Tour de France Stage 18 Preview

The first of three days in the high mountains, today’s stage is characterised by its distance and the succession of three climbs above 2,000m.

Stage 17 Review: a big breakaway towed away by Thomas De Gendt. Total Direct Energie and Arkéa-Samsic missed the move and seemed forced into a punishment chase but burned through their riders in an impossible chase against 33 riders. Bauke Mollema was the first to poke the wasps’ nest with an attack and then the breakaway kept attacking each other with Matteo Trentin always at the front. The Italian instigated two attacks which thinned the move down and once there were a handful of riders left he attacked them to start the Col de la Sentinelle solo, put time into them on the climb and earned a fine win, a capolavoro as they say in Italian, a masterpiece.

Back in the bunch – some 18 minutes behind – things looked calm but approaching the final climb several teams were placing their leaders into position and the fight for position got out of hand between Jumbo-Visma and Ineos. It looked bad tempered but benign… until you zoomed in on the video and Luke Rowe could be seen taking a hand off the bars to push or slap Tony Martin’s face and Martin responded by trying to ride Rowe off the road. As veteran professionals both should know better and probably do.

The Route: 208km and a start out of Embrun alongside the Serre-Ponçon lake which can often be windy and a climb away via the Demoiselles Coiffées climb, named after local rock formations and then up the Ubaye valley to the start the Col de Vars.

The Col de Vars is the easiest climb of the day and feels fast, it even includes a small descent on the way  but it’s all relative as the final 4km are 9%. The descent is in two parts as there’s a flat section mid-way. After Guillestre it starts climbing the scenic “whitewater” road of the Combe de Queyras as they approach the next climb for 15km via the Gorges du Guil with its ramp and tunnels.

The Izoard is a legendary climb of the Tour (and the Giro d’Italia too) and this is the familiar side via the Casse Déserte section. It starts out gently amid walnut groves and the early slopes are as the profile suggests and then at Brunissard the slope pitches up and the hairpins begin, complete with the defining Izoard or Queyras landscape of scree and pine trees beside the road. The profile says 10% but there’s 12-14% to contend with early on. It’s all on a relentless, wide road, it’s hard to get out of sight. The Col de la Platrière is reached and followed by a brief 500m descent, nothing technical and normally the chance to take in the views of the Casse Déserte area and its unusual rock formations before the final two kilometres to the finish, uphill at 9-10%. Then comes a fast descent which is technical and twisty and first before opening up. Then comes 25km of valley roads through Briançon and onto Monêtier-les-Bains.

The Col du Galibier is tackled via the Col du Lautaret, meaning for 14km it’s a long and gradual ascent, a big wide road suitable for large trucks and with few surprises. Then there’s a right turn and it’s the Galibier and 8.5km at 7% with some sustained 9% sections. At the top there’s the time bonus of 8-5-2 seconds for the first three. It’s followed by a fast descent with some long straight sections down to Valloire.

The Finish: straight into town, under the flamme rouge and then a sharp corner around the church, a left bend that’s almost a U-turn followed by a right bend onto the finishing straight of 220m and it kicks up right at the end.

The Contenders: will a breakaway make it or do the GC contenders get the stage win? It’ll depend on how big the breakaway is but with still so many teams lacking a stage win many riders will be ordered to go in the breakaway. But going up the road is one thing, winning another. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) is an obvious pick and he can score points for the mountains jersey too, Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) is likely to be motivated too but the legs seem less willing but both have the consolation that if the breakaway is reeled in they might be able to score a lot of mountains points.

Among the GC contenders there’s a shared interest to put Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) under pressure but each team will want someone else to put the pressure on. Alaphilippe can try to break the stage down – the Vars is “easy”, the Izoard will be ridden tempo, follow the wheels on the Lautaret, hold on during the first half of the Galibier, 15 minute effort over the top and voila – and could stay in yellow and even take the stage win if he’s not put in the red. But he looks more and more tired and if he doesn’t crack today then the fatigue will only accumulate with these long, grinding climbs.

