Tour de France Stage 19 Preview

The final mountain stage of the Tour de France and a very hard day out with a mix of high climbs, “hidden” ascents and then a tricky descent to the finish.

Démare-rage: a break of five riders and not the usual wildcard cannon fodder, two Paris-Roubaix winners, the bulk of Guillaume Van Keirsbulck and two former world champions in Luke Durbridge and Thomas Boudat. All kept on a tight leash but the breakaway also plays with the lead, they know they can’t ride away so better to hold something back and then try to brake the chasers later in the stage. Still it didn’t happen and we got the inevitable bunch sprint in Pau. Arnaud Démare got the perfect leadout from Jacopo Guarnieri and launched just at the right time to win. He drifted left across the road to leave Christophe Laporte frustrated in post-stage interviews but Cofidis didn’t appeal, Démare’s move wasn’t enough to trouble the commissaires.

Arnaud Démare, Pau

Démare made a point of thanking André Greipel. The German had accused him of cheating in a since-deleted tweet, but before backpedalling The Gorilla got his timings wrong, comparing Démare to Quintana in his writing while sharing a screengrab of a time gap to Kangert instead; besides a Sporza journalist had spent the day in the broom wagon watching Démare who was last on the road and said he didn’t see anything untoward.

The Route: a start in Lourdes, the town you visit once to prove that you won’t return again. To explain, Lourdes thrives from religious pilgrimages but it’s not the sacred that’s off-putting, it’s the profane as shops compete to sell a gaudy mix of Christian memorabilia – how about an 80cm tall plastic Jesus with a lamp inside? – and this removes some of the charm of an otherwise well-located place next to the Pyrenees. It’s 30km to Bagnères-de-Bigorre and all on lumpy roads including the climb at Loucrup and then onto the first mountain pass of the day.

The Col d’Aspin is climbed via the harder side and 12km at 6.5% but with solid sections of 8% on the upper two thirds before easing a the top.

A quick descent and it’s straight onto the Tourmalet, 17km at 7.3% and one of the most famous climbs of the Tour and once past the introductory 5km the slope is often 9-10% to the top but all on a large road. The descent comes in two parts, first the drop down the mountain pass to Luz, then the valley section downhill to Argelès-Gazost.

New for 2018 is the Col des Bordères, a back road and harder than the roadbook says. It climbs straight out of Argelès-Gazost with a 7.5% slope for the best part of three kilometres and then a short descent to the start of the profile above, it’s an irregular climb of 8km to the top and all on a narrow rural road. Then a quick descent on a narrow road lined by drystone walls to Arrens. The Col du Soulor is next, a major climb in its own right but here it’s part of the Col d’Aubisque. Still it’s 7.5km at 8.1% and then the balcony road over the Col d’Aubisque whose last three kilometres are 7%.

The Finish: it’s a long, fast descent down the Aubisque, 20km and including several fast, technical sections. The road had been washed away by floods in June but has been rebuilt just in time for today’s stage. The descent ends with three kilometres to go. There’s a right hand bend after the flamme rouge which is wide and then it’s over a bridge before a left hand bend with 500m to go which is much tighter and clear run to the finish.

The Contenders: a good day for a breakaway, expect plenty of action early on as a third of the peloton knows this is there last chance for a stage win. Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step) has almost secured the mountains jersey. He’s had two mountain stage wins so far but note they’ve been on shorter climbs, today could be out of reach. Still as we know if he’s dropped on the Aubisque he can always come back on the descent. Polka-dot rival Warren Barguil (Fortuneo-Samsic) is not chasing the jersey any more, it’s all about the stage win and he’s been sitting up to save himself for today but if he has a chance so do several others, there’s a crowded field with Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), Mikel Nieve and Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott). Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) has tried but not looked convincing, he could barge away but there are so many other climbers. Like Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), the Izaguirre brothers and Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida).

Among the GC contenders Steven Kruijswijk (Lotto-Jumbo) managed a big raid in the Alps, he could try for the same this time and the final climbs make for a less linear effort to real him in. Primož Roglič can try to shake the tree as well but he can’t go for such a long raid and his sprint isn’t so good so maybe the stage win isn’t so easy?

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) crashed yesterday but as we saw two days ago he comes into form for the third week of the Tour and high altitude suits him too. Does he save it late for the Bordères-Soulor-Aubisque or do Movistar go big and try a move on the Tourmalet? Probably not, Alejandro Valverde can go for a swansong and the descent and flat finish is ideal for him.

Romain Bardet‘s entourage said he had a crise d’hypoglycémie on the Col du Portet, he bonked in plain English. If so then it was a nutritional hiccup but if you crack like this you tend to implode and lose a lot of time, he limited his losses. If you crack like this you can often rebound soon after so if he did then he’s in with a good chance today and has room to go clear now.

Will Chris Froome (Team Sky) go wild and launch a long range move like the Giro? The course suits but it’s not a regular thing, but maybe he’s more suited to a long grind today even if he cracked in the intense stage two days ago.More realistically team mate Geraint Thomas has a good chance, to mark his rivals and then use his jump in the flat finish.

Lastly Dan Martin (UAE-Emirates) is a good choice, able to jump away on the climbs and not a direct threat on GC. If Quintana out-climbed him he packs a decent sprint from a small group.

