Rest Day Review

It’s been a long week. The BMC Racing have been rescued, numerous GC contenders have fallen or faded. There’s still uncertainty over the general classification and the eventual winner of the Tour de France, not something we’ve experienced for some time. Geraint Thomas is in a strong position but the more Team Sky deploy their habitual tactics, the more it suits Tom Dumoulin.

The big question isn’t who is the leader at Team Sky, it is whether Thomas can go the distance without a mishap. If he can then he’ll be the one making the victory speech on the Champs Elysées soon. But if he has a collapse then suddenly Froome and Dumoulin are only seconds apart. Thomas leads by a good margin even if half of this owes itself to rivals crashing and a further quarter on time bonuses meaning that he’s not pulled out much time à la pédale. Regardless of how it was achieved, it’s substantial and in recent years Froome has hardly taken any time in the mountains on his rivals in the Tour and judging by La Rosière and Alpe d’Huez he’s not soaring away anytime soon either, short of a Giro-style gamble again. Thomas has question marks over the third week because he’s fallen away in the past but here history is a poor guide, he’s given up on the GC because he could, now there’s everything to race for. Still there’s risk and uncertainty: crashes are a risk for all yet Thomas seems to have a propensity to fall more often; the uncertainty is performance in the third week with three mountain stages and a time trial. He looks at ease, he’s won two mountain stages to extend his lead over Chris Froome and the rest. Yet his rivals will note that just like Dauphiné, Thomas is taking time on summit finishes that aren’t steep, La Rosière and Alpe d’Huez both had finishes in town rather than atop a mountain pass. He’ll face his biggest test this Wednesday with the Col du Portet summit finish.

Who is Sky’s leader? It’s a stale debate that’s been bordering Kremlinology with people reduced to looking for significance of bike placement on the roof of the team cars. It’s a theoretical concern more than a practical one, perhaps if both punctured at the same time and there was only one spare wheel left then who would get it? Out on the road the answer depends on the day, even the moment. Froome remains in a strong position and able to take over but he can feel Dumoulin on his wheel.

Tom Dumoulin is still in contention. A week ago it was hard to see how he could win the Tour, now you can see his route to victory. A moment of audacity on the descent of the Cormet de Roselend shows a risk-taking streak but it’s his consistency that has got him into third place overall, he’s climbing as well as anyone. The irony is Sky’s tactics suit their greatest rival, the high tempo train that has eliminated rivals such as Nairo Quintana on Alpe d’Huez is carrying Dumoulin as a first class passenger. If Thomas cracks then he’s only 11 seconds behind Froome with a time trial to come. If Thomas holds on then Dumoulin is on the podium but this is conditional, a bad day can hit Dumoulin too and the Dutchman’s not much support in the mountains when it comes to the final climb. It’s this uncertainty that is exciting.

There’s a second wave of riders who haven’t waved goodbye to their chances either. Primož Roglič, Romain Bardet and Mikel Landa might still hope to turn the tables. Sure “hope dies last” but Bardet and Landa look unlikely to adopt the third week posture of defending their place on GC. They can save their Tour with mountain stage win and this seems a more likely prospect than climbing into third place because it’s one thing to get above Dumoulin on GC by the end of the Pyrenees, another to stay in front after Saturday’s time trial. Lotto-Jumbo hold some good cards, Steven Kruijswijk’s ride last week was enormous in its audacity and they can try more of the same again.

Magnus Cort Nielsen did a double for Astana after Omar Fraile’s victory the previous day. The Dane has won bunch sprints in the Vuelta a Espana so Ion Izagirre and Bauke Mollema were generous to take him to the finish but how could they hustle him? To attack on the flat roads in Carcassonne would have probably only further reduced their chances. The stage also saw Gianni Moscon excluded from the race after punching another rider, a blow for Team Sky’s hopes to control the race. The UCI may act, remember Andrei Grivko got a 45 day ban from competition, Lars Boom a month. We’ll see what Team Sky do as it’s not the first time he’s in trouble. As Kevin Reza himself lamented after he got racial abuse from Moscon, the suspension from racing came during a likely rest period. Given they’re marking their own homework there’s a good chance Sky suspend Moscon in a similar way. Or he’s forced to ride the Tour of Guangxi.

Meanwhile plenty of sprinters have gone home. The tight time cuts are a factor but one among several, with injuries from the pavé another, illness and others haven’t raced in the mountains much this year. Unlike, say, the Giro where some riders will quit the race to prepare for something else no sprinters elect to abandon the Tour. But in exiting they’re not missing too many chances, there’s just Pau and Paris left. Peter Sagan just has to reach Paris to win the green jersey, the Slovak is only a few points short of his “high score” in 2016 of 470 points. The total depends on the course and other factors but it shows how he’s got a monopoly on this contest. Yesterday he towed Rafał Majka across to the day’s breakaway, he’s likely to do more of this in the coming days.

Julian Alaphilippe and Warren Barguil are duelling for the mountains jersey with 90 points and 70 points each respectively; third placed Serge Pauwels crashed yesterday and is out of the race. The points are doubled on the final climb of the day in the Pyrenees which gives Barguil a good chance as he’s more the pure climber but the team really want a stage win more than the jersey. Also Thomas is on 30 points and he could theoretically collect 40 points on the Portet and Aubisque and be in the mix too.

Elsewhere Movistar lead the team competition which we may not care for but teams do, look how they sent three riders up the road yesterday leaving Landa and Quintana without much support given the day’s final climb and the crosswinds. Pierre Latour leads the best young rider competition with two and a half minutes on Guillaume Martin and six on Egan Bernal and there’s a dilemma, if Martin gets into a big breakaway on a mountain stage will Ag2r chase to defend this or stay all in for Bardet.

Geraint Thomas
Chris Froome, Tom Dumoulin

What’s ahead?

  • Tuesday’s stage heads straight into the Pyrenees, a long day with the difficult combo of the Portet d’Aspet and the Menté before a brief trip into Spain and virtual summit on the Col du Portillion because there’s a fast 10km drop to the finish with only a kilometre of flat
  • Wednesday is the 65km dash with 3,200 metres of vertical gain to the Col du Portet, via the Peyresourde and the Col d’Azet
  • Thursday is a breather, a probable sprint stage but with so few sprinters left, half the peloton will fancy their chances and given only eight teams have won a stage so far there should be a lot of teams trying to flood the breakaway
  • Friday is the final mountain stage and a difficult day to drain the riders with a series of strength-sapping climbs and then the descent of the Aubisque which should be repaired just in time
  • Saturday is the time trial stage but on a very hilly, twisting course in the Basque country and the winner will be a GC contender rather than a specialist rouleur.

