Tour de France Stage 17 Preview

The stage that caused many intakes of breath when it was unveiled last October will now cause even more. Just 65km and barely a metre of flat roads, there’s even a theatrical grid for the riders on the startline.

A la Julian: a relentless start to the race, it took 100km before the day’s breakaway went clear and wave after wave of attacks were reeled in. The race was briefly stopped by protesting farmers who were cleared off the road by force, including with pepper spray of which the remnants were inhaled by riders on the scene. Back to the racing and 47 riders went up the road, a third of the field and Alaphilippe was active from the start as he sprinted for every mountain point going. The move was packed with climbers as well as plenty who had little chance. Philippe Gilbert had a horror crash down the Portet d’Aspet, locking up his wheels and hitting the parapet by the road to plunge into the woodland below. He was ok and soon up and running, collected the day’s combativity prize but medical checks revealed a broken kneecap and he’s out of the race.

Robert Gesink was one of the heroes of the finish, attacking on the Col de Menté and then again on the Col de Portillon were he was joined by Domenico Pozzovivo, a clash in size and then Bauke Mollema rode over to form a trio that packed more power than elegance. Then Adam Yates, Gorka Izagirre and Marc Soler rode across the lead trio. Alaphilippe – him again – then jumped across and just as he made it Yates attacked. It was a good move and the Briton soon took 30 seconds with Alaphilippe – him again – going solo in pursuit and closing the gap over the climb to have Yates in sight on the descent. Then Yates fell on the descent, he was up quickly but it was too late, Alaphilippe was in the lead and won his second stage. You have to feel for the twins and the races they’ve lost this year. Behind the main GC riders marked each other save for a small move from Fuglsang and Zakarin that was quickly extinguished and Mikel Landa tested his legs. Two points to note:

  • Movistar led the peloton’s chase into the final climb, presumably for the team prize
  • Ag2r La Mondiale sent all their riders into the breakaway except for Romain Bardet and Oliver Naesen, they’re using resources to help Latour’s white jersey bid and left Bardet somewhat exposed.

The Route: starting in Luchon, the race tackles the Col de Peyresourde and then adds on the climb to the ski resort of Peyragudes, almost 15km in length at an average of 6.7%. The road is very wide which will help riders move up places after the motorsport-style starting grid, more theatrical than practical. Early into the climb there’s even a brief descent. Then it’s 7-8% until the village of Saint Aventin where the road levels out, then resumes at 7-8% again. One characteristic of this climb is the wide road, it feels less like a mountain pass at times and more like a boulevard, or at least that’s the relative impression. It’s also got big visibility, riders can see groups ahead. The descent is fast and furious down into Estarvielle and Louvenvielle and then a few flat roads which twist and turn to the day’s intermediate sprint point and then it’s onto Genos and the next climb.

The Col d’Azet is a steep climb with a very steep start. It’s defined by the series short ramps between the tight hairpin bends, perfect terrain to line out a group of riders. The descent down to Azet is the most technical part of the day and arguably the most difficult descent of this year’s race. It’s steep and there are a few irregular bends at the top and then a bumpy road surface. But it’s through the village of Azet that the road resembles a luge piste, only without the cambers.

The Finish: the Col du Portet starts out with a familiar climb, the first 6.5km out of Saint Lary is the same road to the habitual summit finish at Pla d’Adet, a wide but steep road which averages 10% and made harder by the rock wall lining the side of the road that absorbs the sunshine and radiates back heat. There’s a brief flat section at Espiaube and the junction to the “new” road. From here on the road is exposed on the mountain-side and steep for the most part but irregular, the slope changes every few hundred metres. The 6.7% section on the profile above is more about a near-flat section just before the 3km to go point and then it rises all the way to the line.

The Contenders: what chance for the breakaway? It’s possible the GC contenders have a truce at the start of the stage but even if a move tries to pull away early there’s every chance it’s pulled back on the slopes of the Col du Portet, this stage is a decisive day for the GC contenders.

Chris Froome or Geraint Thomas? Or neither? Today’s the day and we’ll see how they fare on the final climb. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) will follow and by virtue of this could well win the stage, just as he pipped Froome at La Rosière.

Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) looks down but not out. He was climbing well on Alpe d’Huez and trying to take time on GC. Does he go for a bold move or sit tight and hope for the stage win? Maybe the latter.

Primož Roglič (Lotto-Jumbo) got the jump on everyone on the climb above Mende, but as much as today is an explosive stage the final climb is a 50 minute effort, longer than Alpe d’Huez. Maybe Steven Kruijswijk is the better pick?

Movistar hold a key to this stage but so far their Trident has all the incision of plastic cutlery accompanying a meal during an economy flight. Nairo Quintana looks more stale than a baguette that’s been left on the back shelf of a car for three days and Alejandro Valverde’s lost his lustre too. Which leaves Mikel Landa as the point man, he’s been sore after crashing hard on the stage to Roubaix so we’ll see if he can turn things around.

Dan Martin (UAE Emirates) is on the margins of the GC which gives him room to operate, he’s got the jump to attack when he wants and the likes of Thomas, Froome and Dumoulin won’t pay him too much mind.

Among the non-GC contenders Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-Scott) stands out, he should be fresh and has been climbing well.

Tom Dumoulin, Chris Froome, Dan Martin
Geraint Thomas, Mikel Landa
Bardet, Roglič, Nieve, Kruijswijk, Quintana

Weather: warm and sunny with a top temperature of 26°C and the chance of a storm at any time during the stage.