Alaphilippe, Nieve, Majka, Yates, Dan Martin
Barguil, Quintana, Thomas, Valverde, Bardet

Weather: warm and sunny but not as hot as yesterday, 28°C in the valleys

TV: live from the start at 12.05pm CEST with the finish forecast for 5.50pm CEST.

139 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 19 Preview”

  1. Thomas has looked bulletproof all Tour, but as everyone knows he hasn’t shown any real three week potential before in his career, his best finish in a Grand Tour has been 15th. Looking at stats for recent years, even those who would not have been considered likely winners such as Ryder Hesjedal, Juan Jose Cobo and Chris Horner at least had a previous GT top 10 result to their name before their victory. So if Thomas does hang on over this last mountain test and holds of Dumoulin in the TT, what would be an equivalent – someone who won a GT without showing definite proof of ability over three weeks? Does one have to go all the way back to Roger Walkowiak?

    • Surely this “hasn’t shown any three week potential” narrative can be unpacked a bit before it takes hold. Taking out mishaps in the third week – which can happen to anyone and says little about three week potential – and grand tours where he been an effective domestique all the way into the third week, how many examples are there of GTs where has has faded in the third week? I don’t know, but I would guess not many.

      • Exactly. Thomas has clearly shown 3 week potential, when he was sat solidly in 4th place heading into the final mountain stages in 2015, while performing the ‘Bernal role’ for Froome. Unsurprisingly, he finally cracked having done so much work on the front, and dropped to 15th by the end of the race…but that 15th place finish requires such context, because it clearly demonstrates ‘3 week potential’…

        • I would agree with you that for the most part, however the hordes who sneer every time Richie Porte is listed as a contender here and elsewhere, despite two GT top 10s, suggest otherwise. In other words while not endorsing it totally, there does seem to be a premium put on riders who have three week form, with the term “jour sans” thrown about liberally.

          • Thomas has never ridden for himself in a 3 week GT before – as a domestique, finishing 9th or 15th is an irrelevance. In Porte’s case he has come up short when being tasked as No 1.

          • You’re certainly correct about the sneering hordes!

            It feels to me that as a group, us cycling fans tend to hugely oversimplify the task involved in winning a 3 week race – perhaps because riders like Froome make it appear so easy!?

            But it’s a hugely complex task, with countless possibilities for error and disaster. Just look at the number of contenders who in each GT are reduced to stage hunting, abandons or an anonymous top-20 finish. We expect Quintana to be on top form and fighting for TdF victory like some kind of robot, simply because he’s been close before and is obviously talented enough. But the simplicity in that expectation disregards all of the variables in his preparation and during the race that massively reduce any predictability of his performance.

            And it’s similar with Thomas – it is widely predicted that he will suffer a jour sans at some point, simply because he has done once before. But that’s hardly a huge sample set, nor an optimal control environment (when considering the complexity of a 3 week race) upon which to make such a bold prediction!

            So again, I would argue to all of the sneering hordes, that riders like Thomas & Porte have shown significant 3 week potential – they’ve just missed the bit of luck and circumstance that has allowed them to translate that potential into an impressive final result after 21 complicated days of racing…

          • Haimar Zubeldia had 5 Top10 places in the Tour. I still can’t remember him ever be mentioned as potential winner of the race.

        • Thomas himself said that he could have finished top 10 but what was the point? He was there to help Froome so once he lost time he backed right-off to save himself for the following day.

      • Thomas has been a journeyman for years and years. He has done his time. Now leaner than ever (Wout Poels lean) it is ludicrous to suggest that this is such a suprise. He was paying around 10/1 at the start. Hardly a Leicester City type of result should he win. You may well work harder as a mountains domestique than the number one GC man. I am pretty certain this year Kwiatowski could have been a top 10 man if he was a protected rider. You couldn’t say he will never finish high on the GC because each time he is on the last climb of the day he bombs and slows down to a walking pace. The reality is that he has probably put in more hard work than Thomas who has only really made a couple of moves in the whole race. To his absolute credit Thomas has raced perfectly, staying out of trouble and only extending himself when he has needed to.

    • It’s very commendable for a deluxe domestique as Thomas to have finished 15 in TDF given all the duties. None of the cyclists mentioned above were the type of domestique Thomas was, neither were they part of the Sky train. My point is that in normal circumstances, Thomas would have likely finished Top 10 in previous races.

      • I think it’s also worth noting that he chose to sit up and lose time, to better support Froome, rather than protect a top 10 place, and that he’d crashed badly a day or two before, and we’ve all seen how much that takes out of riders.

        With those two factors I suspect he knows that he’s all good for two more days of racing…


        • Yes, it was a deliberate move to better support his team leader. As shown many times before and since, Thomas has always stuck to the plan, even when it has meant he has to sacrifice his own results.

          This whole ‘can he last 3 weeks’ stuff is tripe, recited and repeated by people who don’t really know what they’re talking about.

      • If, if, if. That is very theoretical and if you apply such logic you need to apply it on every rider.

        If other riders had been allowed to ride for themselves, if other riders had not crashed out etc.

    • Thomas is an outstanding all-round rider – World and Olympic track, cobbled classic, one and now, probably, three week tour.

      If he wins, will he be the first GT (grand tour, that is) rider to have won a cobbled classic since Kelly?

