Tour de France Stage 8 Preview

Bastille day in France but not quite a route to celebrate. Expect big crowds and a bunch sprint. Today’s finish is the first genuine flat finish of the race so far and will be hectic as it’s the last chance for the sprinters for a long time and several big names are under pressure to deliver.

Stage 7 Review: the longest stage and a long day. We can complain about a lack of action but what did people expect? The race crossed the Sarthe region and had this been a flat stage of the Circuit de la Sarthe few would tune in. But the Tour raises expectations and offers the entire stage live on TV. Only a flat sprint stage is just that and whether it’s the Tour, Giro, Vuelta… or the Circuit de la Sarthe the action comes at the end of the stage, not midway. One difference between the Tour and the Circuit de la Sarthe is the value of getting in the early breakaway, the chance to beam images of jerseys, bikes, helmets and more to millions but how much is this worth? Is it valuable publicity or is associating the brands with forlorn, wasted efforts less than good? As much as TV dictates plenty, the race belongs to the roadside crowed and the longer the stage, the more people can enjoy the caravan and the race passing.

We got a sprint finish and Fernando Gaviria seemed to be dropped off a touch too early by his leadout Max Richeze. Dylan Groenewegen took the long way around as the road curved slightly but he was clearly the fastest and won this time, breaking the Gaviria-Sagan duopoly.

The Route: 181km north.

The Finish: fast, furious and flat. The roadbook shows a tight bend just after the 3km to go point but the road itself seems ok and then it’s big boulevards into the finish with a left-hand bend with 600m to go the last feature.

The Contenders: Dylan Groenewegen (Lotto-Jumbo) beat Fernando Gaviria (Quick Step) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and the Dutchman should enjoy this flat finish even more as he’s potentially quicker than them in a flat finish. Only it’s also accessible to many more. Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) was last in the peloton yesterday and in need of a result but a risky pick today. Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) might be a safer choice, he made the top-10 yesterday and if yesterday’s uphill finish wasn’t his thing, today should be a lot better to surf the wheels before a final surge. André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) could feature for old times’ sake too. It’s Bastille Day and Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) is today’s local rider. Which all but guarantees he’ll win no? Obviously not, he can’t sprint any faster but he’s been close so far and should be a contender.

Dylan Groenewegen, Fernando Gaviria
Peter Sagan, André Greipel
Démare, Kittel, Cavendish

Weather: warm and sunny, 28°C.

TV: live from the start at 11.30am CEST with the finish forecast for 3.45pm CEST but it could finish around 4.00pm given the expected schedules. Tune in before the sprint finish to see the countryside.

84 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 8 Preview”

    • Good.
      Those are some pretty major drops and are probably the only thing that will cause any kind of reaction.
      The 50% drop in the UK audience really shows what will happen when fans are relatively new to the sport – they’re not invested enough to stick around. Hell, I’ve been watching since the 80s and although I’ve seen plenty of dull races this is the least I’ve ever watched.

        • The WC is only on a few days a week. There’s also the nice weather – although that’s usually the case in mainland Europe in July. There’s also the perception of doping – people watched in the 90s thinking that ‘everyone was doping’ so it all seemed about equal. Now, the perception of many is that some are and some aren’t.
          I strongly expect the big reason is the tedium, though. People can say ‘What do you expect?’, etc. and it’s exactly what I expected – and stated – when I saw the number of flat stages in the first 10 days.
          But the big issue – and it’s an ongoing one that is unrelated to parcours – is the lack of attacking racing. Are they radio-controlled automatons these days as many maintain?
          Whatever the reasons/excuses, there’s only so much people will put up with – and they’re voting with their TV remotes.
          And the fact that they go into the mountains soon very probably won’t change much – the negative racing will continue; it’ll just be a slower procession.
          You can say ‘This is just moaning’ (which it certainly is), ‘It’s always been like this’ (it has, but not to this extent – and that’s not a good reason anyway), ‘You don’t have to watch’ (I’m not), etc., but the end result is the race just dies on its arse.
          They need to do something about it – if that means putting a mountain in on stage 3, or having an entire Tour without huge mountains for a change, or getting rid of radios and powermeters, or cutting team numbers to 6… anything.
          In all honesty, does anyone really think there’s a been a good TdF since 2011?

