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The Moment The Tour de France Was Won

Grand Bornand, big win. The Laval time trial was important, the Col de Romme was decisive. Stage 8 was hectic from the start with riders trying to go clear and at one point Tadej Pogačar joined in an early breakaway, a move that said plenty about the chaotic racing. The UAE team tried to control the race until halfway up the Col de Romme when Davide Formolo, grimacing in agony, could pull no longer. Out of team mates, Pogačar decided to get rid of his rivals. One attack and nobody except Richard Carapaz could or would follow, one more attack and Carapaz was dropped. Pogačar took more than three minutes on his rivals at the finish in Le Grand Bornand to take the yellow jersey with five minutes on most of his GC rivals. The next day Pogačar countered an attack by Carapaz and took another 30 seconds. This was the moment the race was won.

The chart here shows the fortunes of the top-10 overall relative to Pogačar. Only briefly did one rider in Carapaz take time on Pogačar but everyone fell away on Stage 5, and then Stage 8 shows the damage done with every rival distanced for good. Stage 9 saw Ben O’Connor and Guillaume Martin on the attack and taking back time but neither threatened to trouble the yellow jersey which is why they got room in the first place. The grey line for Jonas Vingegaard shows how he finished second by not falling away as much as all the rest as time went on and even a small gain from the Libourne TT, anecdotal for the GC but telling for a 24 year on the fourth Saturday.

Vingegaard impressed, the revelation of the race who was thrust into the spotlight. First Tom Dumoulin was out, then Roglič. He’s gone from gutting fish to filleting the world’s best riders in time trials and mountains alike. Richard Carapaz confirmed, a podium as the pre-race picks suggested, only without shaping the race except for the sight of his Ineos team setting the pace in the mountains like old times. Ineos were the dogs who did not bark, no dynamic tactics and they didn’t probe the UAE team’s weakness on the flats.

There were brief moments when Uran, Mas, Bilbao and even Kelderman attacked but they were largely reacting to events. Aussie Ben O’Connor’s chart shows him surfing the top-10, dragged down by a crash on the opening day that required stitches but catching a break on Stage 9 to Tignes and taking a valuable stage win for his Ag2r Citroën team – a stage win in the Tour is big for any team, bigger for a French team, plus a mountain stage on the weekend when audiences are even bigger is le jackpot – and showed the kind of form that earned him fourth overall. He took back six minutes on Pogačar and proved resilient for the rest of the three weeks. In the space of months he’s gone from “I hope they pick him for the Tour team” to knowing what he’ll be doing every July until his contract with Ag2r expires.

What the chart doesn’t show is the absentees. Even before a pedal was turned the 2021 Tour de France had few contenders for the overall win. Tadej Pogačar was back, Primož Roglič too. Ineos had co-leaders in Geraint Thomas and Richard Carapaz supported by a cast of millionaire domestiques. This blog’s preview gave these riders five and four chaining ratings and a handful of names were on one chainring in case something à la Walko might happen. Then the opening week took out Roglič and Thomas, the Slovenian a victim of the hectic racing while the Welshman crashed riding over a speedbump. It felt like there were as many bandages as Breton flags. Crashes happen all year but when they occur in the Tour they take on a different importance, calls to rewrite the sport’s rules that we rarely get elsewhere. In part the Tour de France is to blame, riders talk of the final 50km of each stage being ridden so hard that moving up in the bunch is almost impossible while braking can mean losing 20 places, no other race is comparable. One spectator with the infamous “Opi-Omi” sign felled the peloton leaving many injured and the police investigating.

The crashes were the only blot on a superb first week. Huge crowds made the Brittany grand départ a success and Julian Alaphilippe struck gold on the opening day with a stage win and the yellow jersey. Mathieu van der Poel dressed up in kit to match his grandfather’s Mercier days, a marketing marvel that wove the past with the present and made local audiences warm to this most French of Dutchmen. As L’Equipe’s Alexandre Roos noted, race director Thierry Gouvenou needn’t scour France like Indiana Jones hunting for hidden backroads, just ensure Alaphilippe, van der Poel and Wout van Aert start.

Tim Merlier won the first sprint as Caleb Ewan crashed out. Alpecin-Fenix tried to set up Jasper Philipsen the next day, only Mark Cavendish won. This you could picture before the race, to parlay a Belgium Tour stage win into the Tour, especially with a bit of Michael Mørkøv’s magic manoeuvring. But four stages and the green jersey? Who saw that coming, it felt less like déjà vu and more like time travel. Closing in on the Merckx stage record made sprint stages more interesting, mountain stages had an extra dimension to see if Cavendish could make it. His triumphs were fascinating examples of survival bias but that’s the point: others sprinters were absent but he kept upright and kept it together in the mountains when others didn’t.

The mountains competition was gripping with several riders battling. Pogačar ended up winning but this didn’t spoil the competition, it just altered the ending. It was like a nature documentary with hyenas scrapping to capture an antelope only for a lion to appear at the last minute and consume the prey whole in front of them. A fix ought to be abandoning the double points for certain HC climbs so as to reward raids but this the regulatory equivalent driving while looking in the rear-view mirrors, of fixing the past problem. The mountains competition may be a points system but it relies on the moral satisfaction of a worthy winner that can’t be captured by arithmetic. Ideally you’d have a climber such as Nairo Quintana, Michael Woods or Wout Poels enobled by holding off Pogačar for a handful of points.

Each stage was compelling, think of the race out of Vierzon on the longest stage of the race as the UAE team struggled to chase a maxi-breakaway. Or the race to Nîmes won eventually by Nils Politt after a wild start and then attacks throughout the final 50km. Bauke Mollema got a fine wine and Patrick Konrad’s stage win in Saint-Gaudens was a masterclass. Such were these stages that every time an early breakaway stayed away it was won by a rider who had gone solo, as if it was some kind of last-man-standing competition. But they lacked the GC battle as well, there were no crosswind ambushes.

Suspicion is as much a part of the Tour de France as sunflowers and agrarian art displays; the cartoon above is from L’Equipe in 2013. It falls on the race leader, the logic that performance-enhancing substances are most likely to be linked to the best performance to the point where practically nobody else is asked questions. As Pogačar’s power grows he’d do get UAE managers Mauro Gianetti and “Matxin” Fernandez pensioned off, if only for PR purposes. Pierre Carrey – no troll – rang an alarm bell in his article for Le Temps (paywall) saying suspicion levels inside the peloton are high. But suspicions of what? In the past the rise of EPO was obvious, ditto blood doping, the only question was who was doing it and whether the media could print it. Now nobody knows what the means and methods are, there are guesses but separating the signal from the noise is impossible and we’re left in an epistemological quagmire that doesn’t bother other sports. Still most sports aren’t raided mid-event by the police either and the Bahrain team roust was real. We’ll see as the OCLAESP seem to be to policing what Pierre Rolland is to racing: they make big moves but actual results don’t follow. A “win” for them though would be seismic.

The Verdict
This was a compelling Tour with a gripping opening week and barely a dull day, things were always happening with many stages active from start to finish, every day felt à bloc. Yet not a memorable Tour because of the lack of a contest for the yellow jersey. The best grand tour vintages can combine action for stage wins and the secondary jerseys and subplots galore but the sine qua non is a contest for the overall lead that goes to the wire. 2021 had everything except this.

History will record Pogačar as the clear winner but it was also a Tour of absences and ghosts. Roglič’s crash deprived us of a Slovenian duel; his ride in the Laval time trial suggested that underneath the Tutankhamun costume his form was probably there. Jumbo-Visma made up for his absence, especially with Wout van Aert doing a Merckx in taking sprint, time trial and mountain stages, a feat not seen since 1974 1979. Ineos crashed collectively too but entire teams were discreet. Astana and Movistar used to shape the Tour de France, this morning’s L’Equipe rated Astana’s Tour as lowly as Intermarché-Wanty and DSM; while Movistar were so far adrift they finished 9th on the team rankings won by Bahrain.

One fool on the opening day aside, it was a delight to see the public back and France reopened. Covid didn’t loom like a viral broom wagon waiting to cart away the infected as it did last year. The green jersey contest was interesting from the start with Caleb Ewan taking the first intermediate sprint all the rest that followed with the sprints. The polka dot jersey was contested until the last mountain stage. However the yellow jersey contest was over quickly, it was like watching a murder mystery film where the criminal gets exposed one third of the way rather than than a cliffhanger or the shock of last year’s plot twist. The other GC contenders were engaged in rearguard moves to defend their positions: understandable but not what dreams are made of.

