Tour de France Stage 21 Preview

The conclusion of the 2016 Tour de France. The final stage is part victory parade, part criterium as the Champs Elysées are reserved for the riders, a privilege only accorded to cyclists and visiting heads of state.

Stage 21 Review: one race for the price of two. There was a good battle for the stage win while most of the overall contenders sat tight with only marginal figures of Joaquim Rodriguez and Roman Kreuziger launching moves to climb into the top-10 at the expense of Bauke Mollema and Fabio Aru. Earlier Ag2r La Mondiale did try to up the pace on the Col de la Ramaz but saw Chris Froome was not in difficulty and nobody else moved on the Joux Plane except for Fabio Aru who went backwards, frozen and hypoglycaemic. Dan Martin’s surge through the streets of Morzine summed up a lot of the stage: he was worried about defending his ninth place and had to hurry up in case Kreuziger pipped him.

The real contest was for the stage win after a giant breakaway of 37 riders formed on the lower slopes of the Col des Aravis and from this Ion Izagirre took the win ahead of Jarlinson Pantano, Vincenzo Nibali and Julian Alaphilippe, all coming in separately after a dicey descent down the Joux Plane.

The Route: an elegant start in Chantilly, a quick traverse of the dormitory towns and Parisian suburbs and then the glory of the Champs Elysées and eight laps. As ever there’s a slight rise to the road and it’s cobbled, the urban variety of pavé but enough to make it that bit harder. After weeks touring rural France here is the capital’s seal of approval.

The Scenario: a sprint finish. The intermediate point and the finish line have time bonuses in case Louis Meintjes wants to overhaul Joaquim Rodriguez, the Spaniard is ahead on GC by 0.41 seconds, the two time trial trial stages being timed to the nearest 100th of a second. For all the demob mentality this is still a race and anyone can attack as they wish but this flat and repetitive circuit means an ambush is somewhere between unthinkable and impossible. Still, in case you’re wondering results can and have changed, for example in 2005 a late attack by Alexander Vinokourov saw him move up to fifth overall at the expense of Levi Leipheimer. It should all end in a sprint, so many teams are still chasing a win that their hopes are invested in their sprinters today.

The Contenders: it might be the unofficial sprinters world championships but it’s also a bumper consolation prize, the Sans Cavendish sprint. So many sprinters saw their trains derailed and their plans ruined that it’s hard to know who to pick in the absence of Cavendish. Marcel Kittel is the prime pick based on his results and a strong team. Etixx-Quickstep have made a mess of their leadout at times but this time there are no surprises with the course today.

André Greipel was the star of the sprints last year and had a great Giro this year before quitting the race prematurely to prepare for the Tour only to have poor three weeks so far, this is his last chance.

Alexander Kristoff is the freshness pick, while other sprinters fade away the Norwegian ogre seems to maintain his level and we saw him twice come close to a result in the second half of the race.

Will Peter Sagan have a go? Why not but this finish isn’t perfect for him and if he’s contested the sprints along the way it’s partly been to amass points and he’s found others have higher top-end speed. Besides he must be fatigued after yesterday’s breakaway efforts.

Bryan Coquard was a surprise second here last year but in part because of a few lucky moves and surfing the slipstreams, this is not an ideal finish for him. Dylan Groenewegen looked so promising at the Dutch championships but hasn’t delivered this month, regardless of today he’s had a big learning experience on his way to finishing his first grand tour. John Degenkolb would be a popular winner and if that finger splint means changing gears and braking are hard none of that are needed in the sprint today. Dan McLay been Fortuneo-Vital Concept’s most visible rider but used up so much energy trying to keep the broom wagon at bay that he won’t have much zip in his legs. Lastly if you believe in miracles than Sam Bennett has been hauling himself around France for weeks after injury at the start of the race to the point where he’s better now but how tired must he be?

Marcel Kittel
Alexander Kristoff, André Greipel
Sagan, Coquard, Degenkolb, Groenewegen, Bennett

Weather: warm and sunny with a top temperature of 28°C and a slight 10km/h headwind in the finishing straight.

TV: the whole stage is live on TV from start to finish and the end is forecast for 7.15pm Euro time or two hours later than usual.

La Course: the women’s criterium is on from 1.15pm to 3.15pm. The Ella website has an expert preview to read. It’s great to see many of the best women’s riders getting media attention, the Champs Elysées and a decent prize list but it’d be exponentially better if they could lap the Champs Elysées as the final stage after several days of televised racing elsewhere or use les Champs as an opening criterium or prologue for a stage race.

138 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 21 Preview”

  1. Frommey should have placed better today. But, with fairness, those diminutive concealed wheel motors do not perform reliably in the wet.

      • When EPO began to be popular, the world was listening to Sinead O’Connor at the top of the charts.

        While it is surly still in use, don’t you think there’s probably a new, much more effective performance enhancement? And, with so much more money on the line, don’t you think there’s a possibility that the cheaters are more clever than ever before?

      • I really can’t understand why you can’t let people say their piece as long as they say it in a normal tone. Unless it is only allowed to have one opinion here? The ones who believe it is all clean are allowed to say what they think and so must be the others.

        That someone doesn’t test positive for decades is no sign of following the rules – we have seen that often and long enough. There is not really a reason to believe that things have changed. On the contrary: With a lot of inconsistent ruling this year (and a president who is seen in sky-jerseys and who openly takes sides for and against certain teams), there are reasons to believe things got worse again. And that a team and a rider say “I am clean” is not even worth considering, what else should they say?

        So if someone doesn’t believe in what he/she sees, it must be allowed to say that without getting immediately attacked, disregarded as coming from another forum or named a troll. Unless of course not saying anything unless it is praise and belief becomes a rule here, which is of course within INRNGs right.

