Tour de France Stage 21 Preview

The race reaches Paris with a parade that turns into a criterium, once again the riders of the Tour de France get the Champs-Elysées closed for them, a privilege usually reserved for visiting heads of state.

Poga-Czar: the glorious uncertainty of sport. Chances are if you’ve come to a niche blog you know what happened in the Tour de France already. Tadej Pogačar set off at a fast pace and quickly took 20 seconds on Primož Roglič. A fast start to pressure the yellow jersey into responding and over reacting? The closer to the foot of the Planche des Belles Filles, the more time Roglič was losing but he still had a cushion. Onto the climb with 5.9km to go, the gap was up to 36 seconds, meaning Pogačar needed 21 seconds to claim the yellow jersey. Roglič made a bike change. his cushion was vanishing and while the TV GPS time gaps were going up and down the trend was clear: Pogačar was rocketing. As the UAE rider was soaring, the yellow jersey looked pale. Roglič was pedalling like a child on a new mountain bike who hasn’t worked out how to change gears, his feet spinning but hardly moving forwards. He’d finish almost two minutes down, one of the biggest surprises in the Tour for years and leaving Jumbo-Visma stunned, the Dutch team had controlled so much of the race and triumph slipped through their fingers.

Comparisons with 1989 and the close, thrilling finish seem inevitable but back then a few newspaper articles tipped LeMond for the overall win on the eve of the final time trial in Paris, yesterday morning almost nobody thought Pogačar would do it. Roglič looked invincible… until suddenly he wasn’t with 5km to go although with hindsight perhaps 57 seconds for a 36km time trial was a headstart, rather than a guarantee. Elsewhere the other collapse was Miguel Angel Lopez, over six minutes down and falling off the podium as if Bernard Hinault had taken a dislike to him, “Superman” slipped to sixth overall as Richie Porte climbs onto that precious podium spot.

The Route: a ride from the dormitory town of Mantes-la-Jolie across the Yveslines department, a popular area for Parisian cyclists, and into the capital. There’s not much point trying to decrypt the course as it’s a parade into the capital although there’s nothing to stop Jumbo-Visma trying to split the field if they want.

The Finish: a tour via the Louvre courtyard (pictured) and the Tuileries garden like last year, then eight laps of the Champs-Elysées. There are urban cobbles and the finish is slightly uphill and positioning is key to get momentum coming into the finish.

The Contenders: a sprint finish is the obvious scenario, we’ve only seen attacks work in 2005 and 1994 since 1989’s time trial finish, still watch Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-Quickstep), Nils Politt (Israel) and Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) just in case. Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) and Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quickstep) are the standout sprinters here. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) can aim for his third stage win, it’s not like the team have anything else to do now. Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates) won here a two years ago and could bookend his Tour. Sunweb have had a great tour but it’s not over yet, Cees Bol can still win a sprint. The outsider pick is Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott) and not because he’s Slovenian, but he’s won the final stage of the Giro before, his team will be all in and he’s good for a long sprint at high speed rather than a sprint out of a tight corner.

Caleb Ewan
Sam Bennett, Wout van Aert
Kristoff, Bol, Mezgec, Viviani

Weather: warm and sunny, 27°C

TV: live coverage from the start at 3.45 CEST to the finish forecast around 7.00pm Euro time. By all means watch from the start but if you complain there’s no action for hours then you’ve probably got yourself to blame. Aim to tune in for the final hour.

109 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 21 Preview”

    • Seconded. Great work especially to get out on so many of the stage routes in this lockdown year. The wordsmithery outstanding as ever, too. Thank you.
      I’m still chuckling over Friday’s image of Richie Porte as a bluesman, “if it wasn’t for bad luck, he wouldn’t have no luck at all”. On that note, watch out for Porte crashing into a stray dog on the Champs Elysées this afternoon…

  1. Assuming Valverde doesn’t somehow win tomorrow, is this the tour with the youngest average age of stage winners? I mean, it almost has to be, right?

  2. Thank you for your excellent coverage, as always.

    I’m very happy to see Porte on the podium. But wow, as soon as I saw the split screen with Rog and Pog I got a very bad feeling about Rog. I’m sure there will be lots of ink spent dissecting what happened, but Pog has been hard on Rog’s heels all Tour long.

    Next year will surely be something if Bernal is back in form, but it really feels like a major changing of the guard. I’m writing off Froome, G, Nairo, Nibs, Aru, Rigo, Pinot, Bardet, and Landa from GT podiums for next year. But great to see so many new names coming to the fore. And fantastic that the Tour was able to finish as planned.

  3. Big thanks for another year of great and very insightful coverage. Plus this year had me remember retracing the Tour de Mont Aigual based on the book and your article in beautiful fall weather.

    Tour of the Young guns with Porte as deserved winner of the ‚best old guy’ jersey with a strong TT. Still don’t understand his move to Ineos, though, if it materializes. Love the Hinault reference re Lopez.

  4. Thank you, if only every race had your dedication & insights.

    This might be (probably is) recency bias, but what would be wrong with having this same/similar TT on the 2nd last stage every year? The sprinters get their day tomorrow, it’s ‘flat’ enough to begin with that the roulers are in with a shot (see Dumoulin) whilst that final climb adds the power:weight element. Understand this was the one and only TT this year but if you’re going to have 1 per year, seems like the way to do it.

    Great coverage for a great version of the TDF, thanks again.

    • Considering this Tour’s bias to the southern half, and its mountains, of France, the greatest drama and time differences probably played out in yesterday’s TT and in the winds on the transition stages.
      Which makes you think that ASO could in theory reverse the bias and have a cracking Tour based primarily in the North to include the coast somewhere and some cobbles?
      What a privilege to watch that TT yesterday, amazing, and I hope it’s something fans will be talking about in another 30 years time.