TV: live from the start at 3.15pm CEST with the finish forecast for 5.30pm CEST.

  • Col du Portet: it’s the highest point in the race this year and the Henri Desgrange prize is awarded to the first rider to the top. The road has existed ever since the ski station was built, a dirt track to ferry the construction materials for the lifts and more. It was partly tarmacked in the early 1980s in a bid to host a stage of the Tour de France but this never happened leaving the road to crumble and it’s been resurfaced this summer in time for the Tour de France. As well as a new high summit finish in the Pyrenees for the Tour de France, the aim is to offer cyclists Saint Lary Soulan a giant climb
  • Time cut: it’s set at 25% for today

165 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 17 Preview”

  1. As much as I’m looking forward to the Froome / Thomas / Dumoulin battle today, I’m tipping this is the day that Roglic really announces himself as a GT winner in the coming years.

  2. Bardet MUST attack to salvage his tour. And so must Landa – else all that talks about Free Landa remains just that. Among the top three, I see only Froome with an incentive to try anything – to build a buffer on TomD and/or to gain some time on G. Today is the only day Froome can do so, in guise of ‘trying’ to chase back Bardet/ Landa.
    Don’t see Roglic doing well today – too explosive a stage for him IMO. He will try to minimize his losses and hope that one of the top 3 cracks spectacularly. Quintana – stale as a baguette – will try something in vain I suppose.

    • Why don’t you see any incentive for Dumoulin to try something? I’m curious.

      I hope something interesting in the GC happens tomorrow; as great as Thomas’s rides were in his two stage victories, I can’t say I’ve found the GC race too exciting. But I’m sceptical–“fireworks” have been predicted (not necessarily by mssr inrng) for other stages and they’ve fizzled quite a lot.

      • Dumoulin is still banking on the Stage 20 ITT, I think. He doesn’t appear to be someone who will go for a all-or-nothing kind of attack, potentially losing his podium – he has yet to podium at the TdF. I think he will take 2nd overall gleefully – with an ITT win.

    • Froome was reported to say on Monday:
      “I think the dream scenario would be to go into that time trial as we are, first and second on general classification, but with a decent gap on our other rivals, so the victory isn’t in jeopardy in that last time trial. With Tom Dumoulin and Primoz Roglic in 4th as well, two very strong time triallists, that’s a concern, obviously.”

      To me the above suggests that Froome may not even wait for Dum./Bardet/Roglic to attack, and he may even contemplate riding Thomas off his wheel, if it is just them too left on the final climb. He could then argue that, as he had previously indicated, he was not trying to take the jersey but that he needed to take more time to secure 2nd place.

      • I think this is highly likely. froome will surely attack dumoulin (and by extension thomas) both today and on friday. this could work out ok for thomas – he just has to cover the inevitable counter by dumoulin – but of course froome could be out of sight by then. also, I would necessarily back Thomas ahead of Froome in the ITT – it’s quite hilly and 20 days into a grand tour, so if froome is within 30 seconds then it’s very much up in the air between the sky duo.

        the BIG question is how does Dumoulin gain time on Thomas? he needs more than bonus seconds. i expect him to bide his time and attack near the top of the final climb. not the most audacious but it is his style. if he gains nothing or very little, then there’s still Friday where someone, anyone, has to attack the final descent.

        • Dumoulin doesnt have a team to support him in any way. The chance of Sky being ripped up completely (even) by the final climb are low. I think, he is hoping/ praying for G to crack spectacularly today and only having to deal with Froome, which he can with the ITT itself.
          In earnest, he can not outclimb BOTH Froome and G today. He ‘needs’ G to crack to have any chance to win.

      • ” he may even contemplate riding Thomas off his wheel, if it is just them too left on the final climb. He could then argue that, as he had previously indicated, he was not trying to take the jersey but that he needed to take more time to secure 2nd place.”

        Worth arguing I suppose but I can’t see who will believe that other than the most committed Froome fans.

    • The stage is short enough that it’s basically a 2 hr threshold effort. Suits Sky perfectly and will shut down attack’s until halfway up the final climb…. which is where Roglic will go 😉

  3. Well, I’ve been sucked into the hype. I’ll try to be in front of the TV from start-to-finish. Today is the last, best chance for a lot of guys to do something…anything. But it’s tough to shake the idea that around 5:30 PM I’ll be saying, “Well, nothing much happened there, despite all the hoopla.” Hope I’m wrong about that…Vive LeTour!

    • I’ve been trying to sort the dynamics of this in my head. 65km is 40 miles. So roughly two hours of racing. Half of which they will be cycling. Those downhills will be important as this will enable riders to gain time with good descending skills. The last climb is going to be selective where they are a bunch together.
      The length is going to mean that the riders can go full-gas from the beginning, and this will surely mean Sky get their men to the front, the GC contenders should not hold back from attacking as they will not need to worry about having enough fuel in the tank. It’s just whether they have the strength in the legs. Maybe what will be key is the day after, and whether the force of the attack leaves their legs in ribbons.
      I guess we will see who marks the attacks, and who rides tempo. If Movistar are to do anything today is the day. But it’s going to be difficult to get rid of the Sky train. The finish is going to be explosive. If a big team get their team together and off the front real time gains could be possible.

