Tour de France Stage 9 Preview

The first summit finish of the race, a 184km stage with almost 5,000m of vertical gain. It’s all live on TV from start to finish.

The Route: Vielha will be humming to the sound of riders warming up given the start is straight uphill with 13km at 6.1%. It’s a big main road, two trucks could pass each other without problem. The descent is the same, wide and fast and with some steeper moments at 9% to keep the speed high.

The Port del Cantò is 19km at 5.4% but there are some 9% ramps on the early slopes and some flat “landing” points on the way up after that. They drop into Andorra, the mountain microstate.


They pass through Andorra-la-Vielle, part capital and administrative hub, part high altitude duty-free retail park. They climb out of town on the snaking rode to La Comella, 4.2km at 8% and packed with hairpin bends.

Then comes the Col de Beixalis which might be better known to loyal readers as the Collada de Beixalis from its use in the Vuelta last year when it was the first climb on Stage 11 last year. Listed as 6.4km at 8.5% these stats don’t it justice, nor do the 10.9% and 11.6% references on the graphic above. It has several moments between 14-17% a muro, a wall.

The Finish: the final climb to the Arcalis ski area is 10km at 7.2% and starts at 1,500m above sea level. The road is steepest at the start with 8% and more around the hairpins of El Serrat. This is a textbook ski station access road being wide and with a regular gradient, engineered to allow bus loads of skiers to be ferried into place. With 1km to go they pass a large statue by Mauro Staccioli which resembles a deep section rim. Here the gradient eases a touch but it’s uphill all the way to the line at 5-6%.

The Scenario: there will be a fight to get in the early breakaway but good luck to them because it’s a gruelling day, all the effort to go clear early on is likely to find Team Sky and Movistar riding fast into Andorra and the final climb to Arcalis is a hard place for a lone rider or breakaway because a move up the road can be seen from a long way away on the open slopes of the mountains.

For TV viewers the Comella and Beixalis climbs are vicious but expect things to look slow on the final climb to Arcalis, an early attack on the final climb risks what the French call a “boomerang attack”, you can fly up the road only to come straight back and pay the price.

The Contenders: Chris Froome again? A win in the yellow jersey on a summit finish would turn a sneaky downhill stage win into a vice-grip on the race. Yesterday Sky mixed things up but perhaps today they’ll revert to type with the set piece summit finish. In one way Sky don’t need to move, Froome is in control of the race and can look forward to the upcoming time trial stages but it’s too good a moment to waste. The risk of an attack though is being countered by Nairo Quintana. Sergio Henao was strong yesterday and might take his chances.

Nairo Quintana

Everyone’s asking what Nairo Quintana can do and today we’ll get some answers. He’s not just inscrutable, he’s almost invisible as he’s been sitting tight for so long. The finish today is at altitude and he’ll be keen to try some attacks. Remember he often attacks several times, the first one or two goes can look bad as if he’s not got it only for a third committed attack. Team mate Alejandro Valverde is another option, especially if a group comes in and he’s been able to avoid too much work.

Dan Martin‘s been threatening a stage win for some time. Can he do it in a summit finish? There are questions about his climbing but if he can hang on then he’s got the jump. He’ll know everywhere meter of the road as he now lives in Andorra.

Another local is Joaquim Rodriguez who is looking better than expected this race after a disappointing start to the season. Still his problem this year has been the loss of his finishing kick so it’s advantage Martin but perhaps Rodriguez has the edge for consistent climbing.

BMC Racing’s two leaders sat back yesterday rather than chase Froome. Will they move today? It’s not as far fetched as it seems. Tejay van Garderen won the last high altitude finish he contested and we know Richie Porte can match Froome on a good day. If the two have been in the shadows but there’s no hiding on the final climb.

Several other climbers made the front group yesterday without showing too much. They’re all outsiders for the win but they’re not going to get much room. Neither Team Sky nor Movistar will sit still if Fabio Aru or Romain Bardet tries a late attack. Aru seems to be back in contention but hanging with the lead group yesterday was one thing, repeating it today quite another.

Among the breakaway candidates Vincenzo Nibali stands out for his pedigree. L-L Sanchez and Thomas De Gendt seem contenders too. Simon Gerrans is another “local” in Andorra but this is probably too mountainous.

Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana
Dan Martin, Alejandro Valverde
Henao, Aru, Porte, TvG, Bardet

Weather: warm, sunny and a top temperature of 26°C but with the chance of a downpour as the clouds build in the mountains.

TV: live on TV from start to finish, from 11.55am and the finish is forecast for 5.20pm Euro time.

103 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 9 Preview”

  1. Usual quality preview, thanks.

    Question:- First time Brits leading 3 major competitions in all tours?

    Froome, Yates and Cavendish?

    • Surely unprecedented, and if Froome has a strong day today there must be a chance he becomes leader of the Kings of the Mountains and Brits are leading all 4 jerseys (as well as having won a majority of the stages).

  2. This is make or break for Quintana, it doesn’t get any higher than this stage, if he can’t put time in here I can’t see it happening elsewhere.

    Seems like the GC group is in awe of Froome, when he jumped it was all ‘you go’ no ‘you go’, well done the strongest guy, the defending champ, just put 30 seconds into you, great ride – apparently he was pushing a 54, you have to love it when a plan comes together.

    As far as the push-punch goes I think, if you’re running along close enough to be hit, you’re too damn close.

  3. I never quite understood the ‘Froome is boring’ line, the man who will attack with the slightest opportunity of gaining a few seconds. I really could not believe the group sitting tight as froome raced down hill before they eventually got it together to chase. What was Quintana thinking. I will be interested today to see if Movistar are overeager to show their hand as they try to gain the upper hand.