          • I agree that the last great TDF was 2011, but to state the obvious in that year there were race radios, power meters and 9-man teams, so these Larry T-esque “time warp back to 1985” proposed solutions are probably not the answer.

          • I’ve whinged enough so I’ll give it a rest now, but radios/powermeters was only one of the suggestions I made – and none of those suggestions was anything more than a vague ‘Might this work?’ idea.
            The Tour is tedious – has been for many years. The excuses that some are coming out with don’t cut it – you can’t survive on just the name alone forever.

          • Too true, the history of the sport is a real string to the bow but you wonder if this breeds comfort. Maybe soon cycling will have a “UFC” moment like boxing did, arguably overtaken by a lesser sport but one which packages itself excellently

          • Yes, this is a real possibility. The riders, trying to hurt ASO/Tour de France are in truth hurting themselves and their sport. Or do we think headlines like „A soporific stage“ (a real headline, not one I invented) or the constant arguing are good to get sponsors in the sport? And a „soporific stage“ has nothing to do with the road, that is alone a responsibility of the riders and of the way they decide to ride.

            I just read, that Markus Burghardt today tried to get riders in a breakaway, didn‘t succeed and then went solo to stand by the road and clap cynically at the peloton. That is exactly what I wrote in another comment. Not all riders want this strike to happen, but the patrons of the peloton and certain others pile on the pressure and this peer pressure means, that the last couple of years we see this debacle of riders refusing to race in a few stages (which has nothing to do with normal sprint stages, I must add). I can‘t believe how incredible selfish and stupid that is. To try to bring down the biggest race (which worked over a hundred years tirelessly to get there) in such a passive-aggressive way.

            And I think you are right, they are too comfortable and can’t imagine, that their actions might have a real, negative impact for many people, for the whole sport. But that we are, where we are is a product of people working together towards an aim, of people putting in their all. The riders, like we all, stand on the shoulders of the ones before them. And all this can be destroyed in a very short time by senseless, selfish actions. They totally forget about the responsibility they have. But well, this seems to be all the rage everywhere. We just have to look around the world to see, that the same kind of selfish behaviour happens all over the place right now in all societies. I think there is a saying, something with „spite and nose“ in english for that.

          • It’s not new, the sport has always had many long boring stages. Some of the finest writing on the sport comes from Antoine Blondin’s columns describing the Tour de France’s slowest stages during the 50s, 60s and 70s.

          • This.
            These supposed “golden ages” sprinter stages weren’t televised at all. Not even the last km, you read about the winner in the newspaper the day after. If they were televised for 7-8 hours, the complaints would have been exactly the same as today’s rants.

          • since not much happened even in stages 5 and 6. we have now 8 stages in a row where you just could forward to the last 15 minutes.

            even in france you could use the geography in another more interesting way, but they decided to stay near the coast and in the “bassin parisien” ( for a whole “week” and the most interesting stage put at the end. i dont really understand it.

          • Yes but not much happened there as said, i dont know if they could have made a better route there, but its not really much altitude anyway.

          • There is no strike, it’s just abundantly clear to everyone that you can’t get away and win the stage and you can’t get away and take time on rivals. So everyone stays put.

          • This seems to me a very strange, nihilistic and somehow sad take on racing (or life in general for that matter). So you say, that it doesn‘t matter to do anything, to make an effort, if it doesn‘t pay? You say, that there is only one thing, that counts and that is winning! So why should the 150 riders, that win nothing during a race and know perfectly well, that they win nothing, ride at all? Just to get paid? That seems senseless. And if that is all there is today, cycling will soon be obsolete.

            That is exactly what I meant in a comment above, that things lose any meaning and in my opinion, that is, why the world is in this sad state right now. If loving something, making an effort, doing a thing good, making someone happy, only means something, if you get something from it, we land exactly on these selfish, cold times we are in. People have been made so small, so unimportant, because they only count, when they are effective producers of money. To say it clear: That is not different from cattle, from a cow, that only gets the right to live, if she is productive enough.

