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Tour de France Stage 20 Preview

Geraint Thomas looks safe in the yellow jersey, he could even win the stage today but other steps of the podium are in play in today’s time trial with a course that puts the emphasis on trial.

Primož inter pares: a fast start and eventually a breakaway went clear only for Katusha-Alpecin, or what is left of them, to start chasing. It was so Ilnur Zakarin could attack on the Tourmalet and he was joined by Mikel Landa, then Romain Bardet, Jacob Fuglsang and Rafał Majka, all in action with still 100km to go. Soon Landa was virtual podium material in Paris and this incited Lotto-Jumbo to take up the chase and Robert Gesink chomped into the breakaway’s lead but at the same time the breakaways knew they weren’t ought to win the GC, this was for the stage win and they were trying to keep something in reserve for the finish. They tried but it didn’t work, a flurry of attacks from Primož Roglič, Steven Kruijswijk and Tom Dumoulin thinned down the yellow jersey group but Geraint Thomas never wobbled. Chris Froome though was dropped but across the top of the Aubisque he was towed back into contention by Egan Bernal. Come the final descent and Roglič never seemed to lose the front position, he kept trying to open up a gap and finally got one and with it the stage win and the time bonus. All told this was probably the best stage of the race and one of the better stages across recent vintages, what it lacked in total reversals and surprises it gained in seeing big names on manoeuvres with 100km to go.

The Route: make a saccadic glance at the profile and it looks innocuous enough but look closer and you start to wonder, the climb out of the start for instance and all the oddly spelt names. Then go and ride the course and you realise the map is certainly not the terrain. This is a very hard time trial course, uphill from the start and the kind of ascent where a rider will quickly know if they’re on a good day or not and where some can go into oxygen debt and spend the rest of the course defaulting. To help the course has been resurfaced with billiard-table blacktop. The odd-sounding names? We’re in the Basque country and if it’s on the French side it still means steep roads, a roller-coaster of a course. The section from KM4 looks level on the profile but it’s got lots of rollers to work the derailleur and countless bends, a follower in a vehicle could get travel sickness and taking the best line will save significant amounts of time. The descent down to Ustaritz is twisty and steep and then it starts to snake back up to the first time check.

After the time check comes the section to suit the more powerful riders where they can get into a tuck and turn a big gear although still up and down across a ridge and fast across to Souraïde and then an awkward descent, do riders stay on the tribars for speed at the risk of losing control? Then another climb and the second time check.

At Ordotz there’s a left turn and it’s onto a small road, a brief descent and then the “wall”. First the road rears and you think you’ve made it as it levels out by a farm, then it goes up again so if it’s listed as 900m at 10.2%, there’s plenty of 14% each time to the Col de Pinodieta, the last mountain pass of the Tour de France and a sight for sore legs. It’s a fast descent with some more bends before an open road and then a drag up to the line in Espelette.

  • The course that wasn’t to be: because the Tour was moved back a week to avoid clashing with the FIFA World Cup apparently the original plan was for a road stage into the Basque Country followed by flatter time trial around Pau, but because of a big festival in nearby Bayonne all the Basque hotels were fully booked meaning they opted for a time trial instead and all the race caravan has stayed put in Pau for the last three nights and returns back for another night before catching a flight tomorrow to Paris.

The Contenders: last year Maciej Bodnar was the surprise in Marseille, he’d saved his energy for the final time trial and beat the bigger names. This year the course seems to hilly for the heavy-set rouleurs like Bodnar, Stefan Küng (BMC Racing) or Yves Lampaert (Quick Step) who have been saving themselves for today.

Among the GC contenders we’re left extrapolating among those in action yesterday. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) has the TT credentials, he won the prologue in Düsseldorf last year and has been the strongest rider in the Tour which makes him a strong pick today. Apparently he’s ridden the course three times already (which puts him on a par with this blog) but as The Cycling Podcast points out says he’s been aiming for this race. Chris Froome could still be close but has been struggling of late on the climbs.

Primož Roglič (Lotto-Jumbo) is the man of the moment, he was all over yesterday’s stage and has won plenty of TTs already and this is a course for him too.

Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) ought to be the default pick but if he was active yesterday, he was not incisive and this course isn’t the one he’d design, especially if he could draw the route this morning.

It’s hard to see other contenders. Pierre Latour (Ag2r La Mondiale) is the French champion and won by a huge margin but has spent the last few days resembling a boiling pressure cooker, Michał Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) has looked smoother but must be equally drained. Bob Jungels (Quick Step) can roll but will be drained from yesterday.

Primož Roglič, Geraint Thomas
Tom Dumoulin
Froome, Küng, Latour

Weather: a top temperature of 25°C with the outside chance of rain for the early starters but the latest forecast says it’ll be dry for all. The rain can make a big difference, these roads are much more awkward in the wet.

TV: live from the start to finish. Lawson Craddock is off at midday CEST with Geraint Thomas starting at 4.29pm CEST.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • MJJ Saturday, 28 July 2018, 6:14 am

    It’s interesting that the only real fight amongst the top 10 seems to be Froome and Roglic. I cannot see Landa pressuring Kruijswijk and everyone else has sizable enough gaps to feel consigned to their place.

    • Tom L Saturday, 28 July 2018, 8:03 am

      I dont think Dumo is sure of his place yet!
      Its a 3 way battle for 2nd and 3rd…

  • Larry T Saturday, 28 July 2018, 7:11 am

    “All told this was probably the best stage of the race and one of the better stages across recent vintages, what it lacked in total reversals and surprises it gained in seeing big names on manoeuvres with 100km to go.”
    Really? Wow. Your first claim seems reasonable but your second makes me think I must be more jaded and cynical about LeTour than ever? Or maybe it’s the usual problem of it being almost impossible to equal all the hype that goes with it like the NFL Superbowl?
    In a way I hope Thomas wins the stage today, that’ll put a final stamp (he was called a “francobollo giallo” yellow stamp on Italian TV yesterday for being stuck to Dumoulin) on his victory.
    Thanks for the great stage reviews and previews during the whole thing!

