The Moment The Critérium du Dauphiné Was Won

The last metres of the last stage. Jacob Fuglsang has attacked on the final climb, dropped Daniel Martin and the stage win is his. Behind Richie Porte has been chasing alone for the best part of 35km to defend his yellow jersey, first from an attack by Fabio Aru and Alejandro Valverde, then to contain Chris Froome and finally to try and prevent Fuglsang. But the Dane won the stage, took the time bonus and with it the overall classification.

Col de Sarenne

Is there a more scenic race? The Giro d’Italia has plenty to offer and the Tour of the Alps, ex Trentino, is special too but the Dauphiné in early June is sublime in the sunshine.

Fortunately there’s more than the scenery to enjoy starting with a lively opening stage where big game hunter Thomas De Gendt won from the breakaway, helped because not enough teams would commit to the chase. This was a theme for the week as Koen Bouwman won a stage when he only really wanted the mountains points on offer, but his escapes rewarded him with the mountains jersey come the end of the race.

Arnaud Démare was the strongest sprinter and collected a stage win and the points jersey, an incentive for him to continue in the race while others retired citing illness, presumably from looking at the stage profiles ahead. Démare impressed and his transalpine FDJ sprint train was effective too but if he was often miles ahead he won’t have it so easy come the Tour de France.

Richie Porte, 2017 Dauphine time trial

The 23km time trial was always going to be crucial but who knew it would be so surprising? Richie Porte won, pipping Tony Martin and Chris Froome was 37 seconds back. We noticed Fabio Aru losing 1m19 seconds which seemed acceptable but Jacob Fuglsang’s identical performance didn’t register. In hindsight this deficit gave Fuglsang a lot of work to do but the Dane didn’t seem focussed on it either.

Fuglsang won the stage over the Mont du Chat, claiming a 10 second time bonus which matters with hindsight but at the time was merely a fringe benefit from his first ever win in a World Tour race after a long career. The Mont du Chat lived up to its promise, the severe slopes scattering the peloton over the side of the mountain and so steep that drafting barely makes a difference. Fabio Aru was first to the top and did it the hard way via a series of attacks and accelerations, a demanding effort on such a slope. As every schoolkid knows, F=ma and so to accelerate on a 14% gradient requires a lot of force. Fuglsang was more steady and while Aru danced away the Dane eased up to meet Richie Porte and Chris Froome at the top of the climb. The four regrouped on the descent in part thanks to Froome’s descending, he seemed to throw himself into every corner.

The stage bodes well for the Tour de France where they will copy the Mont du Chat but only after the Col de la Biche and the Grand Colombier, each steep climbs in their own right and you wonder what will happen in July: carnage or will the severity tilt riders towards energy conservation?

Saturday’s stage to Alpe d’Huez was a slow burner. The breakaway stayed away with Peter Kennaugh taking the stage win while behind Romain Bardet took back some time on his GC rivals and later said he’s yet to do high intensity training, the implication being that his climbing performances will improve come July. Among the other contenders Astana continued to make use of their strength in numbers firing Fabio Aru up the road on the final slopes of Alpe d’Huez then Richie Porte responded and only Jacob Fuglsang could respond but the Dane’s move allowed to stay level on time with Porte and this move would be another vital part of his overall win. We thought Porte had been consistent all week but so was Fuglsang.

The final stage was just 115km with four major mountain climbs and beaucoup vertical gain. Short stages are like dessert, they’re best served after some other courses and you can’t eat dessert every day by itself. Nobody can sustain the frenetic riding of a 115km stage with 4,000m of climbing for days on end. It’s a format that works perfectly for the Dauphiné and the final stage has consistently been an annual highlight. 2017 was a vintage edition and if the stage promised fireworks it began like a blaze in a pyrotechnics warehouse with wave after wave on uncontrolled attacks with the big names starting early, including Froome but many others. The result was that Richie Porte was quickly isolated.

Astana tried the old 1-2. First they fired Fabio Aru up the road on the Col de la Colombière with Alejandro Valverde for company, two clear threats to Richie Porte’s yellow jersey. Sure enough at the top of the pass they were seconds away from becoming the virtual race leaders. Should Porte have let them go? Ideally not but to contain them would be to see Romain Bardet or Chris Froome counter attack and so on. Indeed with hindsight Porte’s caution paid off because Aru and Valverde were reeled in so those two didn’t threaten him. But others did and by then Porte had lost contact with almost all his rivals on the slopes of the Colombière and its descent and had to work hard to chase.

Often we think of only the mountains and their descents but the ensuing flat section along the Arve valley was crucial, Porte having to chase by himself except for a turn or two from Sam Oomen while the likes of Fuglsang and Froome were sat in a Sedan chair being taken to the foot of the next climb by Michał Kwiatkowski. So when the Froome-Fuglsang group started the steep ascent to the Plateau de Solaison they were fresh and quickly brought back Aru and Valverde while Porte had been toiling for some time. Fresh Fuglsang was able to respond when Dan Martin attacked halfway up the climb, the Dane went with him and later on dropped him to go solo. Porte chased all the way up the climb and set the fastest time, aided by his single-minded task rather than the tactics of a group but impressive nonetheless because he’d had to toil on the valley approach road. But after Fuglsang the clocked was ticking and Porte crossed the ten seconds too late to save his yellow jersey.

Finally Fuglsang: It marked a big week for Fuglsang. The Dane has been a pro for the best part of a decade and never won a World Tour race until this week. But the story is not surprise at his win, it’s what took him so long. He made a name for himself in the Dauphiné back in 2008 when he was a 23 year old mountainbiker-turned-neo-pro by finishing fifth on Mont Ventoux and then fifth again days later on the stage to Saint-François-Longchamp, better known as the Col de la Madelaine. He’s been consistent ever since, notably seventh overall in the 2013 Tour de France but often a lieutenant or what we could call a “Moto 2 rider”, not always in vision when we see the front group on a mountain stage, even as he rode to consistent overall placings. His stock’s risen for July.