    • I liked the format of some recent Vuelta and Giri (?) where there’s a long TT towards the end of the race but still at least 1 mountain stage to go – still provides suspense but the race still has to be won (or defended) head-to-head (2018 Giro springs to mind)

      • agreed about i’d love another mountain stage and/or mid mountain stage after the tt. perhaps jumbo was just too good this year for too many major attacks, but letting the riders roll the dice, well i’d find that very compelling. superman for one and in this case jumbo would come out swinging.

    • I think some riders hate them but I always like ‘road bike TTs’, the most infamous one being the 2009 Giro TT which is maybe the hardest modern TT course ever laid out. Much more interesting seeing something like today than a pure mountain TT- last year’s Pau TT was more traditional but had a deceptive amount of classics-like climbing and some tricky descending as well.

  5. And some people still think time trials are boring…..

    To me this is a bigger turnaround than even the 2011 Tour or 2017 Giro as in those cases you had really good time trial riders, Cadel Evans and Tom Dumoulin, overtaking noted weak TT riders, Andy Schleck and Nairo Quintana, but as the last few years have shown, Roglic is really good at both climbing and riding against the clock. Still, that’s the great thing about cycling, anything can happen, even though one can’t imagine Roglic would be feeling great about that, no rounds of drinks for his mechanics for that terrible bike change/push and what was up with his helmet looking half off his head?

    • Despite ITV’s fawning over Rog’s prep vs Pog, Rog admitted after he was trying a new helmet which maybe wasn’t the best idea! It did totally add to the crestfallen look as he crossed the line.

      Much has been made of the bike change but it was not like they dropped it in a ditch. Maybe he lost 3 secs max. The real problem was the legs. He normally only gets out of the saddle to sprint but was trying it on the steep parts – presumably trying anything to kickstarter the engine.

      Didn’t he have a poor final TT in the tour when Thomas won?
      Still he comes across as a decent guy and has been sportsman like I’m defeat. Hopefully he’ll bounce back.

  6. Thank you once for the previews and reviews. This was a TDF that will be hard to forget. Will TP be the new EM and his countryman PR, the new RP?

  7. Roglic didn’t ride badly though Pogacar’s ride was exceptional. Roglic appeared to doubt slightly from the off while Pogacar had a once in a lifetime confidence/nothing to lose day. Did the weight of expectation – and the pressure that team dominance can create – for three weeks finally get to Roglic? Probably to some extent, while Pogacar’s amazing go-for-it ride did the rest. It’s been a great – and much needed – Tour.

    • I agree with this. Roglic’s ride didn’t look too bad until the final 3km, where he likely realized that he was losing the Tour, and then he broke apart and lost another 30s. Otherwise, he looked like he was going to finish around Dumoulin/Porte’s time, which wasn’t sensational, but still top-tier.

      But who would have thought that David-Pogacar would put 1’20 on all those Jumbo Goliaths?

      I wonder if the cool head of a DS, and maybe a couple well-placed words of encouragement and twisting of the time gap truth, could have helped him there? Maybe Zeeman’s stupid reaction and subsequent exclusion had more effect than the footnote it seemed to be.

      Testing out new gear (helmet) on that day of all days was also a strange call, on a team that seemed risk-averse from the start.

      We cycling fans should be thankful though, what a show from Pogacar, this year’s most attacking GC contender from the start! A roller-coaster of emotions, starting with “he’ll never make it” to “if only he didn’t lose time in the crosswinds stage” to “OMG he’s getting close” to the glorious finale. I did my best to avoid screaming at my screen yesterday, since it was past midnight, but I was still too loud not to feel embarrassed. Really should think about soundproofing my study before next year’s Tour…

      • That helmet was tested in a windtunnel at at altitude camp in Tignes, it was only the first time they used it in a race.

        Regarding Jumbo’s risk adverse racing, that’s indeed where they lost the race. They “forgot” to add time or cover Pog when they could (Pyrenees). The loss of just 17 seconds while being alone for the last 2,5 km was already a sign on the wall. Except the last 200m of that stage, Rog was able to cover Pogs pace, showing that the advantage Rog had was more gained from to the team than from himself. Pog was basically the 9th rider in the JV squad.

        Hopefully, this will slowly become the end of the overcontrolled racing amd/or will result in more attacks from the main contenders early in the race (week 1 and 2) to get a bigger margin.

  8. On behalf of all who read this blog and never leave comments, thanks for this excellent resource. It never fails to be original and insightful.
    Bennett for the sprint!

  9. On Eurosport Wiggo, supported by sage nods from Brian Smith, opined that Primoz Roglic was “in the zone” preparing to ride to victory whereas Tadej Pagacar was too laid back, wandering around bare chested, amiably chatting with team mates. What the concentration on marginal gains missed was that one man had nothing to loose so rode to win whereas the other rode to hold what he thought he had and lost. The image of the day was the faces of Tom Dumoulin and Wout van Aert looking on in disbelief as their man’s chances of the yellow jersey ebbed away. In strange times the sporting moment of the year.

    Hopefully today should see Sam Bennett fighting for the win wearing the green jersey, it would be good to see a proper sprint rather than the chess game that has played out for the past week or so.

    • That is at least an explanation jc – plausible or not. Thanks for posting it because I can’t really process that ride by Pogačar and it’s helpful to have some ideas.