        • People can have their say but should be prepared to back it up with some evidence. Take motors this year: they’ve used those tablet scanners, used several different types of heat cameras, taken bikes apart and used mobile X-ray scanners too and part of this conducted covertly by the French authorities, not the UCI in case you think Cookson is sinister enough to corrupt the UCI officials into a cover-up.

          If you think a hidden motor can still be used in spite of all these checks yet somehow gets foiled by rain then many would like to know how so explain.

          In short make a reasoned argument – as you sort of try – and we can talk rather than just and leave a dumb comment like the first person above. The Tour always seems to bring out some of the more strange comments.

          • Notable that it is, as you say, the French authorities who are doing these extra checks – the UCI does not and Cookson tells us they are not necessary – without providing evidence.

          • Thanks very much for the “sort of try”.

            But that’s the point with such things, there can be and will be no certainty, unless we monitor riders 24/7 and in absence of certainty, there will be beliefs. I don’t see how any of these sides can be backed up by evidence. It is not binary.

            The closest you can come is to say: I do believe in the absence of a positive test. But that is not what people say who believe in the clean side. They say: So and so is clean. They are allowed to say that (not meaning solely here with that, meaning in general), without anyone blinking and asking them to provide evidence for that, although the past showed that no negative test doesn’t mean the absence of doping.

            And no, the antidoping tests don’t provide that evidence, they are no certainty. And as there is no certainty other things get taken into consideration, thinks like what we see in a race, what we measure, hear etc.. And thus are opinions formed – on both “sides”. Both are only opinions. At least to me.
            But nevermind.

          • Agreed N. The ‘riders are clean nowadays’ crowd put forward just as much spurious evidence – or no evidence – for their claims as the ‘they’re doping’ crowd do.
            Neither have the slightest idea who is or isn’t doping – just like the rest of us – it’s a belief entirely without proof.
            The difference is that the ‘they’re doping’ crowd are castigated – rightly, in my view – because their evidence is bunk/non-existent.
            However, the ‘they’re clean’ crowd are largely left un-criticised, even when they come out with suggestions such as ‘The race was close – that shows they are clean’, when the closeness of the race has nothing to do with doping or not doping (with so few attacks, riders didn’t gain or lose much time, hence the time gaps are small).

          • N, that’s why evidence and reasoning matters otherwise at best it’s solipsism. Without reasoning it can make the commenter come across like the sort who spends time posting messages about fluoride in drinking water and fabricated moon landings. At worst it just poisons any debate because it adds nothing.

            All this on the preview for a sprint stage of the Tour de France, it’s like people don’t want to talk about the premise of this piece.

          • Oh my, I haven’t seen the word “sinister” before. No, I don’t believe cookson is consciously sinister. I can’t believe anyone would think that, but would be kind of cool, if he would be some hidden criminal mastermind and the UCI is only his first step in the plot for world- no, no for universal domination. Would be an awesome cartoon! Ok, enough with the playing and having fun, back to serious: But I do believe he is fallable. I do believe he is an easy victim of his own beliefs and history, I think he is steered into directions. I do think his presidency has been horrible for the sport.

            And I don’t trust him – not because I think he decides “Cool, today I’m going to do something sinister” or because he is planning evil things, no, because I think that the way he sees the world and himself is not very good for cycling. Or to put it in short words, I think he is too weak and isn’t very good with conflicts. And this can have consequences just as bad as someone being sinister. All this is of course only my personal belief and my personal opnion and it is not meant or said to take anything away from anybody. And this opinion has to be allowed, because someone praising him has in reality just as much or little basis for the praise as I have for my opinion.

          • Well said N. You have a right to your opinion. Inner Ring’s sarcastic and belittling responses are the usual tactic of the conservative ‘don’t rock the boat’ type – simply ridicule any opinion that is a bit left of centre. That’s been bad for cycling in the past. And it sets the tone for comments in this blog.

          • vvv

            The way scepticism works is you don’t believe something without evidence. If you make a claim, you have to back it up with evidence, otherwise you don’t believe it. Also, you can’t prove a negative (except in cases of internal inconsistency or the like), so no-one can even try to prove that ‘so and so is clean’. It’s just logically impossible.

            The problem here is people are using language to try to shift the goalposts by suggesting that saying someone is clean is a positive claim. It isn’t. It’s actually a negative claim – ‘so and so isn’t doping’, which is almost always just shorthand for ‘there’s no reason to believe so and so is doping’.

            There are cyclists I’m willing to believe are clean. There is good evidence to suggest that doping has decreased in the peloton – or at least that the amount of gains possible by doping is smaller. But I wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to prove that any of them aren’t doping. There is literally no evidence that could be given that would prove it. All anyone has to say is that ‘X is using a drug we can’t yet detect’ and hey presto, it can’t be ‘proven’ that X isn’t doping.

            Basically, long story short, if someone says that they think X is clean, they are actually saying that there is no evidence to think they are doping.

          • As Ali says below: ‘The closest top 10 in history. That really is something to celebrate, the drug testing is obviously working.’
            This is a definitive statement. I’ve chosen this one, but there have been many on these pages in the last few days.

          • vvv – yeah, they believe X is clean because they haven’t seen any evidence to suggest he is dirty.

            As Ali says below: ‘The closest top 10 in history. That really is something to celebrate, the drug testing is obviously working.’
            This is a definitive statement. I’ve chosen this one, but there have been many on these pages in the last few days.

            You could, perhaps, say it is a simplistic way of looking at it. But whatever it is, it’s not a definitive statement that X is clean.

