Tour de France Stage 9 Preview

The pavé of Paris-Roubaix await, a constant succession of cobbled sectors and two races within the day: the race to win the stage and the race to stay in contention on the overall classification.

Allons enfants de l’apathie: Bastille day but no stormer of a stage. Things began with the big teams setting a brisk pace at the front of the bunch to intimidate early attacks. Eventually Sunweb’s Laurens Ten Dam, Direct Energie’s Fabien Grellier and Marco Minaard of Wanty-Groupe Gobert went clear only for Ten Dam to get told to cut it out by his team, the effort was of no use to them. A salute to Minaard filmed eating an energy bar and putting the wrapper back into his pocket; a nod to Grellier for the Combativity Prize, the team’s fourth so far and not bad for a squad backed by an energy supplier.

A late crash saw Dan Martin lose time and Tony Martin fracture a vertebra, he’s left the race. In the sprint Dylan Groenewegen won again with ease. Fernando Gaviria and André Greipel were relegated, it looked like a harsh decision on the German but earlier in the sprint Greipel had barged Nikias Arndt out of the way.

The Route: 156km and packed with pavé. Normally the Tour borrows a few sections of cobbles, for example 13.3km in total during a long stage in 2015. This time it’s 21.7km, way more than recent editions. It’s also borrowing several of the harder sections and the final sector comes just 6km from the finish. It’s as close to remake of Paris-Roubaix as you can get within reason during the Tour de France but at 156km it’s 100km less and this will make the stage more explosive.

An accidental start in Arras, the Hanseatic city, because the Tour was moved back by a week and the planned start in the Glade of the Armistice was changed. As ever the cobbles are dramatic and strategic but the approach matters too, a sprint among riders to get into position each time. There’s 40km to Cambrai where the stress will ratchet up as they cross town as riders fight to get into position. The first sector comes after 47.5km and the race takes the Route Nationale out of Cambrai, a big wide road that’s downhill before a sudden fork to the left onto the cobbled track. This entry is fraught with risk, the peloton will bear down at speed on a wide road and suddenly there’s only room to ride 2-3 abreast on the cobbles. Appropriately enough the sector ends next to a chapel called Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows.

Readers will recognise the names like Pont Thibault, Cysoing and Mons-en-Pévèle but note they’re not always the same as Paris-Roubaix, for example Mons-en-Pévèle is reduced from 3,000 to 900m, still plenty. Sector 9 is the longest at 2.7km and Sectors 4,3 and 2 are bunched together between 24km and 15km to go and should prove decisive.

The Finish: flat and tarmac. The finish is outside the Roubaix velodromes, not on the track and nor is the approach the same as in April. There’s a left hand bend before the flamme rouge, a right hander just under the kite and then another right-hander with 400m to go.

The Contenders: there are several classics contenders in the bunch who are going to be on team duty today but this need not rule them out. Their job today is to tow their leaders into position and if done well then it means they’ll be in the front group coming into Roubaix. Still those without responsibilities can save themselves rather than close gaps all day. This makes Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) the obvious pick, he can go for the stage while others in his team can shepherd Rafał Majka the best they can.

Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) is a potential Paris-Roubaix winner and this stage suits him but can he stay in contention? Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) is similar and Cofidis are based near the finish so he and others will be active unlike recent stages were the red jerseys have been hard to spot.

Will John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) be able to ride for himself. If he doesn’t have to protect Bauke Mollema then he’s in with a chance in the sprint. A similar story with Daryl Impey at Mitchelton-Scott.

Quick Step will try to get Fernando Gaviria in contention for the finish but the likes of Niki Terpstra and Yves Lampaert can play their own cards if the Colombian struggles but again this isn’t Paris-Roubaix with its 250km, it’ll be much harder for them to escape today as the peloton will be more lively and neither packs much of a sprint, perhaps Philippe Gilbert can play his card and Bob Jungels too. So they have to barge clear late in the stage.

Another test of team ambitions is with BMC Racing. Greg Van Avermaet is a likely stage winner and with the yellow jersey he’s got an extra right to defend his race lead for one more day. But Richie Porte needs all the help he can get to defend his chances. These duties mean the likes of Sep Vanmarcke and Oliver Naesen are going to be guiding Rigoberto Urán and Romain Bardet today rather than playing their own cards.

Among the GC contenders it’s hard to see them winning the stage but they finish the day in a winning position. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) has the comparative advantage, this is the terrain he can exploit better than the rest, especially since Chris Froome has a saddle sore and that’s not going to heal today and Sky will look to deploy all their riders to shake things up. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) seems in his element too thanks to two flamboyant rides over the Tour’s pavé and the likes of Jacob Fuglsang (Astana) should fare well too but there’s an element of risk, a lottery where even the most able can break a rim or get sent into a ditch by someone else. So the secondary competition today isn’t the stage win but to get ahead, stay out of trouble and, whisper it, hope that their rivals exactly the nightmare day they’ve been dreading. A puncture, a crash or just a gap opening up on one cobbled sector and suddenly someone aiming for the GC is losing time before they’ve even reached the first mountain stage.

