Rest Day Review

2664.5km and 64 hours of racing over more than two weeks and there’s still less than 30 seconds separating the top four riders overall, they’re now closer together on the general classification than they were after the opening time trial Düsseldorf. If the Tour de France is a gradual contest to establish a hierarchy there’s some way to go before the order is settled.

Sunday’s stage saw a win for Bauke Mollema who might not have been the strongest, perhaps he was the wisest but he was certainly the bravest as he took off with 30km to go into a headwind. Behind the breakaway group was too big with too many riders marking each other. The Dutchman was weaving on his bike to the horror of whoever was supposed to help him with core strength exercises last winter but it’s always been his style and despite a slender lead that was often below 30 seconds he delivered an important win for Trek-Segafredo.

Behind there was drama as Ag2r La Mondiale took up the pace on the descent into the Allier valley ahead of the main climb of the day. Chris Froome broke his back wheel but nobody was waiting, the race was on already. Froome paced his way back to the group and as much as this was a moment of drama the lesson is that Froome’s climbing speed is superior to what Ag2r were trying to throw at the race. So once again for all the drama and effort the top riders are together. Except for Nairo Quintana who fell out of the top-10 as we had the improbable sight of Carlos Betancur spinning past him on a climb. Dan Martin’s late attack allowed him to take 14 seconds and leapfrog Mikel Landa.

Here’s the chart of the GC riders and if you like patters you’ll note Rigoberto Uran’s consistent upward trend and Mikel Landa’s erratic path to sixth place overall.

So how to rank the riders? Two stages in the Alps and then the 22.5km time trial in Marseille should do plenty but as we’ve seen so far a brief uphill sprint can do it or ask Jacob Fuglsang who crashed out on the way to Pau.

Chris Froome looks unshakeable, his back wheel has caused him as much worry as his rivals so far whether the derailleur on the Mont du Chat or a broken spoke on yesterday’s approach to the Col du Saint-Vidal. Collectively Team Sky are strong but Ag2r had the better of them on Sunday, albeit on the kind of mid-mountain terrain that suits them and in Alps Sky will take over. Froome leads and occupies a defensive position, put aside all the phoney “it’s good to lose the yellow jersey” talk that goes around because in such a close contest losing a few seconds is costly and such phrases are consolatory at best. But Froome has not sewn things up, this could come in the Alps but merely asking the question is interesting because we’re far from the knockout superiority shown in previous years.

Romain Bardet’s stage win at Peyragudes was a first for him because he beat his rivals in summit finish. Until now he’s subscribed to a rather literal version of Saint Augustine’s teaching that “to rise, first descend” as his wins have been built on downhill attacks but in the Pyrenees he took an uphill sprint at Peyragudes. He can try this again on the Izoard but there are no guarantees. His danger now is mimicking Thibaut Pinot’s Giro, an excellent ride throughout the race only to slip to fourth place overall because of the final time trial but it’s trying and being seen to try that counts plenty of the team. Ag2r La Mondiale is a mutual social insurance business and the imagery of a group of riders working together is publicity they simply can’t buy elsewhere. Bardet increasingly talks of performance, not watts but just focusing on what he can do rather than projecting fantasies beyond this.

Fabio Aru’s options seem limited to a mountain attack and an obvious one too. Not for him a long range raid helped by relays from team mates who have been sent up the road because Astana are looking weak, they started the race with a collection of Kazakhs who arguably may not have been recruited were they Russians or Uzbeks and last week they lost Dario Cataldo and Jacob Fuglsang to an innocuous crash on the way to Pau. Instead he’ll probably have to sit tight and wait for the latter moments of the Galibier and the Izoard before, if he feels like it, trying an attack. Limited yes but if he can pull it off he can turn the race upside down.

Rigoberto Urán continues to sit in fourth overall and out of the limelight. While Aru wins and loses the yellow jersey and Bardet delivers a stage win in front of home crowds Urán is quietly going about his business and he’s the rider who stands to gain if Chris Froome loses a few seconds the Alps. He’s also the most satisfied with a podium in Paris because he’s never won a grand tour and a top-three would be a significant result. He just has to follow Froome, like the old Sky domestique he was for three seasons, and then exploit the Marseille time trial. That’s an economy low risk plan but he’s been close to the others so far so it’s easy to imagine him coming into Serre Chevalier to contest the stage win and pocket the time bonus.

Dan Martin can keep attacking but the more he moves up the overall, the more his sneaky late moves will be shut down instantly. Meanwhile Mikel Landa is clearly on team duties as we saw on the Peyra Taillade when he was brought back from the lead group to pace Froome.

A few other points…

Tim Wellens has left the race after suffering from skin problems brought on by the heat and sunshine. He could have stayed had he applied for a TUE for cortisone but opted to leave instead. It’s refreshing at first but also a concern, what if someone needs a treatment but they fear a media backlash for using “drugs” so they have to quit the race. In every case hopefully Wellens returns, he’s got two weeks’ racing in the legs and if it’s cloudy in San Sebastian or Poland during August then he’s one to watch.