      • All-round is the point though – when people start eulogising about his elevation to GT winner being on the cards for a decade or more it’s hard to take. Up until a couple of years ago it was hard to see him getting anywhere near a podium without a seriously favourable route. It’s a testament to his tenacity that he has put the work in transforming his body and riding style to the point of launching mountain attacks against the big GC favourites.

        • I’m probably just being a bit of a romantic conspiracy monger here but what if Wiggo shared some of his knowledge with G and this is his late revenge on Froome? Also being Belgian I really hope Tiesj gives G a call and work something out. They are of a similar built, versatility and tenacity.

          • Revenge for what? Froome sacrified 2 probable Grand Tours so Wiggo could get a knighthood (on the back of 3 of the dodgiest TUEs in the history of cycling).

        • It was E3, the “mini-Flanders”, which is definitely cobbled with climbs like the Taaienberg, Paterberg and Oude-Kwaremont included in the course.

  2. Let’s face it nobody wants the same team winning tour after tour even if it’s with a different leader. Hoping against logic for a shake up. But Sky’s strength, depth and history suggests status quo.

    • We’re jumping the gun here but even I, who has enjoyed the British success these recent times, now think that smaller teams may now be the realistic only way to open things up more.
      I’m not in favour of the salary cap, for a whole host of practical reasons, but the team size reduction is a much more attainable goal.

      One thing though, why hasn’t the dominance of Quick Step in the one day (and HC / .1) races not attracted the same level of criticism that Team Sky has received?

      • Probably because Quick Step don’t win the classics by setting up a train going tempo and grinding until the last few KM. I think the main reason Sky are unpopular and especially Froome is because they’ve never had a serious rival, to create some drama/personality clash, he’s rarely had to go mano a mano on the last climb trading blows. Even when Armstrong was winning 7 in a row (*!) I don’t remember him arriving at the end of mountain stages with 2+ teammates?

        • In reality though, Sky are just very very good at racing and winning GTs. It’s not their fault that other teams haven’t stepped up.

          Movistar in particular seems to have faded in the last couple of years to a decent GT team together. Could be their approach leadership in a GT and a sole leader. Who knows? But the other teams do need get out of the 1970’s way of racing and progress. Otherwise with Bernal and other young riders, Sky will dominate for a bit yet.

          • I think despite a fairly poor tour, Movistar might have pointed to the way to beat Sky… too often when the Sky train fails there is another team ready and willing to ride on the front to protect a ‘creditable 4th place’ finish.

            Perhaps a better bet is just to say to Sky… if you want to control the whole race be our guest… but all the work is yours, meanwhile we’re going to make it as difficult as possible by having several riders that you’re scared of getting away.

            Reminds me a bit of the failed GB plan at the Olympic RR in 2012… they laboured all day on the front, but ultimately no other country was going to help pull Cavendish to the finish… so why help pull Froome to the base of a climb?

          • I think a Cofidis style review of management wouldn’t go amiss at Movistar. In a year where the Tour has a TTT and 9 opening flat stages they’ve allowed Castroviejo and Dowsett to leave, one to their biggest rivals. Also for Quintana to look so constantly flat he must be over training.

          • I disagree. Movistar have shown us that when you ride as three separate entities you don’t maximise you gains. Landa moves up to a virtual GC podium and lost it.

            If Quintana, Valverde and Landa has orchestrated themselves in a hierarchy and decided who their team should ride for they’d probably have a podium. Instead they are scattered on the GC. Meanwhile a more disciplined ride from Roglic sees him hit podium.

      • To add to BigMig’s reply: QS dominance was exceptional this year but there have been many years when they didn’t win nearly every race in spring – there is always others in the mix (such as Sagan winning PR this year). More importantly it’s not always the same QS person winning so you see a whole team working to wear out the competition and to control the lead of whoever is in the break, not a formulaic train at the end of which it is always the same person – ok now persons to finish it off.

        • And possibly the reduced team size helped them with that? They will become as equally boring if we just need to predict which QS rider wins Ronde, Roubaix, MSR and Flanders. But generally speaking the classics produces much more interesting cycling because it is selective.

      • That’s an interesting question Ecky Thump. I reckon it’s because Quick Step have different riders winning on different parcours and their style is often exciting and attacking. So maybe the answer is variety.
        Sky strangle the race, no doubt it’s effective but it’s not always pretty to watch.

      • Quick Step use completely different tactics (in completely different races). As an example this year they fielded all of Terpstra, Gilbert, Lampaert and Stybar and all of them were allowed to race. The winner was whoever made it stick. Previously despite being Boonen’s team several of his team mates would win major races (Pozzato, Devolder et al). Also all of those riders are highly charismatic and popular. Sky have always been about one man, hugely risk averse, defensive, scientific and Wiggins aside largely devoid of charisma. They’ve attacked big at the Giro and won with a plan b in Thomas because they’ve had to as Froome’s plan a hasn’t worked. Plus Thomas’ style has been more of the same that we’re all fairly sick of after 6 years.

        • “we’re all”

          I’m not.

          I’m chuffed to bits for Thomas, who seems nothing other than a genuinely nice man with a core of steel.

          I’ve enjoyed this tour. The emergence of Bernal, the dominance of Sagan (I don’t see much criticism that Sagan has single-handed Lu destroyed the points competition as an actual competition), Alaphilippe, the bonfire of the sprinters etc

          For all the criticism of Team Sky the other teams don’t half seem dumb (with Lotto NL Jumbo and Sunweb the honourable exceptions)

          • +1 on G for me and I’ve always liked his very frank interviews (but not in the Cavendish way).

