Tour de France Stage 20 Preview

The final act and they’ve saved the best for last with an intense mountain stage that gets harder as it goes on with the Joux Plane and its toboggan-run descent into the finish as the climax to this year’s Tour de France. Once again it’s all live on TV from start to finish.

The Route: a brief neutral roll out and then the large valley road out of Megève, a descent until a sudden left turn onto the start of the Col des Saisies which they climb for a kilometre at 8% before turning off the slopes for a quick descent into Flumet, a town at Alpine crossroads.

The Col des Aravis is not as linear as it looks in the profile above. It begins with almost 2km at 10%, enough to form the gruppetto before it drops off and levels out for 2.5km. Then comes the ascension proper from La Giettaz, 7km at 7.5% and the Alpine experience all in one past a ski village, the sound of cowbells, hairpins, a tunnel and jagged peaks high above. The descent off the other side is fast and for the most part not too technical.

The Col de la Colombière is 11.7km long with a 5.8% average and for once the mean gradient is fairly representative of most of the climb, there are some 7% moments but the hardest part is the ascension’s length. The descent is in two parts, a fast run to the village of Le Reposoir with a vertiginous drop on one side and the cliff-edge mountain on the other and this is steep with some bumps in the road, awkward bends and several hairpins. After the village the road is faster and more predictable to the valley floor. There’s then 14km across the valley floor, a surprisingly industrial landscape, and then a 3km uphill approach to the start of the the Col de la Ramaz.

Rarely used in the Tour de France the Col de la Ramaz last appeared in the 2010 Tour de France where it ended the GC ambitions of Lance Armstrong, Alexander Vinokourov and Bradley Wiggins among others, mainly because it was the first Alpine ascent of the race and therefore the earliest opportunity to spot who didn’t have it; Armstrong’s chances were damaged by a prior crash on the approach. It’s a hard climb and who will get found out today? Two steep kilometres and then a breather through a tidy village called Messy before the road winds up past Alpine meadows for five kilometres. Then comes a hairpin and the road tracks the cliff-edge before entering a tunnel. This is the steepest past of the climb and optically confusing as the tunnel gives few clues to the rising gradient. Once past the tunnel the road eases soon after and passes around a large plateau area with a more gentle gradient.

The descent is mixed, some obvious sections but also a steep part with a series of hairpin bends linked by steep ramps and it’s here that they’ve been doing roadworks to try and keep the road open despite perpetual rockfalls. Once through the road opens up and joins the main road down from Les Gets to Taninges. Then comes 20km of gentle descent and the undulating valley road to Samoëns and the foot of the Joux Plane. This is a long stretch to condemn any lone moves over the Ramaz.

If only it was as easy as the profile. The Joux Plane is unusual for the way it snakes up through the meadows, it’s steep yet without the usual visual clues of vertical gain such as a steep drop off on one side or a snowy peak on the other. Daniel Friebe recounts in Mountain High that Chris Horner said it was “like 20% all the way up” while Dutch climbing legend Peter Winnen wrote it was “the nastiest climb in the Alps”. It’s not 20% and there’s worse in the Alps but it’s the way the Joux Plane feels harder than the profile that confounds, a steep start, a nasty middle section and upper section that goes on for too long. It’s the opposite of an engineered grade, the road is constantly pitching up and down.

It’s followed by an exciting descent that’s fast and has some tight bends, the kind of descent where local knowledge or elephantine memory of each bend counts as it’s steep and irregular. It dives down through woodland meaning there’s rarely a clear view of the road ahead, it’s often impossible to see beyond each corner and often to see the exit from the bend itself. They arrive in Morzine and there’s a final kilometre on the flat on a waving road before the finish line arrives.

The Scenario: Astana got to work yesterday and they’re likely to find Movistar and even BMC as allies today to race hard in order to shake up the race another time. Movistar have Nairo Quintana on the podium already, do they try and dislodge Romain Bardet and his sore legs or play it safe? Note the long valley sections in between the climbs, it’s hard to launch long raids here. Still even if the Col de la Ramaz is a long way from the finish but it can still be instructive. Is Chris Froome carrying any residual injury following his crash yesterday? Everyone wants to know and we’ll see if Astana and Movistar set to work to probe the yellow jersey’s health.

The Contenders: Richie Porte crashed yesterday but this didn’t stop him trying attacks in the finish only these were, appropriately enough, boomerang moves and he lost time. The podium is still possible for him and if that doesn’t work out then the act of trying could bring the stage win.

For Chris Froome the stage win is immaterial, he simply needs to finish within reach of his rival to sew up the race. If he looked sore and slower yesterday how much of this was down to his replacement bike with the wrong chainrings? Still if he’s feeling better then why not have a go on the Joux Plane and collect another win?

Romain Bardet has a mountain to climb. Ok four but a metaphorical one too, the prospect of winning the Tour de France. Slim, but what if he went to bed last night wondering of Chris Froome was injured, weak and prey? Yet sitting second overall is an awkward position, Nairo Quintana, Adam Yates and Richie Porte are all within one minute of him and surely he’s woken up with sore legs. Still he’s climbing well and descending even better.

Team Sky sets the pace, nobody can escape. It’s been a familiar theme ever since the 2012 Critérium du Dauphine, arguably the first time at the team strangled the life out of a race. Only back then one rider did escape the grip and it was Nairo Quintana who skipped away over the Joux Plane that year to win. So far, so prosaic but in reality Quintana’s looking better in the cooler weather. His problem is that he’s not looking that much better than everyone else. Alejandro Valverde is good for the flat finish in Morzine.