Richie Porte and Chris Froome

The master and his apprentice: one of the attractions of the race this year was Porte on the up and Froome not looking so strong, to see the apprentice take on his master. This story fell apart on the last day when both lost out. Certainly Porte had the better race thanks to a stage win and more consistency in the mountains but arguably Froome’s loss in the time trial forced him to be less consistent, to try more.

Bonus time: another consolation for Porte is that he covered the course the quickest. Fuglsang took two stage wins and with them 20 seconds in time bonuses and won the race by 10 seconds over Porte. So the bonuses played their part in the arithmetic of the win. This kind of rejigging can infuriate some and simply stripping away the bonuses is not so simple because riders race according to the rules in play. For example Fuglsang may have known on the last ascent that the time bonus was waiting and so he did not gamble by trying to up his pace any more in the final moments, to risk blowing up. But if the Dauphiné is a Tour de France tune-up then it is instructive to see the true relative position of riders and Porte was the best against the clock and uphill. It’s also interesting how it weighs on the story-telling of the race, yes Porte lost thank to time bonuses but in 2015 when Chris Froome won the race ahead 10 seconds ahead of Tejay van Garderen it seemed the normal result, even if it was engineered by the identical arithmetic of two stage wins and 20 seconds in time bonuses.

The Dauphiné is often a race where young riders can shine against established names but the class of 2017 wasn’t the most convincing. Emanuel Buchmann had a satisfying race and won the white jersey. He’s 24, shy and climbed well to beat more established contenders like Louis Meintjes, Tiesj Benoot and Simon Yates but none of them weighed on the race: less the promise of youth and more its disappointment. Meintjes was stealthy and Yates probably not where he’d want to be. Benoot’s impressed before in this race and you wonder if he wasn’t from Ghent whether he’d still focus on the cobbled classics? Perhaps the most impressive young rider was Sunweb’s Phil Bauhaus, 22, who took a sprint stage win despite little lead out from his team and the Giro ridden in the service of Tom Dumoulin.

Chris Froome descending the Col de la Colombière

What does it all mean for the Tour de France? There’s an element of frustration in seeing everything that happened last week project to July when there’s much to enjoy from the week of racing in isolation, one of the best races on the calendar. But extrapolating from June to July is inevitable, the Tour de France dominates the sport and it’s less than three weeks away. The bookmakers still have Froome as the first pick with Porte closely behind, the Aussie’s odds having fallen sharply this week from 7:1 to 2:1 but this can reflect the flow of money into the market as well as expectations and they’re not necessarily the same thing. Froome still has Damoclean question marks hanging over him, the assured, even and formulaic approach isn’t working yet but he was close and it won’t take much to improve plus he gets a stronger team.

Richie Porte and BMC Racing team mates

Porte is looking strong but far from invincible. His BMC team was strong until the final day and probably paid the price for their work in the previous days; the team could be strengthened for July but Greg Van Avermaet will have his own ambitions too. With Porte we’ll see how this affects his confidence. He was relaxed and smiling during interviews, you could see how at ease he felt on camera and on the bike.  As said before he tends to work well when everything flows but when something goes wrong then the rest begins to fall apart too. The team has been working on this and he’s even discussed managing setbacks with Cadel Evans, a man who knows a thing or two about losing out and feeling unsupported. Already this year Paris-Nice was different when he lost time in the crosswinds but recovered mentally to win atop the Col de la Couillole. However this defeat could be more crushing because he would have woken up on Sunday morning hoping to win only to find himself left to his own devices mid-stage, the kind of experience you don’t forget. But he can console himself with the response in that he still climbed the Plateau de Solaison faster than anyone else and this despite having chased hard on the valley approach road too.

Meanwhile others can stake their claim, Astana’s tandem of Fuglsang and Aru looks promising and clichéd with the cool steady Dane and the hotheaded Italian. Alejandro Valverde did ok, he blew up a few times but this seemed more to do with him being caught out by the steep climbs which he had not ridden before and he had a good time trial and he’ll probably enjoy staying under the radar.

The big miss was Alberto Contador, never a factor in the race and ultimately 11th overall, this was neither the catalytic agent who provokes reactions every time the road goes uphill nor a steady stage racer but he said as much before the race started and will now plan on adding more intensity to his training to be sharper for July.

While making a certain pick for July could sound authoritative – or foolish – the very uncertainty ahead is to be embraced and celebrated. It may be that Froome improves and Team Sky steamroller their way around France but for now there’s the hope of a contest. Until then there’s the certainty that the Dauphiné delivered up another great week of racing.

93 thoughts on “The Moment The Critérium du Dauphiné Was Won”

  1. Porte is on the record complaining about “negative racing”. I didn’t see this at all- waves of attacks from the top contenders, as you say. Simply whining or am I missing something subtle?

    • I’d say this was aimed at Sky and Frome in particular who elbowed him out of bonus seconds at the end of one stage. And on the last one Froome’s attack ended up ensuring his former team mate’s loss, but also cost him a podium spot (not sure he cared). I think Fugslang kinda benefited from this animosity between the two. That’s how I saw it.

    • If negative racing is racing against the leader and caring less about whether you place 2nd or 9th, then bring on more negative racing!

  2. Great scenery indeed, especially yesterday. The Dolomites are hard to beat scenically but the combination of the rural French landscape and the high alps probably shades it.

    As to the racing. When the leader going into the last day has a lead of over a minute and is the strongest rider in the race but still manages not to win it is difficult not to draw negative conclusions especially as it seems to fit into a pattern of various “nearly but not quite” races. I didn’t think much of his complaints that everyone was trying to make him loose, I suspect he didn’t watch Tom Dumoulin take on a good deal of the peloton on his own a few weeks back. It simply goes with the territory of wearing the leader’s jersey, you have to live with that pressure.

    I thought Dan Martin’s post race comments were spot on, the nature of the race meant everyone was simply going all out to win, coming 2nd or 6th really didnt matter. Lots of riders were rolling the dice in the knowledge that they did not have much chance to win but there was nothing to be lost in trying. It certainly made for an exiting days racing but we are very unlikely to see something similar come July.