There’s still confusion over the UCI rules and their application, for example why was Peter Sagan excluded when Nacer Bouhanni given a fine? This is a zombie story that refuses to die so let’s break out the garlic and silver bullets… or rather Chapter 12 of the UCI rulebook. The answer is simple, if unsatisfying: different rules apply in these different circumstances. One rule ( says the standard penalty for violence during the race is a cash fine and a time penalty so the commissaires duly enforced this one on Bouhanni. There’s another, separate rule for the sprint ( which is the one the UCI applied to Sagan, this time very harshly. Yes the jury went overboard with Sagan but they’re only interpreting the rules they’re given rather than being selective. Often the problem is not the jury, it’s the rulebook which suggests a cash fine equivalent to an hour’s wage for violence, an old topic that still needs a fresh look. Another aspect is viewers with replays, GIFs and screengrabs simply have more information than the UCI jury but crowdsourcing the rules is no good either, majority opinion took Rigoberto Urán for a hero for when with about 12.5km to go he asked the Mavic mechanic to help him put his chain in the 11T… rule says he should have got a one minute time penalty for on GC.

Looking ahead Tuesday’s stage takes the race over hilly terrain to the foot of the Alps, a stage that promises a duel between the breakaways and the sprinter’s teams. Wednesday and Thursday’s Alpine stages are crucial with the Galibier as a virtual summit finish because the ensuing descent doesn’t allow an easy chase. The stage hasn’t been on the radar, it’s just been waiting perhaps because the roads are familiar and so more of a known quantity compared to novelties like the Mont du Chat or the Mur de Péguère but this is an enormous day. The following day sees a tough summit finish on the Col d’Izoard.

Warren Barguil’s polka dot lead is very strong but not yet arithmetically secure, he has 116 points with the next placed rider Primož Roglič on 38. If someone else can cross every single remaining côte and col in first they’ll collect 116 points so arithmetically Barguil can face a challenge but given the way he is riding he seems set to win beaucoup points, possibly a second stage too. He’s riding at his best and fulfilling the hopes he created when he won the Tour de l’Avenir but as a born attacker he’s not one to grind out the seconds tracking the front group à la Meintjes or spend winter in a wind-tunnel. Each to their own.

Meanwhile the biggest challengers to Marcel Kittel’s green jersey are gravity and the weather, he needs to get over the upcoming mountains and it won’t be easy hauling well over 80kgs in a heatwave. Michael Matthews is putting up a brave fight thanks to his stage win but is still 79 points short in a contest where a sprint stage win delivers 50-30-20 to the first three with points down to 15th,  the competition is tilted towards Kittel now with three possible sprint finishes ahead.

Chris Froome
Rigoberto Uràn, Romain Bardet
Fabio Aru
Dan Martin

106 thoughts on “Rest Day Review”

  1. Was anyone else as surprised as me that Bardet didn’t attack when Froome was behind and team up with Bakelants. Apparently, he was seeking to distance aru rather than Froome – this suggests that he’s looking for a second place, which is disappointing.

    • I was really surprised as well. A really good team move and then Froome’s mechanical couldn’t have set things up better. Bardet could have really put some time into Froome unless he just wasn’t able to do it or as you say is only looking for a podium.

      • I had the impression they were trying their hardest to put time into Froome. Martin said everyone was on their limit.

        He’s an aggressive racer (Bardet) and I don’t feelnlile he’s raving for 2nd.

    • Perhaps that was all Bardet had. I’m still yet to be convinced that any of Froome’s challengers have a sustained uphill attack in them that can put Froome under pressure for an extended length of time. All they seem to have is 300 meter sprints of effort. Froome climbed the Peyra Taillarde 40 seconds faster than Bardet and his whole AG2R team yesterday (plus the rest of the GC boys too of course). Perhaps, as Dan Martin said after the stage, only Froome could have done that.

    • He had a couple of teammates still with him, maybe his plan was to reach the top and then do a team time trial to the finish. Froome only had Nieve left, and Landa up ahead. Against the whole group of AG2R in the headwind Froome would have had a lot of trouble I guess.

    • If Bardet had gone over the top on his own, would he have gone to the finish in front of Froome? Possibly. But more likely would be that Froome and Landa started to hoover up a few of the other favourites and that group would be chasing Bardet for 30k to the finish. We already saw that Bardet couldn’t stay away for 10k on the stage to Chambery, so 30k into a headwind seems unlikely. AG2R were obviously hoping that they could get to the summit with teammates to help Bardet on the run-in.

  2. I wonder if there is a point when Aru &/ or Bardet give up on beating Froome and instead worry about distancing Uran before the TT?
    Are they happy to gamble everything on 1st place, or will they prefer to defend the podium spots?

    I can see the GC teams keeping a closer eye on Barguil now. Still a way down but another break like yesterday would put him into the top ten, I think.

    • Interesting point on Barguil’s overall time now.
      The supreme form he’s in, one would assume that he will continue to look to take mountain points.
      This could benefit Matthews points hopes too; a Barguil move will not be given too much rope and the overall pace of the GC / peloton is forced up, thus dropping Kittel quickly.
      If that were the case, will it be three sprint finishes remaining?
      Doubtful that Kittel could contest one of them (stage 19), possibly another (stage 16) – Greipel’s big chance too maybe – which may leave him needing the final day’s points to take the green jersey?
      Although, of course, Matthews is going to have to keep working so hard.