    • Tovarishch Saturday, 28 July 2018, 7:34 am

      I would love Thomas to win it, as would he, but with Roglic needing to take 19 secs off Dumoulin I think all the Sky camp will be telling him to play safe. Although that could actually be the best tactic.

    • Ecky Thump Saturday, 28 July 2018, 8:23 am

      “The Yellow Stamp”.
      That is good 🙂

      • GeorgeY Saturday, 28 July 2018, 8:41 am

        Italian commentators often use the expression “francobollato alla ruota di …” or literally stuck like a stamp to someone’s wheel to describe wheel sucking.

      • Nick Knatterton Saturday, 28 July 2018, 9:10 am

        Well, Thomas has won two stages, Dumoulin none. How could the former have done that by being glued to the latters wheel?

        • Anonymous Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:46 am

          He won 2 stages in a short sprint, after hanging on other wheels the whole day. So yes, he leads, the tour. But 2 stage wins sound more impressive on paper than they were in reality.

          • Charlie Saturday, 28 July 2018, 3:43 pm

            So now a stage win doesn’t count unless it’s a 100km solo breakaway ?

            Most sprint stage winners sit on wheels all day so I guess they don’t count either

            It just sounds like you don’t want to give him any credit

          • Anonymous Saturday, 28 July 2018, 6:09 pm

            Some GT winners shine and win through an huge effort, some are just there. I like the first more. Those are the ones that will be remembered.
            And I don’t l don’t now where you read about a mandatory 100km solo in my post.

  • RQS Saturday, 28 July 2018, 7:27 am

    I was going to say I was surprised that you didn’t include Froome, but (to borrow a phrase) he does look ‘as stale as a three day old baguette in the back of a car’. I still think he could do a reasonable TT, but am guessing you don’t think 20 secs into Roglic is possible.

    • RonDe Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:07 am

      If Froome is to do a good time trial it might be that Dumoulin is the one more under threat. An open mic behind the stage at the podium presentations last night was reported to have caught Thomas discussing today’s time trial with Roglic and the Welshman telling the Slovenian that Dumoulin had been right on his limit at the end of the stage. Dumoulin must surely be more tired than either of them. But, I’ll grant you, Froome is clearly suffering too. It could come down to who can give it one more go on the day.

      • Lord Flash Saturday, 28 July 2018, 2:24 pm

        I would guess they were all at the limit at the end of the stage. Or do you think Roglic was holding back?

        At the beginning of this year TD would have been the favorite for an ITT even if he was losing time on the mountain stages. Now he’s sticking with the best and even attacking but he can’t win because he’s at his limit? Weird logic

  • Dime Saturday, 28 July 2018, 7:54 am

    I wonder if this is Froome looking jaded from his Giro win, or are we seeing the No.1 stage race rider over his peak. It comes to them all but of course they never like to admit it.

    • Tom L Saturday, 28 July 2018, 8:07 am

      Its his 4th GT in a row, I think hes tired!
      I think next year, he will be aiming 100% for his 5th tdf, and I think we will see then if he is starting to decline…
      I think he has at least that final swan song left in him…

      • TT Saturday, 28 July 2018, 8:25 am

        Co-leaders in 2019? If Thomas continues to improve, Froome’s biggest barrier to the 5th win is in his own team

      • RQQ Saturday, 28 July 2018, 8:50 am

        Yea i completely agree, we shouldnt underestimate his accomplishments in the last 3 GTs, of course it takes some toll, and if he comes back 100% focussed on the tour, he could most definitely take the 5th win.

        • Allegedly Anthony Saturday, 28 July 2018, 9:41 am

          Yes, but…
          Once Geraint has one a Tour the team”s internal politics change and he has to be taken more seriously (by himself, the team and also the rivals who were less bothered about him at the start of the race) CF may well find he’said no longer the undisputed king at Sky. Add ton that progress by Roglic, Dumoulin, Bernal and others and suddenly the landscape looks a lot more complicated for Froome, even if he does return next year at the level he reached in 2017?

          • Anonymous Saturday, 28 July 2018, 9:42 am

            Sorry, obviously that is “won”, not “one”. I’don’t like to blame autocorrect…

          • RonDe Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:09 am

            A conversation that goes “OK G, you’ve won the Tour now. Well done. How about trying the Giro again?” is just as likely.

          • Ecky Thump Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:16 am

            Agree with RonDe about Thomas to the Giro next year.

            What will be interesting though is how ASO / RCS look to design their GT courses from here on in. We’ve got a gaggle of ‘Super TT’ers” now that can win the 3 week races. Do the designers run with that or design against it?
            (Personally, I hope for the former. The TTs are cancelled out and the action then has to happen elsewhere).

          • Tom L Saturday, 28 July 2018, 11:45 am

            The amazing thing here is, that we got 4 World class TTers leading the tour, and there hasn’t been a tt yet!!
            Imagine if they put in a 40 k TT next year! Porte is the only other rider in the world with a shot to get in the mix then! If he can stay upright…

  • Tom L Saturday, 28 July 2018, 8:10 am

    I think Jungels is a Dark horse for today as well, and then Im looking forward to seing Kragh, although it could be a little to hard for him…

    All the Sky boys are potential outsiders as well!
    Poels, Castroviejo, Kwiatkovski and Bernal can all go fast on a course like this…

    • StevhanTI Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:18 am

      Was thinking about Jungles too, he’ll go as hard as ever in a final bid to crack the top ten.

      • DUNCAN Saturday, 28 July 2018, 12:42 pm

        I like this comment… it basically takes you the heart of Team Sky… and possibly all of Grand Tour cycling?

        Engines. Team Sky mostly employ riders who can TT and climb a bit, and then (for the most part) thins them down/altitude trains them to heighten their climbing performance. A few are slightly more known as climbers, but aside from Landa, almost none of their riders are missing that core TT-capable engine.