            What it is essentially saying is that IF a lot of riders are taking drugs, then we should expect to see X. We don’t see X. Therefore it is suggestive that a lot of riders aren’t taking drugs.

            I.e. it’s a *response* to the claim that riders are doping (see the goal post shifting through use of language I mentioned above).

          • +1 I just wonder if Greg LeMond’s doubts will be proven yet again a few years from now? There’s just something about SKY’s dominance that despite their “Can’t beat ’em? Buy ’em!” budget, “marginal gains” and even Froome’s new-found ability to attack on descents, etc. that is unsettling.

          • I think the suspicious minds will forever exist in cycling. Sky team unfortunately is very reminiscent of ARmstrong era train where the domestiques destroyed the other team leaders. I don’t have the science or the insight so I would like to ask INRNG what is Sky doing different to achieve this excellence? Is it different timing of the build up, diet or is it all about the bike?

  2. What a gutsy performance from Pantano. The guy just doesn’t give up no matter how many times he gets dropped. A real life duracell bunny.

    • Pants I was amazing, I thought he’d been dropped 4 or 5 times.

      Funny how Izaguirre sprinted considerably better than Pantano and (esp.) Nibali, two climbers lauded for their descending skills.

      • Nibali declared he felt “afraid” on the wet descent, he was thinking about Rio… and his daughter. I suppose that, as so many other times, one more family man in the peloton is one daring descender less.

        • Also Izagirre is a good descender, see his Tour de Suisse time trial for example and wet, slippery descents are like home for any Basque rider. With a cautious Nibali and Pantano riding off the road on an early bend and then caught behind Nibali it wasn’t so remarkable.

          • My French isn’t perfect, but I thought the commentators were making a point of repeatedly saying Pantano and Nibali are great descenders and Izagirre is not so good. Once again, another in thousands of instances that I wished you were commentating on TV rather than what we get…

  3. I don’t know how you keep coming up with a different take on the Champs Elysées stage each year 🙂

    Thanks for a great 3 weeks worth of insight, a break is well deserved, not only the riders who must be fatigued!



  4. I agree, without Cavendish, this one’s not got an obvious winner. Thanks for your insight as always, I’ve really enjoyed reading.

  5. I’ve never seen a tour where there has been such a large number of overall contenders that rode together to the finish of the mountain stages. It was only stage 17, when Porte attacked that there was any real distance put between contenders. The great majority of Froome’s lead was from the time trials.

    Speaking of Porte, its good to see that he put to rest the “he can only do one week races” opinion. If not for the puncture, he’d have easily taken 2nd place. It was a poignant moment though yesterday when as the sky team dropped back a bit and went through together, there was a shot which showed Richie, who had also dropped back a bit, turning around to look at them, as if to say, can i still hang-out with you guys?. Wish i took a screenshot.

    • Porte can thank BMC’s dual leadership strategy there. Can you imagine Sky or Movistar leaving their GC guy so exposed? With a domestique alongside him or TvG as super-domestique a quick bike swap and he’d have lost next to no time. Agree he probably looked the second strongest rider and, I’d speculate, even his poor performance in first TT was down to going out too hard to make up for that lost time. I’m not convinced he’ll ever win a GT but this was a podium missed thanks to poor management.

      • Barring technical difficulties (and poor management from the team) I think he could go on to win the either the Giro or the Vuelta. In terms of age, he should be around his prime right now, and he has proved that he can last for en entire grand tour. So I hope he will take a stab at the Giro or the Vuelta next year.

        At least, BMC should realize that while TVG is an accomplished rider for shorter stage races (Paris-Nice, ToC) he is not really the man for Le Tour. Andwhereas I think Porte could achieve podium in Giro or Vuelta, I don’t ever think we will see this for TVG.

        • Porte, certainly suffered from the dual leadership responsibility, of BMC.
          It’s no secret, I’ve doubted either Porte’s or Van Gaarderen’s ability, to remain in contention for a GC win, at top level, for 3 weeks.

          By moving to BMC – it was certainly the right move for him as a rider, but equally, he was frequently isolated, at those moments, when it mattered.
          Unlucky for sure with puncture (no team mates present) further bad luck on Ventoux – ASO / had a bad day on the mountain time trial – he offered no excuses, just had a bad day. And then, fell off on Fridays stage. Perhaps, Porte’s “bad day” was simply that when the race was at crucial moments, he was always isolated.
          If Porte, wants to win, a GT, then Andy Rihs, had better get his Cheque book out and start buying riders, who can be at the pointy end of race, when it matters.
          TJ VG – may have a different opinion of that scenario, as indeed may Ochowicz, but that’s reality.

  6. I would say that Kittel is a shoe-in on this with no one cutting up his sprint train.

    Greipel has been off form. Probably his main rival will be Sagan and Coquard.

    • For me it might be that Greipel is just finally getting old.

      I can imagine he’ll be peaking fully towards the Tour one more time next year, and if he is unsuccessful, he’ll retire/become a helper in the cobbles

      • He would be awesome as a Spring Classic domestique or super lead out train. I still think he’s got some years in him and there really aren’t a new breed coming through.

        Cav finding form and a TdF that has not favoured sprinters has not done any favours. He was on fire last season.

  7. Paris often feels like a bit of an anti climax, besides the last couple of k’s there is no real racing. The only one I can remember from recent years was Wiggo leading out Cav whilst wearing yellow, something that isnt going to happen often, if ever.

    It is also rather sad, the TdF is over, months of preparation and anticipation, jubilation for a few, thoughts of how to do better next time for most, sheer bloody relief for all the riders that cross the finish line that it is all over and they have made it.