      • I like thoughts. For Sunweb there is a route to taking 2 jerseys, make the race so fast that Kittel could miss the time cut, putting Mathews in green. I think that would make a great race within the scenario. Seems like a long shot, but not out of the realm of possibility.

        • All reports say Kittel is in fine climbing form this year and sailing over inclines with relative ease, so going off what they’re saying this may be far fetched – it’s not the Kittel from a few years ago.

          • Kittel isn’t in danger of missing time cuts, but Sunweb’s high pace/breakaway tactics have relegated him to the grupetto and kept Matthews in the game with the intermediate sprints. While the next few days benefit Matthews I really can’t see Kittel being beaten in Paris in the form he’s in at the moment, and if he gets another 50 points there he’ll end the stage in green even if by some chance he didn’t start in it.

    • Its notable that Uran is not attacking. He is staying close and contesting the finishes. Its a conservative tactic but I think it will get him a podium.

  3. It really had the feel of a defining moment when Froome had his mechanical – but it didn’t materialise.

    I don’t believe for a moment that Bardet is cautiously riding for a podium – he’s a rider (with a team) who forces the issue and makes bold moves, and it’s surely not in his nature to lack ambition?

    I’d rather give Froome credit for the chase (along with Landa). One can only assume that either Bardet didn’t feel he had the legs to make a further attack pay dividends, or he felt the short descent and headwind to the finish just wasn’t worth the effort.

    Also, it’s easy to say “why didn’t Bardet attack…”, but these guys are tired. It ‘aint that easy!

    • He said in a post stage interview that he didn’t attack because of the headwind and distance.

      Didn’t stop Dan and chances are some one would have gone with him and they could have shared the effort. David Millar, commentating, said that Bardet was waiting for Froome to get almost to them and then he would attack, leaving Froome out to dry for as long as possible. It would have been a great move and demoralising for anyone; nearly there, nearly there . .. boom, they’ve gone!
      Looks like he was giving Bardet too much credit, or Bardet didn’t have the legs and the talk of headwind was just an excuse to avoid admitting it.
      Think Kiryenka deserves some more credit, wasn’t he pulling most of the day then when he thought his job was done, he was called back into service?

      • David Millar does say a lot though, that’s about the biggest complement I can pay to his commentating. I guess Bardet was either hoping to get over the top with his teammates so he’d be in good company on the flatter sections rather than getting caught like at Chambery again but AG2R weren’t strong enough or he simply didn’t have the legs as you say. Hopefully he’ll be in a more swashbuckling mood later this week.
        Kiryenka is a monster, looks like the kind of guy that you’d have to tell to stop riding when he crosses the finish line.

      • And what’s happened to Henao? Perhaps I’ve missed images of him pulling but he feels like a ghost at the table this year.

        • Maybe those abnormal blood values from being a “high altitude native” have inexplicably normalized and he isn’t the rider he “used to be”. Sure, and we are still waiting for the peer reviewed article published in the medical literature explaining those unusual findings.

    • I thought Bardet looked a bit ropey on the downhill/flat run to the finish when the mini attacks were going off. He didn’t look to be able to cover the gaps very quickly and was very reliant on Vuillermoz who did a stellar shift for him. So maybe he was on the limit himself and unable to bury the knife into Froome so to speak.

    • Bardet did attack and Uran went with him, then it was Contador who closed the gap with the other contenders on his wheel.
      I get that in the cycling manager theory this was a place where someone push the attack button, but in the real world there were long 35km to go, not an easy terrain, the break was over 6 minutes ahead, only Bardet had someone there. Aru seems cooked, a Contador in good form would do that maybe, Uran is not the attacker type, the young guys Meintjes and Yates just rolling with the rest…. Martin maybe

    • Vitus – I agree. In theory everyone should have attacked Froome at that point, but in reality that’s nearly impossible to pull-off.

      Even though Froome and his team had to work hard all day to catch back on, Froome is still the strongest out of that group over those types of efforts. So let’s say Bardet attacked with 35km to-go, Froome would very likely be able to pull it back over that distance.

      As shown earlier in the race, it doesn’t appear that Froome’s sustainable power is down, merely his finishing speed (Aru/Bardet took 20 seconds out of him in an uphill sprint, and Froome took 20 seconds or more out of them in a short 14k individual sustained effort)…

      Strategically, long-range attacks won’t be their best bets to get Froome.

    • Hi Pete – I think it was a defining moment, in that it was when Froome saved his tour (at least for now) – it just didn’t materialise in the way you expected.

  4. I assume Bardet an co. didn’t have the legs. After what Froome called a full race effort he seemed to stay with that bunch without an issue, I can only guess that AG2R had over played their hand.

    • That is my view, it wasn’t defensive as they were still pushing hard but if he’d have pushed harder it would have risked blowing everything. Dan Martin said no one else apart from Froome could have chased back on in those circumstances and said the pace was incredibly fierce.

      So it wasn’t a case of not trying, just that Froome and his team mates did an excellent job pacing him back on to the Bardet group.

      It made great viewing and added to the drama all the same watching Froome chasing back. At first I thought he was struggling which turned out to be a problem with his spokes.

      On the note of mechanicals, not really a great advert for these super expensive wheels? I imagine they’re maintained to a high standard and would be replaced before they’re any where near the end of their life.

      • “It made great viewing and added to the drama all the same watching Froome chasing back. At first I thought he was struggling which turned out to be a problem with his spokes.”