127 thoughts on “Rest Day Review”

  1. I’m wondering if the elimination of Moscon favours Froome more than Thomas. Froome will want the race to be blown to bits, whereas if Sky ride tempo and control the race to Paris, nobody can take seemingly take time out of G in the mountains unless he cracks.

    • Not a bad shout.
      Although if it were to be another Finestre (which I realise is not what you’re saying and would seem unlikely as it would jeopardise Thomas’ yellow) then he used the team to set that up and Moscon would be useful to such an attack.

      I think overall it’s bad for both, as it makes Sky a little more vulnerable on the short stage.
      Although if it does explode, Froome has form with keeping a level head and making the most of those circumstances. Then again it may just all come down to form… and Geraint seems to have it.

  2. Worst case scenario for Sky is for Froome to attack, Dumoulin to go with him but drop Thomas leaving him 2 minutes in arrears. Sky could end up as 2 and 3. I can’t see Froome attacking, so I’m not sure him now saying he won’t (according to the Grauniad) is such a revelation.

    • The 1-2 attack tactic is, in essence, the crux of any so-called conspiracy about leadership of Team Sky.
      In theory, Dumoulin should be disposed of by the Team Sky pair – one attacks, the other follows and attacks etc.
      In doing so, however, one of Sky riders will end his own chances of glory.
      So, who calls the shots?

      Team Sky can either win this Tour or lose it.
      Dumoulin does not win it, as such, in my very humble view anyway.

      • I think many are setting too much store by previous form in the ITT. they will all be cooked from having done the rest of the race so that levels the playing field somewhat. furthermore, it’s quite up and down, which probably favours froome. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the top 4 won the ITT and they could finish in any order.

  3. I keep thinking Thomas should have put the hammer down on AlpeD.
    Would be great for Thomas to win, but he definitely deferred that day and I worry it may cost him.
    Although maybe he was on his limit?
    I can see Froome putting in the necessary attack to take yellow in this final week as can most.

    But more, I also can very much see some chaos in the 65km with Roglic allied with Movistar trying to break Sky. And with Bernal tiring and Moscon now out, they could be more vulnerable than expected.

    It feels interestingly poised with a lot of riders who have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Although it will take a lot for me to change my disappointment in Movistar’s performance to this point, feels like we lost a lot when Porte crashed out, as I had been expecting and Landa/Porte/Martin climbing team up to push Geraint/Froome harder than Dumoulin can.

  4. Such a weird Tour: I really thought this could be Movistar’s year, given Froome & Dumoulin being in the Giro too. Maybe Landa is injured, but Quintana’s lack of progress is getting worrying. Will he ever actually win the TdF?

    I think Froome probably wishes Porte and Nibali were still in the race: when they attacked he’d have had an excuse to leave Thomas behind if Thomas couldn’t follow them. I’m not sure Dumoulin can completely crack Thomas without help, so Froome is left between a rock and a hard place. (Assuming Froome gets his old legs back.)

    As for Moscon: thank goodness helmets are compulsory in the peloton.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised to see Quintana leave Movistar now.
      His goose seems cooked. Would love to see him win a Tour but this is by far the most disappointing of his failures – then again… you never know, it could turn around?
      But I really feel the ship has sailed now.
      He’s repeatedly climbed worse than Dumoulin, and obviously TT’s far worse.
      He’s about to swap Froome for Dumoulin as a nemesis and he’s currently falling behind some of the other young competitors. A real shame, but I can’t get past some of the tactical decisions recently, I’ve always defended what looked like timid riding with people forgetting about who he’s facing, but at times this season specifically I’ve changed my opinion, he really is missing a killer instinct.

      • Very disappointing, I agree with you.

        What’s Quintana’s contract situation with Movistar?
        It’s not a good time for him to move, however, when his stock is more diminished than in the past.
        Who knows though, he could turn it all round in La Vuelta?

      • For me Movistar have been a big disappointment at this year’s tour. Froome and Dumoulin both raced the tour and yet have been running rings around the trident. I’m struggling to see Quintana ever living up to the expectations with younger riders appearing on the scene.

  5. The biggest test for Thomas will come on Wednesday and it might be in the form of the descent from the Col d’Azet. It’s a treacherous descent, on very narrow and twisting roads through town, with very bad surface in places. If there is rain and thunderstorms as forecast for now, there might be fireworks on this stage, especially as there will be no holding back from the start. Question is who will take the risks here? Big shame that Nibali is out, because this would have been perfect for him. Maybe Bardet or Dumoulin? Although Bardet is way back and will need something special to turn it around, considering there is still a TT coming up, where he will lose tons of time to all 4 guys ahead of him.

    • Thomas is an extremely good descender though… I’m not sure it would favour many more than him, even if the amount he’s crashed previously make his bike handling prowess hard to see!

      I agree Wednesday is something to worry about, but it would be the same for any leader, as it’s a day for attacks. It’s almost best for Sky to take it on and be the lead aggressor that day to wrong foot the others.

      On Nibali descending… he’s obviously brilliant, but on a rainy day I would worry, I remember him crashing on slipping roads multiple times descending, he’s not faultless – and he has actually been reigned in by Sky trying to attack on a descent quite a few times… so don’t think it’s that much of a loss. Bardet is the nutter to watch…

      • Bardet tried to put Sky under pressure on the Pic de Nore descent, only to overcook a corner, foot out mowing the berm grass with his spokes…

        Meanwhile Brailsford tries to put out the anti-Sky vibe fire with gasoline by saying it’s a French cultural thing. LMAO here… it would be a very sick joke if he manages to provoke the public into solving his leader problem for him…

        • It’s a funny one this…

          I was thinking the same – why stoke the fire?

          But then again… why not? It’s not going to get better? Why roll over and not call it out for fear of being rude? He does have a point, being spat it is pretty nasty… I don’t really think anyone who’s coming to do something against Sky will read his comments in all honesty, the feeling’s already there so why not have a go at those who’s instigated it?

          I’ve thought for months that Froome not standing up for himself at any point more vociferously was possibly a mistake because he’s be walked all over… it’s can’t really be any worse than it is now… so why not stick up for yourself? Dignity’s great, but people thinking he’s a cheat will last a lifetime so what good is it then?