        It seems to mean they can mix around who does what on stages, plus riders can cover for those who’ve been DSQ’d or crashed. Maybe this is them just thinking ‘we’re going to be riding on the front a lot’… or money… or its really just the route of how to win a Grand Tour?

        We all love a climber, but really 90% of the time is won by those who can TT with the best, so Sky have just used their cheque books to make a fairly basic leap: employ riders across the team with that characteristic.

        • DUNCAN Saturday, 28 July 2018, 1:27 pm

          If you look at the last GT winners over the previous 8 years – only 4 of 23 have been won by pure climbers, and only 1 TDF:

          Quintana 16vuelta, 14giro
          Horner 13vuelta
          Cobo 11vuelta
          Scarponi 11giro

          • DUNCAN Saturday, 28 July 2018, 1:28 pm

            (sorry no TDF’s, Schleck was the last 9 years ago)

  • Tom L Saturday, 28 July 2018, 8:12 am

    A technical course with tricky downhills and stort step ascends? Sounds a bit like something for Alaphilippe as well?

  • Chris_SK Saturday, 28 July 2018, 8:34 am

    I hope Roglic & Kruiswijk got a round of drinks in for Gesink last night! The unusual sight, of the tall Dutchman smashing the pace setting in full gas mode on the Sorenne. Nice to see LottoJumbo use his skills in something other than the long breakaway attempt to be honest.

    • Chris_SK Saturday, 28 July 2018, 8:35 am

      *Soulor sorry

    • Nick Knatterton Saturday, 28 July 2018, 9:12 am


  • Ecky Thump Saturday, 28 July 2018, 8:34 am

    PCS has got Roglic as 1.77m tall / 65 kg.
    He looks like he goes to the same gym as Sagan – legs like tree trunks with a build that would befit a pair of boxing gloves rather than handlebars.
    Compare him with, say, Bardet – taller at 1.84m / 65 kg too. He looks like a strong wind might snap him in two.

    Is Roglic what Peter Sagan could be if the latter lost some weight?
    That feels so interesting to contemplate the cycling possibilities…?

    • GeorgeY Saturday, 28 July 2018, 9:01 am

      There’s a limit to weight loss, lose too much and muscle mass (power) goes down as well. Without wishing to go off-topic I have to point out that rumors say there are illegal methods to get around this physiological constraint by losing only body fat and no muscle mass.

      • RQS Saturday, 28 July 2018, 11:12 pm

        +1 know what you say.

  • weeclarky Saturday, 28 July 2018, 8:44 am

    I thought TD’s complains about the camera bike was interesting yesterday. I watched the descent again and the bike was definitely close. I don’t know how the rules work, but at 80km/h the wake from the camera bike must be ~100m, which means significant slipstream at 10m, which seems to be the normal distance they try to keep.

    I’m super happy for GT — he’s been totally solid all tour. Fingers crossed for today!

    Many thanks for the coverage Inrng, mornings won’t be the same from Monday…

    • EightyEight Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:18 am

      There might be some argument to that but, if they were that worried about him, how come the rest of the group couldn’t hold roglic’s wheel further up the descent given the drafting benefit.

      • Nicktarios Saturday, 28 July 2018, 12:57 pm

        Agreed. Normally I like TD straight talking but I think he’s off base with this one. They couldn’t hold Roglic’s wheel for any period of that descent.

        • RQS Saturday, 28 July 2018, 11:26 pm

          It’s an interesting one. I thought does he have a point? I confess that I don’t really know. But how was it any different from other descents? The last one I can think of was Alaphilippe’s chase of Yates, and that was all filmed from behind.

          I would guess that if you are behind the moto is does provide an aero effect. If you are close enough to the bike I’m sure the effect is strong. Was it 20 seconds better? Difficult to tell. Roglic certainly looked better in the cornering. In the end it wasn’t telling on the GC. But maybe it decided that stage.

  • z unblocked Saturday, 28 July 2018, 8:44 am

    Thomas should win today. He’s ‘super strong’ and has the advantage of starting last so knows what he needs to do. He crashed in the Dauphine TT yet still almost won it.

    Dumoulin should be good enough to hold 2nd, even though he doesn’t tend to dominate TTs quite so much at the end of Tours.

    Froome surely knew it wasn’t to be ever since Alpe d’Huez. He seems preoccupied with family matters now and I sense that he would already be home if Thomas weren’t challenging to win. If he finishes in the top 5 today I’d be amazed.

    • DUNCAN Saturday, 28 July 2018, 1:33 pm

      Tweeting that you’re looking forward to you second kid doesn’t really mean you’re preoccupied with your family!! You drive a hard bargain Z Unblocked!

      I actually cannot get over Froome’s focus in the last few years Wiggins only lasted a few years on the Sky Monk-like leader existence, Froome even through the entire Salbutamol case, his crash in ’14 etc seems to have not only maintained his level/focus but managed to improve as a rider/leader in a number of ways.

      I agree his level has either dipped or changed or others have caught up from 2016/7 onwards and maybe taking a break now and family time might be hard to come back from. But really… if anyone can he can.

  • jc Saturday, 28 July 2018, 8:46 am

    Whilst yesterday’s stage was interesting enough I didnt think it was as good as some recent GT stages. To use a Tour example the Mont du Chat stage into Chambery last year has good claims to be in the “epic” category. This one had some good elements but in the end it made little difference to the race.

    Geraint Thomas, as he has done all race, looked calm, never seeming to wilt for one second under pressure, he probably didnt need the bonus seconds but made sure he got them. For the others it was largely a case of what might have been.

    Where now for Nairo Quintana? Conversely Egan Bernal seems to be the future of cycling, not just his outstanding performances but his obvious maturity, humility but clear ambition to succeed.

