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The Moment The Tour de France Was Won

The winning moment? This could be a quick blog post but there’s more to the Tour than the Planche des Belles Filles time trial and in order to overhaul Primož Roglič that day, Tadej Pogačar had to match him all the way around France. He rode like Jumbo-Visma’s ninth man.

The contest for the yellow jersey only came alive right at the end of the race but there was plenty of entertainment before. This was an enjoyable race in a strange year. The Tour donned its mask, moved to September and sucked us into its bubble.

In case some historian fishes out this page in 100 years’ time, 2020 was the year of a viral pandemic and the Tour was postponed from July to September. It’s a credit to the organisation, teams and entourage that the race started and finished, although luck helped, moving to September bought time rather than guarantees and the Tour got out of Nice just as it turned into a “red zone” and some climbs had to be closed to spectators in Covid hotspots. Still the Tour, UCI, teams and French health officials designed, agreed and implemented a series of drastic measures that looked to have worked. Some are not new to the sport, one classics contender would stay away from his family for fear of getting a virus in April; several teams were sterilising hotel rooms last year. But the Covid-19 measures, tested in smaller races when the calendar resumed, combined with beaucoup political capital helped the Tour start and finish. It’s encouraging, if the Tour can reach Paris now it can plan on it for next year and there’s a template for the sport, albeit a strict one that requires degrees of organisation reserved for large, professional squads.

Petit départ
The start in Nice was awkward, the virus was the uninvited guest and cast a longer shadow over the race than the September sunshine, talk of rest day positives took on a new frisson. The race started behind barriers, not a mesh fence or a crowd barrier but behind tall black hoardings. The Tour is a popular event, as in it belongs to the people, and seeing the presentation and start hidden from view newspaper Libération to call the grand départ a “peep show”. Yet on the whole it was a joyous affair, fewer people beside the road because it’s September and in some départments the finish areas or mountains were closed to fans but if some stayed away, they turned on their TV, there are claims of record TV audiences in France.

Wash your hands, wear a mask and live cut off from your family… they all make sense in a pandemic but still jar with pro cycling’s embrace of risk when it comes to hurtling down a mountain. It hadn’t rained for months in Nice but that afternoon saw a downpour just as a nervous peloton, already edgy on the subject of rider safety, had to contend with twisty backroads made slick by an emulsion of water, oil, diesel and dirt. Several big names hadn’t started the race because of crashes, some started carrying injuries and others crashed, Pavel Sivakov and Thibaut Pinot among those coming off the worst. Nairo Quintana and Romain Bardet also crashed hard later in the race, there’s arguably more survivorship bias to this year’s top-10 in Paris than in a long time.

 

Team tactics
Post-lockdown the big change to the racing was the rise of the Jumbo-Visma team, a year ago they just managed to place Steven Kruijswijk on the podium, now only the overall win would do after a strong ride in the Tour de l’Ain and Critérium du Dauphiné. Ineos had been off the pace and their aura of being able to plan for everything looked as disposable as a face mask; their selection dilemmas for the Tour turned into a mini-saga with Froome and Thomas, but it’s all relative as they remain a very strong team with a vast budget. Still Jumbo-Visma started the race as the strongest team on paper and tarmac alike and employed a form of total cycling, typified by Wout van Aert winning sprint stages one day, dropping climbers out of the front group the next and finishing 20th overall but comprehensive to the point of exclusive, riding down Total Direct Energie riders and at times trying to block the road to stop attacks. The mountain train was most visible yet it’s a defensive tactic used to contain rivals, it cannot put Roglič into orbit by itself. What Jumbo-Visma lacked was the second co-leader able to attack, like Bernal did last year on the Galibier while others marked Thomas. Often the Dutch team would run out of riders and, just as we saw in the Tour de l’Ain and the Dauphiné, left Roglič to fend for himself on the last climb where he was strong but rarely stronger than Pogačar. With hindsight Pogačar raced like he was Jumbo-Visma’s ninth man.

The chart shows the GC standings of the leading riders on each stage. While everyone gradually fell away from Roglič and his black line over the three weeks, Pogačar’s yellow line was always within reach of his compatriot. He lost 1m21s in the crosswinds between Castres and Lavaur but reclaimed half of that the very next stage with his attack on the Peyresourde. The pair sprinted together in Laruns, matched each other on the Pas de Peyrol and the Grand Colombier summit finishes. It was on the Col de la Loze that Roglič managed to open up daylight, gaining 15 seconds on the climb but that was the biggest gap Roglič got à la pédale. The pair duelled for time bonuses but these didn’t skew the result, in Paris it was 32 seconds to Pogačar, 33 to Roglič. The Planches des Belles Filles time trial saw everything reversed but with hindsight – and that’s what race reviews are for – the 57 second difference was slender and within the margin of error for an hour’s effort. Still Pogačar didn’t just overturn Roglič, he took almost a minute on top.

Pogačar’s win wasn’t obvious on the morning of Stage 20. Roglič’s favourite weapon has been the time trial, he burst onto the scene in 2016 winning the Chianti time trial stage and built many of his stage race success on TT wins. The story looked looked similar to 2017 when Chris Froome had less than a minute’s lead on Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uràn going into the Marseille time trial on last Saturday but Froome duly extended his lead and Roglič was expected to do the same. Some say Roglič should have attacked more in the race rather than riding on the coattails of his team but where and how? Anything Roglič could do, Pogačar could match.