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) was the strongest in the Pyrenees, now we’ll see if he can keep it up. A late move on the Galibier could see him take the bonus at the top and if doesn’t get clear his sprint from a small group is handy.

Egan Bernal is in a delicate position. If he attacks will this make others chase and potentially put Geraint Thomas in the red? But Ineos still have two cards to play and Thomas is surely the best of all the GC contenders for a sprint.

Mikel Landa (Movistar) can still pounce, he’s not an immediate threat on GC either and team mate Alejandro Valverde is said to have his limits on high altitude but today’s climb over the Galibier is only a quick excursion. Among others Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) is caught between two stools, he wants a stage win and a top-10 place but he won the French championships with a handy sprint.

Simon Yates, Thibaut Pinot
Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas, Mikel Landa
Barguil, Valverde, Bilbao, Alaphilippe, Bardet, Zakarin


Yellow story: another Merckx statistic, he had 96 days in the yellow jersey. Or did he? Wikipedia says 96, cycling historians like Jacques Augendre say 96 but others like Serge Laget say 97 and both numbers thrive online and in print. What’s agreed is that he actually had 111 jerseys because of split stages where some days there could be a morning stage and an afternoon one, occasionally there could be three in a day meaning he’d don three jerseys in one day.

Weather: hot and sunny, 29°C and a rising chance of a thunderstorm in the afternoon.

TV: a long day with the stage start at 11.10am CEST and finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST / Euro time.

95 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 18 Preview”

  1. Martin and Rowe absence will hurt their respective GC leaders results as they sit on the front and protect their Leaders.
    Port and Uran will have bigger impacts than you give them credit for Alaphilippe will start to drift backwards in the GC me thinks I cog is very generous.

    • Without commenting on the Rowe / Martin expulsions – there’s enough said in any case – they’d have possibly contributed to the pace setting for the peloton in the first 70 km or so?
      Does their absence assist the breakaway’s chances?
      Nevertheless I think that today could be fast, many seasoned commentators are expecting an Alaphilippe pop.
      I think that, by the end of today, his GC hopes will be over.
      Thomas has to track Pinot, Alaphilippe will try to track Thomas.
      Pinot, and his team, are key.

      • Marc Soler was complaining that sprinters’ teams physically block the road at the head of the bunch, to prevent breakaways becoming too numerous. Something must be done about this kind of physical negative racing.

  2. “Luke Rowe could be seen taking a hand off the bars to push or slap Tony Martin’s face and Martin responded by trying to ride Rowe off the road”

    It was actually the other way round. Rowe responding to Martin and it all started earlier anyway when depending on your point of view, either Ineos were pushing in or Jumbo were forcing them out and Martin seemed to interfere and bump with Thomas and then Rowe seemed to retaliate by giving Kruijswijk a bump too.

    As for today, what’s the chances of the Yates victory being Adam instead? Like Bardet and Quintana, a disappointing GC run can be partly recovered with a stage win. He’s had 4 days since the Tourmalet to recover and refocus. Maybe he and Simon can cause a commentators nightmare and sprint it out for the win together. Kirby would explode.

  3. Two bully-boy teams of the peloton, fearing the race commissioners, stage a finish-line handshake and then a beautiful piece of curated TV (check the Jumbo-Visma website). Yes folks, it’s the Luke and Tony episode of Friends (interviewer’s Dorothy Dix questions at the peak of the genre!).
    All in the hope that those nasty French commissioners, so obviously committed to making life easy for Alaphilippe, might reverse their decision.
    Is this a sport or a slice of pre-digested reality TV? Big Brother on Bikes.

  4. Everyone, particularly Ineos riders, knows that if you put your hand into somoene’s face (slap/punch/push) you’re going home. Rowe only has himself to blame.
    He also swerved violently into a smaller rider (maybe SK), which could have caused a crash. Plus his push/punch on Martin could have put Martin into the crowd on the side of the road.
    Martin’s ditching of Rowe could have put him into the fans.
    Both are very experienced and only have themselves to blame.
    As far as I can tell – from the clips I’ve seen – it’s impossible to tell which event happened first, as there is no ‘km timer’ on the screen.
    And for those who are (already) saying that this is a decision taken to favour the French riders, the commissaires are usually not from the host country, bar one of them.
    People are also saying ‘worse things happen in bunch sprints’. You hit someone in the face in a bunch sprint and you’re out.

