting chance to see this is not so much the throne of power as the plastic seat of sports administration given its semi-rural location with the “World Cycling Centre” situated in-between farmland and a small retail park. The road isn’t pan flat but it’s big and wide. Like many big Alpine valleys this section of the road often sees the wind get up in the afternoon and there should be a tailwind here. After 25km along the valley they reach the town of Martigny and then begin the Col de la Forclaz, 13km at 7.9%.

The Forclaz is a long and steady climb and perfectly surfaced and well-known to the peloton for its appearances in the Tour de Romandie and the Critérium du Dauphiné. It was built in the 1950s as a replacement to the older road and consequently this is a well-engineered road with steady gradients and generous hairpin bends. So far so good but the start is a heat trap. It rises among the vineyards which is cute but the reason they planted the vines there is for the sunshine and the road and stone walls cut into the mountain will radiate heat back at the riders on what promises to be a scorching day. It’s also a climb with an optical illusion as it climbs at 8% or more only it gives the impression that there’s always an easier part coming with say, 4-5% just 100 metres ahead only it like a mirage in the desert this never arrives. It’s a slog and will do damage. It’s followed by a fast descent into the Trient valley, 7km and only two hairpins along the way.

The Finish: the final climb isn’t really “Finhaut Emosson”, this sounds like one of those labels used by European low-cost airline Ryanair, for example “Paris Beauvais airport”. The start is in Finhaut and the top 10km later is in Emosson: the real name for the climb is the Col de la Gueulaz. Nevermind, what matters is that this is a savage climb with 10.4km at 8.4% and it’s in two parts. The first, shorter, climbs around the village of Finhaut on a regular road that’s gentle, inviting and cooled by several waterfalls. The second part happens once they quit the village and the road narrows. From here it’s 7km at 11% and savage. The road surface is fine but it’s little more than the width of a team bus and relentless as it scales the mountainside. The finish line is drawn on a 12% section.

The Descent: a brief note on a novelty as the race finishes next to the Emosson hydroelectric dam where they’ve built a small new road in time for the race so that team buses can climb from the finish area to reach a tunnel and subterranean service road worthy of a James Bond villain lair.

The Scenario: the flatter start and the two gentler climbs invite a breakaway go clear while the GC contenders and their teams take it steady. The long Rhone valley section, even if there’s a tailwind, makes early fireworks unlikely. But can the break survive? The two climbs in the finish are effectively one giant ascension and any fugitives will need a lot of time to hold off the chase.

Chris Froome Luchon

The Contenders: Chris Froome is the safe pick, he’s in yellow but will want the defining stage win in the maillot jaune and what better way for him to approach the following days in the Alps having thrashed his rivals in this summit finish?

Richie Porte is next, if Froome is climbing well then Porte briefly looked better on Mont Ventoux before he collided with the motorbike. He should enjoy this steep climb but beware of the heat, his stocky build is a touch less suited to it.

It’s D-Day for Nairo Quintana, discovery day. While you suspect even Vladimir and Estragon are getting tired of waiting for Nairo to attack this is a big test for his promised third week assault. Don’t hold your breath with talk of him being ill but if he’s recovered from his savaging by the Mistral wind he could and should still be a factor. If not then Alejandro Valverde is waiting but it looks like too much for him to win the stage.

Fabio Aru and Romain Bardet are the outside picks, Chris Froome and Team Sky could afford to let them go but it’s not in their style to gift wins or give away time and if either of these try to take time others in the top-10 are likely to react.

Among the breakaway picks Rafał Majka and Ilnur Zakarin were the best climbers on the Grand Colombier and if they can infiltrate the day’s breakaway they’ll find the finish suits them well.

Vuillermoz Reichenbach

Finally two local riders in Steve Morabito and Sébastien Reichenbach, both of FDJ and both handy climbers. Reichenbach is in excellent form and 14th overall meaning teams with a rider in the top-10 will be reluctant give him time if he goes in the early move.

Chris Froome, Richie Porte
Rafał Majka, Ilnur Zakarin
Aru, Bardet, Quintana, Reichenbach, Yates, Martin

Weather: hot and sunny with a top temperature of 34°C.

TV: the finish is forecast for 5.20pm 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.

179 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 17 Preview”

  1. As we wind down the final week of the Tour, here is my question: if Dave Brailsford was managing Movistar instead of Sky, what would he have already done and what would he do in the final week to dent the Sky train?

    Last year we were frustrated that Nairo waited so long to attack, leaving an unrealistic amount of time to overcome on the last climb. Same tactics seem to be at work.

    Yes, Sky brought a ridiculously strong team. But others have mismanaged. BMC was irresponsible and caused Richie to lose significantly more time with a flat than he should have. I have a feeling Froome would not have lost that much time. Movistar used up riders in the Giro rather than being all in on a Tour that suited Nairo. Sky didn’t do that. Yes, it seems unfair for Froome to get that kind of support. But he also had taken it to every one twice without a team around him.

    One of the reasons Sky is so good is because of the strategies they employ leading up to the Tour as well as in the Tour. If Brailsford had the Movistar squad at the beginning of the year, do you think he could have won with Nairo?

    • I don’t buy the argument that Sky are winning just because they are stronger. Yes they are stronger but that is because they focus so much on the TdeF. I certainly think if other teams had the level of focus Sky do that there could be 2 or 3 teams matching Sky. Nairo cannot try to match Froome, they are different riders and Movistar need to ride there own race and not Sky’s.

    • I would guess Dowsett and Sutherland would be riding the Tour if Brailsford was the boss, flatland support which we have seen is killing the Movistar climbers.

      Sky prepare, its in Brailsford/ Ellingworths nature, for every race of the season, that’s not something that money buys, that’s something that is in there nature.

      Not saying that the other teams don’t prepare, its just that for all the talk about who is in what team for the Giro or the Tour etc… Sky have it nailed from the get-go, riders know their targets, management recon routes in advance thoroughly, riders do not get any unexpected surprises… it all adds up.