      • My subsequent thought is that Sky will just attack, attack, attack. If they wait for the attacks they just invite issues of the team being separated, and winding up chasing their tails. But they have the best riders and the best team, so better to be on the front foot.

        They will potentially jeopardise things with Froome going off the front. If others follow, G can’t, and then loses time they win nothing. No point roper-doping

      • “The length is going to mean that the riders can go full-gas from the beginning, and this will surely mean Sky get their men to the front, the GC contenders should not hold back from attacking as they will not need to worry about having enough fuel in the tank. It’s just whether they have the strength in the legs. Maybe what will be key is the day after, and whether the force of the attack leaves their legs in ribbons.”

        This is why the stage holds such intrigue for me. We saw at the Giro that GC contendor form could be erratic at times so it will be interesting to see what happens in subsequent days even if today doesn’t end up being much other than a damp squib.

    • I look forward to enjoying this stage, regardless of the outcome. As a cycling fan how can this not be exciting, 3000 meters in 65K in 2 1/4 hours, yeah this could become a great spectacle.

      Perhaps this is similar in effort to a WC Mountain Bike Race….

      How deep do you have to go on the final climb to shine? Given the shortness, I kind of wonder if some younger riders don’t have an advantage on the first climbs. With no team duties (unlikely for some of these), I could also see Tolhoek, Bernal, Soler, Gandu, Martinez among others starting out fast. Is this a stage for Fraile ?

      I hope the selfie-focused fans don’t cause an issue.

  4. Phil Gil is out after his spill.

    Fractured or broken patella.

    I must say that I was a tad surprised he was so aggressive down the Portet D’Aspet.

    Glad he is OK though.

  5. I hope G stamps his authority on the tour tomorrow. I don’t care for SKY but appreciate the riders as individuals. Except for Moscon. Must be a French thing.

  6. I notice that Movistar are now 1 minute behind in the team classification. Hopefully this will encourage them to attack early, although it may be Soler and Valverde again rather than Landa.

  7. Lots of talk about the novelty of this stage, but there are precedents. Memorably, there was a 52km mountain stage in 1985 (Col du Soulor / Col d’Aubisque), won by Stephen Roche who attacked early on and won solo. As a little trivia note, he wore a skin suit that day – common enough now, but unprecedented on a road stage at that time.


    • They mocked Roche for the skinsuit in the morning. They probably weren’t laughing later. There have been short stages before but typically as split stages, so in 1985 they had the stage as you say in the morning… and then another 83km in the afternoon.

      • Could be a fascinating selection of kit today. Skinsuits as it’s so short? fueling strategy and gear selection. Such a shame the UCi have the outdated 6.8kg weight limit. Any thoughts Inrng?

        even a simple puncture could be massively significant given that there’s very little recovery even on the relatively short downhill parts.

        I think Quintana looks a bit flat. But my monies on Martin/Bardet and possibly Roglic chipping off the front from the gun. The sky mountain train will form and it’ll be an exciting uphill drag race. Whatever happens the format has generated some fascinating discussions about riders and possible tactics. Chapeau TdF for trying something new.

  8. Barguil is a name missing from the list… another who has failed to live up to expectations.. today/tomorrow he will have to be aggressive to try for KOM points. Last year he grabbed stages too because the GC guys were not too bothered about his raids up the road. Same thing could happen today, especially if they wait for the final climb to really go full gas.

    The grid start… reading that the full grid length is 80m long… the sky train will be forming in the first km even, I doubt the trident are going to try anything… the only potential is maybe Movistar have a team now, that on paper can climb better than SKY… Rowe being the weak link if they already hammer the Peyresourde… but even then it’s just a reversal of who is driving the train, who is sitting on.

    A hard pace set… but last climb fireworks to decide the Tour.
    – will G survive?
    – if no, will Froome go full assault mode to gain time on dumoulin?
    – will big Tom survive? (50 mins@9% might even be too much for him too!)

    Bardet, Landa, Quintana need some sort of stage win… so I expect they will be moving ahead of the GC trio and taking stage honors.

    Popcorn ready!

  9. This stage seems a bit of a gimmick to me, perhaps indicative of ASO trying too hard to keep the Tour as the top race in cycling. Maybe I will be wrong and we will have a great couple of hours cycling.

    Yesterday was a bit odd, after the traditional French farmers protest the GC race was non existent, it was almost a Sunday afternoon club tour whilst the keen ones fought it out down the road somewhere.

    Unless someone wants to try a really long move a la the Finestre all Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome need to do is mark Tom Dumoulin and maybe Primosz Roglic. Even if Romian Bardet or Mikel Landa take a couple of minutes today they are very likely to loose some time in the TT (although not as much as on a flat course). I hope not but we could see a fairly sterile GC competition whilst someone like Dan Martin jumps away for a stage victory.

  10. No mention of Zakarin? He is (usually) pretty good during the third week of the grand tours, which we saw in both the Giro and the Vuelta last year, and even though he lost time in the Alps he tried to get away yesterday – maybe preparing for today?

  11. The downside of today’s “fireworks” stage was yesterday’s virtual GC stalemate – a stage almost nullified in anticipation of a showpiece seems a bit of a waste. Still the stage win battle saved it somewhat.

