Tour de France Stage 18 Preview

A pause in the mountain stages, today’s stage offers a gourmet journey to Pau for the cyclotouriste. For the race a likely sprint finish but so many teams have won nothing in the Tour so far that the day’s breakaway is unlikely to belong to a handful of wildcard dreamers.

Stage 17 Review: the grid start seemed to get some into a buzz but as loyal readers will have read over a month ago it was more suggested this was always more theatrical than practical, it was still a mass start up the Peyresourde, the widest climb of them all, as opposed to a mountain bike race with singletrack up ahead. Tanel Kangert took off and Julian Alaphilippe was energetic once again to score as many mountain points as possible and soon joined the Astana rider. Quintana looked to be on a bad day with a puncture and a bike change, efforts nobody wanted to make on such an intense stage.

There wasn’t much GC action on the Peyresourde, it’s a big boulevard after all, a climb to sit on the wheels. The Col d’Azet was more spicy with Ag2r La Mondiale and Movistar accelerating but their combined budgets are probably less than Sky’s and if it softened up the race it didn’t do too much more. Pierre Latour and Marc Soler did the work, one day soon they’ll have others working for them.

Onto the final climb and Nairo Quintana took off before the first hairpin and one by one picked up all the riders ahead and finally landed a stage win, something that’s eluded him since 2013 despite all his promise; yet at the same time this was the same kind of win he took in Arosa last month in the Tour de Suisse, an attack from the foot of the final climb. Froome looked uncomfortable, or at least even more so than usual with a tell of his tongue hanging out and indeed he lost time; Romain Bardet even more. More confident, Primož Roglič tried several moves, Tom Dumoulin too and Geraint Thomas looked in control, he was able to accelerate in the finish and take time. Egan Bernal’s support role was huge, a 21 year-old and soon he’ll be picking which grand tour to target in 2019.

The 65km dash was novel but this probably could have been a 125km stage, it was high tempo but not delirious. It ended up as an important day, a decisive stage that opened up significant time gaps and had some surprises. Go back 24 hours and imagine Froome cracking, Sagan crashing and Quintana winning? Thomas looks in control but the race isn’t done, with more climbing in the Pyrenees to come tomorrow and the tricky time trial on Saturday.

The Route: 171km and a route that loosely resembles a meandering river more than the direct route from the start in Trie-sur-Baïse (be sure to emphasise the ï otherwise it’s a rude word) to the finish in Pau. There’s not much going with the course today, this ought to be the Sybaritic stage as it passes plenty of foie gras farms and through Madiran, home of the eponymous red wines. Then it’s on to Pau for the almost annual stage finish. Why? Because it’s a regional capital, because it has hotel beds.

The Finish: a flat run-in on big boulevards and 550m long finishing straight.

The Contenders: who’s left? Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) crashed yesterday and is sore but (hopefully) rides on, this could cost him. Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) has been struggling to meet the time cuts and could be rinsed today, his sprint in Valence last week after the Alps was hampered by his fatigue from the Alps and he’s been slogging across the Pyrenees. Which leaves Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Emirates) as the obvious choice with John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) and Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) in the mix too. But the nailed-on sprint stages require big sprinter teams and today the balance could change, with few sprinters teams left and many teams without a win today this is a stage where a lot of teams will fire riders up the road. This in turn changes the balance of the stage if a bigger move can get clear.

Who to pick for the breakaway? It’s random pick but we need three strong rouleurs or finisseurs, the kind who won’t wait for the sprint today, nor be on team duty so Jasper Stuyven is out as he’ll be working for Degenkolb. So maybe Taylor Phinney (EF Education First-Drapac), Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott), Reinardt Janse Van Rensberg (Dimension Data), Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana) and Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) if he can marshal his energy. Finally Nikias Arndt (Team Sunweb) has won bunch sprints too, often with his customary seated style.

Alexander Kristoff, Peter Sagan
Démare, Degenkolb, Arndt, Laporte, Colbrelli,

Weather: hot and sunny, a top temperature of 33°C.

TV: live from the start at 1.55pm CEST with the finish forecast for 5.45pm CEST. There could be a fight to get in the breakaway so tune in for this, otherwise the action is likely at the end.


175 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 18 Preview”

    • Yes exactly. The lead rider hasn’t had a big ‘statement’ ride and he got here by not crashing as others such as Nairo, Tommy D and Froome did. I like Geraint but like Wiggins and even Cadel he won’t win another tour…

      • I’d like to think that Geraint would be capable of winning another Grand Tour; possibly not TdF, and not with Sky. He’s was very keen to become a GC contender and has clearly committed to that goal. He probably could have made his name as a classics hero but has set that aside (for now?).

        He has the pedigree and has shown his ability to adapt to a shot at a three week tour. However, will he be able to repeat this with a different team. Froome will not be giving up his position in the richest team just yet.

        • I really hope that, if he wins, he says goodbye to GTs and goes back to the classics. I have always felt that those are what he is made for.

          • Agreed, I hope with this he steps down and gives the Classics a proper bash.

            And to Bikefoolish, taking time on other GC contenders on the way to two stage victories back-to-back in the Alps, the latter of which was atop Alpe d’Huez in Yellow, is a quite the statement surely…? Out of interest, what would match your lofty ideals?

  1. Cyclingnews has a profile on lappatient containing this nugget:

    “Lappartient and Brailsford have not spoken to each other since the Frenchman became UCI president in the autumn of last year. ”

    I would suggest it would have been fundamental to the role of the president to have extensive ongoing communication with Brailsford & Team Sky this year as there has been quite a bit going on to put in mildly.

    Within days of him taking over as UCI president the confidential AAF against Froome was released by unknown parties. Maybe it would have been good to have a brief chat at that point?

    Or maybe have a chat about the best way to implement a budget cap to get a level playing field?

    Or the release of the DCMS report? Have a brief discussion of the concerns raised? Highlight how the sport was being dragged through the mud?

    Or maybe have a chat about his concerns about Froome continuing to race against his wishes?

    Or maybe about starting the Giro against his wishes?