    It seems to be a telling pointer that G not only took the time to ride today’s course but did so three times, how many of the other main contenders have done so (its not exactly a big budget thing to do)? He is in the perfect position of being able to measure his effort, coming home in one piece is more important than winning the stage by a few seconds. I wonder how much energy any of the riders have left except for the few that might have been targeting this stage. The only real intrigue is to see how Primoz Roglic goes and if Chris Froome can pull back those seconds to get onto the podium.

    • Digahole Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:53 am

      Bernal: Even with maximum hype… he’s good! Leading the best riders in the world up the beast of the Col du Portet, all of them on their limit, then checking over his shoulder now and again as though he’s pacing a mate to a new Strava PB. Ominous.

      • Charles Saturday, 28 July 2018, 12:16 pm

        Ha! Great analogy. As Froome was to Wiggins all those years a ago. Surely Bernal gets leadership of Giro or Vuelta next year

        • DUNCAN Saturday, 28 July 2018, 1:34 pm

          I’m dumbfounded by Bernal.

          His level at his age feels almost unheard of.
          Whether he delivers or not, at this moment the talent is scary.

          • Anonymous Saturday, 28 July 2018, 6:13 pm

            Ullrich was 22 and finished second at his first Tour. And would have won it if it weren’t not for his team mate Bjarne…

  • Anonymous Saturday, 28 July 2018, 8:59 am

    Thomas has no history of a 3 week race – You wont hear that line strung out again, thank goodness!

    • RonDe Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:13 am

      All the “Thomas will never win, he always has a bad day” folks are presumably hoping that day is today to validate their theory.

      • BC Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:33 am

        Well RonDe, I was one of the many who thought Thomas’s GT ambitions were spoiling a good classics rider. I am pleased he is on the cusp of victory and that my view was incorrect.

        I expect I am not the only on to be happy to eat humble pie.

        • Martin D Saturday, 28 July 2018, 9:21 pm

          Me too. I thought two years ago that he wasn’t strong enough in either climbs and TT to win a grand tour. I’m so pleased I was wrong.

  • KevinR Saturday, 28 July 2018, 9:02 am

    How are Sky going to manage their trio of leaders next year (Thomas, Froome and Bernal)?!!! Probably better than Movistar have overseen El Tridente.
    Thomas only needs to stay upright today to win the Tour. The question is can Dumoulin fend off Roglic – Froome’s not got the legs to get back on the podium.

    • Tom L Saturday, 28 July 2018, 11:41 am

      Bernal can use another year as the main domestique, learning behind a man like Froome could pay huge dividends in the future!!

      • DUNCAN Saturday, 28 July 2018, 1:41 pm

        My plan, were I Brailsford…

        Give Froome one last shot at the TDF if he wants it, fully backed by the team as undisputed leader.
        And do it by sending G and Bernal to the Giro as joint leaders, with G going onto TDF as a lesser plan B than this year and Bernal going to Vuelta after.

        If Froome is unsure of his currently unsure of his own ability – send him to the Giro and Vuelta with Bernal and Thomas to the TDF next year.

        You’d have thought they could keep everyone happy with either of those scenarios, before 2020 they move into the Bernal era and Thomas can have a few more goes at Roubaix/Flanders and Froome either retires or picks off Vueltas/Giros. If Froome comes back strong next year though, 2020 is going to be the problem not 2019!

        • Nicktarios Saturday, 28 July 2018, 11:35 pm

          I think Thomas deserves higher pegging than Bernal next year. Co leader is a bit of an insult for a reigning TDF winner compared to a 22 year old. Bernal will indeed be a star, but his time will come. I doubt they’ll spruik him as a GT leader next year over/with Thomas. If I was GT right now I’d be second guessing any move to re-sign with sky (if it isn’t already in the bag). His market worth has now increased, presumably even with sky’s undoubtedly astronomic super domestique wages. A TDF winner shouldn’t be playing second fiddle, particularly at Thomas’s age. Sky may indeed present his best chance for more Grand tour wins – but I want to know what the plan was before committing. He shouldn’t be subservient to Froome in the TDF next year.

          • Ben Sunday, 29 July 2018, 12:04 am

            Sky will choose the riders for the Tdf, giro, etc in the same way as the last few years. The riders decide which races they want to target, it is their career. Whichever rider is aiming for the race and is going best/ is most likely to win (by sports analysts referring to their numbers, timing of form, their strengths over 3wks, the course, the opposition etc) is team leader. Everyone riding the race is the best available to do their job supporting the team leader. If you wanna be in the best gt team in the world you play by their rules, if you wanna lead the best get team in the world in a race you make yourself the best rider for that race and the best teammate the rest of the year.

  • Anonymous Saturday, 28 July 2018, 9:14 am

    If I were a betting man I’d say Thomas for the Giro, Froome for one last shot at the Tour, and Bernal for the Vuelta.
    But OTOH the joint leader thing seems to have worked well… will Sky be tempted to spar their own riders against each other routinely from now on?

    • Shearman Saturday, 28 July 2018, 9:28 am

      I wonder if he would be tempted with a shot at the Worlds in Yorkshire? That would mean more of a one day focus earlier in the year and possibly Vuelta as prep, although probably not for GC.

    • EightyEight Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:25 am

      I was thinking similar thing (although hadn’t got as far as Vuelta for Bernal). I think there was joint leadership due to the AAF, generally I think it’s a bad idea (see Movistar).

      Did wonder how things would have panned out if froome hadn’t lost time on the first day. Would G have been required to play domestic duties and therefore have surrendered a chance to win? Possibly good fortune for sky that froome crashed.

    • Charles Saturday, 28 July 2018, 12:19 pm

      If you look at it purely from a marketing/publicity point of view it’s been a master stroke

  • George G Saturday, 28 July 2018, 9:16 am

    Is Espelette where the famous “piment” comes from?