      I’m sure I read something before that Brailsford once said we employ riders to ride the bikes, EVERYTHING else is up to us to provide the best support for them..

      Btw.. I’m not a big Sky fan, but it would be naive to deny that they don’t deliver.

      • Not all things are hard-wired on the Sky train in terms of lead up. For instance note all the question marks around Henao and his response to training/altitude as an altitude native. It was only a few weeks prior to the tour that he was “cleared” by the team to race.

        Same with Landa, who was supposed to be finishing the Giro and wouldn’t have had recovery time to make it back to the Tour. At that point it was “sorry Kwiatkowski, Roche, Konig, but….”

        Sky’s depth in talent, combined with everything else they do, is why they can support Froome as they do.

    • He would have picked a different team! Why were Alex Dowsett and John Castroviejo in Poland. It is all very well having a team packed with climbers but you have to get to the mountains first.

      • And it’s not like people weren’t saying that before the Tour – it was obvious.
        Having said that, Sky’s principal advantage is that it has the money to have better domestiques than everyone else.

        • I agree.

          End of the day today Sky still had 3 support riders tapping out pace for Froome after two teams exhausted their entire trains (…and apparently their GC guys) trying to blowing up the GC group, managing to only shed 2 or 3 Sky riders but half the GC field. Poels still on the front at the end, closing the gap for Froome after he attacked at the end.

          It’s ridiculous how much stronger their roster is than everyone else. This is all the evidence someone should need of the ‘why’ – it’s pure strength not tactics.

          • My annoyance, and hopefully no disrespect to these riders… but… Henao, Poels and Nieve were the 3 best SKY climbers today. OK each is a gifted climber in their own right, but until they joined Team SKY were they ever surviving every day in the high mountains with the top GC contenders?

            We’ve seen Nieve win stages from the break, or attack and climb strongly.. or Poels do his thing in the Ardennes e.g.

            Yet somehow they’re transformed at SKY into these guys who can tap out such a pace that Aru’s attack looks in slow motion, that Valverde attacked (or was it just go to the front), Piti even attacked 2-3 times with a meaningful acceleration, and these 3 were SO good, even Froome had a bike length or two to make up by the time he reacted.

            So what gives? Clearly they are very talented climbers… but Poels in the GC group? Not only surviving but actually pace setting it like this? It just doesn’t seem right.

          • Chris, you can answer your question by looking at past results, eg Poels was climbing with the best in the 2011 Vuelta, the race where Froome emerged. For example the front group on the Angliru was Poels, Wiggins, Froome and Cobo.

    • You got it wrong. Sky is the one who should adapt to other teams, if they want to ever be taken serious outside their homecountry and aside from the money. Do you think races are just there for the livelihood of riders? They are not. Races have rights too. They are not there solely to be exploited by teams as they like. I am so glad that some other teams at least try to hold up the sporting side of cycling and attend races to win them/something, if they can (and if they can is the key here, as sky could field a real GC-team everywhere).

      If some races wouldn’t be cumpolsury or if races wouldn’t pay money to teams, I doubt sky would race many of them, while for other teams racing as much as possible is a must to exist. A team-management which really doesn’t care much for the sporting side and anything in the sport besides popularity and proving others wrong will hopefully always be a curiosity inside the sport. I doubt, if sky would have to really compete like and with the other teams in the hunt for sponsors and results, that they would be any different to cannondale.

      They have the “luck” to live in a bubble. The have the “luck” to have a state and federation behind them, that have found a likeminded rich person to sponsor the team in a concerted move to show national excellency. A move that we already saw with armstrong and postal for the USA a bit earlier, but that we more often see in countries like China or Russia. They can do this, as cycling is a poor sport, where money can make a difference. But don’t mistake that for natural competition or a normal thing inside the sport.

      • What incentive is there for Sky to care about whether or not they’re taken seriously outside of their home country? Their job, ultimately, is primarily to provide exposure for their sponsors, and at that Sky do better than any other team (Sky aren’t just the pet hobby of a billionaire like BMC or Tinkoff, they provide a legitimate return on investment for their sponsors).

          • There’s no insult there, inrng.
            There is a comment on the content of the post – that the content is “a load of ill-informed, opinionated utter rubbish”.
            That is fair comment. It’s robust; it’s concise; it takes no prisoners, yes. But it makes no comment at all about the poster. It is not insulting by any reasonable definition of the word.

            On the broader point of ‘insults’ in the comments – posters cannot expect to post any old tripe and be given a free ride. They cannot expect to post the most inflammatory garbage and then whinge and moan when it creates more heat than light. They cannot insult all and sundry – just as long as it is not directly at any pseudonymous individual poster here – and expect everybody else to just roll over and have their tummy tickled. The world doesn’t work that way.

            The ones who bitch and mewl the most on here about ‘personal insults’ are those who think insulting everybody else in the world is always fair game, but who are always so careful not to do it directly at another poster.

            That’s cute. It’s also passive-aggressive bullshit.

          • @INRNG – the request for politeness I understand and wholeheartedly endorse.

            I would add that it would be very helpful to the smooth running of the comments section if it were applied to many original comments as well as replies, as well as not being confined solely to comments towards individual posters on here.

            Uninformed, impolite, all-too-frequent, know-it-all garbage along the lines of “if only Movistar would learn this” seen elsewhere in these comments does not make for intelligent discussion. Not in July and not at any other time of the year.

          • You are right Anonymous. What we need is more aggression and more comments that are nothing to do with cycling. Thank you for that. And the more insults the better.

            If people criticise a rider, even if it’s a little rudely like Ferdi’s comment the other day, it’s still a comment about cycling.

            Too many comments calling others names, etc.

            July always brings out the people who only seem to be interested in Sky/Froome/Britain and anyone who says something against this triumvirate is slammed.