      My best guess is that Pogačar is outlandishly brilliant at 1hour efforts. Maybe his youth helped in that regard. So this suited him better finishing off a five hour stage – at which he is merely exceptional! But I really am guessing.

      Maybe it was a perfect storm; parcours, youth, ability, off day for his opponent, and like jc says, he was liberated.

      He picked a hell of a moment to hit his epiphany!

        • For being brilliant at 1hour efforts you need look no further than Wout van Aert, triple world champ cyclocross rider…
          The point about Pogacar’s ride is how brilliant it was. The guy w o n the final ITT of the world’s biggest bike race, incidentally while under a huge amount of pressure and media focus. He is still 21. He rode himself into the GC lead despite everything. He wasnt flying under the radar, he’d had just the same three weeks of racing and been in a brilliant duel for the win the whole time. He had the slightest team presence in support and he won against the strongest. This was the best Tour ‘narrative’ for many years – all those attacks by riders for podium positions, the battle for green, the climbers intrigue, the breakaway wins, the shifted calendar – and us old guys will relate how we were watching when it was won, just like we do for Lemond in 89.
          We should also be thrilled and happy for other breakout riders like Sepp Kuss but particularly Marc Hirschi who won the combativite overall whilst still gifting Ineos their only stage win by taking an awful fall and carrying on.

          The end of doping – when it does finally come – will see far more unpredictability in all the races. We’ve all grown too used to knowing the form book and it’s made us too hard to please. This was a brilliant tour, just not in the stage-managed way to which we’d become accustomed. What a great time to be a fan of the sport.

          • there will never be an “end of doping”. cheating is as old as professional cycling. it’s as old as sport. people will just continue finding new ways to do it. a person either accepts that or lives in fantasy. I’m all for mitigating it to whatever extent possible but to pretend it will “end”, come on. like everyone I don’t know for a fact what’s going on with Pogacar, but what I have seen many times is people try to explain incredible performances in cycling with [x] reasons why it’s plausible. not that I have a problem with people choosing to believe – that’s everyone’s choice – but the selectivity of belief makes me laugh. the exact section of cycling fandom that hated Sky and fetishizes swashbuckling panache is now perfectly happy to bend over backward finding excuses for Pogacar. I personally like both and treat them with equal skepticism, and the idea that this is somehow a purer iteration of cycling in doping, sporting, or aesthetic terms, yeah, it makes me laugh. Tho of course, to each their own.

      • It is easy to over analyse these things, a great young athlete delivered a first rate performance. Despite all the Eddie Merckx etc comparisons we shall have to wait and see. I would not be surprised if he never wins another TdF. That ride will change his life, suddenly there will be an expectation that he can do this all over again, maybe he can deal with the pressure maybe he will not be able to.

    • Well said jc. I was completely taken in with Wiggo’s analysis, I agreed, it seemed logical. A formality that Rog would equal whatever Pog did. But like you say the opposite reading of that co trust between their warm ups was true. Pressure ha going heavy for Roglic and a nothing to lose air for Pogacar. Fantastic to have had the pleasure of watching it unfold.

      Allez Sam today for the win to cap a great green jersey contest too.

      • Forgot to add – that image of Dumoulin and van Aert looking on in horror / shock / disappointment is utterly striking, just added to the whole event and really encapsulates the day

  10. I enjoyed this. Thank you. Especially the first line – I know it’s a phrase we hear a lot, but I wonder whether complete shock results are best expressed by cliches, almost like we’re speechless and the only way to express that is to search for a phrase we’ve heard endlessly before.

    Made me think in football they’re love of stock phrases isnt as bad as I once thought!! Did anyone notice Wiggins say ‘No it’s not’ when his co commentator said mid climb excitedly ‘it’s like turning up and leading 3-0 and getting then battered 5-7’ – made me laugh. Although Wiggins called it so wrong himself for most Roglic’s time trial.

    Anyway huge thank you for another years amazing coverage.

    • in all the coverage the moment that’s actually been the nicest to read was Porte saying that Mads P came to his room every night to gee him up and talk about the next day – Porte actually said ‘I think Mads believes in my more than I do myself’.

      nearly brought a tear to my eye! heartwarming.

      So many nice guys in cycling at the moment, Roglic’s hug at the end was so impressive – similar to Thomas congratulating Bernal, and Froome the year before, although in a far more extreme situation. Feels like the era of slightly overly competitive/aggressive riders (Armstrong, Contador, Nibali, Valverde) might be passing to make way for the nice guys: Mads P, Dumoulin, Froome, Porte, Roglic, Bernal, Thomas and many more.

    • 🙁 Close

      It may had been closer if Theuns had not crashed on the 2nd last lap. Mørkøv was as usual smarter than the rest and forced Steuven to open too soon and they dindt have the 3rd rider to prevent Bennet from beeing on Mads P’s wheel when Trek opened.

      Outstanding train on Rue de Rivolie by Asgreen from the tunnel exit to Palais du Concorde where he delivered Mørkøv.

      On danish TV Mørkøv revealed that they expected the Trek train and Mads P to be the main rival and shared details about how they forced Steyven to open too soon and how they aimed for Bennet to steal Mads P’s wheel.

  11. I’m aware that anything that may come across as doping accusations is annoying and provoking to many cycling fans. I do however think that in the context of recent history, the topic is just too difficult to ignore. Anyway, this is not meant as a specific accusation but a more general question.

    Given all the very young extreme talent these days not just in our sport but in other endurance sports as well, is there a chance that the biological passport has driven some to dope frome a very early age in order to enter the age/level at which they get tested with a very high “normal range”?