            There has been backlash against Sagan’s dominance though. There was a piece in cycling weakly about calls to change the points jersey to stop Sagan. IMHO everyone else needs to up their game rather than change the rules.

          • Nobody is criticising Sky or disputing that Geraint Thomas is a nice lad who would probably be polite to your grandma. Sky’s tactics work, that’s why they use them all the time. But they are largely defensive and not very exciting, and that’s the difference between them and Quick Step which is what I was talking about.

        • While I agree with the difference between QS and Sky (QS being generally more exciting, more unpredictable and with no fixed plan A), their strength in depth this year did seem to stifle a few races (E3?) – a QS-containing breakaway goes and no-one is willing to pull for fear of bringing Gilbert/Stybar etc to the finish (rather than the strength of the breakaway deciding the race). I feel for riders like Vanmarcke or Stuyven who are arguably as strong as the top QS riders without any wins in years, but I know that’s bike racing (and Gilbert’s Flanders win last year was huge, regardless of team strength).

      • How quickly people forget. The Giro was only two months ago and Sky won without any trains strangling the race. In fact such a thing barely existed in that race.

        • An exception that tests the rule. To suggest that sky don’t normally control the tour with a defensive train is folly RonDe. well done to them as it works and you still need a strong rider to finish the job and Wiggins, Froome and now maybe Thomas have done that. I’m British so no anti UK feeling from me, I just find it a bit dull and predictable and I watch sport to escape that! As I said even though Armstrong was dominant I can’t remember him.having loads of teammates on the last climb and this made the racing more exciting as other riders risked attacks.

          • This train argument is so worn and thread bare. The train doesn’t win the race. The fact that they have the greatest GT rider of recent years and 4 other GT contenders. Dumolin is basically a one man train, rides in the same style as Sky, but no one complains about him. Everyone, including me, is just tired of Sky and Froome winning so we find things to whine about.

        • Sure, one time maybe. It all boils down to this – how many grand tours would Froome have won if his chief rival each time was racing with Sky? And Froome was with Movistar/BMC/Trek/Sunweb, take your pick. He’d have won a couple still no doubt, but not 6.

      • Wiggins encapsulating Sky’s approach to the mountains in 2012:-

        Asked if he feared the Tourmalet and its neighbours, Wiggins was unmoved.

        “They all go uphill, they’re all on tarmac. It doesn’t matter what name is on them – you go up them on a bike. It’s just a name, really, at the end of the day,” he said then. “Ultimately, it’s about going out there and averaging 400 watts climb after climb.”

  3. Sky have made mistakes over the past few years but they are ahead in terms of training riders. How much £€$ to poach Tim Kerrison? Other teams either need to improve or lobby for a salary cap, though in English rugby union the cap has been a farce at times and tricky to enforce. Expect more lobbying.

    Changing of the guard is hard to avoid – Nibali, Froome, Contador. Dumoulin has perfect timing, like Djokavic after Nadal / Federer had peaked. Would love the Yateses to do well – Matt White must be nervous, Adam blew up worse than anyone could have feared. If the heat is a problem then its the Giro –
    The Vuelta is even hotter.

    Difficult not to pin big things on Bernal – like Michael Owen at 18 he rises effortlessly to each new challenge.

    • I think far too many people are expecting too much too soon from this young man.For all his undoubted talents he has a lot to learn.As I understand things Froome has a contract till the end of 2020 so one would imagine he has 1st dibs on the Tour till then.Apart from learning the tour craft,he will need his own road captain who will be his most impotant ally.This role would seem to be perfect forJTL if he cant make the top GC grade.

      On the subject of road captains Luke Rowe surely qualifies to be to be Tour Beast,how he could smash his leg up so badly less than a year ago and perform as he has is incredible-

      Whether Dumolin picks up the mantle after Froome remains to be seen,he certainly has a hard task to succeed Froome and Contador to rise to the Tour Pantheon of greats-one can get lucky and win the Tour once-The Greats don’t need luck to become multiple winners.

  4. A proper mountain stage, no gimmicks just a succession of mountain passes. Perhaps we will see one of the top 10 launch a bold long range effort, though I doubt it as fatigue seems to be a big factor. Even if say Mikel Landa goes Sky seem to have the strength to keep any such effort within sensible (from their perspective) proportions. I cant see G becoming isolated in the way Tom Dumoulin was on the Finestre and he has enough of a lead that he can ride fairly conservatively, marking wheels and measuring his efforts.

  5. Someone maybe has to do an Induráin 1991 and attack on the descent of the Tourmalet, they say the tour was one back in the day.

  6. Has a reason been given for Adam Yates’ poor form? Considering he was targeting the win and they left Ewan to seethe at home to build a team around him he has had a terrible race.

    • I fear the snarky answer is that Yates’ form is good, others are much better. Judging from the remarks of Fuglsang and Landa on the 65 km stage.

    • Apparently he has been suffering with the heat, though despite the weather being warm and dry I dont think it has been as hot as some recent Tours. I am not convinced it was a good decision for both of the brothers to resign for Michelton Scott, perhaps what they need is a change of scenery to achieve their undoubted potential.

  7. I wonder why total meters of ascent/climbing is not used more in the description of stages? is this metric too simplified for pros?