    Or about ASO wanting to prevent him from starting the tdf?

    Or security concerns at the Tdf?

    Or maybe about his concerns about the size of Sky’s legal team?

    Or about Froome being exonerated and the lessons learned from the process

    Nothing. No contact? What on earth is he doing?

    • Their public persona are oil and water so I am not really surprised, but with Froome’s legal case stretching almost the entirety of this term perhaps they were both counseled by their legal teams to avoid contact?

    • I was about to critique Lappartient but it can’t be done without resurrecting the Sky/AAF debate so best left to other fora as per INRNG’s wishes.

      Come on Geraint. His riding so far justifies his position and Sky probably knew Froome was likely to be gassed by week 3 given the quantity of data they collect from every rider. Plan B has definitely been worthwhile so far.

      Can Thomas avoid the ‘jour sans’? Probably as he’s been training and riding as a leader and not a domestique this time. Mystery of this kind is what makes cycling so intriguing.

    • Lappartient isn’t the UCI, there are lots of other people who can discuss these things, just as there are other people at Sky to talk to as well than Brailsford. But the pair would do well to sit down and clear the air over a good lunch, both have made comments in the media they probably regret / had colleagues tearing their hair out over.

        • Lappartient should have remained neutral and let experts do the work & support procedures. Yet plenty of times, he showed that he is anti-Sky and wish Froome to be banned despite process ongoing. After WADA cleared Froome, instead of clearing the water he muddled it further by kind of saying “(oh, we don’t want to exornarate him), it’s WADA’s decision, there’s nothing we can do”.

          He indeed needs to remember that he’s not the French Federation President anymore.

      • All of Brailsford’s comments to me seem absolutely calculated. They’re designed to put focus on him and leave his riders to ride. He knows saying something that will make a splash will give riders the space they need so he does it. I highly doubt he means it.

        Is that a wildly cynical position for him to take? Yes, absolutely. But the level of general opprobrium thrown at Team Sky has at least some roots in them being linked to Murdoch and being anglophone in a francophone world that doesn’t really exist anymore.

    • Patrick Lefèvre Of QS once remarked he never spoke to Cookson. Dunno if this is good or bad but the UCI is there for all cyclists not just the WT road racers of the biggest budget teams so their officials should take care whom they speak to and whom not and when.

      • Wait a minute, would a lot of you not be alarmed if the head of the UCI has private talks with team managers, especially from Sky? Some of you would eat their keyboards, referencing Lance’s payment to the UCI for anti-doping means and the suggestion it provided the UCI could be bribed. I think it’s a good thing they keep their distance.

        It makes perfect sense there is no close contact outside of made public meetings between the UCI and representatives of teams. You do not want anyone to get the idea any special treatment is given on the application of race rules, course design, anti-doping or what not.

      • Agree. UCI is much more than WT cyling. I totally agree, UCI speak should speak to member fedearations and elected representatives – not to individuals.

  2. Interesting stage yesterday. ITV’s coverage was disappointing after the finish – they’ve practically annointed G who admittedly looks strong, but he only has a 2 minute lead over TD and less than 4 minutes over the rest of the top 5. Not that much of a cushion with another day in the mountains and a tricky TT still to come. Nibali and Froome were written off before their Giro victories.

    I’d love to see Stuyven try one of his long range attacks today!

    • Tomski,
      GT has shown no weakness. He’s close to dominating. Winning stages… Gap to TD would be even greater had TD not drafted and accepted the penalty time rather than even more time gap…

      TD seems less anointed and more like the real deal.

    • The best part of ITV’s coverage yesterday was the closing music to the evening highlights show, a very fitting Tom Jones number (and I notice that Inner Ring has surreptitiously slipped in another).

      ITV’s choice of songs has been below par this Tour. They need some new blood 😉

    • I agree, today is relatively flat so it’ll all be about staying safe. Tomorrow is still a tough day and then there’s the TT.
      Disappointed a little in ITV, G does look fantastic, but to finish first, first he has to finish and Friday and Saturday are going to tough.

      Would love it if G took the win, Tom second and Chris 3rd. G’s steady ascending rise has been good to see.

      Separately Egan Bernal is definitely a future star and one on the face of it that could usurp the Yates twins for future GT wins!! Exciting.

    • This race has had three mountain top finishes. Thomas won two of them and was first of the GC group over the line in the third whilst riding to defend a lead. I’d say he was comfortably in the lead and if you doubt that name a single occasion he’s been under any pressure.

      • Don’t get me weong, I think G can win. His gap would be even greater had he started the tour as team leader. My point was more about ITV crowning him champion already when there is still a mountain stage and ITT remaining.

        Dumoulin is a worthy runner up – I can’t see him starting next year’s tour with a Giro in his legs. Or Froome for that matter.

      • When Roglic first went yesterday with Froome glued to his backwheel. G was distanced and at most losing 30s of his lead. He was coy/calm to let Big Tom do the work to bring them back, but in case Dumoulin hadn’t offered that ticket, G may have lost the Tour lead to Froome.

        Similar situation happened also on Alpe d’Huez.

        Thomas has been able to accelerate away in the final KM of the MTF’s, but this hides the luck he’s had for having Bardet or Dumoulin as allies in tempering Froome’s attacks.

        Reviewing the overall route, it was always likely that Thomas would be up there in GC if he stayed upright.. the Team Time Trial and Roubaix stages were on paper ideal for him in the first week. The question mark would be how he fared in the mountains. But his carried the Dauphine form into this race, and been very impressive. I don’t think the Tourmalet/Aubisque will pose much problem tomorrow.

        • It’s not really ‘luck’ though is it? Froome follows Roglic because there is an opportunity for him to gain time on Dumoulin. Domoulin has to chase and therefore tow Thomas back. Sky made their own ‘luck’ by being 1 and 2 on GC.

          Thomas could probably have closed the gap himself but that would have undermined his team mate and left both of them open to a counter attack.