    • Indeed, the Commissaire’s Jury is presided by an Italian, with other members being Canadian, Belgian, Spanish & one being French (I think).

        • I really don’t think people ranting on twitter matter.
          No need to take their comments seriously.

          Most of them have already forgotten they even posted and half have probably reconsidered but are too busy getting on with their lives to clarify… if they were even serious in the first place!

          Life is too short to get caught up in tweet storms… and the world is a better place than twitter might make it appear. (Maybe if they imposed a 24-hour rule where people signed off their replies to tweets a day later after cooling down, twitter might be more worth listening to!)

          For now, let’s just post here with the people who are informed and care about cycling.

          I’m not actually that bothered about the Rowe/Martin story.
          Can see both sides even if it looks harsh.
          But teams have won grand tours minus riders many times before so doubt it’s incapacitating either team, as they’re strong anyway.
          To be honest… I just want to see a good race (and Pinot win!) so I’m happy to just let it be… as considering the stages to come I doubt this will have a huge affect one way or the other.

      • Well, Rowe clearly raised his hand into Martin’s face. Whether it’s a ‘punch’ is hard to tell, no doubt why J Evans also stated the possibility of a ‘slap’ or ‘push’. Hard not to be DQ’d for that, as precedent has been set in prior years…

        • I’ve seen head flicks and pushing and shoving in lead outs for decades. Anyone who says all of those are punished by DQ is a simple liar. The fact is the jury could have dismissed it as handbags at dusk and pointed out there was no malice and it was all sorted out by the finish line. They chose not to and made the race poorer in the process by punishing what history will record as a nothing incident.

      • anon, don’t feel any urge to apologise or even admit you’re wrong.
        I’ll quote for the hard-of-thinking: “put your hand into someone’s face (slap/punch/push)”.

        • Not that I think it really changes the main point, but pedantically, I don’t think it is ‘clear’ that he raised his hand to his face – it looked more like he pushed down on the back of his neck to me.

  5. From cyclingtips’ secret pro e mail:

    Rubbing is racing, but here’s the thing: That was excessive. Don’t let them tell you it wasn’t. We jostle all the time, we pat each other on the hip or the back, our elbows touch, our bars touch. That’s all normal. Swinging into another rider so that he nearly goes off the road and into fans? That is not normal.

    Both Martin and Rowe are sometimes a bit aggro anyway. Luke is very defensive of his space. And Tony, well, he hit Richie Porte already this Tour. Richie might have done something a bit dumb, but it wasn’t worth getting whacked in the ribs for. I mean we all sometimes miscalculate, and do something a bit stupid, but Richie didn’t do anything that would require that response. That might be part of other sports, but not ours. We hurt each other enough without that stuff.

    I saw the same from Luke and Tony at yesterday’s stage. Just something small and stupid that went out of control. And now they’re out of the race – which, they should be.

    • Good to read an unvarnished view from inside the peloton. No rider would say any of the publicly, unless they wanted to invite subtle retaliation later.

      • Why is it “an unvarnished view from inside the peloton”? This “secret pro” could be some fantasist in his bedroom pretending to be a pro. Since its a secret, who knows? That particular website is one of a few that simply seems to chase sensationalist clicks from cycling fans. One imagines the more outrageous his views, the better for the site’s advertisers. No, it doesn’t matter at all who the secret pro turns out to be. Only what they say matters. At least when J Evans peddles his prejudices yet again we know who it is that’s saying it.

        • RonDe in disguise, the vast majority of people on here are interested in discussing cycling, particularly the great race we’re watching. I criticised both Rowe and Martin so not sure where the ‘prejudice’ is.
          You seem more interested in tedious personal attacks on strangers, so I’ll leave you to it.

