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Tour de France Stage 2 Preview

Liège sans Bastogne and a stage out of Germany and into Belgium where big crowds and a sprint finish await. There’s the chance of crosswinds today too but don’t get your hopes up, the weather forecast says the winds could just get strong enough to make this happen but it’s not certain. If not then a sprint royale awaits.

Stage 1 Wrap: the crowds braved the rain, as did the riders. Many found the course too slippery, notably Lotto-Jumbo where several riders slid across the road, losing balance and time but no worse. Alejandro Valverde slammed into the crash barriers and left the race in ambulance, his race over before it started. Ion Izaguirre suffered the same fate in the same place. Was the course particularly dangerous? Not especially but Düsseldorf is almost famous for its rain – Drizzledorf – but it had been dry for many, many days before and the rain brought out an emulsion of dirt, fuel and oil. Tony Martin ended his record of second places by finishing fourth, it wasn’t to be for the home rider, it seemed the wind was stronger for the later starters.

Sky won the stage twice over, first with Geraint Thomas taking the stage but also with Chris Froome finishing well clear of his rivals, notably taking 37 seconds on Richie Porte. But do they want the yellow jersey? It’s both a prize and a burden, an honour and a duty and the team will have to ride on the front and assume the other obligations that go with the race lead. Marcel Kittel did a great ride to make the top-10, so did his team mate Matteo Trentin, likely candidates for the yellow jersey but it’ll be hard to hand over the yellow jersey today or tomorrow.

The Route: a ride up the Neander valley, better known as the Neandertal, the limestone canyon that gave its name to the early humanoid discoveries. An early climb will reward any breakaways or at least one rider gets one point at the top but the second climb later on also offers one point (if two riders are tied on one point the polka dot jersey goes to the better placed rider on GC). Both climbs are just over a kilometre long and just over 4%, a big gear sprint. So are the other bumps on the profile above, the profile shows the course getting hillier but there’s nothing vicious. This visits Liege but without the steep and narrow climbs we associate with April’s Ardennes week. The intermediate sprint has a tight bend in town with 800m to go but it’s on a wide road before a slight rise to the line.

The Finish: fast and flat. The race approaches Liège from the south-west via the Vesdre valley along the N61 road and rides into town on a big road with no sharp corners, just the occasional central divider in the road to worry about. The principal danger comes from the riders fighting for position in this tense contest. The final 3km are on one road that’s flat to the finish.

Marcel Kittel

The Contenders: the wide flat roads and the lack of any sharp corners means a dragstrip finish to suit the powerful sprinters. Marcel Kittel is the prime pick, he’s in form as we saw in the Ster ZLM Tour and comes with strong lead out and the whole Quick Step team will be delighted to take a win on home soil. If the wind is up the team will be even more at home too.

Arnaud Démare is a less convincing pick, he has beaten the best sprinters but not regularly. Still the finish suits his sprinting style, the big roads allow his FDJ sprint train to drop him into position. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) is the other pick suited to this kind of finish, like Démare he can hit the front early and nobody can come past.

Three riders suited to the finish but it’s a sprint rather than a team time trial so we’ll see plenty of other names in the mix. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) will be there. André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) says he’s in “really good form” so we’ll see if he can deliver a home win for his squad. Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) should be in the mix, ditto John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo). Dylan Groenewegen (Lotto-Soudal) has a crash yesterday but slid along rather than slammed into the tarmac so he should be ok. Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) won a stage of the Tour de Suisse recently and watch if Nikias Arndt can drop him off again with another perfect lead out. Write off Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) at your peril but he’s short of form and if he’s going to get a stage win it could be later in the race so will he be the team’s protected sprinter or does Edvald Boasson Hagen get in the mix?

Next there’s a wave of outsiders like Dan McLay (Fortuneo-Oscaro), Adrien Petit and Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) but getting past the big names cited above is a big ask.

Marcel Kittel
André Greipel, Peter Sagan, Arnaud Démare
Groenewegen, Kristoff, Matthews, Degenkolb, Bouhanni, Cavendish

Weather: rain clearing and a top temperature of 18°C. The wind will blow at 20km/h from the west-northwest and could gust to 30km/h. Crosswinds? Yes, just because the forecast suggests the wind is close the minimum needed to split the race rather than a certainty. But the roads are exposed here and the stress of the Tour means everyone knows they need to be near the front to avoid danger creating a self-fulfilling prophecy and the speed goes up.