In many ways this Tour resembled the Giro. It rained a lot for starters, and we had a runaway winner in May too, leaving the satisfaction to come from the daily contests to win stages. But where Bernal often looked invincible with the backing of a solid team, Pogačar left the impression he could have coped by himself. And where Bernal had a wobble on the road to Sega di Ala, Pogačar’s worst moment seemed to be losing a few seconds on Mont Ventoux which he took back on the descent. The Giro ended leaving us wanting to see Egan Bernal go up against Pogačar in the Tour. Now this contest isn’t as mouthwatering, a Slovenian triumph beckons as long as there’s a time trial en route… and 2022’s Copenhagen’s grand départ begins with a 13km time trial.

Pogačar may look like a Disney child actor with impish tufts of hair poking from his helmet but there’s a cannibal inside. He has grabbed two wins from two opportunities and the manner of wins suggests an era is starting, he can handle mountains and time trials and seems unflappable the rest of the time.

It leaves us with second order questions, if the Tour’s damp weather suited Pogačar would he suffer in a heatwave? The Slovenian managed to avoid a lot of the post-Tour media merry-go-round last year because of the pandemic, will he have a bad winter this year? In the meantime rival riders and teams spend winter gaming plans for 2022 and target other objectives? What would it mean for Ineos if they are no longer a Tour-winning franchise in the eye of team owner Jim Ratcliffe? What precious talents can upend our assumptions, can Remco Evenepoel challenge (answer: he’s doing the Giro) or what about Tom Pidcock, is he a grand tour contender? What next for Vingegaard? And who is the next Vingegaard hiding in plain sight on a World Tour team roster? It feels as if we finish the 2021 Tour knowing who will win next year, or at least we think we know and we haven’t even seen the route yet.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Augie March Monday, 19 July 2021, 6:43 pm

    Great write up as ever, INRNG, and thanks for your coverage and providing a place for fans to come together and chat.

    A good edition, but not a vintage one, as you note while the minor classifications and individual exciting stages are great, a truely vintage tour needs a really contest for the yellow jersey, 2011 and 2019 provided, other recent years not so much.

    Lots to look forward to TDF-wise. Will Cavendish come back next year to finally overtake Merckx’s record? Will Dumoulin return to the top? Can contenders such as Simon Yates and Roglič take on Pogačar and win? How far can guys like Vingegaard and O’Connor go in their quest to be GC riders? And can the guy who people are talking about as the next Eddy Merckx even though he doesn’t want to be called the next Eddy Merckx, Wout Van Art become the next dominant rider?

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 19 July 2021, 10:30 pm

      Van Aert impressed but I think he’s at his limit right now, to win stages like he did this year is one thing but another he tries to do it without losing any time on all the other mountain stages. At the time of typing he just has to focus on the Olympics, the time trial and road race might be within reach. A flatter Tour course one year with more TTs could suit him… but more so Evenepoel? That’d be a contest of a different kind.

      • cp Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 5:32 am

        Would there be any chance next year of Pog, Rog, Evenepoel, Vingo, V. Aert all being there?

        • StevhanTI Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 9:26 am

          For what it’s worth, Don Lefevere has already stated that Evenepoel will not start in the tdf next year.

        • KevinR Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 9:06 am

          Don’t forget Chris Froome!!

        • CA Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 8:44 pm

          Add Bernal to this list – but remove all concept that Froome will return to compete. Zero chance he will return to TdF winning form. He was so far down this year unfortunately.

  • Colin N Monday, 19 July 2021, 7:51 pm

    After the Final Stage 21:

    Total
    86 Deceuninck–Quick-Step
    81 Team Jumbo–Visma
    55 Alpecin–Fenix
    51 Team Bahrain Victorious
    44 UAE Team Emirates
    38 Bora–Hansgrohe
    28 Trek–Segafredo
    21 Team BikeExchange
    18 Groupama–FDJ
    18 Movistar Team
    18 Arkéa–Samsic
    14 EF Education–Nippo
    12 AG2R Citroën Team
    12 Astana–Premier Tech
    12 Cofidis
    11 Israel Start-Up Nation
    9 Ineos Grenadiers
    6 Team DSM
    5 B&B Hotels p/b KTM
    4 Lotto–Soudal
    3 Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux
    0 Team Qhubeka Assos
    0 Team TotalEnergies

    The official Team rankings are:

    1 BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS 249h 16′ 47”
    2 EF EDUCATION – NIPPO 249h 35′ 59”
    3 JUMBO – VISMA 250h 28′ 22”
    4 INEOS GRENADIERS 250h 43′ 57”
    5 AG2R CITROEN TEAM 250h 48′ 41”
    6 BORA – HANSGROHE 250h 53′ 31”
    7 TREK – SEGAFREDO 251h 03′ 51”
    8 ASTANA – PREMIER TECH 251h 18′ 32”
    9 MOVISTAR TEAM 251h 21′ 15”
    10 UAE TEAM EMIRATES 251h 54′ 55”
    11 DECEUNINCK – QUICK – STEP 252h 53′ 34”
    12 B&B HOTELS P/B KTM 252h 59′ 57”
    13 GROUPAMA – FDJ 253h 03′ 13”
    14 COFIDIS 253h 07′ 09”
    15 INTERMARCHE – WANTY – GOBERT MATERIAUX 253h 32′ 21”
    16 TEAM BIKEEXCHANGE 253h 48′ 18”
    17 TOTALENERGIES 254h 18′ 49”
    18 TEAM ARKEA – SAMSIC 255h 07′ 25”
    19 ISRAEL START-UP NATION 255h 09′ 03”
    20 ALPECIN – FENIX 255h 24′ 16”
    21 TEAM QHUBEKA NEXTHASH 256h 12′ 39”
    22 TEAM DSM 256h 50′ 16”
    23 LOTTO SOUDAL 257h 02′ 31”

    The question is which is a better representation of how each team fared. Did Deceuninck–Quick-Step dominate or were they just a mid table team? Did Alpecin–Fenix punch above their weight or were they a poor team? Where EF Education–Nippo & Ineos Grenadiers two of the top four teams or were their performances much worse than that. I appreciate it is all perspective however a points system seems to give a better overall idea on how a team has performed. What are peoples thoughts.
    Thanks to Inrng for allowing me to do this & a great write up through the whole tour.

    • Anonymous Monday, 19 July 2021, 10:31 pm

      I really enjoyed this running score. At the end, it makes very good sense, but then maybe the official ranking does too. I’m sure other people commented on earlier posts, but on a flat stage everyone is expected to arrive on the same time. So the official team competition finds the differences in the less predictable stages. Also in a sprint, the final lead-out riders will not be aiming for a win, but will often place top 10 “accidentally”.

      Still, I think the subtle differences in your own tally tells a more realistic story. Reading yours from bottom-to-top, definitely seems to list worst-to-best for me!

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 19 July 2021, 10:35 pm

      Interesting as ever and thanks for posting these each day, I’d been watching without commenting, to see how this developed.

      I also like the prize money list. As ever prize money in the Tour isn’t a big deal, this is not tennis or golf and whoever wins the money is lucky to collect 10% of headline sum, but it works as a barometer or proxy for team involvement (https://inrng.tumblr.com/post/657170664862695424/tour-de-france-prize-money) as the sums seem to correlate to visibility in the race.

    • Samuel G Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 12:37 pm

      I’ve enjoyed this too, thanks Colin, I agree the team classification in its current form does not accurately reflect the true impact of teams on the race. Like many fans I have a nostalgia for the old combination jersey, probably because its striking colours and pattern featured heavily in the TV iconography of the Tour in the 80s and 90s and so it somehow epitomises my early enthusiasm for the race as a new fan. Anyway I thought it would be fun to do a combination team classification ranking, see below. The first one is your points ranking combined with the official time ranking. The second one adds the team prize haul ranking which unsurprisingly bumps UAE up the chart and gives Jumb0-Visma the edge over Bahrain which seems about right to me, they had more impact on the race overrall mainly thanks to WVA.

      Points + Time combined:

      5 Bahrain
      5 Jumbo-Visma
      12 DQS
      12 Bora-Hansgrohe
      14 Trek-Segafredo
      14 EF
      15 UAE
      18 AG2R
      19 Movistar
      21 Ineos
      22 FDJ
      22 Astana
      23 Alpecin-Fenix
      24 Bike Exchange
      29 Arkea-Samsic
      29 Cofidis
      31 B&B Hotels
      35 Israel
      36 Intermarche
      39 TotalEnergies
      40 DSM
      43 Lotto-Soudal
      43 Qhubeka

      Points + Time + Prize money combined:

      7 Jumbo-Visma
      8 Bahrain
      16 DQS
      16 UAE
      19 Bora-Hansgrohe
      23 EF
      24 Trek-Segafredo
      24 AG2R
      26 Ineos
      30 Movistar
      31 Alpecin-Fenix
      36 FDJ
      36 Bike Exchange
      37 Astana
      44 B&B Hotels
      45 Cofidis
      46 Arkea-Samsic
      53 Israel
      55 Intermarche
      59 TotalEnergies
      62 DSM
      64 Lotto-Soudal
      66 Qhubeka

    • Tomski Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 3:07 pm

      I think it’s a great system which also recognises that there are far more team members than the 8 guys on the road. Chapeau to the soigneurs, mechanics, chefs, DS’s!