    Thanks to Inrng for the best cycling site, thoughts now for 2016 “The Moment the Tour was won” post.

    • The Moment the Tour Was Won: when Rupert Murdoch broke the print unions in Wapping, 1986.

      Only kidding, I thought Froome lit the race up this year, comparatively. But some funding parity between the teams might bring back some of the excitement.

      • You bet. A 35 million Euro team versus teams with budgets of one seventh or even one tenth of that? The Tour has generally always had teams with big/small budgets, but time for a rethink I reckon. Thanks for a great three weeks of review and preview Mr Inrng. Nice work.

      • Here are the numbers:
        Team Sky – €35m
        Katusha – €32m
        BMC – €28m
        Tinkoff – €25m
        Astana – €20m
        Etixx-Quick Step – €18m
        Movistar – €15m
        Lotto-Soudal – €14m
        LottoNL-Jumbo – €14m
        Dimension Data – €13.5m
        Orica-BikeExchange – €13m
        Giant-Alpecin – €12.5m
        Trek-Segafredo – €12m
        Ag2r La Mondiale – €12m
        Cofidis – €11m
        IAM Cycling – €10.5m
        FDJ – €10m
        Cannondale – €10m
        Lampre-Merida – €7m
        Direct Energie – €6m
        Bora-Argon 18 – €4.5m
        Fortuneo-Vital Concept – €3.5m

        From Cycling Weekly.

        Maybe there should be some sort of cap, but how to choose it?

        • Also note that pure budget figures don’t tell the whole story as the tour is really only the top 9 riders. Etixx may be on the larger budget side, but I doubt the money they pay Boonen or Terpstra helps Martin’s overall chances. Vs Sky where the better part of the budget is wrapped up to exclusively helping Froome.

          Plus there’s equipment support. The most egregious is likely Focus not making a proper TT bike for their smaller riders, but there’s also stuff like extra time in the win tunnel (Specialized sponsored teams) or 3d printed bars (Sky) to consider.

        • I have to admit I have an aversion to wage caps. They sometimes sound great in principle, but in practice they often end up seeing the athletes suffering, and people behind the scenes benefiting. I’d rather see any money I pay into a sport go to the people actually competing.

          That said, because of the way cycling is funded, with sponsorship such a big component of it, those problems may not necessarily exist. However, there are other problems. For one, a wage cap will see less money coming into cycling. By limiting the amount of money a team can spend, you are taking money from the well funded teams, but the less well funded teams don’t get that money. It just disappears from the sport. This causes a loss of earnings for the riders, and could end up making their lives even more precarious. The guys at the top will do fine, but the domestique that might be coming to the end of their career? It becomes vital to jettison any dead weight to keep inside that wage cap.

          Regardless, the root problem here, surely, is that cycling finances are so precarious as they are reliant on sponsorship. I don’t see how a wage cap addresses that problem – if anything I think it exacerbates it.

        • Tks for the data,

          I think the cap, although in principle sounds fair, but in reality is almost impossible to make is happen.
          NBA / NFL are good examples of where it works, but there is one key difference: those teams are all from the same country. With multiple countries you have: 1) multiple tax systems, so if you cap the top line you have differences in the bottom line 2) multiple ways to pay the rider on top (e.g. direct sponsorship, tv rights, house rentals…).
          Besides, I am in principle against interference, I think it will only make things less clear and confusing (and also, more corruption).
          Lastly, I dont think the right question is how to cap Sky, but why not there are other sponsors in the same level. Top cyclist total compensation are way lower than other sports. Sky total pay roll is lower than one good baseball player (not even the best paid one).
          Inrng, as a suggestion, would be great to see one of your articles focused on discussing a cap system or other ways to leveling the play field.

  8. I’d be delighted if McLeay could pull this off, coming off Kittel’s wheel. Unlikely though I guess.

    My thoughts have turned to the World Champs – that’s possibly a re-match between Cavendish and Kittel? Assuming they both have 9 in their teams, I’m guessing the Germans have the stronger squad but perhaps Stannard, Rowe, Fenn, Thwaites, Doull, Cummings, Thomas and Blythe isn’t too shabby. Where’s bloody Wiggo when you need him eh?

    • This world champs is going to be brilliant aside from the very dull opening 200k

      Germany have Kittel/Griepel issue which nice for UK.

      I’m not sure if there’s a slight uphill to the finish or not? Is there any opportunity for the GVA’s, Sagan’s, Degenklob’s?

      If not – still Cav vs Kittel rematch is exciting.

      If they arrive in the same form (hard to predict!) given that they won’t have their usual leadout men, you’d give Cav the edge for greater skill wise freelancing?

      Brit squad isn’t poor whatsoever – very interesting to see who they pick – are Mclay/Blythe/Fenn in the running for final man, Stannard, Rowe, Thomas, Cummings obvious picks, Froome could do the Wiggo job!

  9. Thanks for your blog. This last stage in Paris is almost always a procession, a necessary bit of managed stage play to showcase the race.
    I rarely watch the last stage but I hope Greipel wins. Loved the win by Cummings, a racer’s racer. I like guys who play to their strength
    and go out and leave it all on the road. Pantano is another who has a go. Dumoulin’s win was very good and the descending in the rain by Costa
    and Izagirre, though nailbiting stuff, was very impressive. Porte reminds me of Cadel with that grinding climbing style that never really quite convinces.
    Extremely talented but I fear he’s unlikely to rise to the very top either through lack of support or coming up against others who just have that
    bit extra. Yates is precocious and he’ll be snapped for sure. Not fazed at all by the pressure it seems too. Quintana possibly needs to race more in prep
    for the big one.