TV: live from start to finish, the riders roll out at 12.30pm with the finish forecast for 5.15pm CET.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Tomski Sunday, 2 July 2017, 6:42 am

    Thanks INRNG. I guess more of us (TV crew included) should have predicted G’s win yesterday. He’s always been tidy against the clock and the stage was tailor made for a former pursuit champion.

    Whatever people’s opinions on Valverde, his hopes of winning the tour on a course best suited to his style have been dashed. A shame as it would have made for an interesting mix as the road goes up. At least Movistar know which basket to put their eggs in now.

    Looking forward to the last half hour today. Let’s hope the peloton holds its nerve.

    Vive Le Tour!

    • Tom J Sunday, 2 July 2017, 8:43 am

      Gearing Thomas was one minute behind Romain Bardet on start times – I guess for the TV company, Bardet was the bigger draw when prioritising who to follow with a limited number of TV motorbikes. I suspect that given limited number of camera bikes (you can’t follow everyone) then when the TV company was working from the start list to plan which motorbike crew would follow which riders, probably 99 times out of a hundred, for a French race you’d choose Bardet over Thomas.

      There is a kind of amusing irony though that there has been lots of chatter about how, for the first time, every kilometre of every stage will be covered in full, and then on stage 1 the TV cameras nonetheless manage to miss the winner!

      Tom

      • Tom J Sunday, 2 July 2017, 8:44 am

        Geraint! D*mn autocorrect!

        • JaimeRoberto Sunday, 2 July 2017, 9:15 am

          To be grammatically correct shouldn’t his name be Gerisnt?

          • Dylan Sunday, 2 July 2017, 11:14 am

            ‘Gerisn’t’. Love it!

          • frood Sunday, 2 July 2017, 12:12 pm

            or in yesterday’s case GerIS

  • Chris Dyke Sunday, 2 July 2017, 7:30 am

    Interesting that on a wet day when riders were pitching off Sky put three (ok, perhaps two) domestiques in the top ten

    • RonDe Sunday, 2 July 2017, 8:35 am

      Kiryienka and Kwiatkowski are some kind of luxury domestiques my friend! One is a former ITT world champion and the other wore the ITT champion of Poland’s jersey. In truth, Sky put 4 highly decorated riders in the top 10.

      • Rooto Sunday, 2 July 2017, 11:42 am

        I read Chris’comment to mean that it was brave of Sky to let their superdoms go full throttle in the wet.

        • hoh Sunday, 2 July 2017, 1:03 pm

          It could be that Sky asked their supermoms to go full throttle so that they can test the boundary and know exactly how aggressive Froome can afford to ride on corners without taking too much risks?

          Problem of this theory is that even in exactly same road condition, difference in rider weight probably would mean they would slid out at different cornering speed.

          • Frank Monday, 3 July 2017, 4:06 pm

            Not if tire pressures were properly adjusted for rider weight.

  • Bianchichap Sunday, 2 July 2017, 7:48 am

    From the footage of the race, I get the impression Valverde’s serious injury happened at the point when he collided with metal barriers. Should yesterday’s events prompt the placement of more crash mats at corners in the future, especially in the rain ?
    I guess the proposition might be feasible on a short tt, but not on long stages with many corners. Nevertheless, it might be possible to achieve risk reduction, though never risk elimination.
    Are there rules / guidelines for which corners are crash mat equipped, and which are not ?

    • RonDe Sunday, 2 July 2017, 8:42 am

      No, and here’s why. You cannot swaddle the entire course in mats and cotton wool or blame the organisers every time some rider taking an unnecessary risk hits something. The cause of the crash was Valverde’s inappropriate speed in wet weather. His fault, not Düsseldorf’s or the ASO’s. He has paid the price this time. It seems that over 190 other riders managed to negotiate the same corner on two wheels. With less speed he would have too. Riders also bear responsibility for their own safety.

      • hoh Sunday, 2 July 2017, 1:09 pm

        I think this is debatable.

        On the other hand, it would certainly help if race organiser start to do Course danger point audit. Even if they couldn’t possibly address all of them, they can at least make riders more aware of the dangers?

        On the other hand, I can see this not working on all kind of legal reasons.

    • Michael Sunday, 2 July 2017, 8:46 am

      It’s been done before, see the footage of Ullrich’s crash in the last TT of the 2003 Tour. I have no idea why there were no protection mats in such dangerous places like we have seen yesterday. It was raining for days and surely some kind of recon should have taken place, picking the most dangerous spots on the course, where crashes were likely to happen. It beggars belief how the race organizers still cannot get the most obvious things done properly.