    • J Evans Thursday, 22 July 2021, 11:01 am

      Your system is better. And very interesting. Thanks.

  • Anonymous Monday, 19 July 2021, 8:09 pm

    It was a good tour, but as regards the GC race hopefully others can close the gap to Pogacar sooner rather than later. ‘Former fish-factory worker’ + ‘former ski-jumper’ working in unison could be enough to give Pogacar a headache(?)
    The Bahrain raid surely needs to uncover something?? It feels to me that a police raid should require strong evidence of wrongdoing beforehand, or else expect criticism & legal action in response. On the wider issue of vague ‘cheating’, it did feel like there was more distrust from within than recent years, when previously the hostility was more from pundits and the side of the road.

    • Ecky Thump Monday, 19 July 2021, 8:33 pm

      If we take the example of Mrs Cardboard briefly assuming France’s ‘Most Wanted’ status, that required a complaint to be lodged with the Police.
      Was this the case prior to the Bahrain raid, did the Police receive a tip-off of something untoward?
      And, if so, how robust does that information have to be (one would assume *pretty* robust)?

      • The Inner Ring Monday, 19 July 2021, 9:00 pm

        The police can barge in, they have some strong powers but there have to be some kind of grounds. In the case here a specialist prosecutor is involved, they’ll have been acting on intelligence or some kind of tip-off but, to state the obvious, this doesn’t mean the source was perfect or a guarantee they’ll have found something, we’ll have to see. Nairo Quintana was briefly incarcerated after the Tour last year, a sign of police powers, and a case involving some of the same judicial staff, but the case against him and others seems to have gone stone cold. It’s a big story if a team is raided but the real news is if they find something.

        • Bonzo Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 11:54 am

          “It’s a big story if a team is raided but the real news is if they find something.”
          It also needs to be a big story if they find nothing, better for cycling to be kept honest.

  • Ecky Thump Monday, 19 July 2021, 8:42 pm

    I always felt that the GC was signed, sealed and delivered early on in the race after Roglic’s and Thomas’ injuries but I thoroughly enjoyed watching Pogacar subsequently.
    A fantastic young rider, he just does his thing and lays it down.
    And it somehow felt fitting that Mark Cavendish ended up equal to Merckx, both legends live on.
    Huge thanks to Inner Ring, and all the posters, who make watching the cycling so much more fun and enjoyable.
    I loved ITV4’s coverage on British television too.
    Chapeau one and all.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 19 July 2021, 10:28 pm

      I wonder if the best result for Cavendish is to be equal to Merckx’s record, that sharing a pedestal makes the story better as it makes us compare the achievements and celebrate both rather than reducing it to a “X > Y” formula?

      We’ll see what Cavendish does next but wonder if he missed a trick to go out on a Hinault-style high. Outwardly many cyclists seem to continue for a year too much but this is often at their team’s expense rather than theirs but whatever Cavendish might sign for probably won’t add much to his wealth and the risk is he ends his career on a blustery day in a Belgian backstreet rather than in green on “les Champs”. He’d probably make a great sprint coach or a DS, a way to keep up his passion for the sport… but he knows what he wants do do more than any of us of course.

      • Niobe Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 8:13 am

        In the era of the first Olympics, a father saw two of his sons win at the Games in the same year. When they came home ( there was a always a city celebration and parade) the spectators were reported to have shouted to him ‘Die now’ ; meaning that no future moment in his life could surpass this.
        I suppose the difference between the spectator’s and the participant’s view of when to retire, is that the hunger and will to win don’t disappear at the same time as the means to achieve it. We see ( or think we see, recently disproved) the overall picture, the rider just feels the competitive spirit driving them on.
        I don’t know about the contract situation: can a rider just climb off in the middle of a season, for example? I suppose no one can actually force you to try your hardest, but then we are back to pride…
        It was interesting seeing how Cavendish’ demeanour changed through the Tour, as incredulity was replaced by confidence. It would be sad for both us and him so see that pendulum swing back.

        Thank you for the insight and expertise of your coverage. As others have said, it adds so much to one’s enjoyment and understanding of the Tour. It is hard to over estimate the daily effort of producing it . I think you should have a yellow border: vainqueur de l’Etape!

        • Nick Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 12:43 pm

          “the hunger and will to win don’t disappear at the same time as the means to achieve it”

          A pretty good description of middle age generally.

      • Larry T Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 4:37 pm

        Hinault is one of the very few to set a retirement date and stick to it. Even Merckx went on too long as have way too many others. Chapeau to The Badger!

      • keith warmington Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 6:24 pm

        I agree with you .Equalling the record seemed un thinkable at the start of the year, never mind riding into Paris in the green jersey.Just my view of course and plenty will disagree , but it would be a wonderful way to end a great career .

      • fatclimber Thursday, 22 July 2021, 12:13 pm

        What could be better for Can than being equal with Merckx? You can be the person who won the most stages, or you can be mentioned in the same breath as Eddy every time the subject comes up. If a man is judged by the company he keeps, that’s a no-brainer…

  • jc Monday, 19 July 2021, 9:29 pm

    As ever thanks for all the effort you put in to running the site. It is not only the deep knowledge of cycling but the appreciation of the wider cultural issues that make Inrng required breakfast time reading .

    A great first week of emotional highs & lows but without the Cav story running through the second & third weeks the race would have descended into a predictable procession.

    Tadej Pogacar did seem a level above the rest, whether this was solely down to lack of top quality opposition or some other reason is a question for the future.

    Jumbo Visma had a strange Tour, clearly not winning was a major disappointment, the remaining riders did very well, Jonas Vingegaard was a revelation and Wout van Aert produced an Eddie Merckx tribute act. However there was an odd feel about all this, are there some deeper issues in the team? Can WvA’s ambitions be accommodated in a team built around someone else winning the Tour?

    Ineos were a major disappointment, on paper this was one of the strongest teams ever assembled at the Tour but it really didnt work out. There did not seem to be any coherent strategy. Perhaps the biggest issue was not the absence of Egan Bernal but the sad loss of Nico Portal. It seems odd to say finishing 3rd in the Tour whilst winning the Giro, potentially La Vuelta and a host of one week races is a disappointment but maybe they are measured by different criteria to other teams. We could well have seen the last of Geraint Thomas at the Tour (I wonder about Paris Roubaix) and news this morning suggests Dave Brailsford’s reign might be coming to an end. Perhaps the new era will move forward without the team that came to define the Tour for the past decade.

    Even without the fairytale ending on the Champs Elysees, Mark Cavendish truly established himself in the Pantheon of cycling greats. A feat of determination, self belief, endurance with a little bit of luck thrown in to balance out the bad memories. I hope that with some time to reflect he will bow out gracefully, he took his chance brilliantly but time to swap the slogs up to ski stations in the freezing rain for the warm & dry of the TV studio.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 19 July 2021, 10:24 pm

      Thanks for saying thanks and a thanks to all the others who have said thanks in other comments.

      Feedback is always welcome, good or bad, but a thank-you via the comments is appreciated.

      • MJJ Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 5:57 am

        Many many thanks are due. I have been a long time and loyal follower, albeit infrequent commenter – old hat and socks to show for it – and enjoy your level-headed and erudite commentary above all sports writing/blogging/vlogging, et al. Ready to contribute donations when you make that possible. Cheers.

    • Anonymous Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 11:53 pm

      For WVA a Flanders is the highest price, above the yellow jersey in Paris.
      Likewise Worlds and Roubaix are worth more to him than green jersey and 6 stage wins.

      He is Belgian and not Anglo-Saxon….

      all 3 has eluded him, and he was not even close this year in Flanders.

  • Tom James Monday, 19 July 2021, 10:09 pm

    Excellent write up as always.

    A small historic correction: “Wout van Aert doing a Merckx in taking sprint, time trial and mountain stages, a feat not seen since 1974.”

    Hinault managed all three in 1979: four (!) individual time trials; the Luchon – Pau stage in the Pyrenees and the stage 23 bunch sprint, beating sprinters of the calibre of Van Calster, Chassang and Kelly amongst others. He then also won stage 24 as “stage win from small breakaway” as well, just to further the versatility! (Another feat – two stages in a row in the yellow jersey – that Pogacar repeated).

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 19 July 2021, 10:22 pm

      I stand corrected, I saw he won a stage in Morzine but this was a mountain TT of sorts so skipped this edition but you’re right with Luchon-Pau.

  • Don from Florida Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 3:00 am

    Thank you Inner Ring for helping to make July my favorite month. You make the tour so much more interesting! I very much appreciate your hard work to preview the stages and tell us about the participants! And your writing is worlds better than most of what’s out there in English about cycling.

  • 150 Watts Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 3:34 am

    An honorable mention for Lutsenko as the only rider in the top 10 above 70 kg. After him you have to go all the way down to 19 th (van Aert)for the next one.