    What it portends for the TdF less is clear.

    Richie Porte clearly is in very good form but he is not a top descender (descending skills are likely to be more important than usual) and BMC really do not seem to be able get their tactics right. Are they really going to allow GVA to go stage hunting again? Would Movistar, Sky or Astana weaken their team to allow one rider, no matter how talented, to risk their GC ambitions? Is Nico Roche good enough to be the key lieutenant? Too many questions here. Perhaps Richie Porte can overcome all this but I fear not.

    Whilst Chris Froome does not seem at quite his previous level he has time before the big challenges in a month’s time to go back to his mountain top eyrie to work on squeezing that last few percent of power from his legs. Of course he will be joined on the roads of France by the usual formidable team, arguably Geraint Thomas could be a contender, along with all the others. It is very difficult to imagine he could be isolated as RP was yesterday.

    Astana look surprisingly strong, Fabio Aru clearly is fresh and raring to go and Jakob Fulgsang seems to be in the form of his life.

    I suspect that Alejandro Valverde did not do enough to show it should be him not NQ leading for Movistar, he does seem to fade on the longer climbs.

    I guess both Dan Martin and Romain Bardet will be there or thereabouts but the top step is probably beyond them.

    Plenty to chew over in the next few weeks.

    As always lots on informed commentary from Inrng

    • It’s an interesting point that Inner Ring, and yourself, makes about GVA.
      Contrast with Kwiatkowski’s sacrifices and team work this week.

      GVA has had a marvellous season to date, the most successful rider of the Spring, but does he need to be reined in a little if Porte is to make a serious go at winning GC?
      Wasn’t there a TdF stage last year where Porte punctured and there was no one near him?

      • Indeed there was. At the time they were all either working for GVA or had already swung off after doing their job for the day.

        But last year was very much a trial run with Porte as he had never managed to string together three good weeks in one GT before, so they practically had to give GVA a couple of runs at stage wins to ensure they didn’t go home from the Tour with nothing to show for it.

        This time they can be a touch more confident in Porte, but I think his mental resilience might still be enough of a concern that they might still let GVA off the leash a couple times.

    • “I didn’t think much of his complaints that everyone was trying to make him loose, I suspect he didn’t watch Tom Dumoulin take on a good deal of the peloton on his own a few weeks back.”

      Yep – If anyone’s proved that you can be made loose and still take on the peloton it’s Dumoulin. ;o)

  3. That’s why I love time bonus. Fuglsang raced to win the stages and grab those important boni seconds at the finish line.

    Porte was wearing an Yellow target in the last day… And this clearly was not like a GT where riders protect their Top 10 spot in GC. Massive props to Astana for delivering their 1-2 punch successfully.

    • Its a shame the winning gap wasn’t 3 seconds closer – then Porte might feel Froome had cost him the race when he closed the gap on the Aussie in the sprint on the Mont du Chat stage. Fuglsang edging the sprint was an 8 second swing away from Porte in terms of bonus seconds.

        • Yes, and Jakob won by 10 seconds, so if those earlier sprint bonuses had been reversed, which they would have but for the Froome (probably accidental) block, there would have been only 2 seconds in it. Hence my conjecture about 3 seconds above. Pointless conjecture, I know, but it just made me wonder, as I get the idea Porte thinks Froome ‘owes’ him a few favours for the years of service etc.

          • It’s interesting that in your view of the four-up sprint that Froome blocked Porte. To me it looked like a very fair sprint where Porte took to the barriers, got a little blocked in (typical in any sprint), and Froome checked back and actually opened the door for Porte to come through.

          • I’m not suggesting it was deliberate or culpable to the extent of warranting penalty, but I do think Froome closed the door and briefly checked Porte and that cost the Aussie the stage win. Didn’t Porte made various comments after the finish implying this too?

  4. Perhaps I’m alone here but I don’t understand what is so awesome about bonus seconds. Do race organisers think that the lack of them will result in duller, more defensive racing? Riders want to win, to win you need to take time on your rivals, they’re going for the line. Can anyone name a race that became measurably more exciting once bonus seconds were added? Also if you do have them, why not for time trials?

    That aside, great riding by Fuglsang however Aru’s form could make things look interesting. Who will the team back if they have two riders at that level? Fuglsang has been publicly backed as Astana’s number one for the TDF, but then Aru has the grand tour record.

    • Fuglsang himself says that they will decide, on the roads of France who gets the leadership. As of now they are still going in with two leaders

  5. I find a win by Fuglsang leaves an odd taste. Someone who rides for Astana, has ridden for Riis at Saxobank and Bruyneel at RadioShack then performs spectacularly well when his contract is up must expect questions to be asked. Sorry, if I am besmirching this rider but cycling has beaten the naivety out of me.

    • Remember Barloworld & Claudio Corti.

      I their heyday they held the unofficial UCI record for doping convictions – incl lifebans.

      guess who was emplyed there: Frome & Thomas.

      Should leave you with an odd taste too, unless you enbrace double standards.

        • Fuglsang , rusian bear and TUE’s – that only exist in your fantasy.

          Wondered why he didn’t want to ride for Brunell? Wondern why Brunell benched him (and not a Chris Horner)

    • But all these years on these teams and he never won anything either. This is the problem of circumstantial accusations, it’s a Rohrschach test that tends to say more about our own opinions than the underlying topic, in this case Fuglsang.

      • Agreed Fuglsang has allways been a mega talent on both MTB and Racing watch his resume not his palmares – he has run second to Schleck and Nibali and now finallybhas the metal focus to believe in himself and his team – with great talent it takes responsibility -> soon to become a father takes responsibility -> Fuglsang has steppes UP mentally and the conpetiotion is now clean and on a level playing field which makes room for the mega talented – enjoy

    • Porte was discovered by a certain Riis, remeber? He and Fuglsang used to ride at Saxo Bank together.
      Since, he rode under medical supervision of Dr. Geert Leinders at SKY, only to join Jim Ochowicz (Phonak) at BMC.

      Everything is suspicious if you want it to.