 

2020 vs 1989
The late overhaul evokes 1989 but that seems to have been a better Tour by most accounts, the yellow jersey changing backwards and forwards behind Fignon and LeMond, this year when Roglič took the lead he kept it from the Pyrenees and the Alps and the was no suspense. Instead the action came in the daily battle for stage wins, sometimes with action from start to finish. Stage 7 to Lavaur was fantastic with action from start to finish after Bora-Hansgrohe hit the opening climb hard and then race split in the vent d’Autan. Both stages in the Pyrenees were enjoyable, with fights to get in the break and surprises. The Auvergne volcano stage was another great day and if the GC battle can get locked down by the big teams as we saw on the Grand Colombier. the Col de la Loze’s constantly changing gradients can unpick things. All this enhanced by the green jersey competition, the day’s intermediate sprint often mattered, and late in the race the mountains competition perked up. The route played its part in all of this. Christian Prudhomme has been trying to craft uncertainty right until the end. Last year’s Tour was like a Netflix series with a series of cliffhangers, this year’s race didn’t have the volatility but the course played its part in keeping the GC tight so that the time trial could decide: Orcières-Merlette set the tone, a summit finish but with 20 riders in the picture; Mont Aigoual had 30 riders. The Pyrenees were relatively light and so on.

Maillot jeune
There’s a refreshing aspect to Pogačar who seems to “play” at cycling. He didn’t need a big team, his Colnago bike is relatively heavy, he doesn’t stare at his power meter, his hair sticks out of his helmet and he wins the Tour at his first go, the first time since Laurent Fignon in 1983 and is the youngest Tour winner since 1904. It’s not just style, he was one of the few who dared to attack Roglič, along with Guillaume Martin and Miguel Angel Lopez.

All this would be better if he wasn’t managed by the likes of Andrej Hauptman, Mauro Gianetti, and Joxean “Matxin” Fernández. Hauptman managed to leave the 2000 Tour de France before it started thanks to a failed blood test. Gianetti is “no paragon of virtue”, not this blog’s words, it’s Tour director Christian Prudhomme in 2008 following the Saunier Duval team’s scandals while Matxin was behind Juan José Cobo’s discredited Vuelta win. Does this incriminate Pogačar? Of course not, but it’s the worm in the apple and one of these stories that hits the front page at the Tour de France because it’s the Tour de France. When Pogačar was winning in Abu Dhabi or even the Vuelta it was a forum topic but win the Tour de France and it goes mainstream, news agency AFP explores Pogačar’s entourage, France Télévisions had a report last night. It’s also the winners curse, had Roglič won we’d have got more about Jumbo-Visma being Rabobank in new colours, how staff today used to help Denis Menchov and Carlos Barredo and so on. Good luck finding a pro team without staff from cycling’s leaden years but one difference is UAE management have brushed away questions rather while others have done a mea culpa.

 

The Verdict
A relief to see the race start, a satisfaction to see it finish. The 2020 edition delivered a surprise result with a stunning reversal on the penultimate stage. For all the drama of the Planche des Belles Filles, when it came to the overall contest the preceding three weeks were more processional as Kristoff, Alaphilippe and Yates seemed to be keeping the yellow jersey warm for Roglič who rode a cautious race thereafter, whenever he did attack it tended to be late and it was only on the Col de la Loze that he could drop Pogačar. The GC battle never quite caught fire, until the Planche des Belles Filles one of the most dramatic incidents was the commissaires’ decision to hit Alaphilippe with a time penalty which put Adam Yates in yellow. But the final time trial was thrilling, with Roglič losing a few seconds at the start but still in the lead going into the final 5.9km climb only to lose ground the higher he climbed.

Pogačar ends up the surprise winner and with the world at his feet on his 22nd birthday today. Egan Bernal looked like this a year ago too, fellow wunderkind Remco Evenepoel is out for the season and 24 year old Tour stage winner Lennard Kämna has already had a career break to get over burnout while Richie Porte shows age isn’t a barrier by getting on the podium aged 35. The bedevilled Tasmanian completes the podium, he didn’t weigh on the race with a stage win or a big attack but instead overcame his habitual bad fortune, when he had a mechanical in Lyon he made it back just in time, the same over the Plateau des Glières, it’s a prize for tenacity over flair. Perhaps the biggest question is Roglič, it’ll take time to absorb the defeat. He turns 31 soon and it’ll be interesting to see how he bounces back, does he have to start winning multiple stage races in 2021 like he’s done before to get back in the groove, does he look to the Giro instead or come back to the Tour? It’s too soon to tell, we need to know the route – if there’s a team time trial Jumbo-Visma will be delighted – but probably the latter and with Tom Dumoulin as a co-leader.

Away from the GC contest there was plenty else to distract, many stages were thrilling to watch with energetic opening phases, and some felt like a spring classic in their finales, albeit bathed in the baleful September sunlight. The sprint stages brought variety rather than routine and we had a genuine contest for both the points and mountains competitions. Sam Bennett gets the green jersey after a battle with Sagan, the Slovak lost out for a change but surely this just adds lustre to Bennett’s win. The mountains competition belatedly goes to Pogačar partly thanks to the Col de Loze’s points bonanza but only after Hirschi and Carapaz spiced up the final mountain stages.

Normally the end of the Tour leaves a vacuum but the condensed calendar means there’s no time to wait, the World championships start this week and next week sees the Ardennes classics and the Giro begins.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • oldDAVE Monday, 21 September 2020, 4:10 pm

    Blimey – first comment – it’s a funny comparison between this and last years tour, this had the higher high, last year had the more consistent fun – on the comments yesterday it was pointed out that neither were great in the same way recent Giro/Vuelta’s might have been but to be honest knowing that the Tour has so much more at stake that it often suffocates the race, I’m incredibly happy to have got the Tour we did and enjoy both this and last years immensely.

  • DJW Monday, 21 September 2020, 4:27 pm

    Further to IR’s comments on UAE”s unsavoury management, it would indeed be nice to see an MPCC team win GT GC. With 9 of 19 WT teams currently members it should happen regularly but doesn’t (though some former members who quit when it became inconvenient have done so). Why? Bad luck, weaker budgets, other priorities than GC…

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 21 September 2020, 4:35 pm

      Budget probably first. Sunweb’s a member and had a decent Tour. The group’s been useful but a lot of the ideas which set them apart in the first place are now UCI policy although arguably the most useful one, the cortisone/cortisol test, is meant to be adopted by the UCI but taking time.

