Tour de France Stage 10 Preview

A sprint stage as the race leaves the Alps. The latter part of the race has some exposed roads and it can be windy but the latest forecast says it’ll be calm.

The Route: the rest day is over with riders “enjoying” a stay at the hypoxic height of 2,100m above sea level which must have messed with sleep patterns, one of the ironies of a grand tour is that while riders get more and more tired, sleep doesn’t come easier. Anyway, today should allow riders to ease back in, there’s no brutal start to the stage. Instead it’s 190km out of the Alps via big valley roads. The race passes Chambéry via balcony roads, almost within touching distance of Samuel Dumoulin‘s bakery, and some hairpins. The Col de Couz is a long drag up a big straight road, if Bike Exchange and Bahrain want to pressure Mark Cavendish and his green jersey they can’t count on gravity alone. The same for the intermediate sprint which is placed on the Col de la Placette, a real mountain pass but another gradual drag up a main road.

The race then skirts around the Isère river and the foot of the Vercors plateau as it heads towards Valence, passing by many walnut orchards which offer protection from the wind. The climb out of Hostun is another gradual drag… but crucially it’s more exposed to the wind. Then a gradual descent across the plains to Valence.

The Finish: the Tour has had finishes in Valence in 2015 and 2018 but each time a different route and today is no different. So the uphill finish that helped Peter Sagan get one over Alexander Kristoff and Arnaud Démare is gone. Instead this is a big boulevard finish, a dragstrip course and more in line with the 2015 version. There’s a bend with 350m to go but a dual-lane roundabout rather than a 90° corner and then a 325m finishing straight.

The Contenders: a sprint stage but with fewer sprinters’ teams to chase now. Alpecin-Fenix are without their two fastest sprinters so Jasper Philipsen is their obvious pick but has less of a leadout to help. We know Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quickstep) can get the better of Philipsen, even when he had a royal Alpecin train. We’ll see how he’s coped with the Alps, whether they have blunted his legs or not. So far he’s passing every test, the next one is the Ventoux tomorrow in searing heat.

Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic) has placed several times but often because he’s been behind and surfed the slipstreams rather than striking out on his own, it’s a big deal to come out and around the others but he’s got train to help. Jumbo-Visma’s Tour has gone off the rails but Wout van Aert can still salvage a stage win. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) could feature but probably would prefer a howling wind today. Otherwise Cees Bol (DSM) should be close which gives him a shot.

With Cavendish up for the win and in green Deceuninck will be chasing but there’s a chance for the breakaway, for example if Arkéa-Samsic and DSM send a rider up the road then they need not chase which in turn boosts the chances of staying away. But still a small chance.

Mark Cavendish, Wout van Aert
Jasper Philipsen, Nacer Bouhanni, Cees Bol
Colbrelli, Pedersen, Sagan, Matthews, Laporte

Weather: warm and mostly sunny, a top temperature of 28°C. The wind is the interesting bit, forecasts over the last 48 hours have suggested a 30km/h wind which is the rule-of-thumb windspeed for echelons to form. But the latest ones have said it’ll drop and won’t be a factor… take your pick. If it is blowing then the final hour should be more lively.

TV: the start is at 1.10pm and finish is forecast for 5.30pm CEST.

Off on a tangent: today’s stage finish is in Valence, a small city in France and capital of the Drôme department. Until the 1990s it hadn’t hosted the Tour and has done so three times since. For the capital of a départment – there are 101 in France including the overseas ones like Martinique in the French West Indies – this is a relatively small count although Guéret in the Creuse department has only had the Tour once,  mind you it has a quarter of the population of Valence. Much smaller places can and do welcome the Tour. But it’s not for every town nor every mayor. The standard tariff is €70,000 for a stage start and €120,000 for a finish, plus VAT but with a bit of flexibility and increasingly on top of the hosting fee comes all the works needed to remove traffic calming measures… or like today end up having the race finishing on the periphery outside a McDonalds and a Decathlon retail shed where only minor works are needed to tidy up the road and make it wide enough.

