Rest Day Review

Not many years ago the opening week of the Tour de France was something for followers to get through as the race crossed the plains of northern France with little else than repeat sprint finishes. This year it’s a been an endurance test for TV viewers sometimes but also a gruelling variety event for the contenders with crashes, cobbles and stress. The race has resembled the old board game of Snakes and Ladders. A roll of the dice here and a rider crashes; a roll there and they regain time in another stage.

So it was with the likes of Chris Froome and Richie Porte losing 51 seconds on the opening stage only to regain a similar amount in the team time trial on their principal rivals with BMC Racing winning the stage just ahead of Team Sky. Meanwhile Tom Dumoulin didn’t fall on Stage 1 and had a good time trial but shredded his spokes in the finish of Stage 6 and lost 50 seconds on the final climb at Mûr-de-Bretagne, taking Romain Bardet with him. Rigoberto Urán hadn’t put a foot wrong all week, including a surprisingly good time trial for EF Education First-Drapac, only to lose almost a minute and a half on the road to Roubaix. The winner of the first week among the GC contenders is Geraint Thomas who hasn’t just passively stayed away from trouble but has actively taken time bonuses. He is the obvious contender to take the yellow jersey after tomorrow’s Alpine stage. So far so good but ask Simon Yates about taking the race lead early, Thomas and Team Sky could have a small lead and a big burden to shoulder.

Nairo Quintana and Urán have fared the worst, almost three minutes down on GC but that’s behind Greg van Avermaet. Their glass-half-full scenario is they’re little more than a minute adrift of the likes of Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali et al. Here’s the GC standings of the main contenders relative to Geraint Thomas:

If Quintana’s fared badly Movistar are in a great position with Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa, the latter on the same time as Froome and Yates after the Roubaix stage. He crashed and interestingly Movistar dispatched riders back to help, they limited the losses until Romain Bardet’s third puncture saw the Frenchman caught by Landa group which included Oliver Naesen and the Belgian joined in the work and closed the gap, “saving” Landa’s day. Snakes and ladders again.

For all the arithmetic of gains and losses there’s also the things we don’t know, such as the extent of injuries and fatigue which can sometimes compound, a niggle turns into a pain; or sleep is lest restful and a rider starts to feel stale. Landa may have got up but is he injured or as a fresh as a glass of Txakoli? Ditto all the others who have crashed during the opening week. There’s also the story of what didn’t happen. Those with ambitions for the overall classification didn’t take time on their rivals, for example the likes of Tom Dumoulin have an advantage on the flatter roads but couldn’t exploit them. Vincenzo Nibali has been very alert all week but not able to profit. So up to them to make moves in the coming days.

Away from the results Movistar have a blow in losing J-J Rojas to a crash yesterday, it means the imbalance of three leaders with four helpers. Things are harder still at Ag2r La Mondiale where Axel Domont crashed out on Stage 4 and then yesterday a spectator stepped into the road to take a photo and Alexis Vuillermoz rode into him, fracturing his shoulder blade à la Craddock and at pixel time he’s in the race he’s out of the race. Sky’s Egan Bernal reportedly has broken fingers after slamming into a BMC team car yesterday, if he continues then holding the bars and braking is going to be very difficult. Katusha are down to six riders too.

Richie Porte was done before he was dusted, a crash 10km into the stage had him clutching his elbow in that tell-tale sign of cracked collarbone. The bedevilled Tasmanian crashes out of the Tour on the second Sunday for the second year in a row. It brings to mind the quip of Napoleon who said he didn’t want a good general, he wanted a lucky one. Certainly this is sheer rotten luck, a random crash early in the stage, compounded by falling and landing awkwardly enough to fracture his collarbone. The prognosis is good, he’ll be back on the bike soon and perhaps aim for the Vuelta but this could depend on team politics: with Porte set to leave BMC Racing management may not want him but on balance he’s likely to ride. It leaves the BMC team orphaned for the next two weeks and the silver lining of losing a main contender is that the likes of Damiano Caruso and Tejay van Garderen are liberated to go for mountain raids and stage wins rather than playing sherpa for Porte and so the race will become more lively as a team that had planned to control the race will now be hatching plans to disrupt it.

Reviewing the opening week it was dominated by Fernando Gaviria, Peter Sagan and Dylan Groenewegen. Gaviria achieved the rare feat of being a Tour debutant who wins and takes the yellow jersey but given his performances in the Giro last year he’s hardly the upstart. Gaviria’s second in the points competition but his headbut, perhaps defensive, on André Greipel has cost him points. It’s hard to see how he can better Sagan, the Slovak has the experience and confidence to stay in green. Groenewegen’s two stage wins adds to the story of a new generation taking over the sprints but the old guard may still have their say, they know how to get over the mountains but there are few opportunities left, just one likely sprint finish between now and the next rest day and so what chance some sprinters head for the exit soon?

Siesta: yes the opening week was boring if you watched it all live on TV but it’s part of the sport to the point where French newspapers even publish siesta guides so you know when to tune in. The calm, warm weather didn’t help the viewing figures but a sprint stage is just that. Yoann Offredo was right to ask why others didn’t want to get in the breakaway but there’s simply too much horsepower waiting to chase. It’s not rational to escape, it costs energy and returns little. Although if the wildcard invites don’t do it then ASO will invite others who will next year. The secret for viewers is to tune in for the finish.