    On to today. Dumoulin will probably follow Sky and then try and take some time on the final climb to help set him up an ITT shot at yellow. Froome won’t be allowed to attack the yellow jersey or at least not until the last few kms to boost his buffer over Dumoulin ahead of the ITT. So it all seems to revolve around Thomas – I can only see Froome riding into yellow if he cracks and there’s been no sign of that yet.
    Of course all of the above will probably turn out to be complete tosh, with Bardet jumping clear at km zero and grabbing three mins on his way to stage victory!

    • There was a good two hours of very hard racing yesterday, during which the breaks tried to get established and the GC (chiefly Team Sky through Kwiatkowski and Castroviejo) policed them; they were probably all knackered after that.

    • Seems I overlooked the possibility of Froome cracking – bit of a schoolboy error – and not we have to start getting used to the real possibility that Thomas de Gwent will win the Tour despite most of us rolling out the jour sans/crashes line (still time I guess)

  12. When Yates went down yesterday he had around 15″ with 6.7 km to go.
    If he had stayed upright, was his catch by Alaphilippe the certainty that Matt White claimed afterwards it would be?
    That turn looked so innocuous too. What a shame.

    • Would have been close. Ala had only taken back 3 seconds in the previous 2k and the real technical part finished in around 3 more k so it would have come down to the last k. Yates could have possibly held on.

  13. I’m going to take my life in my hands and disagree with you Mr Ring. I don’t think Movistar led the chase into the final climb for the sake of the team competition. I think they were told to shake a leg during the brief sojourn into Spain, for the sake of their sponsors. It seemed pretty half hearted and short lived.
    As for today, I hope at least one of the teams has thought of a novel way to ride the stage and catches the rest unawares. Otherwise, I can’t see what purpose the short stage serves. It will come down to a GC gallop on the final climb. Hardly a great novelty.

    • What were Movistar doing? Didn’t they have three in the break almost 10 minutes up the road? Perhaps they were trying to close the gap to their own team mates so they might be able to jump across!

  14. Thomas will still be in yellow tonight. The evidence of this race is that Dumoulin and Roglic can’t outclimb Froome and Thomas… but neither can Froome and Thomas outclimb Dumoulin and Roglic. Its interesting to me that all four are exceptional time triallists and yet they are beating the climbers on the climbs too. Chances are the 1,2,3,4 now is the same at the end of the race. Perhaps Dumoulin and Froome swap places, perhaps not.

    PS Its a shame Bernal hasn’t been more protected for the white jersey like Latour has. He would have won it easily even having lost 10 minutes on the Roubaix stage thanks to a BMC team car.

    • There’s a distinct possibility that Thomas will lose maybe around 40″ to Froome / Dumoulin in the ITT, so he needs to avoid any substantial losses today, that’s for sure?
      It’s going to be everyman for himself, on the last climb at least.
      I have a feeling that Thomas will lose time today – I’m going for Froome for the win – but how much that will be, I don’t know.
      Thomas doesn’t *look* like he’s got a minute or more loss in him, does he?

      • Not sure why many folk think G will loose time in the TT especially to Chris Froome. Even with the injuries caused by the police crash at last year’s Giro he was second to Tom Dumoulin in the longer TT (49 seconds down). He has just won the UK TT championships and seems to be in good form. Neither Tom Dumoulin or Chris Froome were in stellar form at the Giro longer TT. I would say TD must be favourite to be fastest of the 3 of them but there wont be much difference between them, certainly unlikely to pull back any significant lead Geraint has.

      • Personally speaking, Ecky, I could make a case for any of the top four losing a minute today… and for any of them gaining a minute. They are, I’m sure, the strongest four though. In these situations the not wanting to lose mentality often kicks in and it becomes a stalemate. I’m sure any of them could go real deep but then that nagging thought would assault them that they might just blow it and fall back. Better, then, so their minds will say, to merely keep pace until a final sprint for show. None of that is a prediction but rather a view on how their minds seem to work. Any losses incurred today are probably terminal.

        As to the time trial and what interesting gaps might be, again, who can say? There are those who seem to think Tom can whoop them all but have these people been watching bike races recently? Tom’s time trial in the third week of races is not even close to what it is when he is fresh and focused on a singular event. In the Giro week 3 time trial he beat Froome by only 13 seconds. In the week 3 Tour time trial of 2016 (where Tom had not ridden for GC) Froome beat him. Personally, I would say TD, PR and CF are not far apart with 19 days of racing in the legs. Most would expect THomas to be a little behind these three but by how much? If Thomas lost a minute to TD and CF and 2 mins to Roglic that would make it very interesting indeed and we’d have a four-way time trial decider.

        But, as I said before, likely its stalemate.

        • “Personally, I would say TD, PR and CF are not far apart with 19 days of racing in the legs”

          Agreed – After 3 weeks of racing, they’ll all be on the limit. What might make more of a difference is bike handling skills of the twists and turns of the descents on the TT course.

      • The ever excellent Velofacts on Twitter has analysed the top 4 riders’ recent head-to-head TT results, to see what the chances are of each rider overcoming the time gap to those ahead of him:

        Froome has taken enough time to overhaul Thomas in 5 out of 20 TTs;
        Dumoulin has taken enough time to overhaul Thomas in 4 out of 19;
        Roglic has taken enough time to overhaul Thomas in 1 out of 9;
        Dumoulin has taken enough time to overhaul Froome in 7 out of 15;
        Roglic has taken enough time to overhaul Froome in 2 out of 7;
        Roglic has taken enough time to overhaul Dumoulin in 1 out of 6.