83 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 10 Preview”

  1. The minor competitions (KOM and green jersey’s) have ensured that the last few hilly stages have been super fast and actioned packed for the full stage. Perhaps one benefit of having GC almost decided early in the race, is that the competition for other, more minor prizes leads to more exciting stages.

    • Indeed. The KOM competition at Tour de Suisse was a true thriller, too. The polka dot looks exciting, for now – and it probably cost Quintana the stage. Which is the sort of racing dilemma that makes stages even more interesting to watch.

  2. Although a Cavendish, DQ assisted, 33rd. stage win seems the most likely outcome, there are other options… If I’ve understood the fall-out correctly from rest day 1’s media-fest, there seems to be some consternation, in pockets of the media, that perhaps ‘we’ are not witnessing an entirely honest race from ‘our’ current erstwhile race leader. Who, quite correctly, dismissed this insinuation as baseless click-fodder that it is. One only has to consider, as Pogacar mooted, that as the race leader he may well be dope-tested as many as three times per stage. Perhaps today, in retribution for these unfounded attacks, Pogacar will decide to put all his doubters to their conspiratorial bed by single handedly chasing down the break, leading himself out, and then winning the sprint. After all he out-climbs and out-chronos the rest of the pros so why not use this stage’s uncomplicated finale as a test bed for his burgeoning sprinting prowess?
    Other than that I’d quite like to see Colbrelli take the stage; he really has been trying very hard – plus I have a real soft-spot for that Italian RR tricolour outfit and helmet.

    • We don’t know if the insinuation is “baseless click fodder” or not. As for the notion that regular testing confirms innocence, one has only to consider the Armstrong, Aderlass, Puerto, and multiple other cases where the tests were passed, the ABP was satisfactory, yet doping was proven and admitted. Pogacar may well be a super-talented clean rider but passing the doping control sadly does not prove that.

      • Until there is any indication of foul play, all online conjecture about said foul play is nothing more than baseless click fodder.

        • I would argue that the performances we saw on the weekend – beating climbing records in unfavourable conditions, and putting such large margins into (what were expected to be) close competitors – along with close associations with unsavoury individuals, is a pretty solid basis for suspicion.
          Is it evidence enough to convict? Not even close! But given cycling’s history and some of the performances many of us have witnessed in the past, it does – and should – raise questions.

          Unfortunately the internet is a place where legitimate suspicions and questions quickly and easily morph into click fodder and ridiculous conspiracy theories…

          • “Expected to be close competitors”? Come on… ^__^ Have a look at inrng’s preview.

            I’m far from being a Pogi-believer, but the level of competition is a point in his favour. The ITT, *if anything* is more damning, so to say, as ITTs very often are (still, not a definitive point, although notable).

            Low level of rivals also makes climbing records easier, you’re going full gas but without towing anyone, nor needing to accelerate and then slow to take breath and so on.

            However, Pogacar’s performance was outstanding, no doubt. Even so, no way we can say if it’s all or mainly down to doping, as in if he’s got any pharmacochemical *specific advantage*.
            Being the absolute best with an average level of doping (when compared to the majority of top rivals) would produce the same results.

            And having dodgy staff on his team is quite common, not much of a defining factor either.

            The team for now isn’t producing the sort of results you’d expect from systematic team doping (some classic clues? Impressive ITT performance by several riders, for example; or several gregarios having their great days, outclassing most rival captains; or rouleurs working as mountain goats; in different races, various riders from the team might be seen overperforming; and so on). If it’s not team doping, it’s hard to envisage a dedicated political coverage: why wouldn’t they take full advantage of such a situation?

            And if it’s not a case of systematic team doping, nor a direct protection from above (unless it’s specific for Pogi only, which would be peculiar), the impact of the whole doping factor wouldn’t be of such a relevance. Normally, it’s only those sort of situations which do radically change racing values. Otherwise, you can grab one big win or several smaller ones… so to say.
            You don’t see the Horner or Riis or Hesjedal or Landis of this world winning multiple GTs.
            We’ll see how Pogi’s career goes on.

            It’s also possible that the guy’s got nearly exclusive access to a new technology, as it was for ketones during several years. But, again, it would be curious that it’s not being shared through the team. Yet, well, it’s a possibility. In this case, too, we’ll know in a few years time. Quite hard to keep that sort of thing exclusive, with so many ready to pay.