            And now we have you.

      • I’d disagree that Sky’s budget and backing is down to luck. They run the team like a business, and give their backers a clear return on investment. Most teams can’t approach sponsors with a clear set of goals, whereas everyone knows that Sky stands for winning the most prestigious race on the calendar. It certainly lacks romance, but it’s very shrewd business.

        • Out of curiosity, what does Sky do in terms of “providing a ROI” or “big goals” that other teams don’t, or better yet, couldn’t? I don’t see what Sky can strive for that other teams couldn’t, but maybe I’m missing something?

          I’m quite sure that Iwan Spekenbrink (owner of Giant Aplecin) could come up with an absolutely amazing plan to win the TdF (or any other goal) for the next 15 years… if only we would give him €30 million annually for the next 15 years 😉

      • Your reply seems to share a lot with what comes out of the back of horses. Do you follow cycling at all? Sky have been giving increasing attention to the classics season in recent years and with some success. They’ve won races like the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the E3 Harelbeke multiple times. They’ve got a podium in Milan-Sanremo and placed top ten at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. This year they won their first monument. They have podiumed in all 3 grand tours. Sky are a proper cycling team. Yes, you may hate where their funding comes from but so what? To say “they don’t care for the sporting side” is, frankly, barmy.

        • Actually Sky has done very well in the classics this year – won E3, won LBL, 2nd at MSR, 3rd at PR, 5th in Flanders. It’s the culmination of a lot of work to assemble and prepare a good classics team.

        • Not to mention that their first choice team for the Giro was a very strong one. Konig and Sergio Henao were meant to be in there, for a start.

        • Quite so. They’ve taken the classics pretty seriously (except Lombardia and some others), with a decent level of success. And they’ve tried to get the Giro and Vuelta, although they seem not to have tried hard enough. I think the critique shouldn’t be addressed to Sky as a team, but to Chris Froome as Sky’s frontman. If he, as it seems, takes this Tour, and then we don’t see him back till next year’s Romandie or Dauphiné, it will just be too Armstrongian, and it will mean not taking chances ot other great races in order not compromise his chances at the Tour de France. Which is what angers a considerable sector.
          If he does win the 2016 TdF (which I’m not sure, as today I have the feeling we are going to witness some surprising developments), he’s got to go for the Vuelta this September, and also attempy the Giro/Tour double this year. He’s got to take the necessary risks to rise above the level of apparently riskless certainty he has achieved so far. Always aim higher! I think it’s in his spirit, too (although seemingly not Brailsford’s, which is why the critique to Sky is in this sense pertinent).

          • Another minus point for Sky, in the context of their limitless budget, is the sprint department. They had Cavendish for a while, and Viviani now. But again, they seem to give complete priority to controlling the TdF GC, to the detriment of other possible objectives, which unfortunaltely equals to making things as easy for themselves as possible.

          • I think you’re pretty on the money here Ferdi – Sky have tried their best at other races (as long as it doesn’t affect le Tour) but the general perception of them is of Froome at le Tour, whether that’s fair or not is another conversation entirely: he’s ridden la Vuelta 4 four times, twice finishing as runner up.

            As I’ve said before, I’d like to see him target the Giro next year, possibly even as a Giro/Vuelta double – it would add a bit of variety to his Palmares and would mean people would have to start changing their minds. I guess a lot also depends on his success in Rio this summer too …

          • Will – well there’s virtually zero chance of Froome doing well at the Olympics. He’s not really experienced in big one-day races! And by not-experienced I mean, when was the last one-day race he even lined up at?

            I really wish your ideas were put into place – if there was some mechanism at the World Tour that strongly encouraged top riders to run balanced race schedules. As it is, Froome’s schedule pre-Tour goes from TdF tune-up race – Teneriefe – TdF tune-up – Teneriefe – etc.

      • There’s a lot of truth in what Anonymous says – although Katusha and BMC have similar(ish) amounts of cash (or so I believe – correct me if I’m wrong), but aren’t producing anything like the same results.
        Sky do a lot of things very well – they’ve even learned about tactics now – and have now won a Monument. They’re still largely a one-trick pony (the Tour), though.
        But they’re not particularly good for cycling overall (their success has made it popular in Britain) and most of their success is down to money.
        They only tend to dominate the Tour, but it’s the biggest race and they’re ruining it. That’s not their fault: that’s their job. But changing rules to counter this (e.g. teams of 7) would be a positive move.

        • BMC actually ranks above Sky, in both UCI WT team ranking, and PCS World tour team ranking. Katusha ranks only a few places lower than Sky in both classifications currently, but ranked above Sky at the end of 2015, in both classifications.

          Oleg Tinkoff had a quite interesting comment in the whole budget discussion: It’s not only the big budget that counts (he claimed Tinkkoff’s budget was roughly similar to Sky’s – but gave no numbers to verify). It’s also the guarantee that the team will have that budget for (5 or more) years to come. This allows them to a) invest in tech, training and team with a long term outlook, b) offer longer contracts to riders and c) offers stability to all team employees (including, but not limited to, riders), taking away the need for people to put their personal interests over team interests.

          BMC will (probably) quit as a main sponsor after 2017. There’s been some talk of Katusha scaling down. Tinkoff is quitting (unless Oleg changes his mind, which is a possibility). Sure the top tier riders from these teams need not worry, since other teams are lining up for them. But the second tier riders… They might have to start putting the spotlight on themselves, rather than support their leaders.

          I can also fully understand a second tier rider would rather sign a 5 year domestique contract at Sky than a 1 year domestique contract at BMC or Katusha. Even if the money is roughly the same. These guys have mortgages/rent and families to support too.

          ps, of course not everything is about the contract. it’s also a personal thing. If you sign with Sky you’re also signing up for they “system”. Not everybody fits in that system, as we’ve seem with several riders.