            All human actions and values have been whittled down and ridiculed out and all what is allowed today is to be „effective“ and „productive“. Yes, one or two might win in life being effective or productive and nothing else, but it is a win that is stripped of value and meaning. It is a win, that only gets it‘s value from the fact, that others lose. It is a dirty win, the saddest, most destructive win of all. And besides the one, who wins that way, we have all those that lose and have nothing, no meaning or dignity left in their life, because today only the win counts and only the winner is right and we all get streamlined into oblivion. All over the world people stand up against this feeling of being powerless, of being worth nothing, but sadly, they just make sure, that they get even more powerless.

            I loved cycling exactly, because it was NOT like that. I loved it for it‘s romance, for the fact, that it provides for all riders and all sorts of riders, looked out for them. I loved it for it‘s foolish pursuit of happiness every day anew, just to lose out, go back home and wake up again with the foolish hope of „today I will win!“ But then came armstrong, vaughters, sky and turned cycling into the same cold meaningless „effective“ mass as everything else. And now we reached a point where racers don‘t race, because they can‘t win anything with it. So why race at all? Where is their responsibility, their respect towards the fans, the sport? Where is their love and respect for themselves and the sport?

          • I suspect there’s also an aspect of the novelty factor of full live coverage staggering to wear off (at least in the UK – I’m not aware how new this is elsewhere). Especially with (almost) full coverage of the Giro now as well. Certainly I’m finding that sitting through two GTs back to back feels like it requires almost as much stamina as riding them.

          • I doubt any amount of playing around with technical changes will make much of a difference. At the end of the day, professional riders will ride in a way that benefits themselves and the team professionally, and at the moment that means riding defensively and conservatively. To change that you need to change the risk-reward balance by increasing the reward differential (whether that be points, money, or exposure) between first and second, and decreasing it between overall and stage (or jersey) wins.

        • if you scroll down on the liked twitter page you see that the world cup itself has also quite a significant drop in audiences. so what to make of that?

    • It must certainly be all the disaffected Velogames fans like me, boycotting in protest against corporate legal bullying of the little guy!

  1. Can’t understand why anyone would still be watching anything but the last few minutes.
    You do get these stages in the Giro and the Vuelta, but nowhere near as many.
    In the Giro and Vuelta you get a more varied parcours (the excuse of ‘It would have been different if there’d been wind’ doesn’t cut it – come up with a few stages that will be exciting even in the unlikely event that the weather isn’t bad in July).
    But the parcours is not the main issue – the non-flat stages have also been almost entirely lacking in attacking racing before the final moments.
    There isn’t even a competition to be in the breakaway.
    I’m hearing a lot of excuses – ‘saving energy’ and suchlike, but we’ve all seen plenty of grand tours and most of them are nowhere near as featureless as this.
    If the sport is happy with viewers turning off, but having a lot of people at the side of the road enjoying the free tat flung at them then they’re doing just fine.

    • Maybe Inrng can tell us but I would have thought the income generated from participation in the caravan and hosting fees en route outweigh the income from television. Frankly, it seems, a large proportion of the TV audience are more interested in the scenery, so the cycling fan, watching on television, is probably of very little value to the organizers.

      • The TV is the most important then the caravan and then the hosting fees. Whether it was 150km or 230km it wouldn’t make much difference, a flat finish is just that. What else did anyone expect? Ideally have the TV on as background like the radio while you do something else during these stages (work, read a book, fix your bike, write the next day’s preview etc).

        The good news is all this changes from tomorrow onwards with pavé and then straight into the Alps with a tough mountain stage.

        • There’s a craze for “slow TV”, trains riding through nice scenery, that kind of thing. And large chunks of the big stage races are perfect for that.

        • I record it and then we watch on a self decided time lag. But the time you have fast forwarded through the ad breaks and any really dull conversations on the commentary ( Sagan book plug I am talking about you) we seem to catch up for the end quite neatly.
          But I do like the chateau ( better on the French feed where they actually like and know about the patrimoine) so I expect I am just an unimportant Demi-fan.

