Highlights of 2020 – Part III

Next up in the parade of highlights this year is the final stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné, a thriller from start to finish.

The Dauphiné was Round 2 of Ineos vs Jumbo-Visma, only as we’d see, they’d cancel each other out by the final stage and leave the door open for others. Jumbo-Visma got off to strong start with Wout van Aert winning the first uphill finish. This was the notional sprint stage, a hilly day with a sharp uphill finish but nothing like the Alpine finishes to come. Van Aert showed us the difference between Ineos and Jumbo-Visma, the Dutch team going for a form of total cycling where they try to win everything, everyday while Ineos lines up behind a leader for the final overall goal.

The next day was the big summit finish on the Col de Porte, not the hardest climb in the Alps but because of this it was a battle of team mountain trains as drafting counted. Jumbo-Visma won again here, twice over: first by getting the advantage on Ineos as Thomas, Froome and Kwiatkowski grimaced; second because Primož Roglič won the stage with a decisive late attack. Davide Formolo won the next day and among the GC contenders further back again Roglič was the best. Stage 4 went to Megève but sans Egan Bernal who withdraw out of precaution with a sore back but he was spotted out training the very same morning. Lennard Kämna won from the breakaway, a triumph for him but consolation for the Bora-Hansgrohe team who lost Emanuel Buchmann in a crash that also took out Steven Kruijswijk and Roglič crashed an hour later.

Stage 5 was the final day and began with race leader Roglič a non-starter. Sore from his crash the previous day, this was another precautionary move and it felt as if Jumbo were copying Ineos once again. It left the yellow jersey orphaned and the race up for grabs on the final day, with Thibaut Pinot the best placed on GC but six riders within 30 seconds of him. Nobody waited either with attacks flying on the first ascent up the tricky Domancy climb. Now you could read a processional account of who attacked where, who was in the chasing group and how the time gaps were often so slender but no write-up would do it justice or capture the suspense, the sport further heightened by dramas such as Pavel Sivakov’s crash and Pinot literally losing his cool as he hurled a bidon to the ground. Even the highlights videos don’t work, five minutes isn’t enough. The result was Sep Kuss won the stage and Dani Martinez took the race overall but these almost feel like footnotes to the day’s action.

With hindsight
Adrift on the earlier stages, Tadej Pogačar had a good day. He didn’t look like a Tour contender all of a sudden but the improvement suggested a stage win or the white jersey could be a goal. Only he was more ambitious of course and on the ascendency. Perhaps if the Dauphiné had included a time trial stage we’d have been wiser?

Egan Bernal’s back injury was more consequential than it looked at the time. Dominant in the Route d’Occitanie, he was now on the receiving end of attacks and lacked the punch to beat Roglič in the daily battles for stage wins and time bonuses. Only here the injury would be his undoing in the Tour de France and we don’t what the prognosis for 2021 is.

Dani Martinez landed a big win and has left EF Education First, he had contract with them for next year but is joining Ineos instead. Did the win make him too good to miss for Ineos? Being able to expend energy at the right moments landed him this stage race win and then a prestigious Tour de France stage win, a day which was also a candidate for a highlight of the season.

Sep Kuss’s win was similar to George Bennett’s Gran Piemonte win, a domestique given their day to shine and taking their chances. But Tom Dumoulin’s ascending form here would run out in the Tour de France when he was dropped on the Peyresourde.

The loss must still sting for Pinot. His Tour de France would prove to be a disaster following a crash on the opening day but here was only a step behind Roglič and Bernal which could be a source of satisfaction, only he’s yet to win a World Tour stage race but came so close here. He didn’t have the team to contain the race and at one point got help from Alaphilippe and Warren Barguil in the chase.

Why the highlight?
Good racing from start to finish with battles on several fronts and an open contest, the race was wide open and rewarded attacks, often teams can try to lock down a race but this was uncontrollable. We had a scrap to win the stage and another behind to win the race overall and nothing was decided until the very end, it set everything up nicely for the Tour de France. The only complaint was there wasn’t live TV from start to finish.