      • I understand what you are saying, cycling is like “seven degrees of separation” or the Kevin Bacon game…easy to join the dots. That said the Dauphine was refreshing in that no one rider appeared able to ride without getting out of breath, whilst performing miracle attacks. I am not sure what the answer is, but for me to see riders whose form has not been tip top performing brilliantly needs to be looked at.

        • I like to see the best in people and to be fair to Fuglsang, what’s to say that, given his contractual situation, he has not aimed to peak his entire season at this point?
          It would make sense, secure him a new contract.
          It’s clear that the other riders, Porte apart, were some way off top form.
          Opportunistic and smart…?

        • I agree.
          If you’re into Ferrari-w/kg-estimates (precaution needed), nobody produced near-superhuman efforts; Aru produced 6.03 w/kg at Mont du Chat; Porte, Froome and Fuglsang did 6 sharp.
          At Solaison, Fuglsang produced 5.84 w/kg.

          A similar tendency was seen at the recent Giro and at the 2016 Tour.
          I find this reassuring.

          I lame comparison, but still:
          In a Ferrari-estimate comparison, a 1996 Bjarne Riis (Hautacam data) would have sacked Fuglsang on Solaison with around 4’20 despite a heavier bike, non-aero clothes, non-ceramic bearings and you name it.
          At least his forehead was aero…

        • just to throw some perspective on this, he was only REALLY good for three, maybe four days. that’s hardly indicative of anything beyond his coaches skill to hit the target just right.

          it would be more interesting if his extraordinary form carried through several months.

        • A fun game. Everyone gets related somehow. For fun’s sake, I’ll add some more crap. Kim Andersen, a Dane, was the first big serial doper-who-gets-caught who was even banned for life for his apparent addiction to getting caught time after time. He then went on to be the Schlecks’ mentor and play a considerable at Leopard. There you are. 😆

          • Great! As a Dane, I love this game.
            We really have some cyclists to be proud of:

            1960: Knud Enemark died during the 100 km pursuit at the Rome Olympics. The autopsy revealed that he had taken amphetamine
            1987: Kim Andersen is banned for life
            1992: Kim Andersen has another positive doping test
            1996: Bjarne Riis wins the TdF with one of the most radioactive performances in the last 30 years; alledgedly, with a haematocrit of 60-61%
            2007: Michael Rasmussen gets kicked out of the Tour wearing the yellow jersey.

            And there’s Brian Holm, Jesper Skibby, Rolf Sørensen, Bo Hamburger etc.

            We’re a small nation with a beautiful impact dopingwise.

          • As a Finn (with experience of living in Sweden and Norway and still following the media), I must my express my admiration for the Danes!

            They are the only sane Nordic nation in this respect; all the others will go to great and unbelievably pains to explain how doping is really totally alien to the nature of their sportsmen and indeed the whole culture, quite unlike in , and will somehow be able to explain, to themselves at leaast, how the positive test finding stems from an innocent error or a perfectly justifiable and legitimate medical use.

            And how, in the final analysis, the sportsmen and the federation bosses of the other Nordic countries are the real culprits and the ones to blame…

    • No, no, no! Please switch over to the CN forum where comments like yours are welcome by the “community”. Fuglsang’s performances during the Dauphiné are absolutely within what is reachable w/o PEDs and similar stuff. And he has maybe already peaked, either intentionally in order to score big in this race to secure a new contract before the TdF or unintentionally whereas guys he beat were clearly not at their usual peak yet. And he only won yesterday’s stage and the GC because Richie made two rookie mistakes in the last stage. Otherwise Fuglsang might have got second or third or whatever without performing any worse than he did. But then your impression of him as someone who’s not good enough to win and therefore not as suspicious would be intact?
      I’m sorry but that kind of argueing does not really reflect well on you.

      • Well, my post certainly seems to have stirred some debate! I will go away suitably chastised and reflect on my behaviour as suggested by STS. Although I have loved cycling for over 40 years the fact that it has turned me into a cynic has saddened me deeply. Time to find a new sport

        • I personally think that your cynicism/non naivete is in order. We as fans should question the performances. You posted a legitimate “concern” over Fuglsang performance – but got well founded counter arguments. There was some snark , I think you should take that as part of the game you started to play. Don’t go hiding in a corner.

  6. Great to see Fuglsang winning. Seems like the first win built some confidence! He’s always been there really, there are so many great moments with him. I remember him in the ´11 Vuelta getting 5th or 6th in the TT. And basically riding everyone but Nibali off his wheel in the cobble stage of the ´14 tour. A top class bike rider finally showing what he can do once he steps out of other people’s shadow.

    Froome wants to win the vuelta also, no? Perhaps this is him taking it easier until the tour. I still don’t see anyone getting close to him there..

    • He waited for Nibali on the cobbled 2014 TDF stage. Still love to se Funglsag give Paris Roubaix and Flanders a go…

  7. Im pretty sure Funglsag did the final climb faster than Porte. Dont have the numbers, but my guts says Dan Martin did the climber faster than Porte too.

    • According to the usually reliable Mihai and ammattipyöraily, you’re right. Martin just 1″ faster than Porte, Fuglsang some 13″. Your guts precision is notable, high definition I’d say 🙂

      • Noted. In the “I’m wrong…. but” aspect, Porte was slower but only just which is impressive given his chase to the climb and no drafting, if it was any help, on the climb. Watching him I did wonder if he was going to crack, he was standing on the pedals a lot and his cadence looked to be dropping, the kind of effort that works only on the last stage, he must have had wooden legs the day after.

        • His ride up to the Plateau was really very impressive, especially because of his chase in the valley before where he was riding at some 45 kph nearly all the time on the front. A very unsual situation in modern cycling. As a GC contender approaching a MTF you’re either protected by your teammates or are in a select group where pulls are traded and no one is going full gas in order to protect their resources for the finale.
          I also thought that he rode a lot out of the saddle and that on a climb of this length that was probably not the most efficient way. But as he is in really great shape he managed to keep the tempo at that level right until the end.