        Is that what was going on all the time, do we know? Froome looked all at sea then this happened and he stopped.

        • I’m not aware of any interviewers who asked him about that yet(?) I suppose he was distracted trying to place all the dominoes in the right position up the road before doing the pit-stop.

      • Looks like Shimano’s having a rough year. First the teamSky TTT debacle, and now a broken spoke almost ended Froome’s Tour.

        Wouldn’t be surprised if Sky ditch them next year. That said, Camp and Sram aren’t any better. If anything, Shimano’s supposed to be the most reliable.

        • They could always change wheel suppliers if bothered. Are Sky still not sponsored by a component firm, INRNG? Pretty sure they’ve had a free choice for most of their existance.

  5. It seems to me as if there is an awful lot of heat being generated but not much light. Two weeks of riding around France and the GC, for those remaining in the race, is little changed from the start of the race. The other 3 jerseys do seem to be pretty much decided (assuming Marcel Kittel makes it to Paris). I know there is all the media blah about “the closest Tour” ever but not convinced this has meant exciting racing. There has been one outstanding epic stage, a couple of “interesting” mid mountain stages (that have had little impact on the GC) the rest either not so interesting mountain stages or bunch sprints (I like bunch sprints but this tour has been a bit devalued, loosing Cav, Peter Sagan and Arnaud Demare). Maybe this will set up a great final week but maybe not, certainly at the moment I thought this year’s Giro was a better race.

    Sky / Chris Froome were impressive yesterday. Not sure whether the praise should be directed most at the team or Chris. To get back to the peloton, who were giving it their all, demonstrated both strength of will and body. If it had been Romain Bardet who had the mechanical, would he have managed to get back? His lead might only be a handful of seconds but do any of his rivals have the strength not just to push past him but keep ahead by the end of the TT? I do wonder about Friday’s stage, if the mistral blows or a storm arrives that could really shake things up (though the current weather forecast suggests hot calm weather).

    It is a shame about Dan Martin, I know he probably has been given a little bit of flexibility but without being wiped out by the Richie Porte crash he would be very much challenging for the podium maybe even the top spot.

  6. What on earth were other gc contenders thinking yesterday when Froome had a mechanical? That was the time to attack (since these kind of moves are now widely accepted…race is race!). If not then, then immediately when froome bridged back to them. A powerful attack or two at that time would possibly crash him. But no, bardet tried his luck 300 meters from the top of the last climb. Way too late. But of course i do believe theory that everyone but froome and landa were cooked at that stage and could’t even think about attacking.

  7. The success of the French in this race has followed a season-long pattern if you go way back to Omloop in the one day races and Volta ao Algarve in the stage races.
    They’ve had top tens in almost every one day race, apart from Gent-Wevelgem and Amstel, and stage wins and podiums.
    Factor in Direct Energie’s runaway success in the Pro-Conti too.

    Pinot in the Giro and now Bardet and Barguil. It seems like the whole country would go ballistic if they did win a GT, obviously particularly their home race.
    Given the interest, and potential publicity as Inner Ring says, now seems the time to push on.
    Are there no potential corporate sponsors in the entire country that could inject that extra €10 – 15 that may make all the difference?

    • Instead, there will be a new pro-conti French team next year with a 3 year plan to make it to the top tier.

      I’m not sure a bigger budget is what the French teams need to win a GT. Instead, they need a contender who can also TT.

      • I know Pinot was concentrating on the Giro this year but you have to feel for the guy who lost a load of teammates who were in Demare’s service. Must be tough for Marc Madiot deciding where his priorities lie.

        • I know it’s impossible and will never happen, but I dream of a 100% French “super team”. With the rider available at the moment, it would be a team able to challenge on pretty much any type of races. Pinot and Bardet on GTs with a very strong support group including Latour, Rolland and Barguil. You have Alaphilippe, Gallopin and Vuillermoz in hilly classics who could also help in the mountains in GTs. Demare, Coquard and Bouhanni in the sprints. Demare on the cobbles. There’s some great rouleurs like Gougeard. And some more talent for the future like Gaudu, Senechal, Cavagna and I’m sure a few more I can’t think of right now. It’s something that can be done in Pro Cycling Manager but not in real life unfortunately!!

  8. A slowly improving Tour, in my opinion.

    The impression remains that Froome and particularly Team Sky just have a little too much for the rest of the field. I’m curious as to whether Froome’s form being more ‘in line’ with his competitors is temporary to this year (I think that having his first child may have had more of an effect on his narrow focus than appreciated) or a sign that he has peaked (at a great height) and will be more vulnerable year after year.

    And I’ve enjoyed the efforts of Bardet and his team to do something different – a shame that they’ve not been able to take advantage, whether because of the long run-in post the Mont du Chat or yesterday’s lack of ability/willingness to attack when Froome got back on (when Uran, Bardet and Aru should have joined forces to give themselves a shot at #1… if they had the legs).

    • The time to assess Froome’s condition re previous years will be after The Vuelta. He has consistently asserted that he is on a slow build up this year to ensure still in good condition and fresh come the Vuelta (an itch that needs scratched). If he’s sitting in September with yellow and red jerseys then he was probably right. If not, then yes, you would have to wonder if this is the start of a slow decline.