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:13 am


    • Ruby Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:21 am


  • Steph Saturday, 28 July 2018, 9:20 am

    Do you think Froome will still make it to the podium? Thanks

    • Alastair S Saturday, 28 July 2018, 9:54 am

      This Velonews report suggests Froome is more focused on family matters than a podium place


      • bcb Saturday, 28 July 2018, 11:24 am

        Given the timing of this birth it seems he wasn’t that fatigued after the Tour-Vuelta double & the Bergen TT!

        • DUNCAN Saturday, 28 July 2018, 1:43 pm

          He won’t make second by taking 30secs on Dumoulin.
          It seems very unlikely on current for he’ll take time on Roglic either.

          • DUNCAN Saturday, 28 July 2018, 6:46 pm

            100% WRONG.

  • Richard S Saturday, 28 July 2018, 9:32 am

    So it turns out it’s easier to isolate the best riders on the most powerful team on a long mountain stage, rather than a tiny one. Who would’ve guessed?

    • paranoid Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:29 am

      Not the ASO who have for years now been trying to build the most perfect anti-Sky and pro-Bardet course possible. Trouble is, Sky keep adapting and Bardet never steps up.

      • The Inner Ring Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:35 am

        If they had aimed for that they’d have avoided a long TTT and cobbled stage to Roubaix, no?

        • KevinK Saturday, 28 July 2018, 11:23 am

          Thanks for consistently being a moderating voice of reason and clarity in the comments section. I enjoy reading your takes on our comments as much as I enjoy the blog posts themselves.

        • ooooo Saturday, 28 July 2018, 11:26 am

          Bardet’s Strade Bianche performance speaks against one of these points.

          • The Inner Ring Saturday, 28 July 2018, 2:13 pm

            True although the Tour route was designed/announced before he did this 😉

        • Anonymous Saturday, 28 July 2018, 1:06 pm

          Bardet is favoured by a long TTT rather than an equally long ITT. He loses less time with his team to protect him than he would on his own.

          • RQS Saturday, 28 July 2018, 11:32 pm

            That’s a shonky argument. You don’t have to have an ITT and TTT. They could just do an ITT.

        • Larry T Saturday, 28 July 2018, 6:13 pm


    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:35 am

      I think it’s also the scenario in the race that determines this, plus Sky haven’t looked as strong this time, losing Moscon and Poels wasn’t riding like he was before.

      • paranoid Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:48 am

        Sky placed two guys in the top four and will win the race. Its coming to something when this is seen as “not as strong”.

        Movistar would sacrifice their mothers for such a result.

  • JH Saturday, 28 July 2018, 9:41 am

    Last year’s Worlds: 31km over a course with quite a hill in it:

    Dumoulin 44:41
    Roglic: +0:57
    Froome: +1:21

    Same distance today, not that dissimilar in terms of course profile.

    Difference is this is stage 20.

    Froome looks knackered (very tired).
    Dumoulin also looks tired
    Roglic looked the freshest yesterday. Not sure he had to work that much harder than Froome or Dumoulin, so maybe his edge remains.

    So we can perhaps expect to see a similar gap between Froome and Dumoulin. The variable is Roglic. He’s come on a lot this year, and seems to be the freshest.

    Jungels was 1:49 back in the worlds, so will be an interesting marker before the others come in.
    Lampaert and Kung were 2:35/2:49 back so another possible early indicator. They finished in the grupetto yesterday (+38 and +32)

    Bodnar was 6 minutes back at the World Champs. Today is not a course for him.

    • JH Saturday, 28 July 2018, 9:44 am

      I forgot to add, barring incidents, the battle is for positions 2 and 3. Don’t see Froome closing the gap on Roglic, but Roglic has a chance, all be it small, of getting close to the second spot.

    • Steph Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:03 am

      Yes, I was thinking about the Bergen profile too, but the difference is that it had a very steep and long climb and Froome lost significant time there. This one today also has a couple of a lot shorter walls, but it’s still rather hilly and if someone can find the right rhythm that could be the key. Also, a wrong rhythm can cause serious demages to anyone. They’re in the 3rd week and anything can happen. And the road will probably be wet at least where it really counts, in the shadowy curves of steep descends, so 3rd week fatigue and the rollercoaster with slippery surface will be a dangerous mix. I actually expect Froome to crash.

    • kim jong vaughters Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:19 am

      I wondered if someone would mention the worlds and well done JH because you have fallen for it hook, line and sinker. But you make it worse by claiming that a tired Dumoulin will beat Froome by the same time gap that a totally fresh one beat a totally knackered, 2 grand tours in a row winning Froome last September.

      Believe me when I tell you that the result last year has no bearing on or useful comparison with what will happen today. Roglic, I’m sure, will beat Dumoulin. The interesting question is the gap between Dumoulin and Froome and in which direction. In the Giro, only two months ago and at a slightly longer distance, the gap was only 13 seconds in Tom’s favour. That, I suggest, is a much better measure.

      • JH Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:32 am


        At least we’ve reached the same conclusion 😉

      • Steph Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:39 am

        Froome was still in a lot better form in Bergen, than now. This time they both equally have two GTs in their legs but Dumoulin seems to be somewhat fresher again and Bernal won’t be there to give help each time the boss is getting in crisis.

      • Sam Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:53 am

        On top of that, Froome had just that morning found out that he had the potential AAF. That will disturb anyone’s performance.

      • Larry T Saturday, 28 July 2018, 6:12 pm

        “Roglic, I’m sure, will beat Dumoulin.” Uh, perhaps another example of your depth of knowledge that you should leave out of that CV you’re sending to Movistar?

        • kim jong vaughters Saturday, 28 July 2018, 6:22 pm

          And the other half of my prediction Larry? Hmmm.

  • MrJonesDK Saturday, 28 July 2018, 9:51 am

    I think Thomas will ride the hole day with the rule in hes head. “Ride safely and you’ll win TDF”

    That why I think Primož Roglič will win over Geraint Thomas today.