Astana did so much work yesterday and what did they get to show for it? Fabio Aru took back eight seconds and moved up one place overall. Still his surging attacks on the road to Le Bettex were something to behold after near invisibility prior to now in this race, in fact in this season. He’s on the up and could finally shake off his rivals. If you like omens then Samoëns, the town at the start of the final climb, is twinned with a place only a short spin away from the Aru family home in in Sardinia.

Did Adam Yates have an off-day? If he’s back to normal then he’s a pick to snip the stage win in a sprint among the main contenders. If Dan Martin sits tight on the climb while others attack he’s got a good sprint to snipe the win.Finally Joaquim Rodriguez was back to hanging with the front riders yesterday but represents no GC threat.

Jarlinson Pantano

Among the breakaway picks Rafał Majka could still try again despite yesterday’s efforts, after all he doesn’t have to collect any more mountain points and what better way to prove he’s the real monarch of the mountains than to win a stage? Ilnur Zakarin didn’t try yesterday, was he saving himself for today? If so he’ll need to go clear early on the Joux Plane as his descending skills are still a big weakness. Jarlinson Pantano by contrast is an excellent descender, his problem is the climb but he can afford to lose 40 seconds on the climb before chasing on the descent and using his sprint to win. Let’s add Stephen Cummings too, out of the action yesterday but too dangerous to ignore.

Jarlinson Pantano, Richie Porte, Fabio Aru, Romain Bardet
Quintana, Valverde, Majka, D Martin, Froome, Zakarin, Cummings

Weather: 22°C in the valleys and a cooler 15°C at altitude and rain showers, some heavy, all day.

TV: live on TV from start to finish, from 12.55pm to 5.20pm Euro time.

Paris transfer: the riders stay in the Alps overnight before catching a flight on Sunday morning to Paris for the final stage.

137 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 20 Preview”

  1. If Bardet has the legs it’ll be interesting to see if he follows the moves or his attacking instinct takes over before the final descent and he antagonises his rivals.

    Perhaps a minor point, but rather than committting his effort to the line yesterday he sat up to soak up the victory where I’d imagine others at his level would have tried to nick one or two more seconds. Is this reflective of his character (not judging, just looking for instruction)?

    • How many more seconds would the guy have taken by avoiding a display of his enjoyment in victory? Any rider who breaks the way-too-popular mold of SKY-like cool, calm and passionless deserves some praise. Vive Le France! Vive LeTour!
      Bring on the rains and let’s see a flurry of attacks on Froome – if he withstands them all, he’s a more worthy winner and if otherwise….I’d love to see someone (pretty much anyone) else in yellow in Paris on Sunday.

      • Larry, maybe you could assume that by now we’ve all read of your deeply-held personal beliefs on Team Sky. We are all (anyone who’s ever read a cycling article with comments, ever) aware you feel that they’re the embodiment of all that is bad and evil in cycling and the world. Whether you’re right or not doesn’t even matter, this was not the sermon we came here for. So maybe you could pack up your sandwich-board and loudhailer and let us enjoy our weekend.

    • I’d like to think it’s reflective of his character. After the win he mentioned ‘getting away from the calculations’ and letting ‘the emotion take over’. It’s great to hear professional sports people talk like that. Who knows, I may just be over romanticising it!

      • I must admit there seems to be some passion on display with Froome these days…but I still dislike the SKY team methods…too much of the old “Can’t beat ’em? Buy ’em!” mentality there for my liking. And then there are Greg LeMond’s questions about Froome. He was dismissed as a jealous crank the last time he expressed doubts…but in the end he was spot-on.

      • Interestingly there was a discussion on the Cycling Podcast last night (by the two French guests Seb Piquet and Francois Thomazeau, before there are any accustaions of national bias) about how Romain Bardet understood the narrative that the French audience wants to see and hear and that he plays to that narrative. Whilst they weren’t talking specifically about whether he was using his earpiece or not, to say that he was not listenning but riding purely on feel and passion fits with that type of narrative. None of us know for sure whether it was on or off, but he was fiddling with his earpiece on the latter part of the final climb yesterday…an odd thing to do unless either (a) he was using and was having issues with it or (b) he was either switching it on or off.

    • In the post race interview he explained how last year everything was planned in advance and immediately after the win he focused on keeping the polka-dot jersey, missing out on the fun of winning and spending a rather stressful night.

      As a consequence of that statement, the spontaneity with which he approached the end and the aftermath of yesterday’s masterpiece can be seen as a strategic decision. If focusing on macro didn’t work last year, and since there’s only one stage left, he seems to deliberately avoid over-thinking it. Provided he’s able to sleep well and channel his own and the team’s excitement, it sounds reasonable to me.

      Again, it is such a dangerous stage today, anything can happen! But I’m wondering how can anyone be against the scenario of Bardet (and Chérel, AG2R) delivering another explosion like yesterday with, why not, a final, 4min12s gap over an injured Froome.

      If my bias wasn’t yet apparent, there:
      Allez Romain!!!

      • Yes very gutsy ride from Romain
        Threw candle to the wind and put all in his slipstream
        Truely a rider of class , what we need in this tour
        Ritche attacked but too late but at that last
        pitch in the road who wouldnt crack a bit

  2. Thanks for a great Tour. For all the cries of GC boredom, this is a pretty exciting denouement, regardless of whether Sky uses clubs, Movistar their machetes, or Bardet his stylet. I would be happy if Bardet had another good day, however unlikely.