      Unless, fed up with the “scrutiny” that his dominant performances have attracted, he’s playing this very smart and soft pedalling to victory

      • Now you’ve let the cat out of the bag that none of the short-termist commentators had even begun to take note of. Froome actually is aiming to win TWO grand tours this year and not just one. And you don’t do that by being fantastic at the Dauphine and destroying the Tour field. Softly, softly, catchee monkey.

  9. Rumours of Chris Froome’s demise have been hugely exaggerated. But no one has this race sewn up yet and no one can say with any certainty what the final podium will be. Everyone in the top 6 can still win or lose. We have four road stages left, a time trial and a coronation. Most assume Froome has the advantage in the time trial with Uran next in that pecking order. Bardet and Dan Martin probably have most to fear if it comes down to the watch. So what’s the plan?

    Froome will look to keep it close and his niggling ability to hang in there will be very valuable in the Alps. Plus if he stays in touch he will enjoy the challenge of beating the clock to claim a 4th Tour.

    Aru is in a bind. He will be alone when it counts and all he can really do is hope to stay with the GC guys on the climbs and then make his bid for glory near the summits. Its very predictable and looking tough for him.

    Bardet is certain to attack. The Galibier descent especially is exactly what he’s been waiting for. But this again is predictable so others could try to scupper his move by putting him under pressure first. If Bardet is behind next Saturday he won’t move forward then.

    Uran is the Mr Steady of the bunch. He is going about his business quietly and consistently. I don’t think he’ll attack. He just keep following. A good TT will see him on the final podium quite possibly.

    Dan Martin is Mr 110% with nothing to lose. He’ll attack, especially on Izoard. But will this gain him anything significant? He needs 1 minute to give himself a podium shot.

    Mikel Landa isn’t going to win the Tour. But if he is deployed correctly and threatens to steal someone else’s podium then he might be the trump card that means Chris Froome does.

    I still see Froome winning. He has the experience, the team, the endurance, the time trial and the trump card of Landa to play. Aru, Uran and Martin are basically fighting alone. Bardet needs to do too much in the mountains.

  10. In previous Tours, Froome has come in on blinding form and tired as the race went on. My feeling is he has planned to come in a little under raced this year and improve as the race goes on. This seems to be being borne out. I am expecting Froome to be much stronger in the final week, we saw a glimpse of this yesterday, while his rivals begin to fall away. Funny though, a very close GC battle somehow hasn’t meant an especially exciting Tour.

    • Froome has openly mentioned taking a better run at the Vuelta this year – traditionally as strong as he is in July, he usually gets beat by “lessor” riders come August/September and wants to improve on that.

      I’m hoping that he’s building up for Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday and is mad enough to give a huge beat down!

  11. I like the ‘a la Meintjes’ comment. With his crab like, elbows out mini-Froome riding style, and the fact that he is always at the back, he does give the impression that he is hanging on for dear life. He did in the Dauphine too until he attacked on the very last climb of the race. His riding is reminiscent of Pozzovivo at the Giro. I’d imagine that he has a fairly poor TT so you’d think he’d need to attack if he isn’t happy with collecting just 8th or 9th place.

    Barguil reminds me a bit of Richard Virenque with his long thin limbs and fairly boyish appearance. Like Virenque I don’t think he’ll ever be a GC winner but he’s proving to be a fine rider with plenty of panache. Maybe these days you cant combine panache with the attritional riding required to win 3 week races. I think he could end up being an excellent rider for hilly one day races, I think he already has a couple of top 10’s in Fleche and Lombardy?

    • This is barguils break-through performance. He doesnt seem too tired yet and is still young. I think its well possible for him to win a future gt. Just look at ardennois and one-week racer dan martin. Hes always there with the gc-guys and even attacks, without his crash he would be seriously competing for the win.

  12. Not sure the descent into Serre Chevalier is really advantage Romain Bardet, after the relatively short drop down to the Col du Lauteret, it is a wide largely straight road. More likely to favour slightly heavier riders with a first rate aero position than demon descenders. I have seen it suggested the Galibier stage is a mountaintop finish in all but name, not sure about that but can see that this thought might not be too far wrong.

    I cant see Mikel Landa being sent “up the road” again, he is simply too close on GC. Maybe there might be an attempt to use him to force other contenders to chase but the issue then becomes that he is a threat to Chris Froome’s position too. If something were to happen to Chris Froome then he might be a realistic plan B but other than that I cant see him making the podium. I suspect we are back to Sky setting as fast a pace as possible to prevent others attacking. The climbs on Wednesday and Thursday are long but much more traditional Tour climbs, few double digit sections much easier for Sky to defend than on the steper slopes earlier in the race.

    • “Mikel Landa being sent “up the road” again”. He wasn’t in that stage when he went with Contador. No matter how often and strongly Team Sky repeat this saga. Fromme would have acted differently after the Peguere if that was the team’s strategy. His riding after the Peguere was speaking more than 1.000 words.
      Anyway, we will see, if Brailsford & Co. managed to set the flying Basque under pressure to obey team orders. But I hope for another AC long range attack on the Télégraphe and Landa joining him.

    • Spot on the descent from the Galibier! Down to Lautaret is technical but short, the rest is quite straight. The tarmac, though, is not in the best shape.