            Anyway, there are very few damning points to discuss, which is why I labelled the most conjectural parts of this debate as “CN clinic material”. Inrng is usually much more down to earth.

            OTOH, Pogi’s known since his teen years as a potential beast; he’s got the notable technical skills to shine in hard Classics, too (cyclists whose potential is mainly down to enhanced physiology struggle in those context, where winning is less determined by pure “engine”); he’s performing decently or even fine also in races which aren’t among his main seasonal objectives, throughout the whole year and without peak form. None of these points prove you’re *not* doping, of course (we’re speaking of pro athletes, come on!), but at least he’s not raising technical red flags.

            You can blame him for being outstanding – just as an outstanding athlete would be without being a lab creation – I wasn’t there, but Hinault 1978 must have been quite a thing, dominating his first two GTs *on the same year* (Tour-Vuelta double, when the Vuelta was in May).
            And you can suspect Pogacar for his dodgy staff… just as the huge majority or WT riders (Lefevere is blaming Bennett for not working with Vanmol, imagine that, ROTFL). Plus, of course, being Slovenian.

            I can’t see much space for any reasoned debate.
            (PS Yes, antidoping is sort of a farce, as always).

      • Yup, passing numerous doping controls does not prove someone is clean, because it is impossible to prove you’re clean. You cannot prove something that does not exist. The insinuations will allways have more weight, because people love to believe them as facts.

        That said: UAE does a terrible communication job. Compared to other teams, they have done nothing to be transparent and open, they have not taken any clear stance against doping and refuse to answer questions. Pogacar cannot help getting these insinuations, because he is the best, but the team makes all of this worse. He’s handling it well for his age, though, probably helped by last years’ experience and the thought of a big paycheck.

    • “Twenty-plus-year career, 500 drug controls worldwide, in and out of competition. Never a failed test. I rest my case.”

      “I have never doped … I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one.”

      “I know, for example, that yesterday, I had three controls in one day – two before the stage and one after. So I think that gives enough weight to prove them wrong.”

      The first two didn’t age well, lets see how the third ages….

      • Lance had not passed every dope test but he was powerful enough to have the system manipulated – and at a time when doping was rife the crime was not so huge ( it was still huge). Hopefully a new culture of non acceptance of doping from Organizers, Sponsors and Cycling Bodies encourage teams down a cleaner route.

        • Always a “what if” had the UCI followed their own rulebook following the 1999 positive for cortisone, how might things have turned out (because there was a positive test but the rulebook wasn’t followed through to the letter).

          • If we’re playing the counterfactual game, how much of Pog’s seemingly superhuman dominance can be attributed to his rivals’ failings? I can easily imagine a scenario with a less brutally crash ridden first week and more effective selection and tactics from Ineos whereby we could still have Rog, Bernal, Thomas & Carapaz scattered behind Pog but still within two minutes. In that event we may have had a little more focus on his excellent performance and less from the tiresome but inevitable ‘winners must be cheating’ brigade.

          • Well, hopefully they stay tough, the Sha’Carri Richardson melodrama suggests that a lot still instinctively want to give the transgressor the benefit of the doubt.

          • Apparently a number of athletes have come out in support of her. They apparently think it ridiculous that she was pulled up for cannabis…because they’ve all done a lot worse and gotten away with it. Ba-boom

      • I’m surprised by how little weight seems to be given to the BioPassport. It’s as though the fans generally don’t have any faith that the BP presents a meaningfully more difficult ‘system’ to beat than whatever you might call came before it. But while I’m sure it’s not perfect, and probably can be gamed in some way, my sense is that it’s probably pretty good at what it does, and at the very least drastically restricts the doping that one might be able to get away with (and surely renders almost impossible the sort of off-the-charts doping that would be required to propel Pog to the type of racing he’s done this week, were he racing dirty). And feeding it ever more data – as with three tests in one day for Pog – will only make it harder or him to game. All of which leads me to dismiss the current speculation. What am I missing?