        • I think that was a clear tactic from Sky, Tom had a choice – bring Froome back or just watch any chance of winning or getting podium go out the window. He had no choice but to chase. It was calculated risk and ultimately still meant team sky would have won the tour.

          Plus it is clear Froome was on limit yesterday by asking pace to be slowed when they were all back together

        • Given the ease that G went with Roglic further up the climb I think you are misreading that situation. That was the plan that G alluded to. Froome attacks (and Roglic gave him a good excuse for that) and G marshals the bunch of chasers. Standard race tactics.

        • When Froome followed Roglic, I thought that would be the turning point in the GC battle: An on-form Froome follows, accelerates away, goes on to take the yellow jersey. But Froome didn’t have the legs. Not his day, maybe not his Tour.

          • TBH I thought that was what was gonna happen on Alp D’Huez. When it didn’t it left me thinking froome was tired and not in his previous form.

        • I think you need to go back to Cycling Strategy 101. This is a classic scenario for a strong team. Your leader marks the nearest rival and the second guy marks the attacks.

          All being well, you don’t lose time to your nearest rival. And, in fact, you use your nearest rival to drag your leader back to the race lead. Which is what Dumoulin did. If he not been able to bridge to Roglic-Froome, then Froome gains time on Dumoulin and the lead is preserved. You have to hope that both riders don’t fade, but that’s something all riders live with whether their in the lead or not.

          If Dumoulin doesn’t ride he loses time to Roglic and Froome, and he doesn’t want that. Sky turn Dumoulin into Giavanni Moscon and so have a full compliment of riders….sort of.

  3. Looking at La Tour’s pain face I think Voeckler has found a worthy successor. I guess La Tour will not again risk losing that many minutes to Bernal though, he lost over 5 minutes on team duty but the white jersey should take preference now to save something for AG2R.

  4. Any follow up on Greipel’s accusations of Démare hitching a ride?

    Is it pure coincidence that the one rider taken down by the police while descending was Froome?

    How about Dan Martin? That guy is my hero for just laying it all out. I kept expecting him to be caught by the Thomas group and then he would catch an nth wind and increase the gap.

    Bardet looked mentally broken and the drool hanging off his chin made him seem deranged.

    While the stage was not as chaotic as predicted/hoped for, there was still so much intrigue. Let’s hope for some courageous riding on Friday.

    Thanks again for the great insights of our host!

    • Greipel made a serious accusation that Démare was cheating by getting a tow off the team car. We should note he was wrong to compare Démare’s time with Quintana, the GPS timing he took a screenshot of was for Kangert who led the race into the start of the climb. Anyway he has backed down, said he got it wrong and apologised now in new a tweet now.

      • Very sticky bottles and gels, fake mechanicals, holding onto a car to win a monument or to avoid the time cut in the mountains or catch the peloton after a mechanical – really not a good look whilst watching with my cycling mad 10 year old son. There is far too much inconsistency with applying rules, whether they are written or unwritten!

        • Demare & FDJ may actually have chosen to adapt a different stratey this year: ride all climbs at a pace he can sustain for the entire distance. For the days with long valleys and false flats FDJ has assigned 1-2 riders to help him. Yesterday actually made sence to let him do it all by himself as there was nit a single k of flat road.

      • This wouldn’t be the first accusation of Demare getting an uphill lift from a team car. Isn’t it alleged that this is what he did in MSR?

    • I do not understand the slight fixation in these comments on Démare supposedly hitching rides?
      First, who really cares?
      Second, where is the proof? The guy is in the middle of dozens of cars, in each mountain pass there are thousands of people with smartphones…If he indeed hitches rides regularly, the truth will out so relax.
      Third, why would he be the only grupetto-specialist to do this?
      Fourth, even if he may have hitched a ride in italy two years ago, so what? Froome hitched a ride in Italy a while back and people leave him alone! (for this…)
      Fifth and last, Démare said that he did some training in the alps. If not the case it should be easy to disprove. It it is indeed the case, is it so far-fetched to think that he is more capable in the mountains than. other sprinters, maybe even at the price of to psprinting speed? You will notice that he did win only one stage last year (and with a dirty sprint at that) and that lots of sprinters who did not make the time cut this year, have won multiple stages this year and years past? Maybe there is a cause/effect relationship here?

      • The other sprinters seem to care that Demare hitches riders. Probably because they know that they’ll have to sprint against him later, having done the whole ride for themselves.

        After all, when he hitched a ride in Italy, 2 years ago, he ended up “winning” the race. I can see why the other sprinters don’t like that.

        • “when he hitched a ride in Italy”

          Wasn’t this completely unproven? And based simply on one person’s accusation? And he’s since shown that he can happily climb the Poggio and indeed other climbs at the speed of the front of the race…

          I’m not sure we should condemn a rider based on one person’s accusations, and another not understanding GPS data…

    • “Is it pure coincidence that the one rider taken down by the police while descending was Froome?”

      Coincidence with what exactly? If you mean ‘could he have been deliberately targeted?’, that seems to me to be going looking for a conspiracy for the sake of it.

      It’s not that hard to believe that the policeman just mistook him for a member of the general public. His team kit was covered up by a nondescript rain cape, he was riding down with someone who, let’s say, didn’t exactly look like a professional athlete, and the policeman’s probably been hauling people who shouldn’t be there off the course all afternoon.

      Sometimes people make mistakes – there doesn’t always have to be something nefarious going on.

  5. I agree that the very short stage brought little or nothing, a longer one might have resulted in more interesting racing.

    I guess the Giro finally caught up with Chris Froome, a third week recovery looks very unlikely. For all the endless media speculation he has behaved with dignity. He might have a struggle to finish on the podium and looks as if he needs a long rest. Talk of the Vuelta seems wide of the mark to me.

    Whilst there is a big mountain stage and a TT to come Geraint Thomas looks in a very strong position. He seems calm, focused and the strongest rider in the race. While the usual accidents and incidents are always possible the race is his to loose now.

