Vuelta a España Stage 21 Preview

A 100km criterium in Madrid before sunset.

Mas y mas: a frenetic stage with Thomas de Gendt starring on the first climbs as he stitched up the mountains jersey. A break went but Astana led the peloton to set up a move by Miguel Angel Lopez and sure enough the Colombian went with 40km to go and he had two team mates up the road waiting for him. He never got much of a gap and minutes later Lopez’s move looked to have flopped, he was caught and Astana had used up their riders. At least they tried was the immediate thought. Moments later Nairo Quintana jumped on the climb of La Comella and a refreshed Lopez got across to him. The pair began to pull out a lead and over the top of the climb Simon Yates took off with only Enric Mas willing or able to follow which meant the riders fourth and fifth overall taking time on those second and third overall. It was a tense finish for many with Lopez and Mas marking each other, if Lopez got a small gap and the stage win then he’d overtake Mas on GC while lower down the mountain calculations were being made for Kruijswijk and Valverde although it was soon apparently they were going to fall off the podium places on GC. In the end Mas sprinted for the stage and celebrated like he’d won the Vuelta and worlds combined but you could see why, he’d climbed on the podium with Lopez too. Impressive by Mas to triumph in a hard mountain stage and also for Lopez to collect his second podium in a grand tour this year. Lower down the mountain Simon Yates rolled in for third place having paced himself up the climb and allowed himself a smile too.

The Route: out of Alcorcon, through Getafe and then laps of the circuit in Madrid, big boulevards with 180° bends at each end including one with a kilometre to go.

The Contenders: it’s hard to see past Elia Viviani, once again he’s been strong in this race and has a great lead out train.

This could be Peter Sagan’s last outing in the rainbow jersey after a three year rainbow spell. He should be close and must be confident otherwise he’d not have hauled himself over the Pyrenees of late. We’ll see Giacomo Nizzolo

Elia Viviani
Peter Sagan
Nizzolo, van Poppel

Weather: warm and sunny, 31°C.

Tune in: the finish is forecast for 8.00pm CEST.

96 thoughts on “Vuelta a España Stage 21 Preview”

        • I have to give many claps n big thumbs to works like these. Wealth of knowledge + amazing strength, I am beginning to check in a couple of times daily to see any new articles I could fill my empty mind. Thank you to inrng and many posts I read. Many incomprehensible coz codenames used, slangs used, … but love of cycling is there. Should all sign in for one single millennium ride to clear things out once and for all followed by Br/US/Cdn beer at one 3*** lodging… what more? Discuss the future fate of Unzue. Check against Mourinho? Thumb up or down.? 3M euros bonus cancelled this year? Tactics report of a million words to all dedicated fans, to us who suffered watching the race, my time our time my husband’s time wife’s time, … even sacrifice my doggy’s Pooh Pooh time. That was outrageously ‘irreconcilable differences’ set us apart,many here disagree on issues raised by inrng n willing to defend with our lives on paper (not legally speaking of course) words and words and I need to read with a careful mind, dictionary to look upon as much effort as I can possibly can reading a John Locke’s. Then should I respond should I be quiet should I ‘stick my tiny neck out’. Well they certainly waste no time to track me down… reading cycling news is no better than here. You can feel literally sparks n fire here. Isn’t that self -defeated like you said ‘conflicted’ ? True that’s life.cant always live under the shelter and knock your head to every single views poised. So let thoughts flow, keep views open, you full of energetic speeches some very poetic even knocked my stupid head off before bedtime… (GMT+8) NO one single team is perfect! Well a full French team, all Spanish Pro Continental teams, the rest are from different ‘nationality’ . Having 6-7 spoken languages in one pro team, none of them speak perfect English except the F words of course. So keep a cool mind shall we and go for one ultimate Angliru ride if you dare . 52/34 11/32. I’d like to try that one day. 🙂 Keep up the good work inrng.