    • agreed Froome is boring line never really made any sense, even before the moniker started he was exciting (vs Cobo 2011 Vuelta stage 17 (I think) is one of my fave mountain battles in the last ten years, in fact I think it is? has there been better??) —- really it’s just something to batter Team Sky with and a Wiggins era hang over.

      watching a “froome best of” youtube really reminds you how many incredible attacks he’s put in since 2011, that one on the snowy hills during Tirreno Adriatica 2013 is phenomenal. (I wonder whether one day INRNG will do a feature on the attacks of Froome! vsCobo, Ventoux, Pierre St Martin, Aix 3 Domaines, the list is silly!)

      as far as I can see Quintana is the more boring of the two! But today may change that – will be very very interesting to see what happens. Great note above about Q’s triple attack whammy. If I were Froome I’d just let Q shot his bolts and then attack rather than be the first out the gates.

      But Froome must be confident partly to have even tried what he did yesterday, also the fact that he has consistently dropped Quintana in the last few years with early vicious attacks, so no real reason to think he won’t again?

      Obviously being a Froome mega-fan I don’t completely buy the 3rd week doldrums theory, (think he’s proved otherwise in Vuelta’s past and the Wiggo Tdf, plus the arguments of him being ill last year and overcome with emotion 2013 hold some weight) – but I have also stuck up for Porte against those who say he’s not up to GT winning standard only to come unstuck again and again – so maybe the 3rd week meltdown will be confirmed this year?

      ps why is USA coverage of TDF so much better??? I didn’t see this angle (4.00mins in) during UK highlights?

      At least though we don’t have Phil Liggett any more though!!!! Hurraaaahhh for D.Millar and Ned Boulting!!!!!

      Now can someone tell whoever selects the camera at the close of sprint stages to stop showing it from front on!!!!!! WE CAN’T SEE ANYTHING….. Please use helicopter shots so we can know what’s happening….. this is a personal bug bear and I will get shot down by traditionalists here, and my only response is — can you imagine them ever showing the 100m final in the Olympics from the front on view! There would be outrage.


  4. Interesting to read on cycling tips that Porte thought it was Quintana’s job to chase and BMC duo had to be told by DS to chase, I have less and less respect for Porte and TJ given their lack of willingness to take opportunities and to really race when they see the slightest chance…or maybe the problem is that they don’t see the chance?

    • It tells you something about Porte and TJs ambitions and their attitudes doesn’t it. If they were racing to win, surely they’d want to chase Froome and make sure he didn’t get any time. And that statement from Porte really gives the sense that they are racing for 3rd place.

      • Porte of all people should know when Froome is in earnest or just playing. He must have known that Froome wasn’t about to sit up.

      • Nail and head. Everyone rode like Sky already had yellow, BMC rode like they’re racing for 3rd.

        I did wonder whether Porte deliberately didn’t chase as he’s out of the GC contention so why drag Movistar after his good friend Froome (and when TJ is eyeing the bottom step of the podium).

    • BMC is a farm team in the pocket of Sky. At least their captains are. We saw that in the Dauphine and we see it now. Came to ride along invisible and steal a podium third.

  5. Breakaway thoughts: I think there will go a breakaway from the start with climbers for the Mountain Jersey..

    Will Pinot and Majka go again? I know Majka said, that their team goal is to get Contador on the Podium, but as the Tinkoff team has ridden so far, I think Majka will go for the Jersey.. For the breakaway I also think Frank Schleck as an option.. He always seems to be there on the most prestigious stages..

    And what about Rui Costa.. Everyone thought he would be out there in the last 2 stages and go for the stage win, but nothing really happen.. I know he was in the early breakaway with Sagan and Cav the other day, but they was dropped/reeled in where Cummings was victorious. So could this be a day for Rui Costa?

    I also took look at the result list from yesterday, there is a few climber names that just paddled and came in more 25 min later after Frome..
    Diego Rosa, Nicolas Edet, Serge Pauwels, Vincenzo Nibali, Rui Costa, “Stef Clement”, “Julian Alaphilippe”, Luis Leon Sanchez.. Did they saved them self for today?

    The last name I will throw out there.. Ilnur Zakarin. He came in 13 later than Frome and 25 after him in GC.. If he rides like in the Giro he could easily win this from the breakaway, but is he still marked after the crash in the Giro and how is hes form?

  6. both bmc and movistar have two strong guys that sky would have to hunt down, especially movistar should use this card to make long mntn stages especially hard for the black train. quintanas hardcoded advantage seems to be he’s gaining relatively in strength over his opponents the harder things get.

  7. Why do they start in Viella today, were there not enough hotel rooms around Luchon? Like that, they skip the Portillon (steep side), just like yesterday they skipped the Aubisque. What’s the point of not including one more classic mountain pass, that can erode riders’ resistance, and cause everybody to climb slower, hence giving less advantage to wheelsuckers.
    By the way, this Col de Beixalis, isn’t it where Froome crashed at the beginning of that tough stage in the Vuelta?

    • More than 20 years ago Wu-Tang Clan made a song exactly about this. I’ll give you an excerpt of the lyrics:

      Cash rules everything around me
      Get the money
      Dolla dolla bill y’all

      Vielha brought the cash, so ASO came to get it.

  8. Quintana might end up kicking himself after yesterday. If that wasn’t a wake up call then nothing is! though perhaps second place on the podium is more than satisfactory for him. I hope were not having this pantomine like last year where every stage will be billed as “Quintana’s chance to break Froome stage” I got bored of Quintana last year and sincerely hope this year isn’t going to be the same. Never been the biggest fan of Froome but yesterday showed he actually WANTS to win the Tour.