      • I would like Sky to start a women’s team. If they are truly serious about developing the sport (which Brailsford professes to, most recently in an interview that aired on ITV4 yesterday) then it would be the best thing they could do (in Britain at least). Probably decent returns for the sponsors too.

        • I agree it would be good for Sky to start a women’s team.

          However, I seriously doubt there would be any actual returns for Sky for any money paid for a women’s team. Unfortunately, the extremely limited exposure of women’s cycling would have virtually zero effect on Sky’s long-term profits, ratings, readership, etc.

          I really wish this wasn’t the case, but women’s sport has very little commercial appeal. Does anyone have any suggestions how to change this?

          • “women’s sport has very little commercial appeal. Does anyone have any suggestions how to change this?”

            Sky’s women team member could appear during big races suitably attired on Page 3 of some of the Murdochs’ quality media outlets. I think that would tie in nicely with the substance of the Sky Corp.

    • I agree that Froome wouldn’t have lost nearly as much time; a teammate would have been there, swapped bikes or tires, and Froome would have been on his way. Maybe BMC’s choice of two “protected” riders left both unprotected, but one got unlucky?

    • Mollema is 2nd on GC. Imagine if that’s where he finishes. Why would he risk that with a suicide attack? More likely that he follows and holds and maybe takes a chance if others falter.

        • Mollema doesn’t have a great record of winning stages, particularly at this level. Both Yates and Martin have been known to have a go.

        • Yates and Martin have a faster finishing kick but they’re not highly rated today, Martin has a searing finish or rather he has had one, the test is whether he’s there in the finish today. I sense a lot of Dutch expectation for Mollema.

          • There was a lot of talk about the “first mountain finish where Froome won the previous 2 TdFs” (Ax3D, PSM)
            But also those days were:
            – After the rest day (I am not sure if both)
            – With similar profile as today
            So, if this is Sky sweets spot, could be their day.
            I wonder if the breakaway will go far today, as Ian, Luke and Kiry will likely put a blistering pace to the foot of Forclaz, so unclear if the break will have enough buffer.
            Anyway, lets see how it unfolds. Hope to see some fireworks today (but I think will be the Sky we used to see before)

          • Not really, but he seems one of the best climbers at the moment (with Froome and Porte). Quintana isn’t living up to expectations, Martin and Yates seem to be on the dimise this Tour. With this in mind, it seems strange to rate them higher than Bauke. That being said, I don’t see hij winning today or even gaan time on Froome.

  2. A fairly typical (dull) TdF so far could come alive in this last week as a few good climbers have little to lose by racing to win rather than protecting their current positions. Froome’s taken time this year with opportunistic attacks rather than pure watts/kg demonstrations – which means others could do the same? Allez les garcons!!!

    • Agreed, these stages and the makeup of the lower reaches of the top 10 should make for a good week. I’d like to see Aru have a crack at the stage win i.e. attacking late, not wasting energy too early in the climb. it won’t gain him much time though.

      Or Wouter Poels will do his thing and it’ll be really dull!

  3. I do miss Mollema too! Further: I think a breakaway (again) has the most chance today. With more than 150 km to go the breakaway has a relative ‘easy’ (no big climbs) time to gain enough margin on the clock. It also works two way: Sky will control the breakaway like a puppet on a string. They would like to see it far enough ahead so that the Movistar (Izaguirre, Anacona), Trek (Stetina) guys who are likely to be in the breakaway, have a more difficult time to be of any help if Mollema or Quintana attacks on the last climb. Of course it’s easy for them to let themselves drop whenever they hear on the teamradio that an attack is coming, but it’s not much fun to be on your own for minutes surrounded by masses of ‘stone age’ people (running along, pushing, shouting, just being stupid etc.). Of course Sky’s not acting irresponsible, as they would not want the Reichenbach’s of this tour want to come to close in the GC all of a sudden. So they keep a steady and controlled pace. Further: all the money is on the yellow jersey, so Froome is not primarly interested in stage wins. So for today I think it will be Majka, Zagarin or maybe even Warren Barguil. Thomas de Gendt might try to gain ‘his’ jersey back, and with good legs, he might do that by winning the stage.

    • … humm…
      I forsee Ian, Luke and Kiry on a high pace all the way to the foot of the Forclaz to burn everyone. In this scenario the break wont have too much buffer.

      • I think the best climbers of the breakaway (let’s say 2 to 3 guys) will have just enough buffer to hold. It depends on the fact if Movistar or Trek has helpers in the breakaway. If they do, than Sky will probably not give full gas on ‘the flat’, as they will bring them closer to those helpers, and it will burn some guys too soon. With risks that the last week of Froome is traditionally the weak one, they want to keep risk as minimal as possible. To give gas on the flat doesn’t make much sense anyway. A different story it will be if Movistar and Astana will form some sort of coalition, and try to ‘burn’ the Sky guys. That will be uphill no doubt.

    • Movistar don’t seem to have realised this, but no matter how far Sky let the breakaway go (if Movistar decide to let them control the race yet again), any Movistar riders in the break can sit up, wherever they like, and wait for their team leader and help him.
      I have no optimism about today: Froome will take time on all the other GC contenders and there will be no real attacks – just little ones to save face and so they can say ‘I tried’ to the media.

  4. I read with disappointment that Cav has quit in pursuit of olympic glory that he is not fated to find. He is not going to win an olympic medal in the omnium, let alone gold, and the recent worlds only seemed to confirm this. So why give up on the unofficial gold medal match for road sprinters on the Champs Elysees? Maybe its something he has to do for himself, to say he tried. Fair enough, but I’m disappointed.

    • I think he has proved this year that you write him off at your peril. He’s got nothing left to prove on the road so fair enough he wants to get his Olympic medal.
      That said I also really wanted to see him win again on the Champs Elysees.

