Tour de France Stage 21 Preview

The final stage and one that starts as victory parade and ends as the most glamorous criterium.

One second: a win for Tom Dumoulin, he was close to Chris Froome through the stage and gained the winning second on the final climb of the Col de Pinodieta and the ensuing descent. Primož Roglič had a jour sans, losing twenty seconds with the first five kilometres and ultimately finishing 8th on the day, over a minute down and off the podium. Geraint Thomas had a wobble, taking a right turn so fast he almost slid out and for the briefest moment it looked like he was going to slide out just like he did in the Dauphiné prologue but this time, the tale of his Tour, he kept it together.

The Route: 116km starting in Houilles, a Vélib ride away from Chatou were Paris-Nice started earlier this year. It’s a quick ride away from Paris before riding back and onto the Champs Elysées circuit.

The Finish: As ever there’s a slight rise to the Champs Elysées and it’s cobbled, the urban variety of pavé but enough to make it that bit harder. After weeks touring rural France here is the capital’s seal of approval, a finish fit for a visiting head of state.

The Contenders: Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Emirates) has been in the top-5 five times now so a win is almost due, especially since several rivals who beat him earlier in the race have gone home ill, injured or missed the time cut. But he lacks the team support.

By contrast Arnaud Démare has the train with Groupama-FDJ and he’s got the sprint, the slight uphill run to the line is ideal for him although two stage wins seems a big ask.

Peter Sagan could still be sore from his crash on Wednesday but was all smiles in post-stage interviews yesterday, Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) was close to Démare in Pau but this was a career best sprint in the World Tour, to win on the Champs Elysées would be a huge win for him. So John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and even Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) bring more experience.

Alexander Kristoff, Arnaud Démare
Peter Sagan, John Degenkolb
Laporte, EBH, Boudat

Weather: warm and sunny, a top temperature of 29°C.

TV: live from the start at 4.15pm CEST with the finish forecast for 7.10pm CEST. Tune in later for the sprint.

117 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 21 Preview”

  1. Geraint Thomas said before the Tour started the Sky leadership would be decided in the Alps and he was right.
    Sky gained tactically by keeping everyone else guessing until it was obvious, but I would love to know when exactly between L’Alpe D’Huez and Saint Lary Soulan, the team management officially changed Plan Bs.

      • Agreed – although with all the planning and training Geraint had done to win it, plus the clear form at Dauphine, it’s hard to imagine Sky didn’t have an inkling this was very likely pre-Portet.

        I’m so happy Geraint won it, but I’m a little disappointed that despite being the strongest and a deserving winner we never really saw him pushed to the limit, even in the final TT he shut it down once the win was confirmed. It would have just been nice to have that excitement of seeing him use all the form he clearly had.

      • That’s also what Nico Portal said. But its no big deal. The road decided, as it always would. But after yesterday I bet Froome wishes there were more stages now!

  2. I’m looking forward to the how the race was won article… if memory serves me correctly, Thomas has squeezed valuable seconds out of almost every key GC day in what has been an almost ideal race from the Welshman. The largest chunk of time though, probably came when Dumoulin was caught on stage 6 losing 1:17.

    Also, while everyone seemed to survive the cobbled stage,the wear and tear of that day eventually ended or blunted the challenge for most of the lighter climbers, who found a week of “classics” riding, they seemed to collectively have lost their climbing legs.

    Sprint today, kristoff vs. Démare…. but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Laporte surprise everyone, he was close on stage 18.

    • I think the Tour was won on stage 19 of the Giro. Froome and Dumoulin left each other crawling along the ground. Dumoulin and to a lesser extent Froome still got close here but it seems that the crucial explosiveness wasn’t there for either of them.

      Thomas’s good fortune continues today with a pleasant forecast… his luck is utterly opposite to that of last year. Not completing a GT last year definitely seems to have helped with freshness: he has a spring and a bounce that nobody else has got close to matching.

    • Tom Dumoulin lost 50 seconds to Gerraint Thomas on stage 6 up the Mur de Bretagne. Thomas also gained 4 bonus seconds over Dumoulin on stages 11, 12 and 17 as well as 6 bonus seconds over his rival on Stage 19. Those 18 bonus seconds added to the 7 seconds Sky gained over Sunweb in the TTT plus the 50 seconds on stage 6 equal 1:15, or that is to say that mano-a-mano Thomas put just 36 seconds in Dumoulin over the course of 3 weeks, mostly in sprints to mountain top finishes where the Welshman has that snappy acceleration from his track background that big Tom lacks.