  9. I share the fears of a few that this is going to be a tedious race.
    This coming stage might well set the tone.
    If Quintana wants to win the race, he will at some point have to attack – and he should learn from last year not to leave it to late.
    Otherwise, he risks becoming the new Andy Schleck: too little, too late, then blame something else (the wind/’the downhill’).
    I fervently hope that Quintana doesn’t do this.
    The others in the race are going to do nothing: a podium is a good result for Aru, TVG and Porte lack any stones and other than Bardet the French might as well duke it out for the mountains prize (Barguil is struggling and Rolland now has his excuse).
    People complain that Sky make the race boring – and I’m one of them. But I’ve been saying it since Nibali did nothing against Wiggins in 2012: Sky are doing what works for them; it’s down to the the opposition to challenge them.

    • If Sky are boring, then what is Quintana? All he does is follow them.
      Bravo to Pinot. His GC challenge may have gone horribly wrong, but at least he’s trying to win something – and we get to see a proper contest for the polka dots. Barguil and Rolland should follow suit.
      Only way for the rest of the breakaway to catch Dumoulin was to work together, not attack individually and chase each other down, but some riders never learn. Much like the spectators – get off the road.
      BMC evidently – and rightly – have no faith in TVG. Porte’s the better bet even with a time loss.

    • I think Quintana conclusion from last year is the opposite.
      It will be “wait for the last week, but dont lose time in the first one”. Q belives he will be the stronger in the week 3 as in ’13 and ’15 and that he has a shot if he doesnt lose time in the opening week.
      Today strategy may confirm it as he is clearly saving himself and just following.

      • If he is doing that it’s supposition on his part. Froome has prepared differently this year precisely for that reason.
        By leaving everything down to one tactic, Quintana would be greatly lowering his options.
        Last year he waited too long.

        • I think today was an impressive show of force.
          Sky still had 8 riders after two Cat 1!! It was impossible to attack from the distance as Sky had the numbers, and the top of the last mountain the gradients were not that hard to make a selection. So at hindsight, i dont think there was a lot to do here.

          • Considering that after the time trial Quintana could be as much as a minute and a half down, I’d say he should be trying to take any opportunity to take time. Movistar had two riders in the front group and didn’t use them to help a Quintana attack – just let them trundle in.
            That Sky had so many riders left shows how slowly they were going – as does the peloton being so large behind them.
            Last year, Movistar did too little, too late.
            Plus, this idea that Froome will weaken in the final week is just that – an idea. It has happened before, but it’s not guaranteed this time.

          • JE – I agree – when I saw 2 Movi’s in the break I thought ‘great, Quintana’s going to try a bridging move..’ and then nothing. It made me wonder if Sky soft pedalled to let it get out to 8 minutes to put them out of the equation until too late, maybe I’m double thinking it… they could have sat up, but then it would have been too obvious I suppose.. who knows, but when they trundled in I did think ‘what was the point of that?’

          • Very possible that Sky did – they seem to have some tactical thinking.
            Movistar’s ‘tactics’ seem to be simply ‘Hold on and hope Froome cracks late in the race’.
            The frustrating part is that Quintana might have the talent to beat Froome if he went for a long-ish range attack.
            Or indeed did anything.
            It would at least be interesting to find out.

          • Most definitely Sky are negating Movistar bridge tactics.
            They are also burning out Valverde with 1-2 climbing attacks, and leaving Quintana isolated.

            Having said this, we don’t know if Quintana has gone into the red yet. He looks inscrutable.
            He’s bound to be stressing though, because Sky have upped their game and are doing the unexpected.
            I find this year’s race to be very interesting on many levels, bubbling under the surface.

            Good point about Friday’s TT.
            Does Quintana put it all in on Mont Ventoux to take back the deficit, but risk paying the price the following day?
            My guess is he will contain, and then go all out in the last four stages before Paris.

            But Movistar are getting out-though at present.

          • Wait, but did you get that Valverde had long been in the break before Movistar calling him back (probably after agreeing that with Sky)?
            It’s not like negating thing out of pure strength or tactics… not on the road, at least.

  10. If ASO wanted to disadvantage train-style riding this is precisely the finish not to do it. How often do we read on this blog the words ‘ski station access road’ describing TdF finishes?
    The perfect excuse for Quintana not to attack too.

  11. Froomes top tube style – DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME so one popular cycling website today shows a young kid descending is such a style, totally irresponsible! Some berk will make the news when this goes wrong.

    • So it’s “Froome’s top tube style” now and yet another stick to beat him with after so many of the others have broken under the strain. Some berks always go wrong.

  12. Odd that Purito doesn’t even mention a chainring.
    He’s had a quiet season, granted, but it could be because he ‘s been putting in the hill work and it took the edge of his famed finish.
    I think that there is still life in the old dog yet, and I’m going for Purito to make an impression here today.

  13. TdF has been interesting so far but today’s the day We’ve been waiting for (of many…).

    TJV and Port seem to be racing as though it’s a job / Froome as though it’s an objective.

    Quintana, I don’t know but soon will.

    Always liked Dan Martin and the changed team indicates He’s focused on becoming a different kind of racer; He may become the big surprise of the Tour.

    Julian Alaphilippe is a bet I’d make today.

  14. To me, the race is working out exactly as the Movistar and Team Sky strategists have planned. In the first two weeks, Froome must pick up seconds wherever the opportunity presents itself. Quintana must hang on and limit his losses until the uphill ITT of Stage 18 and, of course, the monster climb on the penultimate stage. The planners have indeed arranged for an exciting final week!