  6. The “handbags” stuff was very minor, nobody seemed to get upset when Chris Froome nearly barged Fabio Aru off the road a couple of years back. Seems like making an issue out of a pretty small molehill.

    Today feels like it is going to be the key stage, I know that the next two are mountain top finishes but I wonder if anyone will actually have the energy left to do a lot more than follow wheels. How long can any of Julian Allaphilippe’s team mates hang on for? I suspect an attempt will be made to make the pace hard enough up the Col de Vars so that, with the possible exception of Enric Mas, JA is left isolated. In this weather not having a team mate to ferry bottles and provide support is going to be an issue. The other teams also need to set a variable pace, simply riding “Tempo” up the Izoard will play into Julian Allaphilippe’s hands. I can see him still being in yellow tonight but if he is then the energy he will have expended to keep there will be such that the next days will be almost impossible.

    As to the others, do they attack on the Izoard or wait until the Galibier. I guess Thibaut Pinot and Mikel Landa will be more inclined to the former and the others more likely to wait. It could be a day when the eternal Movistar tactic of putting riders “up the road” might actually be helpful. Having others to help pull on the lower slopes of the Galibier could be a key advantage.

    Altitude could be an issue too, three high passes well over 2000m, it would be no surprise to see some riders struggle with this especially after the heat of the past two days.

    • I see Landa attacking early but not Pinot. Assuming Alaphilippe cracks before saturday evening, Pinot only needs a few dozen of seconds, something he can gain on either of the last climbs of the next 3 stages (and keeping the wheel the other two stages). He does not need to risk an early attack, which increases the risk that he cracks, either the day of the attack or before saturday evening.

        • Problem is, if he goes early he might gain 2 minutes (being optimistic) and be much more tired… If at any point he bonks he might lose 3 to 10 minutes… That’s my view anyway…

          • Either way we are not in his shoes… Maybe if he is *really* confident in his form he will try to take advantage as you say, but given his history in grand tours I would guess he will be cautious.
            If Saturday he feels good but still has some time to gain (or a lot, but in this case that means he is not in top form) he might ponder between playing it safe for a podium or top 5, or risking it all for yellow in Paris.

          • Personally, I just want to see him win. For his aggressive racing, but also that he’d a character within modern cycling… farming alpacas, going fishing after training, choosing Nordic skiing in the off-season over cycling. He does the things he loves and one of them just happens to be smashing up a climb!

    • But Froome had the good sense to immediately wave an apology as if it was a mistake. He also didn’t involve other riders and there weren’t lots of fans at the side of the road.
      My favourite moment of Froome’s career is when he lamped that running fool next to him. That should never be punished.

      Unfortunately for today’s racing, I think Jovelo is correct: Pinot would be taking a mighty risk to attack early.
      Maybe one of the Ineos riders could try, as they have two. Could end up with nothing, though.

      • As I recall, when Froome “punched” that spectator it wasn’t simply a moment of anger and aggression, since another camera view showed that the spectator in question had a flag he was holding lower down that was in the process of draping over Froome’s handlebar and cm away from tangling in his wheel. It was a defensive gesture to keep from being crashed out, and probably the best instance of bike handling I’ve ever seen from Froome.

      • I feel like this is a day you have to make the judgement on the road…

        The only thing we know is Ineos/Jumbo/FDJ should use their teams to ride hard for as long as possible – this might dislodge Alaph, and if it happens to put other leaders in trouble that’s when you make your call.

        Pinot will have to be the most careful of them all today as he’s to worst descender, but if Alaph is rolling when they turn onto the Galibier and he senses Ineos are weak, dragging Buchmann and Kruijs with him (as I assume they’d work together) wouldn’t bad shout… but that’s unlikely to be the case, so I can see Alaph being dropped and everyone waiting for Ineos to move before marking their attacks.

