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Tour de France Stage 18 Preview

The final mountains stage of the Tour and a 129km “sprint” over the Tourmalet to Luz Ardiden.

Stage 17 Review: Quickstep closed down the race at the start, a roadblock to stop any big moves going clear and so a small group went clear without much hope of winning the stage. From this Anthony Perez and Dorian Godon started the final climb of the Col du Portet with four minutes’ lead, insufficient on a 50 minute ascension.

The GC riders began to crack in reverse order with 9th overall Guillaume Martin the first to fold, then 8th overall Enric Mas, then Alexey Lutsenko in 7th overall. Tadej Pogačar launched the first of several moves once they hit the “new” section of road which blew apart the GC group and the prime effect was to help Jonas Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz, only they could follow him but they kept looking back, busy keeping one eye on the yellow jersey and the other on rivals in the top-10 being distanced. Pogačar kept probing, Carapaz kept grimacing and stayed third wheel all the time, as if he was going to blow next. Only right at the tunnel by the top he attacked but Pogačar got him and in the final few hundred metres Vingegaard got back to reform the trio. Pogačar launched again to take the stage, a validation of his maillot jaune. Behind David Gaudu finished fourth and Ben O’Connor made a late attack to take 14 seconds on rivals, not much but who would have bet he’d be in this company three weeks ago? Uràn was the relative loser of the day, falling two places on GC and now 1m34s behind Carapaz, probably too much for Libourne time trial and, again, for all Ineos’s talk of bold tactics, they’ve been working to land him on the podium.

The Route: just 129.7km and a dash out of Pau to the Tourmalet from Campan but it’s not the direct route, instead it’s via some foothills behind Pau in order to stir the race up a bit and help provoke an early breakaway before returning to the usual road to Lourdes and onwards via the small climb at Loucroup and the the valley road to the intermediate sprint. Mark Cavendish leads the points competition and Michael Matthews has been closing in but if the Australian wins and Cavendish doesn’t score, Matthews still can’t take the green jersey. However Deceuninck-Quickstep won’t want him getting any closer otherwise a puncture or a touch of wheels and the jersey could change shoulders. So watch to see the tactics here, if DQS let a ride without Matthews and Colbrelli float away or if they chase everything down again so Cavendish can score more here. After the sprint it’s a short ride up the valley to the foot of the Col du Tourmalet.

The Tourmalet is a long and steady climb with few secrets, 17.1km at 7.3% and regular for the most part and steepest towards the top. The descent is the same, long and regular. Once the descent is over the route takes a small detour via the Pont Napoléon (“Napoleon bridge”) rather than crossing the Gavarnie directly, a small respite up and down the valley between the descent and the final climb.

The Finish: the climb to Luz Ardiden is 13.3km at 7.4% and a typical Pyrenees ski station road, wide enough to drive a bus up but the slope is irregular in places and the top is a car park and a ski lift. The HC label here is generous to put it mildly but as ever this is subjective rating applied by the race rather than an independent measure of difficulty. Anyway it’s uphill all the way to the line with six hairpins in the final kilometre but they’re all nice and wide.

The Contenders: it’s breakaway or bust for the mountains competition today, Tadej Pogačar leapt up to second in the competition ahead of Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) and Michael Woods (Israel) so they and competition leader Wout Poels (Bahrain) know they need to get in the breakaway and contest the stage win to have a chance of winning the prize, once again today’s HC-category climb has double points. But this means getting in the day’s move and building up enough of a lead in the first 70km of the stage, a tall order.

Otherwise who to pick between Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates), Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Richard Caparaz (Ineos)? Pogačar makes the obvious pick but he’s gone from winning solo to outsprinting rivals and today he doesn’t have to follow every move, he doesn’t even have to win although we’ll see the cannibal appetite or not which leaves an opening for Carapaz now he’s distanced some GC rivals. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) is going well and not a GC threat but how to win, perhaps an attack on the Tourmalet, home to his team mate Bruno Armirail?