      • I don’t think you’re implying otherwise but just to point out that the existence of time bonuses surely influences the way the contenders ride, so simply removing them from the calculation doesn’t tell you what the time gap would have been without them. Thomas may have used some of his ‘excess form’ to attack earlier on the climbs… maybe the time bonuses actually make the finishes LESS exciting?

        • Was the Mur de Bretagne the stage Dumolin drafted his team car after a mechanical for far too long and got his 20sec penalty which was less time than he would have lost if he didn’t calculatingly cheat by doing so?

          • I’ve always wondered when drafting behind the team car becomes ‘cheating’ . I mean absolutely everybody does draft behind the team car at some point , so is it just a matter of time ? Do they give warnings to riders during the race ?

    • Addendum to that, I neglected the 20 second penalty Dumoulin incurred after his mechanical on Stage 6. So factoring that in the result looks even tighter.

      While not questioning Thomas’ win on the road, I’m yet to be convinced that bonus seconds automatically make everything that much more awesome. In fact I can recall plenty of exciting bike races that didn’t involve bonus seconds, many of them at the Tour de France.

      • Agreed.
        This is a nightmare ‘when the race was won’ to call.
        It was a victory of staying upright and riding conservatively whilst others feel away.

        Was it Stage 1 when he remained in the pack with only Dumoulin as everyone else lost time?
        Or the stage victories, even though neither time he gained a race winning advantage.
        Or Portet where he took over clear leadership?

        Even though the TDF is always an accumulation, this edition makes that more true than ever.

      • Possibly in their head-to-head battle, Dumoulin’s 75 secs time loss to Thomas on stage 6 was large enough to take a lot of scoreboard pressure off Thomas. Especially given Dumoulin’s style of racing is very predictable & a willingness to close gaps rather than play bluff with his competitors.

        • That sounds reasonable.

          ASO might also want to consider that their best option for engineering a course to result in a non-Sky winner might involve far more time trial kilometres not less.

          • Substituting one decent time-triallist for another won’t make the race any more interesting though, it just means that potentially they wear a different jersey. And someone taking three minutes in a time trial means even more reason to shut things down in the mountains.

            To shake things up means destroying the template. Maybe frontload the mountains so that the climbers get a chance to take some serious time before the accumulated mileage starts to tell? Start with the biggest, most brutal mountain as an initial ITT? Maybe split the mountain days up to break the rhythm instead of having them as two chunks? Maybe simply skip them altogether for a year and let the sprinters have a GC chance for once?

            All of those risk a tour that produces no better or worse racing though, only with extra opprobrium for ignoring the ‘traditional’ GT template. Would be brave to try it.

          • >Start with the biggest, most brutal mountain as an initial ITT?

            And have several minute time gaps in the top 5 that will last the next 3 weeks? Yeah, no thanks.

      • @augie march

        Dumoulin admitted himself that his 20 second penalty was worth the cheating he did that day as without the drafting he would have lost much more. So it can’t suddenly be discounted as if it wasn’t a material part of the race.

        The only cheek is then later in the race he accuses Roglic of getting a motorbike tow!

        Thomas beat him fair and square and I’m glad he was so close to the Dutchman in the ITT as to make that irrelevant too.

        • As I said, “While not questioning Thomas’ win on the road…”, I just thought it was interesting that that mechanical and attempt to get back on constituted Dumoulin’s major time losses to Thomas other than a few short gaps on mountain finishes and bonus seconds.

          Like everyone else I re-watched that descent and couldn’t see any moto-assistance for Roglic. Compare that to the tow the Bardet group got during the Roubaix stage or any number of other times motos rolled along just in front of breakaways…

          • Agreed on Bardet. The amount of entirely coincidental help he got that day should have embarrassed all concerned. Unfortunately, it seems that Bardet is a dead loss so ultimately it makes no difference except whether he is 6th or 7th.

    • Moment the race was won, when Thomas didn’t fell of his bike. That’s all.
      Or how one user put it : “A TDF no one will remember except Thomas’ mom and dad.”

      • I disagree, he was the strongest rider. No one was able to test him properly, and they tried. Even with Nibali’s fall right in front of him, he kept his cool and managed to win the stage. Kudos to Thomas, well done.