        • I think the bad descending thing has been well over done… he was Just a little off Alaphilppe the other day but that’s no mean feat

          • Agreed with this. Alaphilippe is a cut above, but Pinot isn’t as bad a descender as people make him out to be, especially compared to Thomas. You can’t win the Giro di Lombardia if you’re a woeful descender…

    • The way to put significant time into Alaphilippe today is to drop him over the top of the Izoard, as the 15km of valley road after Briancon & the draggy highway of the Lautaret will create large time gaps for anyone isolated (which Alaphilippe likely will be, unless Mas has recovered from his illness).
      However, that’s exactly the reason I don’t think it’ll happen – no contender (Pinot, Kruijswijk, Thomas etc) will want to make the first move and risk being up front on their own on that road (or worse – risk being countered and dropped, leaving them alone behind the front group), unless they manage to send riders ahead in the break to bridge to; a tactic rarely employed by Ineos, at least.

      As such, I think a more likely scenario is an attack over the Izoard by Landa, Barguil, maybe even Porte, bridging to teammates ahead. While the main GC favourites wait to battle it out on the 8km Galibier Road, perhaps hoping to take the bonus seconds if they can keep the break on a tight enough leash…

    • I’ll give you 20-1 that Pinot goes on the Izoard. He needs 15 secs (incl bonuses) to go ahead of all but Alaphilippe and he’ll be happy to let 3 hard days in the mountains do the work on him. It would be absolute madness to risk all on the first of these big 3 days.

    • Even Ineos have joined in with the “rider up the road” tactic (only time I cam remember them doing so before was the Finestre stage at the Giro, maybe others have better memories?). Clearly everyone is anticipating their leaders needing help later in the stage.

  7. Today’s stage is one of those that could be really exciting or really dull, depending on how they ride it. Let’s hope for some attacks, early ideally. Hopefully, Ala hangs on as that is more likely to provoke them.

    • I fear you might be right about it all being a bit dull, with the next two days it could well be most teams ride with the final climb to Val Thorens in mind. Keep in contention and hope the others fall away.

    • I’m not so sure…thinking that the valleys and team strength could play a big part today. Being isolated on a 30 degree valley road would be a disaster for any of the GC guys. INEOS are probably in the best position to orchestrate this and if Thomas can’t match Pinot in the climbs this could be an angle?
      Throw into the mix lively breakaway action and the possibility of there being riders scattered ahead of the GC guys, could be interesting alliances and tactics playing out.

    • I don’t think it will be dull, or either ridiculously exciting.

      But we’re bound to see gaps open up on the top of the Galibier and some attacks, and an interesting chase down in to Valloire. If I was Alaphilippe, i’d be thinking they i could get 15 secs back on that section quite easily.

      It’ll be interesting to see who rides the climb hard (as a team). Probably in Jumbo and FDJ’s interest to do so – Ineos depends on whether they think Thomas’s form is back. If not, they may prefer a slower race, try and limit any gap to Pinot as the ideal if that Thomas can try and follow on Saturday.

      • Nailed it. Ala made up all the time on the descent. Had it been a summit finish, he’d would be in much worse position. That won’t be the case tomorrow and Saturday.

        • For what it’s worth, at today’s summit Bernal had ~36 seconds on Alaphilippe. Thomas had 19. At the finish after the descent, Bernal had 32 and Thomas zero.

  8. One point in the stage is polka-dots jersey – 90 points up for grab. Nibali, Bardet, Yates could go for it. Another one is GC. Giro-2018 scenario can happen today or tomorrow. Ineos train should have saved energy till now, I expect to see them doing their thing starting today. Thomas may have fooled us all with showing weakness and even falling few times – maybe he is preparing to do something like Froome did last year in Giro. If it goes that way, let’s see if Pinot will play the same role as hi did then, and if Kruijswijk will take the roll of his compatriot Dumoulin; nobody will be surprised to see Alaphilippe finishing like Yates finished in Italy last year.

  9. You know what to expect when you read “The Col de Vars is the easiest climb of the day and feels fast”. I know this one inside and out (La Bonette and Vars were my training rides for years) and I never found it easy! Not to suggest it’s an incorrect statement, of course, more a reflection on what will come next.