      • Charlie Monday, 21 September 2020, 5:09 pm

        The management is unsavoury, but the Team Doctor used to lead anti-doping efforts in South Africa, and on the Cycling Podcast said how he wouldn’t want to be associated with a team that would damage his reputation.

        • DJW Monday, 21 September 2020, 6:32 pm

          Without commenting on the specific case of UAE’s head doctor, I have lost count of cycling management and rider’s declarations of innocence and principle which have later become evident as lies.

          And to add to IR’s list, they took on Ex-Festina rider Neil Stephens who left a DS position at Greenedge due to “differences in philosophy”. That’s the same guy who thought his intraveinous injections at Festina were vitamins! Mmmm

        • RQS Monday, 21 September 2020, 11:17 pm

          Conconi and Ferrari both earned their spurs as Italian anti-doping doctors. They used their access to athletes to perfect their knowledge and then once they had acquired the knowledge how to walk around the tests they sold it to the highest bidders…

        • Acciaio Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 4:11 pm

          It’s hard for the arm chair to decide whether to believe or not isn’t it. The uae Performance Director Iñigo San Millan has worked for a long list of teams, some with dubious reputations. I’ve heard people say he is a good guy, who has tried to clean up the sport, and that he didn’t stick it out on some of these teams because he is straight. So it becomes a debate did he walk out on dodgy teams or work on dodgy teams. Certainly can’t tell from here in the armchair.

  • Tom J Monday, 21 September 2020, 4:29 pm

    Thank you Inrng for the summary, and your daily updates.

    One small typo – “he wins the Tour at his first go, the first time since Laurent Fignon in 1982” should be 1983.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 21 September 2020, 4:36 pm

      Thanks, I thought Fignon did it in 82 as a neo-pro but you’re right it was in 1983.

  • Tom J Monday, 21 September 2020, 4:34 pm

    Coming back to the Fignon reference and the youth of Pogacar: it will be interesting to see how his career develops relative to other young winners.

    Will he be Hinault (winner aged 23 and therafter a dominant rider for most of the next decade)? Or Anquetil (winner at 23; then a pause where things didn’t quite click, but coming back a few years later to be one of the greats of his generation). Or will he be Fignon – winner at 22, but whose career spluttered slightly thereafter? Or Ulrich: another young winner, but never again reaching the same heights when it had been predicted he would go on to dominate for years to come.

    And there is the additional complexity: you could ask exactly the same question about Bernal. They can’t both become the dominant rider that has been predicted.

    • Nick Monday, 21 September 2020, 7:07 pm

      Did Fignon’s career really “splutter”? After 1983, he won 2 Grand Tours, 2 * MSR, 12 GT stages, Classics. Even without that first season, it’s a really strong palmares.

      In terms of whether Bernal or Pogacar becomes dominant, let’s see how Evenepoel recovers from his Lombardia crash.

      • Tom J Monday, 21 September 2020, 7:50 pm

        Maybe a small exaggeration for effect. But in 1983 and especially after 1984 it was thought he had the cycling world at his feet; and his career afterwards was merely, as you say, strong, rather than stellar. In 1984, the thought was that he was Hinault’s heir-apparent, which wasn’t to be.

        Bradley Wiggins (I think) on Eurosport was somewhat hyperbolic in commenting that we could be looking at a new Merckx – but we could equally be looking at a new Ulrich.

        • Richard S Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 9:13 am

          Didn’t Fignon suffer with the injury of choice of the 80s cyclist, bad knees, after his dominant early showings? Then he had a quiet couple of years, came back with a couple of San Remo wins and the Giro and nearly Tour double in 89. Then he faded out again as those who got on the EPO train early took over. You could say Fignon was a little unlucky, he was denied two Giro/Tour doubles. One by Conconi and Ferrari’s blood doping test mule (Moser) and another by a rider with what we know now was a big equipment advantage (Lemond).
          If Pogacar and Evenepoel are as good as advertised then the Bernal/Ullrich comparison might turn out to be the most pertinent.

          • Dave Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 10:50 am

            yeah his biography details it well. He had an injury after 84 and struggled to ever get back to best form

          • Allegedly_Anthony Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 10:56 am

            Yup, absolutely. A rider who is underrated by many, although he also attributes his 89 Tour loss more to a failure to take more time out of Lemond on Alp d’Huez when the American was on the ropes.

      • Rodrigo Diaz Monday, 21 September 2020, 8:14 pm

        Very true. We forget that “dominating” is not intrinsic to a specific rider, it depends on the rest of the field. I’d argue the sport is better when there’s more than one strong contender for a given contest.

        • RQS Monday, 21 September 2020, 11:22 pm

          Yes. The question is whether COVID affected Ineos’s preparation. Maybe. I just don’t see it as the reason they weren’t competitive with JV. But it may have dented some of their approach. Next year, if things return to “normal” we might see much more of a clash Royale between Bernal and Pogačar.

    • sam Monday, 21 September 2020, 11:59 pm

      i remember in 2014 thinking quintana bardet and aru would be fighting each other for GTs over the next several years.

  • jc Monday, 21 September 2020, 4:50 pm

    I am sure Inrng’s prose, just like fine wine, is improving with age. As always heartfelt thanks for hosting the best cycling site (its more than a blog) around.

    Despite the drama of the time trial and the revelation of the final few kms of the Col de Loze, I too felt this was not the most interesting of Tours. I am sure the strange circumstances didnt help but I felt the parcours was just too hard which lead to negative racing and exhausted riders. More “boring” flat sprint stages are not only good for the sprinters but the GC teams can take it relatively easy (nothing is easy at a GT) and let the sprinters teams do the job of controlling the race. They can conserve their energies for the harder challenges to come. I know there is a tendency to want “exciting” racing but it is the riders who make the race not the course designers, let the narrative evolve over the three weeks rather than force it.