    Looks like it could be a second successive second place for Tom Dumoulin. Even discounting the mechanical and penalty he would not be in the lead though maybe in striking distance given the TT to come. Maybe a rethink of his approach is needed or maybe a route with more TT kms.

    I was very dubious about the selection of Egan Bernal but he has proved to be one of the best riders in the race. No white jersey, which is largely down to his issues on Stage 9 (where his inexperience did show), but seems a future GT winner, perhaps even next year.

    Am I alone in thinking the edition of the Tour has been missing “something”?

    • “Brought little or nothing”? Uhm, apart from Thomas still being in 1st, most places in the top 10 shifted around? Oh wait, Thomas gaining some time? Froomedog cracked? Bardet cracked? Bernal showed off? Quintana surprising everybody with finding the legs to attack? Ah yeah, totally nothing happened 😉

    • Porte and Nibali have been big losses, especially with the movistar trio under-performing. sky have asphyxiated much of the potential for long range attacks from everyone else, but I think those two would have found a way of animating things, either by creative attacks (nibali on the descents perhaps) or through ability (porte seemed to have good form)

      • I don’t think so. Neither rider has shown their best form of late. Nibali showed some form on D’Huez, but he didn’t wasn’t scintillating.

  6. I am pretty much convinced Quintana’s days are finally over. He might win another Vuelta or Giro but when it comes to TdF, it is better he goes for individual stages and forget about the GC.

    Roglic! This guy! Still a ski jumper a few years ago, now he manages to crack Froome in TdF! Together with Dumoulin they need to continue pushing, Froome will break again, Roglic on the podium together with Dumoulin and Thomas. Giro Tour double is cursed anyway, let’s put the dreams away 😀

    • Strong words from a strong man! Although I’d argue that winning another Vuelta or Giro would belie the observation that his days are finally over. So which one is it?

  7. Where would Bernal have been if he had not be working for Froome and Thomas, even more where would he have been with support?

    Lots of GC contenders with promise (Bardet, Gaudu, Yates, Latour, Barguil, G Martin, Soler…) must worry that they have the misfortune to soon be living in a new Merckx era. Which GT will Bernal be allowed in 2019?

    • We’ll see for Bernal. As noted here before he’s got an enormous VO2 Max but also a lot of race smarts, he looks like the real deal, and Sky have Pavel Sivakov too who is very highly rated as well.

      We’ve seen a lot of prodigious talents vanish recently. Remember Oskar Svendsen, the cyclist with the biggest VO2 Max ever? Vanished. Adrien Costa? Retired before turning pro. Lennard Kämna? Taking a career break. Pro cycling is a very hard job and Bernal is now going to be under a lot of pressure, hopefully he can find ways to enjoy it.

      • Not forgetting Tao Geoghegan Hart, who showed on the Dauphine what a big engine he has. Hopefully Sky will give him a chance and not just use him as Bernal’s wingman (and then let him win the tour when he is 32)

      • Take the Roubaix stage out and make him the protected rider and Bernal would have been top ten in this race, his first grand tour, as the youngest rider in the race and with several “podium contenders” behind him.. He is going to be on a grand tour podium sooner rather than later.

      • IMHO SKY’s working their new kid too hard. Is he on the fast track as they know Froome/Thomas are getting close to their sell-by dates? I wonder if Brailsford and Co see some handwriting on the wall about the future of this team and are throwing Bernal’s long-term future away since for them there might not be many tomorrows?

    • Egan Bernal does indeed seem special. But proclaiming to be soon be living in a new Merckx era dominated by him is perhaps a tad too early. We have often before seen great talents not quite live up to (very high) expectations.

      Just think back to 2013-2014 when Quintana burst onto the scene with a win at Tour of Basque Country and 2nd in his first TdF. Since then he has achieved some very fine results, but so far he has not been the force that was assumed.

  8. Seeing a lot of comments on twitter regarding Froome, he’s either finished or this is a changing of the guard. Fourth GT in a row and still at the pointy end after winning the last 3, think the guy needs to recharge. Was great to see Nairo performing like that, it’s been far too long. Biggest surprise to me this Tour is how strong Dumoulin is going. He looks stronger than he was at Giro, the opposite of Froome. I hope Sky give Bernal some Freedom on Friday and let him chase white, he could easily take time back on Latour and Martin on a stage like Friday’s. It’s brutal.

    • I’d say Vuelta doesn’t really count. He had half a year to recover since. While when it comes to Giro, at least theoretically speaking, they should be in the same situation with Dumoulin. Actually both look better than in the Giro with exception of Froome in that heroic stage of his.

    • Yes, it seems that Froome may not achieve what, in the entire history of the sport, only one man, the greatest cyclist of all time, ever did.

      Clearly this means he is old news.

      I would defy any other rider in the modern peloton to win even two grand tours in a row let alone win three and to have a shot at a podium in the fourth.

    • Although I agree with what you’ve said, and felt all along that he would do the Giro this year to try and win all GTs then going forwards will probably do the Tour only. However I would caution that I felt he was close to not winning the tour last year as well – ie he didn’t have the lead he had in previous years and won it due to the last TT against a non-TTr in Bardet. So he’s been on the decline for over 12 months in my opinion (but still managed to win 3 GTs whilst being on the way down, so suspect he has a few more in him!)

  9. What does one make of Landa’s performance this year compared to last year? Certainly doesn’t look as good as he did last year. What has changed apart from the team colours?

      • And wrong team choice IMO. He should have targeted a leading position not in a some unclear mixture of a co-leader and domestique position in which he is now at Movistar. He certainly deserved more and there are teams around which don’t really have a true GC leader (Bora?). Just doesn’t seem logical looking at his “CV” that he chose for Movistar.

    • I‘ve read there was a long discussion about that question on german tv I think last week. He by far isn‘t the only one, who left sky and not only was way worse than at sky, but also worse than before sky.

      • Perhaps the culture and support they get at Sky allows them to win more?
        A lot is said about Sky’s mountain train/domestiques and how they could lead a grand tour attempt themselves, but most who have left haven’t succeeded yet (with exception of Porte who has had just the worst luck).