      • Nick Sunday, 2 July 2017, 11:16 am

        There were protection mats in place in the narrower corners. Valverde’s crash wasn’t at one of those, but was exacerbated by the slickness of the road which caused him to slide quite some distance into the barriers. His DS said later that a motor had crashed there beforehand, presumably leaving oil on the road, and making the skids worse.

    • TT_King Sunday, 2 July 2017, 8:50 am

      That would be an appropriate response if a significant proportion of the 219 riders crashed and hit the tarmac at that point, however the real reason for crashes there was too much speed for conditions & ability.
      Do we need to put all riders into some body armour as well incase they push beyond the conditions/abilities on a descent?
      Maybe you should take up chess instead…

      • RonDe Sunday, 2 July 2017, 9:00 am

        198 riders. Of which it seems two crashed there.

        • David P Sunday, 2 July 2017, 9:51 am

          There was a lot more than Valverde and Izagirre crashed there, but they were the only 2 who were too injured to continue (unless Durbridge doesn’t take to the start line today).

          • RonDe Sunday, 2 July 2017, 9:54 am

            I don’t think that’s true. More riders crashed but not in that exact corner.

          • David P Sunday, 2 July 2017, 10:06 am

            I heard otherwise. In any case, I’m not suggesting they should be mollycoddled, and I know Valverde took the corner too quickly. Ibwoukd NEVER defend Valverde, for obvious, if petty, reasons. But you’ve got one guy with a broken back, another with a broken knee and another unsure of starting today all having crashed in the same corner. I know, hindsight, responsible for their own speed, dangerous sport etc etc etc, but on a drenched course with 9 corners I’m just surprised at the amount of resistance to the people saying the corners could have been padded. Ah well, at least we’re not talking about jiffy bags.

          • RonDe Sunday, 2 July 2017, 10:12 am

            Speaking for myself, I’m always resistant to the notion that some disaster is always SOMEBODY ELSE’S fault. The number one thing that could have been done to make the corner where Valverde and Izagirre crashed and injured themselves was THEM GOING SLOWER THEMSELVES. Blame first of all falls on the them for their speed something only they control.

          • David P Sunday, 2 July 2017, 10:20 am

            Like I said, I know he took the corner too quickly. It doesn’t mean you can’t do something to protect them. Bycthat reasoning, nobody would wear helmets.

          • STS Sunday, 2 July 2017, 12:34 pm

            Spot on. Completely pointless argumentation by the guy your discussing with. But he’s proven to be resistant agains arguments. So it’s fruitless.

    • DaveS Sunday, 2 July 2017, 9:19 am

      By nature, it’s a dangerous sport. Maybe team cars should be padded as they occasionally run over their riders (C Boardman anybody?), Mountains only climbed then the riders bussed down, and don’t get me started about camera bikes. There is a serious point here though folks. Organizers DO have a responsibility to the athletes. Maybe next time . . .

    • Vitus Sunday, 2 July 2017, 9:45 am

      I find it fascinating that the whole internet always seems full of immediate newborn course safety and race organizing “experts” when something like this happens, but you barely hear such complaints from a rider, the teams. Wonder who may know better about what it’s like out on the real situation….
      Riders know what they do and what the risks of this job are. Out of 219, 2 crashed in that corner, didn’t saw Izagirre, but Valverde took it just far too fast, without a desperate need to do so in an opening ITT, he’s the opposite of inexperienced.
      If it was for me, I’d get rid of short ITT in inner cities at all, I don’t need them and don’t get the point of going high speed through tricky corners. I get they are spectacles for the masses of spectators, but if you want that, you have to live with all the risks of it.

    • GB Sunday, 2 July 2017, 9:54 am

      The defensive replies to this comment are a bit much. Risk assessment is about addressing the most dangerous risks and mitigating them, not attempting to remove all risk entirely which is obviously impossible. It’s a reasonable question.

      I’ve wondered before if there were a way a dangerous TT corner could be padded mid-race after multiple people have already crashed on it. It’s not like a rider’s going to try bouncing themselves off a padded barrier to save time (though that’d be worth seeing)

      • RonDe Sunday, 2 July 2017, 9:58 am

        It wasn’t dangerous corner if approached appropriately. Valverde slid 30 meters across the ground. You fail to address that. Should we pad the road?