Smaller teams: we’ll see if the smaller team sizes makes a difference, in the Giro one hypothesis was that teams feared letting any move get much of a lead for fear of running out of riders to chase later on once the move had a big lead, and thus the breakaways struggled to go clear meaning some of the mountain stages were frantic from start to finish and one result was that several riders cracked at the end, a scenario to reflect on with the Pyrenees. The main reason for the change is making the racing harder to control. Yes there are safety considerations but even if there were teams of four the Tour would be hectic given the front of the bunch is prime real estate and everyone has to hustle to get there and bustle to stay there. Any safety benefits are at the margin, a smaller bunch means an arithmetically reduced chance of crashes, of fewer riders falling and also because it makes the bunch smaller and so easier to overtake for the police motorbikes.

Team Dege: a thrilling stage on Sunday with a pleasing result. As John Degenkolb, Greg Van Avermaet and Yves Lampaert rode into Roubaix all three would have made satisfying winners. Van Avermaet in yellow could cap off a dream week and Lampaert the Quickstepper in his Belgian champion’s jersey as the Flandrien icon. But Degenkolb’s win brings more cheer. It’s not a comeback from zero, after all he’s had wins since the horrific training accident and was third in the sprint on Saturday, but all the same a return to the highest level. So to take the Roubaix stage win was a prestigious return. It showed too, an outpouring of tears and joy.

No racing but a busy day. There will be the usual team press conferences, expect a few “taking it day by day” and “glad to have got through the first week” quotes which are sincere but worth reporting on? Hopefully some bigger announcements await, perhaps the deal to save the BMC team is announced and Trek-Segafredo unveil plans for their women’s team on the eve of La Course? Many riders need the day to recover from yesterday and it’s a busy time for rider agents and team managers as rosters get built for next year, many of the key riders have signed, now come the lieutenants and helpers.

Looking ahead
What a difference a day makes. One moment the race is on the dusty farm tracks of northern France, the next it’s encamped around the opal waters of Lake Annecy with the Alpine peaks in view. There’s little to go on for the state of the GC contenders, the small time losses for Froome and Urán at the Mûr-de-Bretagne are notable but easily countered by the sight of them taking long turns during the team time trial.

Looking at the contenders nobody stands out. Thomas leads on time but there’s still the question of consistency across the three weeks leaving Froome and Nibali looking like the experienced choices. Landa is only an attack away from taking the race lead too while the likes of Majka, Fuglsang and Yates sit high on GC but don’t bring many guarantees. We’re only one third of the way around the board.

Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali
Mikel Landa, Geraint Thomas, Alejandro Valverde
Adam Yates, Jacob Fuglsang, Romain Bardet, Nairo Quintana
Roglič, Majka, Urán


106 thoughts on “Rest Day Review”

  1. Porte should just accept it that he will never cut it in a Grand Tour. He should make a bold decision (like Spilak did) and concentrate on 1 week stage races, where he really excels. He is just not made for Grand Tours, whether it’s a mental thing or a matter of skills, but he is always involved in crashes or has a jour sans. Maybe try the Vuelta one last time, where it is more relaxed, but certainly stay away from the Giro and the Tour and spare yourself more disappointments.

      • I don’t know where the comparison with Evans has come from. Please check his GC results first and count the times he was in Top10. Porte has placed twice in the Top10 of a GT so far (one of them being somewhat of a fluke in the Giro in 2010).

    • People will say this but as a grand tour contender he can earn millions, announcing you’re abandoning this is to take a huge pay cut. He’s also won week-long races like Romandie and the Tour de Suisse so it’s normal he’s considered a contender. This time it’s just luck and maybe it’ll work out for him next time but he’d be as old as Cadel Evans, the oldest Tour winner, if he was to win next year.

      • But, the annual machinery around Porte – this year is his year, will stop anyway – like it did for Tejay. Inspite of super-strong support and a great TT himself – practically no one really expected Porte to even Top 5.
        No one denies his talents and potential but past performance is still a thing.
        Trek -Segafredo might have shelled out the big bucks(any clue how much?), but, really, he should target the Giro and/or Vuelta. A lot less stressful than the Tour. He might atleast find a podium before he retires.

        • If he’d finished – a big ‘if’ – I’d have said he was very likely to be in the top 5 and was one of the top contenders; more likely than most.
          I think a comparison with TVG is inaccurate because Porte is still winning races.
          And I very much doubt Trek have hired him not to give him their full support – something BMC have never fully done (contrast how they treat Porte – with GVA also being supported – with how Sky/Movistar and others are only focused on their GC riders).

          • All the fitness in the world won’t replace the skill of the top GC riders to avoid trouble.

            Froomski falls more than many past top GC contenders, but all the greats had a serious knack for staying safe – it’s as important as having top form.

            Porte might be hugely talented, but he can’t plan and execute a 3-week race yet.

      • Have you seen any footage of the actual crash? I’ve heard Gerrans was involved, too, but what about all the talk about team BMC and especially their bigger riders piloting and protecting Porte when it’s really necessary? And when was that necessary if not yesterday?
        Doing it properly like they did for Cadel when he won in 2011 doesn’t guarantee 100% that you’re not going to crash but it makes a huge difference. And not seeing any of his big teammates involved in the crash makes me wonder if he was alone or maybe just with Gerrans as his sole body-guard. And as good a rider as Gerrans is that’s not exactly the role he excels in just because he’s too small.