Finally because the pavé have a random element sometimes three left-field lucky dips: Jens Keukeleire (Lotto-Soudal), Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie) and Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Dimension Data)

Peter Sagan
Greg Van Avermaet, John Degenkolb
Kristoff, Greipel, Gaviria, Démare, Impey, EBH, Keukeleire

Weather: warm, sunny and dusty. A top temperature of 29°C and a 10km/h breeze from the north which could touch 20km/h at times.

TV: live from the start at 12.20pm CEST, the first cobbled sector is due around 1.35pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 4.00pm CEST.

146 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 9 Preview”

  1. I suspect those who have been predicting Quintana’s demise in this Tour will have their confirmation today.

    He’s poor on the flat and, more importantly, seems incapable of keeping himself out of trouble in the early stages of the Tour – or getting teammates to protect him, which could be the biggest issue today. When something happens again and again it’s not bad luck.

    Thomas, Nibali, Dumoulin, Froome and Valverde (in roughly that order) are the superior riders on cobbles of the GC riders (Dumoulin is a bit of a guess, but you’d imagine he’ll do ok, and I wouldn’t really say Valverde is much of a GC prospect).

    Porte and Landa are both weak on the flat, Bardet might handle the bumps well, but you can’t see him keeping up with the best, and the rest are largely unknowns, but you wouldn’t be that optimistic for them (Roglic might do well if he handles pave). Zakarin might look as stable as three-legged baby giraffe on ice. Jungels could take a bundle of time.

    If Thomas truly has ambitions of winning this Tour he needs to attack this race (possibly with Quick Step) and take time on his rivals – most of all, Froome. But I expect he’ll do what he’s told and tow Froome around the course.
    I hope someone goes for it (if not Thomas, then maybe Nibali or even Fuglsan0067?): it would be interesting to see a GC contender take a bunch of time here and see if the others can bring him back in the mountains.

    It’ll be interesting what BMC get GVA to do: I suspect they won’t make him look after Porte, which is potentially a big mistake – winning overall is so much more important than stage wins and/or days in yellow.

    • Dumoulin won the Eneco Tour and has been on the podium twice before. There’s always at least one heavily cobbled stage, although more Flanders than Walloon. Imagine he’d do well.

      • Q stayed with GC riders in 2015 on cobbles.

        What you say is true but it’s not a fine deal.

        I do though feel sorry for Erviti guiding three GC riders for Movistar. It’s got disaster written all over it.

        • (Sorry, original comment was me) – I think you’re right about Movistar, but Landa seems to be following Valverde around, so he might be ok, wheras I truly fear the worst for Quintana.
          I hope you’re right and I’m wrong about Thomas – but I don’t think he’s got enough of the rebel in him. It could even depend on whether or not he plans to ride for Sky next year.
          There could be a situation where Froome has a major difficulty and so Thomas keeps going to remain in contention, but I don’t see Thomas attacking Froome – and Froome is the primary rider he needs to put time into here if he wants to win this race.

          • The chaps on ITV4 last night were saying Thomas can ride for himself today, which makes sense.
            Luke Rowe is more than capable of shepherding Froome?

          • +1

            I don’t think it’s about guts or team orders.

            Thomas can ride for himself, and it’s a question of whether he wants to win the TDF or not.

            I think the answer is obviously yes, and in that case he has to at least try (in whatever way, that can just mean following moves) today because if he comes out with 2mins+ lead today over the rest he is in prime position.

            Then it’s just up to him proving he can last 3weeks as you’d expect even with loses he could make that gap stick.

          • Thomas will ride as he needs to. If Froome can keep with him then Sky will be delighted. The only additional freedom Thomas has is not having to stop if Froome has a problem. What happens if they are the only two left is a different question.

          • With respect, its very unlikely he will be finishing 2+ minutes ahead of GVA or The Wolf Pack today, and nothing G has ever done suggests he can cope with the high mountains against top class GC competition. For that reason he will likely help Froome rather than waste his effort on a futile personal quest.

          • It’s not whether he finishes 2mins ahead of GVA? GVA ain’t gonna win the tour?
            If he finishes with GVA and there’s a gap it’s a massive win for Thomas, and the yellow will surely follow next week.

          • The thing about futile personal quests is you never realise you’re on a futile personal quest until the personal quest you’re on becomes futile. I’m sure G knows his limitations but if you can’t imagine what is possible then its basically preparation to fail.

          • Futile = suggesting an outcome that doesn’t fit with the fan boys dream of some under dog coming good.

            Correct = realising that G isn’t here to win a race he´s never show any ability previously to win, and calling it as such. Any effort yesterday was a wasted effort. He sat in and sucked wheel.

          • Exactly. And I think Sky have been open about that.

            The only scenario Thomas doesn’t attack (and I emphasize attack may just be following wheels) is if it’s he and Froome alone at the end. Which it will not be.

            Also remember Froome tried attacks in 2015.

  2. The 2015 stage was a disappointment re GC. I think if we don’t see fireworks today it might be a while before we see cobbles again (unless they go even more extreme)

  3. Should Thomas seize the day here he could be setting himself up for a big result. Its also not necessarily the case that “towing Froome along the course” will be disruptive to his own chances. If Froome can follow, a big if for some, then both may find others fall away just by the nature of the racing. We know that courses like this bite back and there will be crashes, punctures and broken wheels at the wrong times and in the wrong places. Thomas is already the GC candidate who has done best and escaped most in the first eight days. To do it again here gives him a real shot to defend a podium position to Paris. After all, the first half of the race might well be his best half. But, then again, Sky have shown multiple times that you can defend your way to Paris in a race where many are happy with a top ten and many are too scared to lose.