    • I remember him working in the TV studio at london 2012 during the track cycling. The dude was so excited and kept saying he wished he was there racing. I have a feeling he really loved racing on the track and it holds many great memories for him. Can’t blame him for wanting to give it one more go on the biggest stage.

    • The Olympics seem to be a big thing in Britain and having taken the yellow jersey and four stages there’s not much left to do, probably his last shot at an Olympic medal vs another Champs Elysées stage win, however prestigious he’s won it before.

      • ‘The Olympics seem to be a big thing in Britain’ – never understood why that is, other than a general lack of knowledge about cycling and the idea that the Olympics is ‘the biggest thing’. It’s no more important than a World Championship medal.

        • I think most cyclists would say that the Olympics is bigger than the World Championships. For a start, it only comes round every four years. You only have to see all the controversy over who has been selected for it and who hasn’t. You don’t get that to the same degree for the World Champs.

          • Is that a British perspective? The Olympics have little economic value and prestige in the sport largely because for years they were amateur only and therefore a secondary competition without the world’s best so events like the Worlds, the grand tours, the Monument classics etc have long held a far higher status. The Olympics are growing in stature now to close the gap.

          • Inrng – this is track we are talking about, where only the Olympics matters. The World Cup and Championships get virtually no coverage anywhere and most of the events are not even on television.

          • +1 to Tovarishch on this one (from a British perspective). My impression is that in track cycling Olympics are the pinnacle.

            Which leads onto a personal recurring rant-topic – I think that if Olympic gold isn’t the pinnacle of the sport, then the sport shouldn’t be in the Olympics. Would Andy Murray swap his 2nd Wimbledon title for a gold medal? I doubt it very much. If you offered a cyclist a Tour victory, the rainbow stripes or the Olympic road race gold, hmmm, probably depends on their existing palmares, so road cycling just just about stays in the Olympics according to my pet theory.

          • I think that’s right; a lot of top level cyclists have made the right noises about the Olympics this year, given its GC rider-friendly parcours. It *seems* to be drawing level with the WCs, but not clear yet.

          • If you look at the names of Olympics road winners since it’s open for professionals, none of them is widely remembered for the medal, but for many other races in their palmares. Nice to win, but not he big thing. Yes, Worlds are every year. But you can wear the jersey the whole year, while your gold will collect dust in your trophy stash place.
            For track, of course the opposite is true.

          • Completely agree with Elliott’s concise summing up of thoughts about the inclusion or not of sports in teh Olympics:

            “I think that if Olympic gold isn’t the pinnacle of the sport, then the sport shouldn’t be in the Olympics.”

      • I’ve read that Cav needs an Olympic medal if he wants to become (or at least have a shot at becoming?) “sir Cavendish”. That’s a big thing in the UK.

        • That’s…. daft. 30 TdF stage wins, points winner and leader jersey in all 3 Grand Tours, one of the all time greats, that’s what he should be Sir Mark for. Bronze in the omnium in Rio, not even relevant. I may be one of the few in Britain who don’t like track cycling, but a glittering palmares on the road surely outranks a measly medal on the track.

          • Oh yeah, world champion, winner of Sanremo. Either to me outrank even a gold medal on the track, and even to less biased people may well outrank a bronze.

          • It may be daft, but – Mark Cavendish, former World Champion, San Remo winner, by some way the most successful mass finish stage winner in Tour de France history, is an MBE.

            24 year old Laura Trott, with two Olympic track golds from the London games, is an OBE.

            (in increasing order, it goes MBE, OBE, CBE, Knight/Dame)

          • I think you might be confusing “isn’t” with “shouldn’t be” there!

            I’m not a massive fan of the honours system, but it’s hard to deny that plenty of people still seem to pay attention to it.

          • Maybe I am. I’d have thought that no-one who wasn’t a regular Daily Mail reader would give the slightest thought to the honours system.

    • That’s very negative Ron. Maybe have bit more confidence in him, I mean who would have predicted 4 stage wins at the start of the Tour. His training with the track team seems to have done him a lot of good speed wise, so his leaving, is maybe just his genuine respect for the help they have given.

    • I definitely want him to win the Champs sprint again, and with any luck he’ll come out flying in 2017 to take it.

      His rejuvenated speed in the 2016 TdF looks like track training really helps him. Maybe he should make it a habit to do serious track training every winter. It definitely feels like he lost some speed over the past 2-3 years, and I wonder how much of that is due to aging and stepping away from the track.

    • I think the Olympics are unfinished business for Cav, given his failures in 2008. Suspect he’d rather finish the year with 30 TdF stages and Olympic gold, than 31TdF stages.

  5. I have always thought from the start that Quintana would spring to life here. But given his dubious tactics, his team’s seeming in-built conservatism, the way the wind seems to have blunted him and rumours of illness/lack of form, I’m now expecting a rather blunt stage full of nervous riders afraid to take their chances. Which probably means Froome will just ride away once it hits the final 7kms up to Emosson.

    • think it would be later than 7k if at all – this hill is very steep at the close, if he goes earlier usually the mountain would have a different profile. today will either be mayhem or nothing I expect – bit like those Vuelta stages that get built and built but then fail to produce because the mountain is too difficult to do anything on.

  6. With the weather like it is, Quintana will struggle and Froome will fly, relatively speaking. Even if Q has been banking a lot on this stage and is not ill, the heat may well cook him more than Wout Poels will.

  7. I will disappointed if Quintana suddenly gains form in this final week. He hasn’t looked strong enough to beat Froome, so I think it is Foome’s Tour to lose in a straight up competition between the two.

    But the race is won yet and it should be interesting to see if Porte and Mollema can exploit any chinks in the Sky armour.

    Whatever people argue there is still a lot of racing to be done. There have been a lot of breakaways which have worked.

    • Partly that was because Sky wanted them to. They’ve deliberately let a number of breaks get double digits in minutes as it makes helpers up the road useless and removes bonus seconds from the game.