    • I’ve often wondered this. It gives us amateur riders a good idea of how hard a route is. Why would it not be useful in racing too?
      Stage 17 – 45 miles, 10,000ft.
      That tells you so much more than the length and gradients do. It explains to people like us why they “only” averaged 15-16mph.

      • This year for the first time I’ve noticed that these numbers are shown during the television coverage – including how many of the total altitude gain has been covered so far. But maybe that is a local (German, in this case) addition?

  8. I can’t see any changes in GC coming unless someone blows up spectacularely. The Tourmalet comes way to soon for anyone to dare and try something, especially with the long section to Argeles afterwards. If anyone wants to try something it has to be on the Borderes. It has some tough sections, particularly the last 2 k to the top. You have to attack there and keep going on the downhill and then hope for tailwind up the Soulor. The last part to the Aubisque is not difficult at all and you can’t make a difference there. It”s a nice hard stage, ideal for someone like Nibali and again it’s a shame he is not there anymore. He would have been the only one capable of disrupting the Sky train.

  9. What’s with the weird spike on the main profile on the flatter section after the Col du Soulor? I assume this is just an ‘ASO artifact’ since it doesn’t appear to correspond to anything on the detailed view, and suggests that they have to get over something like a 30% wall. That would certainly mix things up a bit.

    • It looks like the In Pin, probably Danny Macaskill would have had a chance today.

      I’ve noticed that kind of thing on a few of the profiles this year though, probably their software is trying to be too clever or something.

    • It’s a pimple that is just as elevated as the Soulor near the Cirque du Litour. It’s a bit like the Glandon/Croix de Fer valley crossing where some snap attacks could force a gap and begin the action.
      Whatever happens today I want to thank the riders and ASO for a great Tour. OK so we have racing in the modern way but we have seen some good solo attacks and have reached a point where there are many riders who’ve had to hold back for fear of failure that now have nothing to lose.

      • …and it’s the section with the balcony and tunnels so if there is no action at least the scenery is spectacular (only ever driven this bit doing rider support)

    • There’s a couple of tunnels along the Cirque du Litor between the Soulor & Aubisque…if the profile is built using GPS altitude data (like the way Strava works), then it’s probably taking the altitude of the hill above the tunnel, rather than the road that runs through it…

    • The highest number of hotel beds in France after Paris claims the Tourist office. It is a good location as it sits in front of the mountains rather than up a valley but a strange place, worth a visit to see it all but it is an usual place.

      • I’ve cycled through it a few times…..but agree with the comment on the “tat” in the shops and never had a temptation to stop, just to carry on through!

      • My grandparents used to live in St Gaudens and I remember asking my grandfather to take me there one year (I must have been about 10-12). And as you say inrg, even at that young age, I was shocked by all the shops around selling all this Catholic merchandise. Even as a young boy, it didn’t sit well with me with some of the misery around of these poor sick people coming to Lourdes hoping for a miracle. I’ll be more than happy never to have to go there again.

      • Reminds me of the Dylan song ‘It’s alright Ma:
        “Disillusioned words like bullets bark
        As human gods aim for their mark
        Made everything from toy guns that spark
        To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
        It’s easy to see without looking too far
        That not much is really sacred”

  10. Going back to Thomas de Gwent, my concern for his yellow hopes is a crash rather than a jour sans.
    He regularly has the former – and often he’s not at fault and can’t do anything about them – and the latter have always come in three week races when on domestique duties.
    I’m not saying a bad day won’t happen – look at Yates in the Giro – but hitting the tarmac is more likely.
    That said, I hope he stays upright and in yellow to the end. He deserves it.

  11. No mention of Dumoulin in the preview or a possible winner? He’s raced like he’s not settling for second in my opinion, and has been one of the best climbers. I could see him trying for something in the last few km on the aubisque. And if he does get over with a little gap he could do something, but does seem unlikely.

    From a race point of view I’d like to see Dum, Rog and Kruis work together, and I think they have an incentive to do so, but from a Welsh POV I’m hoping for a dull neutralised stage….. 🙂

    • Its a funny situation with the GC.
      Dumoulin can not really overhaul 1.59 on Thomas (unless Thomas cracks completely) and this is going to be his first Tour podium – so unlikely to go for broke and risk it.
      Roglic is only 16s back from Froome and might feel like taking a chance in the TT, OR claw back some seconds on the final climb.
      Landa has been making talks about protecting his Top 10 position – blah.
      Essentially, there is no one (other than Quintana) who is very unhappy with their current position in the top 10. Some folks can make a play for the stage win for the real GC battle is pretty much over.
      However, both Tom and Roglic should test the Sky duo today, probably at the higher slopes of the penultimate climb and the Tourmalet descent, to see if something shakes.

      • Agree with all of that, Sir Crankalot. Pretty much everyone is fairly content if this was to be the final GC.

        The one other wildcard in the top 10 who might ignite things today is Kruijswijk, as he’s a) always been great in the third week of GTs, especially on long, hard stages and b) he has every reason to go for broke in search of a (long overdue) stage win. So who knows, between him and Quintana we might still see some action from the GC top 10.

  12. Sadly. Sadly, sadly sadly the Tour is over. Today will not be a spectacle.

    The Skytrain will just power on and strangle the entire race. Just like they’ve been doing for like 6 years now. As much as it disgusts me, I have a feeling of resignation. So must the other riders. There’s nothing you can do against it. Ride away early? Bernal – Kwiat- Poels – Castroviejo will inevitably pull you back. Attack late? Froome will be right on your wheel. If Froome cracks? Thomas will be on our wheel and right after that he will distance you.