      • C’mon.

        This is my least favorite event of the year, but; The first week, Cav’s resurgence/yellow, Sagan is a monster, Kruziger (maybe) is as selfish as Aru and froome, Nibali proved loyal, Bardet, Majka earned it, so did Yates, Quintana settled (3rd is impressive), but Movistar won, Again. Running Man, can’t make that up; Contador with a more focused team next year, Sky is a sledgehammer and froome is unbelievably good, Sky’s DSs are brilliant, Brailsford is the master of BS, Riis is back in business, Tinkov will be.

        It was a three week action/adventure/soap opera. And that’s what everybody wants in July. I was entertained.

    • If Mollema can he will attack. Yesterday he told on dutch television that he doesn’t care about 10th position. I’d love to see that but I doubt he can.
      I hope Wout Poels gets the ok from Chris Froome to attack on the finale climb. He looks like the strongest climber atm and he deserves a win imo.

  3. I’d like to see Cummings have a go, but he was interviewed on ITV4 after the TT and he said he had started out hard with the intention of seeing what he could do, but then realised quite quickly his legs didn’t have it and he sat up. So I think his form is declining, not rising.

  4. Unsure what i’m going to do from Monday with no TV coverage and my days starting reading the preview on here. Thanks for the detailed and unique views on the tour.

    Think Quintana will seal his podium place today, and would like Bardet to keep second.

  5. 1st decisive point, Colombi{re descent (long, steep, wet). AG2R forcing there to see what happens. IF Froome misses an hairpin bend and gets scared, if I were the French team I would there. There are chances that Valverde (quintana), Nibali (Aru) and Bardet would help. Then it is all about nerves and legs, with Poel and Froome forcing a bit on the Ramaz to get back. Froome can lose as much time as he wants on the descents, his team is so strong on climbs that he can manage a couple minutes loss between Ramaz and Joux Plane without a peep (cf. Contador on the Finestre 2015, at the Giro).

    If Astana and SKY ride like the other stages, get ready for a nice ride outside, and forget about the boring Tour

  6. You don’t think Porte will pay for yesterday? His attacks looked weak. Aru didn’t look great either.

    Martin seems to have good jump but needs to go near the top.

    Purito and Meintjes looked good yesterday (along with Valverde), what are they like descending?

    • Hopefully Porte has recovered, I didn’t hear Aru went down. I know that crashes are a part of racing, but one likes to see races decided on strength and tactics rather than crashes and often luck (for example being caught out by a crash in front of you or not getting neutral or team service in a timely manner).

      • I was willing his attack to work yesterday, but he’s done the same boomerang attack multiple times this tour and you’d expect he’d learn to time it better from his previous attempts.

        • I enjoy watching English-born Irishman Dan Martin, especially in the Classics, but his attacks in the Tour are about as convincing as Father Ted Crilly explaining that the money was only resting in his account.

  7. Sorry, meant to say, It is great seeing Dan going for the one day races like LBL etc. which may take a back seat if he decides to for the Tour next year.

  8. I’ve been on the internet a lot longer than I’ve been watching bike races and I can tell you, if you’re mad at comments, getting cranky at the people writing them usually just results in even more annoying comments. Go for a walk, eat an ice cream or something.

  9. If Valverde, Porte, and co don’t attack on the col de la Ramaz, this Tour will be reminded as the Tour of cowardice. Bardet will not attack, he won a stage and is happy with second place in the GC. For Sky it’s impossible to control the attacks, far from the finish, coming from different teams and different climbers. After a while, they’ll have to let some riders go. And then we’ll see. Whishfull thinking i guess. I’m sure Froome had a talk with his ‘mate’ Porte, yesterday evening or this morning….
    Only if Froome has a really bad day, due to his injurys, some contenders may do something…. at 2 km of the top of the Joux Plane.

    • Don’t be so sure about Bardet. His effort yesterday was clever, not so much bigger than his rivals behind… He didn’t touch the ground and didn’t have to reel back attacks or get back with the group. Comparatively, Porte and Yates surely come out of yesterday more tired than Bardet, and Quintana admitted generally being in a bad shape, thinking yesterday as a miracle for him (although this could be a bluff).

      So there’s a case for Bardet playing around some more if he finds a chance.

      • I mean, Bardet has the biggest potential and has the best mentality. If he wasn’t second in the GC, he’ll problably the only one to try to launch a big attack on the Ramaz. But now, i’m not sure. I think he’ll try at the end of the Joux Plane, without taking risks.

  10. Matt White not happy with Yates’s time penalty yesterday for something that happened with 85km to go and has affected GC. He alluded to it being a puzzling jury decision, taking other events into account during the event. I guess he may be meaning that other riders being “awarded” time for completing the course sans Bicycle! Something I must say I would totally agree with.

    • Presumably the decision to award Quintana the same time as Yates on Ventoux despite (a) finishing behind him, and (b) holding on to a moto, is what White has in mind.

    • The nature of rules is, they are applied from km 0 to finish. There’s no such thing as slingshots are allowed midstage. Like getting a wheel from another team or sitting in a car lead to penalties. Matt White should know that or get a new job.

      • 1km barrier time change, running without bike ignored, fudge of Ventoux results, endless sticky bottles (as in every race), Quintana holding on to car.
        In none of those cases were the rules applied to the letter – rightly or wrongly.
        You either apply the rules or you let things go.