      • GC teams allow long breaks in every stage race. That’s not a ‘Sky thing’.
        Helpers up the road are not useless: no matter how far up the road they get, they can sit up and wait to help their team leaders. If only Movistar would learn this, rather than let their riders stay in the big break only to trundle in 5th and 8th.

        • Helpers on the road are never useless, still it is more difficult to be of any direct help, because the time gap is larger. Sky makes it as difficult as possible, marginal gains is their tactic, we’ve seen that in different aspects. The GC guys attack on the last mountain anyway. So it is harder to be of any direct help then, than when they are closeby. They would have to attack earlier then, which can’t be done because of the pace of Sky.

          • If the time gap is longer, the people up the road just need to wait longer, until the team leader reaches them. And they can time that wait so that the leader reaches them at the time and place of their choosing.

    • Why would you be disappointed if Quintana could actually make a race of it?
      I can’t understand why some people here seem to relish Sky’s complete domination of the race – what do you gain from that? It certainly doesn’t make the GC contest interesting.

  8. ROLL UP ROLL UP ITS ALL GOING TO KICK OFF TODAY bla bla bla. No GC show today, maybe a little sideshow. Look further down the list for some interesting racing.

  9. Interesting to see who tries to get in the breakaway today. From my geeky observance of various social media feeds, looks like a number of the wildcard and French teams concentrated on recon’s of Friday and Saturday’s stage over this one. Possibly something from Teklehaimanot who knows the roads well from his time at the World Cycling Centre?

    • or maybe a Cummings Olympic selection celebration special!

      so… did Kennaugh stand down or was he nudged off the perch to save blushes? any insider insight out there?

      • No insider insight but he was off the pace at the Tour of Poland, his first race back, which finished at the weekend so suspect the assessment was made then. Expect him to be prominent at the Tour of Britain though, the route looks to suit him well.

    • Very strange article on a few levels. Especially as the author seems to be unsure, when this happened (and mentions both dates to be on the safe side): 19. or 20. July 1970? It happened on the 19. July 1970, even when the headline claims differently.

      Of course you can’t compare two totally uncomparable things. Back then the race wasn’t shown daily live on tv. It was mostly (?) brought to live by writers and small clips, so the public experienced the race totally different.

    • Good point! I wonder what it must have been like to see Merckx mop up his competitors time after time. If you were there then it’s probably great NOW, but was probably rather boring then? Froome’s got a LONG way to go to make things as predictable as Eddy, but will those of us still kicking 40 years from now be calling this the “golden age of cycling” or something similar? If only for aesthetic reasons, I doubt it, though nobody can fault Froome for winning if the competitors just aren’t in the same class….assuming LeMond’s suspicions are totally off base, that is.

  10. @The Inner Ring

    I’m very surprised and disapointed in your comment versus Anonymous. Spam ? Pointless ? Anonymous is one of the few pointing the real problems concerning the behaviour of the different teams and favorites (?).

    Or do you want a Erdogan style one way type of comments ?

    • @Jean @anon If you don’t like how the boss runs the show, you could always ask for your subscription money back. In all seriousness, it is depressing to see how the usually excellent comments section descends into the abyss in July. I have no idea how INRNG keeps his or her composure.

      Back onto the race, this stage could be a real tough one. I think the key could be Porte. If he wants to get on the podium, today is the day to make the move on that last climb and see who cracks. Presumably Froome will go with him but the 10+% final climb suits him less than the “midgets”, so who knows. I’m intrigued as to whether Yates has been “lingering” at the back or just hanging on. Today we find out I guess!

    • It’s better if people argue their case and explain why they think a certain course of action will happen. Using capitals and “blablabla” just makes it read like someone’s shouting to themselves and doesn’t add much to a preview of today’s stage.

      • Even though there’r a lot of exellent comments in the inrng, one can establish the lack of critical posts. The same in professional journalism. Just a few journalists have the guts of asking the questions which have to be asked. To Froome, to Sky, to the contenders. The same in the Amstrong-US Postal-years.
        Journalists are afraid to be banned from asking the interesting questions, or to be banned from the interviews they want. So they ask stupid or righteous questions, fearful they are. The same style of mr. Inner Ring nowadays.

        • Why don’t you ask some? I’ve seen some twitter traffic trying to estimate Poels’ power output on the Lacets but it seems to suffer from the same deficiencies as the estimate of Froome’s power output last year (which didn’t fit with the data the team provided).

        • Although I didn’t think much of the original comment, I agree that critical posts on here are lacking and are smacked down pretty quickly (more often by other commenters than by Inner Ring).

    • Harsh. This is not a forum where people can just sound off an opinion, this is blog which encourages intelligent discussion around the piece that has been written. INRNG asked that the commentor make a suggestion as to why they believe the stage will fall flat and back it up with reasons. I am sure that if the commentor does so then that will be welcomed.

    • I very much disagree, Jean. The distinct anonymous’ you are likely referring to (caps, insults, sarcasm, taunts, etc) is really not a value add commenter and their tone is way out of line for this blog, sorry. There are *plenty* of critical posters (like… all of them – j evans, gabriele, that old guy Larry, etc) but you can’t just lob bombs into a conversation, that’s not social at all.

      And insulting Inrng author is bad form and also says the commenter has not been reading this blog very long if at all.


      • I’m reading the Inrng for years, not commenting. Insulting the autor ? So find out a commentator is attacked just because of his opinion, is not done on Inrng ? Critizice this behaviour is an insult ? Very strange. This is not my opinion about freedom of speech and democraty.

  11. Can any one remember when “a rider up the road” really assisted a team leader? At best I think a couple of hundred metres of pulling but perhaps I missed some glorious successes. Serious question.

    • Andy Schleck got a lot of help on his Izoard-Galibier move that helped him win the Tour or Nibali on the Agnello/Risoul stage where Kruiswijk crashed and Scarponi pulled hard for a long time to bury the Dutchman who had no help. Note even a few hundred metres can be decisive to tow a leader out of sight and crack rivals.