    • I think that’s a bit harsh really as you could say that about leaders of others teams who in reality have little to no chance even making the podium.

      He looked very good last year before he made a mistake on a descent and crashed out. Yesterday it was not clear what happened but bad luck it seems. I will admit he is not proven over 3 weeks as a true contender and obviously he is not getting younger.

      Ochowicz was very scathing it seemed of Porte whose future is obviously else where when he said “His collarbone isn’t broken. There are no broken bones. He’s been to hospital in Cambrai and is now on his way to Annecy. His bag is waiting for him there.”

      Ouch! Does he feel Porte could have carried on as Porte did look in a lot of pain regardless if it was broken or not.

    • …though it seems team Sky would disagree with you. Now that he’s out G has commented that they saw Porte as there biggest threat

    • I agree with Gregario, for me Porte is not mentally strong enough to cope with the pressure of being the team captain. When he was in Sky with Froome he raced much better as a gregario di lusso (wink)!

  2. “For all the arithmetic of gains and losses there’s also the things we don’t know, such as the extent of injuries and fatigue which can sometimes compound”

    Very good point. Just on Sky, yes Froome rolled in the same time as Thomas yesterday, but took a tumble (or two?) and you’d imagine that Thomas would be “fresher” or rather yesterday would’ve taken less out of him.

    Looking at the GC, it could be a hell of a race coming up. just about everyone needs to attack, and there’s an incentive given the “GC top 2” are Thomas and Jungels, (ie not impregnable as if Froome was nearly a minute ahead already).

    An aside – I can’t get over the fact that Barguil finished ahead of Thomas yesterday…!

    • watching the tv coverage yesterday, i had the impression there were numerous crashes inducing ‘injuries and fatigue’. They seemed to cut away from the leaders constantly to check on yet another crash. I surely hope Landa is well and feels well so that Movistar will be motivated to check out how all their rivals are feeling with some attacks. No time like the present to exploit the injury results of yesterday and the week as a whole.
      2 more thoughts: i’m guessing with Thomas as virtual gc leader — sky will have to take leadership riding responsibility for the likely insane fight for the early break tomorrow (how badly dinged are kwia and moscon?)
      and… if Bernal is compromised – that will make Wout Poels the last line of defense if others are willing to take it to Sky.
      its a lot to hope for to see contenders get aggressive early after a rest day and before they know how well they are climbing — but I’m hoping! early dark horse pick to take a shot – Roglic.

      • Did Bardet suffer five separate mishaps yesterday?
        The tv cameras seemed to be constantly going back to him, standing by the roadside.
        Though curiously the cameras didn’t linger when he was trying to get back on through the cars, as they did with Dumoulin the other day?

        • getting back through the cars (the whole team car cascade) on a P-R like stage is the most normal thing in the world. Let your own team car moto pacing you back, behind the peloton, where no other team car is around, is another thing. Put your tin foil hats aside, folks.

          • When there’s small gaps the team cars aren’t allowed through. For Bardets first puncture, there was o we a minute gap and no cars bar the commissare, Mavic, Doctors. What was there were multiple motos. With a tv moto filming from the front on the couple of quick cuts to Bardet. Someone worked out they’d need to have gone at over 60kph to catch the bunch in the time they did. The rider is that depends on the accuracy of the time gap given however there have been mummers from some people on motos that he was paced back by the tv camera. If this was Sky there’d be calls to ‘release the footage’… 😉

  3. What do we make of the weird clip of Skujins wheel spinning quite quickly after crashing. Strange clips as you miss what he does with bike out of shot but does appear that wheel is in contact with ground but then looks like it spins very quickly when he picks it up to turn it around.

    Although I’m very dubious someone would be stupid enough to use a motor at TdF but then again who knows

    • Turning the pedals also makes the wheels spin. You can see other video from onbike cameras where Skujiņš puts the chain on with his hands and then spins the cranks by hand which makes the rear wheel spin. The UCI is x-raying bikes every day at the Tour which ought to quieten even the most ardent conspiracy theories.

      • [Hits head on keyboard] Not the wheel spinning motor insinuation again… please watch the instruction vid on YouTube on how to create the same effect. We cannot rule out some rider using illegal means to get an advantage, but this speculation is near to insulting.

      • Thanks just seen that footage which fills the gap of what he did out of shot in original video. I saw it was getting a bit of traction so good to know there is something that bats it away

      • Saw this on Twitter yesterday & Race Radio gave the same answer. The initial finger pointing came from that prize idiot Antoine Vayer and was picked up by Kathy Lemond, of whom I’d expect better. At what point will people start to ignore this idiocy?

      • I’m glad this was brought up here, if for no other reason than to indicate that there is clear video of Toms S. generating the wheel spin with his hand on the pedal. It was funny to hear even LA making a big deal out of this on his podcast.

        Even without the other video, it should have been obvious this was no motor – as soon as the spinning rear wheel of this (15 pound bike) touched the road, the wheel stopped. If it were being driven by a motor, the bike would have jumped right out of Skuijns’ hand and shot across the road. Such a motor would have the torque to move bike AND rider forward, so with the motor on and no rider aboard that would have been a hilariously obvious cheat going on.