    • I agree. Similar point last year Froome had 3 minutes on the nearest challenger and that was TVG. This year 12 riders within 2 mins. The finish didn’t suit Quintana so why attack?

      • I didn’t understand Movistar’s tactics today. Quintana had two teammates up the road on the final climb, but neither slipped back to help with an attack. Seeing such an obvious setup developing, I was waiting… and waiting for the action to start! Kudos to Valverde, who was there for Q in case things went wrong. Best guess is, Movistar just wanted to tweak Sky into working harder, wear them down.

        • You give Movistar too much credit. Their managers are very conservative and afraid to make moves that might lose them the race. Contrast this with the likes of Dan Martin and Adam Yates who just attack and try to gain something. Quintana is clearly hoping for the week 3 gains again but he and Movistar shouldn’t be so sure it will work. To my mind it is dumb as a rock to pass up chances if you have the opportunity. No one knows the future. Its Froome in the yellow jumper and all he has to do is finish at the same time as Quintana to win. Froome will surely take a bit more time in stage 13 on the 37kms time trial. And I don’t know why people seem to think Quintana will win the stage 18 time trial as Froome is himself hardly the worst climber of time triallist. Indeed, in 2013 he won a similar test towards the back end of the race. Everything points to this race being won by seconds and not minutes.

    • Must be in his secret contract. The moment the last regular helper for Froome is gone, there comes Richie. TJvan’s bid wasn’t high enough.

        • Richie’s middle name is also no-hoper. So what’s the point dropping the other no-hoper with only -23 seconds for one with -2 minutes.? Cause it’s just a coincidence he always lead his old buddy out?

          • Exactly. Ritchey’s flat effectively determined BMC leadership right then and there. His role from that point should be to help the team’s best opportunity to win, to podium, place top 5, whatever, up to and until that option clearly doesn’t exist any longer. His riding today was inexcusable. Go back and pace TJ. Heck, even Nibali was being a better team player today. Some folks may not believe TJ can do it. Except that he’s been 5th twice before. And WAS sitting 8th at 23 seconds back. Now out of top 10 at 1:01.

          • Porte took a nice little chunk of time out of TvG, arguably, his number one rival for third place.

            Porte to TvG, after Etape 8: 1:45
            Porte to TvG, after Etape 9: 1:09

            Maybe Mollema is a contender for third. But, I think Martin, Yates, Rodriguez, Bardet, etc, aren’t going to hold up.

          • I think Porte was stuck between a rock and hard place. Clearly better than TJVG, he had to make it look like he was at least concerned for his team mate but without compromising himself. Hence all the looking round. He was always going to get accused of pacing Froome. I’m sure we’ll see it a lot more in later stages. But what can he do if Tejay is not at the races?

  15. Fo you know something about Rafal Majka? Just remaind you this is very good climber, one of the best in the world. So, rememebr about it during next mountain stage preview, thanks a lot!

  16. I still held a positive attitude after some three stages, but now I must say that this first half of the Tour has been globally quite disappointing in terms of excitement (kudos to Froome for his very *well-planned* and thrilling downhill attack, but that wasn’t enough to make the race as a whole shine, quite frankly; and the related PR was quite depressing, like, we *really* think all spectators will believe everything we’ll throw at them).

    Quite obviously, Movisky with BMC’s gregario-style support couldn’t produce any different result.
    The three strongest (and probably the two richest) teams playing the same game, who else could turn the tables?

    The problem is that Movistar and BMC are totally playing along the lines set by Sky’s strategies, and at Sky they tend to be pretty good planning things, hence if you just let them play their game, you must be really confident that your captain will turn out to be *way* stronger, thus you don’t really need to maximise his chances. Which is barely credible if we speak of Quintana, imagine if we’re thinking about TJ or Richie.
    What’s awesome is that Movistar had picked all the right cards and was in the proper conditions to push the race in a different direction and set a huge pressure on SKY, especially today (but also on Saturday)… they just decided not to.
    Valverde shaking hands with Froome after sitting up? What the…?

    • It is like the riders simply don’t care. And honestly, why should they? People sell it and buy it anyway. I didn’t watch yesterday’s stage – for the first time in my life I chose not to watch a Tourstage. It helps the salespeople that so many people think they know, but they so clearly don’t.

      Yes, the tired point about cycling beginning as PR is true,but that always was one side for managers,teams, while the riders raced. Now the riders are not any longer in the business of racing, they are in the business of selling riding that looks like racing. With murdoch and sky we fully arrived at Wrestling. Circuswrestling with tv and internetsites being the usual enablers. If they wouldn’t sell the lies so enthusiastically, I could almost feel sorry for them. But I don’t feel sorry for the one’s buying it. They only get,what they want.

      And no, this isn’t the fault of any raceorganiser. This is the fault of a weak Brian Cookson, the teams and most of all of the riders. If ASO and with it some teams don’t break away soon or if cookson gets reelected, there will be no way left to save cycling.

      • P.S. Thing is:Everybody feels helpless against the money and PR-power of sky and has accepted their fate. But it is NOT fate. If the peloton would decide to start caring and ride together against sky,there is no way sky would survive that. They are only 9 men (ok, mabye 12). It would only need 1 day of the other teams and riders saying “Enough” (of course each team saying it to itself by itself. That this epiphany happened on the same day for everyone is one of those strange accidents, like the accident on stage 3, when all the riders decided to say “F*** you” to race organisers, tv-viewers and fans accidentely at the same day) and ride sky out of this and any race. This would be just as fair as letting a team with a 40Mio budget ride against a team with a 7Mio budget.