          • Yeah, luv to but…. if only. The people that enjoy this site have arms tied behind backs, surely that’s why we love the 90 second read to fulfill our needs to be part of the once (maybe not to be caught again pack)

  1. Thanks Inrng for guiding us through the Vuelta. I think it must feel a bit exhausting to get to the end of these three week races. I would imagine that this one has been more troublesome because it was less engaging. Hints of the GC were there in the first two weeks. But only in the final week did it come to the fore.

    • I concur. Somehow the Vuelta (this year round) didnt stoke the same interest in me. Possibly way too close after the Tour finish. Also the first week (by Vuelta standards) was tame.
      Though, I have to admit the last week made up a lot of ground for the lazy start.

  2. Thanks for all your Previews this year enjoyed every one come to your website every morning to get the update on what the stage would be like. Enjoyed yesterday’s race nice to see Lopez riding and not just siting and nice to see the emotion in Mas heck of a ride for a youngster.

    Well done Simon Yates you did a good race I wonder how Adam feels though….

    • It probably bodes well for Adam. Both brothers started the Vuelta off the back of underperforming grand tours. Adam was always going to play the support role given he had the most recent tour in his legs.

      Next year will be an interesting conundrum for MTS: which tours to race which riders assuming both Yates are on form and Chavez recovers. How many eggs to put in which basket?

        • Matt White interviewed on ITV4, suggested that part of the conundrum’s solution was to ask the riders where their desires lie. I have a lot of time for Mitchelton Scott.

  3. I’m very happy for Yates’, and another British, win obviously.
    But now Quick Step have found a genuine GC contender is there no limit to their abilities, a vast system of interlocking riders, able to take all loads 🙂

    Alas poor Nairo, I knew him….

    • But what should Quick Steps strategy be in coming years in grand tours?

      I think Mas will find landing on the podium in the Tour and probably also in the Giro much harder than in the Vuelta without having a dedicated team around him. Of course he is so young, that he can still grow at QS and perhaps find a more dedicated role as captain at another team when time is right.

      Any news on the QS sponsor situation?

      • Let me casually toss into the equation that Bernal could have beaten all of these guys. And one reason why is he will always have the best team making sure he only has to do work when it matters. Congrats to Mas but he’ll always have to do his own work at Quickstep which is why Movistar probably is in his future. He is probably better placed than Lopez, Kruijswijk, Chaves types to actually progress rather than be eternally listed as one of 15 “contenders”.

        • The usual “they are all crap, cause my guy woul have beaten them all” “what if” nonsense. You’re really the Donald Trump of cycling site commentators. Team Narcissism

          • You post a lot Dave. But you never say anything. My comment was about the race, the prospects for a rider in it and the sport as as a whole. Yours was personal insults. Its not me who needs to look in the mirror. I’ll keep offering my opinion and you keep insulting me. It’s what you do best. Or perhaps just all you can do judging by the fact you’ve replied to others today in the same way.

          • A tear rolls down my fave each comment I see.

            Anyway, I couldn’t get into this grand tour as before.
            It must be grand tour fatigue.
            This has been a momentous year for Brits, and yet only the Giro really got my fires burning.
            That will be the Tour I remember for a lifetime.

        • I don’t want to give too much oxygen to this, but Dave’s point is fair (but equally, I think people go too far past the point of civility)… but really, your first two sentences add nothing to your lower points, which is really all that needed to be said, and is really what you were responding to.

          It does get tiresome to see *everything* through the prism of Sky. Cycling really is much bigger and interesting than that.

          • And yet, whether you like it or not, races are set in bigger contexts. The field here, and not here, has been remarked upon by many. Its the difference between being seen as Tony Rominger or as Miguel Indurain at the end of the day. The “what ifs” will always be part of sporting discussion.

          • anonymous (RonDe?). It is an interesting point you make re ‘what ifs’. As in this case, and really what I was referring to, was that Ecky Thump and Larz had essentially asked “what should Quickstep do” in future Grand Tours now they have Mas.

            Any reference that ‘Bernal could have beaten all of these guys’ is actually irrelevant and pointless. It adds nothing to the question, and fundamentally changes nothing. Whether Mas finished 2nd or top 10 at this point. I’d say people would be asking the same questions; If you were Quickstep what would you do? That is the only ‘what if’ in this thread that I think that is relevant, noting their historic approach to three week stage races.