    Tadej Pogacer has apparently been an exceptional talent since as soon as he started bike racing as a boy. Up to now he has pretty much been able to be himself without all the media blah that goes with being a top cyclist. No longer, he is cycling’s latest superstar, we have apparently entered the “age of Pog”. Maybe. Now there is expectation he can deliver more superstar performances and he will need to lead a team built around him. We shall have to wait and see if he can match his exploits from this tour in the future.

    Perhaps there has been unfair criticism of Primoz Roglic, after all, in most circumstances he would have won with a perfectly respectable TT. However there was always a nagging doubt, shared not just by commentators but by fellow riders, over whether he could last the course not just physically but mentally too. His team did not seem at ease. This was not the commanding presence of Team Sky. Too many little things, why did Tom Dumoulin ride himself out of contention in the Pyrenees the race was never going to be won that day, why try to control the race from start to finish its just wasting energy, Richard Plugge’s comments about the race being 90% won would never have been uttered by Dave Brailsford, the completely unnecessary contretemps with the UCI on the Col de Loze was perhaps born of stress over concerns that PR almost “cracked” on the run to the line (if the gossip is to be believed). Personally I think if they want to win they need to return with a fit again Tom Dumoulin, he has the mental and physical strength and he knows how to lead a team.

    Lots has been written about Team Ineos and what went “wrong”. At the heart of it is they have lost the core of the team, both on and off the road, that lead to so much success. Nico Portal, Rod Ellingworth, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, Wout Poels amongst others will take time to replace. I am not sure the scatter gun approach of waving wads of cash (Tom Piddock being the latest apparently) to stuff the squad full of talented riders will bring the expected result.

    Well done Richie Porte, he seems to have learned how to deal with adversity (he has had plenty of that)

    Great result for Sam Bennett, especially wining on the Champs Elysee in the green jersey. The sticking to Peter Sagan’s wheel tactic was getting a little irritating but it brought success.

    Looking forward to the Giro previews nest week 😊

    • Anonymous Wednesday, 23 September 2020, 4:26 pm

      So the riders make the race not the course designers but you want the course designers to change the parcours in order to make the race.

      Got it.

  • Augie March Monday, 21 September 2020, 4:55 pm

    Chapeau to the organisers for pulling off what many thought might not happen this year, as well as to INRNG for sterling work as always. Unlike last year it was great to see this year’s race decided on the road rather than by those same organisers. One thing that should be carried on from the 2020 is the severe restrictions to elimination of spectators on key climbs where the road is narrow, crowd interference is another way no one likes races to be affected.

    I think Roglic will be back, he might be 31 but he’s only been a pro for a few years, and while Jumbo-Visma rode like Sky/Ineos at times it’s clear they aren’t quite crushing the peloton into submission the way Brailsford’s crew used to.

    Very happy for Porte to get his podium, the guy with the worst luck deserved a break, he’s still arguably the best one week rider in pro cycling, but that’s a speciality that never gets as much respect as classics riders or the guys who can compete for grand tours.

    • Frood Monday, 21 September 2020, 7:49 pm

      I’d like to see Rog back at the tour for another crack at it. JV’s problem is that he and Dumoulin are rather too similar in characteristics. Perhaps sepp Kuss could have been their second protected rider after Roglic and they could have employed him as a plan B to attack in the mountains. Even if Dumoulin had gone into stage 20 on the same time as Roglic (plausible if he was on top form and as protected as Roglic was) Pogacar still would have won.

      With hindsight, was it a great parcours for Roglic? A TTT or another flat ITT would have been better perhaps but Pogacar might have been too good on any course.

      • KevinR Monday, 21 September 2020, 11:00 pm

        In reply to Frood, I really don’t get this Sepp Kuss thing. I see it on other forums and social media comment sections. He’s never remotely shown GT skills and indeed has said himself that he’s nowhere near being a GT rider. To be in that category, he’d need to be among the best TTers. He isn’t – and isn’t close. He’d also need to ride consistently at the highest level for the full three weeks. He doesn’t – he gets lots of ‘days off’

        • Joseph Miller Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 12:14 pm

          Who knows with Kuss? On American tv during the pre-race shows they talked about him like he isn’t really fit to be a Grand Tour leader but rather a superdomestique and future road captain. Given the vested interest on US television to have a true US contender, I have to think their analysis likely rings true and Kuss isn’t a true GC guy. He might get a shot or two at it along the way and probably would be a low end top ten rider though.

  • Greasy Wheel Monday, 21 September 2020, 5:09 pm

    Want to echo the thanks of all others for the daily insight and the quality of the comments too.

    Excited for the World Champs, some near-term monuments (come on the rain in Paris-Roubaix!) and the Giro, particularly the last week’s mountain stages.

  • Ken Monday, 21 September 2020, 5:21 pm

    Great Tour, great coverage!
    Usually, the jersey winners — there are only two this year! — get to pick up extra cash riding the criterium circuit. That’s apparently not going to happen in 2020. Will this have any effects?

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 21 September 2020, 6:11 pm

      Less cash but the criteriums tend to be one off show events rather than connected to other events in the sport, with the exception of ASO’s Saitama and Shanghai criteriums which presumably pay money into the pot that ASO uses to subsidise loss-makers like Paris-Nice. There’s also the missed chance for thousands of people to see the stars up close, which is what these criteriums are about but hopefully the events can cope and come back.

  • weeclarky Monday, 21 September 2020, 5:31 pm

    I agree it was a strange tour. In retrospect it was really exciting, but at the time it had a dull inevitability which kind of toned down the excitement. If Pog hadn’t lost time in the crosswinds he’d have been in yellow, which would have prompted very different racing from JV. In retrospect it may have helped as it lulled Rog into a false sense of security — like the pat on the back after the gravel section.