      • I don’t comment here too much – so a quick thanks for the incredible content Inrng, it’s been exceptional this Tour, as always.

        That last comment really irritates me though.

        “A TDF no one will remember except Thomas’ mom and dad.” – plus the entire nation of Wales, all British cycling fans, a large percentage of global cycling fans in general, and presumably yourself and the user who have made the effort to voice their opinions on a niche blog. But hey, that’s basically no one, right…

        More generally, I honestly don’t understand what a lot of people want from cycling. Thomas won a summit finish on Alpe D’Huez, in the yellow jersey – if that’s not memorable racing, what is?

        Doe you have any idea how insanely difficult it is to pull off something like that? *Everyone* wanted to win that stage. Yeah, you can have the best team to help set you up, but you’ve still got to be the best rider in the race in order to follow the wheels, follow all of the subsequent attacks from the 5-10 other best cyclists in world, and then keep a cool enough head to finish it all off. How many of us have ever achieved anything remotely comparable to that?

        So many people, not just here (it’s endemic to the internet, really), seem to spend their whole lives complaining these days. Nothing’s ever good enough – it was always better back at some undefinable point in the past (reminds me a lot of Brexitism/Trumpism). No one’s forcing anyone to watch this sport, remember – you’re all free to go do something else if it bores you so much.

          • He was dropped on La Rosière and had tried an attack on Alpe d’Huez but been reeled in, he didn’t look stellar from what we got. He could have turned things around later in the race but would how would he have fared on the Col du Portet? Perhaps he’d have stirred things up a lot on Stage 19 over the Soulour and Aubisque but could he have turned the race upside down?

        • We’re talking her about the sporting aspect, not what some esoteric “welsh nation” feelings may be. And in sporting aspects, there was no highlight or significant moment at all.
          Team Sky won, as a team. Plain and simple. Not cause they had a charismatic rider on 2 wheels. I give them credit for that, but it could have been anyone. If they all ride for Kwia and he outsprints the GC rivals by seconds on 2-3 occasions, he would be celebrating tonight. And nations of Polish dudes who didn’t do anything but watching could be proud. But in the long run, only mom and dad Kwia would remember.
          I’m all but a Froome fan, but his Giro was outstanding. They will talk about how he won the Giro in 30 years at long hours of TdF broadcasts, they will talk about the crazy way Pereiro won, How Contador attacked her and there and still about Anquetil and Poulidor but beside statistical evidence, know won will remember how Thomas won in 2018. That’s all.

          • In reply to Vitus… well, back to back mountain stage wins (only the third time ever)… the yellow jersey winning on Alpe d’Huez (first time ever… ‘Alpe d’Huez, man’). How about a guy who’s served as a professional, loyal domestique having an unexpected moment in the sun (parallels with Matt Hayman winning Roubaix?). Nothing memorable to anyone but mum, dad and Welsh fans? Really? I can honestly say I’d be loving this result even if I wasn’t Welsh.

      • That’s a good one Vitus!!! 🙂 Pretty much sums it up unless you’re a SKY or Thomas fan. The race is always great when your man or team wins but for the rest of us the excitement was mostly of the negative kind – morons in the way of the riders, nasty attacks from spectators on SKY riders, errant camera straps, smoke bombs, tear gas, eggs, xenophobic press conferences and way too much spit.
        Not one for the record books or the highlight reels, but how many editions of Le Grand Boucle truly are these days?
        Velon goes on about turning pro cycling into something like a North American franchise league, which I’ve always opposed. But I’m beginning to soften on this, IF (and only if) they were to put the whole thing into place – salary caps, a rider draft system and other controls so it’s not the “biggest budget wins” so often.

        • Well Geraint Thomas has got a lot of fans , he’s a very popular rider

          It’s a pity you didn’t enjoy it Larry but you don’t speak for everybody and plenty of people did

          • Sorry, I didn’t mean to speak for everybody…and don’t think I did. I’m sure Mr. Thomas has plenty of fans…in the UK and perhaps in other Anglo countries. So what? Just because I thought it a rather dull Tour doesn’t mean I expect everyone else to come to the same conclusion. Does your comment mean just because you happen to think it was good Tour everyone else must as well? As I wrote, the race is always great and exciting when your guy (or team) wins but you can’t expect everyone else to come to the same conclusion.

        • I often wonder if the internet experts watch the races before the snarky comments.