        • GB Sunday, 2 July 2017, 10:21 am

          The crash was entirely Valverde’s fault, but even if it was entirely the road impact that caused the worst injuries and he would have to abandon anyway, padding the corner may have reduced their severity.

          Padding the road is obviously absurd and impractical. Padding the barrier has inherent problems (limited finances for smaller races, determining where padding should be placed, the polemic if someone crashed on an unprotected part of the course) but wouldn’t reduce the quality of a race if it was implemented and could mean the difference between a rider staying in a race or having to abandon, or taking weeks vs months to recover from injury.

        • Canocola Sunday, 2 July 2017, 11:03 am

          If you can slide 30m without the friction slowing you enough to avoid shattering your kneecap, it’s a pretty sure sign the course is treacherous enough that people are going to get caught out even if they do everything right.

          It’s not unreasonable to *ask* whether barriered corners might have a different design of barrier or padding to reduce the risks. In fact, it might be that any proposed mitigation would have made things worse and this was the best solution available (if padding gets dislodged it’ll wipe out the next rider too). As for padding the road, that’s just facile and ignores GB’s reasonable point.

          Valverde made a mistake in going in too hot (although we don’t know whether he was stuffed by lack of grip in the corner or in the braking area, the latter being more forgiveable) – it doesn’t follow that the consequences of that are entirely his own fault. The kneejerk ‘cycling is dangerous and we shouldn’t try to reduce that’ response (less here, but seen elsewhere) is a bit worrying. If your reason to follow cycling is because it puts people in hospital, you probably need to reconsider your life choices.

        • hoh Sunday, 2 July 2017, 1:20 pm

          From a design prospective, “prone to induce human error” is as much a danger, thus should be eliminated.

          For the corner concerned, I can see how it could get missed by the most diligent risk assessment (and the point is, there is such risk assessment). The question is, should there be some mid race response if, multiple rider commit the same mistakes (okay, let’s just assume the few slid out on the same corner for academic discussion’s sake)? Especially this is an ITT and it is possible to do so.

          It would improve safety for riders who hasn’t started. Yet, you are altering the course mid-race and it wasn’t fair to those who has already rode the course.

    • Ferdi Sunday, 2 July 2017, 10:50 am

      Maybe, maybe not. But it definitely needs to be looked at, like motorbikes in the middle of the race. In this case I think ASO was lucky there was only one major injury. The choice of surface for a prologue in a rainy place was incompetent. They should have picked much less smooth tarmac.
      But when I think that riders’ consider their “safety issues” to be that it can get too cold or too hot…

      • Vitus Sunday, 2 July 2017, 11:04 am

        “The choice of surface for a prologue in a rainy place was incompetent.”

        Please tell me that’s irony, right? If not, what exactly makes Düsseldorf a “rainy place” compared to thers and what tarmac exactly use in Düsseldorf that is different from elsewhere and if was that bad, how over 200 riders stayed upright and only some slipped and should ASO change cities based on weather prediction?

        • Ferdi Sunday, 2 July 2017, 1:38 pm

          Are you kidding? Of course I expect the rainy host city and the organisation to think about choosing the grainiest, slowest surface if there’s going to be a fast prologue with corners. Düsseldorf has slower-surfaced streets.

          • Vitus Sunday, 2 July 2017, 2:47 pm

            Okay, you won climate and tarmac expert of the day.

      • Canocola Sunday, 2 July 2017, 11:10 am

        I’m not sure I agree that the road surface was a problem. Obviously it was slippery, but David Millar was scathing about the tyre choices being made – implying that some teams were thinking on autopilot instead of looking at the bigger picture. In some ways the tarmac might have been a benefit, by favouring the better bike handlers…

        • Ferdi Sunday, 2 July 2017, 1:44 pm

          Valverde, Gallopin and Izagirre are all excellent bike-handlers. Just not used to that extreme, unusual in GTs, slipperiness.

  • RonDe Sunday, 2 July 2017, 8:58 am

    I don’t see Sky losing yellow today. Kittel may or may not win the stage (he seems to win less Tour stages than he should though) but a stage win alone isn’t enough to take yellow and the new three second rule seems to mean less gaps in the peloton if I understand it correctly. Sky may also have yet more tricks up their sleeve based on terrain and weather. (Remember stage 2 in the Netherlands anyone? Quintana does!) The stage 1 result has certainly put Sky in the GC driving seat where they seem to like to be in the TDF and even if a sprinter steals a day or two in yellow between now and Planche des Belles Filles it seems likely (and they would hope to) regain the jersey with Thomas or probably Froome after stage 5. (Yes, I’m thinking ahead but this is what speculation is.) That mountain is simply not long enough or hard enough to see gaps of 35-40 seconds between genuine GC guys even if Porte, Quintana and the other GC boys could beat Froome by this amount on the type of climb he has won before (Planche itself in 2012, Peña Cabarga in the Vuelta, which is similar, in 2011 and 2016). Those who find Sky in yellow boring had best find something to be interested about in the coming days it seems.