    I don’t expect huge fireworks today to be honest… I expect it’ll be about holding on until mid-Galibier climb, maybe at a decent pace to see if Alaphilippe will crack, then maybe an attack or two a couple km from the summit to grab the bonus seconds and hopefully keep some of that advantage in the descent.

    Hope to be proven wrong (I have been wrong many times on this Tour).

    • Quite, it’s a hard climb and goes above 2,000m… but from a relatively high start. There’s a lot on the menu today, it could be attrititional and come down to the Galibier, the actual Galibier road rather than the Lautaret.

      • What happens on the Vars surely depends on the observation of key riders. If Thomas and Alaphilippe appear to be struggling then Pinot/Gaudu, JV and Movistar will certainly keep the pressure on despite the distance to the finish.

  10. If a team has the strength to set a high pace on the Izoard I expect they will to get rid of DQS team mates and see if Ali will crack.
    DQS by sending such a strong rider in the break yesterday and then putting huge effort into 2nd place they are either. A. overconfident, B. given up or C. Need a new DS.

  11. Pinot is the most likely attacker but he’s in a strange place. If Alaphilippe drops away he’s 15 seconds off the jersey. If Alaphilippe doesn’t drop he’s nearly 2 minutes off the jersey. So does he ride tempo hoping that fatigue just gets the better of his fellow Frenchman or does he attack half way up the Izoard and contribute to trying to get rid of him but risk doing himself in at the same time? Guys like Kruijswijk and Buchmann are only going to follow. A podium suits them fine. Ineos are in a pickle, not sure if Thomas has it and unwilling, so far, to tell Bernal to forget he has a team mate. You feel that Bernal would naturally go with Pinot if allowed and that could be the real battle here if the participants allow it to happen. An unleashed Bernal against a going for it Pinot is the best we can hope for here.

    • I fully disagree with this.

      It could happen of course, but I think until Pinot sees how it’s playing out he is the least likely to attack – simply because everyone knows he can’t descend like Alaphillipe or Thomas, and if he makes 30 seconds in 2/3km that’s likely to evaporate by the foot of the climb, if he doesn’t crash trying to keep his gains… and K might have similar fears given his Giro experience…

      The only way Pinot will attack is if there’s clear weakness from the other riders further down the mountain and he sees people willing to collaborate possibly as they climb the rest.

      Thomas or Bernal are the most likely to attack today, I feel everyone will be watching their moves to decide what to do.

      I think it’s 50/50 on Alaphillipe being dropped but I expect people to use their teams to force this today.

      • If Pinot doesn’t attack and Alaphilippe isn’t dropped he leaves himself two minutes down. Of the top 6 he’s one of the few who has a win or nothing attitude. Just hoping that Alaphilippe fades away is a risky business. He and FDJ have to at least ride at a pace.

        • Check Pinot’s pre-race comments, he seems to be saying he’s looking to Ineos to do the work… as I think he should be.

          Agreed all teams should ride at pace, and Pinot’s should definitely join the effort to make the day difficult but I think – unless things develop differently on the road – if you take that there are two summit finishes left and Pinot took over a minute from Alaph on the last one – plus you factor in that over 6km Pinot only got around 30secs on Bernal and a few others and could lose that on a descent like today – then if I were Pinot I’d save my powder for tomorrow.

          Landa on the other hand will go. And could make this all a lot more interesting.

  12. All this stuff about Rowe ‘n’ Martin Show and nothing about Matteo Trentin in the comments?!
    Trentin has been my pick on a few earlier stages and it’s brilliant for him to be in such good form so late on with an attack over the final climb when so many other puncheurs baroudeurs were in there too.
    Pinot could make history today… Or he could miss out and still have a brilliant tour. And why not ride along today by setting up a hairdryer on each side of your screen and get the whole family to scream in your ears all day.

    • Was thinking the same. Polemics like Rowe and Martin will blow over but Trentin’s ride should stand as something special, the way he rode was impressive and he could have played the “I’m a sprinter, up to you to drop me” card but went solo.

      • Great point.