    • My impression is that the biological passport is far from foolproof and has been made more lax in recent years, resulting in the scientist who was key in developing the system quitting in disgust.

      Also, the riders who are tested heavily are the World Tour riders who are finishing in the top three. In the Anderlass case, there was a rider who had normal biological passport data, despite doping – the reason was he had only been tested a few times in recent years because he wasn’t winning. Other riders in that case did have “atypical” findings on their passports, but this had not raised sufficient red flags for them to be caught. It was a police investigation that caught them, not the passport.

      I don’t think junior riders are really part of the passport system at all. And there have been plenty of cases of young athletes doping from well before the biological passport came along.

    • It will be interesting to see how media does or doesn’t approach this in the coming months. To put it as delicately as possible, Pog is not the full six degrees of separation from troubling characters. Yet the media has already settled into a mode of ‘this is part of an explainable shift in cycling, he’s young and likeable, was always exceptionally talented and he’s not Sky so it’s fine’. After many years of crowds throwing accusations, I’m preparing for silence.

    • I really do not think you are provoking anything?
      They are legitimate questions – given the size of the margin, timing of the victory.

      Whilst we can enjoy result, I would hope anti-doping would be making it a priority to test Pogacar immediately – not because I personally suspect him but because it necessary given cycling’s history and perfectly understandable.

      It’s true that it’s a little unfair when every new nation comes through and every new winner they are immediately questioned, but we all know why and it’s just something we have to deal with.

      I’m perfectly happy to enjoy the result and not worry about suspecting Pogacar until proven different, and if that’s the case, we should be happy someone is doing their job and things are clearly better than they were during the Armstrong era.

      But anyone questioning yesterday is valid to do so as long as we don’t get lost in conspiracies without proof.

    • Think you should turn it around and look from the other end: In the days of ‘peak doping’ we know there were a lot of old guys who would have been out the back, unless they had cheated all their lives to get into a pro team and then to stay in it.
      And so, we grew accustomed to the ‘kapo’, the old guys who had learned about racing a n d about doping. They genuinely could boss the young ones coming in because without the assistance and approval of these old guys, the young ones would never make their way in the peloton. It was a system of patronage which the team and race owners had no reason to deter.
      Actually, your ‘very young extreme talent’ is actually the true capability and it’s also true that the old guys who are getting beaten are also showing their true talent – ie; they are past it without the dope.
      Vive le tour, vive le ciclisme, vive le sport reel

    • Sport is but theatre. We should enjoy the drama, but not pretend that it is real.

      That’s paraphrasing some thoughts of my friend and myself. I don’t think we should shy away from these questions. If we do, we fail the future generations where we are happy to turn a blind eye to a pharmacological arms raise. It still goes on, and vigilance is required.
      No doubt other commenters on this page know I’m pretty quick to register my scepticism, but once all is said and done, if rider A wins a race, rider B who is second, chances are they’re both juicing. Ask the question and move on – enjoy the theatre and wait for an asterisk.
      I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the two riders who are head and shoulders above the others are from the same country. But I enjoyed the Tour. I found the fight between Rog and Pog compelling. Cycling always is. It’s why we watch.

  12. Thank you so much INRNG for the consistently eloquent and informative analysis, it’s wonderful. And thanks to those who comment for the entertaining debate each day. INRNG is quite simply peerless, the first thing I read each day during grand tours.

    • +1
      Take Pogacar’s time out of the top 5 and Roglic put in a very solid performance for a third week TT – in comparison to Dumoulin and WVA (both predicted as potential stage winners), his time was respectable (perhaps a little sub-par for a fresh Roglic).

      This seems to overstate things like the Eurosport presenters: “Roglič was pedalling like a child on a new mountain bike who hasn’t worked out how to change gears”
      I doubt anyone would be saying that if the comparison was with anyone else in the top 10 – just came up against an exceptional Pogacar.

      • Exactly, Roglic was off, but he could have beaten Dumoulin and Van Aert by 20 secs, with what you’d normally consider to be a dominant performance, and still would have lost the yellow jersey.

      • Agreed.

        Although, hit the ball out of the park doesn’t feel emphatic enough…

        I firmly believe that Roglic loss was psychologically, this is based on absolutely nothing but my take: Roglic expected Pogacar to go out fast and blow up, so he decided to race conservatively and do a negative split, he did not though expect to lose as much on the first section, and during the bike change knowing he had around 30seconds and the change would slice it to 20secs, he panicked and rather than a bad day it was mostly in his head he lost the Tour. Pogacar deserves all the credit for forcing this in the most incredible way, but that’s how I see yesterday.

        Based on no evidence whatsoever!

        My reasoning is based on Roglic (in my view) being slightly tactically poor which is in part caused by him getting burned at the Giro last year and has realising he must ride conservatively to win, which makes him slightly hesitant and all the second guessing adds pressure so that when he unravels it happens fast and explosively – I think overall he is most like Wiggins.

        But he should have won, and I feel sorry for him, Dumo and Van Aert watching was the image of the Tour. Pogacar feels like a generational talent others will struggle to beat, even Bernal, Evenepoel and Pidcock if he’s as good as people expect.

        The mental side fascinates me, as an armchair psychologist… I always thought Froome was incredible in the respect, and not praised highly enough, I feel Dumoulin and Roglic’s woes in recent years have shown how impressive Froome really was, but Pogacar feels like his natural heir now.