          I was clearly watching another exciting race to you which will stay long in my memory. I’m not related to Thomas but admire his racing nous and the way he carries himself. The narrative of someone who works so hard for others finally getting his chance to shine was inspirational. Perhaps if your hatred of Team Sky prevents you from enjoying the racing and the stories behind the racing its time to follow another sport?

          • Yeah, what do I know, watching cycling just for over 50 years, I should listen to all the folks who discovered it when a Texan sprinter flew up a hill or even a decade later when UK invented marginail gains.

    • I’d love to agree… but similar to last year it’s definitely not a vintage edition, especially when you look at the Giro. It’s a shame, because the route was great (maybe 65km stage should have been earlier?) it’s just unfortunately that so many good riders either came in without their top form or crashed – Porte, Landa, Quintana, Bardet – so we didn’t get the race we hoped for.

  3. 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 since his road return in 2013?):
    *(would appreciate any adds)
    DAUPHINE – crashed stage 1
    ROUBAIX – crashed first cobbled sector
    TDF – crashed stage 9 broken collar bone
    GIRO – crashed stage 10 police bike
    OLYMPICS – crashed 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

    • I’m not sure a list of crashes is particularly meaningful, though. You could probably assemble a similar looking list for most of the riders in the peloton. The reason the canard of Thomas as the rider who always falls off has developed seems to me to be that his have just been more visible, because they’ve had more impact than many others. That’s partly bad luck, but also partly a function of him often going well up until they happen. And then once a reputation’s been gained, any further crashes, significant or not, just lend themselves to confirmation bias.

  4. It felt like there were years worth of emotions bursting forth after the finish yesterday. A well deserved and not quite as unexpected a victory as some seem to think.

    Today seems all a bit of an anti climax, it can hardly be classed as the sprinters world championships when all the top riders are not here.

  5. My little summary of the Tour.

    Thomas shows many of us how useless some of us are at picking winners and puts on a winning performance. Maybe not spectacular, but solid.
    Dumoulin shows determination, courage and grace in fighting for the runner up spot. As does Froome for his podium, although maybe without the riding grace.
    Riders like Sagan, Gilbert, Phinney and Craddock illustrate the highs, lows and sheer courage of the riders. The Tours reputation has been built on such human exploits.
    Brailsford, his team and SKY must be doing something right to keep producing winners. Money helps but it is not everything.
    It has been sad to see so much bad sportsmanship from the spectating public, but encouraging to see it comes from a very small minority.
    The Tour itself is becoming ever more constrained in its unimaginative route selection by its size and financial considerations.

    Thanks to our host for producing regular informative previews. Best blog in town.

  6. Some random Tour 2018 facts and stats:

    Team Sky have placed riders 1st, 3rd and 15th in achieving their fourth grand tour win in a row. A true trident.

    Movistar’s “tridente”, given as their great strategy for this edition of the Tour, earned 7th, 10th and 14th places. (And has seemingly upset Mikel Landa, who was over seven and half minutes down, as he now reportedly wants to go back to Astana.)

    This is the first time since 1994 that two guys who podiumed at the Giro also podiumed at the Tour. (Then it was Indurain and Pantani. Now its Dumoulin and Froome.) When Contador attempted this in 2015 he achieved a 1st and a 5th place as against Dumoulin’s two 2nd places and Froome’s 1st and 3rd.

    Romain Bardet finished 6.57 down on GC and lost time to the podium riders not only in the time trials (as expected) but also on the mountain stages.

    Egan Bernal, the youngest rider in the race, finished 26 seconds behind Alejandro Valverde and inside the top fifteen, beating guys (supposed GC contenders) like Rafal Majka, Bauke Mollema and Adam Yates whilst not riding for himself on any stage except the final ITT.

    Lotto NL – Jumbo placed two riders in the top five, something Movistar, BMC, Bahrain-Merida and other richer teams could not do.

    BMC’s best rider was in 20th place, 42 minutes down.

    Astana had no one in the top ten.

    This one is just for LARRY T: All of the top four were “mow ‘em in the chrono” guys but they also contested the climbs as well and usually better than the so-called climbers in the race. Thomas won two of the three mountain top finishes and was top three in the third one.

    Team Sky have now won 8 grand tours since their formation in 2010, including 6 of the last 10, all with British riders. Before their formation no British rider had won any grand tour.