  10. Think twice. 9 top riders finish the Tour in 3 minutes gap (86:25:45-86:28:51). Only Froom is 4 minutes better. Effect of high-tech drugs and hiding for several weeks in Nigeria. One day the impostor will be unmasked.

    • Is your usual cycling forum down? Since you’re here, which high tech drugs are these and what effects to they have? Also where in Nigeria do people hide, are they in Lagos, Abudja or perhaps even further north into Boko Haram territory where no WADA official will dare go no matter what the Whereabouts declaration says? 😉

          • Yes of coruse. NP higher 100-150 watts than other 10 top cyclist at the downhill on the stage 8. Yes Froom is clear, like as Armstrong was. Your love to Froom makes you blind.

          • 100-150 watts more? He only took 13 seconds on the 15km descent so your numbers don’t add up but it’d interesting to see your calculations. Still waiting to learn who hides in Nigeria and if possible roughly which region they’ve been spotted in? 😉

      • 13 seconds, yes, but he was chased by the top 10 players together! Either you do not understand or do not want to understand the situation when 10 cyclists chasing one of the uphill and downhill. You know exactly what I mean by saying he was hiding. Do not competed in races, it was difficult to access for WADA in place for many weeks. As I wrote above, your love for Froom makes you blind to the arguments. One day, I remind you of your words. Until then, I will not bother anymore. By.

        • You might be right in saying he produced 150 watts more than the chasers, but that would be true if everybody had the same A•cx. Froome in my opinion had better aerodynamics and also the appropriate gearing.
          Also the chase wasn’t 10 against Froome, more like valv against Froome and in the later part 3 vs 1.

          • Exactly, “chased by the top 10 players together” is made-up, I suspect Mario’s watts calculations are too but if they want to share them let’s see the maths such as CX assumptions, gradient, air density etc, just as I’d like more information on the Nigerian training camps.

        • Froome was not chased at all for the first half of the descent. The “contenders” were too stupid to jump on him immediately, and so had a large gap to close once they finally got themselves sorted out. Froome took a risk that they’d just look at each other, and it paid off surpisingly effectively. Normally that attack would have just been a waste of effort

  11. Very disappointing Tour. Not for the stages, but for the GC.
    Quintana, the only opponent on paper, had not the legs. Bad preparation, no competition in the last weeks.
    Porte is not able to compete three weeks, without falling back. That has been proven in the past. When he had the legs, in the first half of the Tour, he just behaved as a teammate of Froome. Later, when he realised Froome was not as strong as past years, he did a few attempts. But the power was gone.
    And the other riders ? Not at the level of Froome. Nevertheless, they could have done more to put Froome under pression. If they had attacked him, not in the (last km of the) final climb, but in minor climbs and descents, and that several times with different contenders…. I don’t think Froome and his team should have resisted all stages. At the end, Froome probably would have won. But you never now.

    • Into Porte again I see. He was the arguably the equal second strongest climber of the GC. And rose through the GC placing as the race went on, so not sure how he was “falling back”. Clearly would have been second without the puncture.
      Not sure what was going on during stage 20. It’s like the GC guys thought it was neutralised. Very disappointing viewing.

      • I will love the new mantra “Porte sure second GC if not punctured 2016” we will hear the next years. Something to bolster up the fandom.

      • The argument is that Porte would have buckled under the mental pressure of leading a team. The puncture gave him an excuse, thus releasing the mental pressure and save home from the disgrace of a major bad day.

        Whilst I hope this is not true, can’t really prove otherwise.

        • seriously, give Porte a break.

          he just finished 5th, his best GT finish, whether he wins a GT or not, he’s a great climber and great cyclist.

          it’s not fair to criticise people’s mental strength from the safety of an armchair when they’re doing things you could never dream of.

          would you have the mental strength to give up friends, family, personal time to train relentlessly and get to the phenomenal level he’s currently at. 5th is very impressive.

          give him a break – he’s a nice guy trying his hardest!
          *(ps he’ll also prove you all wrong and win a GT sooner or later)

          • What a load of nonsense from hoh and Vitus, absloute nonsense. For some reason people don’t seem to give Porte his due, and I was a mild doubter of his GC rider claims prior to this race. Not sure what race you were watching, but Porte WAS leading the team, particularly from the ventoux onwards. And he never missed a beat. The puncture cost him, there’s no doubt about that, but to suggest if that’d never happened he would have buckled mentally under the pressure of being closer to the lead is just ridiculous. He rode a good race, did everything you’d expect him to do, but still it’s not enough for some. If that’s fandom then so be it. It’s nice to be able to acknowledge a rider that has surprised you or changed your opinion of them, might be a good growth exercise for a few above…..

          • I think Porte is a victim of hype he has no control over. Sure, he cashes the paychecks of a real GT contender, who wouldn’t? But he’s the “GT winner of the future” and always will be, until he retires as one of those “nearly-men” like Raymond Poulidor.

  12. 2nd to 10th all within 3mins give or take. Has it ever been so tight, probably but I have no stats at hand. Not bad after 3 weeks of racing around France.

  13. Had it not been for bad luck it is likely that Porte (puncture stage 2) and Mollema (crash in rain on stage 19) would have finished on the podium instead of Quintana and Bardet.

      • That’s really not necessary to permanently snipe at people or riders in such a tone. Stating a real opinion and discussing things would be helpful.

        In this case it is for example: We don’t know, if anything like that would have happened. Had porte been the team- leader, he may have folded, as he seems to have a problem with too much things going on and demanding something from him. And if he hadn’t lost time, he may not be left in peace from others. There is no: if this, then that in cycling. This was, what once made it such an intriguing sport.