        • “and surely renders almost impossible the sort of off-the-charts doping that would be required to propel Pog to the type of racing he’s done this week, were he racing dirty”

          Why would it have to be ‘off-the-charts’ doping ? Nobody is suggesting he’s some kind of Riccardo Riccò

        • You sound conflicted.
          But the BP is surely discredited because it’s barely managed to catch anyone, even people known to be doping. It has been gamed to an irrelevance.
          You are right that it probably caps doping effects, but it’s very much limited by it being reliant on a baseline reading. Being young, like Pogacar, and not having a history to form the baseline, means it can be gamed more easily.

        • You are obviously missing the diabolical plot by the Slovenian sporting authorities to begin doping Pogacar at age 9, so that his biopassport wouldn’t reflect abnormalities 13 years later.

        • Lots of non transparent decisions about whom you’re prosecuting or even checking harder versus letting ’em be. Big names of sport scientists who were in the passport – and passport believers, at the beginning – left it because of such situations. If you have a look at those they used to catch, it sometimes had got an appearence of a tool for political pressure or nudging a team (as in “catch the supporting actors to send a message for the big star on the team”) more than anything else.

    • That “Italian RR tricolour outfit” you mention is very reminisent of Gianni Bugno in the early 90s tours — which must be a good thing

    • I suspect a hint of sarcasm in your post but anyway, I’m always puzzled by the idea (seemingly shared by many, including athletes themselves) that athletes suspected of using performance enhancing drugs can prove anyone wrong by …. enhancing their performance even more.

    • I’m unable to read some of the above, despite the irony, for fear of bursting a blood vessel. Instead I’ve read the bits of the internet that support my desire to believe, or at least suspend disbelief.

      Pog is attended to by the exemplary Dr Jeroen Swart and coached by seeming ardent anti-doper Dr Inigo San Millan. He has been a phenom since 11 years old. I rest his case.


  3. Its looks like it only averages 2 % for that last climb but it quite long at 11% so i wonder if the less spritely sprinter teams like bora and greenedge could really smash it to at least blunt Cavendish’s legs or put him further back down the group. And by smash it i mean really really go hard. Considering tomorrow will not likely (understatement) end in sprint they have not to much to lose then just letting Cavendish beat them in a print.
    I imagine any team not DQ going for the green jersey will not help at all chasing a break so i give a break of real quality a good chance of making it.

  4. For me the story of the race so far, with the potential to get even bigger, is Mark Cavendish. It is not only the obvious wins but the way he rode over the weekend. How many years is it since he completed a GT or even a mountainous one week race? Yes he needed help from his team to finish on Sunday but he has to push his own pedals uphill not his team mates. He still has a number of challenges to overcome let alone trying to win some more stages or the jersey but this is shaping up to be one of the most remarkable rides in the history of the Tour. If he pulls it off he will be head & shoulders above what has been a golden generation of British (assuming the Isle of Man counts 🙂 ) cyclists.

    As for today I do wonder if DQS will manage to control things, not sure how much help they will get from other teams.

      • Oh, they just beat Germany. Big deal. Everyone from Bo-jo to my daughter’s friends at school was watching.

        I hope Denmark quash them. 😂😆

      • I can assure you people elsewhere in the UK are not fans of the England football team and a lot of people in England aren’t that bothered about it either

      • Rules out a second SPOTY for Cav – doubtful he’ll join Henry Cooper, Nigel Mansell, Lewis Hamilton and Damon Hill, and when it comes to 3 time winner Andy Murray “Don’t mention the name”!

    • I’m just wondering, on the flat/ter stages where the chances of a breakaway are quite slim anyway and with Cavendish approaching that which shall not be named, who is realistically going to even want to go in and *win* a breakaway?
      Are you risking being damned forever more by the peloton and almost everyone cycling fan outside of Belgium probably as the man who denied that which shall not be named?

      • Wouldn’t you be actually defending who shall not be named’s record by denying Cav the opportunity to break it?

        The Belgiums are probably going to love it. But even they wouldn’t invest too much in it. In a way, people are talking about the record because Cav is close to break it. Otherwise it’s just an entry somewhere on Wikipedia.