    PS Only two cyclists have placed in the top ten at all three Grand Tours in the same calendar year: Raphaël Géminiani in 1955 and Gastone Nencini in 1957. But what if Froome enters La Vuelta as has been rumoured? No cyclist has ever podiumed at all three Grand Tours in the same year. In addition, no rider, not even Merckx, has ever podiumed at five consecutive Grand Tours. As it is, Froome is only the second rider, after Merckx, to podium at four.

    • Several of these stats can be obviated by the fact that riders crash in races, in particular Porte, Majka and Yates, which does tend to hurt one’s GC chances somewhat.

      From Froome’s comments in recent days I think he’ll be spending time with the latest addition to his family and sitting out the Vuelta. Fatigue finally kicked in.

      • Right now the Vuelta is absolutely wide open. Every possible major contender has a question mark whether it’s fatigue, recovery from injury, loss of form or inexperience. It seems ripe for a good old Vuelta left fielder to pop up. I’ve got a feeling Landa will come good on home soil.

      • Does Froome never crash then Augie? Some (often anonymous) contributors here are eager to point out every little fault he makes and to point out how many they are. Yet he alone has won half of the last ten Grand Tours by himself. Whilst guys like Porte or Bardet seemingly base their whole season around one must win race (that they then get nowhere near winning) he is prepared to try for more and Sky back him for it. He may not do La Vuelta as you suggest but it has been a hell of a shift he’s done these last 12 months.

        • I didn’t say Froome never crashes, stage 5 of the 2014 Tour springs to mind. It’s hardly headline news that Froome is the strongest and best GC rider in pro cycling, and part of that comes from his recovery, indeed his failure to win this tour really does prove he’s actually human after all. In addition to his victories, it’s noteworthy that Froome has attained at least one Grand Tour podium every year since 2011.

          As for certain others, the TDF is given a higher priority in most cycling countries that aren’t Italy or Spain. It’s noteworthy that Froome’s relationship with the Vuelta began when he was denied a ride in the 2011 Tour and he only did the Giro this year after A. Having proved himself in both France and Spain, B. being given a lot of money by RCS (probably).

      • Froome is a very competitive guy, no surprise there of course, you don’t get to win all those races by not minding much if you win. The comments about spending some home time were made before the time trial which he lost by one second. Just because he doesn’t swagger and shout, don’t under estimate the will to compete.

        bTW, I had a look at the BTL in L’ÉQUIPE yesterday. I expected to retreat gasping at the bile. It was surprising that the majority of commentators seemed to be critical of the anti Froome rhetoric and behaviour ( and they certainly were French, I could just about understand the slang!)

        Thanks for the coverage, best in town! Looking forward to the Vuelta now…..

    • “PS Only two cyclists have placed in the top ten at all three Grand Tours in the same calendar year: Raphaël Géminiani in 1955 and Gastone Nencini in 1957.”

      I expected Marino Lejarreta in that list, but on his Wikipedia page I see that he only made the top 10 in 2 of 3 grand tours the four times he rode them all.

  7. There were strange timing shenanigans at the end there yesterday. It begs the question how we ever actually know who really wins since we are left trusting what we are told.

    • A policeman walked in front of the finish line yesterday which triggered the timing used for the TV. For the actual race timing they have several photofinish cameras (four, I think) to calculate the time to the nearest 1000th of a second so no need for such paranoia.

        • Three single policeman incidents, that proofs them as humans who make errors, who would have thought? Everybody, except those who want to blame it on “the police” The French” and other dark forces.s

        • There are police incidents every year, remember.

          And this year it’s been said that the overall # of police is way up, so statistically there could even be less incidents per officer than in the past 😀

      • …but given that so many cycling journalists have built careers on the “don’t trust anyone” shtick, surely we can let this one slide.😉

  8. Fair play to Thomas he seems like a genuinely nice man as well as an excellent cyclist. I never thought he’d win this or any other grand tour and I’m happy to be proven wrong. A genuine alrounder capable of winning any major race, he backs up the old adage that if you can win the pursuit you can win anything.

  9. “But what if Froome enters La Vuelta as has been rumoured? ”

    Doubt he will do that. Don’t think Froome is particular interested in podium in Vuelta and he does seem fatigued at this point.

    Would make more sense for Thomas to do the Vuelta on back of his extraordinary form.

    • It’s his 1st tour win so I suspect he’ll be partying for longer than is healthy. A Vuelta Thomas will be a very different creature to the TdF one I think.