    • Allegedly_Anthony Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 10:28 am

      Yes, I tend to agree with you. After the shock of the st20 result, I was trying to imagine if there was another way Pog could have worn yellow in Paris His team was nowhere near strong enough to hold JV at bay and I can’t imagine that they would have been able to defend against serious GC attacks. It may well have made for thw more exciting race that we’d been hoping for.
      In years to come, I expect many journos will point to this as a great race purely by virtue of the TT result, but Inrng is right that almost all of the excitement in 2020 was about stage results and a simmering green jersey competition which wasn’t a foregone conclusion for a change?

  • Insider Monday, 21 September 2020, 5:39 pm

    With all the hype around the last day and Pogacars win, one should not forget to look at the bigger picture: The race was locked most of the time by the Jumbo team, just as it was by Sky/Ineos the previous years. Breakaways were mostly doomed on flat stages to the point that there was even a stage where nobody attacked.
    Cycling needs to look into how to make itself more entertaining and less predictable. No Pogacar and you will have the same, dull, predictable outcome like most TDFs of the last decade.
    Different options are on the table:
    1- Reduce team sizes to 6 and invite two additional teams. Like a mathematical model with more degrees of freedom, this will add randomness to the race.
    2- Ban radios. This will also add to the uncertainty. In the current setting, the director in the team car can monitor all the moves and ask his team to ride or not, depending on who is in the move, he can even radio the position in the bunch of the main contenders and signal good moments for attacking.

    Both measures will obviously not fly with the current stakeholders of the sport (i.e. the team managers), as it will mean that hey will lose control (something managers do not like, cycling or not). Look at U23, Junior or Women races, they are MUCH more exciting than the usual, rather predictable pro race these days. Its sad that we have to wait for a Pogacar to make it all exciting again.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 21 September 2020, 6:13 pm

      I’m agnostic on radios, there are days with great racing with and without. The only study that’s looked into says that without radios the strong teams would be even more likely to control the race, they’d never give the breakaway more than four minutes because it would be too risky, better to keep them on an even tighter leash etc. Long flat stages are boring but we can’t have 21 days of excitement.

      • Insider Monday, 21 September 2020, 6:24 pm

        Possible, but this is where team size comes into play. If you limit this a little bit more, each team has less “bullets” and will need to gauge their efforts wisely on when to use them… Both GC teams and Sprint teams can now close down any move in whatever terrain without problems, as they all have enough riders. Limit the riders and alliances between teams will come even more into play, adding another layer.

      • Martijn Friday, 25 September 2020, 11:21 am

        Jos van Emden has made an interesting proposal: allow radios, but only with information from the organisation. That way the riders do get the information about dangers up ahead and time differences, but they have to do the tactical thinking themselves and not act like the DS chess pieces.

    • brent sword Monday, 21 September 2020, 11:15 pm

      Its not the radio’s that make those races seem more “exciting”. Its the lack of depth in the field.
      Male cycling can call on hundreds of riders capable of being high quality domestiques. You need strength to control a race. Not radios.

      • Anonymous Wednesday, 23 September 2020, 4:52 pm

        Depth of field in men’s elite road racing compared to all other categories is a factor that does not get anything like the recognition it should do in these discussions.

    • Steve Monday, 21 September 2020, 11:48 pm

      Six man teams are far too big. Teams of one, with perhaps an actual domestique employed to bring the comestibles to the master, will be much more dignified.

      • kavan Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 10:26 am

        Brought to them at a table with a glass of the local wine.

    • Peter Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 10:00 am

      Maybe a bit beside your point, but one of my favourite moments this TdF was Soren Kragh Andersen yelling “TIME?” to the moto when we was about to hit a minute ahead. His face showed the pain in his legs and I read somewhere that he didn’t believe (his radio?) that he was almost a minute in front and wanted to confirm it. In the last 500m he seemed relieved with a smile on his face but still kept looking back expecting a group trailing him which was in fact a minute behind.
      To me this was a great moment in the race; with or without radio’s I think there’ll always be moments like this.

    • Richard S Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 6:12 pm

      Why not go the whole hog and make everyone independents? Continually whittling teams down does nothing but mean top riders who you’d want to be there, usually entertaining attacking classics riders who liven up the none GC days, get left behind because there’s no room for them on the team of one GC contender and 5 domestiques.

  • Tim Monday, 21 September 2020, 6:10 pm

    For Pogacar, I think the real challenge here will be what happens over the winter. I read somewhere (maybe here?) that the last time someone defended their first Tour win was Hinault (excepting of course Indurain and Armstrong – where the presence of *ahem* mitigating circumstances changes the dynamic).

    The idea being that all the fame and fortune makes it hard to do the things you need to do to win over the winer. Pogacar will be running the late night talk show circuit all winter while Bernal, Roglic, and all the other contenders will be living like monks, driven by the day they couldn’t quite keep up.

    For next year? My money is on Bernal

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 21 September 2020, 6:19 pm

      Maybe Pogačar’s luck here is that he’s Slovenian, he’ll be public property but in a small country which he doesn’t live in (he’s gone to Monaco). Compare it to Evenepoel who’s every move becomes news in the Belgian media. One thing touched on above is whether there’s a team time trial, if it’s back in 2021 that’s an instant gain for Jumbo and Ineos, UAE lost a minute in last year’s Brussels TTT and if they close the gap by bringing engines like Mikkel Bjerg and Tom Bohli it’s still a gap.

      • Mellow Velo Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 10:10 am

        I think Pog was ‘ lucky’ in being Slovenian all the way through the Tour. I used to think that Rogs attitude to him was almost like an older brother, he didn’t seem to really mind Pogs utilisation of the JV train, the well timed attacks, even the final meltdown. If it had been a young Rider of a different nationality, one whom he knew only in the racing season, I think it might have played out in a bit more defensive aggression.