        • I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said here. What I find hardest to get my head around at the moment is how many ‘generational’ talents there are at the moment. We said all this stuff about Bernal last year, we’re saying it about Pogacar now and we’ll probably be saying it about Evenepoel when he gets round to riding a GT! Plus we’ve all spent the last 5 weeks gushing about Van Aert, and last spring we couldn’t believe how good Van der Poel was. We haven’t even really seen Pidcock yet. Are we heading into a golden era, or is this nothing that unusual? We’ve just had a generation of Froome, Nibali, Contador, Valverde, Gilbert, Cancellara with Sagan I suppose.

          • Yeah – I’m with you here completely. Thanks for replying.

            There’s a lot to mull over:

            1) Are the new generation that good or has cycling historically held back youth for various reasons and we’re suddenly seeing a change in thinking/coaching?

            2) Why have the recent Tours been so good? Is it that the Tour has learnt from Vuelta/Giro or did they actually learn a few years ago and it’s just now the strongest team have not had the strongest rider?

            3) Are both the above leading us into a golden age, and how does this compare to the previous generation you listed above? (if the next few years are as good as we hope, I’ll point to Froome’s win at the Giro in 2018 as the kick off point for what we’re starting to see, in terms of a new brand of audacity and flair followed by Alaphillipe. Pogacar, Evenepoel possibly)

            4) Will we see a tactical shift in how the Tour is raced, with steeper climbs, shorter stages and possibly uphill TT’s negating the strength of super teams? Or will Pogacar just get a great team and dominate…

            My only note is on Bernal – I was shocked and amazed by his victory last year, but always felt he had something left to prove this year, as talented as he is, I kinda thought with the shortened stage last year he was never truly tested to maintain his lead on the final hill that day and despite being amazing for his age, he’s yet to show the dominance Pogacar has, so to me, as it stands if we’re looking at the dominant force of the coming years, it has to be Pogacar. I’m blown away by what happened yesterday.

          • Tough to know about “generational” talents – I think one aspect is the “shock of the new” – all of a sudden there are new riders that are dominating races (or are at least putting in strong performances) and the older generation are now getting regularly beat – simply a changing of the guard. Saying that, I assume that two consecutive years of Tour winners less than 23 years old is incredibly rare – are younger riders now better prepared than previous years? I’d read that it usually takes multiple GTs for riders to fully adapt to the demands of a 3-week race.

            As a reply to oldDAVE (don’t seem to be able to reply to his message?), I’m unsure whether recent Tours have been “so good” – with the exception of Col de la Loze (and I guess the TT), there were very few moments where the main contenders were slugging it out with little support – it all felt very controlled, but then that’s likely a consequence of the strongest teams being sent.

  13. Inrng, tip o’ the hat for helping me patzer understanding what’s going on at the TdF and very other pro race. And thanks to all the commenters, too, for bringing the joy of insightfulness and well rounded opinions to all of us.

  14. I can never see the point of this non-competitive parade to Paris. To me, it’s stupidly giving away the moment when cycling gathers most attention, giving it away to boredom and napping. What a waste. It should be the day when Paris is approached, from the North, through all the cobbled roads available, giving one last chance the reshuffle the GC.
    And thanks for all the good writing, by the way.

  15. Your point about 57 seconds being only a head start is an excellent one. Roglic haD an off day, Pogacar an amazing one, but to start with there was very little margin for error. If Roglic had been flying but had a puncture or some other fluffed mechanical he could still have lost it. Maybe we all, JV included, over estimated Roglic’s time trial after 3 weeks as well. The year Thomas won he had a not brilliant final TT. JV controlled the 3 weeks, certainly the last 2, but that’s all they did. They didn’t win it. Pogacar was 57 seconds behind largely because of losing time in cross winds after an Ineos acceleration. Maybe JV would have been less conservative if that hadn’t happened. Anyway, an excellent TDF well previewed and reviewed as always.
    Can’t choose between an inspired/angry WVA and a stealthy Kristoff today.

    • This Tour has been so full with wonderful stories about glorious wins and podium placing, that all you miss now is to see the world champion jersey crossing the line on Champs-Elysees as the winner. “Go Mads!”

    • Roglic did have an off day in the final TT a couple of years ago, but he was not then the GC contender he is now, and the day before he buried himself to win a stage. In contrast to this year when he had an easyish day in advance and looked super strong on the gravel just 2 days before. That would suggest it was a mental issue, but to me he looked like he just didn’t have the legs. I would have expected him to beat all (possibly bar Pog) on that course, even if he was feeling the pressure. And doesn’t wearing the yellow jersey give you wings in the final TT?!

  16. I hope The Porte family are going to include Belle as one of their new daughter ‘s names!

    Like so many others, I express my thanks to you for your insight, experience and sheer hard work in producing this blog, and to everyone who comments, even the diehard cynics and passionate nationalists: my Tour would be so much less exciting without my daily dose of expectation and discussion. It has been a thrilling and intriguing Tour, we’ve been glued to the TV…..& ‘inner ring says’ has become a leitmotif during these afternoons.

  17. I enjoyed seeing a young and surprise winner, and took some pleasure in the failure of a well-funded and dominating team, but how nice it would be to see a MPCC team win GC. Will it ever happen? Meanwhile many riders and teams must now be thinking of saving thier seasons at the Vuelta.

  18. With 20-20 hindsight, Jumbo-Visma have to be kicking themselves that they didn’t make more of their numerical advantages in various of the mountain stages. They controlled things but rarely as a prelude to an attack, either by Roglic or one of his lieutenants. Perhaps he didn’t have the legs, but while there’s been many comparisons to the Sky/Ineos mountain train, they were regularly used to fire Froome/Thomas/Bernal off the front rather than to ward off others.