        • Historically, Quick Step has never offered more than token support to their GC riders. See Uran and Dan Martin in recent years, which is why Mas should probably change teams.

          Even against a depleted field, he looks well placed for future success at this stage of his career. I can’t see Contador backing a loser.

          I’m sure Movistar would love to snap up Spain’s next big thing but would they be the right team to further develop his talent as opposed to, say, Sunweb or MTS?

          As someone who never rode for Movistar whilst at the time Spain’s most successful rider, I wonder what Bertie’s advice to Mas is today?

        • Bernal has had one good GT as a domestique with the associated lack of pressure and flat days sat at the back talking to his mates instead of fighting for the front at 3k banner. He has potential but is far from a sure thing. I’d take 2nd in the Vuelta over that. You keeping going on about ‘the best’ not being there but say Dumoulin and Froome were there, he’d still have been 4th. Not bad for a second grand tour on a team with a sprinter and 6 leadout men. Not bad at all. I’m fairly sure Thomas, Froome and Dumoulin all took a few years to get to where they are.

        • I take your point about Bernal, Ron, but I wonder what is Sky’s strongest team? They will probably go all in for Froome at the Tour for the 5, but their second strings both at Tour of Britain and La Vuelta didn’t exactly perform, so if TDF is the key prize where will Bernal be blooded and with whom?

      • How did that work out for Dan Martin? Too many people watch sport through eyes invested in the outcomes. They like this guy and despise that one. But that has nothing to do with reality. It’s racing interpreted by wish fulfillment. Is Mas any good? He got second in an underpowered Vuelta. Quintana has won two grand tours but look at him now, a guy who gives up days before the end of the race because he’s done, someone who struggles to make the top ten. Based on the last two years the only teams who care about Grand Tour racing are Sunweb, Mitchelton and Sky. But they already have their guys in place. Where could Mas go?

        • ” Based on the last two years the only teams who care about Grand Tour racing are Sunweb, Mitchelton and Sky. But they already have their guys in place. Where could Mas go?”

          I’d add Movistar and LottoJumboNL to that list.

          As I understand it, Mas has a contract for 2019. So much will depend on how he performs next year. Also, Quintanas contract ends in 2019. Can’t really see him at another team but he will need to perform much better next year.

          • Yes, add Movistar and Lotto to that list indeed.

            Movistar need to make more astute signings. Between disruptive Landa, disappointing Quintana and ageing Valverde, this season (and next?) has been frustrating. I think we all expect more from Landa in the shorter stage races at least, and I hope Quintana mixes up his off-season programme. Like you say, he needs a much improved 2019. I can’t see him as a SD (having won two GTs) but on recent form he’s no longer a suitable leader for Movistar,

            As for Lotto, it feels like ‘watch this space’. They have made good signings recently and have likeable riders, I want to see them wear more leaders jerseys next year.

            Other options for Mas could be EF, Uran isn’t the force he was, or Trek.

        • I was just observing that Quick Step hasn’t had traditionally been the home of Grand Tour leaders who perform well, (Dan Martin I’m sure was hired by QS for more his one day and stage winning form). I’m not going to join a lot of the cycling media and anoint Mas as “the next Contador” (just like one good GT in a pressure-free support role does not make Bernal “the next Quintana”).

        • Agree with Larry’s comments. Mas did not race the other GTs like most of his other competitors, and was fortunate that the GC agenda was not pushed till the final week. A very different proposition to going to the Giro with fresh riders (though some will not necessarily be in top form) or the TdF with the best of every team, at their best.

          If he has turned up at the Tour (or even the Giro) with the same team he’d never be able to set an agenda which meant he could win those races, nor could he have won the Vuelta.

          His result is undeniably good. You don’t get to the end of a three week stage on the podium without consistency. And, bagging the last mountain stage certainly shows he had superb form, but the circumstances of this Vuelta have been highly favourable for him.

          A BMC, Trek or Astana would do well to pick him up, but at QS, just as Martin had to, he’ll be stuck feeding on scraps without a team behind him.