    An interesting side discussion here is also the white jersey contest. The two big cheeses here, on paper, are Pierre Latour and Egan Bernal. But both are seemingly here to do a team job with one eye to the jersey on the side. Kragh Andersen has done well in the first week and should go well today but he is destined to fall on the mountain peaks, leaving the Frenchman and the Colombian to fight it out. Neither are cobbles riders so it will be interesting to see how they emerge from the day later on. Both seem ambitious riders and so we can imagine that the team work they are here to do is not necessarily their first choice or their natural instinct. And how much help to their leaders will such guys be today anyway?

    • It’s an absolute no brainier.

      Thomas will and has to attack today.

      He’s not stupid, getting Yellow and having 1min+a chunk today, gives him free reign in the team and starts the process of him being able to call shots if Froome wants to go for a big attack that might drop him, he’s suddenly able to argue against it.

      How he attacks will be interesting.

      He may just get lucky and follow moves.

      But he may follow Nibali and Fugls- and whether he works with them could be the story of the day.

      Or circumstances may mean he attacks solo with 20k to go hoping to drag out some of the potential stage winners.

      But he has to be looking to take time today no question.

    • Who is Thomas? So much ink for a one week rider in a 3 week race. More than Porte gets and he’s a team leader and would outperform Thomas on long climbs. They are also super prone to falls. If UK would have a better rider, apart from Froome and him, we would never have to read so much about this Thomas. People want to create drama out of nothing. Just look at Movistar for that.

  4. There’s no good time to have a saddle sore, but on this stage? OUCH! Interesting he has this in the year they switched clothing suppliers (and this time I believe they changed more than just the logo on the clothes, unlike in the past) but again, OUCH! Also kind of interesting this news became public since this team is usually so secretive.
    Do you really believe Sagan will be so selfish as to leave looking after their GC man to others and spend all day trying to be in position to win the stage? He doesn’t strike me as that type.

      • Perhaps, but did he have these issues before the switch, which was last year as you indicated? I can remember stories about Santini flying off somewhere to replace the chamois on a famous rider’s kit supplied by another clothing company as well as stories about how a lot of pros would have Assos duplicate the look of the team kit for their personal race clothing. Same as the bikes, shoes and who-knows-what-else? In any case I wouldn’t wish a saddle sore on anyone, especially on terrain like today’s! And let’s not forget at least part of the blame for Fignon’s famous loss to LeMond in 1989 was blamed on…a saddle sore.

    • The only way we would have any news about a medical condition on Froome is as a ‘precuse’, so we can assume there’s a TUE for something that would otherwise come out as a AAF.

      • Assumption is what gets so many people into nonsense about Froome in the first place. This is just rumour and speculation. And being that it needs no proof. Funny that.

        • Interesting that nobody (so far anyway) tried to answer my question about Sagan’s interests today, they just jumped on the bit about a pimple on Chris Froome’s butt.
          Leaves little doubt about who has the most fans on this forum I guess?

          • I dunno Larry maybe your question was just a bit dull?

            Sagan is favourite no doubt. What else is there to say? No he won’t ride for Rafa M. I don’t know why anyone would ever think that was a possibility.

            The Thomas/Froome and Movistar questions are the most interesting today. That’s why people are talking about them.

            You’re just hearing what you wanna hear and ignoring that many Froome comments are actually just pointing out falsehoods directed at him in the interests of being fair rather than bringing him up in the first place. Most of those bring him up are doing so negatively, so really to me your comment is false.

          • Sagan & Bora will race to win today. If Maijka can hang on: fine. If not: fine.

            A Sagan win today will seal green
            Its the roubaix stage, proberbly the most prestigious of the race,
            Its Sagan
            Majka can hope for 6th-10th GC and a stage win / KOM. All less prstigious for Bora than Green + Robaix stage.

          • It was widely reported in the last couple of days that Sagan will be going for the win, but the rest of the team would be looking after Majka. The sponsors know which side their bread is buttered on, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Sagan has at least Oss with him to go for the win.

          • DAVE – thanks for clearing this up….though I still am confused as to why so many here think Geraint Thomas is somehow a potential GT winner. Seems to me to be more wishful thinking (maybe a desire for a true British winner after Wiggins?) than anything based on past results – a win in Paris-Nice and one more at Dauphine.
            I was surprised that it turned out the BORA team didn’t seem to care much about their supposed GC hope as it seemed Sagan had as many teammates around him as Majka. I guess in reality BORA has about as much GC hope for Majka as BMC does for TVG these days.

          • Oh it’s definitely hope. Geraint has never proved as yet he can win a GT, we just like him? He seems like a nice guy, and may add some spice to it all later in the race.

            As would have Porte…

            As for Bora – to be honest I was surprised Majka has as much support as he did! Even Daniel Oss at one point.

  5. I am not convinced the stage today is going to be decisive , I can see the winner sprinting from a large group at the finish with maybe one or two GC riders loosing time. There is a good element of luck though and a big pile up or similar could see a few getting away and chaos ensuing as various groups chase up the road. Like Paris Roubaix itself it is very difficult to pick a winner as there are so many variables involved, I am inclined towards a winner from Quick Step as the team element is going to be important.