  • Brent Sword Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 3:58 am

    My list of winners and losers
    Winners
    -Inner ring the site i always recommend. Better analysis without the commercial realities of other sites.
    -Chris Horners youtube channel which focuses on tactics something he seems to have great passion for. He does commentary for one of the US channels i think and i would imagine its a positive for that channels coverage but i have never seen it.
    -Pogacar i guess but we already knew about him. But O,conner in particular. This time last year i think he was almost without a contract and has turned it around in amazing style. Cav is in the same boat – from all washed up to big time winner in one year.
    Losing
    – Jumbo visma. Some would say they are winners but they reach for to much just like last year. If you are targeting GC and in with a chance you should be all in. The old sky and postal for all there faults almost always picked a team 100% dedicated (cav for one year being an exception) and thats why they one so many in a row. Especially with the reduced teams now is there room for a WVA not being dedicated. If WVA had been protecting roglic it would have reduced but not eliminated roglics chances of a crash. Dedicate the team until the chance is gone or continue to suffer.
    -SBS coverage in australia. I like the 2 main commentators but between the overly long intro with cooking section. The break to studio waste of team discussions for 5 minutes. The slow mo to music minute after every ad vert break i cannot watch it so no live TDF for me whilst SBS has the coverage.
    -Ineous. Only a small loser as carapaz fulfilled expectations and a podium. They should of had less leaders before the tour. Carapaz and one other. And i think the other should have been porte and probably would have been if he was british. Porte lost time when he should have been protected more and Thomas lost time even before his crash through not being good enough on the day. Thomas did not look good to me in the lead up race.

    • Paul Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 4:36 am

      I am in Aus and use GCN and a VPN to avoid Tomolaris, Keenan, Bridie, and everything else that goes with that horrible broadcast.

      • Steve Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 5:39 am

        I don’t mind Robbie McEwan and Matt Kennan. Not so sure about Bridie, she brings a lot on paper (former pro, former world hour record holder, doctor) but she doesn’t really seem to gel with the other two. She’s not bad, you just expect her to add more.
        I watched through the Tour Tracker on the website to avoid the ads and all the collected studio/SBS nonsense.

        • MJJ Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 5:52 am

          I don’t understand how you qualify Ineos as a small loser due to Carapaz’s podium and keep Jumbo as a full on loser. 2nd place overall and thus finding a new top tier GC contender alone is at a minimum an acceptable outcome when your 5-star GC favorite goes down early, but WVA’s performance has to elevate the team to a net winner and then add on Sepp’s victory and I’d say they rival DQS for second best outcome of any team.

          • Ecky Thump Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 9:27 am

            I thought Jumbo-Visma adjusted well after losing Roglic too, and they didn’t repeat last year’s mistake of towing everyone around France either.
            It’s odd that both they and Ineos have attracted criticism when, most likely, we’d have ended up with both their race leaders as 2nd and 3rd in any case, even if they’d remained fit?
            Other winners – just the riders, en masse. At the end of every GT I’m left with a mixture of admiration and wonderment, it’s a privilege to see the daily dramas wrapped in a 3 weeks thriller and set against nature’s backdrops.

          • Brent Sword Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 11:49 am

            I classify Jumbo as a looser because they didn’t put there most valuable potential domestique into protecting their most valuable GC favourite on the stage when said GC favourite got bumped off the road. WVA should not have been going for the stage (3 i think it was where he finished 15th) when roglic got bumped. As there best one day classic rider he should have been shepherding Roglic on this hectic stage. Yes jumbo had a successful tour but they aimed to win not come 2nd with some stage victories.

            Ineous never had a realistic chance of winning except through crashes from the Slovenians and third was about as good as carapaz could have gotten. He would have finished further behind 2nd if WVA had gone back to help Vingegaard on the stage he dropped all the other GC riders. I never expected Thomas to go well even before stage 2 when he dropped time after being led out.

          • Larry T Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 12:14 pm

            Brent- you didn’t buy into the 4-pronged fork idea either? It never made much sense IMHO as Thomas was an opportunist one-time Tour winner while Porte maxxed out at 3rd last year on a different team. Carapaz and Geoghan-Hart both also fall into my opportunist one-time category with their Giro wins, so Bernal was their only solid GT performer and he won the Giro instead. Mr. Fracking’s gotta be hoping Pidcock, Sivakov or Hayter can rise to the GT challenge in the future as who is left to buy…and could he outbid UAE for them anyway?

        • Simon Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 9:41 am

          I think Robbie and Keenan are pretty good too and I can live with the cooking segments, they are showing prime time TV after all, not just catering to dedicated cycling fans.

          Tomalaris is an embarrassment though and I don’t know why SBS persist with him. The guy is a veteran of around 20 tours but doesn’t seem to understand basic concepts of the sport. You can almost hear Dave McKenzie sigh having to explain to him that, no, Pogacar isn’t going to win the day’s bunch sprint…

          • Larry T Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 11:04 am

            “…why SBS persist with him. ” is one of those things most of us could ask about various broadcasters, no? Mr. Kirby gets roasted here pretty regularly while Italian RAI TV has some people on that you swear must be there only because they’re related to someone powerful in the management. Then at the end of the race they congratulate themselves on what a great job they did!
            OTOH – we really like Eurosport’s Italian broadcast team of Luca Gregorio and Riccardo Magrini. W MAGRO!

          • Sim Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 11:46 am

            Another one who resulted to VPN GCN over SBS.

            The studio stuff I can understand, but I ultimately want to watch the race.
            The surprise for me is the deterioration in Keenan’s commentary, he was the best a couple of years back, but it is very one dimensional now. Listen out for “in the x colours” which he uses far too frequently. I appreciate that there are non fans watching, but by stage 5 this shouldn’t be needed.
            Compare to Hatch, or even Kirby (who I know many don’t like) they add a level of linguistic overlay that is more in tune with the race, or more aware of the riders.
            Maybe it is an SBS directive, but I do hope they are able to up their game since they’ve got the rights for a long time.

    • BG reader Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 10:59 am

      I watch in Bulgaria on Eurosport and the commentators are exceptionally good. When it’s other sports like soccer, I always avoid Bulgarian commentary as it is usually subpar to put it mildly, going for English. However, those guys seem to be really good. I’ve tried English language coverage including the Aussie option. But the local lads seem to be the best at least in my book. Unfortunately, nobody speaks Bulgarian except Bulgarians.

      • Andras Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 4:41 pm

        We have the same situation in Hungary as well.

        • Mr.Vee Thursday, 22 July 2021, 10:25 am

          …and the very same in Czech. The Czech Eurosport guys are very good, however I ususlly watch TdF on national TV as they have bigger studio with usually two past racers as guests (US Postal’s PAdrnos, Lampre’s Svorada etc), and their insight (including gossip etc) is brilliant.

  • Paul Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 4:34 am

    I believed at the time and I believe now. Stage 7, the peloton should have left him on the front for 100km’a and force Pog and whoever was left with him (Majka?) to do all the work and the peloton attack him one by one. Instead every other team pulled in the peloton and then we had the mindless pacing off Movistar to bring back Carapaz.

    • SYH Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 7:34 am

      And I still think Movistar did the right thing there. Sure, you can force some turns out of Majka and maybe even Pogacar, for what? Say Majka paces them home on rolling terrain 45 seconds behind Carapaz. Was getting a few more minutes of work out of Majka worth losing 45 seconds to a key GC rival, especially when UAE had already killed themselves all day?

      • Paul Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 8:48 am

        They could have left Pog and Majka on the front well before the attack from Carapaz. Well before.

  • Michael B Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 8:42 am

    “In the past the rise of EPO was obvious, ditto blood doping, the only question was who was doing it and whether the media could print it. Now nobody knows what the means and methods are, there are guesses but separating the signal from the noise is impossible and we’re left in an epistemological quagmire that doesn’t bother other sports.”

    This is a great para. Thanks again INRNG – putting Pog levels of time into your rivals again.

  • Larry T Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 9:05 am

    Merci beaucoup for your TdF efforts Mr. Inrng! And same to most of the commenters as (again) this blog stayed above the “You suck! NO, YOU suck!” level of far too many others.
    My thoughts on Tour 2021 won’t be published until next week (still working on ’em) and I’ll just post a link here on the day they go up so people who care can read ’em and those who don’t can easily scroll down 🙂

    • Tom Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 10:32 pm

      No need to publish a link. The readers who are interested are already following and those who are not are hoping this comment section doesn’t get flooded with those just promoting their own brand.

      • Larry T Thursday, 22 July 2021, 10:45 am

        Sorry, my bit may not be published on my own blog Tom, so at the risk of your fauxtrage at “those just promoting their own brand” I’ll put a link up for those who might be interested when the publisher provides it to me.
        Please feel free to scroll down past everything I post, as I do with Colin N’s stuff. His posts are far larger than anything I put up here but I haven’t complained about ’em and won’t… I just scroll down past ’em as they don’t interest me. Is that OK with you?