          • On your blog ‘The running man’, UHJ says he is a commissaire and that ‘a DQ would have been in order’. UHJ said ‘Running without his bike was a very clear violation’.
            That was what I meant by ‘ignored’.
            So, the rules as written were not upheld in all of these cases I mention (I’m not saying they should have been), so why the hand-sling? There is no consistency.

          • That’s for sure. I’m astonished at so many conspicuous commentators conspicuously forgetting to admit Froome was done, justly or not, a hugely significant favour.

          • He still had well over two minutes in hand, if the recorded times on Ventoux were final. His time loss might have changed the race dynamic somewhat, but sadly I don’t think anyone was good enough in this Tour to challenge him (or his team).

          • I agree with this…

            Woulda’s, coulda’s, ifs & maybe’s… Who knows what would have happened if Ventoux stood as occurred, but Froome has been head and shoulders above everyone else in this tour.

            I’m more interested to know how Richie Porte would have ended up had he not lost 1:45 on stage 2.

          • I don’t think Porte is ever going to live up to the hype; he doesn’t quite have the engine, he’s not smart enough and he’s not ruthless enough.

      • Excepy Contador in this years Dauphine where the commisars decided that he’d already been ‘punished’ by the mechanical so there was no point deducting time from him as well.

  11. Though unlikely I want to see Bardet attack across the top of the Ramaz really push on the descent, join Gouegard for the valley then solo the Joux Plane and the descent. taking about 5 minutes out of a hesitant Froome who just can’t cope with the descents.

    Come on Bardet!

  12. With a Aru cracking, Quintana apparently not up to the job this 3 weeks & Nibali stage hunting. It looks like Froome has no peers. OK team sky dictate he has to concentrate on the tour but I’m pretty sure the giro or vuelta wouldn’t pose an issue if he focused on those races. His grand tour palmares might not be too varied but he has proven himself the best GC rider in the last 5 years

    • Repeat a lie often enough…

      Froome might start to win something else, then we’ll speak about it. Until then, he’s essentially the great TdF rider of the last 5 years and among the four or five best GC riders.

      Besides, Froome as an athlete really proved something last year, whereas this year what was added was more or less a symbolical, image factor, with the different little showings descending or with the Sagan move, but, that said, the GC level was too low to prove anything else.

      Not to speak of the unprecedented (in 20 years) difference in performance between his team and the others, although that difference is hard to justify on paper. Yes, they’ve got a lot of fine gregari, but not as good as you’d needed in the past to produce a comparable performance. In the past the few teams which achieved to put four men in the top 20 had typically some three GT podiumers among the four, while Sky has got Henao, Nieve, Thomas, who didn’t ever made a top 5 in any GT!

      However, Froome apart (the only positive note is probably him), now this is officially the worst Tour in decades.
      Very little differences made in *every* key stage, and the action – when any action at all was there to be seen – was reduced to the last 2-3 kms on most climbs.

        • Only thing more boring to watch such a Tour are the ones who find such boredom okay cause winning is all.
          And you may ask if Barca works or celebrates football while winning.

        • I can’t fault the riders: you’re right, they compete to win. But I watch to be entertained. The break/stage win today was quite interesting (and has been most days, to be fair), the GC battle pretty flat after the Pyrenees.

          • While during or before the Pyrenees…?!

            The break stories were good, but they had nearly always too much freedom and they were often very similar in their dynamics. They rarely had any relevance for the global strategic perspective. Fine to see, but far from the top you can see in terms of breaks.

        • Some fanboys don’t get it. Those who didn’t like the Tour, or at least most of those who are commenting here, aren’t criticising Froome nor Sky. On the contrary. Froome was the only interesting thing in this Tour. Well, you could add a couple of footnotes about Sagan, Bardet or Dumoulin.
          The problem was the race, which wasn’t top level, generally speaking.
          As a fan of the sport I’m utterly disappointed by such a TdF. Both boring and low level. And you can fact-check that (very reduced time difference between GC men in mountain stages, any action reduced to very few final kms).

      • Concise as always 🙂

        Maybe someone can provide some stats on whether there is an unprecedented gulf between Sky and the rest – I would guess not, but happy to be corrected.

        Perhaps Thomas et al are relatively low on gc because they’ve been doing their jobs?

        Sorry you haven’t enjoyed the race. It hasn’t been a belter but still very entertaining compared with the dark years.

        • You didn’t get the point… I was *too* concise, I’m afraid 😛

          a) I already provided the stats. In the last 20 years at the TdF, we saw four men from a same team in the top 20 only 4 times (Radioshack, Caisse d’Epargne, ONCE, Kelme). In every and each of these cases, four or five other teams had more than one man in the top 20. This year, only three teams have more than one man in the top 20 (two until yesterday!), and, Movistar apart, we’re speaking of guys placing 18th, 19th ans 20th, not really present at all in the GC action, more of break men (Clement, Pantano for IAM, Vuillermoz for Ag2R). Hence I’d say that yes, it’s statistically without precedents in the last 20 years. They were upbeat, perhaps the only ones, the others were really low on form.

          b) In every and each case in which something like this happened, the athletes who made it were really top level, that is, GT winners and podiumers. Despite having worked for someone else in many cases, during their careers… Same can’t be said for Sky. The three teammates up there didn’t prove themselves as good as the people who previously accomplished the feat. Note that Landa isn’t in the top 20, nor Poels. A peculiar result was obtained through overperforming by the gregari, at least when compared with parallel situations in the past.

          c) More entertaining than most Lance years (not all of them), but very much lower technical level (not speaking of power or speed). The worst means the combination of different factors. However, I’d say that it’also probably the worst Tour since 2004 in pure entertainment terms. And we’ve been having got several ugly Tours in the while.

