Thursday Shorts

The Tour de France will use a starting grid to place riders ahead of Stage 17, the ultra short stage of 65km from Bagnères-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan. It’s been in the rulebook of the race for some time but seems to have caught attention recently.

That’s the screengrab of the rules. The idea is that riders will be placed on the start according to their position on GC in order to have the leaders at the front of the race which helps as the stage is uphill from the start. It’s not unusual, obviously visible in any cyclo-cross or mountain bike race but also in a kermesse or criterium where they call the big names and local heroes to the start first. It’s uphill from the start but hardly the Lacets de Montvernier, instead it’s via the Col de Peyresourde, a veritable highway of a climb known for its long straights and wide roads so leaders wanting team mates by their side need not wait for long. It’s a great mise-en-scène to make the start of this stage even more dramatic.

See the “B” on the profile above? This is another novelty in the Tour de France rules for 2018 is the “bonus point”, an intermediate sprint with no points for the points competition but instead with time bonuses of 3-2-1 seconds for the first three riders to the point and only for the first nine stages. It’s designed to spice up the race for the yellow jersey a bit more, but what chance the Stage 3 team time trial sees the GC prised apart with large gaps?

Talking of the TTT Lotto-Soudal used a “speed gel” in the Dauphiné TTT, a lumpy paste containing way to smear dimples on the skin and make the body more aerodynamic. It’s effectively a fairing and so out of the question under the UCI rules and won’t be at the Tour.

Good news in Switzerland as Richie Porte leads overall and Tejay van Garderen is looking like a valuable mountain domestique, there’s no talk of co-leadership in July. There’s no firm news on BMC Racing’s future but plenty in the public domain to suggest the team is struggling to find a replacement headline sponsor for 2019 and beyond. Without this secure financing the services of Greg Van Avermaet, Richie Porte and others can’t be secured and others on the team won’t be hanging around to wait for better news.

The Route d’Occitanie starts today? “Route what” some might say but this is the old Route du Sud race in the south of France renamed after a regional merger encouraged the newly enlarged region to back this race. It’s been televised for the last two years and should grow a stage longer next year or at least soon according to the race boss in the local press thanks to the regional backing. It’s also been a pioneer race, opening up new routes into the Pyrenees for the Tour de France to use soon after. Stage 3 is the Queen Stage. Don’t call it the Tour d’Occitanie though which is a controversial skyscraper project in the region’s capital of Toulouse.

Bidon villes: Cycling in France this summer? Cycling past vineyards but not a drop to drink? No following team car? You might want to stop along the way for a drink only to find many village cafés have closed leaving you without a place to drink and unwilling to do the clack-clack cleated walk around a supermarket to buy a bottle. So website is worth remembering, it lists fountains, taps and other sources of drinking water.

45 thoughts on “Thursday Shorts”

  1. Fountains and wells which have a sign on them saying ‘eau non potable’, yet when you go past them on a Sunday morning you find a whole French cycling club filling-up their bidons

    The water hasn’t been tested and approved by the local municipal health dept as being fit-to-drink, hence the sign, but if it’s been there for a century or two and everyone else is using it, I guess you can assume it’s fine
    (and delicious too !)

    • Sometimes just some common sense, if it’s running clear and clean then it could be ok. Some fountains have a sign saying “non surveillé” as in not tested but these are ok. There are some great ones, the water at the top of the “Col” de Romme in this year’s Tour de France tastes great.

      With the Tour de Suisse on at the moment there are large parts of that country where you can ride with just one bottle on your bike because you pass countless fountains in villages and by the roads.

      • Chlorine tablets are also a good tip in a pinch. They are more common for hikers who might have to use a stream which has had a freshly laid cow pat upstream, but are virtually weightless.

        • Yes, there can be water quality issues after recent heavy rain, when run-off can bring droppings / dung from livestock into a water supply.

  2. re stage 17, is there an allowance in the rules / an amendment for the time cut? I’m presuming for a “normal” stage like this with a climb at the start, the sprinters would try to get as close to the front as possible then drift back through the pack – but they’ll mainly be right at the back of pack as it all potentially kicks off at the front?

    • Vincenzo Nibali in Gazzetta dello Sport 15.6.18: “Froome is not banned, the rules allow him to race and I think I would do the same.”

        • I picked it up from the Twitter account @faustocoppi60 who posted it first thing this morning and repeated it here. Perhaps an error on my part but that source is usually regarded as reliable. For what its worth, no one has questioned his posting of the quote.

          • Thanks! While I’d prefer to read the quote in Italian, I’ll accept the translation as accurate until someone says otherwise. Quite a 180 from The Shark. I guess this proves one thing – if you’re going to be a cheat and hypocrite, you’ll get farther being a nice one rather than an a-hole like BigTex.
            If Froome manages to win LeTour 2018 and thereby the famous “double” while under this cloud of suspicion, how will the Anglo-Saxons regard him vs Pantani, the last one to do it?

          • Anglos love to point out that many continentals, those who seem very vocal regarding “cheats” in any case, become rather more silent when the spotlight falls on their own heroes. France, for example, often seems apoplectic towards English-speaking “cheats” but is remarkably silent about French ones. France, let us remember, is a place where Richard Virenque, a man who cheated and lied about cheating until he couldn’t lie anymore, can earn a nice living advertising watches on TV and being asked for his opinions.