        For example Woet Poels, he is so strong, but if he held for personal ambitions, he’d not be stronger than Sky’s alpha GC contender and wouldn’t have much of a shot at a GC win.

        There have been some successful riders after transfer, such as Cavendish (but he’s Cav) and Viviani, but Sky isn’t really a good home for sprinter types.

      • And don’t forget how much easier it must be when you have domestiques that are super stars. We know that support makes a huge difference and Sky has the BEST support.
        Sky riders may benefit from all sorts of extras within the team, but a lot of these are clear for all to see; huge investment in a clear goal.

        Landa is now in a team ‘leading’ along with two other riders. We thought it would be an impediment for Sky to attempt it with just two leaders….

    • Apperantly both Landa (& Fuglsang) is doing exactly the same watts as last year. Differene is that an entire team is defying gravety and doing more watts than the reset of the peloton except Domulin.

      Assume Landa is not the only one who’s noticed.

      • Not surprising, as many people commented when the team selection was announced – it is probably one of the strongest team selections out there.
        I think a more realistic explanation is that when Landa was a domestique he had to perform for the penultimate 5km of say 4 mountain top summits then peal off. No pressure and team sky took care of everything. At Movistar things are a little different and it takes time to adapt and now he has to perform everyday, all stage for 3 weeks. Who knows how his training is a little different. And watts isn’t some magic measure of GC ability. He might be able to sustain the right watts but can he respond to slightly above that when attack goes? He never had to before, he just had to hold a level of watts.

        Go Thomas. Inspire another generation and prove the GC focus over Classics was the right call and the hype of always crashing was just that.

      • Also, Roglic, Kruijswijk and Martin were up there as well? And Quintana? When Thomas won on the Alpe D Huez he set the 108th best time on the climb! And yet people continue to say, that they are riding so fast, they must be doping!!

        Nothing more sad than sore loosers…

          • Mihai Cazacu’s twitter feed – @faustocoppi60
            Geraint Thomas was the fastest today on Alpe d’Huez: 41 min 15 sec. That’s 4 min 35 sec slower than Marco Pantani’s record and not even fast enough to enter the Top 100 fastest Alpe d’Huez ascents. #TDF2018

            Mihai runs the site “Subiendo como una moto” – – if you are interested in climbing times generally.


        • That time atop Alpe d’Huez brandished as a definitive argument irks me a little bit. That’s not the first time I’ve seen it used. Anybody who watched the stage saw that for the last two kilometers or so after the last hairpin, the 4 GC contenders watched each other because they were playing for the stage win. I would love to have the time from first to 21st hairpin, and I guess in the last two kilometers after last hairpin they lost at least one minute compared to a full-speed-to-the-line finish as we are used to see here. Subtract one minute from Thomas’ time and it’s now the 59th best time. Granted, it’s far from the Pantani times but still, the argument suddenly loses weight.

        • Tried finding data on how long it took them but couldn’t find precise numbers. Looking at Twitter timelines (inaccurate I know) between when the GC hit the bottom of the climb to when G crossed the line shows around 43 minutes.
          Fastest D’Huez ascent (when you’ve removed ‘enriched’ times) is by Quintana around 39:30.
          So they climbed around 3 minutes slower.

          • They rode hard but it wasn’t a full speed effort all the way, remember the lead four spread across the road, the way Nibali was able to almost get back etc. It’s one data point, better to have lots from other climbs.

  10. Interesting to note Inrng’s comment regarding budgets. It seems that everyone thinks that the biggest (?) budget has to be the best team. I can’t help but compare it with my second love, rugby, where my team, Llanelli Scarlets, managed to get to the semi-final of the Champions Cup on a budget 1/10th of the size of one of their group opponents. It is all about excellent management and a sound recruitment strategy, not just about money.

    • It’s different in ‘team’ sports in rugby a better drilled team can beat a team of brilliant individuals who don’t play well together. In cycling only watts talk, and they command a higher salary.

      • ‘only watts talk’ ….that’s a huge simplification of a complicated sport Jerome. Why are we bothering with all this fuss when we could just do a gym test?

      • Don’t agree. Where Sky excel in comparison with, say, Movistar, is they have a very clear game plan and everyone sticks to it. You don’t need a rider of Kwiatkowki’s all-round ability to fulfill that plan but you do need a rider totally dedicated to the team.

          • I would agree that money helps, but that it’s only part of the puzzle. One could have loads of operating budget and use obvious and easily countered tactics. One could have a very small budget and have a team that is wholly dedicated and focused and a brilliant tactician to direct them. One could have the best athletes, money to spare and a brilliant manager and never get past the athletes ‘induvidualities’ (a la Real Madrid a decade ago).

            As much as Movistar could benefit from a stronger team and bigger budget it appears that a lot of their woes are through questionable tactical decisions (the three leaders, the lack of support in the TTT etc.) The make-up of the team, so heavily laden with climbers, almost makes me feel like they were targeting the team prize all along and Landa or Quintana on the podium was a side bet.
            As has been mentioned before, perhaps a team with stronger TT riders and more focused minders could’ve put Quintana into a far better position by the Alps (or Landa). One could even make an argument that the strain of the first weeks’ self minding/divided support sapped drive and legs. The difference between 1st and 10th is often less than 1% (ooh, that sounded very Skyish).

    • Whilst team budgets have been a regular source of discussion on these fair pages, that may be the first if not overt at least oblique reference I’ve noticed Inner Ring make to budget capping?

      You may be sure that Lappartient will taking note of the forums too. Perhaps that’ll be his next election buster?

      • Maybe a post on team budgets in the future. But it’s a difficult thing to make happen, how do you police it? Eg a team budget could be capped but a sponsor could pay a rider extra money, another could fund a training camp… etc. Then things vary from country to country because of payroll taxes, it’s one of those simple ideas that gets complicated to explore, let alone enforce.

        • One only has to look at Formula 1 to see it’s tough to impose restrictions – there’s always ways around if you’re willing to “play the game”.