        • jc Thursday, 22 July 2021, 11:02 am

          I might sometimes completely disagree with your comments but they are a perfectly reasonable and often entertaining. I for one will be continuing to read them!

          • Larry T Thursday, 22 July 2021, 4:39 pm

            Thanks! If everyone here all agreed on everything all the time I think I’d stop bothering to read the comments. Different points-of-view and civil discussions of them are what make this blog so superior to everything else that I know about, at least in cycling.
            In the MOTOGP category it’s the same, mostly awful places where commenters just trade “You suck!” type stuff with each other (like cyclingnews)s and another where people can share different viewpoints and discuss them like INNER RING.
            I look at the awful ones first as they usually have news before anyone else, but skip the comments, then come here for another viewpoint by the author and comments by the readers.

  • Elliott Joseph Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 9:17 am

    Just wanted to say thank you, love nothing more than reading INRNG on the way to work and when the races aren’t on it always feels like somethings missing without that morning read. Best cycling coverage on the internet by an absolute mile.

  • md3 Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 9:24 am

    Perceptive analysis combined with appreciation of the wider context and fine penmanship – bravo inrng! A champion cycling blog. Diolch o Galon o Cymru

  • StevhanTI Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 9:38 am

    Thanks INRNG ten years on the move, still unbeaten, even a valid source for Sporza these days as I heard one of Sporza radio-commentators referencing something he read on this blog. As a longtime reader, I felt a sliver of proxy-pride.😀

  • Greasy Wheel Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 10:06 am

    I’d like to add my thanks to the chorus. Great as always.

    For Pogacar, I wonder if it’s already time for a slightly different challenge… the Giro/Tour double?

  • Ben G Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 10:14 am

    Just wanted to echo the thanks, this is a fantastic blog and has truly enhanced my interest in the sport.

  • Ian Street Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 10:22 am

    Just like to join in the thanks to Inrng and to the other BLT comments which are mostly always on point and interesting. I’ve been a long time reader of the blog (and comments) and this site helps me stitch the cycling season together with narratives and threads running across the year and within the races. It really adds to my enjoyment of following the sport and I recommend it to anyone who shows a passing interest in cycling that I come across.

  • BG reader Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 10:42 am

    I discovered this blog last year. The content here (including the comments) had made my experience of watching road cycling a lot more enjoyable (I’m a new fan of the sport and a new mountain biker myself).

    Thank you for the engaging and insightful content!

  • BigSigh Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 11:23 am

    Just to add my voice to the chorus of thanks for this blog and all your insights. I come for the cycling but leave with so much more.

  • oldDAVE Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 12:23 pm

    I love the Bulgarian comment on this comment section!

    I rarely have a huge issue with commentators, although Phil Liggett’s closeness to Armstrong made me unforgettable, and Carlton Kirby’s drawn out trains of thought can be irritating – but between INRNG, Cycling Podcast, GCN, ITV and (sorry to say) WEDU I get my commentary fix!

    Great write up as always – although strangely I disagree on the opening week – I felt like it wasn’t as brilliant as many seem to feel and based around late crashes which in turn ruined the rest of the Tour. The first week weirdly felt so perfect that it could have been scripted, but the first stage wasn’t actually interesting till the final moments just like a normal sprint, with a predictable winner, and the second stage was weirdly similar even if a little more exciting. What I didn’t get was how on both there seemed like a lack of fight from opponents to the eventual winner? MVDP was nowhere to be seen on Stage1, and likewise Alaphillipe on Stage2? Everyone else was so clearly an also ran (even Colbrelli and Matthews, both of which I like), only WVA or Sagan were additional rivals who could have made a difference to the spectacle. The crashes through these days made it notable but as soon as you saw who was going down you knew the race was pretty much over before it began. The TT was the final nail in the coffin. It was actually only Cavendish’s win that I found genuinely exciting and that sort of remained the case throughout the Tour.

    I’ve definitely come to the thinking that first weeks like this, although they can be exciting (I enjoyed 2014 way more) have a tendency to ruin Tours, and my favourite Giro’s from recent years seem to all have had multiple sprint stage snores before getting to the good stuff. The Vuelta is slightly different, but because of tiredness/lack of form as riders rarely train specifically for it you can have exciting first weeks and still a decent Tour after.

    Anyway – this was Tour to forget, and I wasn’t surprised it was the biggest difference in time between 1st and the Top10 since Nibali which was also a poor Tour overall, with likewise an eventful (although better) first week. I never expect the Tour to be better than the Giro, and I firmly believe you have to wait for the Tours between great champions to have the good editions, it’s just a little shame that we had only two years before Pogacar emerged. 2019 should have been a classic but the landslide (and Pinot’s withdrawal before) slightly took away the bite, and 2020 sort of was a classic even if that relies on the final stage being shock whereas what came before was time sedate.

    A mix between 2019 and 2020 would have been the perfect Tour, hopefully Bernal vs Pogacar proper will finally give us that, although I can’t see Bernal challenging if there’s a TT involved. If I’m honest, I think Pog is also a better climber, it’s his era is my bet.

    D

    • Rooto Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 8:18 pm

      Really well put. When you moved on to compare with the general criticism that the Giro’s first week often gets, I realised I couldn’t agree more. We got sucked in this June/July, we forgot to play the long game, and the second half of the tour suffered for it.

  • Wayne Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 12:33 pm

    I’d also like to add my thanks for the excellent Tour coverage.
    With regards to the mountains comp, I wonder if we are indeed heading into a Pog era it would mean a more exciting competition, even if the lad ends up winning it anyway.
    Peio Bilbao was interviewed on Spanish TV after the final TT and he was saying that Pog is regarded as a level higher than everyone else, so I wonder if this will make teams shift their focus to other jerseys?
    Is the Kom jersey worth more than 4/5/6 on the GC?

  • Nick Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 12:54 pm

    Many thanks again for your blogging this year. Checking the day’s stage preview with my morning coffee has been one of the better parts of my pandemic routine.

    Diolch yn fawr iawn.

  • D Evans Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 2:44 pm

    Can anyone explain why Pello Bilbao has now become Peio Bilbao? I thought it was a different rider…

    • Wayne Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 2:53 pm

      I’m assuming Peio is the Basque spelling of Pello.

      • Steve Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 5:15 pm

        I was delighted to see that according to the always totally reliable Wikipedia his nickname is ‘The Puppy of Gernika’.

        • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 9:44 am

          I thought you were joking… I think someone on Wikipedia is.

      • Nick Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 5:55 pm

        Given that he goes by “Pello” on his twitter and instagram, I’m assuming it’s the French spelling.

        • Wayne Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 12:11 am

          Ahh hadn’t thought of that!

        • Lukyluk Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 12:25 am

          His Basque wikipedia page indicates Peio as his birth name, which would make Pello a transcription in Castillan? Not sure how common that would be to change the spelling of your first name.

          Either way, it’s Basque for Peter.

          • Richard S Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 8:38 am

            Isn’t Pello pronounced Peio (or Peyo) anyway? It’s kind of like they’ve decided to write it phonetically. Spaniards can, like Brazilians, be referred to by nicknames as well to make things more confusing. Like Xavi for example, or the seemingly millions of professional footballers known as ‘Dani’.

          • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 9:43 am

            In the UCI database it’s Peio. This is often used as a reference and explains Simon Philip Yates where is middle name gets used a lot, or why Pierre Latour was Pierre Roger Latour for years. Latour knew this was wrong but found it funny so he kept it and his nickname is now Roger or Rogers.

  • weeclarky Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 3:15 pm

    “But four stages and the green jersey? Who saw that coming…”

    Well, some of us were arguing he deserved a chainring 🙂

    Thanks as ever for excellent coverage. Already miss it.

  • Tricky Hawes Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 4:29 pm

    Hiya – to echo the above, thanks for the wise and entertaining content Mr Ring.

    Just on one point that I’ve seen above in the comments, and elsewhere in commentary on the race. I think some of the criticism being aimed at Ineos’s tactics – even saying the biggest loss was Nico Portal (RIP) – is a bit misplaced, and a bit rich in hindsight.

    Their whole strategy going into the race was based around multiple GC contenders. Which meant they could then send different riders up the road, and make the stronger rider (Pogacar) keep chasing different attempts. How you beat the best rider through teamwork.

    That failed pretty quickly when all but Carapaz fell out of contention very quickly – in part due to bad luck. (And Thomas has won the Tour, so he doesn’t *always* crash out. There was a bit of bad luck involved…)

    Anyway, you can blame bad luck, poor training, poor roadcraft from the riders, lack of competitiveness for that. Whatever. But once it had happened, I’m not really sure you should be as negative about their tactics as people are being.