        • I don’t buy these ‘facts’. Not least in that most of the time these guys have gone head-to-head in ITTs they have not been going for the same thing. As a super domestique G has had nothing to race for in the TT. He knows he’s not going to win, and is better off saving his legs with a sub-optimal effort.
          I’m not saying he’s going to beat Tom and Roglic, but I would reckon he will be a lot harder to beat with a yellow jersey on his back or a podium position. Anyone remember what Pantani did in yellow in 98?

          • But those stats are also saying Thomas beats Froome with this gap 75% and Dumoulin slightly more and has Froome and Dumoulin nearly equal so I think they stand up pretty well.

    • Bernal has another 3 years where he can win white and probably will. His first tour and he’s climbing right to the end with the very best at 21. I can’t remember the last time I saw a rider who was so obviously a future TdF winner in waiting.

    • “all four are exceptional time trialists and yet they are beating the climbers on the climbs too”

      A useful observation for understanding how racing in the last several years is different from before. Hard to say what we mean by “climber” now, beyond “not one of the top TT man among GC contenders.” Surely the Sky train helps enforce the dynamic, as the “true climbers” are particularly disadvantaged by their relentlessly high pace.

      Would Dumoulin, Roglic, Quintana be able to beat Sky at this game if they had their own Sky-like trains? As it stands now, if Roglic and Dumoulin can hang with Sky don’t they basically get the same ride as Thomas and Froome? (Quintana seemingly *can’t* stay with them for 3 weeks, without losing his climbing legs.)

  15. I wonder whether the Tour’s strongest climber will be allowed to win today?
    In a desperate need for positive PR, perhaps Sky will let Bernal go up the road once the GC lid is back on the pot.

  16. Watching Alaphilippe on the descent and his lines were as smooth as silk. However Yates looked very twitchy on the turn in to corners, taking two or three attempts to get his bike to turn in….and that was his undoing, his front wheel let go.

    Descending style? Frame geometry? Tyre pressures?……Yates over riding his bikes capability?

    Seen it many times in Motor Racing…Leader under pressure from a fast closing rival, bins it. Indeed last weekend Vettel did at the German GP when being chased down by a fast closing Hamilton.

    • Yates is normally a very good descender, he says so himself, although Alaphillipe looked a class apart. If I were to guess I would say tyre construction/pressure was his undoing.

      • He was probably very much aware that Alaphilippe was on his tail and probably getting updates in his ear which added to the pressure he felt as well as pushing it to take the stage. He was sprinting out of a lot of the corners too which as you say was due to him been a bit twitchy.

        Also the road was still damp in places. Combination of factors but Alaphilippe looked class, also liked how he considered slowing up for Yates in terms of fair play before been told to crack on and rightfully so as winning a bike race is also about staying upright.

      • He crashed at San Seb a couple of years ago in the same position on the descent when being chased down. Not saying there’s a pattern but that’s twice he’s gone down on a descent less than ten k from the finish when leading.

  17. Dumoulin said he was planning a big attack, I hope it’s not 200m from the line after sucking wheels all day. He needs to go all in and take the initiative by attacking Thomas early then trying to follow Froome and beating him in the TT. Froome will of improved I think since the Alpe, so his attacks might stick now. I hope it madness and mayhem, it might save what has been a pretty dismal race to watch so far.
    Surely Movistars big 3 go from the gun?

    • If Dumoulin goes “all in” he’ll be doing it alone because there sure won’t be any other Sunwebs with him. That leaves him prey to attacks at will from any who have matched him. Tom, of course, will know what watts he can do and for how long (Froome remarked on this in his press conference on Monday) and that is likely better than most can manage. But he would be suicidal to initiate an attack himself. Tom’s best tactic is being Tom, riding at his own tempo and watching attackers come back to him.

      • Exactly. Tom is a super Time Trialist. He is 3rd right and potentially can climb to 2nd with a solid TT. He is NOT going to be the one going all-in today. Can hope G cracks and it becomes a 2 way contest with Froome in the ITT.

        • TD is a super tt rider on a one off, fresh time trial. In the third week of stage races he has never won a tt, and is nothing like his ‘super’ one-off tt level. He is okay in the third week, but definitely not ‘super’ – rarely more than seconds ahead of Froome’s usual level. Any gaps in saturday’s tt, which is hilly, will probably be down to who is freshest and is recovering best in this 3rd week, and will have little to do with riders’ results in the tt worlds.

    • Well Dumoulin claims he is warming up before the stage in the same as if it was a time trial so I am really hoping for fireworks from the start. Go big or go home, he seems very honest so I guess we will see.

  18. Something I don’t understand with this grid start today, are there gaps between the different groups?
    The top 20 leave together in some sort of grid formation then there are different groups behind them sorted out depending on their positions in the GC. But do they all leave together or will there be small time gaps between the groups?

  19. What if Sky (in this case, Froome) attacks from the start? Would they dare to? It would be the only moment in which Dumoulin is isolated, if the group at the back catches up he will have team mates.

    I do predict a bold move from Steven Kruijswijk though. Ever since his Giro almost-win he is not happy with just sitting back and taking sixth place. At the start, probably Sky will let him ride. If he can pair up with Quintana or Landa, this might become very interesting.