          • @Duncan, why not stoke the fire?

            I guess because it’s never a good idea to suggest the behaviour of a few loonatics is in the genes of a whole nation… The arguments used are false too: The booing and spitting happens only in France. Sure, but this race is the biggest of them all. While other races attract mostly cycling fans, the Tour attracts well… everybody in for a party, a selfie of himself as a running idiot or even some hooliganism if you will. Froome got booed in ‘Dutch corner’ on the Alpe too. Possibly the only cycling races that have more drunk idiots lining the parcours are Belgian CX races and those have double fencing lining the whole lap.

            Standing up for yourself: I totally agree. This way? Not making things better I think. And I’m Dutch, so I am pretty used to people making rude comments ;-).

        • He is kind of right, it is a French thing. We just don’t like people like him and people at Sky, people that are full of themselves or haughty. It’s our thing, this is what we do and we do it very well thank you.

          On the Moscon thing, I’d be very surprised if they sacked him. He’s too good a rider for them to get rid of. If it’d had been a rider they could easily replace (like David Lopez or Lukas Wisniowski), he’d been gone. If Sky didn’t sack him after his racist remark on Reza, they’re definitely not going to sack him after throwing a punch.

          Either Moscon is a horrible person or he has issues. I kind of hope it’s the second as his issues can be sorted. Could just be a case of too much too soon.

          • Not liking people who are full of themselves or haughty is one thing.
            Spitting at a21 year old woman because she is driving a sky team car or wearing a team sky shirt is unacceptable in any circumstance.
            I hope you are not trying to justify that sort of behaviour by explaining it as the French love of the underdog

          • “We just don’t like people like him and people at Sky, people that are full of themselves or haughty. It’s our thing, this is what we do and we do it very well thank you.”

            Neither full of yourself nor haughty, Gargatouf. Well done!

            The French not liking people who are haughty? You really could not make this shit up.

          • Yeah… I don’t see anything wrong with hating Sky.

            I dislike some sports people, sometimes probably without good reason.

            And I guess in sense I get that when dislike goes into spitting and stuff it gets a little over the top. I always disliked those photos of footballers getting abuse at the corner flag. Maybe I’m a wimp.

            I just feel people should sit down and think it through – think what if they’re getting information that gets warped in transit and if they met these people they’re not as arrogant and rude as they might seem in the media etc etc.

            For my two pennies worth – I get the feeling that Sky are quite determined and focused only on what they do, and this can come across as more arrogant than it may actually be in real life.

      • @ Davo and Tom,

        It was just a tongue in cheek comment as to how French people are generally perceived. Nothing more. I obviously do not condemn spitting on members of staff or riders, even if it’s Chris Froome 😉

  6. Dumoulin’s presence effectively precludes Thomas “gifting” Froome the lead, as Sky would then risk a 2-3 finish. This will make for exciting racing, as the key to victory is to power up the mountains and through the time trial. May the best man win!

  7. re the 65km stage, the big leads for the breakaways over the last 2 stages mean that Egan Bernal has now dropped out of the top 20, so Froome & Thomas will not have a domestique immediately to hand at the gridded start.

    Of course, this could change back again after Tuesday.

    • Although most of the key GC contenders won’t have a domestic to hand on this stage, at least not immediately; I’m sure it will settle down to business as usual pretty quick.
      The only real contender with good help is Roglic with Kruijswijk. Dumoulin rarely has help in the mountains at the best of times.

  8. thanks for the great previews and analysis. Typo after team competition photo care not car ‘Elsewhere Movistar lead the team competition which we may not care for but teams do, ‘

  9. I am all in for G all he has to do is sit on Froome and Dumoulin and not lose too much time and he looks strong the yellow gifts him 10 watts.

    I thought i saw some weakness from Dumoulin on the climbs and Froome.

    Bardet & Roglic the only other likely challengers so they will need to roll the dice to mix it up.

    I see the biggest challenge for Sky is the stage 7 – 65KM special, can they get organised quick enough? Will they have the legs for that fast pace? will they get smashed apart like in the Vuelta?

    Exciting days indeed

  10. I’m completely with Anonymous above about Quintana, but I’d put it more aggressively: Why aren’t Froome and Dumoulin cooked from the Giro? Everyone else who’s tried the double has failed miserably. We haven’t seen their third week, but even the most-decorated GC rider of recent years and confirmed doper Alberto Contador couldn’t manage what they’re managing.

    I’m not trying to insinuate doping or anything nefarious, I simply don’t understand how the very best TTers in the world can also be light enough to go toe-to-toe or better with skinny whippets like Bardet, Martin, Quintana etc. And it’s not like those guys are over-hyped either, all have set all-time-record speeds on long ascents. I wish Porte and Nibali were still in it, because I find it really weird seeing three champion time-triallists (four if you include Roglic) able to keep pace and even drop Bardet et al on 9% gradients.

    When Dumoulin won the Giro, everyone said it was because all these climbs are ‘power climbs’. If that’s the case, and TTers can go up a ‘power climb’ as fast as a pure climber, why is the parcours full of them? What climbs *aren’t* power climbs, given Froome increased his lead on the Angliru in the Vuelta, and won on the Zoncolan?

    Fans have been talking for years about the trimming down of TT kms, which depending on who you ask is either due to poor TV ratings, or due to the growing ability of specialists to pull out huge gaps in short distances (imagine having over 120km TT nowadays – Dumoulin et al could be six, eight minutes ahead or more after that). But maybe we should be asking about ‘power climbs’ and rueing their inclusion in every GT race? Seems pointless to be a climber these days as it seems to be very rare these guys win stages or GC at all. Yates in the Giro was a rare moment of joy for a pure-climber-lover like me, even if a bit tainted by his previous ban. Just as the TdF tries to tilt the Green jersey away from Sagan towards the sprinters, shouldn’t it also think about tilting the yellow away from Froome and towards a different type of rider?

    Quintana is another subject I suppose – it does seem baffling he can’t keep pace, even allowing for the fact that he struggles on hot days. I hope he’s not another EBH, a hot young rider who becomes a mediocre mature rider, but his performance in Tour de Suisse didn’t suggest that – on the contrary, it was monstrously strong and long raid. If it is the heat alone, he needs to drop that Sueño Amarillo and focus on the Giro!