    • routedusud Sunday, 2 July 2017, 9:08 am

      I agree with you. Somehow Sky have managed to come up smelling of roses again at the Tour. Placing 4 riders in the top 10 displays their huge strength. Compare BMC who had Küng in 2nd but then you have to go down to de Marchi in 32nd place or something to find their next rider. OK, so there are no prizes for ITT rankings but if part of racing and winning is psychological then Team Sky dealt a blow to their rivals yesterday and that seems to be part of their tactic when riding this race. They love to demonstrate their superiority on the road and in tactics and put the others under pressure. We have seen in the past how it can paralyse their opponents.

  • jc Sunday, 2 July 2017, 9:02 am

    Looks like a typical Tour sprinters stage. It seems unlikely the sprinter’s teams will miscalculate and let the breakaway take the win as has happened a few times recently. Marcel Kittel does seem to be the obvious pick especially after his top performance in the TT.

    The wind might be an issue (the forecast I have seen suggests stronger winds, gusting up to 40 km/h) though more often than not the wind is more a cause of stress rather than a real factor. If they really do get into the whole echelon thing then some of the GC contenders could end up even further behind.

    As to the aftermath of yesterday, whilst the time gaps are not so much to be fatal to anyone’s chances it does seem as if Team Sky grabbed their opportunity with both hands whilst the others took the conservative option. I can see that watching a key team mate crash (in Alejandro Valverde’s case out of the race) must have an effect but the Team Sky riders were confident enough to push on. Three weeks ago Richie Porte took 37 seconds from Chris Froome in a TT and consequently CF could not recover to win the race (which RP should have won) this time the positions are reversed. Yes there is more time to make up the time but given the somewhat limited opportunities on this course it is a big handicap to start off with. You have to wonder if the biggest threat to Chris Froome comes from Geraint Thomas. Despite all the protestations of loyalty what happens if G goes into the Alps still in Yellow?

    • The Adudicator Sunday, 2 July 2017, 9:12 am

      I kinda think you’re right… but Geraint outclimbing Froome and holding onto 12secs till Paris? Unless Froome’s significantly weaker than previous years that does seem far fetched… If Froome is 3/4 the cyclist he has been the last few years his 35secs advantage already is huge. He can just follow and take bonus seconds if need be and have a minute by the next TT… Porte really showed his lack of a racers guy yesterday…

      • G Thang Sunday, 2 July 2017, 9:27 am

        The nature of the course dictates that Thomas will stay high in GC for some days to come barring unforeseen splits/crashes(mechanicals. But, that said, the mountainous double of stages 8 and 9 should restore the Sky pecking order and, if the Welshman can stay in touch, give Sky the one two punch that Movistar hoped to have before Valverde’s impetuous over-enthusiasm brought Movistar disaster.

    • Valverde's Knee Sunday, 2 July 2017, 9:15 am

      The Alps are miles away. I suspect, as others said above, Froome will be in yellow after stage 5 then Sky can revert to defensive mode as in every other Tour they’ve won. I imagine that Brailsford is already working out how Sky can have TWO guys on the podium in Paris though. Its not impossible.

  • DaveS Sunday, 2 July 2017, 9:24 am

    Never really understood this concept that a team is duty bound to defend an early Jersey. It is worth mentioning though that on this particular course, G is actually a GC contender. It is going to be tough to find somewhere to take half a min out of him. Question is, how do Sky use him now? Super Domestique or protected rider? Does this effectively leave Froome a man short?

    • RonDe Sunday, 2 July 2017, 9:32 am

      Be in no doubt that if push comes to shove Thomas will be a worker bee and jettison his own podium chances. Of course, whether he should or not is another question. Sky have got it wrong before back when Froome was the feisty domestique who lost the 2011 Vuelta by 13 seconds because they weren’t flexible enough to see that Froome was better than Wiggins. But Sky also have the experience of being able to finish first and second at the Tour. So maybe they learnt something. And not just about how to treat hay fever 🙂

    • Cilmeri Sunday, 2 July 2017, 10:41 am

      As noted elsewhere (by inrng I think), sky rotate domestiques now such is their strength, and they take “rest days”. The only question for sky / Thomas is whether they do that with him, or do they try for a top 5 with him as well. Presumably depends entirely on Froome’s needs.