    • These days no Grand Tour beside the Tour de France features several real sprinters. The giro or Vuelta might have one, maybe two and a few without a big team behind them, but not all. Having just one or two sprint teams in a race leaves opportunities for riders to believe, that they have a chance in a breakaway. So some try their luck, especially as in the giro and Vuelta there are more teams, that have no clear objective or might have one, which they think has only a chance of 50% to succeed, even if all goes well. All that means, that in the giro or Vuelta the racing is different to the Tour de France.

      Of course one has to admit two other things: First, that the riders try to hurt the Tour de France and Vuelta and other ASO races since velon exists and try to boost the giro. To me this is not only foolish, but also mean and fishy. If I was them, I would worry about the flanders monopoly, which seems much more aggressive and about others just as much to say the least. And second, that with all the knowledge about watt racing has become timid. Riders often don‘t go after what they feel, but simply do the maths. And the more is on the line, the more defensive the racing gets. But I remember watching the Tour 15 or 13 years ago and back then sprint stages were no different to today. Maybe the riders had more a feeling of honor, a feeling, that they are racers, not entertainers. But I think this isn‘t a problem only for cycling, but for every profession. A sign of the time: The pressure to be effective instead of beautiful kills spontaneity, kills vision, kills, emotions, kills being human, kills development. Noticeably some french, italian and spanish riders (and of course Sagan) try to stem themselves against this, gove the racing a meaning and keep their individuality and the fun in racing, but of course they have a difficult stand.

      • Good points.
        The Tour does have the sprinters, but that doesn’t mean ASO has to provide quite so many flat stages. Not that the lumpy stages were any better.
        The watts thing I do think is a key issue. It’s certainly worth trying a powermeter ban. At least then they’d have to judge it for themselves.

        • Here’s a half-baked (and likely unoriginal) suggestion: how about taking the powermeter ban one step further and precluding any on/in-bike electronics.
          Pre-race every bike must pass through some sort of UCI issued electromagnetic pulse, that will neuter any powermeter, electronic gearing and any sequestered electric motors.
          This would maintain a mechanical link with the history and romance of the bicycle but still allow opportunity for development and innovation. You can still have high tech aero wheels and frames, you can still have hydraulic disc brakes, ceramic bearings and 12-speed groupsets. You can probably still have a standalone GPS unit (i.e. speed, distance and time) because, if I am correct, these are not considered part of the bike by the UCI. You could maybe still have race radio.
          As an aside… this idea strikes me as analagous to the anti-doping argument of stopping all TUE’s and banning all prescription medication, and perhaps represents a kind of philosophical “line in the sand” that was inadvertently crossed a long time ago.

          • You’re likely to get comments about ‘going back to wool jerseys’ and things, but I agree.
            People say you have to embrace new technologies, but you clearly don’t – or they wouldn’t be racing on that style of bicycle for one thing.
            Bin all electronics, ban all drugs and let’s see how it goes – it would almost certainly be better.

          • Power meters have no effect on the dynamics of a long flat sprint stage. It doesn’t mater anyway, races exist in large part to sell products and power meters are one of those products.

        • I think banning power meters is a good idea , worth a try anyway . Watching a rider going up a mountain and looking down at his power every 5 seconds isn’t my idea of great racing

          • Personally I feel a generally intelligent cycling forum shouldn’t be clogged up with barely considered suggestions on how to improve a big, varied three week bike race by alleged fans too impatient to wait and watch the race unfold. But I do think a device- let’s call it a JEvans cage- which applies a sharp electric shock to any rider (ie all of them) wearing a power meter who dares to look down while riding, would certainly enliven the action.

          • Getting rid of powermeters has been considered by many for years – it’s not an idea that is based on this year’s race.
            It would be to force the riders to rely on their own knowledge of their own bodies in order to work out what effort they should put in – instead of knowing they can do x minutes at x watts and them just sticking to what the powermeter tells them.
            Hard to believe someone would have difficulty working out which might be more interesting.
            Ideally, experience and intelligence should play a part in the sport as well as legs.

          • Does it change much in today’s ultra risk adverse style of racing though? Or does everyone just follow wheels and watch because you have added a little bit more uncertainty into the equation.