      • Hard not to agree with this – will/can the “Wolf Pack” be retooled to support this guy (who until this race I thought was named Eric and a Belgian) in GT’s? Sounds far-fetched to me.
        Meanwhile it’s clear that to win this Vuelta, it was best not to have raced LeTour. Of the top 10 GC riders the top 3 (and 6 and 10) came to the start without having contested Le Grand Boucle.
        Overall for me, an unexpectedly interesting 3 weeks around Spain with a worthy victor, though I would have said pretty much the same if any of the top 10 were atop the podium this evening.
        Thanks to INRNG as usual – bring on the World’s!!!

  4. Sometime in 2017 on the Movistar team bus, Eusebio Unzue rushes in and huddles with his DS’s: hey guys! I have a great plan for 2018. Let’s sign Landa from Sky and use all our best three guys together. We can call it something snappy like, erm, a tridente! There’s no way the others could resist us then. Surely one of them would win as we could punch and counterpunch all day! Grand tour domination would be ours!

    Movistar DS’s: Huh?

    Sometime last night in Eusebio Unzue’s hotel room in a dream: And so Movistar finish the year with no podiums in any of the grand tours of the year….. Unzue wakes up bathed in sweat, screaming.

    A fantasy, perhaps. And at least Movistar improved their 7th and 10th in the Tour to a 5th and 8th in the Vuelta! But their trident was rubbish. Quintana and Landa underperformed. Valverde did as expected as he is not a realistic winner over 21 days. In fact, Movistar’s best grand tour performer was Richard Carapaz with his 4th in the Giro. A better trident in grand tour terms this year was Thomas, Froome and Bernal! Everything Movistar try someone else is sure to do better.

    Perhaps it really is true that Movistar race radios only play hold music!

    • “And at least Movistar improved their 7th and 10th in the Tour to a 5th and 8th in the Vuelta!”

      Their total results in Grand Tours this year:

      4th for Carapaz (best GT result of the season)
      1 stage win for Carapaz

      Won Team classification
      7th (Landa) and 10th (Quintana)
      1 stage win for Quintana

      Will win team classification
      5th (Valverde) and 8th (Quintana)
      2 stage wins for Valverde

      Carapaz and Valverde can look at themselves and be satisfied with their performances. Landa and Quintana in particular will have to take a hard look at their individual performances and the team will have to think hard about improving tactics next year.

      • How can they “improve tactics” when its the same guy always in charge? Its not the riders, its the the bosses! Stage 19 was a perfect example. Flog the dead horse all day to keep the break close and then collapse like a house of cards.

        • See longer reply below but do you really think AV or Q had the legs even w/o those admittedly terrible tactics? I haven’t seen anything that suggests they did.

    • What Unzue needs to do is sign Mas , I don’t know what has happened to Quintana but he doesn’t look like a rider who is ever going to win another GT

      • No, no, no – Movistar needs to wave a fat contract in front of KJV. We’ve learned this season that HE knows how the team should be run and coulda/shoulda/woulda won all three GT’s (and only he knows what else) if only they would let him run the team.
        Oh, and they’d need to budget for a time machine as well, since he can only rant about their poor tactics and lack or results with 20/20 hindsight.

    • I do enjoy this Unzue vendetta, and there’s certainly truth in it – both their tactics and overall strategy have frequently baffled and the results speak for themselves – but you can’t place that entirely on Unzue.

      Q looks badly washed. Maybe they wore him down with 4 consecutive GTs, but he’s also just badly regressed, in a way I don’t think anyone saw coming even 2 years ago. It’s one thing to get crushed in TTs by Doom, but not manage even a top 5 in his last 3 GTs? Yeah, El Tridente was a dumb, terrible idea, but there’s also not much you can do when a rider just doesn’t have the legs. Valverde has never been a real GT guy, is finally starting to get old, has still had an amazing season (dominated Valenciana + Catalunya, 4th Strade Biache, 5th Amstel, 2nd Fleche, 2 stage wins here, ton of other tops 10, minor wins, etc) by virtually anyone else’s standard. Landa has been a disappointment, but that perhaps could’ve been foreseen given his mediocre TT, and the long list of Sky domestiques who turned out to be not quite good enough as GC leaders.