        Or perhaps Roglic just lacks that killer instinct which you need to be a continuous winner. I was jumping up and down sometimes, shouting , why don’t you attack now and put some time into the field ( yes,,I know, easy from the armchair but the principle is correct). He had no buffer at all against a bad day ( the Froome / Bardet etc was rather different, he would have needed more than a bad day to lose a TT against them).

        We are heavily involved in Jump racing, and the top jockeys there have got that absolute commitment to the win which I somehow thought Roglic was lacking. It would be hard to find nicer guys than two of the top pros who ride for us , and they are the first to congratulate the winning jockey after the line – but they wouldn’t let him up the inside before a fence.

        • hoh Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 11:29 am

          Arguably Froome lost 2014 Vuelta on a bad TT Day. He shipped 1:30 to AC.

      • Ride4fun Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 4:55 pm

        Please no more TTT. The big budget GC teams take a minute or more out of small budget teams with legitimate GC riders. I want the GC men to go pedal to pedal not budget vs tiny budget. Its unfair before the flag drops.
        The way Ineos and Jumbo ride most stages are a TTT for them anyway.

        • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 23 September 2020, 8:30 am

          The TTT sounds likely, piecing together some articles from regional newspapers in France next year’s route could look quite different to the last 2-3 years, a more traditional route.

        • Anonymous Wednesday, 23 September 2020, 4:59 pm

          If it was an ITT rather than a TTT the big budget GC leader would take far more than a minute out of the GC riders on the small budget teams, legitimate or not.

          TTTs level the playing field between the individual GC contenders who can do a good ITT and those who can’t.

    • UHJ Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 9:41 am

      Well, Fignon did defend his 1st win successfully in ’84.

      • Steve Fagg Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 8:50 pm

        I’m glad someone else remembers Fignon’s double victory. In 83 & 84 he was my great idol. I never quite did forgive Lemond for denying him his chance of a comeback victory in 89.

  • motormouth Monday, 21 September 2020, 6:51 pm

    this was a really, really fun Tour overall. the competitions for all the jerseys, daily stages and the gc battles kept interest across the three weeks for sure. Crossing fingers for Sagan to find a way to break DQS/Bennett, and Sunweb absolutely stealing the race from everyone constantly was beyond enjoyable. Carapaz’s three days of effort to finally get a stage was enjoyable.

    it was also a thread during the whole race to varying degrees of ‘who didn’t get the covid build up right’ and you saw it play out with Sagan, Bernal (his back – seemingly a common issue with cyclists this year), yates, and Alaphillippe off their normal level. whereas hirschi, WvA, Pogacar, Porte, Bennett all had excellent form through the three weeks (just as examples). I feel like dumoulin was undercooked at first (or just rusty – he seems prone to emotional swings) but he definitely lasted the effort and had a wonderful final TT (staying on the tt bike no less). Landa is always a disappointment so expectations met there. Uran is a diesel rider seemingly unable to deal with tempo changes but I love the guy and EF as a team. poor Bardet a casualty of luck, I really hoped for him this year.

    in regards to the GC, because of the tactics of JV I was watching more for who fell off the gc group, rather than who would attack most stages, and that could predicate further attacks from the GC group. even going into the TT there was tension for riders like Lopez, Landa, Porte, Uran, Mas who you weren’t sure how they would go – historically volatile or good) and whose ride would determine if they got top 5 (I’m ignoring the roglic/pogacar duel which was expected to a degree). Pogacar defied reasoning at the time of the TT, and I marveled seeing Dumoulin and WvA’s real time reactions in the hot seat, and Roglic’s face turning sheet white in the final kms as it sunk in.

    JV as an organization seems to be managed immaturely – letting dumoulin throw himself away was a facepalm moment, and the never ending high pace was a mistake because of course most GC riders can handle a high watt steady state effort — there needs to be varied attacks to flush people out – or those ‘froome’ moments where he gains minutes as a capitalization on the team effort – but no one could attack not even Roglic, not even down the podium spots (like poor Landa), and this allowed pogacar to coast into the TT. The road captain is Tony Martin I believe and he should be commended for keeping the team out of most trouble and in the right position, but I wonder if he lacks aggressiveness for a GC team and that is part of it?

    not sure what race people who are complaining were watching – I had friends texting me throughout the stages trading predictions and reactions to events, which rarely happens.

    also great coverage, was reading daily. thanks again.

    • David Thursday, 24 September 2020, 8:58 am

      There did seem to be a lot of back issues pour there. I wondered if an unusual amount of time spent on the turbo trainer might have contributed.

  • DBC Monday, 21 September 2020, 7:45 pm

    A great finish to the Tour no doubt, but did it live up to the anticipation and excitement we had earlier in the Summer? I think not.

    To go from the potential of Dumoulin/Roglic/Kruiswijk vs Thomas/Froome/Bernal could be considered a slight let-down clouded by the remarkable final stage.

    Admittedly, to have all 6 in good form may have been a pipe dream but for me the biggest disappointment was missing an in-form Dumoulin. The man should be competing for the GC, not
    solely domestiquing for Roglic and it would have been an even more interesting race if those two could have been co-leaders, rather than putting every egg in the Roglic basket from such an early stage.

    • Canocola Monday, 21 September 2020, 10:32 pm

      The tour NEVER lives up to our fevered imaginations!

      Most years I get to make a joke about petitioning the ASO to remove a stage from the record books for being so unspeakably boring, but there’s not really been one this year – they’ve all ended up kicking off in one way or another, even on the deeply dull stage 5 Alaphilippe decided to create a load of excitement by grabbing a bottle.