    Where has the Chris Froome info come from? The various interviews I have seen suggest (whatever the DS’s and Dave Brailsford say) some underlying tension with G suggesting it is everyone for themselves and the others saying no it is all about protecting Chris Froome. No mention of saddle sores though.

    • I think that’s fair it could be quiet like 2015.
      It depends on crashes and size of the roads more than anything? It’s a complete luck of the draw thing. But considering we get crashes anyway in a normal stages you’d say there’s at least a 60/40 chance of it being importabt

  6. Would love to see Geraint play his own cards here and leave Froome to his own devices. Froome should reflect on his own behaviour as a “super domestique” in the 2012 Tour.
    G gaining (more) time on Froome and potentially others would make for a very interesting tactical situation in the mountains.

    • This is rubbish, just silly Froome bashing.

      Froome has always been respectful of those riding underneath him.

      Plus none of those riding with him have ever missed out on a GT because of team orders. Most riders only get the chance to win a GT once in their lives, few take it, it was perfectly reasonable how Froome went for stages in 2012, when he was also possibly the strongest rider had he ridden his own race – as he’s clearly allowing G to do.

      Anything G does today would not have been possible under Wiggo-rule.

      (I also think how W behaved was reasonable, this is a competition you have to do what you do on and off the bike to win, and W knew he needed a full team backing him)

      • Well, accordingly to Knaven, they are gonna ride like a team. Froome and Thomas together o the wheels of each other, and both of them on the wheels of a teammate…

        I suspect they will attack as a team, like in a sidewind attack, an they will finish together (barring crashes or punctures) If Froome has bad luck, the entire team will wait for him, except Thomas. So Thomas will only get ahead if Froome has bad luck…

        • Yeah. I just don’t buy that.

          First I think there are a number of gray areas in that which Thomas could use to get ahead – following breaks being the first. He has a free hand so just marking moves which go falls into that bracket and he can use to his advantage.

          Two cycling as a team doesn’t really work on cobbles, when people were ‘guided’ in 2014/5, generally it was by one rider (Thomas>Porte a good example) because more on cobbles just doesn’t fit/work with the size of the roads.

          Third – Geraint knows the deal, he’s not been going for seconds by coincidence, he knows this is his best chance to win the TDF and possibly only. He also knows what getting yellow will do within the team. He is trying to get the jersey and will continue today. He knows this is his chance and I wouldn’t even be surprised if he went against team orders – although I don’t believe there would even be team orders, because they’ve already stated he doesn’t have to wait for Froome so what can he do to break orders?

          Thomas would be absolutely mad not to try an attack today.

          Froome would be crazy not to expect it. And I doubt he’ll even care, he’s always wanted riders up on GC with him previously, only for them to fall – G/Porte.

    • An interesting reflection on AlanM’s “Froome should reflect on his Tour 2012 behaviour” statement:

      Before the Tour 2012 which Sky rider had the best grand tour GC result? It was Froome himself with a 2nd place at the 2011 Vuelta, a race where he was a faultless domestique but rather too good for the then favoured son, Wiggins. The context for the few, brief seconds on La Toussuire which are sometimes hauled out from mothballs to beat Froome with, is that after that Vuelta Froome wanted Sky to recognise that he was the better bet and that he could win the Tour himself for a team that, at that point, had won no grand tours at all. History has proven him right and even had Sky trusted Froome then he could still have won the race.

      None of this is analogous to the situation of Thomas as against Froome. Froome has won 6 grand tours, Thomas has no grand tour top tens. Its chalk and cheese. Thomas should certainly take his chances though because harder days are coming for him. Sky’s ideal result is a double podium I’m sure and who’s to say its unlikely or less likely than a Movistar one?

    • @AlanM

      Froome sacrificed two possible GT victories for ‘Sir Bradley Wiggins CBE’. I suspect he has been remembering that every day for the last 6 years.

      Thomas meanwhile is still waiting for his first top 10. There’s just no comparison.

  7. This is going to be a strange race today. It may not live up to its billing, but Quick-Step have no GC rider to protect, so I imagine they will be going all out for the win.

    The problem is how do they do it? They’ll be going up against teams motivated to ride for GC not individual glory.

    They’ve got a week of Tour riding in their legs. This is important because it has likely sapped the speed and strength, so important on the cobbles, and will reduce the most powerful riders advantage.

    Meanwhile we don’t have the length of Roubaix, nor the hardest sectors. A balance of pluses and minuses for a Roubaix repeat. I would put money on Terpstra.

    • Yes, but one crash could change everything. You get a GC contender going down or some held up by a crash and everything is up in the air. Even with no rain this stage has the potential to be a biggie, although obviously it could be different.

      Bear in mind this years tour has far more ‘top ten’ contenders than usual, so even more likelihood some will get into trouble jostling for position. Especially when we know Quickstep will light the touch paper today.

      (Even if Froome and Dumoulin are likely faves overall I can’t remember a tour with so many serious contenders still in it: Froome, G, Porte, Dumo, Nibali, Bardet, Quintana, Uran, Fugls, Yates, Landa, Valverde, Roglic, Kwijs, Mollema, Latour – all still top ten possibles)

  8. Why do they use a so boring route as yesterday’s on a week end? Which is on top Bastille’s day? It is really no good publicity for the Tour.