    I see no scenarios in which the others have a chance. Roglic and Dumoulin will not attack early and risk endangering their podium. The others might try something but will also think about their GC standing. Leaving this a very boring and stale Skytrain stage.

    The only option I see is Thomas making a mistake in a descent or having mechanical problems…

    Sorry if my expectations seems bitter and gloomily. That’s what watching six years of Skytrain killing the GC races has done to me. I miss Contador.

    • Doesn’t your last comment say it all? It’s not the Sky train that is killing the Tour, it is the lack of clever opposition.

    • Why do you miss Contador? He tried to beat Sky at the Tour four times (not including 2014 crash) as well after his ban and failed miserably every time. Of all the grand tours the Tour is by far the most calculable, the most susceptible to Sky’s tactics. This is the race their way of doing things should win. It took them several more goes, and strange circumstances in the case of the Giro, to win the other two. But the Tour is the most all-round race and so the easiest to plan for. Just get the best 8 guys money can buy and have them ride hard. You’ll win because there is only so much one man can do.

      • I miss him because he was the ONLY rider that tried to make moves and attack early. He was the only one who didn’t follow the Skytrain like a sheep waiting to be slaughtered. That’s what’s cycling is all about for me. The fight between the GC men. Heroïc attacks, brave attempts. The only brave thing in this Tour is Kruijswijk’s attack to L’alpe. That’s what makes the sport so beautiful.

        Not calculated riding like robots and buying all the best riders to make a superteam. Only looking at how much watts they are riding instead of riding with their heart.

        Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying Sky is wrong for riding like they do. They can ofcourse ride like this if they want to. It’s allowed and it’s a winning tactic. But for me it takes all the fun out of watching Grand Tours.

        @Tovarischch: I don’t agree that it is the lack of clever opposition. It’s just impossible to make any moves against the Sky team. They are just too good.

        I prefer the classics more and more.

        • I did wonder when Rowe gently led everyone over the first climb on the 65km stage with the Sky train intact, whether Contador and Nibali would have just sat on waiting… then I heard Dan Martin talk about a head wind, and it being daft to attack… but surely, he had 2 guys up the road, as did Movistar etc… even if it gained nothing it might have shed Rowe, Castro maybe even Kwiat and Poels etc at an early stage… but they all just sat there…

          • The problem is that none of the non-Sky riders are riding against ONLY Team Sky.

            In your example with Dan Martin, the problem is that if he does attack into the headwind, his non-Sky rivals in and around the top ten (Kruijswijk, Roglic, Fulgsang, Bardet, Jungels, Zakarin etc) all sit there watching him waste his energy knowing that he’s going to be towed back eventually by the lead group, even if he’s got a teammate up the road.

            So Sky may lose two helpers and be weakened, but all of these other rivals happily sit in behind the (now reduced) Sky train, saving their energy, and when the decisive moment comes later in the stage, they’ve got more left in the tank than Martin does, and they put time into him.

            As such, it makes no sense for Martin to employ this tactic, because 9 times out of 10, it loses them time.

        • I don’t agree it is impossible to make moves against Sky , everything has gone just about perfectly for Thomas this year so far including Dumoulin losing time and some of his rivals chasing each other worrying about the podium

        • Similar to F1 removing driver aids like anti-lock brakes and traction control, and making them drive more on feel & skill: remove/ban power meters during the race, and ride on feel and skill. If Sky are staring a their power meters up the climb, it is calculated, boring and the outcome seemingly inevitable. Sure, go ahead and train with them: there’s value to doing so to prepare. But during a race/stage, ban them. It’s not a rider safety issue like radios are.

          • I think exactly the opposite. I reckon the reason everyone seems so evenly matched is because they have so much training data at their disposal. They all know exactly what power-duration characteristics they need to be a contender and they prepare accordingly.

            If you really want everyone racing on feel then make them train on feel as well.

    • Roughly agree that is how it will pan out – though not so gloomy. However, whoever is most unhappy with their GC position is likely to have a go. So Quintana and possibly Roglic to try to get on the podium but he’ll leave it late

    • Ha! I think you’re worse than me!!! Nibali would have nicely filled your longing for an attacker like Contador had it not been for that camera strap…but woulda/coulda/shoulda is just that. Unless you’re a big fan of SKY, this Tour (so far) has left something to be desired in the positive excitement category. But the fat lady is still waiting in the wings…..

      • Well Larry, you wanted a guy who wouldn’t just mow them down in the chrono and now you’ve got one. Except he rides for Sky too! Still, he won two alpine stages and led the GC group home today. Are you never satisfied?

        • To be fair, Froome wasn’t just “maw then down in the Chrono” either, at least not in his first two wins. That was Wiggins only.

          For a lot of people, Froome and Wiggins got mixed together and Froome inherited a lot of animosity towards Wiggins.

  13. Wasn’t Froome in this exact same situation at the Giro? Didn’t he look just as bad then as well? Not saying he will, but 5 Tours, the double and 4 GT’s in a row must be super motivating for him and his team, big stage, big day, the fat lady hasn’t even done her sound check yet!

  14. Not sure if others have mentioned this but I can’t but feel that the organisers got the order of the last few stages wrong.