          It’s been alleged that the bigger, manufacturer-backed teams like Ferrari and Mercedes shunt money around on the balance sheets to hide investment in engines, for instance; and wind tunnel and CFD time has been limited in recent years but it’s been supposed that some cheat this via obfuscation through sub-contractors and the like. Most of the restrictions are supposedly policed but are in practice more heavily reliant on the good old “gentleman’s agreement”, and we all know how much that counts for these days…

        • They NBA and NFL seem to police the plutocrats who own those USA sports teams well when it comes to salary caps – if they can control those guys, pro cycling would seem easy.

          • The UCI is a smallish governing body with a head office between a canal and a retail park in a Swiss village, it’s not got the resources of the NFL, it would need a budget increase to police this.

          • Larry – I don’t see a relevant comparison to cycling – those sports are awash with money, and the salary caps just help the owners make more money.
            Why are North American leagues more ‘balanced’? because they don’t have to fear relegation and they draft the talent in reverse order to their finishing positions.

            The scariest thing for those who hate the dominance of Sky currently is that they clearly have a long-term plan …Bernal TGH, Sivakov, Halvorsen… ( Moscon… well…)

          • Easier to control something if the owners and league are all in agreement that they want to make more money themselves and pay less to the players

          • Apart from the fact that the NBA and NFL are based in a single country (with the exception of Toronto’s basketball team), which makes enforcing a single set of rules rather easier, the NBA and the NFL *are made up of* the plutocrats who own the teams. They have a vested interest in keeping salaries down, as it increases their own profit.

        • We complain that many sponsors don’t want to invest in cycling and at the same time that some want to invest too much.

          Have cake and eat it?

  11. I think EBH will try to go in the break too. I hasn’t participated in a mass sprint this year, apparently he has become afraid of them.

    • He has tried to get in he breakaway for more than a week . looks like he burning his chips too early and alwas burns his maches createing the break by going solo instead of sneaking away or bridgeing.

      • I agree. And it seems to me he is not the only rider who use to much power on to many stages. In my opinion more riders should save their power for a couple of stages late in the tour like Cummings some years ago. Always on the back of the peleton, except when I did the winning moves. Thinking of riders like Barguil, Calmejane, de Gendt..

  12. Apparently we cannot say the thugs and morons who have assaulted Team Sky daily at the Tour are French because we “don’t know” that they are.

    What, not even when they are openly dressed in AG2R La Mondiale fan kit and leaning over the barriers trying to bring down the yellow jersey by grabbing his arm?

    The Tour has fan problems that no other race does. I cannot believe they’d be doing so little about if Bardet was on the cusp of a maiden victory.

    • He also leant over the barriers trying to take down Quintana, not only sky. What is most surprising is that no one around him cared to try and stop him – there was time between Quintana and Thomas, someone should have intervened.

      • The attitudes of those watching the Tour appear to have been influenced to a greater extent by several prominent Frenchmen. Hinault, Prudhome and Lappartient to the fore. Their words of hostility, doubt and criticism have taken up by the French media at large.

        Sportsman deserve far better than has been witnessed in this Tour from so called fans. Shame on you, French or not.

        I for one hope the race ends without any serious incident. Lets hope those in senior positions who open their mouths without engaging their brains consider the consequences of such actions and have learnt a lesson.

        • So I assume your ranting against the French is because Farage and Johnson told you so. Cause in your world view, people don’t have an own free will and opinions, they’re just do what public figures told them?

          • Anon. I would post as Anon to if my arguments were as distorted and confused as yours. The actions of a few are doing serious damage to the image of the Tour. That simple fact has diddly squat to do with Farage or Johnson, who probably don’t even know the Tour is taking place, and everything to do with the pronouncements of people who should have better understood the outcome of their publicly stated views. They were all Frenchmen and their views were carried throughout the French media and beyond !

            People of course have freedom to protest and speak out, but that freedom does not extend to physically attacking and abusing sportsman. Any sportsman.

          • Well, you still stick to the nonsense that people can’t protest cause of their own will, they protest cause some guy said something in French media. Ridiculous follow your leader world view.

  13. Starting to tire of the partisan thing that Sky expand and exploit. It’s like Coppi / Bartali but it’s been achieved without the politics and religion. Several comments on this theme above. If one team has won the last six of seven national obsessions, of course it is going to get all sorts of attention. If it does it with a bigger budget buying marquee riders for domestiques and drills them to chase down any initiative in racing it will displease many spectators. If it refuses to join MPCC and puts out GC riders with TUEs and AAFs while spinning bull about ‘marginal gains’ it will alienate the sport’s admin and other teams. If it parasitises the national governing body of one country for a running jump at the peak endeavours of pro cycling and makes sport logistics into a jingoistic cause…
    Here’s a line to draw under all that, while we enjoy seeing Thomas thrive in yellow.
    Jungels and Van Avermaert for the break du jour? But yeah, Kristoff for the win in Pau.

    • In social justice circles they call this kind of argument victim-blaming. Its dangerously close to the argument that if people throw things at you its your fault for the team you are in and how they choose to race. Its the thin end of the wedge.

      People are responsible for their own actions. If those actions include hate, interfering with a race, throwing things at riders, writing endless boring “I hate X” comments online, perpetuating supposed crimes against teams and riders that have been found unproven despite long scrutiny and general bad feeling then the place to look for why is IN THE MIRROR.

  14. I think the grid start would have been more exciting if there had been time gaps between the different groups (I originally thought this is what was going to happen). Something like a couple of minutes between each group, because all we saw was the Sky train sprint in front of the peloton so they could resume their normal positions.

    I think it would have made for more exciting riding as a team like Movistar could have used their numbers better to crack the teams that only had one rider and even make the most of the crisis of leadership at Sky. We maybe could have had some big changes.

    • I think as well as bigger gaps it would also work better if the road they head into is smaller and narrower a few hundred meters after the start to make it more detrimental to hold up and wait for teams to get into formation. This obviously all goes out of the window if peloton just decide to do that anyway. It was a gimmick but I think it is something that could add more excitement with further tweaks

    • “Sprint in front” is crediting it with more excitement than is due – roll casually to the front would be more accurate.