        I meant to say same and forgot… admittedly the GC battle is more interesting!
        But I really like Trentin and was very happy to see him win – it’s always great when riders like him who don’t win often but you know are extremely good get a big win.

      • Yep, nothing finer in bike racing than a rider taking the race by the scruff of the neck with a combination of tactical nous, skill and brute force.

    • Well said. Easy to be distracted by ‘polemica’. I was surprised by Trentin’s move (and was telling the TV ‘No, this is what you did in Milan Sanremo – wait for the sprint’) as he was just about the best sprinter there, on paper, but clearly he knew how good he was feeling – and maybe how not-good the others were feeling. Hugely impressive ride.

  13. History tells us…… that Kruijswijk never quite makes the podium, that heat melts Pinot, that Buchmann is punching above his weight, that Alaphilippe must surely drop, and that the road will decide the Ineos riders’ fate.

    I just hope they don’t waste this last full length mountain stage, too afraid to lose and not bold enough to win.

    If they do, history also tells us Landa might sneak up on the rails!

  14. Trentin’s solo attack and breakaway for the win was classy and gutsy! A thing of beauty, indeed. Let’s hope the peloton gets another dousing of rain showers today to give it some respite from the unrelenting heat. France is at “level orange,” the second most dangerous level for the heat. Aside from these pro riders, all other workers throughout France are prohibited from working outdoors. As for Rowe & Martin (sounds like a comedy team on the BBC from the ’60s), the oppressive heat must have surely played a part in their flaring tempers overflowing to get the better of their veteran-level judgments as senior members of the pro peloton.

  15. Landa is going to light it up on the Galibier, which will have a knock on effect of GC riders protecting their positions. I think this is when Alaphilippe will pop. Thunderstorms looking more and more likely as the day goes on, I hope Thibaut has improved his descending.

  16. The first time I saw a team block the road with their bodies to stop a break going away was last year when team sky did it at a GT. I watch cycling for decades, I never heard of this, never read of this, never saw this in that aggressive form. I was totally shocked, I thought this must be a dq for the whole team, I thought all hell would break loose – and then nobody even blinked.

    The teams call it „modern cycling“, I call it bullying and cheating. If you can‘t control the race with your legs and your race craft, you don‘t deserve to control it at all. Why should a team have the right to not allow others to ride their race? This is a perverse abuse of power. But seeing this made me understand two things: Why moscon had hit Gisbert and did not feel guilty about it – it was just another form of bullying and „modern cycling“. And also why the Tour was so boring for many years.

    sky sucked the air out of the race in many different ways, not only with money, but with not worrying about things like sportmanship, rules, ethics (this seems to be a general, national misunderstanding, that winning is all, as can be seen in the past motto of the english olympics teams, „no compromise“, which of course fostered serious bullying, harassment and abuse in several english sport federations- as if they never thought, that „winning at all cost“ would go wrong…). This is no way to be, live or do It is -above all- totally unfair and simply wrong.

    I don‘t enjoy this Tour, because it seems, that it just is open, because other teams simply adapted to the dirty, unsportsmanlike things sky/ineos were/are doing. It is like „the dirtiest race“ in history: Watching it with closing your eyes and mind to everything outside the physical action, you see great, exciting sport. But opening your eyes, you know, that these athletes were high and doped to their ears, that federations played dirty behind the scenes in many different ways, that countries intervened in dirty ways, that doctors helped athletes damage their health and a lot more.

    The reason why we have rules and why they have to be administered at all times, is, because these dirty things/actions are like an infection. Once you allow something unsportsmanlike to happen without consequences, the line will be crossed more and more till the whole line suddenly vanishes (this holds true of course in the real world too, where we see ever more brutal and uncivilized behavior, because we allowed it the first couple of times it happened).

    That is why things like a cyclist hitting a fan or cyclists not allowing other cyclists to ride a race with blocking them with their bodies are just symptoms of an illness, that runs now it’s course for some years (and of course all this happens against the backdrop of a world, where riders have the power through social media and races, juries and teams are scared to do unpopular things, which leads then to all kind of strange decisions).