  4. I look at this as a box ing contest between a series of up and coming challengers and a great champion who may be past his best.The challenger knows that in order to win he not only has to get the champion on the ropes he has to finish him off because the champion has a fearsome knock out punch.In the Giro Foomes opponents had the opportunity to finish him off in the first two weeks but didn’t take it and Froome duly let the knock out punch go on the Finestre.Everyone knew Froome would attack there but were powerless to prevent it.
    Froomes knock out punch in the Tour is obviously Stage 20 and on this type of course the worlds best. the onus is on the challengers,particularly Movistar to attack ideally as soon as possible,but Landa getting banged up yesterday might have put the kibosh on that idea.Nibali,to his credit is always prepared to give it a lash but wont be able to do it on his own.The longer Movistar takes to make their move the more that the odds shift in Froomes favour.If we get to the next rest day with a tightly bunched GC and Froome finds his 3rd week Giro legs the result is inevitable.
    As my mother used to say”Delay is the deadliest form of Denial”

    • I agree!
      I feel, Nibali should have stayed on at Astana – he had his best support there. Strong rouleurs and excellent mountain support. We would have seen a nice 1-on-1 contest with Team Sky. With Bahrain-Merida, he is really badly handicapped. Lost a minute in TTT (and all his rouleurs very early on) and then on the pave, Haussler was nowhere to be seen. Pelizotti, for gods sake, is his last man on the mountains. With this team, he is best targeting one day classics. 🙂

      • Best targeting the world cahampionships, which i surely think is his target this year..

        had expected a bit more from him on the pavé but we’ll see//

    • Quintana is the guy who is overlooked to me. Yes he was bad last year, but this is a proven grand tour champ who has not only shown he can distance Froome in the mountains, but he’s done it in the third week of the TdF before. He isn’t coming off of the Giro this year and should be fit to peak in the greuling third week. What has cost Q and Movistar in the past is waiting too long to start attacking the Sky train. Hopefully they will get started early and put some pressure on this year.

    • I agree, although I’m not sure about ‘may be past his best’.
      The others have to attack early and gain time on Froome before the TT. And the earlier the better, whilst his form *might* be less good than it will be later. It was obvious at the Giro and is even more obvious now.
      Also, Quintana should attack on this next stage, because he has the most time to make up and because Landa might be feeling the effects of the crash: distance him enough here and you could get the entire team backing only you.
      But it’s Movistar…

  5. For all the huge clouds of dust, thrills and spills, yesterday changed very little (except for poor Richie Porte). Perhaps some, Mikel Landa and Romain Bardet for example, might suffer longer term damage though sometimes “what doesnt kill you makes you stronger”.

    This was not Paris Roubaix, it was a stage in a GT and other considerations were at play rather than simply winning the stage and as Tom Dumoulin pointed out that the headwind made it difficult to pull away. Putting in a big pull in the hope of splitting the peloton could result in using up energy only to have a break pulled back and then being at risk of loosing time against a competitor. Geraint Thomas said he thought about following the winning break, but if he had gone it is very likely that break would have been chased down, whereas none of John Degenkolb (a deserved win) , GVA and Yves Lampaert were a threat and could be let go.

    The attrition of various team members is likely to have a long term effect (the injury to Egan Bernal was somewhat predictable, still unconvinced that it was a good decision for him to be part of the team) AG2R and Movistar especially.

    The stage after a rest day often seems to give an unusual result, maybe Romian Bardet or Vincenzo Nibali will try a big attack descent of the Colombiere? Dont see it gaining too much though, the preceding climbs are unlikely to break up the peloton too much.

    I wonder if Thursday’s finish at Alpe d’Huez will be more decisive than it often is. I suspect the main contenders will mark each other closely over the next couple of stages, the ride through the Oranje provides one of the few opportunities for the climbers to attack, time to see if Movistar cam match their words with deeds.

    • I think when GvA, Dege and Lampaert went nobody could follow. Maybe Sagan could have but he was sleeping. They had ridden at an average of 46 km/h into a headwind on the ninth consecutive day of racing so everyone being too tired to follow that blistering pace is the most likely reasoning. And those who tried found out quickly that the train had left the station for good.

      The descent from Colombière to Le Grand Bornand is one of the easiest descents you’ll find in the French Alps. And it’s also not really steep and prone to see some headwind in the afternoon. Not a place to attack IMHO. But the combo of Col de Romme and then this dreaded, second, 10% average part of the Colombière climb along the heat radiating rock wall should enable anyone who has the legs to make a difference. They don’t even have to soften the competitors’ legs on the climb to the Plateau de Glières. Which would otherwise be the perfect place to do so because not too many will bring the proper gearing for this “wall” I assume.

      • Sagan was definitely sleeping. He’d just covered a couple of moves, and I think his tendency to go with the flow at that moment bit him in the ass. He let himself (for one of the few times in the whole stage) drift back from the front, at precisely the time when he needed to be staying close to GVA.

        I was initially bummed to see that none of the other sprinters in the group would chase with him, but I think you’re right, the rest of them were gassed. When you say “those who tried” you’re really only talking about Sagan. The few who weren’t gassed, and who tried to bring Sagan back when he launched at about 3 km, were mostly trying to defend teammates who were up the road and going for the win. In the end, though, seeing Degenkolb’s joy made me glad it went the way it did.