  15. The grid system doesn’t work for cycling because it is a team sport whereas motorcycling/Formula 1/cross country skiing are individual sports. However you design the grid including with time staggered departures, each team will tend to club together.
    All that happened yesterday is that the sprinters were deprived of their slow drift through the peloton at the start of the first climb, and therefore were handicapped from the start in beating the cut-off time.

  16. Of course Brailsford could have questioned why it is that French teams seem to be stuck in the past as Regards embracing sports science and training methods. If I was a Groupama executive having injected many millions of euros into an underperforming team I would be calling for a change of management and fresh thinking.
    As David Millar has said you could give many teams a budget similar to Sky ( and some teams have ) but you need the leadership and foresight to move it forward.
    While Lappartient may not be having dialogue with Brailsford it seems that he is only too eager to embrace the ASO remit of watering down the World Tour teams influence by reducing their numbers, throwing away sponsors and lessening job opportunities for young riders. Not a very forward thinking way perhaps?

    • Some might even suggest that the ASO and Lappartient have only got their own (which they regard as French cycling;s) interest at heart.

      What was it Brailsford said?Ah yes, a local town mayor’s mentality. Case proven, I think.

    • I had a similar feeling when I read about calls to change the points for the green jersey to try and stop Sagan’s dominance. It should be up to the others to raise their game not to rig the game to hamper the best.

      People may not like Sky but show me another team with so many ‘heros’ that work so selflessly for a single goal.

    • Many of Dave Brailsford’s comments have made a lot of sense (though dont agree that spectators behaving badly is a French thing) however he has shown a significant lack of diplomacy in when and how he has made them. As Inrng suggested a private face to face meeting would be a far better way to proceed. To use an old phrase “jaw jaw is much better than war war”. As ASO know all too well cycling needs the money from (non French) corporate sponsors, the events during this Tour and other issues in the past few months have hardly been a great advert for the sport. It needs the various stakeholders working together not fighting each other. It does not seem to me that M. Lappartient is making a success of his job (though maybe he is a very good Mayor of his local town 🙂 )

  17. I see no one missed the time cut yday – Hepburn finished 31 mins down, – anyone know where the actual cut was after all the worries about it?

  18. “Egan Bernal’s support role was huge, a 21 year-old and soon he’ll be picking which grand tour to target in 2019.”

    Could be “all of them” given the way he dropped Froome out of the group whilst nonchalantly riding along no-handed at the front. O_O

  19. Cort – the heavy sprinters are worn out and Sagan is in pain.

    3000m of climbing does not him like the sprinters, and he is the fastest of the fast men.

  20. Did Sagan say exactly what caused his crash ? I could only read from him “I was breaking but it was not enough”.
    Is there no video footage ? Noone next to him who saw what happened ?

    I somehow speculate that his disc brakes momentarily failed on him (simply overheating in the downhill / disc fade – they can lose most or all braking power for a few seconds when too hot).

    I know one person who crashed real hard in a big alpine descent as the shiny new disc road bike had no brakes for an instant and the person finished at the hospital. Checking the bike after crash , bike was half smashed but brakes were working fine.
    I think there is a major design problem with the lightweight 140mm rotor hydraulic disc brakes that the industry wants to bring to all road bikes. They sometimes seem to fail when overheating.

    I would like to hear Sagan giving more details about that… if he is allowed to

    • Sagan also states he misread the turn in a post-race interview. Other high-profile crashes of the day before (Gilbert, Yates) were on ‘old-school’ bikes with rim-brakes – and also examples of pushing too hard/misreading a turn. If discs really had such a major design problem wouldn’t there be more crashes involving bulky riders with lesser bike handling skills (ie more braking so bigger chance of overheating)?

      • I am by my own admission not a great descender – it is very much psychological whilst I consider risk v reward and constant thought of “if I went down at this speed….” so I take it very steady unless I am very familiar with the descent. When I am going on a ride with technical descents I always opt for my bike with disc brakes for the reason I don’t want my rims over heating and causing a blow out or wearing out my brake caliper pads quickly.

        I am pretty sure pros who are fair above my skill set don’t have to worry about using the brakes as much or as heavily as I would on a descent and I’ve never experienced loss of brake power, even though there have been occasions when the disc brake has been red hot from over use.

      • 95% probability it was just mishandling a turn.

        If it was obvious to him it was the brakes , then security would win over salary and he would be vocal.
        Or you start to negotiate a nice premium to ride disc brakes…

    • If I’m not mistaken, I think he explained it as “misjudged” a curve. Either got the wrong angle on it, or was coming in to fast. No mentions of being down to the equipment.

  21. I would like to point that up until stage 18, which is today’s stage, simon yates was winning stages and being even more dominant. He showed some cracks during stage 18, in prato nervoso, and cracked hard during stage 19. GT never showed true tree week strength and if he cracks on either stage 19 or 20… Nothing against him, just saying that it isn’t over just yet!

    • The Tourmalet is probably the one climb on this year’s tour that won’t worry Thomas. Hope he gets the Souvenir Jacques Goddet this time.

    • li8,

      Yates’ problem in the Giro was that he rode away form the other riders putting out huge efforts overtime. GT has put forth managed efforts.

      • Yes, a significant difference btw Yates’ efforts and Thomas’s. Can’t help thinking, tho, of the lesson from this year’s Copa Mondial – expect something crazy to happen along about minute 85-90.

        Tired athletes, no matter how accomplished, showing the strain. I’ve not lost confidence in my pre-race pick Dumoulin…

      • IIRC Yates put in the TT of his life the day before he cracked and broke in the mountains.

        I wonder if GC will have the same thought in mind Friday; ride too hard and suffer in the TT.

  22. For me the most interesting fallout from Thomas’ performance will come next year. Has he announced an extension with sky yet? If not, as (presumed) reigning TDF champion there’ll be a lot of teams ready to offer him a lot of money and unequivocal leadership next year.