  20. Perhaps some people can help me with the Gilbert crash. I understand there’s not much time to think and that it’s easy to say after the event, but even so, surely if you’re heading towards a low wall with a drop on the other side of unknown height, you’d lay down your bike like they do in motorcycling rather than go straight into it, taking such a big risk when you know you’re going to go over the top but not how far you’re going to fall. Yes, motorcyclists wear more protective gear, but road rash is better than flying over a wall down to who knows where, I’d have thought.

    • In his own words he made a mistake. One thing to note is that Gilbert can slide his bike around, he’ll do training rides with his Monaco group and plays around, locking up the back wheel to slide around the corners like a rally driver. Maybe he thought he could save it this way?

      • Agreed, his bike was always going straight for the wall and he had no chance to lay it down sideways. He’d have been headfirst into the wall if he bailed deliberately as he had no chance to get side on. Held on as long as possible washing speed and hoping to save it. Pretty good result in the end. As he admitted he got the entry to the corner badly wrong. Wasn’t taking near enough of an arc.

        • I understand that he was in tears afterwards. I wonder if that was because he knew he was out of the TdF, or the realisation that things could have been a lot worse….

          The Aspet is not to be taken lightly. It’s a super face decent with straight sections with pitches of 20%. I had not realised that he fell on it, but when I saw him descend he looked on the limit.

    • It looked to me like he thought he could stop before the wall and to be fair he did take a lot of the speed off before he reached it . Been a good bike handler can also be a disadvantage if you 0ver-estimate your abilities

  21. I’m really enjoying LottoJumbo’s increased presence this year. Obvs today and Friday will be about placing Roglic as highly as possible for them.

    If anyone’s done their homework for today’s stage though, it will be Sky. Sadly, it appears Movistar are putting their eggs in too many baskets. Landa’s Crash aside, it’s plain to see he is the strongest rider on the team. The Quintana of old just hasn’t turned up and Valverde is finally showing his age.

    Probably a Sky rider for the win today.

  22. Chapeau to Demare yesterday, I believe he was dropped pretty early on so must have ridden most of the stage solo with the broom wagon on his back wheel.

  23. The Col du Portet is a road of almost Finestre proportions. He couldn’t, could he?

    Never mind Roglic, some might say that Froome has been “under the radar” in performance terms. So far. No doubt not wanting a yellow target on his back – and front – has contributed to that.

  24. Brailsford’s rant about the French shows the pressure is getting to Sky.

    I always associated his management style with Ron Dennis of Mclaren. Complex, controversial, never a straight answer in interviews but highly successful.

    After the rant it came across as a bit Alec Ferguson v Keegan. Initially the Alec Ferguson ’Us against the world’ approach to team management became very much his Kevin Keegan ’I’d love it if we beat them’ moment.

    After the admirable, restrained way Froome & Thomas have dealt with the abuse thrown at them its a shame Brailsford couldn’t have taken the same approach.

      • I’m not sure that’s the same?

        I thought his point was that the spitting and abuse was a French cultural thing. I don’t see what he was trying to achieve by the rant. He’s right that the abuse is completely unacceptable but I don’t see how this will in anyway help the situation.

        Striking Farmers are, on the other hand, completely unprecedented in France.

        • That rant about what is “not acceptable” in pro sport, the very day after one of his guys punches a rider on a French team and he refuses to comment on it is mind blowing hypocrisy.

          • By “refused to comment”, do you mean saying the following:

            “We support and accept the decision by the race organisers to exclude Gianni Moscon from the Tour de France. Gianni is desperately disappointed in his behaviour and knows that he has let himself, the team and the race down.

            We will address this incident with Gianni once the Tour is complete and decide then if any further action should be taken. I would like to offer my sincere apologies to both Elie Gesbert and Team Fortuneo Samsic for this unacceptable incident.”

          • He did comment though. He said he agreed with the decision that Moscon was DQ’d, was disappointed etc etc and they’d wait till the end of the Tour to get all the details and make a decision on any further steps. When asked about it again he said he had nothing to add. What’s the problem with that?

      • Fighting for your rights is a bad cultural thing now? Somebody should tell you what the French National holiday last week was about, Donald.

  25. Guys and gals, let’s not kid ourselves. Froome will attack furiously and he will win. Putting the yellow jersey on at the end of it. Like it or not.

    • Much as some of us might wish for this, to be realistic you have to ask what has to happen for it to happen. Froome has to drop his own team mate for 1.40 (and all the other GC riders). Nothing we’ve seen in this race suggests that can happen. Indeed, Thomas has climbed more strongly than Froome and must certainly be fresher. When Froome did his attack in the Giro the whole team was at his service and attacked the Finestre to drop rivals and launch him onto the gravel. That can happen today as well but if it does his chief rival, Thomas, will know about it because he is in the same team. Do we really think he will just meekly accept it or be unable to follow it?

      It is all seems very “fantasy cycling” to me.

      • I am not a Froome fan but I am a believer in the plan of having G with yellow as much as possible, only to let Froome have it later on. He did put over 1’ to Dumoulin in the Finestre. And I think he is stronger than Thomas. Thomas says it himself. No one would be happier than me if I am wrong.

    • The Finestre was a one off (many things well out of Sky’s control feel into place. It is entirely possible that Chris Froome will try a big attack the issue is who follows and at what distance. I would suggest he needs to take around a minute on G to be in with a chance. Also Tom Dumoulin could well pull Geraint along effectively playing the role of domestique. Reading between the lines of the various media statements (always a risky thing to do) I would say G is more motivated than Chris Froome, I wonder about whether thoughts of the imminent birth of his child is a factor?