    • It wasn’t boring for the thousands of people who turned out all along the route to cheer the tour through their town, village, commune or farmland. Just look at the spectacles laid on at the roadside, months of effort for a couple of seconds fame.

      If you haven’t lived in a town that ‘hosts’ the Tour, it is hard to imagine how exciting it is, or how important for that still existing French civic pride. People still talk about when the Tour passed through years after the event.

      Yes it is a great sporting event, yes it is a great TV show, but the thing that makes it possible is all the villages repairing their roads, decorating the lampposts, putting up with the road closures….and turning out man woman and child to wait for ages to see the riders flash past.

  9. Matt White said in an interview a few days ago that for this stage there were 15 specialists, another 30-40 who were very competent, and that the rest would be surviving or getting in the way. I thought much the same applies to mountain stages and time trials…
    My long shot pick, literally, is Philippe Gilbert, with an early attack much like at Roubaix this year and Flanders last year. He’s had solid form all season without really capitalising yet.
    To borrow commentary from a far more sedate sport/game, I think the race will look like an explosion in a paint factory after about Templeuve… I’m not buying this group arrival at the finish speculation!

    • I think that Quick Step are the catalysts for this stage too.
      I don’t see Gaviria being their prime rider – I think that they’ll go long and perhaps even play the 1-2 card on Sagan, with Gilbert, Terpstra and perhaps Lampaert.
      What would Sagan do, follow and tow the likes of GVA with him?

      • Strangely I don’t see a long attack working? Because there are just too many people who will have an interest in working and those lives need an undecisive pack to work.

        Rather I see a race of attrition if it’s going to be exciting – and whoever is the fastest in the last group standing will win.

        That makes Sagan surely the pick, I’d have him head and shoulders above most. But Demare is good also.

      • @Ecky Sagan will probably just ride away and no one chases him as happened (absurdly so) in the actual race earlier this year. I’m still asking myself how they all just sat there and let him ride away. It wasn’t even an attack.

    • Phil is 3rd favourite with the majority of bookies so not sure about “long shot” on the betting side but you may well be right on the long range attack!

  10. I am really looking forward to this one…

    I find the gc battle far more interesting than stage win.

    As many mentioned above nibali, G and i also reckon Bardet should do well.

    I fear for Lil’ Q and Porte.

    I guess Froome will be guided by Rowe and Moscon, (Am I the only paranoic one to read TUE into saddle sore?)

    Will be interesting to see how Landa and Bernal faires in particular the basque, if he does not loose too much time he might be danger in the mountains.

    • Considering Froome has never had a TUE during a grand tour, or even leading up to one i would say yes! You are so far the only one being so paranoid…

      Excactly because of people accusing him of stuff they clearly have no knowlegde of, he has also said, that he wont get TUE´s in a tour, because then the ignorant (my word not his) people at home would somehow see it as cheating!

      Even though that is not the case when it comes to any other rider in the peloton! The whole Salbutamol case could have been avoided by Froome getting a TUE, but he chose not to, even thought it would have been perfetly normal, and well within the rules!

      • Great comment Tom L.

        I was going to say the same.

        Froome never used a GT TUE and possibly got himself into the Salbutamol case actually because he avoided a TUE hoping not to repeat Wiggins debate.

        Froome and Team Sky may well get found out, but we should be fair with Froome still and stick to the facts. He’s being treated pretty poorly currently having as far a we know done nothing wrong.

      • Neither should you. Nothing is true just because you can say it and neither should people be able to allege things at random without reply.

  11. In this day & age and with Team Sky being all about the marginal gains, how can Froome have a saddle sore? And if it is true why make if public knowledge?

    I’m not convinced this isn’t just another game by Dastardly Dave to make the other riders expend energy taking advantage when really he’s in the form of his life!!!

    I like Thomas, but he’ll not attack he’s too scared to go against the team. He’ll tow the line to ensure he gets signed up for next year.

    GVA for the victory today. Will be class seeing the Yellow Jersey pull them around and top if off by crossing the line first.

    • Even the best equipment cant completely rule out stuff like saddle sores happening 🙂
      They havent made it public, it has been leaked. (seems to be a alot of that going around when it comes to Sky)
      It could be a rumour though as you said…

      I think Thomas will be the perfect team rider he has always been! He also knows, that if he follows Froome through the tour, there might be a podium waiting for him! I like him as well, and hope the best for him! But the only way he will take time on Froome today, is if Froome has some bad luck…

      GVA winning could be beautifull, but he has lost a lot of speed since last year, and with the short stage, i dont see it being selective and tiring enough for him to win…

      My guess is, there will be a couple of sprinters left when they reach the finish, but maybe a top 5 or 10 would be within reach for him…

  12. Are you sure you meant to tip Impey? Considering his best cobbled result is 10th at Brabantse Pijl and MS have Hayman (PR winner 2016) and Durbridge (Top 5 Dwars and E3 2017) on the team id say they are both head and shoulders better cobbled contenders although both will probably be on team duty.

  13. “There’s 40km to Cambrai where the stress with ratchet up as they cross town.” The “with” should be “will.”

    Can’t wait to watch this live!