    IMHO after the long Carcassonne – Bagnères-de-Luchon stage they should have had yesterday’s sprinters stage, followed by the ITT, then today’s long mountain stage and finished off on the Saturday with Wednesday’s short Col du Portet stage.

    • I completely agree. Also I don’t like the build-up of the stages itself. Why is the Tourmalet so early? You just know nobody is going to attack there because it’s still 100k left VS the Skytrain…

    • Thought the same thing. Apart from the possibility of Roglic attacking to gain a few seconds on froome today I don’t think there will be hard attacks, it will leave tired legs for the TT and any potential gains lost.
      The flat sprinters stage between would have allowed a days recovery between attacking and the TT.

    • I agree, they need to keep playing with the format to generate as much attacking/unpredictability as possible.

      I wonder if having the short mountain stage after 1. rest day, 2. ITT, 3. flat stage so that the short mountain stage comes with the GC contenders as fresh as possible. OR, having 2-3 short mountain stages back to back to back. They need to keep changing it up. I do applaud ASO for changing the format of the stages each year. But, I also think an ITT should be long enough to allow big gaps.

  15. Only Dumoulin and Roglic can ruin this for Sky today. The rest can be controlled by the team.

    So, Tom and Primoz, how much do you really want to win?

  16. Was it just me or did I see alaphillipe sit up towards the end yesterday? Preparing to go early and sweep up some mountains points before the GC boys start putting the pressure on?

  17. Primoz Roglič has to attempt podium only 16 seconds behind Froome. Could add excitement today. Roglič doesn’t have to win, just podium with a very real chance to do just that.

    • Don’t think there will be many attacks on Froome… given his performance on the last mountain stage I would guess Dumoulain and Roglic will be happy to wait and see how his fitness is… especially if he does falter and Sky send Bernal to look after him again, it could open up Thomas to a late attack.

      I guess we could also wonder what a podium would mean to Froome at this stage as well… he could just sacrifice himself on the front for Thomas in the hope that he rides the other contenders off… if he cracks then it will be in service of the team anyway.

  18. You’ll probably cover this in a wrap-up post discussing which teams under-performed and which exceeded expectations, but I was struck yesterday when I realized that Taylor Phinney’s 9th place yesterday was, I believe, the best result EF Education First-Drapac has had this year. Last year they were all over many breakaways, had the Polka dots for a couple of days, and of course had Uran win a stage and make the podium. They obviously put all their eggs in that GC basket this year, but it’s kind of stunning how invisible they’ve been this year with Uran out. Craddock’s brave and painful ride is just about their only highlight, aside from Phinney’s two top-10 stage finishes.

    • AMEN! They have absolutely sucked. They’re not the only MPCC team either, so it isn’t because of that. But, you almost feel like Vaughters has checked out.

      A few years back Slipstream would compete for TTT’s, stages, and even GC. Wasn’t Pierre Rolland supposed to be a top GC contender? He’s 31 so should be in his peak years (at the tail end, but still at the peak). Vanmarke (and Phinney!) should have competed for the Paris-Roubaix stage, etc.

      • Unfortunately at the P-R stage they were still all-in for Uran. Still, having absolutely zero “plan B” from the start seems pretty lame. It was interesting reading that it was Phinney’s idea to even take a stab at a couple of stages, to see if he could compete with the depleted sprinter’s field. So it’s entirely possible they wouldn’t even have a single top-10 finish if he hadn’t stepped up.

        • They were all in for Uran. In part to not lose time on the TTT.

          Originally Moreno was going to be part of the team until he got hurt. Perhaps Rolland was tired after the Giro as well.

          One could argue that bringing Modolo or McClay would have been more competitive in sprints than the 15 seconds of faster time in TTT by bringing Phinney. Phinney however, is a good teammate.

  19. At the level below Sky, there are a good number of exciting racers who are all at a very similar level. Imagine how exciting and unpredictable a Tour would be with The Movistar 3, Nibali, Bardet, Roglic, Doumoulin, a Yates…

    It remains a mystery, and I’m not suggesting doping, why and how Sky manage to be consistently a significant step above, converting riders one after another into Tour winners, hardly ever succumbing to all the complexities and risks of 3 week racing, while everyone else falls away either by simple pace, nutrition, fatigue, crashes, illness, punctures, mechanicals…

    I guess we’ll have to wait for the books they’ll write in 10 or 20 years, whenever the Skyride is over.

    • “It remains a mystery, and I’m not suggesting doping, why and how Sky manage to be consistently a significant step above, converting riders one after another into Tour winners, hardly ever succumbing to all the complexities and risks of 3 week racing, while everyone else falls away either by simple pace, nutrition, fatigue, crashes, illness, punctures, mechanicals… ”

      Sky’s Giros have been largely shambolic, Vueltas not much better, both until the most recent anyway. This year’s Giro seemed straight out of Sky’s usual textbook until Froome pulled it out of the bag. They’ve worked out how “best” (objectively, definitely not subjectively) to race Le Tour but that’s it, and seem to end up with the share of the bad luck you’d expect at the other GTs instead.

      • I think one can argue that SKY has, until recently sent teams to Giro and Vuelta that were far lower in quality/ambition than they show at LeTour. That has changed, perhaps at last year’s Vuelta but certainly at this year’s Giro. Their domination is no mystery to me and dull it usually is, but a budget like the US Pentagon’s vs the rest of the world’s defense budget combined with the elephant in the room – – explains a lot, no?