  • AndySchleck Sunday, 2 July 2017, 9:36 am

    Contador was seemingly at the back of the GC riders yesterday. An overcautious performance he cannot afford. He won’t make the top 5.

    • Irungo txuletak Sunday, 2 July 2017, 9:57 am

      I guess he was cautious as Porte or Quintana were too, but nonetheless this is not very encouraging. I saw Kontador interviewed on Spanish TV, and he did not look very satistisfied of his performance – even if he claimed he was very slow in the corners. Difficult for him to afford such a loss indeed.

  • jc Sunday, 2 July 2017, 9:48 am

    Sky seem very happy to be in Yellow. It means they can ride at the front, which is probably the safest place to be. They also have the team who are happy to ride there all day, Luke Rowe, Vasil Kiryienka and Christian Knees can sit there for hours at a time. They dont seem to be bothered by the media stuff either, G always seems ready with an interesting comment and Chris Froome has learnt to deal with it, including becoming a reasonably fluent French speaker. You get the feeling that for some others it is much more of an effort.

    One thing the remember about La Planche de Belle Filles, is the falling out between Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins when CF rode away for the win in 2012. Their relationship never recovered. Brad did go on to win but never rode the Tour again, I dont believe they ever rode in the same race team for Sky either. CF and G seem less likely to fall out but only one can win and the pressures of top level sport do unexpected things.

    • David P Sunday, 2 July 2017, 10:01 am

      Weren’t they hugging and smiling looking genuinely pleased for each other after that stage? He only ride away a few yards from the line. It was much later in the race that the fallout happened.

      • SirDaveBrailsford Sunday, 2 July 2017, 10:08 am

        The fall out was after La Toussuire much later in the race when Froome was told to come back and Wiggins then reportedly threatened to quit the race after the stage. Froome won Planche in 2012 because the steepest section is 20% in the last 100 meters to the line.

        • jc Sunday, 2 July 2017, 11:06 am

          Depends whose version you believe. Given that there will be a number of different perspectives on what happened perhaps they all “correct” to some extent. The point remains that having two riders at the top of the race has been a source of intra team conflict, there are plenty of other examples, Contador / Armstrong, LeMond/Hainault etc

          • e Sunday, 2 July 2017, 1:15 pm

            er no JC your version is incorrect

  • Kit Sunday, 2 July 2017, 10:10 am

    I see Simon Yates had a good ride yesterday. Finished 10s ahead of Porte. Considering he this is his weakest disaplin I think this is a great ride. Orica must be pretty pleased and sets him up well for a push at the White Jersey.

    • Kit Sunday, 2 July 2017, 10:14 am

      He is also well ahead of Barguil and Meintjes

  • Anonymous Sunday, 2 July 2017, 10:22 am

    Carlton Kirby was disgusting on Eurosport yesterday and his tweet today is defensive and making excuses, rather than a hands up apology. Looking forward, he’s going to continue spouting sh*te with every stage shown from the start – that’s a lot of hours to fill with nonsense.

    I really don’t believe in Valverde’s performances for one second – the early part of this season especially – but no-one in the Movistar team would have been ‘smiling’ when they heard he’d crashed out.

    Quintana does not seem to have that innate attacking spirit anymore, and he’ll find it really hard without Valverde, who is a devilish tactician.

    I feel really sorry for Ion Izagirre too – INRNG called him a ‘complete rider’ in the race preview. He was set for a great Tour. Bahrain Merida must be gutted.

    • Canocola Sunday, 2 July 2017, 11:21 am

      If you can get it, ITV4 blows Eurosport out of the water (albeit with more ad breaks) – Ned Boulting has worked hard on his commentary, and David Millar is positively addicted to explaining bike racing.

      They also had the nifty idea yesterday of inviting riders who’d finished into the commentary booth, so were able to chat to people like Renshaw and Roche about not only their own form and teams, but the wider peloton and technical issues (Roche was talking tyre pressures). Because the race was ongoing it wasn’t the standard quick interview based on set-piece questions but more of a chat, and worked very well as a result.