  • AndyW Monday, 21 September 2020, 9:07 pm

    Thanks for the wonderful coverage!

  • brent sword Monday, 21 September 2020, 11:12 pm

    For me the best thing about this tour is the green jersey battle. For the first time in ages a team with a good sprinter found that if they go all the way trying to keep Sagan out of breaks they can reduce his extra points and give there sprinter a chance at green.
    On a personal note i think Sagan is a fantastic rider capable of doing great things but cannot escape the feeling that he is the most consistently deliberately aggressive sprinter and i am happy he got a penalty. I consider safety to be a priority and the “this is a sprint and that makes it okay” is not a reasonable excuse. By deliberately aggressive i mean he just pushes people off wheels and effectively says “make way for me or we both come down”. Sprints are were such behavior is the most dangerous. If one person goes down often dozens can come down at high speed.

    • RQS Monday, 21 September 2020, 11:31 pm

      I felt sorry for Sagan. But Bennett is a worthy winner for many different reasons. I wonder where Sagan goes from here? He may well win another green jersey, but the next generation of riders look set to eclipse him. His sprinting abilities mean that he places and doesn’t win. Where next for him?

    • Atlanta Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 1:32 am

      Of many small highlights, the three big moments that stick out to me:

      3. The Champs-Élysées sprint
      2. La Planche des Belles Filles TT
      1. Sam Bennett’s post-race interview after his first stage win

    • UHJ Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 9:48 am

      On the other hand; the zigzag of Ewan, incredibly atheltic as it was, what would have been of that had he touched a wheel on his way? He bore a lot of speed towards the line but he did not “keep his line”. Nobody discussed that aspect, apparently.
      Same can more or less be said for Bennett’s squeeze though he kept his line.

      • brent sword Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 12:43 pm

        the gap ewan went through was big enough to actually fit a rider. He also didn’t push out 2 or 3 riders to get to it.
        But yes if you don’t look and you touch somebody you should be either relegated or removed from the race. This would make the riders more careful in general.

        • UHJ Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 1:57 pm

          Absolutely, the gap was there, but he was also lucky none of the other riders pulled into his swaying lane.
          Basically you say that if the gap is there, the rider can diviate from his selected line? No, he cannot, once the sprint is launched.
          What I argue is that – apart from an exceptional display of bike handling at high speed – he got lucky he wasn’t relegated. I bet the video commissaire had to check that sprint a couple of times 😉

          • Anonymous Wednesday, 23 September 2020, 5:11 pm

            “Basically you say that if the gap is there, the rider can deviate from his selected line? No, he cannot, once the sprint is launched.”

            Yes he can. Read the rule.

          • Vitus Saturday, 26 September 2020, 10:07 pm

            Oh yeah, UHJ, an actual commisaire should read the rule, cause some Anon in the Internetz know more about it.

          • Anonymous Saturday, 26 September 2020, 11:08 pm

            @Vitus – you need to read the rule as well ‘cos it doesn’t matter what some Anon in the Internetz says, whether the Anon is called UHJ or Vitus or Anonymous. It matters what the rule says.

            Read it. The rule does not support that quote from UHJ. The deviation has to cause obstruction or endangerment. You can deviate as much as you like if you don’t cause an obstruction or endangerment. Deviation is not the sole criterion. UHJ’s final sentence in the quote is incorrect.

            And if he is a commissaire then you should be worried if you’re riding a race that he officiates ‘cos he’s ignorant of the rule on the evidence of that quote.

  • Md3 Monday, 21 September 2020, 11:35 pm

    I really enjoyed Le Tour – but, in truth, I always do. It’s a grand event, and there were many memorable moments – and it was notable for lots of breakthroughs; Hirschi, Kämna, Bennett, Søren Kragh, the Col de Loze itself plus Pogačar’s TT providing a finish for the ages. Also the Kwiatowski Carapaz love in was a rare and touching dropping of the guard. Also the losses by Sagan and Bernal added drama. The 2020 glass looks more than half full to me. A fresh vintage.

    And, as always, big thanks Inner Ring and the community. Respect. See you back here soon I hope. Safe rides.

    • cp Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 1:29 am

      I agree with you. The GC wasn’t for me the big excitement–there were so many days with exciting stage win battles. Frankly, Sunweb alone were worth the price of admission.

      I can’t imagine there being a next year–as an American all I see is doom right now–but if I were to imagine it, wouldn’t a Tour with Pogacar, Bernal, Evenepoel going at it be something? Maybe throw in an old man or two for good measure? Maybe not next year–Evenepoel wants to go to the Olympics–but soon? If Quickstep could put together a GC-oriented team?

  • Lukyluk Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 3:43 am

    In stark contrast to last year, where the GC fight was fueled with uncertainty until stage 18-19 when the suspense finally died, this year’s GC felt like a one-man show… until the very end!
    Still, in the meanwhile, many other events were going on – the green jersey battle, some fantastic breakaway action, exciting new route additions and no shortage of drama. I’d rate this Tour quite high overall, I had fun watching anyway.

    A huge thank-you for your ever-insightful and well-informed blog posts, which provide a great complement to the race itself.

  • Richard S Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 9:52 am

    An enjoyable Tour. I wonder if with hindsight the last couple of years, and even the first 19 stages of this Tour, can be looked on almost as a holding period, like 1996-1998 and 2006-2008, between the eras of Froome and Pogacar. Jumbo-Visma were pretty conservative but it’s hard to blame them because in a pre Pogacar world inhabited by non attacking TT averse climbers like Landa, Quintana and Bardet it would’ve worked perfectly. They were kind of ambushed by that late TT which they probably thought they’d get a 1,2,3 in with Dumoulin, Roglic and Van Aert. Maybe in future they’ll deploy Roglic, Dumoulin and Kruijswijk in a much more attacking way, especially if Pogacar stays effectively on his own at UAE.
    One thing I’ll say about the route is that all those little climbs in the first week which were supposed to cause some spicy GC action didn’t work as the GC men all kept their powder dry. I’d rather see 2 or 3 out and out sprint stages. A full peloton charging into a town centre at full blat for a sprint finish is one of the great sights of cycling, one that has largely disappeared unless you watch Scheldeprijs. The Green Jersey fight was good but the sprints felt a bit tame compared to when Cavendish, Kittel, Greipel and Sagan were going toe to toe. Also, I feel like the Tour De France should be a tour of France.
    Regarding the shady past of UAE all that needs to be said is that they are Lampre, just in different colours and sponsored by an Arab state rather than an Italian steel magnate.