      • Do you mean … “helped him win the Tour stage”… think that was the year of Cadel was it not? And Monfort I think was the rider helping him.

        Now that was a classic stage – Schleck’s attack, Evans winching himself up the climb, Tommy V hanging on in yellow for another day!

        • Last year at the Vuelta, penultimate stage, Tom Dumoulin has been dropped on the penultimate climb by a group containing Aru.

          On the descent Dumoulin is closing the gap, he can see the Aru group ahead and the gap is 10 seconds.

          At that moment the Aru group catch Andre Zeits (apologies if incorrect spelling) who has been waiting by the side of the road. Zeits drills it on the front, the gap goes out. Dumoulin riding alone cracks and ends up losing minutes. Aru wins the Vuelta.

          I’m not saying Aru wouldn’t of won without that help but it certainly nailed down the coffin lid on Dumoulin and was in my mind the moment he lost the race.

          • Good example, it put Dumoulin in the red and he tried to close the gap on the descent, normally you’d rate him to haul back Aru on the flat/downhill but Zeits is a powerful rouleur and it finished off the Dutchman.

          • Yes, it’s one I’ve used to show people the importance of tactics in cycling when they’re new to the sport. Mainly because when you look at the footage you can visibility see the gap growing whereas usually it’s just looking at time gaps and pained expressions on riders faces.

      • Last year’s Vuelta, Where Astana played this tactic to Win the Race. Aru had a man up the road who helped keeping Tom Dumoulin away during the descent / flat part and build up a massive gap from there.

        Heartbreaking to see Tom D lose the race in the penultimate stage, and big kudos to Astana playing it perfectly.

        • IIRC Astana even had a man with Dumoulin, sucking his wheel, just to dial down Dumoulin’s morale a bit further. Maybe not planned that way in advance, but I’m sure it helped.

    • Astana and Movistar are masters of this move imo. Astana used it last Vuelta and in this year’s Giro – both times likely the decisive action that won their rider (Aru, Nibali respectively) the GC.

      Movistar used it in the Tour last year successfully on a stage for Nairo, which is likely one of the reasons Sky has been keen to let the break get very far out (to prevent the relay).

  12. Froome is at the absolute top of his game this year as are Sky. They are without doubt totally singing from the same sheet and you cannot knock that. It is a shame that Nairo does not seem to be in the shape this year to really threaten Froome and spoil the Sky party. Despite Alberto’s rotten luck I really think his best days are behind him and though he may have been fully fit I think at best he and his team might have been able to throw a few fireworks into the proceedings. So who are we seriously left with to challenge for No.1? This year, sadly no one. But next year and the following year I think will throw up a few contenders. Over the last 30 years I have been following Le Tour, Froome is the latest to dominate and I just hope he is not planning on being the holder of the most TDF wins!

    • Sky management is very analytic, and clearly sees something great in Chris Froome. He is indeed at the top of his game, and may remain so for a long while. Keep in mind, Sky tossed aside another champion, Bradley Wiggins, to bring Froome forward, and decided they didn’t need Richie Porte.

      I’m a little disappointed Sky seems to aim almost exclusively at the Tour, using other races only as a tuneup. The TdF certainly gives them the most bang for the buck/euro, but it would be fun to see this powerhouse of a team better showcasing their rising talent in other races. I wonder if we have entered the era of specialists, and will never again see a rider like Eddie Mercks, who tried to win everything.

  13. Nice reference to Becketts Waiting for Godot. The question: Is there in these Alps stages a real thing we’re waiting for?

    At least a few guys have high hopes and ability (Porte, Quintana, Mollema, Aru and Bardet)

  14. I heard a comment recently (possibly cycling podcast, possibly elsewhere…) that nearly all the top 10 on GC now would be happy with where they are – ie risk vs reward isn’t big enough.

    I can see that with Mollema and Yates – podium would be great for them for various reasons. Quintana was excluded from the discussion, but Porte was mentioned specifically. I don’t get that – surely a top 10 in the tour does nothing for him or doesn’t enhance people’s view of him? He needs to attack and go for a podium or bust imo, and BMC need to at this stage throw everything behind either him or TVG.

    • Totally agree – for guys like Porte, Quintana and TVG, they’ve already proven they can place top-10, but are being paid to win, or at least to risk everything to win. If Quintana doesn’t attack, he’s overpaid and can be replaced by the next up and comer.

  15. Urgh, incredibly frustrating not to be able to see the start of the race on TV, especially when a real powerhouse break goes up the road!

  16. Not what I want to see, but Froome should seek to end the Tour today. If he’s in form, why wait? You never know what happens in the future, batter them today and take the time now. If that weakens you a bit for the next few stages, it won’t matter because you already have the time. Plus you totally demoralise the others.

  17. Alaphilippe’s tactics are odd. Couldn’t see any point in his ride with Martin the other day and now a potato chase today.
    He’d be better going for one attack 100% – first making sure he’s in it at the start.

  18. Said before the start of the Tour that TVG doesn’t have it – and continued with that view even when Porte lost 2 min. Personally, I’m glad to see a man who trains with Armstrong fail. Porte can feel rightly aggrieved – he should have been team leader and should have had a man there when he punctured.

  19. I hope the current situation of this stage helps some “experienced cycling managers” in these chats to rethink about all the brilliant things that apparently Movistar can do in order to break Sky and Froome. I don’t know about previous preparation for the Tour (maybe it could have been better), but now we are in the race I think it’s been evident for some time now they just don’t have the legs…

    • As one of your “experienced cycling managers” I take pride in my ability to send out comments from the comfort of my office well after the race is finished 🙂 haha… that’s the beauty of Inrng’s anonymous forum.