    • It’s LETOUR – I wonder if any amount of excitement could measure up to the pre-race hype that is on a NFL Superbowl level each year? Combine this with so many racing “not to lose” vs trying to actually win the thing and this is (usually) what you get. But it’s far from over even though contenders for yellow in Paris are dwindling. I’m sure we’ve not seen the last attack from The Condor, anything but the yellow jersey in Paris will be a loss for him. Meanwhile, Froome’s looking like a more complete bike racer than ever these days?

    • This year’s edition is a slow burner Gabriele, and Quintana is playing the long game.
      With time bonuses, he is potentially only 14″ off yellow, so why should he try anything drastic at this point?
      It could take only one decisive move, the later in the race the better too.
      It may not be the slug-fest that many want but I am enjoying the race.

      It’s Sky, at present, who have taken the initiative (and maybe lots of fans don’t like to see their myths debunked) but the yellow jersey is still only one decisive stage away.
      Quintana has to choose his moment, Froome has to anticipate it.

      Of course for me it’s good to see the British success so far, but all the jersey categories are still very open.
      There’s ample time for fireworks but there’s plenty to follow, the next couple of days focuses back on to the Points Jersey and sprints. That’s turning into a battle royale, rather than the usual Sagan stroll.

      • hear hear!… geez, so much negativity! maybe I’m just easy to please, but I’m loving it. We’ve had a bit of everything (ok maybe Q is a tad passive). You need the quieter phases to appreciate the great bits surely?
        really fascinated to see how long Yates, Martin and Purito can stay mixing it and I was hoping that Pinot and Barguil were going to have more of a tussle with Bardet for top Frenchie, but it doesn’t seem so for the moment.
        and about a thousand other impoderables to play out….. come on folks!

    • Was that handshake after they’d all just had to fight their way through the flamme rouge inflatable? Perhaps by then they already knew that the GC times had been neutralised?

      Agree, though, that Movistar do seem to be doing more or less exactly what Sky expect them to do. But with 2 weeks to go, I suspect Movistar are fairly relaxed too.

      • The handshake I’m speaking of happened on Sunday, when Valverde decided to sit up from the break, then he shook hands with Froome as soon as he went back to the bunch.

  17. I agree with Larry this far from over.

    It sure is easy to complain about the riders not trying when you are sitting on a couch or after a 2 hour group ride. It is really hard to climb 4000 vertical meters and to attack each other after 5 hours.

    Of course the closet ex-almost pro soccer players are much worse on their social media, radio call in opinions, so far the comments here are relatively tame.

    • “It sure is easy to complain about the riders not trying when you are sitting on a couch or after a 2 hour group ride. It is really hard to climb 4000 vertical meters and to attack each other after 5 hours”.

      I can’t believe people are still using this kind of arguments.

      When contemporary riders accept to be compared, in terms of braveness, endurance, and stoicism, to those of the Coppi years (and before), maybe we should listen when they talk about spectators sitting on couches. You know I would love to spend 5 hours on the bike every day, if I didn’t have to attend to a job, a family, and other obligations.

    • Indeed. People compare riders with themselves and it looks overwhelming. I understand that. It is just the wrong comparison. You can’t compare them with yourself. They are trained for this. They do nothing else. They are experts in riding their bike, in physical effort – you or me are not. They have nothing different to do than to train and ride.

      So it is logical and right to expect that they excell at what they do and do things amateurs can not. This isn’t exceptional. Where we come to exceptional and admirable, is when they race, when they express themselves on their bikes, when they use their expertise as a springboard to do exceptional things.

  18. I watched Quintana’s slow burn last year and found it dull, so if he is playing that game this year it will also be dull and it wont work, not against Froome. Also Mr Inrng, I was told by you, quite plainly the other day that Nibali was NO team player for Aru. I didn’t agree with you then and after yesterday what do you think of the “teamwork” going on at BMC. Personally Porte is a disgrace.

  19. I’m not a fan of van Garderen or Porte, I’m neutral in my view of them both. From my point of view yesterday it did seem strange that Porte was basically towing a group of rival riders away from his better placed team mate. The equivalant would have been if Henao had gone up the road and took Quintana/Yates/Martin/Mollema away from Froome. But even then, Henao was better placed on GC than Porte. It seemed strange and you’d forgive van Garderen for being upset about it, unless he had said on the radio ‘I’m shot, let Richie go’.

    • I think it just reflects a lack of confidence in TJVG to deliver – if BMC are going to bring two well matched guys to the Tour with no team orders, then there is no point in one of them waiting for the other at crucial points, just doubling up the time loss. TJVG couldn’t even hold the second group so Porte would have been wasting his time waiting and trying to pace him yday… once he was out there it looked to me like he was trying to be aggressive – rather than pacing Froome, which a few have tried to suggest.

      • Agreed. Porte pacing TVG would have made little difference – there were plenty of groups for TVG to ride with had he been able. And Nibali towing Aru didn’t seem to help him all that much.
        Normally, of course, the lower placed rider should work for the higher placed rider, but in this instance the lower placed rider is only in that position because of a puncture and is clearly the better rider. If I was BMC, I’d have done what they did. People have their conspiracy theories about Porte working for Froome, but Porte significantly improved his own situation yesterday – at the expense of most others (including TVG) – and did little for Froome (and no more than he did for Quintana).

        • Could BMC tactics be for the punchier Porte to attack at the front to a) improve Porte’s chances if an attack does succeed?, and he can break away or b) if he can’t break away, he will still attack and hopefully tire Froom and Quintana for the benefit of the diesel TVG, who could possibly save himself over the entire 3 weeks?