  8. You’d imagine both Dennis and Oss will be lining up for BMC and strengthen the squad considerably. The versatile Dennis can climb with the best on all but the steepest slopes, Oss a first class minder on the flat – assuming he isn’t working for Greg.

    GVA, Evans – all nearly men who finally made it count, Porte could indeed take a leaf from their books

    • I think there is a case to be made that BMC have sent a strong squad to the Tour de Suisse, it is partly their home race whilst most other teams sent a stronger team to the Dauphine. So yes RP will have more support come July but you sort of make the point “Oss a first class minder on the flat – assuming he isn’t working for Greg”. The team really need to sharpen up, not leave their leader with a puncture with no riders around him or waste energy taking the yellow jersey on lumpy stages long before the mountains.

  9. With the risk of being querulous, Fuglsang climbed the Solaison 12 seconds faster than Porte:

    Porte was 1:03 behind Fuglsang at this corner in Thuet:'45.9%22N+6%C2%B026'30.3%22E/@46.062736,6.4406094,326m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x0!8m2!3d46.062736!4d6.44176

    Fuglsang finished 1:15 ahead of Porte.

    Besides this, thank you for an outstanding coverage (as usual)!
    Your previews combined your “Roads to Ride” are levels above anything else.

    Kind regards

  10. Cillian Kelly’s stat about Contador which inrng reports above is really impressive and it’s probably a way clearer hint about Alberto’s aging than all the cheap chat about his “TdF level”. At the same time it shows the kind of high level consistency Alberto’s class granted him irrespective of peak form or “before/after being DSQd”.

    Kelly writes “in Europe” because it had already happened last February – but that was in Abu Dhabi. It went unnoticed because it’s not a great race, but Contador used to get fine GC results also in February throughout his whole career, albeit very rarely winning (just once, I think). Same goes for Dauphiné. His prep implies going there short on form and maybe a little heavy in weight, often being on par with lesser riders or even being beat by them, but even so he always got a top ten – until this year.

    Time won’t reverse, he’ll need to use every skill he’s got to maximise his results despite a declining fitness and gift the public the kind of feat we’ve been offered by Boonen or Cancellara during their last years. Anyway, what he did in Giro 2015 was great enough for me, although it wasn’t being raced in France (not that Aramón Formigal was bad, but that Giro was an all around show).

  11. What a great race again!
    I think in the past years, most of the TdF contenders were taking different paths to the tour. I think is the first time I have seen so many of the contenders at Dauphine.
    Anyway, super happy for Fuglsang, he did some great racing in the past, but felt short in a few. He is an odd rider. Seems to have it all to be a great GC, but was never there: good TT, good climber, quite smart strategically (stage 9, TdF 13!) and great bike handling.
    Anyway, I would love to see him fighting with chances for the TdF. Btw, he is out of contract end of year right?
    I have a sense that this TdF will be the first in a long time where we will have more than 2-3 fighting for the win and this could put Sky in the corners as one of their advantages is that the teams protecting a podium or a top 5 were marking each other in a few important stages that helped Froome.

  12. Watch out for Sam Oomen in the next couple of years. Only 21 and steady top 20 performer this year in short WT stage races as well as a awesome display in LBL. With Sam, Wilco and Warren Sunweb potentially has Dumoulin’s support in the mountains for next year already in the team.

  13. This is a genuine question, with no intention of accusatory comment: Does doping still exist in cycling? I’d be interested in responses here, the inrng audience seems very knowledgeable. Oh, and I do have a proper reason for asking the question.

    • Does it still exist? Hell yes.

      Two riders from one of the wildcard Pro Conti teams tested positive and were suspended just before the start of this year’s Giro.

      Is it as widespread as it has historically been? Hard to say. Certainly, if they are using drugs they’re a hell of a lot less effective than what Pantani etc. used to get up to – nobody has gotten anywhere near Pantani and Armstrong’s level of performance in recent years.

      But there are still plenty of things that make you go ‘hmmm’. Riders mysteriously going from heroes to zeroes and back again for no good reason. Various known or strongly suspected dopers running teams. Sky’s recent well-publicized shenanigans.

      So…do you throw your hands in the air and say they’re all cheats and never watch? Sure, go watch football. With the perfunctory drug testing in that sport, we can safely say that there’s little chance of your football heroes (in pretty much any football code or competition you care to name) being revealed as drug cheats…

  14. Portes team will strengthen come July. Quite a few strong riders doing Tour of Suisse at the moment that will come to help. Caruso, Dennis and maybe TJVG.

    I do think BMC need to take the Sky approach with 100% dedication to their GC leader however. Taking GVA to possibly poach a stage seems a fools errand.

    • In 2012 Sky won the Tour with Wiggins while Cavendish also won three stages. Other than those sprints Cav was on team duty so it can be done. It shouldn’t have been down to GVA alone to make sure Porte always had a teammate with him to donate a wheel or whatever else, it was also the other 7 guys. BMC must know this, so hopefully we’ll see them step up their game come July.

      • That was pretty unique and Dave Brailsford immediately realised it was not something to be repeated. There was clearly a close friendship between Wiggo and Cav which made it work as a one off. Cav had won the world championship the year before, in part, because Wiggo had put huge amount of work for no reward. I have an abiding memory of Wiggo leading out in the yellow jersey on the Champs Elysee.

        The problem with GVA stage hunting is that it uses up resource, and inevitably increases fatigue. It must also take up DS time, a car up the road etc. If you seriously want to target the GC that needs to be the focus. Winning the odd sprint or maybe a breakaway when there is a tactical reason for being there is fine, not going into the race knowing that is your goal.

        It is also why ASO’s plan to reduce team sizes makes no sense. It will penalise teams like Quick Step who have multiple goals rather than then Movistar, Sky etc who concentrate on one objective.

        • The truth will come out, but even if he’s not going for stages, GVA is one of the strongest riders in the peloton and would make a great team helper. Perhaps they’ve picked two or three stages where he can have a go but otherwise should be thinking about the team’s GC aspirations.