    • I’d look at it like this. What do you need to be a really good time trialist? A big engine and the ability to put out a relatively high amount of power for a relatively long time. Once you have that, you have the basis of everything, and you just need to be tuned to be more peaky if you want to win the classics (like Cancellara) or more skinny if you want to win Grand Tours. Modern science and training allows them to be nearly as light as the super whippets. ‘All’ Bardet, Quintana etc have is lightness. Froome, Dumoulin and Thomas are nearly as light, and more powerful over a long period of time. They are just generally better cyclists, and when you look at it like that it shouldn’t be a surprise that they win.

      As for the recovery from the Giro I’m less sure. Maybe Froome and Dumoulin are both once in a general superfreaks that are overlapping a little bit like Anquetil and Merckx, Merckx and Hinault, Hinault and Lemond, and Lemond and Indurain did. (Note all of those were excellent time trialists who could climb)

      • Agree wholeheartedly with this. The era of stick thin, mountain goats winning grand tours, is all but over.

        Movistar could be so much more capable tactically when you look at the team they have. Seems they are a lot less organised, old-fashioned and romantic with their tactics.

        If they copied Dumoulin and just sat on the Sky train with the talent they have and actually admitted who their leader was, they’d be much nearer.

        Soler, Valverde, Landa leading Quintana to the finish a la Sky. Then looking for a 1-2 15% section to launch Quintana on to make diff. He can’t compete below 10%.

    • On your first point – why aren’t Froome and Dumoulin cooke from the Giro?

      There was an extra week than there is normally since the Tour held back to accommodate the World Cup. Whether that means they should be the strongest (and that every 4 years everyone should do the double?) is another matter entirely…

      …but the extra week means that they’re less cooked than Contador in 2011/2015 and Quintana in 2017 would have been.

      • I’m not sure Dumoulin and Froome aren’t cooked from the giro. It looks like Thomas is just the beneficiary of the fatigue they have accumaleted (and the fact, that Quintana isn’t at his best)

        • I was thinking the same thing (especially with Roglic and Kruijswijk sitting 4th and 7th), but it’s worth to point out that none of the other climber contenders seem to be sharp enough. I’m thinking about Bardet, Landa, Martin and Zakarin. Are they effected by their injuries? Will they peak in the third week? I expected at least one of these riders to be very-very close to Froome or Domu at the end of the second week.

    • On the subject of the Giro GC riders being less cooked than normal, in addition to the extra week between the races, there have been several stages of this year’s TDF that have been so easily ridden they have scarcely been races. It’s an old cliche that there are “no easy days at the Tour” but this year there have been several, either slow ambles across the countryside before a sprint or the main peloton sitting up and soft peddling while a break contests the stage (such as yesterday’s). If it was on from the flag dropping to the finish line as recent editions have been I think Froome, Dumoulin and others would not be sitting quite so pretty.

    • Kit,
      In regards to your two examples of Giro/TDF doubles, I think Alberto was in the tail end of his career and Quintana just isn’t as good as people thought, hoped or wanted.

    • And again to point out a misnomer in the ‘giro double’ line — this is Froome’s FOURTH GT in a row, not just the second. Yes,two were before the off season, but it’s still an anomaly as far as I can tell to be at the pinnacle of the pack for so many consecutive races (he’s won them all so far).

      In regards to the ‘why’… there are only so many variables to tweak:
      – training plans (TT miles, etc),
      – nutrition (ketogenic baseline w/1:1 carbo refeeding during race?),
      – recovery process,
      – team composition/budget;

      Could also be genetics and physiological differences among phenotypes meaning it’s more of a recruitment difference (ie there are only so many Froomes/Dumoulins out there to sign).

      In regards to considering team composition being a factor (basically the benefit of getting towed around in a draft for 70% of the race miles, and limiting race errors/mishap time penalties), the most noticeable difference is budget, really. But Giant is not Sky, and they are doing OK managing two tours in a row.

      But riders & staff from SKY have been poached to other WT teams, and I don’t see a noticeable outcome change, so I’m stumped. I see a growth of ‘natural EPO doping’ Mt Tiede camps; GC riders living part of the year at altitude.

      So yeah, I’m stumped to put together a coherent image of what it takes to do this. And as everyone says: besides Froome already proving he can do two GCs back to back, we’ll see how Dirty D does in the final week before making any proclamations.

      • this is the sort of thing I’m talking about in the training/nutrition/recovery section. this is old news so it’s no secret and therefore I wonder if it’s concepts are widely used, and if they are, if there is a large delta of physiological response to it. It’s pretty indepth just a warning:

        it could partially explain the late bloomers somewhat if the adaptations they discuss are drastic for some.

  11. If something were to happen to Dumoulin to take him out of contention what would be the chances of Sky forcing/asking Thomas to allow Froome to win? Froome is just a pesky unusually in form team-mate away from doing the Giro-Tour double, winning 4 Grand Tours on the bounce and winning his fifth Tour. That’s some serious history, it would put him up there with everyone in Grand Tour terms, only behind Merckx and Hinault due to them having won the classics as well. Would he be sporting and magnanimous enough to just say ‘yeah, Gerraint was better than me this month’? It would be hugely unpopular but then Sky have been so incredibly bad at PR for the last 2 years that I wouldn’t put it past them. Its not like its unheard of in motorsports, but as far as I’m aware it would be a first in cycling for it to be so overt rather than just a slightly better team mate being forced into losing time through doing donkey work? It would be a pretty funny sight seeing Dave Brailsford stand in front of Thomas for 2 minutes after the count down before allowing him to set off for his time trial.

    • I honestly don’t think Sky care who wins or comes 2nd so long as they are both in Sky kits. From the riders’ point of view I’m sure Froome can afford to be magnanimous in defeat with 6 wins total and the 3 in a row. Thomas won’t believe he’s won until he’s in Paris since he never really expected it.

      The bigger problem is going forward if Sky suddenly have two genuine GC contenders and not merely Froome picking what he wants.

      Thomas is going to win. He isn’t Simon Yates.

      • There is no way Froome would ever give up a TdF win in his grasp. I don’t know who you think he is, but he’s an alpha-killer. I suspect he would go so far as to go against team orders if he thought he could bring it home. The only way he’s giving it up is if he doesn’t have confidence in the overall win after putting the screws to Thomas. He’s a smiling shark (not saying it derogatorily).