          • Are you saying that the teams are now tending to just support one guy in the top 20 of gc, instead of several?

            I agree smaller teams would give better racing. If that’s what you’re driving at.

          • Thank you, Gabriele, for keeping it real (although I hate that phrase) and saying it like it is.

            Btw: The “doping made races entertaining” phrase is exactly what was said 15 years ago to defend the postal-train and armstrong’s attacks, when armstrong was hailed as the clean american, modern hero (yes, there was such a time in the new, clean, post-Festina races etc.), who came to save cycling from the stoneage with all his extrafancy new, different methods and body-measurements (his gigantic heart and lungs and so). Apart from everything else, such thinking is wrong and sloppy: There is no such thing as a single reason for racing being this way or that way.

          • The volume of words does not improve the quality on the analysis. Basically every other team in this year’s Tour was tactically inept. By keeping their gregari together Sky not only won the race but got 4 riders in the top 20. And getting rid of race radios won’t help if the DSs have no tactical awareness.

          • @Tovarishch
            “Basically every other team in this year’s Tour was tactically inept”.
            Yeah sure. Very probable. Out of 22 professional staffs with long-time careers and racing at the top level, 21 were *tactically inept*.

            “By keeping their gregari together Sky not only won the race but got 4 riders in the top 20”.
            Wow, how curious that in 20 years only 4 teams accomplished the feat and… wait… pretty much none of those worked out their way to such a result by “keeping their gregari together”. Didn’t anybody else think it was good to have a lot of firepower available in the heat of the action? Silly, silly team managers.

            And, hey, how really peculiar is life, even this same year, the only other teams which managed to have more than *one* rider in the top 20 weren’t “keeping their gregari together”, not all.

            But it’s all very logical, at the end of the day. The one and only tactically apt team management implemented a strategy which worked only for them while that same strategy has been pretty much failing to achieve a similar result when other present or past teams were doing the same (USPS rarely sent riders up the road, and they never ended up having 4 riders in the top 20).

            And, another detail, that was no “analysis” on my part, it was pretty much presenting facts.
            Everyone can analyse that as he or she please, for example imagining doping (as other readers immediately did, feeling the urge to deny a possibility which I didn’t even name), questioning the money factor, eulogising a well-focused preparation… or fancying that it was just the consequence of the only team with a *proper strategy*.

          • Very honestly: We have a whole field made out of World-Tour riders (+Wildcard-teams), we have DSes, coaches etc., that run this sport for years and someone really comes with the “the others all had bad tactics” and “sky has the better riders” and “they were the only ones taking the race serious”? Because Poels is (usually) such a better rider than Nibali, Porte, Bardet, Aru etc.? Please!

            I know that some parts of the media write that stuff, but that is their job. To sell the whole thing. Doesn’t mean it is true or (in some cases) they know what they write about. The tactics sky used are neither new, nor were they brilliant. They simply crushed the race with strength. Nobody likes to be humiliated. If the others could have done something, they would have done it. Where that different level of strength came from, has to (and surely will) be determined in the future. Because sky could have won that race easily with 6 riders.

      • +1 Another over-hyped TdF dominated by the best team money can buy. Perhaps the franchise idea with salary cap isn’t such a bad idea after all? Or maybe just get rid of power-meters, radios, TV’s in the team cars and all the rest of the electronic gadgetry? Then figure out how to encourage the boys to race rather than hide out at training camps in the mountains all the time? I doubt this era will go down as any sort of golden-age-of-cycling.

        • At least +2 and perhaps +5 to Larry – I’d love a workable salary cap (spread the talent around) and getting rid of power meters would make things less predictable in an era where teams have worked out what ‘threshold’ is (and can afford enough riders to sit there at that level to the last 1km of the last climb of the day).

        • Or go back to the days where everyone was full of PED, where there was attack, after attack, after attack. If we believe that all the teams are clean, that isn’t possible.
          Team sky were the strongest team with best leader, its up to the other teams to raise their game, use better tactics, employ better sports science & I think more than anything else turn up with one objective with the best riders to support that objective – anything to narrow the gap.

          I agree the race was pretty boring until yesterday with the rain. it shouldn’t need rain to make a race. It’s often said the stage profile doesn’t make the race the riders do. The reasons it’s been so boring is down to the other teams & riders

          • The Armstrong years were full of PEDs and you often had boring stage after boring stage. It was the most similar thing to present Tour, indeed, also in terms of peloton dynamics.

            OTOH, no reason to believe this year is very much cleaner than the previous two years (same politics, same institutional powers), but they were hugely more entertaining, with several attacks from the middle or long range, strong performances and so on. 2013 was fine, too, but that was still McQuaid era…

            And you had lots of attacks over attacks before the Eighties, when the doping wasn’t technologically as effective… as current *legal substances*! (call it… “sport science”).