            Banking power meters during training might be a better idea.

          • Banning power meters? How adorable. Naive. Ill-informed who actually controls the controls.

            Realistically, before that, We’ll see the lowering of the 6.8 kg (14.99 lb) minimum weight limit. Now, wait. & wait & wait. Is their a bigger joke?

            Do THAT and disc brakes, Di battery delraileurs, wide tires, wide wheels, deep dish wheels, and etc. has little market.

            Every aspect of this Tour and other races is bought and sold by that which is less wholesome than granola. Notice, going into a bike shop in the last few and where there was all kinds of choices now there are shops with the primary choice being Specialized? Predatory marketing effects in more ways that I can even imagine.

            If anything the bike companies will influence raising the minimum weight limits to put more money dangling off Your heavy frame.

            I can’t tell You how many people almost but not quite catch My wheel and when I see them afterward at the top see how They’ve been SOLD, … & I think if they didn’t have those disc brakes and associated extra frame requirements, fat tires and wheels etc; that rider would have dropped Me.!.!.! & I thank My skinny legs.

            I’m guessing once the market has been saturated with all that needlessness, the bike companies will then work on everyone to switch over to minimal weight and all that because once the weight limit is removed as We know it the smart men at the pointy end of races are not going to succumb to fat bike artificial FAT bike syndrome.

            Then the objective will be for everyone to realize what is NOW BEST is to get a new bike that is lighter, faster and leaner.

            Of course things are not normal where I reside, where every ride is a choice of which climb or climbs to do…

            & btw weight weenies win this race.

            The thought of racing without computers? We are not even at the kidding stage; conversation is not consideration…

            Imagine Froome not looking down?


            Of the contenders, Nibali will fare better tomorrow. W/ power meter w/o cattle prod.

          • top oz – ‘Does it change much in today’s ultra risk adverse style of racing though? Or does everyone just follow wheels and watch because you have added a little bit more uncertainty into the equation.’

            No idea is the only honest answer to that.
            The only thing it would be guaranteed to do is mean that riders have to rely on their own sensations and not a electronic box telling them what watts they’re doing.
            Same with any radio ban – no guarantee it would improve racing and it might even make the riders even more conservative.
            The thing about banning powermeters is that there is no negative, whereas with banning radios there are pros and cons.

    • The Giro and Vuelta have the advantage of being in countries where the majority of the country is hilly (due to the Alpine orogeny), while most of France is pan-flat.

      Also the Tour suffers because it’s so high profile – all WT teams go into the race with their best riders and either a GC guy or sprinter to support, so on the flat stages the vast majority of riders are either keeping their leader out of trouble or making sure it all stays together for the last few km. It’s the only race where a team will work on the front to defend a top 10.

      The Tour only loosens up in the second half of the race when many of the team leaders have lost time or dropped out and far more riders are chasing individual opportunities.

    • It feels a bit early to complain. Yes, yesterday was and probably today will be dull but overall I think this is going to be a pretty interesting route and the potential winners are mostly still on par with each other as we hit the interesting bit. Let’s wait until the end of the race before making an assessment. It will be difficult to follow such a cracking Giro but I cannot wait until tomorrow.

  2. You say trident, I say tridente

    Valverde, +00:54
    Landa, + 00:58
    Quintana, +02:13

    Thomas, +00:06
    Froome, +01:05
    Bernal, +01:33

    Yes, Quickstep and BMC are even better in terms of current top 3, but the point I am really making is that Bernal, unlike the other Mountain domeqstiques, isn’t being rested; compare with Poels who spent most of yesterday chatting at the back with Gesink. Going for the white jersey?

    • I’d say Bernal is not only a contender for the white jersey, but a strong pick for the GC altogether. It was clear from the beginning that he is not saved when he chased on the first stage after the mechanical in the final kilometres. I think Sky are not too sure whether Froome can cut it after the Giro and there are still strong doubt about Thomas’ grand tour pedigree, so they are trying to have a joker in hand with Bernal. He is still unproven and makes his debut in a GT, but there is no doubt in my mind that he will be one of the strongest riders in the riders. It wouldn’t surprise me if he fared like Contador in 2007 or Ullrich in 1996…

      • Bernal and his rival for the white jersey Latour both depend on team tactics rather than being able to race for as high a place on GC as possible and in a way their value as talented riders is known already.