      • Can Froome attack his team mate in yellow without being considered one of the biggest tw@ts in the history of all time? It would be bad enough if it was some new signing like Bernal but Thomas has put in countless kilometres on the front for Froome over the years, dragging back attacks or setting a killer pace on climbs. And they are friends. Attacking him for the lead of the race in perhaps the one chance he has to take it would be incredibly selfish to say the least. If Dumoulin goes first and Froome follows him that’s different. At a push Roglic too. But even then he can/should only follow them and not set off on his own past them. I think he will though.

        • Long time reader, first time writer.
          Richard, I don´t follow you. I feel it would be great sportsmanship if Froome attacked.
          If Thomas rose to such a challenge it would be clear that he is the stronger of the two. If Froome did not attack, there would always be an issue regarding team-orders and a question mark as to the worth of a possible yellow in Paris.
          However, I fear there will be stalemate between Thomas, Froome, Dumolin and Roglic. With an attack only late in the race.

          • I’m with Richard S. You’d like to think Froome would not attack his team mate. Team leader or not. It’s not the same scenario as Hinault – GT’s lead isn’t due to him attacking Froome in any untoward/long range fashion. Just pinching seconds at some closing part of climbs and the bulk of the lead from the crash in the early stages. He’s done nothing underhanded/sinister to gain the time. Fortune has smiled on him, and you’d like to think Froome would repay him for years of service. If GT is struggling all bets are off and Froome will ride his own race, but I don’t see him flat out attacking Thomas. Particularly on a long range raid. He might go very late to add some cushion over TD I guess.

            Either way it should be intriguing.

        • If Froome does attack – “The plan was for me to attack and Thomas to bridge to me, we were worried about the Tt” – it’s all about this you spin it.

  26. I’m hoping that the current state of the GC encourages some really attacking riding. The three big ascents mean that Sky can’t completely blast it from the start for fear of isolating their leaders, whereas the likes of the Movistar “trident”, Bardet, Kruijswijk and Dan Martin have little to lose given their relative placings (assuming Movistar don’t care too much about that team prize…).

    Is there a lesson for other teams from Froome’s Finestre win? It was obviously enabled by Sky riding so hard so far out that all teams had no domestiques left, but this assumes that other teams have the ability burn off Bernal and Poels and then have a leader capable of attacking.

    • A very significant factor in the Finestre win was that there were no riders “up the road”. Michelston Scott, for reasons of their own, chased the break down before the climb. Consequently when Sky started their big push and Chris Froome went, Tom Dumoulin had no help at the top of the climb. See the Sunweb video, TD and his team knew exactly what Sky were planning and thought they knew how to beat it.

      • Not sure theres going to be much of a break up the road, partly the intention of the grid system.
        Who’s going to be strong enough to smash it up the first mountain faster than the GC contenders within a short distance and still be fresh to be of any use going up the second and third mountains?

        Staying in a large break allows some recovery, particularly on the long flat sections leading to the climbs in longer mountain stages, but no flat sections, just 3 mountains and 2 challenging descents.

        Its going to be exciting!

      • Exactly – on today’s stage there won’t be riders up the road due to the shortness, so with teams with nothing to lose, why not blast the first climb to burn off as many Sky riders as possible (and put Thomas under lots of pressure)? Unlike Finestre (or Kruijswijk’s raid earlier in the Tour), there’s not even a flat section to help pull back a small group.

        (Slight disclaimer: stage has just started and it appears that a break has gone clear…)

  27. Depending on how this grid start actually works there might be an opportunity for Movistar. 3 riders in the front two rows so if they’re willing to sacrifice Valverde dragging Landa / Quintana up the first climb they could just go for it from the gun and see who goes with them. The Sky domestiques are spread out through the next three groups of 20 on the road so if there are decent gaps between them then it could take a few minutes to get organised as they work their way up the road and around other riders (especially if they’re waiting for Castroviejo) by which time Movistar could have a 1 minute gap. Ag2r could also pitch Latour in but suspect they won’t because of the white jersey, so after Valverde burns out it’d up to team leaders to work together. Climbs are steeper later on so less drafting advantage.

    At the very least the tactic could create absolute chaos, isolate Team Sky from all their domestiques except Bernal who should then be toast before the final climb and that at least gives you the opportunity to attack them and see if you can get Froome / Thomas to race against each other a bit.

    Suspect it won’t happen this way but we can dream…

    • The gap between first and last on the grid appears to me to have little to no effect on what will happen today. I reckon spread the field out over a good flare hundred metres and then we would see positioning come into play.

  28. Froome will try something, so Thomas has to hope that Dumoulin learnt from his Giro experience to forget who’s on his tail and just TT after him at his own pace, and try to hang on.
    Big Tom looks in extremely good nick so far, but I’m not sure he can drop Thomas…
    Roglic got dragged back into the equation by Nibali on the Alpe, not sure he’ll quite be able to match the top guys.
    The others will flatter to deceive, but don’t seem to be able to make an attack stick.
    I’d love to see Yates have another pop today, but I guess after yday and the fall maybe not.

  29. I think Froome has to attack, but not to beat G, simply to try and put Dumoulin in trouble, G will sit on the wheel and let Dumoulin chase, then one would imagine, if capable enough attack himself and gain time. Sky have then cemented 1 and 2 and it would leave the TT down to a man to man fight, something that cuts out all the team orders and simply becomes a best rider wins scenario.