            I’d suggest that no credible relation can be established between race dynamics (different from “absolute performances”) and doping…

          • +1 Adam, and the race sadly lost Contador, ok he is not at his top anymore but he does like to shake things up! and we had NQ clearly not riding to his best. But that’s not Sky or Froome’s fault. As you said, its about others raising their game and the game has moved on, its just that others have not moved fast enough (given their budgets of course). You can’t please all of the people all of the time, or Larry any of the time.

          • Gabriele, why don’t you just say you think Team Sky are cheating?

            BTW ive been a reader (lurker) of this blog for 4 yrs & I generally find your comments insightful & educational but i think you are of the mark here.

          • Adam, you are the one talking about PEDs, not Gabriele.
            Clearly, you have not understood what he said.
            People on this site cannot seem to accept that saying this was a boring GC contest is neither a criticism of Sky nor a suggestion of doping.
            If a salary cap is possible, it should be done.
            The no. of riders per team should be reduced to 7.
            Otherwise, the Tour will go on like this for years and years. Every Tour since Sky began their domination has been dull. That’s not Sky’s fault. But something should be done to mitigate the fact that their money means they dominate.
            When people criticise that domination as unexciting, others without such huge knowledge as Gabriele (for instance) then leap on these comments and shout them down – failing to understand the points that are actually being made.
            Intelligent commenters like Gabriele and Larry T add a lot to this site, but they are regularly insulted by those who know a lot less.
            Because on this site dissenting opinions are not tolerated.
            And the INRNG has to shoulder a lot of the blame for this, as INRNG tolerates this.
            You can have a site where cycling is discussed or one like so many of the others where insults are flung about.

          • @Adam
            “Gabriele, why don’t you just say you think Team Sky are cheating?”

            a) because I don’t say things I don’t think (not in those terms, at least). The Schrödingerian thing I’ve been quoting lately. I’m *sure* they’ve been using and perhaps abusing legal substances and methodes, which I don’t like nor approve, but which isn’t exactly *cheating*. Not at all. Moreover the concept of cheating is not adequate, but that’s a different story. I don’t know about what else they might be doing and I’m not interested in discussing it, frankly. Would just be cheap talk (see point c) )

            b) because I’m not sure that, even if it was true, it would be the only or most relevant factor. Quite the contrary. So why should I lose time discussing it? I’m already boring (and bored) enough.

            c) because I wasn’t speaking of Team Sky, here, so why should I say anything about them? I was only replying to a very biased view of cycling in general which defends that you can know if people are doping by the way they race. Which is factually false. Not about Team Sky nor Froome.

          • to annonymous 7.11.

            I have insulted no one or shouted anyone down. I have no doubt there are many contributors more knowledgeable than me with regards cycling. To say those who disagree are less intelligent is insulting. I will return to lurking on this blog

            Gabriele, we can agree to disagree. I will look forward to reading your future contributions.

          • Adam Rigby, that was a general comment based on the last few days and not aimed at you.
            Look at the last few days – a lot of insults.

  13. The only thing I am getting a bit bored of are these last Saturday mountain stages. Today was a damp squib in more ways than one! The only congratulations today was a Basque winning.

  14. Super impressive from Bardet yesterday and Yates had a great ride. Who can topple Froome though, seems only a superior rouleur who could hang on to the Sky train could do it – a slimmed down Dumoilin then, or maybe Rohan Denis, but it would be a lot of sacrifice snd maybe more than one year’s project

  15. For those who say the Tour has been boring. Problem is not Sky – they do their job. Main culprit was the most boring of all riders in the race – Quintana. He did not do his job – following wheels is not his job description – and generally was not up to the task. A Quintana at the level of his hype would have made this a thrilling TdF. I blame him and his team for the lack of more excitement. I did enjoy this year’s evento. And I find Froome (and Sky) outstanding. I take deep pleasure in seeing competence of the highest order in action.

    • Thank you Nuno, I agree…about the anons.
      But I disagree that NQ is to “blame”. I don’t think he had much choice in the matter and therefore is not to “blame”. His palmarès don’t point to someone who chooses poor performance.

  16. This TDF can be summed up by not one of the GC riders testing Froome to see how his injury was. And none of them even tried to beat each other.
    Some seem to enjoy watching Sky dominate. I can’t see why, but that’s personal preference.
    However, these pages are now greatly intolerant of any comment that even hints at being anti-British (even though most of these comments are actually criticising Sky’s opponents).

  17. Disagree – problem really is Sky are too strong. Not their fault, more to do with the structure of the sport, attracting sponsors. Easier to blame individual riders for not being superhuman if you don’t grasp human physiology.

  18. Kids, settle down back there !

    I did enjoy todays stage with the motorcycle cops beating/running into the idiots as they were running along tormenting the riders, and the one fan who threw the other fan down, stunning work.

    Thanks INRG, we don’t take you for granted

  19. Inrg, is there any way of compelling the teams to be more balanced? Eg they must include a sprinter.Defintions would be a problem, but you could insist on one or 2 riders with a certain number of points in UCI or pro-conti sprint stages and maybe one or two with top 10’s in classics etc.

  20. In general I can agree with the @ Nuno view that it is deeply pleasurable to see competence of the highest order in action. It was almost men against boys from Sky in the end. Despite his bad luck with broken bikes, given the unerring support he received from his team one might have thought Froome could win the race on a unicycle. Yet it would be even better to see an intelligent approach from opposing teams to beating Sky at the Tour in future.

    I wonder if Poels will hold enough form to show Froome the way home in Rio.