      • Not to mention the xenophobic nonsense about it being down to some kind of national characteristic. As if cheating, bullying, and ‘dark arts’ never existed before they were invented by the English (or is it the British? – seems a bit confused – there’s no such thing as an ‘English Olympic team’). Check the history of the Tour – you’ll find that cheating and ‘win at all costs’ mentalities existed from the very start, while the Brits didn’t turn up for another 30 years. Because people are people the world over.

    • This seems a very misty eyed version of professional cycling. Cycling has always involved a whole range of various underhand practices (even if we ignore the “chemical assistance” that was used almost since the beginning). Bumping and barging is (to borrow a metaphor) par for the course. As Inrng says it is only now the whole race is televised that more folk see what goes on.

      It also has little to do with Sky/Ineos (except for the past few years they have been leading the race more often than others) the sprinters teams are the most likely in ensuring that the break of the day is kept down to a few no hopers who can easily be caught. I am afraid the point of professional sport is to win, second is nowhere. If a few rules get bent along the way then that’s what happens, maybe regrettable but that is hardly something unique to cycling.

      • Yes. Now that there is full-stage coverage, I find myself watching how the early breaks form. It’s a side of racing tactics I had not really paid much attention to before.

  17. I hope those lazy cyclists get a move on today and stop complaining about a bit of heat . They get paid don’t they ? I have to take precious time off work to drink cold beer and shout at the TV. Think of the poor fans instead of yourselves for a change. No , I’m not been serious.

      • I agree it looked like bad tactics, but they could both have made more time if he caught up with Bernal. It’s a valid tactic, as long as you bridge up alone. When others got on his wheel, he did stop pulling. After that, I think Pinot leading the descent pretty much nullified any gains Thomas made on Bernal ;-).

  18. I don’t expect him to keep yellow (think he probably cracks tomorrow), but wow, what a Tour by Alaphilippe. Fantastic descent today to get back in it.

  19. At this point, I am going to be devastated if Ala loses it on the last mountain stage. I’m dying a thousand deaths with him every day.

      • I fear you’re possibly heading for disappointment.

        I think now we can say Alaphillippe will almost 99% definitely not win this Tour. Looking at his post race interview it seems he even knows it.

        I think tomorrow will do for him. He’s clearly now getting dropped on the big mountains and it will just take one longer attack from Bernal/Thomas/Pinot and it’s over.

        I would bet a lot of money that he won’t win the Tour going off today’s stage.

        Although I’d love to be proved wrong.

        Today played out pretty much as expected, tomorrow is much harder to predict… I expect Landa/Movistar to go for it but he didn’t have the legs today so maybe not? I expect Pinot to attack, later or possibly follow an early move but have a hunch Bernal might benefit from Pinots expected aggression. Feel like Thomas and K are racing conservative and would be surprised if that changes, my instinct is it’s because they haven’t got incredible legs…

        I expect Bernal in yellow tomorrow, Pinot second and a surprise in 3rd… hard to say who… have a feeling that’ll be the end of the Tour.

        The biggest surprise for me this Tour though is Kwiato and Moscon… they’ve been nowhere all Tour? Almost more than Froome they’re weakness has dictated the free for all weve seen this past three weeks.

    • now after the queen stage done, its maybe slowly dawning on him, what he always tried not to think about: yes, at it looks: he could REALLY win this thing!

  20. Bernal is going to win this Tour.

    What is it, 3 consecutive mountain stages He took about 1/2 minute out of Thomas? He’s going to start making history Sunday.

  21. This is still exciting…
    Can Alaphilippe limit his losses on the next two stages?
    Is Bernal the man with the best legs now? It would seem so…
    Looks like Thomas isn’t at the same level, but you never know…
    Pinot, is he fading, in this case even podium may be over, or was this his “jour sans” and not a stage for him anyway with the descent and the heat? In this case the first place is still a possibility, depending on Alaphilippe/Bernal.
    Kruiswick/Buchmann will they attack at some point?

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