  14. Thank you for great coverage as always!

    Great tour, I think after all.

    I am no longer sure that I hate/dislike froome. He made it more exiting The race, up to aprox the last week.

    I am always a sucker for surprises though.
    I hoped that the era post drugs would stop one man dominating. Froome is just better than the very equal bunch of contenders it seems.
    In the media, it has been “hes drugged” for several years, even “hes bike have got a motor” last years… And now? “Well hes team is 10 x more expensive than the cheapest team.”

    I find the general mood of unwillingness to believe in his honesty natural giving cyclings history.
    I don’t know what I believe currently in regards to froome.
    But I cant beat a feeling in my heart that something is not quite right – be it money, drugs, or my own hipocracy.

    Pantano, Yates, Dumulan, Matthews and ofcourse Sagan has made this tour exiting and fantastic for me to watch.

    Oh what is that I see there in the Horizon? Damn, its the post-tour blues again.
    Looking forward to worlds, Olympics and Vuelta already:)

      • Hahaha 🙂
        “Froome is now banned for the sake of us not beleaving in him. We of course base this on absolutely no real facts – only our utter boredom”
        -HipsterUCI out.

  15. The reason the GC from 2-10 is so close is that none of them attacked.
    Dullest GC contest ever? It rivals 2012: again, only one rider tried to win.
    Have you ever seen a final stage where the GC contenders just ride in together?
    Teams of 7 might make Sky less dominant. What might also help is if their rivals actually try to beat them. It might well not work, but it would be a contest, at least.

    • 2-10 have been heavily contested this year IMO.
      From what I have seen they have tried, but couldn’t shake froome/sky.

      I really like the closeness of the top 10.
      Just boring for us that likes surprises, that froome/sky is so dominant.
      Imagine if sky and froome was not here – best GC battle ever, in that fictive scenario?

      I think the weather had a lot to do with yesterdays dull feeling. Most of theese guys cant afford to take risk needed to make a difference yesterday. Downhill finish also plays in there. Olympics, worlds ect. Comming up.

      I actually had no expectations going in to this years tour. The last few years have been even more predictable than this years edition i think.

      My fav. Races will forever be the spring classics, nothing beats a prestigious one day race in terms of exitement for me. Haymans robaix win stands out for me as the best victory of 2016 so far.
      And the vuelta has been the best grand tour for me to watch almost every year, going 3-4 years back. This year could be very different to,in the light of the olympics taking many of the usual suspect out of contention.

      Interesting point, limiting teams to 7 riders! Would make the bunch less crowded/more safe too properbly.

  16. The last stage was like the final insult from the GC “contenders”.
    No-one even challenged Froome to see how injured he might be – a couple of Ag2r guys vaguely pushed the pace for a very short time, but the peloton didn’t even follow. (Like Astana, they seem to need to learn that you have to have your team leader with you in order to force the race leader’s team to respond.)
    Only Mollema and Rodriguez attacked. And they weren’t attacking Froome.
    Astounding to see riders just trundle along in a procession.
    Aside from trying to win the race: Quintana, maybe try to get 2nd by attacking Bardet? Yates, maybe try to get on the podium? Porte? Bardet – 2nd is good, but maybe (not likely, but now you’ll never know) you could have done the incredible.
    Pitiful to see. There is a lot less honour in getting a placing if the placing was all you tried to achieve.
    With all that money they have, BMC should have got one great leader and not a good one and a mediocre one. And backed Porte, obviously (bizarre that the ‘he can’t do a three-week race’ is persisting – he should try to win the Giro or Vuelta). And what exactly do Katusha spend their money on?
    Fantastic stuff from Greg Van Avermaet, Cavendish, Cummings, Alaphilippe, Majka (at least someone is trying to win polka dots), Pantano, De Gendht – people actually racing.

    • I totally agree. This Tour was a shame. But i’m blaming in the first case, the teammanagers. And the earphones. They destroy cycling.

    • No-one wanted to risk that tricky descent in the wet. They would have needed a big lead over the top to make a difference, too, and that descent in the wet after you’re tired from a really hard push on the climb…? Bardet had no real chance of overhauling Froome, and he should risk his second place and season on a dangerous descent for no reward?

      Similarly Yates – it’s his second Tour, and he has the Young Rider’s classification sown up. Should he throw that away when he knows that Bardet is a good descender. and Valverde is a good descender, and will shepherd Quintana down after him? Of course not. As it was, his DS has said he’d been intending to attack on the climb, but was on the limit (like most of the riders), and so couldn’t.

      It was a stage that was only ever going to be exciting in the GC in very specific circumstances. It needed riders with everything to gain and nothing to lose (i.e. a favourite in touching distance whose palmares wouldn’t be much improved by a podium.) and it needed good weather.

  17. The closest top 10 in history. That really is something to celebrate, the drug testing is obviously working. If some are and some not, logic says the difference in time would be greater.
    That says to me, that the closer the riders get in ability, the more it is down to team decisions.
    Is Brailsford making better decisions than his opponents? From diet, sleeping arrangements, team line up, etc, etc. Is it an advantage that Brailsford only started on the road in 2010, post juice? I actually think he is as important as Froome, if not more so.

    It’s a real shame for this blog, and cycling in general, that Froome is doubted so much. Is the doubt/hate because people’s heroes turned out to be drug cheats? Is it him personally? Is it Sky? I ask because there’s no logic to it, the anger should be with the other teams/directors.

    I don’t think you can dictate what team line ups are, but teams of 7 is a good idea. If it makes for a better race, good keep it, if not keep thinking.
    I fear whatever the rules, Brailsford would win.

    Great blog, thanks.