      It definitely does appear that most of the teams just don’t have the legs to beat Froome, however my only hope is that they all do whatever it takes to try, rather than race for 7th position! I’m very happy that it appears they are trying to put the yellow jersey’s team under pressure though!

        • @JJG +1
          The result isn’t assured but whatever happens it’s likely we’ll end by saying Froome is the strongest in the race.

          Bit surprised about Quintana – would love to know if it is form, illness or him getting broken in the wind.

          Either way – teams will always ride hard in the wind from now on to push him, I also wonder if in years to come we’ll see more attacks on him on descents – I’m not completely sure he’s as comfortable as the others descending – remember thinking it last year watching him go backwards on the descents – maybe wrong – & not trying to play arm-chair manager, but I just have a slight feeling it’s another very small weakness. I’m still stunned he didn’t chase Froome in those first few seconds of the descent attack however he’s clearly feeling now.

          Shame about TVG – but good to see Porte gunning, hopefully he’ll move to a deserved podium and quash the jours sans’ rumours once and for all.

          Yates stunning. He and Simon will be lethal in years to come. Just hope the lack of TT prowess won’t stunt their progression.

          Aru not that impressive, great cyclist but still unconvinced he’s in the top bracket, despite Vuelta victory.

          Playing Nostradamus – after Froome surely it’ll be Yatesx2vsQuintanavsDumoulinvsLandavsBardet – could be some golden years, unless Dumoulin progresses to be the next Froome.


  20. Conspiracy fans, now is the time to claim further proof that Porte is riding to help Froome. Ignore the fact that Porte gained time on all his other rivals.
    Brilliant comeback at the end by Yates – he’s looking like the real deal.

    • Yeah, I’ve been really impressed by Yates. He’s clearly riding relatively cautiously to avoid blowing up, but that’s completely understandable given his age, experience, and where he is in the overall. It also suggests he has a great mentality on him at this age not to get carried away.

      I’m going to be rooting for him to keep his podium place, and overhaul Mollema in the next few stages.

    • *tinfoil hat on*

      obviously Porte has the remote control for robo-froomo mounted in his stem, so once he made his attack, he hit a hidden turbo-boost button so Froomo would catch up.

      let’s just hope it doesn’t get too hot and melt a few wires.

      porte looking good – what could have been ~sigh – does he have a nickname? the Tasmanian devil maybe?

  21. so watching today with Sky on the front apparently drilling it at such a pace that the others all sat dutifully behind (until Nibali finally did something) it struck me that the gap to the break remained broadly unchanged for a long time… so is the advantage really a psycological one as much as physical – or maybe it’s the numbers – ie it’s not worth burning Landa/Thomas off because they just have 3 other guys and we’ll run out of bodies before they do…

    great try by Porte, but Froome looked supremely relaxed coming up to the line parked on his wheel…

    • I was the thinking exactly the same thing: it looked like Sky were drilling it on the last climb, losing Landa (clearly off form) and Henao (burnt out from previous work and possibly lacking race time), but the gap stayed at ~ 10′ until attacks started to stick closer to the finish. Even then they made up only around 2′ to a visibly exhausted Zakharin. The rest of the GC top ten really don’t have the legs, making that battle a fairly disappointing show today.

  22. Why other teams dont attack in the 1st and 2nd week and then defend is beyond me. Sky do it every time and it works. How is this not obvious.

    Its a simple formula and once you have a small advantage it can be easy to defend in the last week when other teams want to cement their top 10.

    • Because to attack and take time early you need to be the strongest climber on the first mountain finish. This is what Froome did in both 2013 and 2015, and okay the first mountain stage this year had a downhill finish, but he was only able to attack over the top and on the descent because he was freshest for being the best climber while his rivals were on the limit. Then you need to back that up in the TT, which Froome can do better than pretty much every other GC rider. Then you have a lead, then you defend it. It’s not about other teams lacking tactics, it’s just that it’s easier to look like a tactical genius when you’re the strongest rider with the strongest team.

  23. Interesting reading all the comments concerning Froome and Sky making the TdF ‘boring’ by their domination.

    Not so far back in the mists of time, we had the likes of Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault, Induran and Armstrong who all dominated the event in their own individual way, together with their teams, to make those Tour’s equally predictable.

    Much as we would all like three weeks of non stop exciting attacking battles with regular changes of the Yellow Jersey. History indicates that this not the way the modern Tour can be won. The Tour is won by an exceptionally gifted rider, who understands what is required, can climb and time trial and who possesses a steely character, together with a strong team that can measure his/their efforts for three weeks.

    • Well, we hadn’t that much internet in the likes of Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault, Induran and Armstrong. And coverage, for the first, except LA. And not that much new watchers from anglosaxon world. If we had all of these, sure there would have been similar complaints,
      But I can tell you, it wasn’t so much team dominance these days, without radio and watts computer stuff

      • Vitus and Ferdi. I can tell you that the teams of those Tour winners mentioned did have formidable teams to support them. Maybe they did not use the Sky train tactics of controlling the race all day every day. They didn’t have to for several reasons, not least that in their ‘day’ they were ‘patrons’ who generally dictated when and where the real racing would take place. Riders even asked the ‘patron’ for permission to pop up the road to greet their family ! Times, technology and tactics change, but try telling riders who competed against say Merkx, or any of them for that matter, that they did not have a dominant team ! Every one of them had team-mates who would go on to become future Tour winners – even if one of the more recent examples was DQd for a doping offence !

  24. Great comment by Poels after the race: “Within 2,5 weeks I will try to drop him” (meaning Froome, meaning Rio). A comment with 😉 but a serious undertone… Poels might take his chance in the Giro or Vuelta next year.

  25. Although Froome and Sky look too strong to lose the GC, I am still very much enjoying the rest of the race. Watching the other riders Yates/Mollema/Porte etc battling for the podium; seeing Cav win the sprints that he has; Majka and Pantano’s finish the other day, I think there is plenty to like.

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