  6. Inner Ring – as always, an excellent summary of – in my view – an exciting week. Interesting that out of all the predictions for stage 9 almost all GC contenders getting the same time was one that was never expected. Shows just how random the cobbles can make a GT.

    I was surprised not to see Nibali pushing more – as far as I can recall I never saw him put in an effort to distance any of the contenders. Why was this? Poor form? Saving himself for the mountains? Just being cagey? Given the seeming ease at which multiple GC contenders managed to get back on after crashes/mechanicals the racing seemed to be a bit cagey. Perhaps the thought of the Alps immediately after put a lid on people’s effort and they were just happy to get through it without losing too much time.

    Finally, you were getting some love yesterday from none other than Mr Armstrong on his Move podcast. He was complimenting you on your thoughtful and high-level analysis and the go-to place for a balanced view of procycling. He’s lied about a lot of things, but that comment is true. Keep up the good work.

    • I would say that Sky were hogging the front of the peloton and it was hard for Nibali to get in a position to pull away, that and the fact that he has very little support. He’d be pulling hard to get in a breakaway, and if he crashed he’d be isolated.
      Compare that to Fugelsang who has inherited his team. He crashed, and his team pulled him back on. That’s the major difference to 2014.
      +1 for the Armstrong nod.

      • except Fulgsang used up the Asata team’s rolleur to bring him back after the crash and split.

        less optimal: is Asatna somhow was out of energy drinks, Magnus Cort (and posibly others) bunked because soigneurs due to shortage had to mix the energydrinks to 1/3 of what riders expected.

        Fuglsag did a few digs with the likes of GVA, Sagan, Domulin and Gilbert on wheel in the headwind attempting to create a selection but was pulled back by moviestar every time.

        • Not sure what your point is since you seem to be saying the same thing as me, which is that Fuglsang has a team supporting him and Nibali didn’t. So anything he did on the cobbles was going to be on his own, whether it be crashing or trying to win, so his only tactic was to try to stay at the front and hope he didn’t puncture.

          I was saying the difference between 2014 and now is that Nibali had a team around him who could guide him and assist him if he got into trouble. Instead Fuglsang has that team and he rode a lot more aggressively and was rescued by his team.

    • I, too, was surprised by Nibali. But people compare him to his 2014 cobble exploits which were on a very wet day. What we’ve learnt, I think, is that a dry day and team support is a big leveller. No one was going to win that stage alone. Nearly every major rider who will contend this race finished together. I think that’s a shame for Nibali as I don’t see him outclimbing the field.

      • So not crashing like many others and not losing time to rivals now is a shame for Nibali. Your vitriol is reaching new levels of ridiculousness.

        • Not really sure where you saw ‘vitriol’ there. Perhaps you misunderstood the idiom? ‘It’s a shame for him’ doesn’t mean ‘it shames him’; it just means ‘it’s unfortunate for him’.

  7. No faith in Uran, Inrng? He’ got a better team this year and will proberbly take the slipstream of Froom’s back wheel again into Top 5?

    • Ok, let’s give him a chainring. The ratings are a take on the chance of winning (and just for fun). To explain, if I knew someone could place second in the race yet some how promise never to win they’d get no chainrings. So if for example a rider has a 10 minute lead on GC with one stage left then they’d get five and everyone else zero and if Urán can get into the top-5 he’s not going to get a chainring. Urán is apparently in great form so could climb into contention but he has to overhaul a lot of riders; also many riders are tipped about great form at the start of the Tour, we’ll know a lot more tomorrow and the ratings suggested above will probably look foolish by Thursday evening and three mountain stages.

  8. A chainring for Dumoulin? I feel like he still could be a (podium) contender. So far it’s not been that bad, a bit of bad luck. He said he felt like one of the strongest yesterday but was disappointed not to win any time at all. A lot depends on his climbing legs this week…

  9. I said it before the Tour started and will say it again. Except if he crashes out, Froome will win. He’s going for the GT treble (and unfortunately he’s going to do it). The first stories of him going to the Vuelta have started coming out and Portal mentioned it last year.
    The fact that when he crashed yesterday, the rest of the Sky riders who were in the front group (except Thomas) went to help him means, in my opinion, he’s the only leader. Which I believe one of the DS said over the last couple of days.
    Thomas will probably be in yellow tomorrow but eventually he’ll lose time on others by either having a bad day or in successive mountain stages by not being quite there with the best.

  10. It’s still amazing when you think about it that Egan Bernal made it into this Tour team.
    Scary really, 1st year, wins the Tour of Cali, nabs a place on one of the best TDF teams there’s been.

    Really hope we can see him in the mountains next week.

    Hope Landa’s alright also, expect to see him really set things off next week now Porte’s gone and I’ve wanted to see his full climbing potential for years now so hoping for something spectacular.

    Have a feeling (because I like him) Geraint’s going to hold on better during these three weeks than people expect. For me it depends on Landa, Yates and possibly Bardet as to whether the climbing fireworks prove too much for him.

    But with Dumoulin, Froome, even Uran (who’s quite steady on the climbs) suffocating moves with TT pace (plus Quintana already being down on time), it could be a perfect scenario for Thomas to just sit in and not crash… although easier said than done.

    I love the statistic of how few crashes Sagan’s had since turning pro doing the rounds, would be very interested to see the inverse for Geraint, I can’t think of a rider who’s crashed more in the last five years.