    • However impressive Porte was physically, I suspect his performance failed to convince the BMC management to think more in terms of 100 % dedication to him and the GC. After all, he lost the race not by accident (or negative tactics, re above) but due to a rookie mistake, underlining what is already seen as his main weakness – the ability to cope with pressure over time.

      After all, if Porte’s pursuit for the yellow jersey fails, Tour stage wins are also worth a lot and GVA can deliver one or two. I think the choice is simple. Also because, as Augie March points out, GVA can be a great helper on the days he is not out hunting stage wins.

  15. Fuglsang has allways been a mega talent both on MTB and Racing – riding second ti Schleck and Nibali – now his mentaly on the top with the OL silver and dont sexond guess – watch his developmnet into a leader in Tdf, it comes with the responsibility to become a father – eg a Team Leader has the same responsibility as a father for his family – Enjoy Fuglsang is clean and finaly has the mental advantage in believing in himself and the team 🙂

  16. This is one of the hardest TdF pacours in a long time. Eight days over 200 km. Including the longest day at 222 km right before the ITT. Eight mountain stages. This years Grand Boucle will take on a survivors mindset instead of an attacking mindset. Every rider will suffer at least one Jour Sans and possibly two.

    Chris Froome is El Patron until proven otherwise. He has the team, the resume, and is peaking during the peak years of his career. No other rider can make that claim.

    Only illness or injury will keep him from the top step of the podium.

    The rest of the podium will be a combination of Porte /Fuglsang/ Contador.

    • It’s a bit lacking selective finales, but that’s a risk which may pay off.

      The third week is really modest, the Alps are disappointing: the Izoard uphill finish, not that hard in itself, is included in an easy stage with just another relevant climb, the Vars – the double has historical value, but the Vars, not that selective a climb, is 50 kms away from the finish line, and some 40 teamwork-favourable kms before the climbing starts again. The Telegraphe-Galibier combo is always good, but you’ll have to face some 30 easy kms before crossing the line. The Croix de Fer is more than 100 kms away from the finish.
      Both stages would have been fine… if a third one was added to them: it’s not like this Tour was already too montainous, they could well afford it (also adding ITT kms).
      The rest of the week is quite moot, flat stages, however long (…wind?), and too short an ITT.

      This way it will depend greatly on the first two weeks. To allow selection in that couple of not-very-impressive Alpin stages you’d need a couple of hard fought previous weeks.
      We’ve got a couple of *potentially* very good stages, Peyragudes and Chambéry.
      Then we’ve got *a lot* of very flat sprinter stages (making life even harder for Sagan?), whose length doesn’t matter that much, while in the “hard” or “mountain” stages more often than not there are very few difficulties, and quite much spaced between them, leading to an uphill finale only once, in a short monoclimb stage.

      It’s a *creative* course, indeed, but far from being “one of the hardest” (as such – we’ll see how they race it). I’d have added some spice to the tricky stages, in order to create more margin for inventive racing. Those stages which aren’t actual mountain stages, but which are quite complicated all day long… which are a bit lacking – we probably have got only *two* of them!
      They reduced uphill finishes away, they reduced ITT kms… but they reduced Classics-like stages, too (at least looking at the stage profiles).
      The “mountain stages” are actually just 4, two of them serious (around halfway through the whole race or before), two of them a bit lacking (in the third week).
      I’d qualify the other 4 as “hilly”, hardly exceeding 2,000 m. of total altitude gain (the hardest one being the shortest), much of which is about false flats and “mangia-e-bevi”, not climbs. Two of these four are really monoclimbs, not true “Classics”.
      2 short ITTs.
      2 puncheur stages (neither hilly enough to make for a Classic).
      9 sprinter stages.

      • I think you’re being a bit too harsh in your judgement: the stages to Les Rousses and Le-Puy-en-Velay are all-day-false-flat and very hard to control. Strava estimates the former to have > 4000 meters of vertical gain, the latter 3600 m. These estimates are, of course, too high, but still.

        The Galibier stage isn’t serious? Ah, come on! It has 4800+ meters of climbing including some of France’s hardest climbs. The descent from Galibier to Lautaret is serious, albeit the 19 km from Lautaret to the finish are not.

        Admitted, the Foix stage has little more than 2000 m of vertical gain; but it makes me drool.

        I agree that the Izoard stage is a lame waste of opportunities. Why not a shorter loop from Brincon over Izoard with a finish on Granon like in the late 80’s?

        • I hope you’re right about Les Rousses. But while we all know that “hidden altitude gain” can sap legs, at the same time it’s not necessarily enough to make a stage “hard to control”, which implies breaking the pelotong and reducing the numbers of gregari. You need a sharp gradient, however short, for that.
          I don’t know the terrain at all, hence I can’t say if it will be available… but GPS altitude gain is worth little, in that sense. Just as an example (no technical sense), imagine if you had to ride it yourself, as a normal ride, would you really think it’s as hard as a high mountain 4,000 m altitude gain stage? It’s the old GPS thing, it makes altitude gain huger and huger on lumpy terrains. Boosting the pride of the Sunday Strava warrior… 🙂

          It’s not easy to break the group when slipstream matters a lot: people get tired, if anything, but generally don’t lose the wheels. Even worst: long drags can favour who keeps his team compact.
          Then, you also need a final occasion to take advantage of the advantage of tiring your rivals out. It’s to been seen if that final climb would be enough.
          It’s the typical “middle mountain” stage, fine for the first weekend where it’s correctly placed, and nice being before Chambéry. It’s an example of good course designing. But it’s not a “(high / true / hard) mountain stage”. It’s a bit like Roccaraso in last year’s Giro. Which is totally fine, but it’s not hard enough to prevent you from including further difficulties in the third week to avoid the course getting unbalanced…

          Galibier stage. Yes, it’s hard. Telegraphe + Galibier combo is worth over 2,000 m of altitude gain alone. But how far the other climbs are? Compare it to any classic mountain raid with linked mountain passes, it’s very different in strategic terms. And the final kms are really a lot of easy terrain to defend yourself against a group. It makes attacking a huge and not very rewarding investment, especially with another mountain stage the following day. Again, I really hope to be wrong.
          By the way, how often this Tour tackles one mountain just after having descended the previous one, without a good deal of easy terrain to kill down moves in-between? Some total three time? Four? Most of them very far from the line…