    • I do agree… but do you think the difference is – the terrain meant they couldn’t fire Roglic off, or Roglic actually is not as strong as Sky/Ineos leaders… or Roglic himself was too conservative and should have pushed harder on uphill finishes earlier in the race? I say the second to be honest, but suspect the third slightly also. For me personally, at the Giro last year we’d already seen the tactics of LJ can be suspect, I remember watching an interview with their DS during that race thinking he was speaking poorly and felt too impetuous to be the cool head they need directing tactics.

      • Was the decision to relax on stage 19 the correct one? An easy roll in for the peloton and a great warm-down ride for Pog. I know Rog had the same benefit, but a younger rider who beat him in the National ITT could put himself in the best form. What if they had chased and pushed Pog to ensue he covered time bonuses? A counter-factual and a interesting mind game only.

    • Agree with you. JV May have had the mountain train fawned over by many. But what the admirers forgot was Sky had the killer instinct – they saw opportunities and took them to turn a small lead into an average advantage into a huge Tour-winning advantage. They didn’t necessarily target stages (although Froome often destroyed his challengers on the first climb) they sensed moments to attack. So JV, while having a frightening train, were nowhere near as good as Sky in their pomp

  19. The picture on the podium of the jersey wearers will be a funny shot. I imagine the only people more upset than Roglic and J-V yesterday are the shareholders at Krys and Leclerc. Maybe Sammy B can hold one of the jerseys for him?

  20. This is the first TdF where I’ve read the excellent daily review from INRNG and it’s added a lot to my knowledge of the sport – thank you very much for all the hard work you’ve put in.

    It has been great to see the TdF start and finish despite all the doom and gloom being spread around by so many. And compared with watching live sport played in empty, soulless football and rugby stadiums with piped in crowd noise and card cut-out “fans”, seeing the fans out on the roadsides of France cheering the riders on in their usual (sometimes over exuberant!) manner was great to see – live sport without the fans just doesn’t cut it for me.

    Plenty of amazing perfomances in this years edition – memories that will stick include watching Sam Bennett choking up after securing his maiden TdF win, Bernal cracking up big time, Hirschi being caught 1km from the line but still fighting out the sprint and then claiming the stage a few days later, Carapaz showing genuine joy at the victory of his team mate’s, Kwiatkowski’s win and of course the best ITT in years as Pog beat Rog to sneak the yellow jersey. And hats off to the route designers. With no Tourmalet, Ventoux, Alpe d’Huez and many other more well known climbs on the route, I thought this year might be a little dull but throwing in less well known climbs and some new ones (esp. Col de Loze) to change things up a bit certainly made the race more interesting.

    Thanks once again to INRNG for the superb coverage !

    • Also thank you for everyone who takes the time to comment here.

      It’s fun speaking, especially when I turned around to share the moment with people yesterday and realise no one cared or understood the magnitude of what had happened. Being able to enjoy peoples comments here has really made my day. Sorry for the mass posting today… I really like cycling!

  21. I don’t comment much, but thank you for the updates, really enjoyable to read and to those who do comment more often, thank you too.

    Just a quick question, does anyone know what the actual times for the climb in the TT were, I can’t seem to find them, just the points awarded.

  22. Inring, thank you for your wise insights and for providing this space for interesting comments. Much appreciated!
    This has to be one of the most competitive TDFs in recent memory. Roglic wore the yellow jersey, but every day was a test to see if he could claw away time on Pog. Rog’s great Jumbo team all but provided him with afternoon tea service, but Pog often was left alone. That Pog stayed up there should have given Rog a good reason to worry about the time trial.
    The polka dot jersey was wide open, settled on the penultimate climb. The points awarded might favor the GC, but nevertheless almost every little bump in the road counted.
    It looks like Peter Sagan’s 43-point relegation ultimately won’t matter. Like Pog, Sam Bennett was just better and able to hold on despite riding on a weaker team. Like the GC, every day was a contest to see if his powerful Bora squad could escort Sagan clear.
    Except for the early days, even the weather cooperated to make this a thoroughly enjoyable TDF to follow.

    • Forgot to mention, it was delightful to see, just minutes before they started their respective time trial runs, Pogicar go over to Roglic and give him a (virtual) handshake. Nice sportsmanship!

    • Do I understand you to suggest that the DQS team support of Bennett was weaker than the Bora support of Sagan? The Bora time was riddled with injuries and was mostly built around supporting Buchmann in the GC. Except for Oss they were a non-factor in the intermediate sprints and were a total non-factor at the end of the race. And every time Sagan go into the lead group he was alone and outnumbered by fast riders who had teammates.

  23. I also want to thank for this insightfull blog… Realy give perspectives and good information about the riders.

    About the shocking and fasinating colaps of roglic or if you would rather say last minute shift of yellow jersey…

    For me it was also as shock because we saw how roglic showed his strength on the gravel part of the last mountain stage with some powerfull pedaling. So i was sure roglic was gone make it This time.
    Yet in one way, it was not so surprising.. Because we have seen This before. Roglic has had problems to Stay at his best form for all 3 weeks in grand tours. Even Just last year… Dropping out of the podium on a late time trial.
    And we see also the same fast pedaling where he wisping like with a 100 kadence like Armstrong..

    And we all know Now, that Armstrong didt win because of his fast kadence. So questien arises in a smal teori for me.. That like in fotball.. Where Barcelona think they get better at technical footbal by keeping a higher level of possesion.. With more time with the ball at your feet.. They say the get bretter with the ball also because of that…

    Is there a similarity to that pedaling with a normal or slower kadence, that might Keep the legs more stimulated or active? .. Not like in a realy slow pedaling uphill strengt exersise, because that would be to tiering for the legs. Still This is a known outside season strengt training for cyclist. Exactly how much it is used i dont know… I did it only a few times, tho i was never realy any elite cyclist.