  5. What has happened to Campanaerts? I know he’s in my fantasy team but that can’t be the reason he’s so quiet as I’ve also got Cavendish. I’d like to see him in today’s break, and soloing for the line which he crosses in second place to Cavendish.

  6. “The standard tariff is €70,000 for a stage start and €120,000 for a finish, plus VAT but with a bit of flexibility and increasingly on top of the hosting fee comes all the works needed to remove traffic calming measures”
    Hard-to-believe you can buy a TdF start for a mere 70K euros and harder to believe any traffic furniture is actually removed, especially when you can see many of the “speed bumps” and other stuff are far from permanent. They’re often just things laid down and anchored to the road that look easily removeable.
    I’ve ridden/driven out of the start at a Giro d’Italia stage many times and don’t EVER remember seeing any evidence of traffic furniture being temporarily removed, but perhaps LeTour is very different – but the amount of traffic furniture in France they have to avoid makes me wonder.

    • Watch today’s finish, you can see infrastructure on Google Earth that will be removed today. Sometimes whole roundabouts get removed, eg in Privas last year some were worrying about a roundabout in the finish… but when I rode the final kilometres I saw a crew demolishing it “pour le Tour”. The Giro still gets work done too, I saw some of this as well this year, plus both races have a route I like to think you can guess from space because of the amount of fresh black tarmac.

      • “Fresh black tarmac” I get, having seen plenty of it being put down and rolled for La Corsa Rosa. We were doing some mapping of the Colle Fauniera one year a few days before the race was to arrive and had to wait while crews spread and rolled fresh asphalt.
        If they really remove round-a-bouts and other traffic furniture one can only wonder how awful it would be if none of that happened based on the insane amount of stuff they navigate around at present? And then of course there’s the question of why don’t they remove more of it?

    • My understanding is that the roadworks happen months in advance. They don’t leave these things to the last minute. Your description above doesn’t make apparent if your experience is just prior to the races you visit. The process is subtle and unless you are well acquainted with every piece of road you’d likely barely notice the changes – except where the annoying speed bumps disappear for a few months.

      • It depends. I’ve ridden some Giro and Tour stages 1, 2 or 3 days before and seen big roadworks still on. Othertimes it can be a month before but they won’t want to remove traffic calming measures too far in advance.

        • A strategy used by councils hosting Tour Down Under stage finishes has been to replace permanent traffic islands with semi-permanent ones well ahead of the race date. A crew comes out to unbolt them the day before the race, and they are back in promptly afterwards.

          They occasionally prove handy for other purposes, for example the recent road transport of a prefabricated pedestrian/cycle bridge.

  7. The weather forecast for the Valence area looks to be a southerly (Ostro / Libeccio) breeze with a chance of a thunderstorm.
    A headwind?
    If so, that’s not looking good for a breakaway.
    The sprint looks as if it’s on folks!
    Are even the Venti gods favouring Cavendish?

    • They might be shining favourably tomorrow too – afternoon looks to be variable with light / heavy cloud. Any cover that softens the solar furnace of Ventoux will be tipping his odds finishing in the right direction. Of course predicting how things will be up Ventoux more than an hour out when there’s a variable weather system is a bit fanciful!

  8. I don’t know why people are saying that Pog has sucked the interest out of the race because the result is now a foregone conclusion. There’s so much else in play – stage victories, podium places, green jersey, etc. And every one of those contests has an inspiring back story. Who could have predicted that Sonny Cobrelli would try to mount a points challenge to Cav? Who would have backed Cav to win sprint stages and be in serious play for the green jersey? Who would have thought that Ben O’Connor would get a “life changing” (his words) stage victory?

    Bring it on. Vive le Tour.

    • I agree with your comment to some extent. But to counter, the yellow jersey is the big prize and it’s what people tune in to watch. And that race is practically run bar a fall or adverse doping control – though anything can and does happen. To say it’s over is hyperbole, but if things remain as they are it looks like a race at “deux vitesse” (a deliberately loaded term) – Pogacar and everyone else.
      If Pogacar wasn’t there we’d have a pretty interesting race on….

      • Pogacar is racing well beyond the other contenders. But taking the GC as it is this morning, admittedly a flawed approach but it removes conjecture over hypotheticals. If Pogacar wasn’t there, it would still only be a race for 2nd just as right now it’s a race for 3rd.