  18. Post-Tour blues?
    What’s up with y’all?
    There’s a perfectly good race in Belgium going on this week. It’s on TV and nobody can moan on and on and on endlessly about the winner of the first stage and how his team is too strong and how they’ve got far too much money.
    Wait, what?

    Tom Boonen, Tom Boonen!!

    • Great to hear that Boonen is riding PR next year. Your lucky being in Belgium where they know how to enjoy bike racing at ALL levels.

    • It’s always strange watching the Tour de Wallonie, you can’t work out what is different for a moment and then it hits you: the sound. There’s a race on but not the constant soundtrack of a roaring crowd and all those cries of “allez”, just silence.

  19. Great reporting on the whole event, Inrng! You add a lot to the enjoyment. Thanks!

    BTW, for those who say this was an unexciting or uncompetitive tour, Froome’s margin of victory was smaller than 6 of the 7 disqualified wins of he-who-shall-not-be named.

    • I fear that is not a very helpful stat for anything. Bikes have changed, the route changes, the people have changed, the equipment has changed, the racing events differ…. Neither is the fact, that it was the closest race. Small gaps doesn’t mean the racing is automatically interesting or contested or of better value.

  20. I get the impression that Froome could have done more, but didn’t have to. Having Yates and Mollema beneath him for so long — for both of whom it made sense to defend their positions rather than go for gold — and Quintana’s supine passivity, meant that he wasn’t really challenged.

    On the Sky debate, one thing we don’t mention is how they’re not a dominant force at all in other grand tours. I wonder if they just put much more emphasis on the TdF then other teams, skewing the training programmes of all their main guys for this one race to an extent the others just don’t? Beyond that, I think what does it is the combination of factors rather than any one thing. Other teams might be as good in, say, planning, organisation, sports science, budget, quality of luitenants, etc, but can’t match the full-spectrum quality across all areas.

    Anyway, well done Froome: he was better than the rest, and attacked, which none of the other pre-race favourites did (with the exception of Porte).

  21. Sky broke the peleton’s will. Whether using fair means or foul. (I prefer to believe fair). UCI points cemented the win. Bmc and Movistar were the only teams that could have taken the race to Sky, but simply, Sky had the strongest team I can imagine and they rode solely for the benefit of the strongest athlete in the race. It’s hard to see what anyone could have done.

  22. Thanks for the last 3 weeks. Not sure what I’m going to read with breakfast now!

    Overall competition was disappointing. Froome looked in control and despite a couple of notable hiccups no one ever put them under any real pressure.

    Despite that I’ve enjoyed Froome’s performance more this year. Attacking and daring rather than just riding the to the power meter for 3 weeks. It’s like he has finally learnt to race, not just ride.

    Bardet was impressive, but I still can’t see him ever winning it without being very lucky. Yates has a great future as well.

    Felt sorry for the Dutch. Never been a Mollema fan but enjiyed his new attacking style, even going yesterday when he must have known he would blow and it wouldn’t stick. And poor Dumoulin. He does have a great future though and can see him smashing a tour with a stronger team and a 2012 style parlours – would love to see him trying to hold onto time trial gains uphill against an on form Quintana.

  23. Brilliant for Greipel – the record continues. Sagan looked like he might just – but probably not – have made it if his back wheel hadn’t skittered about.
    That side-on shot that they do on the Champs is terrible – you can’t see the race. Use that for the replay. Same every year.
    Poor Chris Froome’s baby.
    With all the GC guys sitting up at the end, the likes of Yates or Quintana could possibly (but highly unlikely) have taken enough time at the finish to move up a place. But why would they show any attacking intent now?

      • Sorry, Cepphus. This is not the case. See the time lost by the race winner on today’s stage when he decided to freewheel it into the finish with his teammates.

        • They seem to have given him that back, though. 4mins 5 seconds is the margin to Bardet as I type, on the official standings, it was 2mins something after the stage. Was this due to the crashes INRNG?

          • In the first results after the finish Purito dropped from 7th to 10th in overall, cause he came in 31s later than others. 20 minutes later the results where “adjusted”, like on Ventoux, based in whatever made up rules this time.

      • I think they neutralized the times last year due to rain and fear of crashes. But usually, times are not neutralized on the circuit. Part of the race.

        • Apologies for mistakenly universalising a particular! I was sure the celebrating Sky team rolled in well after the peloton, but there were no changes in the time gaps in the official classification.

  24. I do get the feeling reading the comments of the usual suspects on here re “boring TdF” and/or “Froome has to be juiced up” that they don’t really like cycling much, and/or that they simply want to find an outlet for their bottled up free floating outrage.
    Yet within the same article the budget figures show that Sky leads the pack by multiples in some cases. If you look at the Premier League, money has dominated for years, with a straight line relationship between cash and success. Don’t need to look passed the money.
    In the PL the cash/success relationship failed this year when the quality dropped and an outsider won. Maybe that will happen to the Tour too in the future but for the moment, I really enjoyed it and hope to see a Yates or two on the podium in Paris one day.
    Thanks Inner ring for your marvellous coverage.

    • “usual suspects on here re “boring TdF” and/or “Froome has to be juiced up” that they don’t really like cycling much”
      Total opposite is true. These people like cycling very much. The thrilling competative way of it. Not the “I buy best team and dominate 3 weeks” way. That’s for event fans.

    • Haha. Good catch! Pity we never see how Sagan’s motor spins the wheel thrice as fast! I blame Russia. Or China. Build a wall!11!