      • RonDe Sunday, 2 July 2017, 12:03 pm

        ITV4 puts me to sleep and you never get more than 5 minutes of action on the bounce because their ads are intrusive to the point of pulling out your hair. What experience does Millar have that Sean Kelly, who could school Millar about a great many things, does not?

        • frood Sunday, 2 July 2017, 12:43 pm

          I think that’s unfair. Ned Boulting is massively improved and millar is genuinely knowledgeable. the lead eurosport guy is somewhat excruciating (anyone who has read/heard david sedaris talking about ‘nicaraguan french’ will understand)

        • Nick Monday, 3 July 2017, 10:11 am

          To be fair to Kelly, Millar does have much more recent experience than him, and knows many more of the riders directly. As a result, he can be very interesting describing the current tensions, feuds and pacts within the peloton.

  • Anonymous Sunday, 2 July 2017, 10:28 am

    Theoretically, SKY can already enforce their stranglehold on the race. Froome just needs to keep up with the others for 3 weeks, then put a bit more time into them in the Marseille TT.

    I really hope the exciting course is not reduced to a bore-fest. But some of the other riders are going to have to take big do-or-die risky moves. And the Tour GC is always raced quite conservatively. Uh-oh…

    • Valverde's Knee Sunday, 2 July 2017, 12:04 pm

      You make “keeping up” sound really easy when, of course, its not.

  • Cascarinho Sunday, 2 July 2017, 10:45 am

    I think that we saw the big weakness of Porte from stage 1 : he’s really afraid on his bike and he doesn’t like when it’s too slippery, or too fast, or too windy. It’s a good way to get rid of him for the GC : the other teams have to test him today, or downhill, or with bordure… That’s why I don’t see him win the Tour, he’s too flimsy. We could see it on PN, on the Dauphiné, even if, as Inrng says, he improved mentally. But he’s not very good at handling his bike when the conditions are hard. Froome has a little bit the same problem few years ago (in the bordures for example), but he did impressive progress and it’s really hard to find him a weakness now.

  • Jonhard Sunday, 2 July 2017, 10:47 am

    That was not the only spot people fell… bit of hindsight being employed I think. I have more concerns about asking riders to race down descents with lethal drop-offs, or even about excessive moto numbers.

    Shame for the green bullet, but interesting to compare with Froome’s exit in 2014… when he crashed out (in the bunch, not solo) plenty of people pointed to his apparently poor bike handling.

    As for Sky, I wonder if LRP’s headline comments about Sky’s weaker team played a role? Might have motivated some of them, although I agree with the comment above – those four in the top 10 of TT isn’t exactly shocking. GT was close to Dumoulin in the Giro TT after all, and that was two days after a nasty crash.

  • Eskerrik Asko Sunday, 2 July 2017, 11:00 am

    I bow before any man who was quick to point out the number of riders who didn’t crash or attribute the severity of the injuries to the excessive speed of the riders. But only if they are quite certain also within themselves that their response would have been the same if had been the victim(s).

  • Chris Sunday, 2 July 2017, 11:11 am

    Martin was defeated by his chocie for 58t chainring… there wasn’t many corners – but having to take them so slowly meant losing momentum and having to get back on top of a 58t chainring on the straight sections must have been super tough.

    I don’t believe in that it was more windy for later riders. Froome seemed to be gaining time in the 2nd half of the course.

    • Valverde's Knee Sunday, 2 July 2017, 12:07 pm

      Indeed. Froome was 2nd fastest on the second half of the course.

    • STS Sunday, 2 July 2017, 12:16 pm

      They are not riding singlespeeds these days anymore. They have the ability to shift into a lower gear preferably going into a corner. And riding a 58T chainring is indeed even better for this because it makes you use the bigger sprockets (14T, 15T) for your accelerations where the steps in-between gears are even closer than between the 11-12-13. The efficiency of the chain drive is also higher on bigger sprockets as the chain links don’t have to articulate so much when engaging and disengaging from the sprocket.

    • Colin Sunday, 2 July 2017, 12:52 pm

      Perhaps next time he could move off the 11 if you are correct

  • Canocola Sunday, 2 July 2017, 11:25 am

    Away from the intricacies of barrier design and risk assessment (and how refreshing it is to be treating THAT as a controversy!), am I the only one to wonder if this is the disaster for Quintana that it’s been portrayed as by the media? I’m prepared to accept that Quintana had built his entire Tour strategy around Valverde attacking him at random moments in the mountains and generally refusing to do any useful work, but it seems unlikely.