    They couldn’t use plan A to go for the GC with Carapaz, because why would Pogacar chase any others, once they were way down on GC? Of course they could have gone for stage wins – but there were plenty of other teams doing that. Would it really have enriched the race?

    Instead they had a whirl at the GC, with attempts to wear Pogacar down through a high pace. It failed. But what are people suggesting they should have done? Is the point that Carapaz should just have sat on Pogacar’s wheel, while his teammates chased stage wins, and so they should have let UAE just cruise up and down the mountain at whatever pace he wanted?

    • KevinR Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 2:26 pm

      I think the 4 leaders idea was always a media construct. Porte and TGH were always supposed to be luxury domestiques. Comments before the Tour from Carapaz and, to a lesser extent, Thomas confirmed that.

  • Cycling Nut Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 5:48 pm

    The Tour is a young mans game now. No more years waiting helping the aging great veteran. Any one over 30-31 (maybe even 28!) will never win a tour again. Youth recovers from hard efforts much quicker with no drugs.

    • CA Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 7:52 pm

      I’m hopeful this is the case – it certainly seems like it.

      Plus, younger riders have a much easier time hitting lower weight requirements! Man, I miss the glory days of that amazing metabolism. As a young cat1/2 rider I weighed 145… a mere shadow of my current self.

  • Tomski Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 6:25 pm

    Thanks so much Inrng once again. Incredible commentary about and around the subject, and I always look forward to the BTL comments too. Commitments mean I don’t always get to watch the racing (not for lack of trying), but it’s this blog and insightful comments which make me feel I didn’t miss too much – although gutted not to have seen the Col de Romme stage! Although the post tour cold turkey will be less harsh given how early Pog’s rivals fell by the wayside, I’ll miss the previews, reviews and comments on this page every bit as much this year. Chapeau to all of you and roll on the Vuelta!

    Highlights along the way (along with some armchair DS’s “could/should have done better’s”):

    Pog – barring injury etc, it’s going to be some time yet before his rivals figure him out.

    Ala winning the first stage in the rainbow stripes, and generally giving it his all every step of the way. A bit Voeckler, but a little better and without the sex face.

    MVDP honouring both his grandfather and the yellow jersey.

    Colbrelli placing second on a mountain stage.

    Wout Poels placing second in the KOM.

    Won’t Van Aert’s hat trick (with this in mind, I predict 2023’s route to include a TTT plus two individual TT’s so Jumbo Visma can sign MVDP and the two can each get their four-bagger) .

    Cav – the European Championship didn’t ‘come home’ to England, but the green jersey certainly came home to the IOM.

    G, having lost all hope of victory riding through the pain of the week 1 crashes, pushing on in support of Carapaz when he could have abandoned to focus on Tokyo. That said, this must be a low point when Ineos/Sky’s marginal gains strategy is reduced to faking fatigue on the Portet and G & Kwiato launching a last minute break on the Champs (which I also thought was a bit off of them to try to deny Cav #35..)

    DQS did a fine job of shepherding their missile through the mountains until it seems they got to Paris. Seeing Cav so far back in the peloton with a couples of laps to go was a worrying sight.

    Mixed bag also for Jumbo Visma. Fine achievement to place Vingegaard on the podium with only 3 support riders, but it took a long time to establish a plan B – although not sure plan B also included losing Gesink, Martin and Kruiswijk and collecting 4 stage wins.

    French teams again anonymous: once again so near, yet so far for ̶P̶i̶n̶o̶t̶ Gaudu

    See you all at the Vuelta!

    • Vitus Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 10:39 am

      “Seeing Cav so far back in the peloton with a couples of laps to go was a worrying sight. ”

      What’s worrying about that? Where do you think is Cav or any other sprinter on any other normal sprinter stage with 30km to go? Back in the peloton.

  • imakecircles Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 6:41 pm

    Thanks, inring, for the great coverage and write-ups, as always.

    It seems to me that following the era of performance being able to be measured, that we are entering a new era where this data shows the rider’s attributes from much earlier on. Teams and coaches now have access to a wealth of data that show who’s strongest, and as a result, much of the traditional seniority based structure of cycle racing has been replaced by finding young guys who can produce the watts necessary and recover from it.

  • SYH Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 6:51 pm

    I thought it was a highly entertaining tour and a good antidote to the highly controlled ones since 2012 or so. Much as stage 8 effectively ended the GC race, a GC rider going long and slaughtering his rivals by three minutes is the exact kind of thing we want more of in cycling. I thought it was remarkable.

  • Guadzilla Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 7:30 pm

    Spot on with all the noise about doping. The cynicism among viewers is the most disheartening of all – as is the bias with which it is applied: if its a rider you support, it is a great performance. If it is a rider you dont like, DOPER! There was nothing extra-ordinary about Pogacar’s performance – he put time into a bunch of second-tier GC contenders and that too, only on a couple of stages. But to hear the noise from the hyenas in the comments section on social media, one would think he beat Pantani’s time on AdH.

    If there is one performance that actually makes me raise my eyebrows in amazement, it is WvA’s trifecta. Especially winning a mountain stage and a sprint stage – events which require very different specializations. AFAIK, training the fast twitch muscles has an adverse impact on your slow twitch muscles and vice versa. But barring the absence of any indication to the contrary, i put it down to an exceptional performance by a very gifted all-rounder.

    • Rooto Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 8:26 pm

      I’m not personally worried by WVA (brilliant auto-correct above as “Won’t Van Aert”!). He only won in the mountains because he went into so many breakaway. He dropped out of 2 or 3 mountain breakaways because he couldn’t consistently hold the wheel of the breakaway leaders, so god help him if he’s trying to hold the wheels of the yellow jersey group day after day.

      • KevinK Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 10:16 am

        To add on about WvA’s performance on the mountain stage, wasn’t his climbing time a couple of minutes longer than the GC group’s time. He crushed that breakaway group, but would have been dropped by the GC leaders I believe. Still, a remarkable performance.

        As for the slow twitch/fast twitch thing, there was a time when Sagan could climb like van Aert and sprint with the best (at least when those sprinters had a lot of miles in their legs). There are other riders who could win sprints and climb well. I think in particular van Aert’s stage 21 win was down to a severely depleted and exhausted sprint field. His conditioning is so much better than the others that he could win that stage, at the end of a tough tour, where he probably wouldn’t have if he’d have gone full out on stage 3 with Merlier fresh and Ewan not crashing.

        • Richard Shield Thursday, 22 July 2021, 9:26 am

          It seems to me it’s something the exceptionally gifted can do when they’re young. As you say Sagan was the same (though not as good at TTs) when he first burst onto the scene and there was talk of him potentially being a GC man. Likewise Gilbert could outsprint Boonen to win Paris-Tours, podium at Milan-Sanremo and Gent-Wevelgem from bunch gallops, win the Belgian TT championship and beat pure climbers at Liege and Lombardia. Alaphilippe can win the mountains jersey, TTs and pure sprints. I’m sure MvdP will given time. And I bet there’s plenty more out there. Eventually though Sagan’s climbing legs left him (maybe he beefed out a bit) and Gilbert no longer contested sprints and at some stage Van Aert will probably have to put one of his weapons aside and become more specialised.

  • Breadloaf Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 7:38 pm

    Long-time reader/lurker with one of your cycling caps to prove it, just offering a heartfelt thank you for your efforts and for your unique style. I’d buy you a glass of Pomerol any day. I also enjoy the comments, a refreshingly courteous and knowledgeable bunch. Thank you kindly.

  • angieh Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 8:19 pm

    Thanks to inring for the wonderful writing, always start my day reading the blog, and feel at a loss if there’s nothing for that day!
    I thought G & Kwiato’s chase on the Champs was to help Cav bring back the break, G &Cav being mates……..(even if on different teams nowadays).

  • Tom W Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 9:15 pm

    My thanks also for the excellent write-ups, previews etc. Enjoyed reading virtually all the perceptive comments from people, too (how often can you say that about comments on social media!).

    I get my Eurosport commentary in Spanish, which is truly dreadful, particularly so from a certain former Tour winner. I watch with the sound off, procyclingstats’ live feed open during the stage and then come here the next day to find out what really happened!

    Thanks again!

  • Tricky Hawes Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 9:53 pm

    You should try having to listen to Carlton Kirby…

  • Richard S Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 8:56 am

    Thanks as ever for your write up Mr Inrng. As ever a cut above in knowledge and impartiality.

    A couple of points. I got dragged into the doping whodunnit this year, I’ll try not to do that again. Other points that occurred to me this year. It felt like the Tour as a whole was dominated by a relatively small amount of megastars throughout. A sprinter winning 4 stages is nothing unusual but throw in Pogacar’s 3, Van Aert’s 3, Mohoric’s 2, and MvdP and Alaphilippe getting 1 each and it doesn’t feel like mortals had much of a look in. The level required to get a win, to even get in a breakaway, seems to be incredibly high now. Also when was the last time a GC contender, a genuine A lister/eventual winner rather than a Voeckler sneaking away, took 3 minutes on their rivals on a road stage? It feels like for years we’ve been dealing in 10, 20, 30 seconds until Pogacar unleashed a bit of old school.