  10. Well team boss Unzue, what is your excuse this time? Are you choosing 8 podium contenders for next year’s Tour?

    • I was so sure YOU would be taking over the team for next year!!! What happened? The Movistar company must surely be aware of your mastery of the sport, no? They are bailing out of MOTOGP so they should have plenty of loot to meet your salary demands and bump the team budget up to match that of SKY. What are you waiting for? I can’t wait to see you transform this team into something rivaling the glory days of Banesto. Keep us posted, OK?

      • How long will Unzue continue to live on ancient history? He’s ruined Quintana and disaffected Landa in less than a year. These are facts you never seek to argue against Larry.

        • If I recall correctly, Thomas and Landa effectively started as joint leaders at last year’s Giro. Landa went on to shine in the 2017 TdF… I wonder if Landa is looking at Thomas now rather enviously and thinking “if I’d stayed that could have been me.”

        • I don’t argue against how Unzue runs his team for a variety of reasons. a) I’ve never run a cycling team of any kind b) The guy has a history of winning and obviously (at present at least) the sponsors of the team seem to have confidence in him c) Unlike you, I don’t have the ego (nerve, narcissism, gaul, etc.) to act like I know more than Unzue does about pro cycling.
          You can rant all you like about how you think the man is incompetent, but a) Tell us what you would do differently b) How you are more qualified to run the team than Unzue.
          Otherwise STFU!
          I think I’ll be adding yours to the comments I scroll past without bothering to read far that’s Anonymous and his entire family + RonDe, but you’d fit right in I think.

          • I don’t think he’s mismanaged Quintana, but we can’t be sure. I’m always skeptical about small climbers winning the tour. The early stages tend to zap their legs of the zip they need in the high mountains. The fact that he’s been on the podium is impressive. But winning the Vuelta and Giro were achieved against a field of other climbers. He’s never been able to compete with thr rouleur type GT riders. Unzue probably does what he can with what he can. If there is a knock, he’s probably a bit old school in his approach. In the end he’s trying to win the tour with climbers. But yes, agree with your post.

  11. Dumoulin and Froome, who I think are the best two GC riders out there, should be forced to ride the Vuelta for the year GC title. Froome beat Dumoulin by 46 seconds in the Giro. Dumoulin beat Froome by 33 seconds in the Tour. So current standings have Froome in the lead by 13 seconds.

    Why isn’t this a thing, a sort of ultra-endurance cycling championship?

  12. And how about this. From Twitter

    Soon the combined palmarès of half a dozen teenaged tenants of a Mancunian terraced house circa 2005, all of them mentored by Rod Ellingworth, will include:

    1 Tour
    1 🌈 road jersey
    12 🌈 track jerseys
    51 Grand Tour stages
    1 Dauphiné
    1 Paris-Nice
    1 Sanremo
    5 Olympic golds

    (Mancunian being Manchester). Cav, G, Ian Stannard, Ben Swift etc al. And it’s all in the book ‘Project Rainbow’ which is a great read. You want to know the foundation of British cycling, this is a good place to start.

      • What’s “average” got to do with it? It’s a record of how to spot talent and more importantly, how to train and develop it.
        Incidentally RE was at the finish line to put a comforting shoulder round Cav when he came in half an hour after the cut-off time in this year’s TdF, even though they work for rival teams.

  13. Regarding the Champs Elysees sprint, I hope that Demare can win it.
    It would be good to see a Frenchman win in Paris.
    The pressure must be on.

  14. The unexpected result of a lieutenant who can win appears to have discombobulated everyone to the extent they can’t welcome the outcome. The guy won two mountain stages on the trot and was never shown to be under stress on the biggest days when he was in the big yellow target costume. Get over it.
    Great use of the team in support and the insurance of a proven GC rider as back up obviously helped but the other teams have to look at what they were doing. Only Fortuneo Samsic succeeded to get a team ladder up the road ( Barguil couldn’t close the deal) and other teams’ efforts were frankly pretty weird:-
    What was Kruiswijk doing with a solo attack from the lead group on the Aubisque when Gesink had done so much to get Roglic into contention?!
    Was it a Trident or a calthrop that Movistar brought to the races?
    Why do so many teams stick with older kapos who’ve lost the winning reflex?
    The racing was almost always good and the weirdness usually made it better. New tricks such as a 65k mountain stage are a spectacle but let’s not forget those boring years when Indurain and the Armstrong suffocated the attacks on stages when you knew all the action would come in the final 10k, of which you’d get to see five on TV. Grand tours are all about guarding every second for days days when it looks like there’s not much going on.