    I also thought of Søren Kragh today along with Ion Izaguirre Insausti and wonder if they could surprise a bit? 🙂

  • RonDe Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:24 am

    So, Sky should win their fourth grand tour in a row today. When, I wonder, will the run stop? Now not only do they have Froome, the best grand tour rider of this decade, to call on, but they have Thomas who has finally proved himself and they have the best newcomer for years in Egan Bernal, a man who is going to finish in the top 15 aged only 21 and the youngest rider in the race in his first grand tour. For reference, Nibali finished his first Tour de France in 18th place and went on to win 4 grand tours (so far).

    Or put these facts another way: what the hell are the other teams playing at?

    • JH Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:38 am

      Indeed. Tactics or Budget?

      Castroviejo had 6 years at Movistar, which included 3 national champs and a world’s podium.

      Barely saw him then; never off the TV screens now.

      Sure, the budget helps. I’m not sure that reducing the amount of money going in to the sport is a good, or practical, thing.

      • Alastair S Saturday, 28 July 2018, 2:07 pm

        Yes, very good point. I remember Castroviejo did an outstanding ride for Spain in the Rio Olympics but as you say never saw him do the same for Movistar. Also look at Kiryienka who spent three years at Caisse d’Epargne before moving on to Sky.

        • The Inner Ring Saturday, 28 July 2018, 2:10 pm

          He’s been good for Movistar, very valuable for the TTTs and a similar pacing/support role in stage races like the 2016 Vuelta when Quintana won. But Movistar/Quintana have a different style of racing so the mountain train aspect isn’t so visible.

    • Ecky Thump Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:44 am

      What is Bernal’s ITT strength, though.
      That is the crucial point going forward?

      • RonDe Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:51 am

        Colombian ITT champ. Won the Romandie uphill ITT beating Roglic in the process but suffers on long, flat ITTs. Being at Sky will only improve him though. NIbali and Contador won multiple grand tours being very competent but not necessarily the best ITTers. Bernal is in their mould , I think.

    • jc Saturday, 28 July 2018, 11:34 am

      Not sure what sort of team Sky is likely to put out at the Vuelta. I am sure the earlier talk of Chris Froome defending his title has gone away, I guess some rest, family time and a tilt at the world championships is on the cards.

      G was supposed to have been leading the team but will he want to after this, he was already expressing doubts about two GTs in succession, another one for whom Innsbruck might look attractive.

      Wout Poels seems like he needs a good rest.

      I can see them sending a young team to build up experience, the question then is does Egan Bernal go? I would suggest no, too much too soon but the Sky coaching team will have a good idea if it makes sense. We could see Tao Geoghegan Hart, Pavel Sivakov, Kristoffer Halverson etc make GT debuts along side a couple of experienced pros. That would mean Sky would be very unlikely to win especially up against the likes of Richie Porte, Vincenzo Niballi etc

      • Anonymous Saturday, 28 July 2018, 12:01 pm

        Bernal is a jewel. You don’t let these do 2 GT in a row at 21. Give the kid a break.

      • Tovarishch Saturday, 28 July 2018, 12:25 pm

        The GB selectors are going to have fun deciding on pecking order for the worlds. Although Thomas should be doing the TT, I am sure he will want to do the road race. Two Yates’s, Froome, Thomas, what a choice. The only certainty is Luke Rowe.

        • Nicktarios Saturday, 28 July 2018, 1:16 pm

          They might as well leave Froome at home. He’s lost in a one day race and has zero pedigree in them.

      • RQS Saturday, 28 July 2018, 11:49 pm

        Your ponderance echoed my thoughts re: La Vuelta.

        I just can’t think who they would put forward. I guess they may stick with G as that is what they have planned. Froome for the Worlds seems likely. If Landa was still at Sky he’d be a shoe-in.

        I think Nibali has to be favourite for the Vuelta now.

  • jules winnfield Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:42 am

    One thing this Tour shows is that you simply can’t win a grand tour if you’re a pure climber. Note there is a two minute gap between fourth and fifth before today’s stage which will only be wider at the end.

    Take the example of Quintana as a climber. He won the Giro in 14 with no serious opposition. The three best riders of the time, Nibali, Contador and Froome, did not take part. Then he won the Vuelta in 16 largely based on one horrible day for Sky initiated by Contador and which he had the good fortune to follow. I would argue he has got lucky with his two wins. Since then he has been in the mix but never seriously threatened the top step. He is arguably the best of the pure climbers but in this race has been poor. Even his win was by courtesy of the fact he was largely irrelevant to the overall GC and so did not need to be chased. He will finish here in the lower reaches of the top ten and, even before his crash, cut an unimpressive figure.

    Look at other pure climbers, Landa, Bardet, Kruijswijk, do you really see any of them winning a grand tour? Even those who have left this race, Porte and Nibali, are all-rounders.

    • Davesta Saturday, 28 July 2018, 12:17 pm

      “Pure climber” seems to be becoming a slightly odd term…when applied to the likes of Bardet, Quintana & Kruijswijk, it seems to mean “somebody who is less good at both climbing & TTing than an all rounder”…surely a “pure climber” should be able to consistently out-climb all rounders like Thomas, Dumoulin, Roglic etc?!

      • Larry T Saturday, 28 July 2018, 6:06 pm

        I think you are correct. The pure climbers these days dull their climbing ability with crono training because the management tells them they must. The winning formula is too often….well, I won’t even type it, because too many will groan. I think the last “pure climber” to win was a guy who EPO helped immensely against the clock – Il Pirata. But these big guys are so skinny and go uphill so well these days, a “pure climber” seemingly can never get enough advantage going up to hold the big boys off when it comes to the crono. I would like to see an experiment in the crono to determine whether my theory that the aero-bars and such benefit the big but skinny guys more than the tiny “pure climbers” has any merit, but I’m not holding my breath.

        • jules winnfield Saturday, 28 July 2018, 6:28 pm

          Its worse than that Larry. The most consistent climbers in this race were also the best in the chrono. The Dumoulin/Froome/Thomas/Roglic mold is the future. If all you can do is climb you stand no chance, especially when you can’t even consistently outclimb these guys.