        The GC being dulled is because of the crashes that took most of the best riders out of GC, in my opinion.

      • If Roglic didn’t crash out, if Bernal would compete, if Ineos would not have had their crashes and their riders in top shape… it’d be a different race and we would not be talking about ‘deux vitesse’. We didn’t last year when Roglic and his team dominated up until the last timetrial and it also never comes up when MvdP, Alaphilippe, WvA or Evenepoel ride away leaving the rest seem amateurs.

      • Mow ’em down in the TT, mountains, and sprints, and hold ’em on the rest day. 🙂

        This is not so much a new Merckx, but more specifically Merckx at the ’69 Tour. Young powerhouse rider taking minutes because he could. Pog should definitely avoid derny racing in the off season.

  9. After Stage 9

    I have included the official team rankings after the rest day for comparison. 6 of the 23 teams have failed to place in the top 6 including Ineos & Movistar.

    45   Deceuninck–Quick-Step BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS 102h 51′ 07” –
    41 Alpecin–Fenix AG2R CITROEN TEAM 103h 09′ 11” + 00h 18′ 04”
    31  Team Bahrain Victorious INEOS GRENADIERS 103h 18′ 40” + 00h 27′ 33”
    21  UAE Team Emirates ASTANA – PREMIER TECH 103h 25′ 08” + 00h 34′ 01”
    15   Team Jumbo–Visma EF EDUCATION – NIPPO 103h 33′ 45” + 00h 42′ 38”
    14 Arkéa–Samsic BORA – HANSGROHE 103h 48′ 13” + 00h 57′ 06”
    10  AG2R Citroën Team JUMBO – VISMA 103h 50′ 18” + 00h 59′ 11”
    10   Team BikeExchange UAE TEAM EMIRATES 103h 57′ 25” + 01h 06′ 18”
    9   Bora–Hansgrohe MOVISTAR TEAM 104h 04′ 20” + 01h 13′ 13”
    9   Groupama–FDJ TREK – SEGAFREDO 104h 06′ 06” + 01h 14′ 59”
    7  Trek–Segafredo
    6  Astana–Premier Tech
    4   EF Education–Nippo
    4   Israel Start-Up Nation
    3   Cofidis
    3 B&B Hotels p/b KTM
    2   Team DSM

    Over the last or so I’ve come to the belief that the Team competition doesn’t reflect the race. At present it is based on a team’s best 3 riders times for each stage. This leaves much of emphasis on the mountain stages. What I would prefer a points system that treats each stage equally regardless of whether the stage is a time trial, flat, intermediate, mountain or even a team time trial. The reason for this is that cycling is a team sport where the individual gets all the credit. I am thinking of a sprint train or a mountain train have the same effect in working for the teams objective of the day.

    I would love to see a points system based on the F1 during the 1990s. 1st -10pts, 2nd-6pts, 3rd-4pts, 4th-3pts, 5th-2pts & 6th-1pt. Each stage has the same points. It is only the top 6 positions because it puts the emphasis on finishing very well rather than just being consistent. Plus it follows the bonus seconds for the first 3 in each stage. I will try to update the list each day to show how it could work.
    This was inspired in part by Inrng’s take on team performance over the course of a year.

  10. Legit question. With the 3 tests in one day thing…is that normal? Does that mean he is tested when he gets up, before the stage starts and after it finishes?

  11. Thank you INRNG as always for all the informative posts.

    My instinct is that all the fun of the first week will lead to a slightly less exciting final two weeks but I’m not sure that’s an issue – although I do question how much of the ‘fun’ everyone speaks of was down to crashes and riders injuring themselves, which I’m not so much of a fan of.

    Overall, Cav’s record bid is what’s keeping me excited now Pog’s established his overwhelming dominance. Looking forward to today and if Cav can nab the record and Bouhanni get a single TDF win for his years of trying I’ll be happy with this edition.

    I’m also not keen on accusing new riders/countries of doping without real evidence, as it’s just hearsay and armchair critics ranting. Even if it is hard not to notice comments coming from De Gent, Merlier and others about their power outputs compared to previously as well as a few suspicious people close to Pog – I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt till people who know more give watertight arguments to the contrary.