  25. The truce most of the GC contenders had somehow agreed upon in stage 20 was strange to watch, and yeah, somewhat disappointing to me. As we could witness in the fight for the stage win especially the descent from the Joux Plane offered more than enough potential for some GC place shuffle in the top ten. And the pace Geraint Thomas rode at the front was that of a pace car.
    Yes everyone was tired but that doesn’t mean you should no longer race, especially in the descents and especially when the pace set by the rider in front is so low. At least that’s what I would expect as a DS from my highly paid team captain. Witnessing that truce and then seeing some of them sprint for the line made me laugh and shake my head in disbelief.
    I forecast at least two more wins by Froome in the coming years, if he stays healthy. Simply because there is no one who really believes in being able to challenge him. And trying, and trying and trying again. You can only win if you risk losing, right? And if you really tried then actually losing doesn’t hurt as much as if you let some chances go by and have to wonder what if.

      • Don’t forget the 1987 Tour de France, when American Jeff Pierce won for the 7-Eleven team (one of its three stage wins in that edition). Runner-up was Canadian Steve Bauer, which marked the first North American 1-2 finish in a stage of the Tour de France.

  26. what happened to this comments section? it’s like it got trolled?

    mad anti Froome, Porte hate, doping accusations minus any backup?

    general hate, bad vibes?

    • To me it is more some people trying to have a real discussion about cycling (or anything), which naturally is a bit rumbling now, because the comment section has become a place for almost unquestioned fandom (fanboys as Gabriele put it a few days before).

      So you see, opinions differ. And that is a good thing, even if it isn’t much appreciated here. To call everybody a troll (or even worse, insinuate they are some kind of crazy, as INRNG did with evoking people talking about faked moon landings) who is not of your opinion or has a different world-view is to me(!) not (insert yourself a word that fits here, I’d settle with) “the sign of an open mind”. Of course this only means anything, if one wants to have an open mind.

      And sorry for hijacking this piece for discussion, I understand that this is not a forum, but a blog. It will be the last from me to this.

    • The Tour always seems to attract this, the longer the race goes on the more tempers flair on both sides.

      N: as said before what’s good is reasoned argument. Just saying someone’s electronic motor didn’t work because the rain got it doesn’t inform anyone, it just makes the person writing the comment look silly because it’s not even an original joke. So by all means share your views but be prepared to argue and give reason, the premise of an open mind.

  27. A lot of people calling for 6-7-8 team rider numbers after this tour. I would have thought that they would have to reduce the parcour considerably if they go down this route. Having 6 riders on their hands and knees at the end of a 3 week tour and unable to attack to any great degree is going to make for a less exciting race. The complete opposite to that intended.

    Shorter Teams will just ride more conservatively, not less.

      • And who opposed that call? Has the UCI any rights to decide how many riders form one team at the TdF? If not the ASO should just give it a try and see what the outcome is, it’s their race.

        • If I am not mistaken, the rule 2.2.003 ist the one:
          “The number of starting riders per team shall be set by the organiser, with a minimum of 4 and maximum of 8, 9 for Grand Tours. The organiser shall indicate in the programme or technical guide and on the entry form the number of starting riders per team for the event. This number shall be the same for all teams.
          The number of starting riders who are registered on the entry form must be equal to the number set by the organiser. No account shall be taken of any riders entered in excess of that number.”

          As so often the strange and I don’t want any responsibilities-“shall be”. In theory this does mean the Tour can go down to 6 riders (6 is the minimum I think)? Or are there other rules countering this?

          • There’s a provision for World Tour races that grand tours = 9 in the full rule and this is set by the Professional Cycling Council, a UCI committee comprising teams, riders, races, UCI and others. So a reduction needs the teams on board and the likes of Brailsford and Ochowitz are unlikely to approve. All this and more will be explored in a piece on here in the coming days.

  28. Thank you inrng for widening and deepening my appreciation of the tour this year. Your knowledge and insoght helped weave the many different individual narratives into the one epic spectacle which is The Tour.

    I enjoyed the race for its grandeur, the many great rides by different people on different days and, in particular, Sagan and Cavendish were excellent.

    The GC was a disappointment. Sky delivered their part of the race with improvements in all areas. Personally, I respect that.

    Good luck and safe rides everyone.

  29. Well, that’s another TDF over, and how do I feel about that?

    1. Crowd Control – on Mountains, is and always has been a problem. Whether, Froome whacked a spectator or not, surely ASO must act, and barrier crucial areas of climbs, now?
    2. Time Trials – sometimes the moto outriders were too far behind or too far ahead – a fine line, but perhaps the time has come, that one (moto) is 30m in front, and two outriders 10m behind rider,
    and to the sides, so that the public, just simply do not encroach, into approaching riders path.
    3. Tine Bonuses – I am very opinionated and outspoken on their use.
    If riders, want to earn a time bonus, then let the rider, attack and actually gain real time. No Gifts, No Free Seconds. Just Say Non.
    4. Froome is the first cyclist, to win the Tour de France, and yet not actually complete the whole race route, on a bicycle.
    5. Marcel Kittel – chucked quite a hissy fit (his head fell off, though not literally) on the final stage, and wasted an opportunity, to show the team, that his winning attitude was back. Perhaps, part of that, was down to news Tony Martin packed for a knee problem? I know, he won an early stage, but he has a fragile mentality (witness whining, when Cav blew past him, and he had no answer, as he’d gone to soon), so I think Brian Holm, has some more work to do.

    I enjoyed hearing interviews and commentary input from Baden Cooke, well spoken, and concise. David Millar, knowledgeable, insight for sure, but uses too many poncy big words, which are not always necessary.
    Ned Boulting, enthusiastic, but blows too much hot sunshine up Millar’s rear end! Cool it Ned:-)
    Chris Boardman, is always spot on.

    Now, whats next …….

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