      Regarding the Col de Vars and d’Izoard, there are several double digit ramps. The Col de Vars has a few flat sections that hide the real slope. In the Izoard, I’d expect attacks after La Chalp, that’s a tough section.

  13. Thanks Inner Ring for this, as always, excellent Review. Would like to add a few lines to highlight Alberto Contador for his superb riding in the stage of Peguere. He is not having a good tour but he has encore something that only the great champions have. Looking forward to the Izoard.

  14. Thanks for the great review inrng!

    Sidenote: You’ll need a silver bullet and garlic to kill a vampire. To kill a zombie you just need to aim for the head 😉

    • To continue the detour, silver bullets are principally effective against werewolves … and garlic only repels vampires: you need a stake through the heart to kill them.

      But yes, it’s quietly turning into a great Tour!

  15. What I hope for this WED and THU is Landa playing a big-time rebel, attacking, managing to make a gap, Froome weaving about on his bike, talking into microphone, plenty of confusion, drama and polemics. Landa takes over yellow. Froome is pissed, Sky is initially angry but then they realize hey, doesn’t matter, that’s good for us too.

    Landa should do that. What’s there to lose! Next contract he gets needs to be a team lead contract, not a domestique contract. So he doesn’t need to show anymore that he’s loyal. Go to town Landa, go to town!

  16. I agree generally with JEB & RonDe in the above (although RonDe is a bit much of a Froome devotee for my liking!)

    As Dan Martin said, even with teammates few riders would have got back to the group as Froome did. He’s clearly very strong. I’m not convinced he’s half the rider of previous years and am inclined to say he’s managing a difficult route that doesn’t suit his attributes with wanting a serious dig at the Vuelta.

    We may yet see the Froome of old in the last week.

    We will never know if Bardet was fearful of 30km into a headwind or didn’t have the legs. He did attack and it failed so my heart is with the later, as going off years of racing watching when the question is asked ‘did he have the legs?’ the answer is frequently no in Grand Tours – ie what you see is what you get.

    Bardet asking for more respect of Froome is nice. He’s such a good racer and clearly lovely bloke (even if a bit dull in interviews!) it seems unfair the amount of flak he gets.

    Bardet has been absolutely superb up till now and a joy to watch. He’s smart, strong and ambitious, without doubt the next French Tour Champion in waiting, I hope AG2R hang onto Latour and co, they deserve so much praise for taking on Sky the way they have.

    Uran also.

    This is the Tour of positivity, all those in the Top Ten deserve so much praise of the way they’re riding, each in different way – Froome for being consistently brilliant, Bardet for working hard to make the absolute most of his current resources, Aru for proving doubters wrong and turning his year around, Uran for making an unexpected come back, Dan Martin for racing on valiantly despite a horrendous crash… the list goes one…. maybe only Contador being the disappointment for backing himself when the years caught up a long time ago….

  17. I found it interesting:

    As a big Brailsford fan and and a fan of his lies with “no needles, no TUE”, I’m really happy to see Brailsford showing his true face. Kinda dictatorship? “If you don’t write what I like, you’re out”? Isn’t it North Korean mentality?

    ps. Thanx God all the needles and cortisone went into Brailsford’s knee… And as Braislford sweared: SIR TUE Wiggins never took anything…

    • That’s strange you write that I was just about to ask INRNG on this and his/her opinion, which is always very balanced and informative.

      I’ve written silly things in fits of frustration but you’ve done a fantastic job of trolling this comments section this TDF NSB, congratulations, in all fairness though I think pretty much everyone who reads this blog is likely far more informed than you and you should be aware your comments (should they have an opinion) are more likely to swing them the other way from which you are intending.

      Please calm down and take into account all the arguments and unknowns here – Sky as far as I can see are very far away from being the next Discovery and until we have real absolute proof of actual rule breaking we should reserve judgement. In any case what’s being accused is actually within the rules and not even close to the regime of fear run by Armstrong and co. Being angry at a reporter (bear in mind Brailsford may be completely innocent and could be rightfully frustrated at the smearing of his name and a life he’s worked hard to build) is not proof of doping.

      I think you’ve ignore pleas to calm down or take your anger elsewhere during the tour already and suspect you’ll do so again, shame you have nothing better to do.

      • In NSB’s defense:

        Isn’t it a bit odd that Brailsford is trying to control which media Team Sky athletes speak to?

        Obviously NSB’s comments are a little accusatory but the more cynical readers would believe there is something going on behind the scenes at Team Sky. NSB isn’t trolling or sending out conspiracy theories – rather just relaying some information about what Brailsford said during the rest day. In fact, the Cyclingnews piece that Brailsford appeared upset with appeared to be a very balanced piece on the issues at hand. Sir Brailsford’s response is the irksome part of this story, not NSB’s post!

        • Interestingly, the CN piece itself admits that there are quite free communication between Sky riders (Froome included) and the media.

          DB’s action was entirely inappropriate and unnecessary, and quite a bit contrary to the rest of Sky. Looks like CN somehow got to him personally. That said, all the media repeating the story were basically quoting CN word by word. Given the nature of CN, wouldn’t surprise me if they left part the exchange out to suit their own narrative.

          • Is that the CN piece that called Brailsford arrogant, toxic, risible, and shirking his responsibility? I can see why that might have got to him personally.