Highlights of 2020 – Part 1
Highlights of 2020 – Part 2

13 thoughts on “Highlights of 2020 – Part III”

  1. I’m trying to remember who was in that breakaway group that Pinot was chasing. Obviously Kuss and Pinot, I seem to remember Kamna was still up there, but if memory serves me Martinez was not the only rider in with a shout, he was just the one that jumped first and jumped hardest… or is my memory failing me? I just seem to remember that it was almost a surprise when he won, and that Pinot and his team had collapsed under the weight of his challenge.

    • Which breakaway? That’s part of the attraction of the day’s racing, Pinot going clear in the early move of 11 riders. The Lopez, a direct GC contender, going on the attack. Then groups merging later on and then Lopez and Pogačar going clear, then Martinez attacked with Kuss and the pair rode across to the move which was the winning move for them both. A lot going on.

      • Thanks. My memory of it was foggy, but I seemed to remember that Martinez, while in contention, wasn’t considered to be the key threat, until he was… although the presumption was that Pinot could see off his threat, though FDJ clearly had more work than they were capable of dealing with. Like watching a hump back whale being drowned by Orca.

        • I got a message overnight about this stage and the short version is that if Pinot fell in the same crash as Kruijswijk, Buchmann etc and he didn’t come off as badly as them, he was still sore, both for this day but also going into the Tour de France. So an extra “with hindsight” follow-up is that he wasn’t ruled out of racing but it probably cost him here and could well have in September too even if it had been dry in Nice.

          • There are some terrible terrible ironies about the way Pogacar stole the show from Roglic in the Tour for Pinot. The main one being that Pogacar won the TdF by stealing it in the latter stages as Pinot would’ve done, but in order to do so he won the time trial. Something Pinot could never do. And, the Criterium showed the flip side. Winning big races requires a good team. If that doesn’t make you reassess your career I don’t know what will. Though I fully understand if he continues with his MO.

          • Pinot’s fall happened before live pictures but it was reported on France TV coverage, many interview questions to Madiot between then and the Tour focused on Pinot’s injury and state of recovery (of course, whether you believe the answers in this context is up in the air).

            From what I understood, there were two separate crashes, the one that took out Buchmann and Kruijswijk and injured Pinot, very early on, for which they blamed fresh gravel on the descent, and Roglic’s crash later in the stage. Would have been nice to have pictures, especially since Rolland-Garros (typically the excuse for not showing more than a couple hours of the stage, if that) didn’t happen at those dates, and everyone was thirsty for live sports events.

            Thanks for the retrospective, this was indeed one of the best stages this year.

  2. My son and I actually got to watch this on the Colombiere (yes we did ride up!) Could not believe how the race had exploded, seeing Foome, Thomas and Porte on their own, way off the pace was unusual to say the least! Had a great chase back down with some French guys, even kept up on gravel bikes/tyres! A race that is well worth going to watch, all the main players and few crowds, not much atmosphere admittedly.

  3. Thank you for all the hard work, the insight and the evenhandness of your site. It has been a bright spot in a dark year.

    I hope you and all your readers enjoy a better, less constrained, season in 2021. Happy Christmas,

  4. “The result was Sep Kuss won the stage and Dani Martinez took the race overall but these almost feel like footnotes to the day’s action.”

    Yes, and this is an important point which often gets missed in assessments of this type of final day in a stage race. Who wins either stage or overall is frequently not as important as how. And the how gets under-rated in the understandable desire to acclaim the status of the who.

    Neither Kuss nor Martinez automatically become GC contenders due to this result. The whole race was blown wide open by the DNS of Roglic and the consequent adoption of yellow by Pinot. On that stage, with that overall GC, and with that FDJ squad, it was very unlikely that Pinot would win the overall and any one of five or six others could. Put Martinez on FDJ and Pinot on EF and Pinot could just as well have been the hero, Martinez the chump simply unlucky enough to inherit the (very likely doomed) jersey.

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