      As the head coach gets too much credit/blame in other sports, so too for the DS in cycling. In other words – even with better tactics do you think Movistar would have won a GT this year? I highly doubt it. Maybe a podium place but I’m not even sure of that.

      And yeah Unzue needs to sign Mas as fast as possible, tho QS has him thru 2019 I believe.

      • And as far as Quintana – man it is a mystery. It would be one thing if it was just losing to riders with better TT, that and losing time in perplexing/frustrating ways on flat stages has always been his M.O., but it seems like his climbing and recovery/consistency have actively gotten worse. It was a bit sad seeing him take off for that stage win in the TDF as it brought into sharp relief how little anyone worries about him these days as a true GC threat. Besides overworking and burnout I don’t really have any theories, maybe people with greater cycling knowledge do. Just seems antithetical for a guy to decline as he comes into what should be his absolute physical peak years.

        • I think it’s because he’s allowed to go off to Colombia and train by himself. Winning GTs is now all about extremely focused training not just going up and down hills at altitude.

          • Yeah that gets suggested every year and I don’t doubt that his training is less efficient than blocks on Teide and whatever other laser-focused things Sky (and Doom probably) do, but it still doesn’t explain why he’s significantly worse at 27-28 – exactly when he should be peaking – than he was at 22 when presumably his training was the same or perhaps even less coordinated. It’s one thing to be a prospect and not pan out, it’s another to regress. If he was five years older than he is it would make perfect sense.

        • Completely agree! One of the post season breakdowns will be the steady decline of Quintana. He has not been the same rider since attempting the Giro-Tour double.

          • Martin – I suspect Movistar thought that last year and let him have a quiet off-season in Colombia in 2017/18 and it has turned out (even more) poorly.

            My hope is that they take more active control of his training and race calendar and we see a recovery next year.

            At his peak he was a great challenger to Froome, more of which we all want to see.

      • To be fair, not sure if Unzue actually do much front line DS works.

        However, if his overarching strategy was wrong, DS’s tweaking can only do that much.

      • It’s almost like we’ve forgotten that Marc Soler exists.

        Next year Movistar can field Soler as a real GC contender, Quintana on a mission of redemption, Carapaz could step up a level and Landa is, as things stand now, still there too. Add Amador and Anacona to that and they still have a very strong lineup that will challenge in all three grand tours.

    • I’m happy enough giving stick to Unzue too for his mystifying tactics on occasions but there’s a couple of things that haven’t been mentioned that are worth thinking about. Firstly that Movistar have always put a lot of store in the Team awards. This sometimes forms part of their tactics but look strange when viewed through GC eyes. The other is that in this particular race, they’re the big home team. I doubt very much if stage 20 would have been played the same in the TdF or the Giro.

  5. A strange, oddly muted Vuelta.

    The race is always beholden to the rest of the season: who’s got something to prove, who’s been injured till July, who needs a new contract. But unlike an edition like 2012 when the stars aligned and you had a stronger line up than any GT, this year was the opposite.

    You had stars like Nibali and Porte who were almost anonymous or found only in doomed breakaways, talking about Austria more than the Asturias. Other big stars like Dennis and Sagan were also missing most of the race, and while that was more to do with the Vuelta’s typical parcours, you felt the race missed a chance to showcase cycling’s biggest stars. Not to mention the fact we didn’t have Froome, Dumoulin or of course Contador.

    And as much as Valverde impressed, yesterday didn’t seem like much of a surprise given he’s never excelled in the high mountains nor shown the necessary consistency in a 3-week race (2009 and a tour podium the exceptions). So for him to have been Yates’ closest threat for so long had the feel of a phony war and highlighted the gulf between Yates and his rivals from 3rd to 10th. You felt Movistar were always in a bad spot given their 38-year-old was carrying the can for Quintana, who looks more and more lost at sea but, if he were at 100%, would be an actual threat to Yates.