    I’m gonna say now that the winner will come from Froome, Dumolin, Landa or Thomas.

    Don’t think Yates will outclimb Landa nor put in the risks follow Simon’s disintegration to get what he needs keep a lead after the TT.

    Don’t think Nibali will climb with the best, and can’t see him getting enough time of Dumoulin avoid being left in his TT dust.

    Quintana is the dark horse, could see him winning still as he’s looked braver this year, but I’m going to go on prescient and see him coming up short somewhere along the line.

    I’m convinced Roglic will be the surprise result, very high up the GC.

    Bardet will ride to his ability but come up just short having expended so much energy early on, finishing behind Roglic.

    And can’t see Jungels not getting dropped at somepoint, same for Valverde, same for Fuglsang, Majka, Mollema. And Uran plus Dan Martin are too far back to leap all those ahead.

    so Geraint, Froome, Landa, Dumoulin, Quintana, Roglic, Yates, Bardet, Valverde, Nibali is my top ten. Could see Fuglsang, Majka, Mollema all getting in there though.

  11. That BMC/CCC possibility looks a bit left-field. Initially seemed to be sponsorship but more recent rumours are that it’ll be a merger of sorts. The CCC Pro-Conti team has done a nice job of graduating talent to the WT (Hurt, Grossschartner, De la Parte) in the last few years but would be difficult to see beyond a handful of riders, such as Antunes, on the current roster who’d make the step up immediately. I can see it being one of those transition years for them next year if it comes off.

  12. Hopefully I am wrong … but could it be that we are going to see lots of very passive racing? Everyone is so close together. So why risk anything just to be overtaken by 5 other contenders? Top 10 in the TDF seems to count a lot these days – more than an viliant effort for a Top 3 and maybe a lower Top 10 placing if it fails.

    Stage 11 & 12 (both uphill finishes) could be boring with everyone just waiting for the last few kilometers to gain max. 30 seconds. The rest of the stages look like the terrain for stage hunters rather than GC battle.

    Not that I am complaining, just wondering if it is rather a curse than a blessing that all GC contenders are quite close together.

    • You might be right but I certainly don’t hope so. The thing with the very demanding stage to L’Alpe d’Huez is that they don’t climb up to the Alpe directly after descending from the Croix de Fer. You can do that via Villard-Reculas. A much nicer and quieter ride than the famous “main” road by the way which you would join in the town of Huez. Going up there would make it attractive for some GC-contender with good descending skills to go for it either before the summit of the Croix de Fer or right after cresting it. But with those flat and dead straight kilometers in-between the end of that descent and the beginning of the climb to the Alpe it’s not encouraging at all to do that. You must be mad if you tried.
      So the group will arrive together at the base of the last climb and from there on you can only ride away from the rest if you’re really superior. Big balls alone won’t help you at all.

  13. I know this is an unending debate, and also that crashes are part of bike racing. But, in recent years it seems one or two contenders are taken out by crashes in the first week. There are generally five or so guys who are legit contenders to win. With one or two taken out by crashes, it takes away a lot of the uncertainty and suspense. Is this worse in recent years than it’s been historically? Are the logistical, historical, and economical imperatives so great that something more can’t be done so that 30-40% of the competition isn’t literally tossed to side of the road?

    • I think what is different is that so many riders do not get sick or injured (without crashes) compared to the past.
      Crashing has always been a part of the race. Some years better, some years worse. It always seems like the favourites know where to be and how to avoid a crash. Being strong somehow keeps you out of trouble. Riders on their limit, physically, may look and react like they are in good form, but sometimes being feather light can make you tired and prone to errors. Tyler Hamilton v. Lance Armstrong being a classic example.

    • about the crashes – i don’t know if there is a trusted metric that tracks how many and how severe the crashes are every year (tour’s own medical report?) – but i’d be shocked if the crashes are not both more numerous and way worse every year. i’d put it down to the riders being so close in ability now that only defining points of the race can create separations — these are often narrow roads plus some grade or handling feature. the battle to reach these places ahead of the near certain crashes that happen at these points plus the minimal differences between the riders (especially drafting their domestiques) means the fight to get there first has winners and losers and so many taking big risks.

      i thought yesterday was the worst i’d ever seen the crashes and the risks taken by the riders (drafting on a dead flat course making the dropping guys even less likely). combine that with gc guys never giving up because they had the luxury of numerous teammates to pace them back (and numerous vehicles to draft while doing so!) . just in case you’re a rider who prefers not to take so many risks — well the team has 20 other riders to pick from for the roster, so you just might not have a job next year.
      i don’t know the solution if the fields need to be 150-200 riders and the courses continue to be so narrow especially with all the traffic controlling constructions. it makes me think about golf where there has been talk of slowing the ball so the old courses are still relevant. maybe slower speeds means the draft would be less of an equalizer and spread things out more?? i don’t know, but i had a hard time watching the constant crashing yesterday.

      • As with cars,crashes with cycles are worse with speed.Fortunately this year we have spared the carnage that occurred on the stage to Huy(stage 3 2015)I think.This happened on a dead straight road going slightly downhill. the trouble was the peleton was going at over 60 kmh when two riders touched wheels and the end result was reiminiscent of the “big One” at Talledega in NASCAR.There were br0ken bikes and damaged cylists everywhere. I can vividly remember Spartucus somersaulting into a field(he endedwith a fractured vertebra)The carnage was so bad that the race had to be neutralised because there was no available medical assistance at the front of the race.THey were all back down the road

  14. A really nice stage yesterday, and also somewhat nice that, that GC gaps were much less than predicted.

    The Race appears still quite open, although that might all change after tomorrow.