  15. I have thought for years that all TDF leaders need to be TT specialists. Climbers have no hope any more to win the TDF. Thomas looked like a TT guy who can sprint.
    It should be called the Time Trial Tour de France.

    • Interesting point but I guess the sport and the science behind evolved so much, that TT guys have a massive edge above climbers. After all it all comes down to the watts you can sustain for a prolonged period and there is not much difference whether the road is flat or tilts up, as long as you don’t weigh too much. The characteristics of the French climbs with their length and gradients also play in their cards. Couple the fact of mountain trains in the mould of Sky and you see why this Tour looks as is looks for the past years. You need a lot of things to come together to provide any sport of exception to the scenario we have been witnessing (a good parcours, foul weather and some clever tactics) because otherwise I can see no hope for change, especially as the 4 TT guys were in front without a single TT km having been ridden. I guess Nibali could have up there without his accident but a podium spot was the most he could have hoped for.

    • IIRC the likes of Coppi, Merckx, Anquetil et al all won mountain stages and time trials. When did this era of of a climber’s Tour exist?

      Even Charly Gaul, the Angel of the Mountains, won all three time trials in his Tour (141 km in total).

      Add to that the fact that time trialling kms have been whittled down to a tiny proportion of the route and I respectfully submit that this tale of woe for those poor climbers is misplaced, to say the least.

    • Who are the climbers? He was the best climber too, really. The problem is the race itself. The gradients permit a strong team to TTT until last 2k. The best practice for TDF climbs, unless you have a strong enough squad, would be to stay fresh, in 5th position in the Sky train and kick in the last 1-2k for a 30s gain. Do that consistently and you can have a 2 min margin to play with come TT day. The problem is there was no one able to do that and they also couldn’t avoid loosing time due to crashes and punctures.

      I don’t like Thomas but none of the contenders were better. Though I suspect we need a freeEgan hashtag too.

  16. From Ron de:
    “Team Sky have now won 8 grand tours since their formation in 2010”

    Primary data point, ‘When the race was won’

    Team sport…every Sky rider in this Tour must be pretty damn proud…

  17. To me this must have been the most boring tour since…well, I’ve only been watching since ’87. Stage 3 was as predicted an early showcasing of financial muscle – a theme that would mark the race throughout. Stages 5 and 9 looked promising on paper but were effectively neutralized. Few if any mountain stages have gone of script even for a minute, considering sporting action only.

    My opinion. No argument.

  18. A memorable edition of the Tour: Sky composed of basically champions: one is tired, and so another one steps into the breach. Zero fuss, concentrate on the process. Not even losing the team idiot stopped them winning. Tridents ended up as shafts, and Sky could well be bringing a very pointy pitchfork next year…

    Huge thanks for the blog and tweets: the race wouldn’t be the same without them.


    Hope he gets leadership at Cofidis next year, or a contract with a bigger team.

    He doesn’t deserve to be hindered by the Bouhanni saga. He’s young and fast AF.

  20. Dan Martin won the combativity prize overall? Although Dan is certainly a tryer what a kick in the nuts this must be for all those guys getting in breaks every day? I heard last night some bizarre rumour Macron had given him French citizenship? That can’t have hurt his nomination!

    A weird outcome for a strange and unremarkable Tour.

    • Let me guess, you’re the same kind of guy that would complain about the French if a French rider won this prize? I blame Andy Schleck, who was in the jury

  21. I think this was a quite good edition of the Tour. “Vintage edition”, well who cares/knows.

    An real all-rounder won, there was good action most of the time, when GC battle went lukewarm, the stage winner battle was pretty good.
    I think Nibali would shake things up rightly if he could continue, his ride after the chute at Alpe was amazing, and he’s a third week guy too.

    TD and Froome seems quite equal now, change teams and the results would probably be at least opposite.

    Please don’t race Bernal in Vuelta, this kid already have so many days of racing this year, don’t ruin him like was done with Quintana. At 21, really take a break to next year. Make an attempt at WC, you might have 1-2 more chances during your career. And everyone wants to see you go all-in/out at a 1-day race.

    There’s a lot of talk about “transformations” in the sport, for various reasons. Surely, going from ski-jumping junior WC to cycling at the ripe age of 21/22 and to 4th in the tour in his 5th year of cycling trumps all of the others.