      • BTW – I want to give a quick qualifier to my comments, especially before any retaliatory comments come in.

        I personally want Froome to unleash a big performance this upcoming Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday to take charge of this Tour.

        With that being said, I still think Brailsford’s comments were a) completely out of left field and b) inappropriate. The piece written by Cyclingnews was balanced in my opinion and Team Sky/Brailsford has nobody to blame but themselves for this story that doesn’t seem to disappear. I’m not saying they’re outright doping, but it definitely appears the rules, or the spirit of the anti-doping rules, are being stretched to create a GT powerhouse.

        • I must disagree with you over the Barry Ryan piece. Whilst there are perfectly legitimate questions to be resolved, Dave Brailsford does indeed have a habit of repeating managerial gobbledegook ad nauseam and Sky’s press releases sometimes sound as if they were written by a robot from corporate PR central, the article was more a hatchet job than a balanced view. I can see why Dave would be upset, though not sure excluding the journo in question was really a good idea, it simply advertises the article (I only read it after reading about the kerfuffle today). There is a time and a place to pursue all this, not the rest day at the tour. I suspect that this “story” will rumble on for some time to come, whatever the result on the ongoing investigation. The story about Team Sky should be about the riders not endless processology focusing on Dave Brailsford, although he has not always helped himself over the past year.

          • I don’t think anything can be well balanced when you only hear from one side.

            This isn’t worth talking about as yet – all it really is is a man got angry… in a high pressure situation it’s not the worst thing in the world if he doesn’t want to talk to someone.

          • Agreed. CN need Sky more than the reciprocal. I click CN for results of more obscure events – nothing else they do interests me, or many others I suspect.

    • I guess it beats being spat at…………. seems the same every year. Although they were in Bardet’s backyard so rooting for the home grown hero against the pantomime villains of Sky and Froome chasing him down. As recent standards go, it was all fairly tame and I imagine did little to slow Froome’s progress, or hurt his feelings.

  18. Well that Landa line in the GC graph sure deflates a lot of the irrational hysteria around him being “the strongest rider in the tour” and “being held back under Sky orders”.

  19. I apologize if I am missing something obvious here, but everyone speaks of Rigo Uran as being a relatively strong time triallist, and yet he lost 50 seconds to Froome in the opening time trial, and finished behind most of the other (remaining) contenders that day (Aru, Bardet, Martin, Yates). What to make of that? Simply a desire not to take risks on the rainy course, and therefore not representative of his actual skills? Is the idea that the longer and hillier TT will suit him better? (I ask this as someone who thinks Uran would look better in yellow than in his current green – though a long shot, for sure.)

    • Rumor has it his TT bike was disqualified shortly before his start time due to the position of the aero-bars (even though a different judge had qualified it hours before), thus forcing him into an unfamiliar position for the days ride. Granted, this doesn’t speak to all 50 of those seconds but surely a good amount of them.

    • Provided they do a matching yellow strap and swap out the green band on the bib as well. To be honest, the year they switched from Garmin, the Cannondale Jersey was a terrible eye sore. Either they’ve improved over the years or I simply got used to them.

      The theory with Uran is that he no longer saw himself as GC contender and hence has been soft paddling in a few GT ITTs. This may explain his loss of early time trial form since moving to Cannondale.

    • 2014
      4th Romandie
      1st & 3rd Giro
      2nd Vuelta

      11th Romandie
      23rd Giro
      17th Tour
      51st World

      69th Romandie
      64th Giro
      50th Giro
      94th Poland

      33rd Pais Vasco
      34th Romandie

      • @Jordan – Interesting about the rumor that his ‘original’ bike had been disqualified. Surely there would be a report of this somewhere? Can anyone confirm this? (I’ve looked and cannot find anything.)

        @Arthur Lager – MANY thanks for providing the data. Clearly in 2014, he was among the top in the world, possibly on a level that could match Froome in Marseilles this week. The question (to my mind) is whether the drop-off in 2015+ is a result of soft-pedaling or of just not focusing on this particular discipline as much anymore. Looking in particular at the two 2017 ITTs that you list: Both of these ITTs were on the final day of their respective races, so no reason to soft pedal. At Pais Vasco, his performance on the ITT dropped him from 2nd to 9th overall; certainly he would have exerted himself to stay on the podium. At Romandie he lost 47 seconds to Froome (on a course of only 17.8 kms).

        Recognizing the limitations of such a small sample size, I can only conclude that Uran’s TT skills are weaker today than in 2014, and I will NOT be holding my breath for him to make up ground on his non-Froome rivals in Marseilles.

        That said… No one would have picked him to be in 4th place, within 30 seconds of the leader, at this late stage; doubt Rigo at your own risk!

        • No link yet, but here is what I read in another forum where they quoted the article:
          “His concentration was rattled when the UCI commissaires decided that his TT handlebar position didn’t conform to the setup regulations five minutes before his start time. According to Uran and Vaughters, a different commissiare had green-lighted it two hours beforehand. The team was left with insufficient time to change the position of the bars, and so he had to quickly change to a spare bike. That affected his TT and he lost 49 seconds to the stage winner Geraint Thomas.”

          • Very interesting – thanks for sharing! With 15 stages worth of hindsight at this point, it’s not hard to see any seconds lost by Rigo on said TT as being potentially determinative of the final wearer of the Maillot Jaune. In which case, this may well be the most under-reported story on this Tour!