Tadej Pogačar
Richard Carapaz, Jonas Vingegaard
Gaudu, Quintana, Woods, Poels, Konrad, Alaphilippe

Weather: some sunshine but a cool 20°C in the valleys

TV: a quick one, the stage starts at 1.50pm and finish is forecast for 5.30pm CEST.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Harry Thursday, 15 July 2021, 6:14 am

    Thanks for this, INRNG. Carapaz’ grimacing was a good bit of comedy.
    One detail: is Uran fully 2:34 behind Carapaz? I thought the gap was closer to 1.5 min.

    • trody87 Thursday, 15 July 2021, 7:28 am

      Wanted to make the same comment, it’s a gap of 1 minute 34 seconds, actually.

      • uhj Thursday, 15 July 2021, 9:18 am

        I have not checked the communique, but he was fined for illegal positioning. Perhaps a time penalty was imposed too?

        • The Inner Ring Thursday, 15 July 2021, 9:35 am

          No, just a typo and fixed now.

          • Andrew C Thursday, 15 July 2021, 10:27 am

            It still shows 2m34s for me; not sure why. Please delete this comment if I’m wrong, or once fixed.

          • Mercx Thursday, 15 July 2021, 10:37 am

            Dude, if he said he fixed it, he fixed it.

          • Tacitus Kilgore Thursday, 15 July 2021, 3:50 pm

            Eddy, you’ve been awfully touchy since a certain sprinter equalled your record. Chill, brah, chill

  • Somers Thursday, 15 July 2021, 6:29 am

    Today is the last chance for Cav to miss the time cut. Is there’s any chance BE and Bahrain might join forces to drop Cav on the early cat 4 climb and then go all out to the base of the climbs?

    • Ecky Thump Thursday, 15 July 2021, 7:36 am

      These short stages are inevitably full-on, aren’t they?
      Everyone has a potential piece of the pie at stake here, breakaway, Green and Polka Jerseys contenders, stage win and GC.
      Quick Step could quite easily get swamped here if they try to impose their will on the peloton like yesterday. It’s just not going to be possible I feel,
      Perhaps it would be better for Cavendish and his cohorts to just focus on making the cut, because the pace is going to be quick. No mention of any wind in IR’s weather summary, but the headwind was helpful for him yesterday too.
      Cav looks strong though, he’s got himself in good shape obviously, and I have every faith he’s going to get to Paris and go for the record.

      • DaveRides Thursday, 15 July 2021, 8:20 am

        Cav will be assisted by a more generous time cut table on stage 18 than it was on stage 17.

        Stage 17 used the coefficient 4 (very difficult stages) table with a time limit of 7% for winner’s average speed ≤30.0km/h up to 18% for winner’s average speed >40.0km/h

        Stage 18 uses coefficient 5 (very difficult short stages) which starts at 10% for winner’s average speed ≤29.0km/h and goes up to 18% for winner’s average speed >36.0km/h

        • Tom J Thursday, 15 July 2021, 9:22 am

          My estimate is about 36 minutes today, based on a stage winning time of 3h45′. I think the danger point is the two little lumps at the start – get dropped there and you could be in trouble. If you get over those and are still in the main group at the foot of the Tourmalet, you are probably OK.

        • StevhanTI Thursday, 15 July 2021, 1:59 pm

          He’ll also be assisted by four or five powerhouse riders to shelter him on the flat and pace him on the climbs. Not to mention that the whole team will be on the front of the pack to filter the breaks. Until the foot of the Tourmalet any break is a no-hope effort. After that, let’s hope it’s going to be as wild as it can get…

      • Octogenarian Thursday, 15 July 2021, 9:27 am

        “Everyone has a potential piece of the pie at stake here”

        And the conflict of strategies is what makes this stage so fiendishly difficult to predict. The potential for unexpected outcomes is huge.

        I you are a Cav supporter, you wonder how he and DQS can reconcile the aim of staying inside the time limit and not letting Matthews get uncomfortably close – although Inrng’s point holds. Cav is pretty much clear barring accidents even if Matthews makes gains.