    The problem if he stays at sky is Froome will also have a fair expectation of leading at the tour again being a 4 time champion. I don’t suspect either would be too happy going in as joint leaders again.

    One way round it would be to offer Thomas the giro, but then you’ve also got to consider whether Bernal will need to step up to lead so he’s ready to take over when Froome finishes.

  23. I think Geraint deserves a little more plaudits for this win. He’s been dominant yet controlled. In the first week he kept out of trouble while nudging forward, which gave him the upper hand against his competitors when the real GC battle grounds.

    Then he’s won two mountain top stages and looked like the best climber pretty much.

    In fact I think this is actually the blueprint Sky use as standard. Froome is always thought of as being dominant in the mountains and very strong in the time trial, but actually he’s often been in control by the mountains because of his work on the off stages; exploiting crosswinds, attacking downhills and gapping competitors on early tour ascents.

    The end result is a position of control once the high mountain GC battles really begin.

    (I’m welsh by the way)

  24. I couldn’t help but compare the stage yesterday to the one in the Tour (I think…) a few years back where Froome wasn’t attentive at the start, found himself in the back in the neutralised zone, and Quintana (and Contador?) went for it from the very start. I suspect that’s what they tried to achieve yesterday, but by having the grid start it meant the stronger guys were left together – perhaps a stage like yesterday but with a neutralised zone is the answer – I can’t see the grid making a comeback.

    The proof that it didn’t work was the sight of Rowe pulling even after he had made a dash from the back to the front in a space of a km at most.

    Still – I applaud the innovations and attempts at different things.

  25. Odd how so many are complaining that Sky are being victimised.
    A team that wins 7 out of the last 8 TdF’s, with 3 different winners all of the same nationality.
    And none of those riders had the typical youth pedigree of a GT winner – two track riders and a non-entity.
    Add in all the things we know about Sky from the last few years and it’s hard to see how anyone could not be suspicious.
    Unless they were biased.
    Would these same people be so free of doubt if this was, say, Katusha with three Russian riders?
    But it’s only suspicion.
    The people who say ‘definitely cheating’ and the people who way ‘definitely not cheating’ are the same as each other – following blind allegiances/prejudices and ignoring what is actually there to be seen.
    Add in the ‘it’s the fault of the French’ xenophobic attitude (which many on the other side are also guilty of) and the entire race leaves a very unpleasant taste in the mouth.
    It’s also fairly dull to watch – Thomas looks likely to win and I don’t think he’s attacked outside the last few hundred metres. He just hasn’t fallen off and had a good TTT.
    I think for many, the dominance/dullness is as much an issue as any suspicions of cheating.
    Time for a salary cap. (The ‘it can’t be done arguments don’t wash. Neither do the ‘money is good for the sport’. Having one very rich dominant team makes the grand tours dull.)

    • I remember seeing froome climb with the best whilst riding for barloworld. That was probably his first tour (he over shot a bend at the start of the descent though so lost any advantage).
      Wiggins rode to 4th with Garmin and was pursuit world/Olympic champ.
      G is also a world champion, has been a strong classics rider and ridden well in the tour whilst working as a domestic for others.
      These guys haven’t exactly come from nowhere.

    • Thank goodness Geraint Thomas didn’t start his career as a ski jumper. The cycling world would be in meltdown.

      Also, we just don’t know what a ‘typical youth pedigree of a GC winner’ is… didn’t Pantani dope in his mid teens?

    • As I say, it’s about keeping an open mind as opposed to being certain of something you cannot know about.

      Either way – and again all this is just my own personal opinion – there’s nothing very entertaining in watching a rider follow his team around for three weeks, and win a grand tour by not falling over and a couple of attacks in the last km.
      Plus, can anyone honestly say that Thomas is the best rider in this race, or can you think of half a dozen others who would have won if they had Thomas’ team?
      That’s not interesting and it’s not watching a great ride – it’s watching money dominate the Tour de France.
      But some people are ostensibly only interested in seeing ‘their guy’ win.
      (Whatever one thinks of Froome, by and large, he was the best rider in the races he won – whereas this was a top ten/top five rider winning it because of his ultra-strong team.)
      Eventually, if one team controls the race to this extent, barring fans of the team and those who care about nationalism above all else, the public are going to lose interest. There seems some evidence that they already are.

    • I will never say that Sky is being victimized, but I’ll address your comments about Thomas.

      IMHO, he’s the best rider this year.

      He won 2 stages by dropping everybody (who else dropped everyone?). Froome had the exact same train, and never dropped anyone. Dumolin effectively sat on Sky’s wheels the entire race except when attacking, and couldn’t drop anyone.

      The thought that the winners these days only attack in the last few moments is due to the fact they’re not loaded on EPO any longer. They simply don’t have the juice for long range attacks. That’s been a pretty clear change the last decade.

      I do agree completely with the salary cap idea, for many reasons that I won’t go into here.

  26. Not really true J. Evans. The sport has a long history of unofficial combines either as individual riders or teams helping each other in the ultimate cause of victory. It appears that today this concept is lost in the mists of time on many of the teams with potential winners. Why do not say Sunweb, Movister and Jumbo, who have a cumulative budget in excess of SKY not occasionally combine to attempt to break the SKY dominance, rather than simply follow the tried and tested beat of SKY. I agree the SKY method although effective for the team, is numbingly predictable and boring for the fans. Importantly, it is also not good for other teams or their sponsors who simply follow in the hope of picking up crumbs. There is an answer, and that answer is in the hands of the teams, or more pointedly their DSs. They could at least throw away their radios and try and break the stranglehold with some out and out coordinated anarchy.

    SKY get blamed for many things, but being successful in GTs is not one of them,

    • bc, but different teams never do combine against sky. it’s just one of the many things that get talked about whilst the same thing actually happens every time.
      it’s not sky’s fault it’s dull, they’re here to win and do.

  27. Interesting comments from Fuglsang and Landa on the level of competition.

    I don’t think you should count Froome out, I still think he will either win, or get second.

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