          Foix and Le-Puy-en-Velay are not “mountain” stages, come on. They’re *great* tricky stages, they can become very hard, but it’s not about “mountains”. The last climb is some 30 kms away from the line in both cases.
          Foix: last 55 kms, 9 of climbing (at most: last 75 kms, 25 of climbing). Longest climb of the day… 10 km! A half an hour climbing effort. It *might* become *very* interesting, but it’s no Andalo, no Solaison, no Aramón Formigal, no Fuente Dé. Those stages were all including more climbing, and more concentrated. Except perhaps Solaison (hugely harder than Foix), despite being quite harder than Foix, they were all considered “middle mountain” stages.
          Le-Puy-en-Velay: some 10-11 km of climbing in the last 82 km…
          It’s as if they were trying to look like what they really aren’t.
          I don’t mean I don’t like these stages, I’d like more of them, actually, instead of some 2-3 sprinter stages. But they’re not about “mountains”.

          Last but not least, and perhaps the most important factor: I can’t remember when it happened before that we *never* had at least three minimally hard stages in a row in the whole Tour. Perhaps 2012? And even then…
          A light third week and the lack of several consecutive hard stages will make recover less important than in many, many years, unless other elements factor in (wind or whatever).

          Please note that I consider it fair to reduce the mountains if you reduce the ITTs… but then you also reduce the tricky stages – and we’re left with sort of a decaffeinated Tour (in terms of course, which isn’t everything).
          I guess that people will get very excited watching the bunch explode in the last six minutes of La Planche des Belle Filles, yet…

          The riders surely can make something good of it, but it’s a risky bet by the organisers. I’ll go all in for Betancur who won the trial Pa-Ni we had some years ago along these lines… 😛

          • It’s not that I disagree with you. But I don’t entirely understand your criteria for defining whether a mountain stage is well designed – or even a mountain stage?

            To me, there is no doubt the Foix stage is a mountain stage: Three cat 1’s in the Pyrenees. How does this not qualify for a mountain stage? Is it the lack of altitude (The Agnès is higher than e.g., le Grand Colombier and le Mont du Chat) or the lack of HC climbs?

            Is it a problem that the third last summit of the Galibier stage lies >100 km from the finish?
            Well, in that case, you can never design a proper mountain stage with the Galibier as the last mountain. Or in Les-Hautes-Alpes, for that sake. The nature of the department’s climbs is that they are brutally long; so are their descents, making the distance to the next climb equally longer.
            The distance from the bottom of the Croix-de-Fer descent to the foot of the Télégraphe is little more than 10 km. I don’t see this as a problem.

            Furthermore, though valley roads between the climbs are often dull, they can also be the opposite; think just 3 days back. The 8 km of flat valley road before the Solaison was one of the main reasons why Porte lost the Dauphiné. The valley road was what exhausted him before the Solaison; consequently, he climbed the Solaison slower than did Fuglsang.
            Had there been no valley between the Colombière descent and the foot of the Solaison, I’m pretty sure Porte would have not only defended his yellow jersey; he would also have climbed faster than Fuglsang.
            The point is: if the favourites play their tactics well (like three days ago), valley roads can add a huge extra damage to someone who is isolated.

            I agree that the Le Puy stage is not a mountain stage.
            Also, the Roccaraso comparison to Les Rousses is very good – I agree.

          • @Kasper Ankjærgaard
            As I said above, I don’t consider the Galibier stage in itself as a “bad” stage, it’s just not enough to be the top mountain stage of the last week: you must see it in context. If it was part of an Alpine trilogy, it would have been great, also for variety’s sake. It’s true that the area doesn’t allow much sequencing of climbs: it just means that you needed some other stage to provide that option. However, note that I’m less negative towards the Tour’s course than about the Giro’s precisely because the Giro actively looked for “easier” solutions, changing quite much its identity (nothing serious if it’s only for one year, anyway); the Tour tends to be more like that for historical reasons, too, and, anyway, opted for some creative solutions, which is to be appreciated.
            That said, the fact that a different course design wasn’t available for the stage doesn’t make the actual course any opener to middle-long range solutions by the main contenders nor makes it effective in avoiding the teams’ regrouping (again, while I’m writing this I’m hoping for some 2011 style crazy racing – well, even then it was great but ultimately didn’t work for Andy or Alberto).
            It’s an interesting stage as it is, but it’s not the kind of stage which *rewards* attackers. An attacker can achieve a great result, but it would be a very notable feat (weather may also be important to make it selective). Which would have been perfectly fine… with a third Alpine stage to spice up things.

            The Foix “three 1st category climbs”… uff! The Tour is often giving away the category to climbs, even more so in Foix. Latrape: some 400 m of altitude gain, less than 15′ of climbing, a first category? It’s a couple of steep walls none of which longer than 2 kms in a staircase-like climb. I don’t say it isn’t hard, and it can be hugely selective, indeed, but it’s Liège-like: it’s not an insult, quite the contrary, but it’s about hills, not “mountains” (I’m speaking of climbing characteristics, not the geographical definition). The Mur de Peguere is harder but, again, it’s just three very hard kms. It’s a totally different kind of effort. The Agnès is a true 1st category, yes. Once it’s over, you’re left with 55 km 90% of which are favourable to bring things back together.
            It’s all about time. How much time do you spend climbing? And with such a total climbing time, how far behind can you leave your rivals’ teammates, to make it dangerous or counterproductive for your rivals themselves to wait for gregari and then collect the corresponding advantage when the terrain becomes favourable? How much favourable terrain is available to benefit from strength in numbers? The balance between this factors is what makes attacking meaningful. Obviously, then you’ve got random factors, plus alliances and so on, but the basics work just like this. In a ten minute climb I can leave most of the bunch, say, 1′ behind (at most – and considering that I need to go on pushing hard also afterwards, I can’t just kill myself out).
            15′ on flat kms might be enough to take that back if teams regroup. Besides, my rivals will be fresh, not having pushed 110% to hold my wheel, having rested a bit to wait for the gregari, and then having taken advantage of drafting. That’s how Liège is working now that more and more gregari are able to stay together with the rest until the Redoute, the Roche etc.
            Aramón Formigal worked, but the presence of a final climb changed the tactical setting quite much, besides having an effect per se.