        • Canocola Thursday, 15 July 2021, 10:26 am

          I assume DQS either let a break go with a relatively short leash so that the pace isn’t insanely high for the first half of the stage and Cavendish doesn’t start climbing too far behind, or just keep Cavendish up there and ensure they can use the whole of the 35 minutes or whatever as time loss on the climbs.

          Cavendish has been climbing pretty well though – he’s dropping off surprisingly late, and often at his own volition. I suspect he’d be hard to drop on the early climbs, at least sufficiently to prevent him getting back on.

          • Andrew C Thursday, 15 July 2021, 10:31 am

            He had plenty of time in hand yesterday, over seven minutes I believe. I presume he would have been taking it fairly easy once he knew there was no danger of missing the cutoff, and so will have a little more in the tank if a hard effort is needed today.

      • CA Thursday, 15 July 2021, 1:40 pm

        Cav has been amazing this year, showing the world that old guys can still compete!

  • Augie March Thursday, 15 July 2021, 6:37 am

    Great riding by O’Connor, he and Vingegaard have been the real revelations of this Tour. Be interesting to see which of Poels, Woods or Quintana tries to make the breakaway, if none can get up the road then Pogačar can probably add the polka dot jersey to his yellow and white ones.

    • Jerome Wigger Thursday, 15 July 2021, 9:27 am

      I noticed this too, it’ll be really disappointing after such a see saw battle for the poker dots if pogacar manages to swoop in the last two MTF stages and take it even if he has been the best climber in the race.

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 15 July 2021, 9:37 am

      Impressive by O’Connor, slight surprise they picked Durbridge over him for the space freed up by Haig but there must be reasons.

      • Augie March Thursday, 15 July 2021, 12:04 pm

        Yeah, no idea but I guess more informed perspectives than ours had a look all the relevant data points. Durbridge is a reliable support rider but also someone who might be able to power away from a break, or perhaps it’s rather that he’s a known quantity so was always on the reserve list while O’Connor wasn’t really on the radar of the selectors. As with all things we will only be able to comment on the wisdom or not of this decision after Tokyo.

      • DaveRides Thursday, 15 July 2021, 5:11 pm

        SBS commentators were saying during tonight’s stage that O’Connor was offered the spot but declined it.

        The AusCycling press release says “In addition to this a number of riders, including Ben O’Connor, have prioritised their Tour de France ambitions over the Olympic Games, which is completely understandable. Therefore, we have selected riders available who can provide world-class support on what is an extremely challenging hilly Olympic road race course profile.”

        I reckon Durbridge provides better balance to the team anyway. It’s too far from the big climb to the finish to rely on a climber to get the job done.

        • The Inner Ring Thursday, 15 July 2021, 6:10 pm

          Seems O’Connor really wants a big rest over more travel and racing, he deserves it.

  • TJ Thursday, 15 July 2021, 7:36 am

    Tiny typo, Tourmalet is 7.3% not 7.3km. Thanks, as ever, for all that you do.

  • Ecky Thump Thursday, 15 July 2021, 7:50 am

    Pogacar is one bad muthaaa.
    I enjoy ITV4’s Tour coverage and especially David Millar’s machine gun Machiavellian insights as the action unfolds but I’m feeling he’s over-analysing Pogacar’s intentions here.
    He seems slightly perplexed at Pogacar’s aggression on the front.
    Perhaps Mr Millar has spent too much of his youth in the peloton bubble and not enough time in the pub on a Saturday night?
    Because Pogacar’s bullish and brash confidence seem a natural enough trait to me for a young man.
    If you’re dressed in yellow, and feeling Super Bad, you would, because you can.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egktYd63wEQ

  • mendip5000 Thursday, 15 July 2021, 8:05 am

    @INRNG’S comment about the categorisation of Luz Ardiden as HC has me wondering which Pyrenean ascents would justify that rating, freed of their context in a stage.

    • Digahole Thursday, 15 July 2021, 8:38 am

      How about Lac de Cap-du-Long for a theoretical entry?

      15km or so up to ~2200m altitude at around 8% with the steepest bits at the top. And probably the most spectacular col in the Pyrenees with beautiful mini switchbacks and views on the way up over the forested valley and Lac d’Oédon. Never used by the Tour for its national park status, but a must if you ride the Pyrenees.