  21. There’s a lot of tat floating round on here but some decent comments in between. I think following this tour either a salary cap or some workable way of making teams take a sprinter, a punchuer and a TT specialist on tours and not just 7 climbers and a couple of underfed and personality-less rouleurs (yes I’m looking at you Kiriyenka). That last point is probably unworkable but still. I mean, what exactly has Kiriyenka got out of this Tour for his
    own benefit. He’s the worldly champion, a top rider in his own right and all he did was slog away for someone else and didn’t even contest the TTs. Likewise Thomas, dis he sacrifice a chance of winning a monument to follow Froome around and then give him his bike when he falls off? Surely sportsmen only get to the top if they have an ego of their own?! Also a salary cap, I suppose Sky would pull the plug if one was imposed.

    • People kept on talking about salary cap, but I have a feeling that Tinkoff probably would blow up that cap first.

      His Tour team overall salary including 4 million on Sagan (still worthwhile) plus at least 2 million on Contador would very much likely surpass Sky’s Tour team salary (Froome on 2M, with the rest likely being paid between 300k to 500k).

      So I think it is less a problem of having enough money to out buy talents (Sky didn’t buy all the big names in the peloton, and Froome is more or less home grown rough diamond), more a problem of spending the right amount to buy the right type of talents.

        • An interesting paradox though, Inrng, is that the most monied (capitalist) of teams produces the most communist of performances.
          Now you can either find this unimaginative, as Richard S notes below, or perhaps be grateful that the sacrifice to the collective spares us a Harlem Globetrotters-style circus of travelling superstars?

        • My bad, 2 million was the figure quoted when Froome extended his contract with Sky in 2012 or 2013. Though Sagan’s 4 million was also quoted as un-precendently high or highest salary in the peloton, which probably lead to me underestimating Froome Salary.

          On the other hand, was my estimation of Contador salary accurate?

          High 6 for a domestique is a lot of money. I know sky pays well but didn’t realise that it pays that well. On the other hand, surely Mikel Landa’s 7 figures salary is a team leader salary.

          I agree that Sky Salary is extremely high, but one can’t shed the feeling that at least two or three teams with similar level of budget to Sky could have spent their money a little bit wiser.

  22. Only what, 275 days plus-or-minus until the Grande Partenza of the 100th Giro. I, for one, cannot wait. (And a smaller number of days until the Olympics, Vuelta, Lombardia, etc.) I don’t know about the rest of the group, but I’m ready to move on from this Tour. Here’s the short answer: Froome is a very good rider; Sky’s tactics are both boring and effective. I’m past it already.

    Part of me wants to come on here and write that Froome would do a lot to bolster his palmares, and come a step closer to joining those at the top of cycling’s Mt Olympus, by entering and winning a Giro or two. Then again, if that means that the style of the racing, and the attendant discussion on Inrng, come to resemble this TdF, then: No, thank you. I prefer my Giros unpredictable and uncontrollable.

    I wonder, what would it take for the Giro to overcome the Tour in terms of prestige? How many dud Tours can there be, along side thrilling Giros (of which there have been more than a few in recent years) before the Giro supplants the Tour at the center of the stage? I think it would be virtually impossible; the general public doesn’t ever see the Giro, and may not appreciate the racing there even if they did; therefore, the sponsors and teams have no incentive to switch away from the Tour.

    Thanks as always to Inrng for a first-rate site.

      • This is all getting rather silly isn’t it?
        The best rider and team clearly won, which wasn’t the case in the Giro.
        Nor did I hear the same level of criticism when big bad Astana ganged up on Dumoulin in the Vuelta last year, and in the 2015 Giro with 4 x riders in the top 20.

        It’s horses for courses. Sky have hitherto sent weaker teams to the Giro and paid the price, preferring to concentrate on the TdF.

        • Absolutely agree with MRJ. Nothing silly – no criticism of Sky. But it’s still immediately smacked down.
          Smaller teams or this tedium carries on.

        • “The best rider and team clearly won, which wasn’t the case in the Giro.”

          You know that you’re very exclusive with your opinion on that, do you?
          Oh and they “ganged up on Dumoulin “, how dare they use their team power on 2 penultimate stages to win a GT. Exact the thing that everyone her expect Movi or Astana or Ag2r to do in this Tour, fight until last stage. That’s how you better do a GT.
          And dont’t get me wrong, I was all on team Dumoulin last year and I was gutted for him. But if Giant only goes for sprints an mid-hilly stages with team roster and let his GC hopefull doing things alone, he maybe loses due beter teamwork, what it’s called, not gang up.

        • I find it a bit silly to declare the best rider won except in “the case in the Giro” d’Italia. The races are conducted to determine who is the best rider – so the best rider is ALWAYS the victor.
          Best team is another category with separate prizes as the best rider doesn’t always need/have the best team. Greg LeMond in 1989 is a good example.
          As everyone knows I’m no fan of Froome or SKY, but in LeTour 2016 Froome was clearly the best and SKY brought a superior team to support him. Would he have been the best with a weaker team? That’s one of the questions that make this sport so interesting.

        • Ecky Thump, I’d hazard to guess no one complained that loudly when Astana tried similar tactics in the 2015 Giro because they failed. Contador, wily character that he is, foiled their attempts.

          I’d also point out that Sky have now hired two of Astana’s prime mountain domestiques from that race, Mikel Landa and (if I have read things correctly) Diego Rosa. Sky just need to hire Tanel Kangert to complete the absorption of the key domestiques from Astana’s 2015 Giro team!