    As for yesterday’s stage, I was very impressed with Yates’ attacking but also his cool-headed decision to let Mas and Lopez go. Better to pace yourself up ahead of your main rivals, than blow up trying to stay with 2 riders giving everything for the podium.

    And in defence of this edition, it’s given us one of the best moments in 2018: the unspeakably creepy sight of watching riders chase one Yates brother, while the other one hovers behind them. Next-level mind games.

    • The creepiness of the Yates twins made easier because one was in red and one in team kit – when both are in team kit and you’re not sure without reading their numbers if the one attacking you is the one who attacked just before or the fresh one who’s been hanging back…must really mess-up the opposition’s minds.

      And the commentary teams or post-race interviewers, who sometimes don’t seem too sure which one they have in front of them – great stuff !

      • I did wonder if Michelson-Scott had hoped to exploit that in the final stages of the race. But Simon ruined any chance of that narrative by bagging the leaders jersey quite early on.

  6. Thank you for excellent coverage again….source number one for analysis and perspective as ever.

    Very appropriate that the first three riders up the last mountain yesterday should be the final podium. I’m gutted for Kruiswijk again though. It’s not like he gets stage wins to compensate for his near misses on GC.

    Really impressed by Yates. After the way he cracked in May I thought there would be real psychological damage there, so getting past that in the same season shows strength and confidence, even if it was against second-string and tired opposition.

    It will be interesting to see how Mas’s career develops… with so many recent GC hopefuls firing duds in the last couple of years a lot of teams will be keeping a close eye on him.

    Great to see de Gendt in the polka dots…. a rider who knows his limitations and achieves despite them. And the best moment for me was Michael Woods’ win. His emotion was a beautifully human counterbalance to the razzmatazz and commercial hype.

    • Simon has already said he fancies another crack at the Giro.

      I wonder if Chaves will be the one who misses out next year, becoming more of a Plan B.

      SYates for the Giro, AYates and Chaves for the Tour and potentially all three of them for the Vuelta with Simon as the leader?

      Nick Schultz adding to the support from Haig and Nieve makes the team stronger too, especially as Kreuziger underperformed this year.

  7. I’m an unshamed Yates fan and have been for a few years – I’m drawn to natural talents and humble people and to Brits and they are all three. I’ve posted that this was a golden chance for S.Yates with the best GC guys absent (Froome, Thomas, Dumoulin, Bardet, Roglic) or crocked (Nibali, Porte) or over their peak (Quintana). However it is one thing to have a chance, and it is another to take it with a nerveless, almost perfect performance. Big congrats to the MTS management for seamless tactics, all underpinned by S.Yates’ talent. I love a sport where guys under 60kg can mix it on an even playing field with guys over 70kg. Do I like riders who fail dope tests? No, but I’m willing to believe it was an admin error. I still have a problem with the % of the peloton who are ‘asthmatic’, but that’s for another day.

    2019 will be interesting – which Yates will go for which GT? The 2019 TdF will be fierce: Froome going for 5 while much fresher, Dumoulin out for blood with no Giro in his legs, Roglic a year older and wiser, perhaps S.Yates, perhaps Porte’s and Nibali’s last proper TdF chance, and quite how Sky deal with Thomas I don’t know – the Giro??

    Thanks InRng and the non-trolling commenters for helping to educate me on cycling.

    • “…a golden chance for S.Yates with the best GC guys absent (Froome, Thomas, Dumoulin, Bardet, Roglic) or crocked (Nibali, Porte) or over their peak (Quintana). ”
      Sorry, but would this be so celebrated if you were not a fan of this particular rider? While he beat everyone who showed up and deserved his win (can’t race against anyone who isn’t there) this was not the general opinion here post Tour 2014, even by Nibali fans.

          • Ah don’t worry, Yates still has to beat weakened opposition in the two other Grand Tours to equal Nibali…

            Tongue out of cheek, you’re right to say Yates could only beat who were there; but the point is, he got the job done comfortably and looks capable of taking on the very best in the future, now that he’s proved he can harness his enthusiam for attacks.

  8. Thanks for the blog, as ever, inrng.

    After a fairly inauspicious start, and with TV coverage missing a few critical moments, it’s turned out to be a rather interesting race. Lots of drama down to the last (real) stage: not often the 2/3 of the podium changes on the final (non ITT) stage.