  14. Hot, fast, dusty. So not so much a bike handling test as a wet day would be, apart from that first pinch point on the cobbles, nice observation Mr INRNG.

    Probably GC guys will be undone by mechanical’s more than anything else.

    Hopefully we get a hard race that splits through pressure and GC riders in the wrong place,i.e their own fault. At least then come Tuesday and the mountains we might get some attacking riding, rather than broken bodies just trying to survive until they heal.

  15. Paris Roubaix is one of my favourite dates in the cycling calendar, but this stage is ridiculous for a Tour. The Tour de France has no place going over cobbles of this distance and intensity. Too random. All wrong.

    • Lost on this – would you prefer a third dull sprinting day? Even INRNG said yesterday he didn’t watch the stage…

      Cycling is a business, the TDF needs to stay relevant, and develop with the times – and if people watch these stages (which they clearly do) then they have a place in the spectacle.

      I would hate to see it but you could make a better argument for dropping TT’s.

      Also bear in mind they’re making a come back and not new.

      Also bear in mind there is a bike manufacturing demand for dirt bikes.

      Also bear in mind all of the TDF is quite random? Those on a bad team lose in the TTT, those who get unlucky in a crash, those who puncture at the wrong time… how is this any different?

      Finally, even if it is random, it increases the entertainment, unpredictability is why sport works, increasing that within reason can only help – like when it rains in F1.

      • First, it’s not a binary option been cobbles and sprint day up and down a motorway. So that doesn’t hold water.

        Second, the random problem: the Tour is a test of individual AND team ability. In that sense, the team time trial isn’t random at all. A rider with a bad team is going to lose as much as a minute I’m the team time trial over thirty odd kilometres, but that’s nothing compared with what he’ll lose in the mountains, or even flat stages, without competent team support. The cobbles are completely random. You can’t improve your ability to not get punctures or mechanicals.

        We naturalise stages in the mountains with terrible weather. We push back the neutralised section on sprint stages to 3km. We criticise tour organisers for having ‘dangerous’ runins to sprint stage finales that involve tight corners, suddenly narrowing roads, traffic islands, speed bumps and roundabouts. All for rider safety and to eliminate unfair random events from a three week race. And yet, here comes the cobbles and all that stuff is ‘great entrainment’ and part of the ‘challenge’. The cobbles, and the entrances to the cobbled sections, especially the first, guarantee that riders will lose the tour through no real fault of their own. I’m just happy it’s not raining.

        I love Paris Roubaix. Along with the Ronde, it’s probably the day of the cycling year I look forward to most. But not on the Tour, please.

        • Sorry – just because it’s not an argument between a sprint stage and a cobble stage doesn’t make it a binary argument – I was talking about variety. People like variety. This argument still holds water. Just look at the excitement on this page alone.

          You’re totally wrong on this one.

          Next the random stuff…
          I’ve already made the point that there is a random element to all of cycling and sport.

          But conversely, winning a GT is about being an all rounder, so having and be given the opportunity to use you cobbles skills seems fair for those with them? Thomas, Nibali, Fuglsang. Why should they be disadvantaged by having these stages banned for the Tour by you?

          I don’t really get your mechanical stuff… I mean that happens every day on the tour anyway? Schleck lost a Grand Tour because of a chain falling off.

          Then on the rider safety – this is your strongest point, but the 3km rule is slightly different as GC riders ruin the spectacle of a sprint if they’re always at the front and those 3km shouldn’t make or break someone’s tour. Here conversely we’re talking about an entire stage and a specific skill, there’s an element of danger but it’s within reason so there’s no reason it shouldn’t be there or be a moment to win or lose the tour.

          Also – it’s not the Organisers fault the riders have become more specialised, these stages used to be on tours so why shouldn’t they make a come back – I think most fans want more stages like Finistre, or one or two stages to include cobbles or Strada B roads.

          This is for the fans, it’s progress – you’re just being a kill joy.

          • Dave, you asked what I would prefer, another sprint stage. Clearly that’s not the only option, so I don’t see why “I’m totally wrong”. The Yorkshire stages a few years ago weren’t cobbles and were fantastic. It’s possible to design trap stages or ones that are designed to test the peleton, classics style, or ones designed to help breakaways. There are limitless options if you don’t want another straight sprint stage.

            It’s true that random events clearly cost riders, as you say, but the point of the cobbles is that the randomness is heightened to the point where it becomes an intrinsic part of racing them on road bikes.

            Finally, this Tour has the most number of contenders I’d seen in years — especially with Froome having softened himself up by riding the Giro. But losing a couple, and it seems that Porte , Barret and Landa have gone, is going to make the really exciting stages less exciting and it less likely they we’ll see genuine racing later. You might also want to consider that.

          • Frank Carbo – I’d like to see more random events and more racing, and fewer of the ‘special rules’ you mention.
            And riding the cobbles is a skill and cycling should also be about handling the bike.
            Also, it’s not random – you can improve your chances of not getting a puncture by riding on the crown and not in the (easier) gutter.

            DAVE – Cycling is not a business – it’s a sport. Running anything like a business is how you ruin it. At best, all you do is make more money.

          • I just disagree.

            We’ve had stages like Yorkshire, this cobble stage is at most every other year? What’s the harm, it’s exciting.