            Attitudes to Pantani have always been a stand-out example of this. Pantani was, no question, an utter cheat. But then you see him ride. And you see how he rides. And how can you not like that? To many Anglos, however, it seems that Pantani fans have only ever seen the swashbucking stylist on the bike but never the dark heart of the rider who cheated to win. It is straightforward hypocrisy to such people to admire Pantani and foam at the mouth about Froome or Wiggins.

            In the end some form of consistency and perspective is required. But, it seems, if you go on the Internet then the price is that just these things seem to be removed from you, judging by most comments anyway. My own view, as you would expect Larry, is that in some ways Pantani outshines Froome. But in others Pantani is not fit to shine Froome’s shoes. Froome has 6 grand tours (so far!), Pantani only ever managed two, the famous (and last) Giro-Tour double of 1998 which Froome may yet emulate . Yet, at the end of day, comparison and ranking riders against each other is of interest but ultimately unimportant. Pantani achieved what he did in the circumstances of the time and Froome has done the same. Both will have their place in the history of the sport. I’d leave it at that.

        • You are conveniently forgetting the initial comment from Nibs when the news broke in December – I’ve got asthma and use an inhaler as well, what’s the problem?

          He soon saw that this was not the best PR move he had ever made and changed his mind. It sounds like he has changed his mind again.

          Like you say, Larry, if you’re going to be a cheat and a hypocrite, you’ll get farther being a nice one rather than an a-hole.

  3. INRNG,
    there is a lot of talk of Egan Bernal riding le tour. In preparation, is he doing any warm-up races or just staying at altitude?

  4. Stage 17: Is the idea to separate GC men from their domestiques towards the back of the grid and encourage attacks from the gun? Surely it’ll just be teams assemble, business as usual. Not sure I get the point.

    • Indeed. Unless there are meant to be meaningful gaps between them, and it certainly doesn’t seem that way, then its all a fuss about nothing. You would expect that whoever the top 20 are (the supposed first tranche of this grid setup) there will be some guys with team mates anyway. And even if all 176 starters were still in the race (which they won’t be we can assume) how long would it take for teams to form again? A few minutes? No one would be dumb enough to just set off alone or with one or two helpers against everyone for 65kms.

      Well, Chris Froome might 🙂

      • Well it will favour teams with more riders towards the top – discourage Sky from rotating their team to keep people fresh. So the dynamic up to the stage shifts, and if one or two teams have a few riders in the top 20 then they are well placed to isolate rivals early on – a Sky and Movistar alliance?

        • Checked the profile. Looks like a proper ambush day. Problem with the Sky-Moviestar alliance is that all the 3 moviestar guys are leaders not workers. Can’t see Sky carry them around.

          On the other hand, if the Moviestar guys can properly work together and two of them sacrifice their own chance for the team, they can do something pretty damaging. Just don’t see it in Landa to do his bid for Quintana to be honest.

          On the other hand, also wondering how difficult are the descents?

          • The various ‘gimmicks’ – this, bonus points – probably won’t affect the result, but they could. And surely that wouldn’t be a good thing?
            A team (as others have said, probably Movistar and/or Sky) could have three riders in the top 20 and go for it from the start.
            The strong teams have enough of an advantage already.

          • I see the bonus time awards at B zones as just something to enervate the race and a chance to move the jersey around in the early stages. Most likely riders in a break will pick up the bonuses, and where the differences in time gaps are small this will send the yellow jersey on a daily tour of the Tours riders.
            One might suspect that Prudhomme is trying to give Cav a chance to wear the jersey one more time, if he stays upright long enough to finish a stage or two.
            The big teams will not waste their energy early doors on chasing these time bonuses unless they are already in a bunch with no break. I expect if they’ve done their homework the bonuses will be at positions which will be unlikely to result in this scenario. Minor teams will likely work very hard to get men up the road for the chance of the yellow jersey, while GC are not going to bother.
            I like the idea of it anyway.

          • The first descent is on a big road down to the valley but twists and turns a lot at the end. The second descent is very difficult, rough roads, lots of tight corners and generally one that’s awkward to ride down on ride, it’ll be high stress to race down for riders worried about a gap opening up.

          • Really strong ride by NQ yesterday at Suisse… got the better of Porte. Landa played the team mate too with little tester attacks off the front while GVA was powering

      • Would have been better to have this start on the Azet… steeper at the start, narrower, hairpins etc – would have been interesting.

        And to have bonuses of 6-4-2 secs at the ‘B’ point to really get a GC sprint shoot-out happening like that BMC / Rohan Dennis effort in Israel. Good racing.

  5. Talking of Richie Porte, wonder if he has been doing some power work in the gym? Could be my imagination but legs look bulkier than usual. Not that I noticed… of course.

    A real threat come July but don’t we always say that?

    • The place I originally took the quote from is not the account of a Froome fan! In fact, he’s been quite savage about Froome. I take the quote to mean that Nibali says the rules allow him to race so he can’t really add anymore to it. But it seems clear he’s not doing a Bardet and saying Froome should either withdraw or not be allowed to race. He’s allowed to race so he races seems Nibali’s pragmatic take.

      • Your reference to Pantani…”the dark heart of the rider who cheated to win.” neatly sums up the different attitudes I was expecting when it comes to Il Frullatore vs Il Pirata. Of course only time will tell.

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