          Just a thought.

    • I think Porte was just trying to stop more attacks going. It’s the classic tactic, after all, and there were a lot of attacks being thrown in by a number of riders. People are reading too much into it imo.

  20. Porte cannot take a trick. He’s ridiculed on one hand for not attacking and not being made of GC stuff, and on the other he’s a poor team mate. A disgrace even. It’s obvious he’s been given licence to go with the moves on the road, I also think it’s obvious the gap between Porte and TVG will not hold up over 3 weeks. Even TVG said after Porte’s puncture that he wasn’t now designated team leader.

    Porte is BMC’s best bet for a result. When has TVG ever attacked late on huge mountain days? His good results have all been from hanging on at best. He’s already outside the top ten on this one and going south, how much would Porte pacing him have helped? 10 secs at best.

  21. There’s some serious negativity here considering we’ve only just hit the first rest day. There’s always a hint of boring when the race first hits the mountains, for me it tends to come from the number of ‘single chainring’ overall contenders who demonstrate sufficient lack of form to immediately reduce the number of riders that could stir up (even if only for a short time!) the GC race. It’s not like Froome has opened up an insurmountable time gap to don yellow without any likely serious challenge this year.

    For every bit of disappointment like the BMC/Movistar passive racing (“look everyone, he’s just gone downhill fast! What do we do?!”), there’s a positive with the likes of Dan Martin getting stuck in and looking like there’s a degree of fortitude to him this year, Bardet showing continued improvement/potential, Adam Yates being up there – even if they all fade in the third week, it’s promising for the future.

    • I’d go with that too, if Froome or Quintana had taken off and gained two minutes many would be saying “boring” too. There was a headwind yesterday and it was hard to take time, risky even if you get countered for it. As we yesterday Dan Martin kept on punching but got nothing out of it.

      • I criticized Quintana for not taking advantage of his teammates up the road. I agree, Sky’s furious pacing countered this. Add in the headwind — which US commentary (Phil and Paul: enough said) failed to mention — and an attempt to steal seconds indeed may have been foolish.

        • Sky’s furious pacing? During which race? They up the pace a bit just in the final 5-7 minutes of some climbs, but the average rhythm is very slow, uphill.

    • Thanks! I would also stress the positive with the resurgence of Cavendish, a deserved win for Sagan, a brilliant solo from Cummings, Froomies downhilling skills and yesterday’s phenomenal win by Dumoulin who rode very tactically all day in the lead group without wasting energy only to strike when it counted (and others were on the ropes from previous digs). And then to think that only the day before he required a supporters campervan to relieve himself going up the Peyresourde.

    • Ok,I’ll try to explain what it is for me about and will go a bit further than comments here usually do (feel free to delete it,INRNG,if it is too much). But it still is about cycling:

      For me it is not about the Tour 2016, not about a single race, not even a season. For me it also isn’t about negativity,it is about a development I don’t like and I won’t support. Which of course results in me saying “I don’t like it” (strange concept for some, I know). But that is not negativity. It is a choice for something, against another thing.

      Look, this is what bothers me:
      Change is good. But there are different kind of changes. One kind of change happens mostly organic, in a mostly positive way, which enables everybody to profit from that change, to adapt and change too. The ecosystem stays intact, grows, which is good for everybody. I know, how this change feels and looks like for me: Natural, balanced and real and none of my inner alarmbells go off. It may be, that I don’t like some of the change, would prefer it differently, but I’m ok with that. It is a natural change.

      But there are other kind of changes: Another change happens because of lack of power/too much power or if people are in charge, who care mostly about themselves and don’t care about the survival of others or even the ecosystem: If it isn’t profitable, they will leave and suck the life out of something else. This change not only hurts the majority of the involved people/institutions, it destroys, sometimes it even kills, the ecosystem. I also know, how this change/situation feels and looks like to me: It feels reckless, it feels wrong, I can feel the balance is wrong, it feels like people with bad intentions (or even worse, with good intentions, but not the fitting characterstrength) and ALL my alarmbells go off.

      The difference between those two changes is – put simple – that one change is coming from the natural developments, interactions, needs of the ecosystem itself, therefore all parts of it had their input in the change, it furthers the growth of everybody, while the other change is driven by powerful individuals, with only their individual need in their focus. They even welcome the extinction of others, because it increases their power.

      This (alarmbells ringing like crazy) is the feeling I have for some time now about pro cycling. And every development since I felt this way for the first time, further increased my feeling and cemented my belief. So for me it isn’t about the Tour 2016, no, what happened in this first week of the Tour de France 2016 for me is the result of this development. That is, what it’s about for me.

      Of course cycling doesn’t happen outside of the real world, but that doesn’t mean we can’t demand and look after it, that cycling, unlike much of the “real” world has some meaning and substance.

      If it really is for the riders mostly about the paycheck, because “tomorrow another race is on tv anyway” and who cares about Palmares or races that never exist in 2 years, then I see no reason why I should spend my own time to watch them pedal or why I should care. Watch it because it is happening, is no reason for me. The racing has to have a meaning. If the riders don’t think they can win or do something meaningful anyway, they will give up inside, just ride along, because they are paid to do that. Like we go do work every morning…ok,fine,but then I don’t have to watch that soulless pedalling. Why do we have sport, theatre, books, cinema? To share with others something which means something: a vision, fear, joy. Go, where you never thought you could go. Try something, even, if it results in nothing. Share the joy of winning, the desolation of losing.

      They structured rules, teams and races like working places and the result is of course we see bureaucrats on bikes. This is normal, you can’t blame the riders for adapting to that. It is human. No, to change that, you have to change the surrounding, give them chances to do something meaningful, to play a role, make it more equal and balanced. Look after every rider snd team. That is why cookson has to go. He has to!