            Also Porte crashed out without cobbles last year, plus he didn’t even crash on the cobbles – plus he has crashed out every time bar one that he’s led a team in at GT. he’s not the one to pick to add water to your argument.

            You’re just flat wrong. And the others you name are still in it anyway?

            On business – sorry again I just disagree. There’s money and viewing figures involved. It is a business whether you like it or not. If it were run more like a sustainable venture then we might have less teams and cyclists struggling to make a living year to year and more concentrating on just winning giving us all mire entertainment. You can be idealistic and call it a sport but what exactly does that mean when you break it down? something fun to watch and people care about? If it’s run to be a successful business these are the same things you’ll aim for so there’s no real difference?

    • Despite the fact that historically the Tour always included cobble. It is only in recent editions that they haven’t featured every year.

  16. Was really looking forward to this stage… But recording the football to watch when the kids are in bed… Seems unlikely that I’ll be able to watch the stage live and not find out how face are doing in the football. Might have to go to bed now and record both.

  17. If Sagan wins it will be an absolute failure of all the other teams. The has been challenging for the win inevery road stage since the start, including intermediate sprints.

  18. How do you see Degenkolb doing today? He used to be one of the best on the cobbles, but he hasn’t been the same since his crash – plus, he might be one Mollema-duty despite Trek having a decent team to protect him without Degenkolb.

  19. On a different note, BRAVO to INRNG for your great lead-off pun today ( Allons enfants de l’apathie); one of your very best!! But seriously, folks, could ASO not have organized the Tour to place a more-likely-to-be-exciting route on Bastille day? Even a route more likely to challenge a French rider to attack? It is always fun to see a French rider going for it on Bastille Day, and (for this francophile at least) even one winning on the Day.

  20. If Yates and Martin stay at the back like that (Martin has a reason perhaps; I don’t know why Yates always does that – nor why his DS lets him) they’re going to lose a pile of time.

  21. Brilliant stuff.
    Delighted for Degenkolb.
    Fair play to Quintana – he proved me wrong. He must wish all flat days were cobbled. (Mind you, was there a gap just before him at the end?)
    And I’ve besmirched Movistar’s team choice, but they were excellent today.
    Unlike Ag2R, who were a shambles throughout – could no-one say upfront with Bardet? (Maybe he’d worn them all out with his bike changes – and was the same true of Sky, with GT and CF left alone towards the end?)
    I’m assuming Uran crashed or had a mechanical at some point? Didn’t see how he lost his time.
    Real shame for Porte: all he can do now is focus on the Vuelta, which he should have a real chance of winning.

    • If Bardet can rely on motopacing every time he has a problem then why does he need a team? I understand The Cycling Podcast will be fielding the grumbles of several participants about this in their podcast tonight.

        • Bardet took water illegally last TdF and he’s been expelled from Paris-Nice. It’s not unreasonable to expect that if he’s game for dishing criticism out, then he should be game for taking it too.

          • The controversy is that the host broadcaster, France2, shows detailed footage of Dumoulin, Froome, and others while they are chasing and what they are chasing behind. This directly led to TD getting penalised. However, unlike the other GC contenders, the director only shows brief-side-on shots of RB sweating while chasing, with the cameras quickly panning away, while generating no footage of whom RB is being paced back on by. It is alleged by several that France2s camera bike is sitting too close to bardet’s chases, whilst not broadcasting the footage, enabling RB’s chasing group to motor pace back on using the France2 motorbike with impunity. His leaping of a 40sec gap inside the last 3k while towing Mikel Landawas quite improbable.

          • Remember that we can all watch all the cameras via the France TV website or the Eurosport Player app. And the UCI video commissaire is (supposed to be) watching them all so they can spot this, it shouldn’t a question of the director’s shot deciding what is seen by the UCI.

            Bardet’s luck was probably to have the convoy of team convoys to ride through, the commissaires sometimes do the “barrage” to stop those dropped coming back but also on a day like that the teams want to be close to their riders and the commissaires don’t make a barrage.

    • I think your bias against Quintana is unfounded. In cycling it seems that fans develop myths about riders based on very little.

    • Whether he had a bit of help pacing or not I’m lost on the AG2R comment?

      They paced Bardet back multiple times? What more can you ask? How is that a shambles? It’s not their fault he had punctures?

      Quintana has been on at the end both times hes been over cobbles now, fair to say he ain’t that bad?

      Movistar took a few risks today going back for Landa, they got lucky but rode well.

      Not sure why Sky get criticsed? They rode at the front, paced a leader back, and both leaders finished at the front? Despite three donestiques crashing and another (Rowe) getting a puncture.

      • With Ag2R it was just that they didn’t manage to have someone with Bardet later in the race, despite having some good classics talent in the ranks. (I didn’t see any motor pacing for Bardet, so can’t comment on that – the motorbikes are always close, especially in a race like this.)
        Sky was less of a criticism – just that they didn’t have anyone with CF and GT by the end.

        Peter – my comments about Quintana on the flat (not the cobbles) were based on him consistently losing time at the start of the TdF. If it happens year after year, it’s unlikely to be just bad luck.