        • Yep. It’s all about tactics. And it’s interesting that with 8 man teams, and, ostensibly two leaders, the mountain domestique isn’t being ruthlessly rested for the the second week. Is this a tactical mistake? Are we going to see three isolated riders? Or are they just so confident?

  3. The long flat stages are as much a part of the Tour as Alpe d’Huez. There are hundreds of villages and small towns which the Tour passes through, for these places it is a big deal. The Tour has a wider cultural aspect beyond the actual bike racing, something important for ASO as well. Personally I like the images of “La France profond”, the folk sitting at the roadside with their picnics and displays, even Carlton Kirby and Sean Kelly burbling inanely hour after hour. I also like having pictures from the start, watch the break form, dip in whilst having a coffee and back for the last 20 kms or simply have the whole thing on it the background.

    If the winds blow these “boring” stages can turn into brilliant ones , the 2013 stage into Saint Amand Montrond was one of the best of recent years and that was supposed to be a dull sprint stage with a solitary cat 4 climb. The winds blew, Alejandro Valverde had a mechanical, Quick Step broke the peloton apart in the winds and Cav took one of his finest wins.

    A three week race cannot be action and excitement all the way, there needs to be quieter times too. The first week has not been the most interesting but that has, in large part, been down to the warm, dry weather, hardly a breath of wind or drop of rain let alone a thunderstorm. Not much the course designers can do about that.

    • I agree. For me it’s part of the Tour and I enjoy the long flat stages as well. I don’t watch them start to finish, but I don’t care what they do, I don’t have the time to watch that amount of cycling for three weeks anyway.

      I do find the criticism that it’s “boring” to be extremely tedious.

    • I agree except for the British commentator part – if that’s all I could get the MUTE button would be used. Is it just me or does this TV director seem to spend a bit more time on scenery than usual? It seems a bit much compared to the my memories of the Giro back in May. Too often I’m saying “OK, nice postcard image thank you, now get back to the racing!” to my TV. Meanwhile graphics like the GC or stage results seem to pop up and are gone before I can even read down to the bottom.

      • Can’t say that he has Larry. In fact there seem to be fewer of those lingering moments on l’ecole de petite ville walking around in bicycle shaped routines than usual.

        I’m actually enjoying this TdF so far. GC crashes are making the stages more tense than a simple flat stage. My only criticism is that they have not had a day which has had the peloton begging for a slow day, thereby granting the breakaways more of a gift.

    • +1. Part and parcel of GT’s. If instant gratification is what you are after, watch something else instead and tune in for the last few km.

  4. Is it just me relishes a long “boring” stages, the crowds, the views, the Chateaux’s, the banter, analysing rider styles, the bikes etc etc. beats work anyday!

      • Watch with the sound off, or use the Eurosport player option for the commentary free pictures with background sound. I enjoy wallpaper stages with *all* the top sprinters dunking it out at the end!

    • I’d prefer a bit more action, but all-day coverage is a relative novelty in the UK and I enjoy the small moments – riders pulling over, chateau, seeing the break get away etc. All helped by the superb commentary on ITV 4 (Millar & Boulting). I especially enjoyed the day when they had Peter Kennaugh come in to chat, he was excellent.

      Pack it in with the whining, we’re being spoiled with the length and depth of coverage the Tour gets this days.

      • I remember, ahh I remember when….The Tour was shown on I think ITV World of Sport, probably less than an hour on a Saturday. It was like it was coming from a country 10 million miles away. So no whinging, whining bed wetting from me!

        • Good!
          I only go back as far as 2003 – videoed late night highlights to be enjoyed the next day, with the Idiot Twins on commentary. I also remember the flat first week being a fixture of the Tour until relatively recently, when ASO started mixing things up a bit.

          All-day Tour watching is like Test cricket – you don’t watch in the expectation of non-stop explosive action. You watch for the small moments, in between mugs of tea and casual browsing and catch the drama when it does occur.