          • Larry T Saturday, 28 July 2018, 9:53 pm

            It’s been the mold for far longer, though I think it’s been made worse by the tiny gear ratios of recent years. A light “pure climber” dancing on the pedals is run down by large men with huge lungs and hearts that have been stripped-to-the-bone to create a monster not seen before. BigMig spun a gear but it was far from the twiddling that makes muscle mass little more than dead weight these days – just ask Peter Sagan. In the old days the engines (riders) had lots of torque…these days it’s all horsepower if you want to win Grand Tours. Almost a different sport entirely.

    • Augie March Saturday, 28 July 2018, 2:12 pm


      As you would have read here though, the Colombian hype train has moved on to Bernal so Quintana will be relegated to yesterday’s man I feel.

  • Tommy W Saturday, 28 July 2018, 10:57 am

    A wee bit off-topic, but perhaps someone from the UK can respond anyway: do ITV always show the main tours and classics live? ( I subscribed to Eurosport last year solely in order to see the cycling, but Carlton Kirby is such a pain in the butt that he takes all the enjoyment out of it and the mute button on my remote control is wearing out …)

    • Liam Saturday, 28 July 2018, 11:02 am

      No. Just the Tour as a regular thing and the Tours of Britain and Yorkshire. Classics they don’t touch. The other grand tours I believe they have a highlights show at night.

    • Anonymous Saturday, 28 July 2018, 12:31 pm

      Just the tour live in full. Kirby is insufferable but I think he’s used less and less. Eurosport is your best bet

    • Ecky Thump Saturday, 28 July 2018, 12:56 pm

      The Criterium du Dauphine was on ITV as highlights.
      We get highlights of the Giro and Vuelta on Freeview too, Quest did the Giro this year.
      The next step must be the Spring campaign.

      • Tommy W Saturday, 28 July 2018, 1:56 pm

        Thank you.

        • BC Saturday, 28 July 2018, 2:22 pm

          I feel your pain over CK Tommy. A complete ignoramus with little comprehension of what he is seeing. I have Eurosport Player but have viewed the Tour on ITV to escape his endless inane comments.

          If you want full classic and GTs coverage stay with Eurosport. The annual fee is a better buy than the monthly fee.

        • Chuffy Saturday, 28 July 2018, 9:17 pm

          I had the misfortune to watch todays stage on Eurosport rather than ITV. Kirby & Kelly are absolutely dreadful.

          ITV deserve a huge pat on the back for the way they’ve gradually stepped up the quantity and quality of their coverage – Boulting & Millar are fantastic company through a stage and they’ve had some quality guests as well (Peter Kennaugh was especially good). I just hope they eventually pick up the Giro & some of the bigger one day races.

          • RQS Sunday, 29 July 2018, 10:51 pm

            What Matt Smith is doing in there is anyone’s guess. There is a direct link from the 80s Channel 4 coverage to today’s ITV team with Gary Imlach being the main figurehead, Smith stinks the coverage. Typical ITV lowest common denominator.

    • JH Saturday, 28 July 2018, 2:46 pm

      ITV have a deal with ASO, so you get their races

      Vuelta, tdf, Paris Roubaix, etc and, of course the tour de yorkshire

      Iirc correctly, they were mainly interested in tdf and tdy, but are obligated to show the others in the ASO stable.

      But it’s great having them on a free to air station. Just the awfully long ad breaks, where, inevitably the decisive moments happen.

      But the commentary team are so superior to the Eurosport lot.

    • PaulH Sunday, 29 July 2018, 12:35 am

      ITV don’t show the Classics. I have the same problem with Kirby and have managed to avoid him completely for 3 weeks.

      • anon Sunday, 29 July 2018, 7:50 am

        ITV lands new Tour de France deal

        ITV will show cycling’s showpiece event the Tour De France until 2019 after agreeing a new deal which extends the network’s commitment to the sport.

        ITV4 has been home to the Tour De France for UK viewers since 2002 and under the new agreement the channel’s critically acclaimed coverage will continue until the end of the decade.

        Continuing ITV4’s association with top class races in the cycling calendar, the deal also encompasses the rights to show four other events from 2016 until 2019: Criterium Dauphine, Criterium International, Liege Bastogne Liege and Paris Roubaix.

        In addition to the Tour De France, the channel’s substantial cycling portfolio includes the Tour of Britain, Vuelta a Espana, and the Halfords Tour Series.

        -ITV Press Release

  • betabug Saturday, 28 July 2018, 11:10 am

    One thing that this Tour showed is that descending has become important.

    It seems like a handful of mountain stages were won on the descent when they couldn’t be won on the climb. (No, I didn’t count them.)

    Descending is partially a matter of skill, but then also of taking the risk. It might well be that Roglic was faster on the descent because he was willing to take the risk. Yates definitely wasn’t, because he has learned for the moment that it’s to a large part a matter of luck to arrive at the bottom in one piece.

    • Anonymous Saturday, 28 July 2018, 1:23 pm

      That’s another pro-Bardet move by ASO this year that didn’t have the desired effect.

    • Larry T Saturday, 28 July 2018, 5:56 pm

      Can we drop this “take the risk” stuff? Riding downhill fast is not different than F1 or MOTOGP. Does Vettel win because he takes more risks than Hamilton? The fastest guy on the descents just has more talent and skill than the others, he’s riding to his limit which just happens to be higher than the limits of a guy like Zakarin who seems rather unskilled. I rarely come across anyone I can’t stay with (and usually pass) on fast descents – but it’s not because I’m a wild-eyed maniac determined to beat this guy (or gal) or die trying.
      I’d lay good money that you’d get this same explanation from any of the top descenders – they don’t take more risks than the others – their skills are just higher, so riding to their limit just finds them going faster.

      • Nicktarios Sunday, 29 July 2018, 11:57 am

        +1. Risk level is related totally to skill.