        And I don’t think Thomas is going to give it up either if Brailsford says to. So what if they fire him (they probably wouldn’t), he’s now a GT winner and worth +1M to his contract, and lots of people would be sympathetic to his position. Thomas is no rube either and knows whats up, you can tell.

        Then Brailsford will quickly move behind whoever wins and quash any intra-team issues and be like ‘this was the plan all along’. and the game marches on.

    • It may not be Sky (the cycling team) that makes the decision. Sky (the corporation) may have a distinct preference based not on sporting merit, but on reputational risk.

      • Not sure what “reputational risk” you mean. Froome was cleared if my memory serves me right. And Sky (the corporation) paid for it. Not so much as a sniff of scandal has ever been attached to Thomas.

      • I’m sure Sky could make a lot more mileage out of Thomas winning than Froome. To the average man in the street winning all these GTs means very little but a new winner brings all sorts of marketing opportunities.

  12. Is it really true that Thomas is unusually crash prone or is there a bit of a confirmation bias thing going on? Does anyone record crash stats?

    • I think confirmation bias.

      It’s not like the Giro crash where Kelderman clipped the Police Moto and fell in to him was his fault.

      Or when Barguil T-boned him on a corner sending him in to a lamp-post and down a verge was either.

      Some others have been his fault (Dauphiné TT), but, I remember Froome, for example, crashing more. Kruijswijk has a couple of high profile ones – a Giro and a Vuelta one.

      So, to cite ‘crash prone’, I think it applies to others too… To the point of it not even needing mentioning really.

  13. I really hope the outcome isn’t decided by another crash; there have been way too many this year.

    Which brings me to my next point: while the Roubaix stage was undoubtedly exciting its impact on riders and the race as a whole was disproportionate. Frankly I don’t really like seeing rider after rider hitting the deck. Much as I love Paris-Roubaix I don’t think a cut down version should be part of a grand tour. A bit of gravel or Flanderian style cobbles maybe but not 15 sector/22km of Roubaix tracks.

    Anyway thanks Mr Rng for the great daily coverage.

    • +1. This echoes a comment I made in an earlier thread that was justifiably deleted. I loved the Degenkolb win – it almost had me in tears, but the toll on the day itself (and I don’t mean Porte) and subsequent days removed a good number of GC contestants and sprinters out of the race. I love the cobbles but I think PR is at the end of the cobbled classics season for a reason – it provides a grande finale but also time to heal up and rest for those taking part. Yet – if they include a similar stage somewhere in the future I will be again glued to the screen.

    • i agree on PR stage. Not that every stage before they hit the mtns and create time gaps (and greater fatigue) isn’t a minefield for gc riders — but the PR stage was insane with the risks and commitment from every teammate to be there for his gc rider. I also agree that it was addictive drama.
      I know Roubaix is in the wrong place geographically for the Tour to hit after 2 weeks — but i can’t imagine it not being a LOT safer (and less catastrophic to so many GC guys). Just watching the last 2 stages and how riders are too tired to battle for every split makes me think there would be fewer crashes. I picked Roglic before the tour, so I’m ready to get my fan on for a guy who seems to have miraculously navigated the crash/flat/mechanical issues as well as anyone.

    • Dumoulin beat him into second by 49 seconds on a 40km, similarly lumpy, TT on the Giro last year. I think you could say good enough.

      • Wasn’t that one or two days after Thomas crashed into the motorbike though? And he did win the opening TT at last years TDF (albeit it was short and flat).

        Overall though I agree that he is good enough, he’ll probably lose a bit of time but not the 90+ seconds which Dumoulin/Froome would need to take the lead.

    • Given that he’s a team pursuit world champion and national TT champ I hazard a guess that yes, he’s pretty good.
      Saying that he’ll probably still lose a bit to big D but not in the realms of Bardet.

      • Funny question this…. as in yes he is superb…. but Dumoulin is exceptional!

        Thomas is in the top bracket of TT riders, easily top15 in world, below the specialists but no by much.. especially if he concentrated on it.

        I agree with all the above, losing 1.30+ to his closest competitors would be a surprise.

        • I think Dumoulin could realistically take 30 seconds from Froome & a minute from Thomas.

          i.e it is still very much game on and Sky dont have the advantage necessary to afford to play silly buggers and impose team orders.

  14. Wednesday’s stage of 65km is going to be like a youth race where each rider must do their own thing to the max. After Col d’Azet the roads are so twisty, narrow and downright dangerous* that everyone knows it will be all about positioning before they drop off the top. Domestiques must try to bridge up to team mates who went first over the Peyresourde, as if that will be possible when they are being started in a grid made up of GC waves and the top GC will need to chase only each other. It’s going to be a bundle up every climb, but especially the Col d’Azet.
    ..And I’ll be squinting through my fingers while they drop down into Saint Lary.
    Then it will be a proper scramble on wide level roads to get to the final climb.

    *Azet and Estensan have houses directly on the road and there are stone walls around some of the fields. You get air at some junctions and come blind into exposed turns that are not graded in the usual way, this being an old-established way to mountain villages. I only remember the Col d’Azet being ridden the other direction so they’re coming down a climb that’s given as 8km at 9%. The side up from Loudenvielle is proper lacets with easy turns. I really fear some riders will be under huge pressure to push on and worry that the road will be blocked with crashes or support vehicles. Teams will need a second lot of cars at the ready and it’s a proper long way round through Arreau.
    So let’s hope everyone stays safe and leaves only what they want to out on the road.

    • this is the stage that must worry Sky as the least controllable… there are so many potential scenarios. Maybe the front foot is the best form of defense – ie Froome/Poels go with any early breakers, and Thomas (+Castro/Kwiat/Bernal) sits on Dumooulin and Roglic…

    • fantastic description — I’m on the edge of my seat just reading this.

      I’ve sort of dismissed this stage as going to be a bust, but now I’m reconsidering my position…

  15. I think the race is very finely poised, and I will be interested to see how it plays out. All of Thomas, Froome and Dumoulin have question marks, Thomas on third week form, and Giro fatigue for Dumoulin/Froome, while Roglic is lurking behind them and is bit more unknown – I think the winner will come from one of those four riders, I can’t see Bardet, Landa, Quintana or anyone else getting enough margin to still be ahead after the TT.