    • Tomski Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 10:08 am

      Froome’s Giro ride to Sestriere in 2018 springs to mind, but this could be the exception which proves the rule.

      • Richard S Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 12:58 pm

        You’re right. For some reason I had in my mind that he took about 90 seconds that day and Yates exploding made it look more spectacular. But he took exactly 3 minutes from second placed on the day Carapaz, and a few more seconds on Pinot and Dumoulin. Still, rare feats,

  • Larry T Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 9:42 am

    Mohoric is a “megastar” now? Surely you jest my friend! Don’t see how one can put him on a list with those others. I don’t know if I’d even label him a “star” but I understand the inflation: nobody’s just a model anymore, they’re all “supermodels” while nobody’s a chef, they’re all “executive chefs” etc.
    I laughed the other day when I read a quote calling some bike-design guy a “gifted super-engineer” 🙂

    • Lukyluk Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 10:48 am

      I think “executive chefs” are cooks who sometimes have been known to execute their commis. Their primary function around the kitchen is to keep the knives well-sharpened.

      At least that’s what I heard, and considering their reputation, I never dared to check with any of them.

    • Richard S Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 12:59 pm

      I have over promoted Mohoric to suit my story but, who knows, if he kicks on from here he might prove me right retrospectively. Still it feels like the stages were spread round a pretty small crew this year.

      • Larry T Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 2:32 pm

        Richard S – it was obvious you’d engaged in a bit of hyperbole there…who hasn’t? The guy reminds me of some sort of vampire with those canine teeth. I imagine him hanging upside down in the Bahrain truck at night rather than in the team’s hotel :-)’
        Lukyluk – “executive chef” is the guy who no longer gets his hands or apron dirty, he just bosses around the others and takes all the credit, right?
        Still dunno what “gifted super engineers” do but I’m guessing it’s telling the carbon fabrication company in China what to do…and taking all the credit:-)

  • matthew ralph Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 2:28 pm

    This was probably the first tour in a long time in which I somewhat lost interest and frittered in or out. I think this was partly down to it being the weakest tour in terms of depth for a long time.

    In reality Podjacar didnt have a huge amount to beat. Ineos didnt have a true leader to get behind, there was a bit of a 3 pronged attack (a’la movistar 2018) and it just doesnt work, not only that. Porte lost 2 mins on the opening stage, G hit the deck multiple times but i dont think he had the form to win regardless and Carapaz was their super domestique thrust to first choice by default. I love Carapaz’s general attacking style but it wasnt there for him. Roglic hit the deck many times and had to bail out. If jumbo had backed Vingegaard earlier things may have changed but I believe it was his first tour and I dont think it would have changed much. Landa was out of the race very early and then who else is there really? Podjacar is head and shoulders above the rest and i really think a new strategy needs to come from the big teams to dislodge him, the only saving grace is the UAE team can be got at but i can see them improving their roster for next year so they may dominate for a while, there may need to be mass raids up the road by many teams and seeing is UAE can cover them all.

    This also brings me on to the Fairy Tail of Cav, he never lost it completely, he had a few mental health issues and was riding in teams which had no train, even if he made it to the end of the race in a bunch sprint he was never going to compete if he is in 20th place at the kick. DQS have the best train in the game and drop Cav over somewhere in the top 3-5 and he has every chance of beating whomever is around and this is where fortune really favoured him this tour. There was no one of any sprinting prowess to beat. Bennet not in the tour as cav replaced him, Ewan crashes out on stage 5? wiping out Sagan in the process. Sagan battled on injured and ended up bailing also. Colbrelli performed really well and is in the form of his life but bahrain were set up for a GC run out so sonny had to do what he could do solo. Same with Matthews, he knew he couldnt compete with the pure sprinters so was in breakaways with Colbrelli picking up intermediate points, this must take its toll on the legs. You can throw Merlier and Phillipsen as more than capable sprinters but not consistently in the world class level, and before i forget MVD’P leaves the race early to focus on the olympics, he could have ridden on and competed in the later stage races. In some ways i am glad cav only matched Merckx record and didnt beat it, you have ‘supposedly’ the best GC Tdf Racer of all time and the best TDF sprinter of all time tied on equal wins with no one else even close. I feel its a much more romantic story.

    Onto the olympics and the Vuelta!

  • Larry T Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 2:38 pm

    “Landa was out of the race very early and then who else is there really?” Really? You really weren’t kidding when you wrote: “This was probably the first tour in a long time in which I somewhat lost interest and frittered in or out.” as I don’t remember Landa showing up for LeTour 2021.
    What would be needed for you to pay attention throughout…or at least long enough to know Landa wasn’t even there? Was last year interesting? My memory might have faded but that one seemed to me dominated by Roglic until his collapse at the end combined with Pogacar’s seizing the day to win. What Tours stand out to you as good or great editions since this one was such a dud?

    • CA Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 3:15 pm

      LOL – I know, by that definition, every race is a “dud” because some huge GT rider is always ruled out right away. Honestly, if you aren’t a patient sports fan and are used to UFC-type action the entire race, then you will find cycling truly boring. Imagine a UFC-match that lasted 7-hours each day for 3-weeks straight? LOL, that’s not possible, but that’s what I think many fans want. It’s too bad.

      Cycling is by far the most interesting sport, but you have to be able to focus and be patient and watch for subtle action.

      This edition had lots of action every single day. Even if the GT was “settled” in the first week (btw, it wasn’t settled, a 22 year-old was leading, anything could have happened), there were still tonnes of attacks, great story lines, Wout Van Aert (!), a senior citizen out-sprinted kids who were in diapers when he started racing, beautiful scenery, questionable/interesting tactics, etc.

      Why do people complain?

      • Larry T Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 8:58 pm

        Someone I know has a theory – these people are not fans of cycling…they’re fanboys (or fangirls) of a particular rider. If their rider’s in the race they pay attention, if their rider loses it must be because someone cheated. If a big rival of their rider wins it’s because the field was thin and that win is diminished. You get the picture.
        It’s like ME when I watch football…almost only when the Italian National Team is playing….you know the rest….I’ll sit through a match on TV if my wife wants to watch Atalanta or Napoli play, especially if they’re playing against the INEOS of football -.Juventus…I hate them…but I’m not a fan of football 🙂

    • Eskerrik Asko Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 3:19 pm

      Methinks he meant Nibali, but his brain somehow made his fingers type Landa. Simple as that.

      PS It can and does happen to the best of us: on a Sunday coffee ride during this year’s Giro we were, naturally enough, talking about the stages so far (and speculating about the stages to come) and I referred to Landa as Massa. Go figure.

      • Larry T Thursday, 22 July 2021, 8:34 am

        Confuse Nibali with Landa? Well, they both have two arms and two legs and get paid to ride bicycles so yeah…sure, I guess 🙂
        Meanwhile UAE’s massive checkbook strikes again:https://www.cyclingnews.com/news/tour-de-france-winners-uae-team-emirates-sign-finn-fisher-black/
        Gianetti’s beating Sir Dave at his own game, this time at Jumbo’s expense. UCI really needs to step up and force these WT teams to fund a halfway decent women’s team if they want to play in the big league. Most of these mega-money sponsors could fund it with what they find under the cushions of their couch!

        • Eskerrik Asko Thursday, 22 July 2021, 9:48 am

          Who said anything about “confusing”?! These kinds of slips, either in speech or in writing, have nothing whatsoever to do with confusing (in this case) one rider with another!
          Or, as in my case, one rider with a F1 driver.
          Or, as happened during one stage to a Swedish commentator, one rider with a rider who retired in the late 1990s.
          It’s just that our brains are wired in such a strange and wonderful fashion that these kind of things happen. The names don’t have to sound similar, there doesn’t have to be anything particular in common with the two persons, our brain can still manage to blurt out one name when we obviously mean the other – and often we don’t even notice it unless someone points it out to us. And then we incredulously ask “Did I really say Massa?” or “Did I really write Landa?”

          BTW the rumour has Nibali moving back to Astana on a one-year contract. I’m glad to see he still wants to ride and I don’t think Astana is that much worse than half a dozen other teams, but I must say I’d rather have seen him somewhere else.

        • matthew ralph Thursday, 22 July 2021, 3:54 pm

          Sorry Larry my Friend. It was jack Haig who abandoned early, in the 15 minutes i had to type the above during my lunch break i thought to myself Bahrains GC man pulled out early because of a crash which changed their tactic removing another GC contender from the race, instantly Landa sprang to mind as he did crash out but it was in the Giro the month before. Its 32 deg in my office with the windows open so cut me some slack 😉

          Regarding losing interest once podjacar went into yellow, it was game over as proven. I watch the tours for the GC battles anything else is a bonus, if i want insanely hard racing where attacks are constantly going i’ll watch the classics, however in this years tour it really was over as i expected and the ‘anything can happen in a 3 week race’ adage is true, but we were waiting for a massive crash to happen. The GC was over, i was correct you could see how much stronger podjacar was than everyone else. The TdF is the toughest race of the year, that doesnt mean every year is a great year and this year i felt lacked depth.