    But when roglic starts to get into This realy fast cadence, it seems that when he does, his on the defensive. He is trying to follow some body or close a g as p and trying to save his legs.. And IT is probably a smart idea to icrrase cadence to save the legs. But when he does, its Just before he samles to fade out of form.. How is This connected??

    So perhaps the other factor that enters.. That has been spoken of.. But People tend to think IT has been proven wrong. That he started late with cycling and was a skijumper.. Witch might not give anywhere near the same stamina to Stay strong in 21 days of 5 hour races… And in a way he has proven it wrong.. Since he is so good..
    But dont forget he was early a sportsman and was doing several things.. And when we enter the third week.. Hes stamina seems Just to hold a litle les than most of the others… He seems to fade a bit.. So i was never sure of his victory untill the last 2 mountain stages…

    I do sertainly agree that this was not a big collaps.. Sertainly it was a monster run by pogachar. He beat dumolin with 1 minute and 20 sek.. A dumolin who is a brilliant tt rider.. Who was a bit out of shape regarding his normaly high level in the start of the tour.. Who steped down for the overall fight for the sake of supporting roglic.. But seemed to gaining a bit on his form towards the end of the tour.

    So beating him that much was surly over the expectation..
    IT was a bit out to not give pog a chainring for his win chance for this tt.. As he would be extremly motivated. And did prove his form several times… As he aslso clearly showed by winning the tt with sush a margin.

    And roglic only lost like 35 sekounds to dumolin.. Yet he was strong er than dumolin in most of the climbs This tour.. So normaly i dont think roglic should be behind dumolin and van aert in This tt. So its clearly a combination of both.. Pogachar had a monster race.. And roglic was either having a bad Day or showing the fading of his form.. Witch we did see some hints on in some of the later stages.

    So question is why roglic always seems to weaken more than some of the others during the 3 weeks.. If its hes later start of cycling… He might get better every year as he gets more years in his legs.

    Another thing to learn from This tour… Witch i have been thinking for many years.. Dont go all in on one card.. When wiggens is out of form and froom is in a hellish form.. Why is that the guy in form gets messages to sitt UP and help a captian when the startegy almost lost the tour for the team.. Same happened later.. Why Richie port cant go when froom cant follow..

    Why trowing all on young bernal shoulders.. When you have 2 potential backups, and you know form is such a fresh and alternationg phenomen.. Always Keep a backup. Although. I dont think dumolin would have beaten pogachar in the monster form he is.. But you always have the chance to throw one of the favorites to give a presure on the other team.. Lets say dumolin was getting better at the end of the tour and at first sign of weaknes from pog.. Let dumolin attack.. And roligc Just folows the pog that needs to close the gap..

    The teams should not put everything on one rider.. And surely, van aert has somehow saved the tour for jv.

    Anyway it was a Nice tour This year.. Its Nice to see another team win than the team that runs a controling defending team that runs a train half the tour to Keep every chalenger at an nearly imposible tast to try to attack.
    They both failed.. Finaly the hegomony of sky or inoes is broken.. And the race feels more Open and exitong.. Jv looking like the strong est team.. With 3 riders fighting for a win on the tt.. Yet they didt have THE strongest rider and could not control pogachar.. A single loose rider with nearly only a sprinter (kristoff) and another climber form some limited support.

  24. Thanks for the insightful coverage throughout the tour. It has been a pleasure opening this website in the morning to read about preview of the day’s stage.

    Roglic didnt ride that badly in yesterday timetrial. I think his undoing was that he was only fourth fastest in the relatively flat section (36s behind Pogacar), a section where Dumoulin was 1s faster than Pogacar. Roglic certainly didnt have the legs to match Pogacar once the incline started. If Roglic had to have chances against, he should be matching Dumoulins time in the flats and Wout Van Aerts time in the climb, easier said that done.

    The only rider who was able to remotely match Pogacar was Porte ceding only 6s on part1 of the climb and 15s on the part 2 of the climb (Pogacars performance isnt out of this world as Porte was able to match it). But, Pogacar was a 1 minute and 8s faster (average) than the next 9 fastest riders up the climb. Pogacar rode an exceptional timetrial and in hindsight, even a dialed in Roglic wouldnt be able to beat that, but should have been able to finish within a minute if things were fine at his side. It is Roglics tour to lose. I remember reading Cavgnas comments where he mentioned that fastest riders would be a 45s to a minute faster than his time (quite possibly looking from his power meter data and teams analysis). Pogacar was faster by 2 minutes (119s) than Cavagna. Thats how exceptional a ride it was.

  25. Amongst the other unusual things – a rare win for Campagnolo in a GT – they have a few, but they are far between, especially in the Tour. Hopefully a boost to the Italian cycling industry

  26. Thank you INRNG. and the comments section which is unusually inciteful and polite.
    It’s easy to get excited about what we have just experienced but we should maintain a little perspective. This year is exceptionally different, the field was weakened by disrupted training and a huge deficit of racing prior to the event. Extrapolations to the future need to be reigned in a bit. Remember that there was only one prior winner of the tour riding this year and the other GT winners were either past it or riding in a support role. The future does look exciting, I cannot wait to see Evanpoel, Bernal Pogacar Dumoulin Martinez Higuita, Pidcock, MVDP WVA ? Sivakov and I don’t how many others have I forgotten racing freely against one another.

  27. Just watching yesterday again on GCN.

    Brad Wiggins gets it 100% wrong – said Rof was being conservative in first part and Pog would suffer in middle part. Talks about Pogs shoulders rolling after 20 mins.