      • RQS Sunday, 29 July 2018, 10:58 pm

        An interesting point. It only takes one mistake to make skill look like risk taking. Yates’ accident is an example of this. Chances are the balance of good descending and bad are literally on a knife edge. It all looks good till it goes wrong.

  • Louis le Blond Saturday, 28 July 2018, 11:24 am

    I’ve been a huge ‘G’-fan for some years – so today I really cross my fingers, toes, ears, hair, arms, legs and whatever. G has deserved this and proved that he’s a Champ!!

    But I have a question to you Inrng and all of you wise guys in here: How is it possible that Warren Barguil – who rode so outstanding last years TdF – can mistime his form so violently wrong???
    I know his team this year are different and not as strong as last year, but the team can’t be responsable for Barguils’ own bad form and performance….so, what and where did he go wrong?

    • Anonymous Saturday, 28 July 2018, 1:28 pm

      Perhaps the question should be what and where did he go right last year? That was an outlier.

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 28 July 2018, 2:12 pm

      He’s been very close to things this year, second in the mountains competition and up the road a lot, in his own words he’s at 95% of what he wanted. Last year was exceptional though. He’s had some personal problems like deaths in the family that have put him back too.

  • KevinK Saturday, 28 July 2018, 11:38 am

    I’m curious how Lawson Craddock will do today. He’s had a couple of weeks for his scapula to heal, he can be pretty good at time trials, he came into the TdF in good form, and he’s been saving his legs to some extent. Although the fact that he hasn’t actually ridden within the peloton has caused him to work pretty hard, despite frequently finishing last, and I he has to be extra careful on the descents, since the last thing he needs is another spill. But I think he has a lot of pride, and he may well try to put in a strong performance to basically say “what if…?” I’m hoping he throws down a strong performance.

    • jc Saturday, 28 July 2018, 1:25 pm

      I thought he was going for Lanterne Rouge? Just finishing would be a huge achievement given the injury he suffered

      • Anonymous Saturday, 28 July 2018, 1:30 pm

        I think we can see from the last three weeks that the injury he suffered is nothing like as serious as was first feared.

        • KevinK Saturday, 28 July 2018, 4:10 pm

          I’m not sure what in his performance makes you say that. We knew from the start that his scapula fracture doesn’t have the same danger that a clavicle fracture has, so the only actual danger was that he might crash again and worsen the fracture so that his arm would need to be immobilized for a few weeks. What the injury has meant is that he’s been in chronic pain all the time, that holding a good position on the bike is extra difficult, that it’s difficult to sleep, that he’s had shooting pain every time his arm and body are jostled, and riding out of the saddle and pulling on the bars is a huge problem. It’s also meant that he’s not had the chance to sit in the peloton, so he’s been riding with minimal drafting pretty much the whole way.

  • The GCW / Strictly Amateur Saturday, 28 July 2018, 2:14 pm

    Unleash Egan Bernal today and see what happens. Could He be itching to shine? Easy day tomorrow; His regular day job is over…
    He’s My pick today.

  • Ken Saturday, 28 July 2018, 3:29 pm

    With the 2-4 riders so close (and even the #1 if somebody rides the ITT of their life), is it possible the podium places could come down to a competitive final stage?

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 28 July 2018, 3:43 pm

      Yes, it is still a race but hard to take back time etc. Last year Mikel Landa could have tried for a time bonus to leapfrot Bardet onto the podium. The last time things changed was probably 2005 when Alexander Vinokourov attacked, won the stage and moved up one place on GC to fifth overall at the expense of Levi Leipheimer.

      • Ken Saturday, 28 July 2018, 8:34 pm

        I guess they don’t call the ITT a test of truth for nothing. Good race! Everything seems all sorted out now. Champaign, photos, and leave-it-for-the-sprinters in Paris.

  • DUNCAN Saturday, 28 July 2018, 6:40 pm


    Gonna post this tomorrow – but – I really feel like the only way to properly celebrate Geraint Thomas’ TDF win which amazingly he’s won with everyone else having the bad luck that’s so usually reserved for him – is with a compilation of his crashes – (think he’s actually crashed at some point in more than 50% of the races he’s competed?):

    *(would appreciate any adds, or video links to add)

    DAUPHINE – crashed stage 1 –
    ROUBAIX – crashed first cobbled sector (video doesn’t show) –

    TDF – crashed stage 9 –
    GIRO – crashed stage 10 –

    OLYMPICS – crash final descent –
    M-S – crashed 30km from finish –

    TDF – crashed after Barguil took him out –
    ROUBAIX – crashed –
    GENT-W – blown off road –
    PARIS NICE – slipped off on final stage descent with Porte

    M-S – did not finish, assume crash?
    PARIS NICE – crashed, hitting tree

    TDF – broken pelvis crash in corsica –
    ROUBAIX – crashed not sure when
    FLANDERS – crashed not sure when
    M-S – crashed not sure when


    2011 Tour of Britain –
    2011 TDF –

  • DJS Saturday, 28 July 2018, 7:19 pm

    It seems calling someone a ‘stale baguette’ on this blog or in the comments guarantees a cracking ride 😉
    Also noteworthy that most of us armchair experts/DSs totally misjudged the possible outcome of steps 2 and 3 on the podium as well as the winner of the TT. It does keep things interesting and that’s why I love this sport.
    Thanks INRNG for three weeks of great insightful posts!! Thanks everyone else for an overall very civilized discussion about le Tour.

  • Ian Saturday, 28 July 2018, 7:28 pm

    Another great day for British cycling. Well done G..

  • Lee Saturday, 28 July 2018, 8:24 pm

    Anyone else think the timekeeping between Tom and Froome was a little suspect towards the end?

    • RonDe Saturday, 28 July 2018, 8:30 pm

      A team winning the race every year including this one can afford to be magnanimous.

  • Anonymous Saturday, 28 July 2018, 8:35 pm

    So do we say that the 2 Giro boys suffered in the 3rd week, or not? Cycling can be very confusing sometimes.