    • I have that same sinking feeling, but we’ll see – the important guys have riders up the road – Movistar, Giant, Lotto… fingers crossed someone is feeling it.

      Movistar are very good at the relay attack (maybe better than Astana even) when they have the riders in form.

  30. I was thinking that Sky with the “Train” can render even the most designed-for-entertainment stages boooring…Then the stage got really interesting when the sky train was effectively destroyed. But man what it does take! And it happens once in a blue moon and for the last 3 kilometers of the stage!
    UCI should really think about some sort of salary cap and/or “luxury tax”…

    • I’m not sure we were watching the same stage where SKY basically rode tempo until the final few KM?

      That is almost how their train always operates — left to the leader for the final few to attack, which is exactly what happened.

      • Well this year (and past years too) I felt that it wasn’t even that. Ride to tempo until the finish line and still grouped on the line. This time (on the last few kilometers mind you) the train wasn’t there, which I consider an improvement.
        What you describe is more the way US Postal operated, the train rides at high tempo, this is for preparing an attack by L.A. Sky’s tempo is not for setting up attacks but is only for controlling attacks, which is way worse for entertainment in my opinion.
        Now maybe my memory is not so good and I view the past with rose-tinted glasses but I enjoyed more the US Postal/L.A. vs Ullrich days.

    • I know what you mean but, ultimately, all the top 4 x riders are closely matched.
      It probably would be so whatever stage was put in front of them?

      I feel a little for Tom Dumoulin. He’s ridden superbly again and may well end up on a podium step above Chris Froome, thus overturning the Giro result.
      What he can’t have foreseen was Froome’s lieutenant beating everyone else!

    • I wouldn’t call it a dud ,whatever the stage format is it relies on the riders , Quintana attacked , Bardet cracked , Froome cracked , Lotto-Jumbo tried, Dumoulin tried and Thomas looked the strongest

      Certainly no worse a stage than if it had 100 km of flat before we hit climbs , maybe people had too high expections ?

  31. No worse, you are right.

    It was worth a try but I think maybe the short length if anything played into a strong train. Sky has enough depth to push deep into the stage, at which point the possible time gains are reduced, even from a brilliant attack.

    Roglic and Kruijswijk were the stars of the stage for me.

    Could have been worse 🙂

  32. Say what you like about Sky, they rarely make the same mistake twice.

    They were unbeatable on stage 17 for a number of reasons. Rowe, battering it up the first climb. Keeping Poels in reserve for the final week (he did FA in the alps). The young Colombian sensation. And, not least, the fact that they had 1-2 on the GC meant they could cover any attack. Might not make for the most exciting racing but extremely effective.

    I can appreciate the talk about salary caps to level the playing field. Would be interesting to see how Quickstep compare, with their wolf pack dominance in the Classics. Would also have been interesting to see Porte and Nibali race too…

    Finally, a massive Chateau to big Phil Gil for just being wellard. Possibly my favourite rider.

  33. Concerning Gilbert and many others: I can‘t understand how anybody feels comfortable in praising that riders ride on with broken bones. If a rider rides on with a broken knee, something is seriously, seriously wrong. This isn‘t about adrenaline or anything (it isn’t as if he had just to ride 5km, at some point the adrenaline is gone) there are simply limits to the things normal human beings can do (well, apparently not in cycling) – it isn‘t as if their life is in danger. I never celebrated the pictures of Ocana getting carried on as an almost lifeless body by his teammates often without really being conscious about it , just because of the financial aspect of staying in the race. On the contrary, to me it symbolizes neatly all that is wrong in cycling.

    It is high time the whole peloton has to adhere to MPCC rules, so that this finally stops. It is to me unbelievable, that the public still allows the teams to not be part of MPCC and accepts their lame excuses and has no problem, when people ride on with broken bones.

    • I fractured my humerus after being run off the road by a car, there was no way I could of got back on the bike, so these riders continuing on amazes me as well. And I’m not saying that I admire them for it.
      But are you saying they are on drugs because of it?
      Pain is a regular companion for any cyclist pushing themselves so perhaps for the pro’s their pain tolerance is just way higher.

      • We know, that tr@madol is used in higher quantities in cycling than in any other sport from wada. And we know, from those, that got popped for cocaine or had depressions, that they took cocaine to counter the sleeping pills they take or got depressions from them. And these are only the things, that came to light, when people were forced to say something. The rest is silence. I don‘t think the culture in cycling changed a bit.

        Every endurance athlete learns to live with pain, this isn’t reserved for cycling. There is a high threshold for pain and there are things, that are really not normal or simply not possible normally. I can understand Nibali‘s situation, where he only rides on a short time, when surely the adrenaline still runs high (and I know myself how good adrenaline works) and of course not every broken bone is like the other, but I can‘t accept many of the other things, that happened.

        Aside from everything, I don‘t think we should celebrate people for paying no attention to their body. We like to think this is, because they love cycling and the race so much – in truth it is of course not so simple: There is the pressure of the team, the pressure of the ds, the pressure of all the preparation, the pressure of letting down friends/your leader, the financial pressure to just keep on and look after yourself afterwards, the pressure of your self and your own ambition and of course the pressure of the public (will they say I am weak, when I stop without being hurt really badly? This fear can be felt often, the latest example was porte).

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