          I will simply say this: When I turned on the Giro this year, I legitimately did not know what to expect on a day-to-day basis. When I turned off many (though not all) of the stages of this year’s Tour, I did so with a feeling of “The expected excitement did not happen today.”

          And speaking of the Giro, I still get chills when I watch stage 20 of the 2015 Giro, specifically as the race crests the Colle delle Finestre and Rob Hatch, upon seeing the spectators lined up along the ridge of the mountain, remarks “Look at that! It’s a natural stadium!” What a beautiful sport we have the pleasure of taking in. I really don’t think any other sport in the world can top it.

    • The Giro will never surplant the Tour. I’m not 100 % sure how the Tour has become so far ahead of other bike races in terms of prestige but the French do have a flair promoting blue riband sports events (Le Mans 24 Hours, Monaco GP etc). I’m like you I love all the others just as much if not more. The Tour often seems to follow a predictable pattern and have long running repeat winners that get tiresome. Fair enough nobody predicted Froome attacking on a descent and a flat windy stage but everything else followed a script. Much like Armstrong he seems to be able to absorb misfortune without major losses.

      • Apart from the times he’s crashed out. And the Commissaires did help him to absorb the misfortune on Ventoux.

        That aside, sporting events often become more popular among the general public when there’s a predictable winner. People like to follow somebody they’ve heard of, and like it more when that somebody wins. Fans of the sport might prefer competitive balance, but the casual fan is what drives overall popularity, and they seem to prefer predictability.

      • Agreed. LeTour seems to be a bit easier to figure out OR is it just that big-budget teams take the time to figure it out vs the Giro d’Italia, which is less predictable and formulaic and of lesser importance to big-budget marketing efforts?

    • “Froome is a very good rider”
      I grant him a “good” of course. If he’s “very good” he didn’t have to proof it in this Tour. There was no real contender to fight with.
      And no, one descent isn’t enough to be “very good” in my humblest opinion. His skills doesn’t shine so bright on normal chainrings. I’m sure he relies very much on that ovals for his ugly but fast climbing style

        • Who talked about all? They for sure make a difference for HIM and his ugly but fast style. Nobody rides in that weird style, nobody else (that I’m aware off) this chainrings so he wouldn’t use it if they make no difference, right?

          • I think Wiggins dropped them when he changed his ambitions, going from that famous high cadence mountain climbing and back to work on the track and aiming for the spring classics where an oval ring is pointless on the cobbles. You can’t change back and forth.

            Some riders do like them but the sponsors say no to them.

  23. I’d like to see a couple of things:

    Smaller teams – 7 per team and add two/three new teams to the race. I realise that this would shallow the talent pool slightly, but I think ASO have to take a risk to improve the race.

    Tighten the time cuts – AND all riders need to finish within a %’age of the first rider of their team. This would stop the Wout Poels type sitting on the front, then rolling home half an hour later each day. It would also help to stop riders being over 4 hours behind by the end of the tour. That’s a whole additional stage. It’s too much. This would also help thin out the peloton, thus removing the reliance/prevalence of trains in the mountains.

    If teams stay at 9 riders, each team has to jettison 2 riders after (say) the second rest day. this would make selection interesting, especially for teams seeking to balance GC and stage win aspirations.

    • Your second idea would mean there were no sprinters by Paris.
      But yes, teams of 7 is a simple solution that would vastly improve the race – and most can see that.

      • Then turn OFF your television set! go do something else simples innit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • People blinded by fandom, rather than appreciating the sport. And if you don’t like Sky’s dominance, you should stop watching cycling.

        • Let’s calm things down before a fight kicks off. Everyone has different tastes, whether it’s music, art or watching bike races, each to their own. Some may find a bike race/album/art installation etc boring and others might like it and nobody is compelled to watch it.

          There is room to reflect on the matter but this is more about making suggestions rather than criticising each others comments.

          Also PP/Anon, you are flood-posting lots of messages under different usernames and there’s no need to tell people what to do, it just comes across as flaming rather than contribution, and on what is supposed to be a preview of Saturday’s stage.

          • I was just choosing PP, so that I wasn’t anonymous.
            I didn’t tell people what to do: didn’t tell people to turn off their television. Didn’t use capitals either.
            No-one is even being anti-Sky, they are coming up with ideas to make the Tour de France less boring. But the Sky fans don’t even allow discussion.
            Some people have an appreciation of the sport that goes back decades, some just want “Team Britain” to win.
            Their intolerance of discussion and the name-calling you do nothing about really lower the tone here.

  24. The Tour De France has to be re-thought. It is too far away in concept from other races in sport, whether horse race, track, or cycling. The problem is that a large number of participants in the race cannot win it by contract. They have to agree to ride in the service of someone else. So those who are designated as helpers cannot try. But I remember Contador refusing to ride in the service of Lance Armstrong. This current design makes the race predictable and boring, as was the case this year. I wonder if it was like that when the race was inaugurated. Now it is a race of ambiguous design. It is at once an individual race and a team race, but each team has its preferred designated winner. I also think that the last leg of the race goes against the norm. It should have something to do the overall winner, who, as it stands, rides in with Champagne, and a convoy to prevent mishap. I am completely turned of from this race.

    • Unless you’re being sarcastic then the sport probably isn’t for as the teamwork/leader dynamic applies from the Tour Down Under to the Giro di Lombardia and this unlikely to be rethought.

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