    In my view, the three mountain stages will all reward a good descender willing to take risks:
    – The approach to the Portillon is a long drag up the valley road which helps the Sky train, but there are steep parts in the middle of the climb and from 1.5k to 500m to go and a steep and technical descent right to the line which would encourage a late attack and fast descent.
    – The final descent on the 65km stage is by all accounts dangerous, although I’ve not ridden it so can’t comment. The Portet is long enough to favour a rider who still has a teammate/teammates, but it’s also quite steep so the effect (aside from the pacing aspect) is probably quite small.
    – The last few km of the Aubisque is steep enough to attack and it has a steep descent almost to the line. If the group is still together at the top of the Soulour I could see a rider/riders attempt to jump away and go on the descent. The approach to the Soulour isn’t the usual one though, they go over the Borderes, steeper and more uneven than the usual route which may help to break up the Sky train – which is now a man down thanks to Moscon’s idiocy.

    Froome, Dumoulin and Roglic have all shown themselves to be good descenders, bit more of a question mark over Thomas. Attacking over the summit/on descents increases the chance that someone does a Kruiswijk 2016 and crashes out trying to follow, which could further mix things up.

    As an aside, I rode up the Pic de Nore to watch yesterday’s stage, the first time I’ve watched a TDF mountain stage. Cracking day out, would highly recommend it to anyone who’s never done it before. It also reminded me why cycling is so great, turn up at a football stadium the morning of a game and ask to have a kickabout and they’ll laugh in your face; turn up the morning of a TDF stage and you can ride up the same road as the pros just a few hours before them, yesterday really brought that home to me.

  16. Excellent review, thanks! First, your “…remember that in recent years Froome has hardly taken any time in the mountains on his rivals in the Tour” phrase certainly goes against the consensus here based on the howls about my complaints on Froome’s boring “Mow ’em down in the crono, defend in the mountains” past racing strategy.
    Now some comments on comments – why is anyone who goes fast downhill described with words like “nutter”? I think all these expert descenders will tell you they ride within their abilities and use their good judgement about how fast to go. Of course now and then they get it wrong, as Nibali has a time or two, but I just don’t understand why some call these people “nutters”.
    That brings me to the “downright dangerous” claim for the descent of Col d’Azet. Maybe for you, but don’t you think the Tour organizers have been down this road a time or two? Your claim reminds me of the silly “Crostis Affair” in the Giro a few years ago where a bunch of whiners caused the stage to be rerouted. Racing a bicycle is rather dangerous in general and nobody (yet anyway, perhaps Velon will get there?) is asking anyone to race through flaming hoops or fly across motocross style jumps – so “downright dangerous” just sounds like Chicken Little’s “The sky is falling”
    On the subject of SKY, after Gianni Moscon’s previous antics were cited by SKY it was said any further problems of this sort would see him terminated. Will they wimp out on another “zero-tolerance” policy by claiming this act of violence against another racer was not racially motivated, so he just gets some silly penalty as INRNG noted?

    • Descending is a funny thing, Larry. It’s one of the only things I do well on a bike, and people tell me I am crazy. But I think of myself as a risk-adverse old guy with kids etc. It’s just like anything- if you work at it, you can be efficient and fast.

    • I fear that the use of ‘nutter’ by a Brit of a certain age is yet another example of nations seperated by a common language – I know how you love these, Larry! Most slang terms referencing mental illness might now be considered offensive in polite society, but ‘you absolute nutter’ yelled between friends in my childhood years clearly conveyed amazement and respect.

      • Nick – Fabio Casartelli lost his life on Portet d’Aspet so do they need to avoid this too? And should the Giro avoid Passo del Bocco as well since that’s where Weyland crashed? A bunch of whiners were responsible for the Crostis mess, one of them named Riis I recall, using the danger argument to cover the fact his real objection was he couldn’t drive his team car over it to yell at his riders.
        Steve – thanks but I’ve heard “crazy” “insane” “death-wish” “maniac” and the like used by people who don’t seem to understand why riders would go downhill any faster than they (the ones who say “nutter”) think is safe. Reminds me of the old-guy blocking the fast-lane of the motorway, yelling that anyone wanting to go faster than he’s going must be a “wild-eyed maniac!”

  17. So a big question I have is how much has G improved since this:
    and this

    The Giro last year not dissimilar in length and type and lost a good chunk. What kind of gap will he need therefore to take into the ITT? Really can’t get enough of the grand tours this year. Excellent races no matter what some individuals are on certain teams.

    • Thomas was suffering enough from his injuries to pull out two days later but even then he could lose twice as much per kilometre and still finish in front of Dumoulin.

    • The Basque TT is very different, it’s full of steep climbs and twisting roads. You’d use a TT bike of course but will be using the front derailleur a lot. It’s a test of freshness more than aerodynamics, of who can spring up the first climb and jump out of the corners.

  18. Current Odds, and remember the bookies are never wrong!
    (Forgive me, these are quoted in British style, can never remember how to convert to US points)
    Thomas 21/20 so evens more or less
    Froome 13/8
    Dumoulin 13/2
    Roglic 28/1
    Barnet 150/1
    So there’s some value out there, especially if you believe in a Thomas third week collapse.

    • The bookies are never wrong – they’re just not telling you what most people think they are. They’re reflecting the money in the market, not the chances of winning.

  19. Our host Mr.INRNG noted that Mister Thomas was accident prone. But, honestly, Porte seems to be more accident prone–at the TdF at least. It doesn’t surprise me that he’s out of it by now. There’s a theory about why some riders get more flats or crash more than others: Pushing their limits. Let’s wait and see about who else is pushing their limits–and their luck–at this year’s Tour. It ain’t over ’til they’re sipping champagne on the road to Paris!

    • No one is more accident prone that Geraint!!!!

      I have never seen a rider crash more than Thomas.
      You just haven’t been watching the right races!

      Thomas has crash I would estimate in 80% of the races he’s raced in the last 3 years at some point.

    • Was Porte “pushing his limit” this time when he crashed basically just out of the neutral zone on the cobbled stage ? Almost certainly not. And 2016 into the moto on the ventoux? Also no. Last years crash was perhaps the case, but your comment doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

  20. Intersting that Sean Ingle is now in France to see how his release of Froome’s AAF and associated reporting of it as anti dopung positive is impacting on the atmosphere of the race.

    He apoears to be inflaming the situation further by reporting Brailsford’s concerns as an attack on the French.

    it must take a special type of person to do that & feel no guilt or responsibility.