    Till then, I’m looking for arguments outside of doping – like whether the influx of youth based on teams following stats more closely has had a sudden and dramatic effect on pace. And similarly whether riders like Pog would have had these capabilities were they unleashed on the peloton as young in previous generations. Then there’s shorter stages, better training, new recovery methods etc etc.

    I think Pog seems like a likeable young guy, and similar to Froome I find it hard to believe in the current climate he dopes, but who knows. I just hope Bernal or A.N.Other can challenge him otherwise the coming years may be a little dry.

    Till then, Go Cav!

    • In any other walk of life I would agree with what you are saying, in any civilised society you have to say innocent until proven guilty. But, I think you could put forward a good argument that cycling is not a civilised society given its history. So you are right, in a way, to say that you have to wait for hard evidence and watertight arguments. But you also have to be aware that these will most likely never arrive. I would say that cycling fans, or indeed fans of any athletic sport, have a right to be cynical. There is undoubtedly smoke – certain teams being very good, the general pace of the racing, times up climbs, the climbing performances of some larger riders, some of the background people involved etc etc. So I think its fair to discuss whether we think there is a fire without being accused of being a CyclingNews dwelling lunatic.

      • I fully agree and definitely count myself in the skeptics’ camp (Pogacar’s ride on Saturday reminded me of Landis 2006), but also agree with oldDave and hope (perhaps naively) that there are other factors behind Pog’s superlative performance. For sure it takes the shine off the GC fight, but too often in GTs we insist on the result being settled (and the race being a boring procession), only for the unexpected to shake things up later on. I hope there are some happy surprises to come

      • When wasn’t that sort of smoke around in the last 30 years or so? (Not that before that they were “clean”, the pharma impact was just minor because of available technology).
        Where can the debate bring us with such absolute generalities? Pro athletes are doping in a pro sport? Agreed. Next?
        Is that *the reason why* any of them makes a difference (when your description actually fits a context of widely spread or even endemic doping)? Errrr… suddenly, it’s so hard to say.

    • Could be different now that cav is ‘the man’… DQS will need a good train and the rest of the sprinters will be fighting for Cavs wheel.

      If the likes of WVA/Colbrelli take a long run at it and cav ends up towing philipsen/bouhanni in pursuit of could be interesting.

    • Even though Cav is now the favourite to win the sprints and has the best leadout by far, there are still teams whose best chance of a stage win on these profiles, is to setup a sprint…Arkea, Alpecin-Fenix, DSM etc – they are still more likely to win a stage by setting up a sprint for Bouhanni, Philipsen, Bol, than by trying to infiltrate a breakaway with other riders.

  12. You mentioned that the last Valence stage finish was an uphill one – seems a shame that the Tour didn’t try to replicate it for this year. There have been the Alaphilippe/MDVP-type finishes and a series of classic drag-strip sprint finishes, so I’m surprised they didn’t put something in as a Sagan/Demare/Colbrelli type finish for some variety – does the Tour or the local council decide on the precise finish location?

    • It’s rare for the locals to decide, usually down to Gouvenou and his team. Today is a bit frustrating to see the Tour pass the Bauges, Chartreuse and especially the Vercors mountains but without venturing into them and instead sticking to the valley roads. Some kind of medium mountain route ending in Valence would have been interesting between the rest day and Ventoux but this year’s route seems like a reset, back to more sprints and time trials.

  13. Just saw an extraordinary stat on PCS – the number of riders within 5 minutes of the GC leader after nine stages ranges from 10 to 45 from 2006 to 2020. The average is well over 20 riders within 5 minutes, with the median at 18. Having one rider within five minutes is obviously an huge outlier.

    I’m not interested in engaging in the doping angle, but it’s clearly an extraordinary TdF GC race.