      One simple (and small) example: Today a team tweeted about a “magnificent” jersey. If it really would have been “magnificent” ok, but it was nothing special, bordering on ugly, but surely not magnificent (and we don’t live in the 19.century, where everything was “magnificent”). We don’t even twitch! We all stay silent, while it becomes normal to lie and talk nonsense! It has become normal to not say the truth. We accept that. We don’t even realise it anymore. Last week I accidentely landed on cyclingnews (don’t read that usually) and they had more “The bike of….” pieces than articles. It looked like the catalog of a bikeshop. These all are things where the balance is wrong: Yes, they are part of pro cycling and that is ok – UNTIL it becomes the sole raison d’être. When they become more important than the riders and the races. They are at the heart of pro cycling right now. Not the riders and surely not the races.

      Why don’t we demand to be told the truth and not be fooled by the teams? Why don’t we care, if someone plays us, fools us or disrespects us with thinking we are that dumb and easy to manipulate? We just consume. Silently. And as long as we consume, we don’t demand anything. This is wrong. This of course doesn’t only happen in cycling, but I think I still care about cycling (I fight with these feelings now for some time, so am not sure, what I feel about cycling right now) and therefore I will not accept quietly that cycling gets totally meaningless and just like any other sports.

      But I will also not support cycling no matter what. For me it is probably so hard to accept that after what postal and armstrong did to cycling, nobody seems to have learned anything. Again everybody stands by and watches. And with the Tour 2014 having felt so alive and real, it was hard to let go hope and accept last year and it is almost impossible to accept this year for me. If I feel I can’t support the current development anymore, I will leave cycling behind.

      I tried to explain a complicated feeling-process as easy and as honest, as I could, so excuse the throwing together of metaphores and teachings. Smart people can probably explain better what psychological and marketprocesses I feel. I can only tell how it feels like to me.

      Yes, I think this qualifies for “going a bit further than usual here”…

  22. TVG happily sailed off into the distance leaving Evans standing by the side of the road with flats after the tacks on the road in 2012 so no real sympathy if Porte didn’t work for him yesterday. What goes around comes around TJ.

  23. To counter the negativity (or try to) the race for the top is still open I think, but surely Froome overwhelming favourite now. But plenty of other stories, and race for the podium is well up for grabs, with anyone down to about Aru or Porte in 14th with a chance.

    Plenty of stories – can Yates keep going over 3 weeks, is Aru in the “top bracket” of racers so has the ability to make up the time, Can TVG prove at last that he can mix it and get in the top 3 with Froome and Quintana – final chance for him? My money is on Valverde given his astonishing record of podium finishes.

  24. Ok, it’s the first rest day and we might have a *long range* attack from Quintana on Envalira on Tuesday, he trained for that in the RdS, didn’t he? ^__^ (it’s the Desgrange climb, after all! 😛 )… or, more probably, we might see some crosswinds on Wednesday – didn’t check the weather.
    Still, the most probable thing, for now, is that we’ll see any serious action for the first time on Thursday. Stage 12. Too slow a slow-burner, IMHO, even more so since they’re not even having the “right” (expected) amount of natural selection. Sky is riding slowly uphill whenever they’re given the option. I’m afraid, for the show, that several riders and teams will bitterly regret having disregraded the however few occasions that this first weekend offered.
    I’m quite surprised a lot of readers above have been commenting about the break without naming the Valverde situation.

    • Question is did Valverde go back because the rest of his breakaway companions asked him to, or because Movistar asked him to?
      It certainly seemed a good move to have him up there.
      At the very least, it would have made Sky ride hard and use more of their domestiques’ energy.
      Could Sky be taking it as easy as possible going uphills not only to save their team, but also to help Froome prevent the oft-mentioned (but still theoretical) third week weakness?

      • Isn’t it obvious why Valverde went back to the peloton? It doesn’t matter who told him to do it, the breakaway riders or his team – the reason is the same. With Valverde in the break it simply ceases to exist, they”l never be given latitude on the road in this case. Isn’t this cycling 101? It was a poor plan for Movistar to send him in the break in the first place, if their plan was to insert men up the road in the break to be ready to assist later, they can’t expect to pull that off with a podium contender.

    • “Sky is riding slowly uphill whenever they’re given the option.”

      … which begs the question: if that is the case, and other tactics would serve the other teams better, then why didn’t they up the pace?

        • I think Movistar is cleverly saving their efforts. It looks like Quintana did his best not to go too deep and is saving himself for the Ventoux and ITT that follows it hoping he’ll gain time in Ventoux and then hopefully pull out a good ITT.

          It’ll be a really interesting couple days.

          • I hope so, since I prefer Quintana to Froome (to be honest) – *yet*… not taking advantage of a situation where your rivals need a lower pace, and they couldn’t control the men you sent in the break, and they even look in a tight spot… well, it is just crazy. You won’t have any climb to sap them before the Ventoux. They’ll be able to plan the race as they like. Sure, I imagine that Movistar do feel that Quintana is now hugely superior to Froome and will deliever a result with just a couple of heavy blows. I guess so (or they aren’t really racing against Sky). Though, I think that in cycling you must strike when you’ve got a chance and you must change people’s plans when there are the margins to do so.

  25. In fairness, most of the much decried ‘negativity’ on this page is with regard to Movistar/Quintana’s tactics as opposed to comments on the entire race.
    As people have said there have been many other good aspects to the race: Cavendish’s resurgence, Sagan winning a stage and yellow, Froome’s downhill (and slap), GVA, Cummings’ and Dumoulin’s brilliant performances.
    But the most adventurous ride from GC contenders yesterday came from Contador (as ever).