    • Isn’t sidekick Martha Kelner with him too? After all, what every good unconscionable expose of a guy who has done no wrong needs is someone who has no history of interest in the sport telling it like it is.

      Ingle and Kelner have a lot to answer for.

    • I have to admit I’m fully on board with this.
      Sean Ingle’s piece comparing Mo & Froome which basically said how much he hated what people do to Mo and then did exactly the same to Froome still bugs me a year later.

      Not saying Froome is innocent but irresponsible journalism.
      He’s not the only one though, and I doubt the French were reading!

    • Er… Dumoulin? We already know? Dumoulin is the best in the world? It’s only interesting if Geraint has an advantage going into the TT.

      • Froome and Dumoulin did a week 3 ITT only two months ago. The difference? 13 seconds. Tom can be no surer he’d beat Froome right now than Froome is he could hold him off. This isn’t some set piece ITT at which Tom excels. Its a week 3 struggle to see what you’ve got left and on an up and down and twisty course rather than flat, straight roads as well. And that levels the playing field against Tom.

  21. Froome won’t do anything but mark the moves. He can’t attack Thomas, but will have to hope that Thomas blows up. If he attacks, and Thomas can’t go, but one of their rivals does and then beats Froome Froome not only destroys his chances, but also Thomas’s.
    By sitting back and waiting for Dumoulin to attack they follow in the wheel. If Dumoulin then blows he’s in a world of hurt and likely loses more time. As the stages go on the pressure to claw aback the time increases on him. The same is true of other GC rivals, but they have an even bigger task. Given their time losses came from racing they will only throw caution to the wind towards the end of a stage for fear of losing more time.
    Froome and Thomas are likely to throw the old one-two of Froome leading while Thomas ‘looses’ his wheel. Forcing competitors to jump and pull Thomas across to Froome. It softens up the opposition.and makes it harder for their opponents to make searing attacks.
    The short stage is likely to be an eye opener, but I actually think that the class of Sky’s Team will mean that it’ll be Team Sky against the climbers. Perhaps a Quintana win, given his failures in this edition of the Tour so far. It’ll be from the gun whatever happens.

    • We’ve all seen that Froome is a winner and I’m sure that he will attack Thomas if he still looks good at the end of the week. It will be on Thomas to defend his jersey and it’s fine. It will be very hard for Dumoulin (or anyone else) to use this against them and steal the victory at that point.

      • I don’t think Froome will do that. Not after the situation with Wiggins, and the team will not want that. He’d be shitting on his own door step given the selfless work his domestiques undertake. If he ever wants his riders to ride for him he can’t be shown to crap on one of them when they are performing better than him.

        • Makes sense unless, as I pointed out earlier that he knows his career is at or close to its end and he won’t have another chance to get 5 victories. Thomas is no spring-chicken either so will he care about any team orders? Neither one of these guys is going to get canned for ignoring team orders as long as they “Just Win Baby!” Moscon probably won’t get canned either despite the rhetoric from the SKY boss.

  22. In regards to the sometimes aggressive fans, and what to do, I think the most effective way to change the narrative is for the riders to strike. Protest, refuse to race a stage and just roll through and make it clear the riders won’t tolerate it.

    It’s a drastic action, but if the riders are really on SKY’s side in this, that’s the way to get the fans to actually care and to reflect. It’s not the media stirring up polemics, or one team complaining about nothing.

    The French love a good strike anyway, it’s perfect!

    • There’s only a handful of aggressive or idiotic fans, I’d suggest people avoid falling into Dave Brailsford’s clumsy “the French” take on things, which probably informs us more about the stress of the Sky boss than it does the state of an entire country, most of whom aren’t even by the road.

      • It only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch.

        Nibali is gone, I think that’s one GC rider too many. If the fans policed themselves, all the heavy handed state security measures (ie the motos clogging the road) wouldn’t be as necessary. I’m not even just talking about the actions against SKY, I mean the spectators running alongside the riders, crowding the road, or setting off smoke bombs.

        The most brazen build an ecosystem out, changes social norms of behavior.

      • Mr Inrng, is it “clumsy” when you consider this didn’t happen in the Giro only 2 months ago when Froome hadn’t even been cleared at the time? Of course its not “all” French fans but the contrast between France in July and Italy in May could not be more stark.

        • There is a different culture in France to drugs in sports than in Italy and Spain, where there seems much tolerance of doping. France has always a bit more of a puritanical approach to it to the point it is a criminal act. This cultural resonance does seem to be a feature of the TdF, when it isn’t of other races.

          The famous one is of the fans dressed up as needles chasing Lance.

      • Reading the stuff Brailsford said today made me wonder if SKY has hired Nigel LaFarge, Boris Johnson or gawd….Donald Trump as PR director? SKY spends millions so this a-hole can go around insulting and inflaming people? Amazing. Ask again why people jeer, boo (and worse) these people? This rant should be exhibit #1.

      • „Clumsy“??? Really? I have a very different word for that! He knew exactly what he said.

        Plus I hate how he purposely muddies the water (divide and conquer), with „it never is this way in Italy and Spain“, when these are totally different scenarios (plus I seem to remember that froome got spat on during a giro too and I saw pictures of this year’s giro with people burning flares and others running along riders, screaming in their ears – but sure, it is only the TdF, where all is so bad…). It is very simple: sky hasn‘t strangled the giro or the vuelta for years and destroyed the race and the joy of the race with their respectless way as they did it in France. When sky blocks the giro for 5 or 6 years in a row and strangles every life out of the race, things will be very, very different for them there, too. Plus at this giro we all were still sure froome would be suspended one day.

        And the way brailsford makes this a „global vs french“ thing – last time I checked there were lots of non french teams in the Tour and they all get supported and cheered on. Nibali for example gets lots of respect and love from the people. But he also respects people back, he honours the race and other riders and that counts. He also is humble. So the problem is not french vs the world, the problem is simply sky. If it is so awful to race in France, I have a very easy solution, which would make almost everybody happy (the only ones unhappy would be the english people, but sky is their problem, can’t help with that): Don’t do it. Stay away. Please! I am pretty sure, that nobody sheds a tear, when sky stay out of the TdF (much better: of all races). Actually, I am wrong, many will probably shed a tear of joy.