    Just scrolled through the stage profiles and a couple ends downhill, which inclines towards Sharky or even Bardet.

    With all the talk about Team Telefonica and their 3 captains, they seemed to like the best team yesterday.
    If Landa isnt to battered he will surely attack lets hope Lil’Q will do the same.
    Sharky is smart and experienced and Bardet is all Panache.

    The next couple of weeks might me really entertaining!!!

    • “Sharky” has a palmares though whereas Bardet might be “all panache” but he doesn’t really trouble the scorers. Maybe team cars and TV bikes can continue to help him draft to victory.

  15. I like your chainrings with the exception of G. Thomas instead of Dumoulin with 3. I’ve already wondered why this is the case so no reason to belabor it here.
    The 30-40% of the contenders “tossed to the side of the road” is interesting. First, is that really the case compared to the past? If it is, when did it start? Around the time of universal earpieces? Around the time of super-rigid carbon bikes? Super-rigid carbon wheels? I’ve not ridden the absolute newest-latest creations but even the ones from the recent past seem skittish and hard to control, especially when you are tired or distracted. I’m wondering if super-responsive, difficult-to-control is the new normal to make the buyer (Joe Punter) feel fast? Super narrow, super high-pressure tires were said to do the same until research proved they were actually slower than fatter ones at lower pressures. Might the current crop of high-end bikes used by the pros be the same? Of course the pros have little choice but to ride what they’re given unless they’re a big enough star to get away with a made-to-measure special painted in the team livery. I wonder if/when the pendulum will swing back from the super-rigid “watt-saving” idea towards something much more controllable under grueling conditions?

    • I would think there is some truth to what you’re saying about the bikes they are riding not necessarily optimized for a stage like yesterday, but OTOH I recall that Mat Hayman had a choice of bikes for Roubaix when he won it, and he chose the less-compliant aero one.

  16. Well, once again, its not looking like a Tour of big gaps. My feeling is only stages 12 and 17 can be decisive (Alpe d’Huez and Col du Portet). Stages 10 and 11 (the latter an almost carbon copy of one in this year’s Dauphine) seem quite benign. But I’ll grant you its all about how you race and not simply what the road is like. Fortune favours the brave.

    The better time triallists don’t need to panic though. A 31kms test at the end is nothing to sniff at and means that Dumoulin, Roglic, Froome and Thomas can afford to measure their efforts. Bardet, Quintana and Nibali need to think about nabbing some seconds though.

    I’ve thought experience would win it all along and I see no reason to change my mind with the current standings. If Thomas can get past the Alps and maintain his gap a podium is a genuine possibility.

    • I think someone will try something tomorrow or Wednesday. They are both relatively short stages which tend to bring intense (not necessarily better) racing. As you say the number of stages where there is a real chance of big time differences are limited so those seeking an advantage will have to be bold if they hope to take yellow.

  17. The Movistar situation is interesting.
    For El Tridente to be all still very much in the mic, after the TTT, the (potentially windy) flat stages and the cobbles, is a real boost and I am sure that they’d have taken that before the week started.
    However, given that they’re now a domestique down, this puts the onus on all of the three to work together and come up with some kind of aggressive and cohesive approach in the mountains.
    Can they do it?
    Who moves and when?

    • The obvious thing is for NQ to attack on Alpe d’Huez. Maybe they can try something on La Rosiere but not sure it is really hard enough and Sky are likely to have a large contingent in place at the bottom of the climb (though if Egan Bernal cant continue that make affect things). Perhaps it might add to some general fatigue but Sky are very strong, with the exception of Luke Rowe they are all great climbers.

      The problem with the Alpe stage is that it is a long gap between the top of the Col der Fer and the bottom of the Alpe, do you risk using up one of El Tridente on a long range attack on one of the first two HC climbs only to be pulled back in the valley and then potentially being spat out of the back on the final climb? It would need a couple of riders “up the road” to help, not sure Movistar still have the numbers for this and it is not only Sky who will not want them there, perhaps a giant break as seen on a number of recent GT “big stages”. Even if NQ gets away difficult to see him taking more than a minute and all that does is put him back amongst the others, not with any big advantage.

  18. Thanks INRNG, great summary of the first week.

    Only I feel like everyone is overlooking Kruijswijk. He looks to be in great shape and did well at the cobbles. Nobody on here talks about him and that’s a mistake. In my opinion he is one of the world’s best climbers and he will be able to get a top 10 surely. Maybe even top 5.

    • I don’t know, Stuie: he’s got a gap to make up and there’s a TT to lose time on yet. I’d love to see him win (or any other petit climber) but given the number of contenders, 2 stars feels right to me.

      I’d probably quibble more that Dumoulin isn’t on the list at all – but as INRNG says, it’s a bit of fun / guesswork.

      Feels like we’ve got an exciting 2 weeks ahead of us after a very slow start.

      Great round-up INRNG, with the usual smattering of excellent word-play.