    One interesting aspect: there’s the Trope that “Team Sky, with their huge budget, buys up all the talent, so even their Gregarios would be winning a grand tour”.

    Well, that didn’t work out. I did think that possibly, De La Cruz was coming into some form in time for this one…

    Movistar, Astana, and to a lesser extent Mitchelton Scott and (at least in week 1, Jumbo), never managed to dominate. QuickStep, with basically Mas slipping largely under the radar, following the moves, without that much support, has got 2nd. Their best GT result in… (can’t be bothered to look it up, let’s say ever).

    • I think the trope is more that the Sky gregarios would be leaders of other teams’ GT squads. De La Cruz with say full Sunweb or Lotto NL support behind him would be an entirely different story.

      • That is true, but it also seems pretty clear that Sky gregarios are just overrated as GC leaders in general, partially due to the Sky train etc hegemony/mystique. How many have actually panned out at other teams? None. And De La Cruz has never shown the ability of Porte, Landa, or even König really, so it’s hard to see him changing were he to go another team as a GC leader. Same for Poels. Their top domestiques are more like perennial top 10 or at best top 5 guys, which tbf is still better than really any other team can muster.

        Having said that, Bernal and maybe Sivakov are going to be a different story but they’re more like heirs to the crown doing on-the-job training than career domestiques.

        • Interesting point for sure. BigTex and Co’s strategy was mostly a pure “Can’t beat ’em? Buy ’em!” vs what seems more like a “Think they might be good enough to beat you when they fully mature as pros? Buy them!” strategy.
          But in both cases guys who moved on have not enjoyed as much success as one might expect with Elia Viviani a notable exception.
          We kind of know the hows and whys of ex-BigTex riders but only time will tell with the others.

          • RonDe – Yep, insinuation was all there was up until the real story came out for all to see, though I think there’s already a bit more than that with the TTCBCH. Plenty of those insinuators were castigated in ways far worse than the tripe you dish out.
            Just for kicks, tell us what you thought about BigTex back in the daze before he admitted to being the sport’s greatest fraud. If you claim you “knew” all along the guy was a cheat and fake, how can you choose to ignore the odor around TTCBCH? If you (like so many) were fooled, have you no concerns about being a fool again? Jingoism is powerful but you seem too smart to fall into that, so please explain.

          • Let’s get some perspective, Larry. Before Armstrong had finished racing, his ex soigneur had gone on record saying she made secret collections of doping products and disposed of used needless for him. A former teammate, Swart, had said he took drugs with him on their previous team. The Andreu’s had testified in court that they heard Lance admit to his doctor that he’d taken growth hormone, cortisone, EPO, steroids and testosterone. Landis has accused him of doping and bribing the UCI, who later had to admit they’d accepted payments from him, and finally Tyler Hamilton wrote a whole book detailing the industrial scale cheating. So, there was an awful lot more than insinuation, and it was really obvious to anyone who didn’t really want to believe that the whole Armstrong legend was a scam.
            We know Sky have broken the spirit of the roles with the TUEs for Kenacort for Wiggins, and that Froome was suspected of breaking the rules for Salbutamol until he was able to satisfy the authorities his test results were despite legal intake, but what substance is there to the “odour” you complain of that can compare to the mountain of circumstantial evidence around US Postal?
            You can criticise their style of racing and financial weight, but trying to say there’s more insinuation around sky than the was around Postal, and that people are fools on the scale of Armstrong’s diehard believers for not condemning sky now is just nonsense.

          • Plus you could also add that by the end pretty much all of the people Armstrong had been regularly beating had been caught up in a scandal of their own. Again that is not the case this time.

          • “…and that people are fools…” Nail on head. Some of those that were fooled by Armstrong are driven to ‘prove’ that others are being fooled too. It’s a crutch to cover up their own issues and perceived inadequacies. It’s sad because they find it difficult to accept the facts you’ve put forward even though they are indisputable. In other words, it’s not really about Froome or Yates or Sky or anybody else.