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 2 July 2017, 12:03 pm

      It’s not the disaster but the two could have been able to play off each other. Movistar tend to race conservatively and with just one leader they’re back to more traditional tactics. But it’s not the end for them, up to them to try.

  • STS Sunday, 2 July 2017, 12:31 pm

    @INRNG: I don’t know if anybody has already asked and you have already answered this. But have you ever thought about implementing Disqus on your website? I haven’t come across a better platform for forum discussions so far and this first after-stage TdF discussion already brings up my strong desire to block some notoriously … users from the contributions that I am shown. That would make reading your articles and the posts of the many considerate and knowledgable readers here even more enjoyable for me.
    Some contributions to the above discussion about the lack of safety measures on the ITT course do expose such a lack of understanding and knowledge combined with bold self-confidence that I simply don’t see any point in argueing with those guys.

    • Eskerrik Asko Sunday, 2 July 2017, 12:50 pm

      Eyeball Mark One is still a perfect, simple and functional tool for either following or blocking a commentator.

      PS What I would like is a simple way of following and reading new (as in unread) comments only. Including comments to old (as in not only the latest) blog entries. (Maybe there already is, and I’m just not smart, well-informed or hip enough to know it.

      • hoh Sunday, 2 July 2017, 2:12 pm

        Which is a function provided by Disqus.

        Don’t know how much Disqus costs, but probably not free. Between that, I’d rather have more racing photos.

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 2 July 2017, 1:35 pm

      I could but implementing this during the Tour runs the risk of tech problems etc and Disqus is a system that requires people to register rather than the open system at the moment, there are advantages/disadvantages to both.

      • hoh Sunday, 2 July 2017, 2:21 pm

        Speaking of risks of new system, just couldn’t quite understand why UCI has to “try” the new 3 seconds time gap rule at the Tour.

        Sure, they tried it at TDS this year, but that is a small sample size, and far from able to provide you with conclusion as regard to the effect of this new rule. This is paying lip-service to “experimentation”, as they have already decided they want to implement the rule without studying it’s viability. TDS is just there to smooth out logistics.

      • STS Sunday, 2 July 2017, 8:51 pm

        I know it’s a (little) off-topic here but maybe you could ask your auditorium which solution they prefer.
        With Disqus you can of course use any username you like as long as it’s not yet registered by someone else. So registering doesn’t mean more than what is necessary here. I don’t really see any disadvantages but maybe I don’t see the whole picture.
        And my proposal wasn’t meant as a measure you should take rather now than tomorrow. Take your time, but I think the change would make sense and would be appreciated by your loyal readers who come here for your insight but also for the usually fair and comparatively “productive” discussions. I’ve certainly learnt a lot here and I would really like to continue to do so.

        • The Inner Ring Sunday, 2 July 2017, 8:54 pm

          Noted, lots of good ideas come from readers. Indeed the ease of having comments here is a good supply of them but I’ll make a note to revisit this in quieter times.

          • David P Monday, 3 July 2017, 8:04 am

            Nah. I’m registered but I never use it when I realise you have to log on. Better as it is.

  • Advert Sunday, 2 July 2017, 2:16 pm

    What’s everyone’s fave ads on ITV3 – I quite like Canon one! Although admittedly nothing on Sagan and Bora. Hating the Vampire Virgin one.

  • SArover Sunday, 2 July 2017, 6:28 pm

    Saw this http://www.velonews.com/2017/07/news/-fire-cheating-jersey_442390

    This is how professional sport works. I respect inner ring and will ask for a take on this.

    The difference between the Dauphine results vs Tdf results in the ITT appear to be found in the new Sky jerseys. That’s how 4 riders can be in the top 8.

    When 4 riders finish top 8, it’s less about the legs or athlete physique than about the technology sadly.

    Legal or illegal.. that’s for the uci to rule on. Any truth that other teams have the same clothing vortex design?

    Are we headed to or already at a time when winning is about the team witg the best technology rather than best athletes?

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 2 July 2017, 6:44 pm

      A classic July polemic? Sky used the same kit in the Giro and only a few people seemed interested. But lots of people are asking questions now, I’ll do a quick separate article as an explainer.

    • AP Sunday, 2 July 2017, 8:00 pm

      Yesterday ‘marginal gains’ was sham and a masquerade for something more nefarious. Today it’s the reason Sky do well, apparently. What a sport.