    Lotto J and Dumo great champs in this race regardless.

  22. I had my faith in cycling fans restored yesterday. I was at the tt (at the foot of the Pinodieta) ando after all the nonsense and vitriol of the last 3 weeks, was slightly concerned about how the atmosphere would be. I shouldn’t have worried, every rider was respectfully applauded and cheered (obviously some more than others, but I heard only one boo which was quickly drowned out) and a multi national crowd mingled and chatted together sharing news of the time splits in a multi linguistic love fest. Bikes were left unlocked by the side of the road and by the end even the police had accepted they didn’t need to tell people to step back every time a team car approached.
    Now maybe Froome’s lack of contention has poured oil on the waters or maybe the sort of person who watches a chrono is not going to sport a mankini in an attempt to get his face on a TV camera, but either way perhaps things aren’t quite as bad as they have seemed.

    • Some good ideas here as always. I agree with shaking up the template. La Vuelta was very much the third grand tour only a few years back but some innovative stages and seeking out new summit finishes has breathed new life into it. The tour looks a bit formulaic with typical mix of a week of flat/rolling, then 3 days Alps/Pyrenees plus TT and transitions. The geography of the hexagon does present a challenge but I’d love to see a tour make more of the moyenne montagnes like the Jura, Beaujolais, Vosges, and Pre-Alps with shorter but steep climbs. It could lead to stages that are harder to control and therefore encourage attacking racing.

    • What a difference the length of a climb makes, then.

      We were at the top of the Pinodieta and – as much as this’ll make fairly unpleasant reading for some / many – the simple fact is the boos, cat calls and whistles for *anyone* relating to Sky rose from the bottom to the top as a sad and sorry tune throughout the day.

      *Anyone* includes the support cars prior to the caravan appearing, all of the riders who were out on the course training (Froome and Thomas in conventional black kit) and, each rider as they appeared in the actual race.

      The only exception was Thomas – the yellow jersey was, in the overwhelming main, respected. (So that this is factually accurate, yes, there were a few boos but significantly less than for any one else).

      It wasn’t entirely a multi-national crowd… predominantly Basque with a smattering of French, Dutch and Spanish – although perhaps that was just where we were. Behind us the bar churning out hardcore drum ‘n bass, coffee, beer and risky looking sandwiches while a few metres away, right at the top of the climb, opposing Basque factions sang a truly bizarre version of Yellow Submarine at each other. Throughout the day. Kudos to the pair who hefted their rubbish bin full of cans up from the bottom of the climb and equal kudos to the Gendarmes who, instead of arresting the three Mankini runners (only two got to the top of the climb, one ran out of puff approx half way up), they gave them each a big hug and handed them over to the Basque singers. Strangely, that was the last we saw of the Mankini runners.

      Respectfully applauded? Hardly..! That was one of the most vocal crowds I’ve ever been in watching any bike race. Ever. From the moment Lawson Craddock went by – gaining one of the loudest cheers in the whole day – through the anticipation for Sagan (more loved than I’d realised… for a good ten minutes, it was as if there was a count-down going on for his arrival) via the usual suspects right up to the last ten when the volume level went past 11.

      Unfortunate as this is, you cannot get away from the fact the opposite to adoration existed on Saturday and will, from what I saw, continue. NB: I’m not condoning it nor am I applauding it nor am I annoyed by it – just reporting a fact.

      To stand roadside at the TdeF always is an experience second to none. The TT always a magical experience as whip thin young guys strain sinew and muscle while pouring snot and sweat… But, no… no oil had been poured on the troubled water of contention whatsoever. There is a team which (in my view and having seen the reaction first hand) needs to look long and hard at its PR and image because, throughout 2018, they’ve really just created a rod for their own backs. And what was heard on Saturday is clear evidence of that.


  23. Thanks for the coverage. Reading the preview at breakfast has become such a habit I won’t know what to do tomorrow morning.

    • I feel like this at the end of every Grand Tour, the emptiness of an existence without a big stage race and INRG’s coverage if it. If the internet burned down tomorrow, I’d run in and save one blog 😉

      Many thanks to INRG for everything in the Giro and the Tour, and can anyone fast forward the next few weeks so we can start it all again at La Vuelta?!

  24. If Thomas had been in the FDJ or Cofidis teams I think he would be given the freedom of France! probably allowed to drive sheep down the Champs Elysees at any given hour of the day.

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