  26. Now and again I like to stray over to the dark side and see what is being discussed on other forums. Oh dear, it reminds me why I only stick to this one.

  27. The quality of riders and depth of it spread throughout all the teams in the peloton is better than it’s ever been. Yesterday was both incredibly long and hard. On top of 2 days prior. A 3 week GT only needs won by seconds. Teams study the entire race identifying spots that suit their leader’s best opportunities to capitalize. Then do their best convert those opportunities. Q may have had ideas all day of making a move towards the end yesterday and when it came down to it simply couldn’t. We’ve all been there. Credit Sky with having Froome chip seconds here and there and keeping the pressure high. That’s their plan. This first week has absolutely been exciting if you can appreciate the myriad of subtleties and nuances that make cycling great. Racing in stifling heat all day to finish in a hail storm a top the Pyrenees. Come on. That was incredible. Brilliant effort from Dumoulin. And Pinot, Costa, Bennett, Rosa etc. Those guys were constantly attacking each other. In addition to the fantastically unexpected like Chris attacking over a final peak to beat ’em a la Sagan on the descent. What’s not to love here. These guys want to win. Rest up. Let’s do it all again this week. This is a battle.

    • I wouldn’t agree. Little quality – maybe – and *very* little depth (in relative terms, at least).

      GC-wise, the quality is highly concentrated (little depth) and, however, it hasn’t manifested at all itself until now – which would imply doubts about quality, if we didn’t know the riders from previous years.
      The one and only (and very limited) exception, Froome’s downhill action.

      The promised battle royale in the sprints hasn’t become a reality, either. Greipel and Kittel don’t look on the top of their game (and I say that primarily *not* because they’re losing from Cav, but since you can see them having little continuity stage after stage and being beat by inferior riders); the rest of the field is very low-level (no offence intended, just have a look to their palmarés: young guns who’ll become perhaps great… sometime).
      Thanks Cav for bringing in a bit of quality, but it has become more and more clear that he’s been helped by the weakness of the rivals – despite of that, he’s not overwhelming, either, he’s having an edge in winning terms out of pure class, but you don’t see him being that dominant in physical terms (luckily so, that’s just natural!).

      The breaks haven’t been *really* significant (as they usually aren’t) until stage 7, then they have become a bit more intense, but the peloton hasn’t really been chasing hard (that’s why the fight to form the break was so intense, after all, they knew they’d probably get a go) and the lack of attacking commitment by the GC riders – or their physical conditions – took away any strategical meaning to such long range actions (it was clear that the likes of Majka or Rosa were there for the stage, not to create any strategic situation, and it became even clearer when Valverde went on the attack and the sat up on Sunday).

      The string of attacks we can see in the break in the final part of the stage is manily due to the fact that most riders have got a lot of energies since it wasn’t that hard to stay away from the bunch. That’s also why we can see rouleurs prevailing on climbers in the last climbs, because no strain has been imposed on them during the previous part of the stage.

      We’ve got decent climbing speeds only on the Pas du Peyrol, because of Movistar’s forcing, but then they stopped and Perthus was again a Sky-led parade. The Tourmalet and the Col d’Azet were depressing, I know several amateurs who could have climbed along with the pro without killing themselves out. The Peyresourde wasn’t that slow, but it still wasn’t fast, especially if we consider that the speed was raised just in the finishing kms (short effort). Yesterday, too, Arcalis was notably slow, but given the bad weather I won’t insist too much on that (but, Bonaigua apart, they were also going slowly on the previous climbs… and the weather was good, then).

  28. Some, and i stress some, of the references to “boring” etc. are a fall out from the EPO era where unbelievable heroics where guaranteed on mountain stages, rolling stages and the like. I witnessed those years and while it was exciting, I would rather have the racing we have now.

    • You should perhaps consider that we’re having thrilling GTs in *this* era, and that they’re often *way* more thrilling than what we saw in previous eras.
      We’d got plenty of boring TdFs from the Nineties (included) on, it’s not like all of them were a firework show, quite the contrary, I’d say!
      But let’s just consider the era we’re in… Both the 2014 and 2015 TdF have been better than this (and I’d add 2013, too, even if slightly so, just as 2011). The Giro has had on systematic basis a better first half, even if 2014 and 2012 were under par, compared with the Giro’s average quality. The Vuelta tends to have always an entertaining start, even if it doesn’t anymore grow up to the appropriate level for a GT in the following weeks (which means, for me, longer stages, multiple climbs, and, in any case, more than 5 or 10 minutes of action in the most significant stages, let’s say 4 or 5 of them).
      Linking racing style with doping makes little sense, similarities and differences look like to follow a different pattern in the two fields.

    • Two examples from that era: Indurain and Armstrong. Neither were terribly fascinating to watch.

      I’m afraid you’ve broached cycling’s own Godwin’s Law there, whereby someone brings drugs into a conversation where they have no relevance whatsoever.

      • And, as Gabriele says, there have been many interesting grand tours this decade. They were usually the ones where one team was not allowed by the others to dictate how the racing went.

  29. I suppose some of the dullards that race now may seem interesting to some amongst the dullards that generally make up the professional peloton today.

  30. As Gabriele wrote, there is a difference between riding and racing. But wow, truth and reality have no chance against that brainwashing: Furious pace, specially trained for the third week (as if such a thing was possible!!!), brilliant solo, downhill skills, out-thought. But my favourite is “without wasting energy”. A very nice euphemism for wheelsucking.

    I give up.

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