          • In Armstrong’s case, there were eye witness accounts published in 2003. There was then L’Equipe’s investigation of his 1999 EPO use in 2005. That’s the equivalent of something being published now about Froome’s 2011 Vuelta or 2012 Tour.

            All were denied, but were far more than mere insinuation or than the dodgy use of Salbutamol.

            There was also the context: the likes of Pantani, DiLuca, Heras, Hamilton were all GC contenders banned for doping during Armstrong’s Tour winning years, which followed immediately after Festina. There hasn’t been anything like the same background over the last few years; the only other GC contender with a recent ban is Yates’ terbutaline positive.

            Putting all that together gives no reason to believe that Froome is clean, but it makes it clear that it’s not enough to claim that he’s doping simply because the level of insinuation is the same as it was for Armstrong.

      • I don’t know, many of Sky’s super-domestiques that have moved on, or been given the chance to go at GC in the week-long stage races, have severely disappointed their own expectations and egos. Landa and Uran spring to mind immediately.

        • Good points Nick. Note on my comments above nowhere does it say “Chris Froome is doping”. But I believe comparisons to the BigTex scandal are appropriate and it’s not only me who makes them. Paul Kimmage and Ross Tucker come to mind instantly, but since this is way off topic I’ll leave it for when the headline is something like “Should we believe in Team Sky?”
          Chapeau to Simon Yates and Mitchellton-Scott!

  9. Mangkhut: Typhoon leaves more than 100 injured in Hong Kong (Guardian)
    Pretty hectic day, me and my bikes survived the ordeal. Please help to protect our world together. Whatever that can be. Off topic I know but I did laugh it out loud while reading posts.

  10. Maybe I don’t set the bar as high as those who were never exactly set on fire or who felt they were let down by this year’s Vuelta, but I found plenty to follow with keen interest, I spent quite a few enjoyable hours watching the telly and had long interesting chats about the stages and the riders during my own rides. What more could I ask? was once again the best place to be on the internet. ( was the runner-up, perhaps more detailed and more analytical, but also more long-winded and less entertaining.) You already need an extra room for all the thank-yous and congratulatory flowers, but I humbly offer mine, too!

    Unfortunately the absence of gabriele in the comments section was quite notable, i.e. it’s not only that I miss his contribution but also that it is my opinion that when he was active the other usual contributors were also on their best behavious. The depth of information he possessed (or did not think himself above taking the trouble to look things up or to check whether his memory and impressions were correct) and the reasonable manner of arguing his case that he never gave up in the first instance must have prodded them to come up with something better than their normal level of discussion:-)

    • I think Gabriele is a SHE not he.
      From Argentina I also thanks Mr/Ms Inner Ring
      Viva el Giro y La Vuelta !!!
      Besides, have a lot of fun with RonDe vs Larry T but it is true that Gabriele is missed

    • Yes, I found it intriguing. Surprised so many didn’t enjoy the first couple of weeks, but fair enough. For me I quite liked that the GC didn’t take any kind of shape until the final days, the GC and individual stages were mostly very open and therefore interesting to me, more than the Tour with the now typical Sky train on the front of the peloton.

  11. Once again many thanks Inner Ring for hosting such a happy experience.
    Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem in defence of “the old three decker”, by which he meant the three volume novel. May I add the three week race. Slow to evolve but majestic in it’s climax, a Grand Tour is like nothing else.
    The results seem, to me, a minor consideration in the context of an epic battle on so many fronts.
    Nearly every team has some consoling prize and those without may console themselves with thoughts of other times & chances.

  12. (2019) Fate (1) Fate (2) Fate (3) … What if’s (a) What ifs (b) What ifs (c) … Then!

    Cyclist A
    Cyclist B
    Cyclist C
    Cyclist D

    Team A
    Team B
    Team C
    Team D

    I am doing this on my own on posts I read. Trying to make sense of who should come before WHOM. Scratching my head, hmmmmm.. then realize even tougher than Brexit issue. 🙂

    Best Cyclist (by Nationality)

    Best Cyclist (by Team)

    Best Cyclist (by domestique)

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