        One could almost think brailsford wants his riders to get attacked, so the TdF gets further damaged. Why else does he kindle like this? Madiot and Guimard both gave excellent interviews these days. Both said very true things about sky and how it are always the others, never them, who is at fault and how they act as if they want to colonialise the TdF. I almost hope for a no deal brexit, so sky has it a bit more difficult to race in Europe.

        team sky is a destructive, negatve force in cycling and as long as they are around, it will only ever get worse for cycling. We are in steady decline. Maybe, if brailsford would go, the team could become a normal, human team, and then, with a change of attitude, they would be totally welcomed, but with brailsford it will stay a negative, arrogant, cold and destructive outsider, happy to spoil the show for anyone else. Cycling deserves so much better than team sky.

        • I agree he knew what he was doing. Circling the wagons, a la Alex Ferguson, to foster a tight knit team spirit… everyone who wants to already hates us anyway etc etc… possibly to try and become the villain to take some heat off the riders also…

        • In all fairness, both Madiot and Brailsford deal in jingoistic diatrabe when it suits them. Not sure Brailsford’s rest day comments will help matters at all, they only serve to shore up sympathy in his domestic market, which to be fair, is maybe all he cares about.

        • So, what is respect now? Has cycling descended into a Kindergarten sport now? Hey, Froome, you’ve got the ball/bike long enough, pass it around to other kids, you will have your turn again later.

          Are we doing pro-wrestling now? If winning is not showing respect, then I’d rather cycling not getting respected. As for all that talk about Froome cheating, baseless insenuiation is still baseless insenuiation however emotionally you put it.

          Cycling deserves better than this non-sense.

          • Sorry, that I didn‘t make it clear enough: As we all know, even when we are childs, you get respect back, when you are respectful. sky never was. Guimard gave an excellent interview these days and he made a wonderful point about that. They didn‘t enter cycling to take part in it, they tried to use it, colonialise it (this was one of the first things, that stood out to me right from the start and funnily I used exactly that word).

            sky don‘t dominate the classics, they don‘t dominate the stage races, till now they didn‘t dominate the giro or vuelta. All they dominate is the TdF – and it is logical, that the severest push back comes from there. I wish all would have pushed back and stood up for cycling in general, but it is what it is. Should sky damage other races like it damages the TdF, things will change very fast.

            It is sky, that made this about nationality from the get go, with their cringeworthy „I want to win the Tour with a brit. And then with a french guy.“ and other stuff, like it is some nasty experiment from 1933. Of course, that was brailsford, btw. This isn’t about sky per se, this would be about any team, that acts the way sky did from the very beginning. I am not too fond of sunweb, too, but they are miles apart from sky. Just as Nibali said a few weeks ago: It is only sky, that stands aside, takes not part in anything and antagonises everybody.

            They respect nobody, look down on others and that is a huge reason, why they can‘t get any respect back. Simple as that.

          • Well, you are a Nibali fan. Hate to break it to you, even many of my Italian friends thought he is too much of a crying baby. And I wouldn’t consider somebody who balently holding onto a team car in order to win and then complain about “everybody else is doing it” with not a hint of remorse as showing respect to cycling and being humble. See, how easy it is to go hateful against a rider. And I can go on about the shorten your crank joke all day if you want.

            By the way, complain about “they came for the money with no love for the sport” after being beaten fair and square is classical “sour grape”; and you are complaining Sky’s showing of aspirations as not respect cycling. If that is not showing respect, we’d all be still living in caves if we stay respectful. And to be honest, every team show their aspirations with TDF at the start of the season and the only difference between them and Sky is that most of them fail whilst Sky is successful. If the definition of stay respectful is to show no aspirations and fall short of your target, I’d rather my kids be the most disrespectful ones in the world.

            Your issue with Sky is that they are not the team you support and Froome is not the rider you like. So please don’t wave this “respectfulness” moral high ground here.

          • FYI, calling Guimard’s sour grape out when he mindless repeating a groundless popular sentiment is my way of showing respect to indepdent thinking rather than bow down to authority.

          • @Anonymous

            The nationalism accusation isn’t fair: It’s clear that French spectators would love to have a French winner too. It’s just human nature. (Barguil has just joined a French team as a response to this I think.)

            As for Nibali: he has adopted many of Sky’s methods, such as altitude training on Teide. He also has a short fuse: He threw a bottle for no reason at Froome after a crash that was caused by Tony Martin. He’s been expelled from the Vuelta, and he won the TdF a few months before several Astana riders were done for doping. Imagine if that was a Sky rider.

            And as for dominating the TdF: Is it Sky’s fault that the others guys crash out (Porte, Nibali) get injured (Landa) or just underperform (Quintana) ?

            Above all people seem to want cycling to go back to the fictitious ‘good old days’, but Sky have changed the sport forever and people will just have to deal with that.

          • @Anonymous.

            So in your own words, “team sky is a destructive, negatve force in cycling and as long as they are around, it will only ever get worse for cycling. We are in steady decline.” This is followed in your next comment by “sky don‘t dominate the classics, they don‘t dominate the stage races, till now they didn‘t dominate the giro or vuelta. All they dominate is the TdF”.

            So what you really don’t like is that Sky have won multiple TdFs. It comes across that it’s even worse because it’s a British backed team even if the majority of riders and DS’s come from other countries. Why don’t you admit that for all your bluster, you don’t care about cycling per se but the ‘loss’ of the TdF to Sky? That way you can have that opinion without needing to make up stuff like a lack of respect etc.

  23. As Sky can’t get the train flying along if they want to be sure of dumping Dumoulin (oops unintended pun), what are their tactics going to be? Send Froome on a long-range attack to force Diesel Tom to do all the work? Oh wait….I know how that one ends!

  24. So far this Tour has lacked a swashbuckler leader, leading a willing team to rip the shreds into Sky, to take advantage of course and weather conditions. Somebody such as a Contador. Who else in the present or near future is going to fill that roll to bring us some real competition. Its been a bloody Gentleman’s Excuse me so far! Mind you it goes with the “softies” that inhibit the sport now!

    • To be fair, Crashbike did give it a go, but rather than putting serious stress on Sky, it just meant that the other GC teams came forward and helped them out. The problem isn’t so much a lack of characters to attack; it’s that if anyone did, everyone else would defend their top 10 placing and shut it down, rather than looking at Sky and saying ‘your race to lose’.

      • “such as a Contador” the meaning being a rider “like” a Contador, in an attacking style Do try to see the bigger picture rather than your narrow blinkered vision!

Comments are closed.