    • What price the thoughts of Quintana yesterday? Quintana punctures on stage 1 and loses effectively a 1m 20secs, and barely a team mate around.
      Landa goes down and all the support drops back to pace him on. The scenarios are slightly different but one wonders if Quintana is happy with that?

      • For Quintana it’s more he smashed both wheels and at a time when his other team mates were caught up by the crashes, this wasn’t really a scenario of a puncture and his team ignored him. But yes, the sight of so much help going back to support Landa was telling. If Movistar had “lost” Landa on GC yesterday it would have meant having two out of their three GC contenders losing time so presumably it made sense to send riders to help.

    • Part of me agrees with Stuie, but Nairo has sort of stagnated the past couple years. There has been explanable reasons of course, but he just hasn’t risen to the occasion on cycling’s biggest stage for years. He has been Jan Ulriched a bit (overshadowed by the top GC rider), but all the same, I always thought he should be better than Froomsicle and Movistar runs a tight ship, so I thought he’d do better than 2nd and 3rd since.

  19. Now that the Tour de France de Norde is over we can get started Tour de Alpes !

    Am liking Fugs, Bardet and Duran Duran for podium spots. In no particular order. Not a lot of flash or panache, but solid – consistent riders.

    Just don’t feel Doom and Froome will have the post Giro legs going into week three.

    Nibs losing his legs, Cruiseship, the Movis, Majka and God not consistent enough over three weeks.

  20. As to the BMC/CCG project, will they register as an American, Swiss, or Polish squad ?

    Will they continue to ride a North American calendar. ?

  21. Two greatest moments from the race so far.
    John Degenkolb’s outpouring of joy after his win on the cobbles yesterday.After everything he suffered post crash, you truly have no soul if you didn’t enjoy that result.
    And secondly, the praise offered up to INRNG himself by reformed sociopath and age-group triathlete Juan Pelota. May we all bask (or basque) in your reflected glory.
    On the other hand, he normally reserved praise for his teammates, so are you George Hincapie?

    • Haha, excellent theory.

      Inrng could be George Hincapie based on the following:
      ~ George could live or spend a lot of time in France as his wife is French.
      ~ George and Inrng both sell articles of clothing
      ~ clearly Inrng has a second job (running Hincapie sportswear?)
      ~ Inrng does ride a lot (as does George)

      However, George is very well spoken, but how is the quality of his written work? Their old teammate Mike Barry can write well, but his style is very different from Inrng, and style is very hard to mimic/change.

      Anyways the legend of Inrng continues and I look forward to the big reveal at some point! I wonder, is Inrng actually The Stig?

  22. 9 stages so far, mostly flat, a mini Roubaix, a long transfer and a rest day. Dont be suprised if tomorrow is treat as another rest day for the GC rider. A small group of lesser lights will illuminate the stage but nothing much for the GC. I read this in my tea leaves tonight!

  23. I never understand this idea that you have to defend the yellow jersey.
    You don’t: it’s a choice – you just say ‘My team’s not doing it’ and then you maybe lose the jersey.
    It might be the tradition, but there is literally nothing to stop a team riding the way they would have without the jersey.

    In the GC battle, riders will base whether or not they should attack you on the time you have on them – if you’re 2 minutes ahead of all GC contenders, but 2 seconds behind a no-hope race leader, other GC contenders don’t just ignore you because you’re not in yellow. Similarly, if you’re in yellow, but 2 seconds ahead of three other GC contenders, the others are not solely focused on you.
    The whole jersey thing is way over-played.

  24. I wasn’t surprised Movistar sent riders back to help Landa – they clearly see him as co-leader, and he’s lost less time than Quintana.

    The Roubaix stage was great to watch, but the GC contenders who are better at this sort of thing didn’t put any time – and didn’t seem to try in the main – into others. Nibali, Dumoulin (post-Giro), Thomas, Fuglsang very probably all needed to do that to win the race.
    Never seen so many spectators standing ON the pave – no wonder poor Vuillermoz got done.

    Really hope BMC fully back Porte at the Vuelta – he must have a very good chance of winning (if he can finish).

    • Interesting point about spectators on the pavé Anonymous, if indeed that is you real name. A friend of mine was told very forcefully where he should stand when we visited P-R some years ago. Perhaps that ‘self-policing’ was not there for this stage.

  25. I wouldn’t give Nibali four chainrings – not sure I’d even give him three. I’d also give Thomas two – can’t see how one minute or so is going to be enough – and I’d give Quintana three – because he has shown in the past that he can pull back the sort of time he needs. Valverde would be down on two for me as well – he hasn’t had it to win a GT in years.

    So, Froome’s still my favourite on four, with Landa and Quintana on three, the rest on two, at best (and I’d include Dumoulin in those).
    Hopefully, my predictions are wrong: they usually are, although I kept saying in the first half of the Giro that the others should put time into Froome whilst he’s weak. They didn’t put enough that time and this time he’s with the rest. It remains to be seen if he’s more immune to fatigue than other riders.

  26. Within the wide range of predictions to choose from, the one thing I feel strongly about is that Nibali will win one of the many downhill finish stages.

  27. Great work as always.

    However, I really have to take issue with calling Degenkolb’s training incident an “accident”. It was far from accidental, and the driver concerned was prosecuted. It was no accident and painting it as such absolves the driver of responsibility, and is a dangerous precedent.

    If cyclists cannot get fair representation and accurate reporting in the cycling press, we will never get it in the mainstream press.

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