    • Ecky Thump Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 11:11 am

      I wonder if Pogacar entered the World Championship ITT, would he be capable of winning / podium placing?

  • Sam G Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 11:34 am

    My initial reaction to Pog’s win was maybe cycling is a sport played by individuals after all. However given the way Pog rode the race, @inrg sums it up perfectly by saying Pog was JVs ninth man. The best team still won they just sub-contracted their services out to UAE.

  • Graham S Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 12:51 pm

    Thank you for all the analysis during the tour, wouldn’t be the same without you now.

    Saw an Inner Ring jersey out in the wild yesterday, any chance of them coming back to Prendas? My T-Shirt could do with replacing.

  • Matt F Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 1:15 pm

    ….”bedevilled Tasmanian” – clever!

  • EmVeeEm Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 6:31 pm

    Haven’t seen any data, but pretty sure I’ve never see a time trial like that! Astonishing and beautiful, and the obvious “moment” the race was one. That said, there is a case to be made that Pogacar won the Tour in the crosswinds. He lost 80 seconds, was thereafter not able to grab the yellow jersey, and he and his fairly weak team wasn’t worked over by the peloton for the next two weeks. Leaving him healthy, calm, and with nothing to lose come the biggest race day of his life. Hopefully he stays healthy for the rest of puberty and we get to see his true capabilities (haha).

  • SilverSurfer8 Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 7:39 pm

    A fantastic Tour! Unbelievable finish. The race organizers couldn’t have asked for more. The GC was tight up until the TT. My only criticism would be the course for stage one. Stage one of the Tour is always very nervous and crash-filled. So it would make sense to make the course safer, with wide roads and fewer road furnishings. The roads around Nice were the opposite of safe. Narrow, walled roads are not good for the first stage of the Tour! It did provide the most harrowing crash I’ve ever seen in cycling. When Lopez slid out of control into that sign, I was sure he was a dead man. I think the sign saved his life. Without it, he would have gone straight into the wall behind it.

    Great to see Richie get that podium, after so much bad luck. I also enjoyed Ineos being a non-factor for a change. With all the questions about Sunweb over the last year, they sure showed up to race. It was great to see team tactics used just for stage wins. Jumbo’s train was immensely impressive, but didn’t make the race boring, to me at least.

    That final TT was just brilliant. I put it up there, even better than Mathieu Van Der Poel’s Amstel Gold win, which was the most unbelievable finish until now. Goosebumps, disbelief and finally awe, at Pogacar’s brilliance.

    The days of Froome’s dominance seem so long ago now. With all this new younger talent, the next years should be great racing!

  • Steve Wednesday, 23 September 2020, 12:16 am

    Oh, and thanks for the great coverage. And especially for refusing to assume the worst whenever something exciting happens.

  • Somers Wednesday, 23 September 2020, 5:42 am

    I would like to see a longer, flat TT next year – maybe 55kms. It will bring more people into a possible GC podium. I accept it will also exclude those pure climbers, but they had their chance over the last 5 of so years. I think the only way Froome may win a 5th is with a long, flat TT as I dont think he’ll ever be climbing like he used to. Giving Froome a chance for a 5th GC win will add a lot of intrigue to the Tour.

    • Anonymous Wednesday, 23 September 2020, 9:36 am

      Don’t think a TT like that would help Foome much. Dumoulin, Roglic and – if you take last Saturday – maybe even Pogacar could well placed in such a TT and Froome would probably have no chance against them in the mountains. It is also questionable whether Froome can really keep up in a TT after his injury. If I remember correctly, PCS once wrote on Twitter that they had not found a rider in their database who had regained old strength after a comparable injury.

      • flatpat Wednesday, 23 September 2020, 2:24 pm

        I’d also like to see a flat tt just as a way of adding in a different discipline that rewards different types of riders.
        As you say, Roglic, Dumolin and of course Pogacar would do well anyway. I’d imagine that Jumbo Visma would be supreme at a team TT.

      • Lukyluk Wednesday, 23 September 2020, 2:33 pm

        Not sure how “comparable” his injuries would be to Froome’s, but LeMond was back to the top in 1989, 2 years after his brother in law thought he was a turkey.

  • Emyr Williams Saturday, 26 September 2020, 5:47 am

    First time in 33 years I haven’t followed the tour, simply caught up with results on the last couple of stages. From a distance it seems like I haven’t missed much.

  • EdinRngFan Saturday, 26 September 2020, 11:10 am

    Echo and second all the thanks, it makes a big difference to my enjoyment of the Tour to read both your analysis and the inrngerati’s comments.

    If by any chance you had a partial draft of “how the race was won” ready to work from if Roglic won, it would be fascinating to see it…

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 26 September 2020, 11:17 am

      No draft pieces, the blog posts tend to get written up on the spur of the moment but I was thinking about Roglič and his riding style, I had the chart of GC standings updated along the way and it was the story of small differences, of him sniping time bonuses here and not being able to drop Pogačar there, Roglič was racing like an accountant, notching up small gains on his ledger.

      • EdinRngFan Saturday, 26 September 2020, 11:51 pm

        Yes, I did think he was following the Cadel Evans playbook (which did get Evans there in the end, but it was a near thing…)