          Regarding fan girling, there isnt any one person who i love watching above anyone else, but if i was forced to pick id say MVDP and also Allaphillipe are great to watch, however i do keep a close eye on how Matthews is doing as i customise his cycling shoes for him 😉

          • Larry T Thursday, 22 July 2021, 4:51 pm

            Can’t fault you for choosing Landa as a quick and obvious answer to: “Which Bahrain rider crashed out of…? 🙂 Makes sense, while the idea someone suggested about confusing him with Nibali had me scratching my bald head and asking those questions.
            As to “losing interest and frittering in and out” I’m sorry you feel that way and (again) wonder what editions of Le Grand Boucle you found interesting enough to avoid losing interest? I have to admit watching the stuff live in the same time-zone makes it a bigger deal for me, but even back in the USA I’d watch it live. Replaying ’em after-the-fact (even if I can avoid knowing who won) finds me skipping along and missing a lot of what’s really interesting as does being busy with something else…like a job.
            Pre-pandemic, when we were running cycling vacations in Italy during July, I’ll admit a race like this one might have been really easy not-to-bother with, just catching highlights in the evening, especially as Pogacar’s rivals seem to resort to “pillow fights” among themselves for the minor placings. BRAVO to Uran for trying even though he want down in flames…another podium for him would have done what…?

    • matthew ralph Thursday, 22 July 2021, 4:43 pm

      I remember really enjoying 2019, the fairytale of allaphillipe in yellow, how long would he last, watching the stages thinking ‘he is going to blow up soon’ yet continuing to stay in yellow. Simon Yates was riding well picking up some mountain stages plus you had the Ineos drama of who was leading the team between G and bernal. Ewan was also showing himself to be the best sprinter in the world, there was plenty going on. Also Pinot was flying that tour but abandoned in the third week with tears in his eyes, I dont think he would have won the tour but he was a french rider doing well which can only add to the spectacle.

      2015 was a good year for GC for me at least. I remember watching nairo go away from froome up alpe du heuz and thinking ‘the wheel sucker might actually do this’ only for froome to find his washing machine rhythm and keep the time in check.

      Generally the TdF is i’d say the second best tour after the giro.

      giro – 2020 – taos’ win was a great race
      giro 2017 – nibali vs nairo vs quintanna
      giro 2018 – froome comes in with zero form, vs dumo and yates who consequently blew up after dominating. froomes 85km all or nothing attack to win the stage and the tour.
      Giro 2019 – Big love for Carapaz in this race, even more so after watching the netflix documentary.

      Basically any tour where it is competitive was better than this years TdF. There was no chance pogacar was not winning this year. although Jumbo could have made it more interest if they instantly backed Vingegaard.

      I will add as a slight comeback on what i said previously about this years racing being dull, the GC battle was dull as dishwater in the end BUT looking back through my whatsapp messages to my mate on 3rd July when pogacar went after woods and Tuens up the final climb to Tignes i said something along the lines of ‘he is taking the p*ss he could win this stage). He was over 4 mins back and I believe he could have caught Tuens but backed off, he put the best part of 4 mins into Carapaz on a single climb. the GC was over then, FACT. however it was a great stage race with 75km of full gas racing just to get the break away.

  • CA Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 3:08 pm

    What a great Tour, and I’m very grateful to our host for setting up each day’s stage so well. The Inrng Previews are always my first stop before tuning in to live coverage as I get my workday started.

    Thanks also for putting up with all of our comments and for this great and open forum.

  • J Evans Thursday, 22 July 2021, 12:13 pm

    Great blogging as always – thanks.
    For me, Alaphilippe needs to choose his moments to attack more. He’d win more stages if he focused on certain ones rather than attacking all the time. I know people think it’s entertaining, but his attacks are becoming as likely to succeed as Pierre Rolland’s. The novelty of this will surely wear off for fans eventually. Less showboating, more thinking.
    In the past, the mountains jersey went to the best climber. But now the best climber is almost always the winner of the race (even when they don’t win the jersey). So, I think the jersey should be more a mountains points jersey. Make it a contest where it’s based on gaining points over a large number of mountains – as it was this year until Pogacar swept up all those points. First simple step towards that would be to get rid of double points for a finishing climb.
    As for the route, Stages 17 and 18 being almost identical and being long flat starts before the mountains meant that not only was Pogacar bound to take the mountains jersey, but it ensured that those two days were formulaic.
    Hopefully, Stage 7 put to bed the notion that long stages are dull/always neutralised/too hard in bad weather.
    The GC race might well have been more interesting had Roglic and Bernal been in it, but imagine how much more dull it would have been had Pogacar had a strong team. The Sky/Jumbo processions were far more boring, for me. Budget caps would improve the TdF, especially when you see how the smaller teams fared this year.

    • Eskerrik Asko Thursday, 22 July 2021, 2:28 pm

      Maybe Alaphilippe did think when and had thought about it before he made a decision to go out and showboat? I mean: after winning a stage in the rainbow jersey and wearing the yellow jersey, what would another stage win have added to his palmares?
      I would argue that riding like he did was far more valuable for himself, for his team, for his fans and, on occasion, for France than riding more tactically and having a better or a more realistic chance, but still only a chance, of a stage win.

      But I quite agree with you on the meilleur grimpeur competition. Despite its name and possibly its history, I tend to see it as a jersey for the best among the most active breakaway riders on hilly stages and mountain stages.
      When someone takes it simply by virtue of winning two big mountain top finishes I think something is wrong. But obviously not everyone agrees. Ditching the double points would be a good beginning, though, and would still leave the objectively best climber a chance to win the polkadot jersey.

    • CA Thursday, 22 July 2021, 4:42 pm

      Totally agree about budget caps and smaller teams. Really opens up the racing. It almost feels strange to think that 9 riders per GC team used to be normal.

      I don’t know why people are lacklustre about the 2021 edition – on a daily basis I’ve never seen such open racing. Everyday, we had mini-pelotons go up the road, full of really strong riders, who ended up battling for the stage. We saw the emergence of Van Aert, showing how complete of a rider he is. The sprint competition opened right up so we saw a Green Jersey holder who had struggled for years to find footing into his late career come back to beat much younger (and, obviously a slightly less talented – but this doesn’t matter) bunch. The Yellow Jersey had to close gaps because his team wasn’t a “super team”.

      Honestly, if we have another race like that next year, plus add in a healthy Bernal, I’m all in. It was a fantastic race.

      I’ve never seen Inrng miss so many stage winners in his predictions! And, I think that’s a very good thing.

      • matthew ralph Thursday, 22 July 2021, 5:14 pm

        I dont think budget caps really matter as shown by ineos, once pogacar took yellow he was never going to lose the tour. Ineos had no ideas. I also think the crashes within the first week of racing either completely ruled out GC contenders and put massive gaps into any of the outsiders. This in turn allowed huge groups to go up the road as no one was really a threat. When Pogacar puts 4 mins into carapaz on a single climb he has very little concern for the rest of the riders. the man was just too damn strong.

        • CA Thursday, 22 July 2021, 6:40 pm

          Right, but which team will be eager to sign Pogacar to the highest salary after his current contract expires? If Pogacar has a Froome-style team behind him, stages will be processionary. As it was this year, UAE was pretty weak, so each stage turned into a mini-Classic, it was very refreshing.

          Although, Ineos kept forgetting they didn’t have the Yellow Jersey…

        • Larry T Friday, 23 July 2021, 9:42 am

          I look for loud outcry for a budget cap as it sinks in that UAE spends petro-dollars like they were…well…petrodollars and makes Mr. Fracking look like a pauper as Gianetti and Co buy up all the talent. “Somebody’s got to DO something!” will be heard loud-and-clear once INEOS is no longer the team with the fattest wallet. If spending is going to be unlimited, the least UCI can do is make ’em throw a few million into a women’s team. What would the petro-sheiks who bankroll UAE do if that was the case?

  • Anonymous Thursday, 22 July 2021, 1:39 pm

    I hate it when others quote the piece just read simply to state how sublime it was.

    “OCLAESP seem to be to policing what Pierre Rolland is to racing: they make big moves but actual results don’t follow. ”

    sublime.

  • Steppings Saturday, 24 July 2021, 1:33 pm

    You can’t put a price on the daily coverage of INRNG.

  • Larry T Tuesday, 27 July 2021, 4:47 pm

    I promised (threatened?) to provide a link when this was published.
    Here it is
    http://www.bikeraceinfo.com/commentary/theobald-larry/Thoughts-on-LeTour-2021.html