    • The courses have been designed in recent years to try and group everyone together and have the maximum suspense. This year’s route is different, a more traditional one with time trials and mountain stages to space apart the riders more but these have come a bit earlier. But the main factor for me is there were few GC contenders to start with and some of those have crashed out, many of the others have sat up deliberately in order to have room to attack. Here’s my GC picks before the race with those who have crashed/DNF deleted:

      Primož Roglič, Tadej Pogačar
      Richard Carapaz, Geraint Thomas
      Porte, Kelderman, Alaphilippe, Lopez, Mas, TGH, Uràn

      Alaphilippe hasn’t crashed, more sat up but is out of the GC too. The result is we should see waves of attacks tomorrow because of the number of riders aiming for the stage win tomorrow and big groups going clear can be hard to control. But UAE won’t have to do it all themselves, it’s likely EF and Ag2r lend support as they have an interest to protect the status quo.

      • I get what you’re saying, and it’s definitely a shame that Roglic crashed and Bernal didn’t aim for the TdF instead of the Giro. Speaking of which, the Giro had an ITT (shorter than here I think, tho) and a mountain stage for stage 9 (which Bernal won, along with a less demanding climbing stage on which Bernal took second), and after 9 stages Bernal was leading but had 23 riders within 5 minutes. And I’m a little skeptical that the mountain stages we’ve had so far are all that difficult when a sprinter like Sonny Colbrelli can take third, and it seems like there have been plenty of flat stages that should substitute for rest days for the GC riders. I suppose it must be that several early stages have been lumpy and ridden very hard, plus the large number of massive crashes that for many riders were quite hurtful, so even though many stages don’t seem that crazy difficult, many have been ridden likes classics races and lots of people are riding hurt.

  14. Probably an unpopular opinion, but does it really matter if Pog, or any other cyclist is on the gear? Does it lessen the entertainment? If Pog is doped then you can bet your backside almost everyone else is too. I find it so tedious that every time we have the Tour whoever is in yellow is “obviously” doping. Come to terms with the fact they are almost certainly doping and then enjoy the spectacle.

    • Yes it matters. Yes it lessens the entertainment. Tell you what, you come to terms with the idea that there are people who find your “who cares, it doesn’t matter” attitude tedious, or leave off telling others what they need to come to terms with.

    • OTOH I find: “I find it so tedious that every time we have the Tour whoever is in yellow is “obviously” doping. Come to terms with the fact they are almost certainly doping and then enjoy the spectacle.” really tedious. It’s so easy to dismissively claim they’re all doped despite evidence to the contrary or the efforts of the authorities to prevent it.
      Same response to you as those who somehow KNOW Pogacar is doped, put up or STFU!

    • I think it matters, this is not theatre show or a cartoon but real people’s health is involved. As we’ll get reminded tomorrow, anti-doping rules were introduced not to level the playing field but to stop riders from harm, death even.

      • IR is right of course. The WADA, the UCI and teams should try thier hardest for clean, safe and fair sport. That might be difficult to achieve but what’s the alternative: anything’s allowed but with almost no sponsors and no sane riders? Things were wild in the nineties and, while not perfect, are probably better now. That’s thanks to many people caring.

        Philipsen seemed to have the speed today but was slow starting. His team will be looking at how to remedy that.

      • Yes I understand that argument, but on the other hand being an athlete is not a healthy lifestyle and there is an argument that doping under proper medical supervision would actually be better for the athlete’s longtime health. Like I said I know it’s not a popular opinion and I’m ok with that.

  15. What is up with Colbrelli finishing #3 and a minute before Quintana on stage 9? Is Colbrelli really a sprinter, or more of a hybrid? The Anglophone press isn’t talking about him much, and I’m wondering if SC is a bigger deal in Italy.

      • Are you saying that the Italian champion is always both a climber and a sprinter? Alaphilippe is the world champion and he didn’t finish in the top three on stage 9, nor is he known as a sprinter. Vincenzo Nibali was the Italian champ but we’ve never seen him in the sprints, either.

  16. Congratulations Mr Ring for naming the 1/2/3 today as your first 3 picks yesterday.
    Now if you could just repeat the task for Malaucène tomorrow, my online betting account would be most grateful.

    • 1/2/3… and 4 as it happens.

      Tomorrow will be a lot harder, expect a huge fight to get in the breakaway which makes it hard to know who gets away, let alone who can win as just making the break costs a lot.

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