            That’s what I mean… in Foix I notice a little too much time available to the defenders in order to bring back their team and then a lot of easy terrain to have an edge on the attackers.
            As I said, you only need to compare this stage to its previous reference points and you’ll notice the difference. Less total climbing time, less climbing in the final hour or so.

            You name Solaison’s flat section… but have you seen what was needed *before*, to make that flat section as interesting as it was? They had already climbed some 2,500 m of altitude gain most of which concentrated in three climbs barely separated between them. You don’t tear BMC apart without proper ground to do that.

          • @Kasper Ankjærgaard
            PS However, let me say that I consider that the Latrape-Agnés double is great, it can be really explosive, in itself a little gem in course designing (we’ll see if the riders will exploit it or not, but the designer did great).
            Perhaps, only perhaps, I’d have preferred *what follows* to be a little different (I don’t know if it’s possible, I didn’t ever ride there and I’m not going to check on Maps…). As in a movie, the finale is often what determines global meaning and the sensation is that it might be more about explosive, classics riders than pure climbers. Once again: great, I love it! More of this, please, instead of dull sprinter stages!
            But the fact that I like it doesn’t make it count as a “mountain stage” (mountain = long time climbing, greater significance of power/weight ration and endurance etc.).

  17. Been a big fan of Fuglsang since the leopard trek days… so its great to see him get a big win that has always felt was within his reach.

  18. Anyone follow the TeamSky webiste closely? Always very amusing the positive spin they put on every single result and especially in this case when Froome would clearly have been devastated not only to miss out on the win but also the Podium by such a small margin:
    My theory is that the content here is to please the investors in BskyB who know little about cycling and so don’t read between the lines of the race report.

  19. Specialized allow QS to ride their latest and yet to be released Tarmac, and somehow DM still looks like a frog on a matchbox riding over a cheese grater!!

  20. The interesting thing for me is Porte’s continuing haplessness, and failure to deal with racing situations.
    If I was BMC I would be would be worried about putting all my eggs in a Ritchie Porte basket. But he is the best they have. I can’t find too much fault in Porte’s ability – though he regularly has an one off day from a physical perspective.
    The big question which no one seems to be tackling is: what of Movistar? Maybe people are holding fire on making any comment as historically they’re so consistent, but with an aging Valverde this doesn’t seem set to be a vintage year for them.
    If Gabriele’s assessment of the course is correct, and my recollection is that I was a little disappointed, is that teams will be able to control the races so team strength will be key. Which team will come out on top? Despite a ‘poor’ showing from Froome, Sky are still very dominant with their ‘A’ team. Movistar have the personal, but not the form. BMC have a formidable Armada, and Astana look strong. So you’d have to fancy a winner from one of those.

    • A course which is not very selective as such can bring surprises. Two elements which may factor in and will be interesting to watch will possibly be…

      – alliances, even temporary ones, paramount to sink a rival who finds himself on the back foot (or to be saved if you’re the one on the back foot); Velon might be an element – remember the Giro, the Piancavallo stage wasn’t too manifest a Velon defense because everybody was able to find a reasonable excuse, yet it looked a lot like that.
      – just a dream, and yet… the “fuga bidone”! 2006 (barring Floyd) all over again. If I was a second-line team I’d try that card. It’s hard to pick the right moment, but the third week is ideal for a medium-level captain who’s been conceded a minutes-long buffer to defend himself decently. This isn’t normally compatible with the Sky approach which BMC will probably try to mimic (there you have LPDBF!), but in any old-style TdF where the big guns were confident enough to leave minutes of advantage to a surprise yellow jersey… well, with such a third week the surprise could even become bigger.

  21. Massive props to Porte. Massive props to the 2017 CDD for a most exciting race. I hope the 2017 TDF delivers the suspense and panache shown by the riders and teams of the 2017 CDD. Chapeau!!

    I am somewhat torn between frustrated and okay with Fuglsang’s snatching victory from Porte. Everybody hates a wheel sucker. I like both Fuglsang and Porte. Astana play the 1-2 punch. I understand. Yet something still bothers me Fuglsang rode in the shadows like wheel sucking vampire?

      • That was harsh, I’m sorry. But surely Fuglsang was aggressive on both stages he won. As for Porte, in a way he lost the race in am attempt to find a wheel to suck (Froome’s) only to realize that with leading comes responsibility.

        • Stage 8 20km to go pursiuvants are chasing Aru and Valverde. Clearly who should do the least amount of work in group 2? Oppa Fuglsang- I’ve come to suck your wheel!

          @ 13km who’s doing the work for the group 2? Not Fuglsang! Oppa!

          10km G2 catches G1 but who’s doing the work? I guess not Fuglsang🤡🤘🏿.

          Who attacks @ 7kg from G1? Martin… And who sucks Martin’s wheel? 🤔

          When does Fuglsang get aggressive? Oh. The final 6kg of the CDD…

          Chapeau! 🦅

          Clearly I didn’t watch the race.🍻

      • Touchè!

        Okay so stage 6 Fuglsang goes up ahead for Aru. @ 18km Aru hooks up with Fuglsang who then sucks Aru’s wheel. Until Aru launches @ 16kms. Who’s out the back for the next 15kms sucking wheel? Oppa it’s Fuglsang… Last 2kms who attacks but gets dragged back by Port? Oppa Fuglsang…

        Look. It’s all there stage 6…

        Apology accepted MS. X

  22. This bodes well for the Tour, Porte may have some fire in his belly and BMC may try to trip up Sky at some point. So, on that inevitable day when “media” tell us its going to be a calm day and nothing will happen etc… you get the picture.

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