            (Though, as a question of fact, it appears that Rigo lost 51 seconds to Froome and 63 seconds to Geraint, contrary to the figure quoted on said forum.)

  20. Dear Mr/Ms Ring, thanks for the very thoughtful paragraph on Tim Wellens, when everywhere else blindly cheered on for his TUE refusal. I’m glad he left the race, was starting to worry what if he fell very ill and got some bad long term effect after riding on without proper medicine.

    I can understand Froome refusing an TUE in 2015 as the integral of his Tour victory was on the line (though I don’t think this is advisable). But for Tim Wellens to do the same for no sporting gains, surly this is too much. As attempting to have an unwritten rule to say that none TUE for all GC contenders, one can also imagine the scenario of key domestiques TUE to the grain in order to help their “healthy” team leaders.

    Personally, I don’t think GC contenders should refuse TUE medicine should the requirement be legitimate. Sure, they could just go home as an alternative, but it would be too big a lost for teams commercially and could potentially even break some career.

    I think more important here is the transparency of TUEs rather than simply refusing medicine. If you need to have a TUE in an important Tour, have the medicine by all means but also publish it. If your condition is genuine, I am sure fans and medias would most probably understand.

  21. Am i the only one who expects Sunweb to go all out tomorrow?

    If they can get Kittel in trouble on the early climbs, surely they would get plenty of allies in an effort to keep him from catching up with the peleton again?
    Almost every other team would love a sprint without Kittel!
    Also, that would give Matthews a chance of 20 points in the intermediate sprint, and maybe 20 more at the finish, and he would then be within 39 points of the green jersey? Or maybe even closer…

    There is also talk of a very windy day, so that could make for a lot of drama as well, and it could keep the sprinters who lost touch on the early mountains from regaining contact…

    • The only people who would have an interest in eliminating Kittel would be the teams of the other sprinters, who would likely have been dropped alongside him, so it would be rather cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

  22. I honestly believe Cycling News has made a mistake publishing this article – they’ve put themselves in the story which as short form journalists and straight reporters is an absolute no go.

    To then go on to claim their own integrity in their own article begins to make you question their motives – not that I’m saying there is anything dubious but if anyone says ‘i’m xyz’ brazenly and without any possibility of objective scrutiny it’s human nature to think the opposite or at least question.

    For me they’ve killed their credibility and it comes off as cowardly – whether or not either are true were we to know the facts.

    For those of us who’ve also watched football – were journalists to write hatchet jobs like this everytime a manager got a bit defensive they’d be laughed out of town.

    This is very poor from CN, they should realise they’re dealing with peoples lives and livelihoods here and sticks to reporting the racing. It’s simply not fair to go for the jugular everytime someone gets testy, I’m sure we’d all being doing worse than DB were that the case.

    • It’s a bit more than the manager got a bit defensive isn’t it? Second time during the Tour and all. Football journalists come across as fans with laptops.
      Though some cycling journalists and those alleged fans on twitter so want to be a Ballester, Walsh, Kimmage exposing some massive corruption.

    • You got to admire CN’S single-mindedness in not writing anything positive about Froome.

      They themselves made a big fuzz about Froome got booed in several articles. Yet when Barbet showed his respect and called for more respect to Froome, a quite character defining quote, CN decided to omit it because “you got to be selective with quotes and can’t write everything in”? funny that they had to come out and set this straight in the comment section.

      That said, CN had always been like this and it does not excuse DB’s behaviour.

  23. Team Sky Manager Brailsford’s singling out for exclusion CN’s Ryan from the interview scrum reminded me of president Trump’s own attempts to exclude certain news agencies and reporters–whom he deemed to be hostile and purveyors of “fake news”–from his own news briefings. Perhaps this is the new trend of journalism in our lifetime. As they say, the fish starts to rot from the head on down.

  24. @inrng thank you once again for another great piece. Been reading this religiously every day. Even if impossible, a tad better than last year.

  25. Brailsford – uncharacteristic for him to bite so badly. Could it be the tightness of the race, the polemics at British Cycling, managing Landa and hoping to avoids Lemonds articles (who incidentally is making himself sound like a very poor team player and changing the way he comes across in ‘Slaying the badger’).

    Stage 16 and Sunweb – I am trying to find the stage where Cannondale drilled it for Sagan and kept all the dropped sprinters from returning. It may have been the Vuelta in 2012. I am hoping for something similar this time around, but Mr INRNG seems to know the roads better than me. The paper profile is only one truth.

    • It does sound like Dave Brailsford is feeling the pressure a bit, not so much because of racing (though despite winning Milan San Remo & Paris Nice it’s otherwise been a bit of an off year for Sky, but they are at least in the drivers seat for the one race that matters most to them) but everything else, he’s had a very bad 12 months and is getting quite a bit of criticism from the British press relative to the previous generous coverage. Seems to be getting under his skin, whatever you think of the relative merits of the CN story & Sky’s achievements & how clean they are, acting like Johan Bruyneel does him absolutely no favours.

      In his position he should really have to suck it up, grumble privately within his team about Cycling News if he must, but airing it privately is just a terrible look. Ejecting journalists in a huff is just poor optics at the very least.

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