        • I’m sorry, but I don’t see that opinion of Quintana backed up by the results. Sure it has happened that he has lost time in the early flat stages – this tour S1 and 2015/S2. Although Froome has also lost time in early stages, but the reputation is not there (this tour S1 and 2014, crashed out).
          If you consider 1-9 early stages, NQ has raced 34 flat early stages over 5 Tours – and had issues on 2.

          In 2016, after stage 9, he was 23 second back (with everyone else)
          In his disastrous 2017 tour, after stage 9, he had lost no time on the flats (but he had on the mountains)
          2015, he had the bad stage 2 and was 1:59 back after stage 9.
          In his debut in 2013, he didn’t lose any time on the flats.

          In the first 9 stages of each of his five tours, he has lost more time in the mountains than on the flats ( 3:43 in the moutains 2013/S8&S9, 2016/S8, 2017/S9, versus 2:43 on the flats)

  22. The curse of stage 9 strikes again for Porte. Froome’s GC challengers seem to be doing all they can to rule themselves out of contention. Bardet gave it a real go today with four punctures. That said, Froome also seems intent on making it hard for himself by regularly falling off, although generally off the road than in the middle of it.

  23. Well, that was every bit as exciting and fraught as I hoped it would be, at least until the end when “ABS” syndrome broke out.

    I understand riders not wanting to go with Sagan when they know he’s likely to out-sprint them, and I understand riders not working with him when they have a teammate up the road. But why on earth wouldn’t riders like Greipel and Kristoff, EBH, Dupont and a few others just sitting up and accepting also-ran status.

    Anyway, it was nice to see how emotional Degenkolb was after the win.

  24. Poor Porte… if there’s a circumstance where a cyclist wished he had a fracture to go with the pain, this is probably it(?).
    Didn’t get a break either way.

  25. A few quick thoughts:
    1. Fantastic to see Degenkolb back in form. And for those three to get clear without Sagan able to follow was pretty great timing.
    2. Q was one of the few GC guys to stay entirely out of trouble, so kudos there.
    3. Bardet and D. Martin will be super glad for the rest day, not that everyone won’t, but Martin rode well despite yesterday’s nastiness, and Bardet had to overcome what four incidents? And managed to claw back to the main group.
    4. Overall there were so many races within the race going on, I was pretty glued to the whole stage.

    • I think Sagan couldn’t follow because he’d been covering moves pretty much solo, and as has happened many times before the ones that get away time their move before he’s recovered. Note that when he did try to follow, no one went with him, until it was clear he was going on his own for 4th, and then he had some passengers.

  26. I think it must be clear that Froome is the unchallenged leader at Sky, G was constantly checking Froome when it was just the two of them left towards the end.
    G is quoted that he saw the opportunity to join the 3 but thought too long. I interpret that as G having the new contract virtually signed with Sky and not wanting to threaten a possible withdrawal or change in contract terms. Probably wrong but my thinking.
    Delighted for Dege and chapeau for “…apathie”

    • Look that’s just not true.

      Geraint did not wait when he crashed.

      And what you’re taking as looks may well be them talking tactics – as they did ride up against each to talk neat the end.

      He may have also been looking to see what GC peeps were there still to judge a pos attack.

      You’re just taking something and impressing your opinion on it.

      Time wasting comment.

  27. What happened to TJVG? He’s 6min down now on GC, and the only comment I saw was from Van Avermaet saying after Porte crashed out that they rallied around TJ and tried to place him.

      • I had to llisten… Wow, more than plugging: basically said our host is the best online cycling analysis after saying all the mainstream guys know next to nothing.

        Big Tex, as Larry calls him, has been a deplorable human being and certainly not a good face of the sport, but I always thought and still do think he’s a sharp mind and tactician, so consider this high praise.

  28. Does anyone remember when they cut down the number of riders per team in order to minimise casualties – sorry, I mean crashes.

    I wonder how that’s working out for them…

    • Think it was done for various reasons (money saving for teams to have less riders, plus not so much help for big teams) but yeah think most also said it wouldn’t affect crashes anyway so no surprise.

      Although do wonder whether we should hold judgement for a few years until we have statistics, what we see may not be the truth.

  29. Well I was completely wrong in Geraint attacking.

    Really disappointed actually – feels like he could have made the last move and by the end I was wondering if he was even looking for the moves. Even Froome attacked…

    In the interviews after I saw he said he didn’t want to be the one riding with 50km to go. It might sound sensible but just seems like the wrong temperament for someone riding on a terrain where they have the advantage.

    He may still win and if like him to. But you just have the feeling of Froome had Thomas’ ability on cobbles he would have been in that last move, and probably instigated it.

    The only other surprise for me was how many people made it back on – so many teams doing good work today. Very impressive.

    • Totally understandable. Froome is still the team leader after all. If Thomas had ridden away from him but dragged some GC contenders (Nibali?) with him, he would gain very little in the great scheme of things but put more pressure on Froome. It was also clear he need to show Froome the lines to take 😉

  30. I found Stage 9 compelling! So much emotion in that race; it was thrilling.

    Got me thinking that the slow preceding stages made today’s even more exciting through the contrast and heightened anticipation.

    Vive le Tour!
    Dal i fynd G!

  31. Sooooo….The INRNG in association with DAVE – No attack, note even a sniff of an attack. Predictable. G sat in place and watched GVA and JD ride away and did nothing. That was his time, his chance…

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