  5. I’m actually enjoying the respite from the big GC battles, probably because I’m sick to death of reading the back and forth about Froome. Plus I’m excited by any stage Sagan has a chance to do well in, and this gives me an entry point into watching the race develop (which I watch with one eye while working, since it hardly demands full attention till the end).

    Kittel is indeed hard to bet on, even for a top 5 finish. It’s hard to fathom how someone can be so dominant and then a complete non-factor, even knowing he doesn’t have the same train. Hard to see him deserving even a single chain ring, though his history demands it I suppose. Same for Cavendish, who finally seemed to make a full effort in stage 7, and even he admitted he’s not fast enough to go with Sagan and Gaviria (much less Groenewegen). Plus if you watch the overhead view of yesterday’s finish, he appeared to barely keep control of his bike BEFORE he touched wheels with Kristoff, at which point he was lucky to stay upright (and caused Kristoff to finish well back I think). Démare seems a half a step behind the others, in top-end speed and positioning. Colbrelli appears unable to follow up the promise of his two second-place finishes. These two seem to require larger doses of luck, unlike Sagan, who seems to make his own luck even when he’s clearly the 3rd or 4th (or 6th) best pure sprinter in the bunch.

    Gaviria is clearly the real deal. I think yesterday he just got too excited, and went early. Greipel can still get up there, but seems past being able to dominate at this level. Groenewegen is amazing when he’s on, but what’s happening when he doesn’t show up? I really don’t understand how someone can “not have the legs” to even be in sight of the finish in a couple of sprint stages, and then crush the best in the world a few days later on a slight uphill finish. Anyway, he has to be the favorite today.

    • +1 I also think that the flat stages are as much a part of the Tour as the mountains. The basic premise was to find the most complete cyclist, rather than the best mountain climber.

      Some mountain stages are almost as tedious as the flat stages, and combined fatigue put riders in a position where they are riding ‘punch drunk’. Better to have stages where riders can recoperate and then duke it out, than wall to wall mountains.

      One area that I would like to see them ride is the Morvan and Bergundy. Beautiful and hilly, it’d create great visuals.

      • There’s a little bit of contradiction in some of the gripes about the flat stages.
        ‘The nothing happens to the last xx kms’ argument could well apply to Milan-San Remo or Paris-Tours but these races are held in a different affection?

        Anyway I don’t mind so much Le Tour so far, it’s been a good chance to look at the sprinters.
        Groenwegen has developed from a slightly willowy youth of two seasons ago into an athlete with tree trunks for legs.
        I’m still going for Gaviria though.
        It’s difficult to see Cav getting another Tour win with these guys around now?

        • I spend as much time watching MSR than such sprinter stages. Tune in last 15km and barely missed something important over the years. Yes, I call MSR boring, get your pitchforks.

  6. 2 long boring stages in a row. Sprinter stages need to be 100km or less. Only the last 3-10km start getting exciting.
    Today no breakaway stays away. When will the speed really ramp up today? 5km, 10km or 15km from the end?

  7. For those complaining about the long, flat stages, let’s remember the race, as it’s name implies, literally tours France. It follows a true mixture of beautiful terrain. Riding in a pack through all those quaint villages requires its own level of attention and teamwork to survive in good condition. There are lots of little dramas, and many a contender has crashed out or sickened looking too far ahead to the mountains.

  8. Perhaps having one fewer team member makes managers more conservative? More intent on husbanding their resources than trying to send a party into a breakaway?
    We all want exciting racing but sometimes it just aint so.
    Many thanks for the previews and commentary BTW a breath of sanity.

  9. Rather than ditch the power meter how about groups of 4 or fewer are allowed to use aerobars. That aero improvement would make shutting down the break much more challenging and the bigger teams may be energised to try and bridge a 5th rider on to slow them down.

  10. Any thoughts that the smaller teams are affecting the first week racing? Are smaller teams less inclined to race hard in the first week as they are keeping riders fresh for later in the race?
    Perhaps smaller teams would benefit from shorter stages for more excitement.

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