        • Ah, Ross Tucker, the man who loves to pick fights. He should note that Geraint Thomas and not Chris Froome is poised to win the race. Thomas doesn’t have asthma, has never to anyone’s knowledge had a TUE (and if he had we can be sure those public spirited leakers would have leaked it by now) and has not, to date, had any dirt even thrown his way.

          I wonder what excuses Ross and his cynical mates will come up with to discredit the Welshman?

          • Is that the same Mr Tucker who wrote an article claiming there was a conspiracy in the media protecting Team Sky from criticism?

        • The first line of the linked article is:

          “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

          Well, maybe the author needs reminding of the Salem witch trials.

          • Very good.

            It’s tiresome that the main argument is it’s happened before so must be again. As for using a website that receives revenue for clicks and who advertise themselves as the go to place for doping, it’s hardly a surprise they continue to try to show it’s going on. Imagine their business model if they were to say, you know what, we think the top levels of the peloton are cleaner than they’ve ever been…

    • It’s a percentage of the winner’s time:
      The permitted finishing time is calculated according to the winner’s finishing time plus:
      • 7% if the average speed is less than or equal •to 30 km/h;
      • 8% between 30 km/h & 31 km/h;
      • 9% between 31 km/h & 32 km/h;
      • 10% between 32 km/h & 33 km/h;
      • 11% between 33 km/h & 34 km/h;
      • 12% between 34 km/h & 35 km/h;
      • 13% between 35 km/h & 36 km/h;
      • 14% between 36 km/h & 37 km/h;
      • 15% between 37 km/h & 38 km/h;
      • 16% between 38 km/h & 39 km/h;
      • 17% between 39 km/

      • Thanks! By my napkin calculations, it should be about 45 minutes. I’m feeling a little better about the remaining sprinters making it through. Please correct me if my calculations are wildly off.

  20. Wish I was still living in the area, spent many a winter’s day skiing Gourette. Crazy to choose California over Pays Basque, the cycling in Haute Pyrenees is fantastic. If I could turn the clock back…

  21. This has been the best stage of the tour so far I think.

    This descent is going to be riveting. I just hope the fog and moisture doesn’t neutralize the descent.

  22. Great stage and what a descent by Roglic! Chapeau and well deserved podium spot, which I hope he will keep tomorrow. Based on recent form I even pick him for the stage win tomorrow as well.

  23. For those who complain about doping in cycling look at the case of Ashley Johnson, a professional rugby player, caught using hydrochlorothiazide (I think we all know about that). His excuse was that he accidentally took his wife’s dietary pills and was given a back-dated 6 month ban which expires before the season starts. He played three games during the nominal ban period. Rugby’s drug controls are a complete joke.

  24. I am bored of the Thomas eulogising and Sky criticism. He’s achieved something quite wonderful and in an unexpected way. Kudos to him. I will reserve my scepticism because he deserves his moment. Sky deserve some plaudits because it’s not been an easy tour for lots of reasons and should have your respect to the extent they have faced adversity in and out of the race. Not that they do not have things to answer for.

    What I really want to talk about is how great cycling is in the Pyrenees. I proposed to my wife up the Aubisque while on the Raid. We had meant to do the Tourmalet but the road had washed away. It’s a truly terrific cycling play ground and stages like today are a prime example of what delights await you. Laruns is a gorgeous town to visit. That run into the village is pretty fabulous in that the climb just opens up on you as approach Gourette. It’s a bastard from theee to the top as top seems to just move away from you as you think you’re getting nearer, and then you’re there!

    After that the descent to the Soulor is the sort which should you get wrong you won’t get up from, but fabulous. You’ll be chasing camper vans down off the top of the Soulor and will love the rip down into Argeles Gazost. There are so many amazing rides to do. The beauty of the Pyrenees is that they are so empty. There’s far less traffic and the rides just as epic. Watching today’s stage had me pedalling every revolution. A tough day to concentrate on spreadsheets and emails for sure….

  25. Today’s stage was so exciting I dozed off a couple of times. Perhaps I slept through something but I thought if Thomas had provided the kind of support Froome provided him in the last few days, Froome wouldn’t have won Le Grand Boucle 4 times. One of my wishes has seemingly been granted – the “anybody but Froome” in the yellow jersey. My hope of “anybody but a SKY rider” looks to be dashed so I’ll look forward to Froome not being on the podium in Paris at all.
    Thomas has seemed (barring some epic failure or crash tomorrow) to defy the “3rd week collapse” I certainly thought we’d see and has ridden a smart (though typically SKY, dull) race throughout.
    I have to say “CHAPEAU” despite my doubts about the entire SKY program. Watching him ride at least I don’t imagine cartoon skeletons playing their rib cages as xylophones…so there’s that.
    Vive LeTour!

    • Thomas has ridden far from a dull race. He has finished well up on every stage and honoured the yellow jersey. I’m sure someone will prove me wrong but I would guess he has an an agreggate better finishing position than any Tour winner in the last 10 years.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised to see Froome pull off a strong TT. He’s not my favorite rider, but he’s tough as nails, no doubt, and very competitive.

      • SLO_cyclist,
        I hope Roglic hangs onto His podium placing, but I’m afraid that may not be “it” -it’s that close.

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