    What bollox. Wiggins couldn’t spot the man on the ride of his life.


    • I agree. I know Wiggo has some serious palmares, but I watched one GCN post-race show and that was it. After a few stages I’d fast forward whenever he came on. I think he’s a mediocre announcer and doesn’t add much overall. During the TT it didn’t take long for me to see something was wrong with Rog and to see Pog was crushing, so I was surprised when Wiggo especially kept misreading the stage.

  28. My goodness PR looked really terrible at the end, pale of the face and the helmet really wasn’t a good look. Something looked very strange to me. A dodgy ‘preparation’? Got to feel for him no doubt.
    I’m glad Pog won TBH though, he felt like the underdog all along with JV team’s strength and his attacking style does enamour him to many neutrals I think. His ‘preparation’ in contrast to Rog’s, obviously perfect.
    Also delighted for Porte… and Sam Bennett, the green jersey battle really added a lot to the usual sprint stages this year.
    Many thanks for the outstanding blog. As ever, that’s the real highlight of any and all GTs.

  29. Thanks so much for the coverage, comments and previews.. this website adds so much to my spectating.
    Agree with all it was a thrilling tension packed race.. I am sure jumbo visma will be ruing not trying some other tatics to make gaps. if dumolin or some one else was a card rather than a domestique pressure could have been piled on to others. A minute really is a small amount of time in a TT particularly one with such a steep finish.

    Thrilled for sammmy_be, surely now with green and champs Elysees he will really start to believe in himself completely , I always think he suffers from impostor syndrome and that self doubt holds him back. Sean Kelly’s commentary echoes my view. I’d like to think next year if he ends up in break like stage 19 that he will push hard to the line to try to win it rather than riding solely to ensure Sagan doesn’t beat him. I think Kelly or Sagan in their prime would have raced to win. I don’t know if sam has done coaching with a sports psychologist
    . I’d love to see if someone like enda McNulty could make him blossom even more.

  30. Many thanks Inr for another insightful effort. This years Tour was slow to engage my attention (I am old and worried) but as usual the magic prevailed.
    A great Tour and a great result. This Tour will be long remembered.

  31. I noticed in your roads to ride coverage there’s a time stamp for Chris Froome where he won on the Planche des Belle Filles, the time stamp being 16m11s. That would make Pog’s effort, from your chart here,, identical to Froome’s effort. I’m assuming drafting isn’t much of a benefit on such a steep climb. Are the time stamps on your chart the same places they are take for Froome’s effort?

    • I don’t know the timing points for Froome’s climb, on video he looks to have done it in about 16.20 rather than the 16.11 they have on the climb. As you say drafting isn’t much help but it helps, the climb has a small descent followed by a flat section but there’s always a lot to factor in, weather, the stage in the race etc etc

  32. Inrng – many thanks for the coverage.

    As a still keen octogenarian cyclist I can’t think of a day when I haven’t learned something new about cycling and racing from this blog.

    Thanks too to those who have added cogently to the debate.

    A la prochaine.

    • First, to echo so many other reader’s comments, a heartfelt thank you to Inrng for his sterling efforts – not just at Le Tour but right through the season: much, much appreciated.

      Secondly, a couple of quick comments on the course and motivation for the final ITT – and the part they may have played in the resulting outcome.

      While most commentators have fastened on events on the Planche, let’s not neglect the nature of the course as a whole. The section from Melisey to Plancher-Les-Mines is more of an effort than it looks on paper, with a few nasty little ramps and downhill sections to stop the serious testers getting into a rhythm. This isn’t false flat. It’s proper climbing – albeit relatively gentle compared to what’s coming… Start to lose time here and it’s not just hard to get it back, it puts added pressure on your rhythm and pacing, with potentially distress results once you hit the climb proper.

      The first 2.5km of the Planche are very variable. There’s a short kick of 12% before you even hit the bottom of the climb and that’s followed by ramps that hit 12 again, before kicking up to 14, 15 and 16 – all with flatter sections and a slight dip to lull you into a false sense of security. Go too fast here and the next 3km – an unrelenting 12/13% – will bite really hard. At that point the damage is done, before you even reach the final 20% ramp to the finish. As a course it could have been purpose designed to ambush a defensive rider being put under pressure. It also shows the value (and excitement) of a truly selective ITT so late in the race.

      Last September I rode a set of four hill repeats on the Planche, with a roll-down and 2 minute stop between efforts. My first three ascents were timed within 15 seconds of each other. My fourth climb – when the near 2000m of previous effort might be expected to kick in – was over two minutes quicker on an otherwise 27 minute effort! Why the difference? By the time I was on my fourth effort, a Belgian Sportif had arrived, creating a string of targets – I mean rabbits – I mean riders, up the length of the climb. There’s nothing quite like having a wheel to chase to encourage a bit of extra effort. Just imagine if I’d been chasing a yellow jersey rather than middle-aged Belgians weighed down with too many frites!

  33. As we all agree: Thanks a lot for your relevant and sober reviews, Mr. INRNG. -And a pat on the back to all of us for keeping in line with our renowned blogger’s intentions.
    Superstition anyone? I was told – on the day of the TT – that on the 4 prior occasions a stage ended atop le Planche des Belles Filles, the yellow jersey has changed. And it did. Funny thing, cycling.

  34. Thanks Inrng. This is the best cycling website there is.

    Looking forward to Your ‘how the race was won’. I think we know. But always enjoy your POV – especially as you’ll pick the bones for some interesting insight.

  35. 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…

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