      • PaulG Thursday, 15 July 2021, 9:12 am

        +1

    • Clive Thursday, 15 July 2021, 9:27 am

      Along the same theme as Lac de Cap-de-Long, Cirque de Troumouse – long and irregular once you leave the road to Gavarnie then very steep for the last 2km and stunning at the top. Both are, I suspect, too remote for a Tour finish though.

      Of climbs in the French Pyrenees that the Tour has done, the Tourmalet, Portet, Hautacam, Port de Bales, Pailheres and Plateau de Beille are probably all harder. But some of them only just, and that isn’t very many

      • The Inner Ring Thursday, 15 July 2021, 9:51 am

        I’d add the Col de la Pierre Saint Martin to the list too, if only for the length but it does have a middle section of roughly 10km at close to 10%.

        Cap Long and Gavarnie are in parks and for preservation taking the race in with the crowds, the infrastructure hasn’t been done but they are exploring ways to try this by having a “lite” finish line set up but they always seem to be reviewing this rather than doing it.

      • mendip5000 Thursday, 15 July 2021, 2:44 pm

        Digahole – I agree; I loved the Lac de Cap-de-Long and all the more for the fact there was no cafe at the top!

        Thanks Clive – Nice list.

        Today’s climb of the Tourmalet is the least desirable side, as you have to spend more time looking at La Mongie when climbing…

  • Frood Thursday, 15 July 2021, 8:10 am

    I kind of understand the logic of the extra points for the HC summit finishes but it totally dwarves the rest of the mountains competition. If Pogacar really wanted it, I think he could win it outright almost purely by dint of winning these two stages (obviously a great achievement and easier said than done).

    The other contenders have been slogging away for the last two weeks, picking up miserly scores even for cat 1 and 2 climbs, so I wonder if they feel a bit bitter (or even a bit foolish) when the yellow jersey can swoop in and grab the maillot pois off the back of a couple of stage wins. It seems too skewed to me, though another way of looking at it is that Pog is almost certainly the best climber in the race.

    I realise the green jersey is also weighted towards the flatter stages, but it would feel a bit off if the champs-elysees was worth double, for example.

    • Barnaby Friday, 16 July 2021, 12:54 am

      The Green Jersey isn’t the ‘sprinter’s jersey’, per se- it’s the consistency prize, or at least, that’s how it was envisaged. The best rider across a variety of terrain.
      Likewise, the Mountains Jersey should be about being the best pure climber. Think about how hard it is to get into some of these early breaks – a pure climber often doesn’t stand a chance to get away on the flats.

      However, the sprinter’s category does tend to favor not just the winners, but the ones who consistently place and also get the intermediate points. Pog hasn’t needed to get ANY intermediate points, thanks to the two HC MTFs.

  • Larry T Thursday, 15 July 2021, 8:19 am

    “…which Pyrenean ascents would justify that rating, freed of their context in a stage?”
    Isn’t context in a stage a key component of the points awarded towards the climber’s jersey? I don’t understand why so many get worked up about a 1 or HC rating as they seem to be totally subjective based on the stage that goes over them. Someone with more time probably can dig up an example of the same climb being rated differently depending on the year and stage it was ridden over?
    I remember endless, boring arguments over dinner about this back-in the 1990’s when we followed LeTour with huge groups of cyclotourists. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

    • Ian Thursday, 15 July 2021, 12:45 pm

      Why am I not surprised that you were involved in endless, boring arguments?

      • Larry T Thursday, 15 July 2021, 1:44 pm

        Sorry to clue you in Ian, but I was NOT involved in the endless, boring arguments, but as a tour guide employed by the company I didn’t have much choice but to sit through them if I wanted to eat!

  • RQS Thursday, 15 July 2021, 8:37 am

    “The Tourmalet is a long and steady climb with few secrets, 17.1km at 7.3km and regular for the most part and steepest towards the top“. Should it be 7.3%? Please zap

  • Clive Thursday, 15 July 2021, 8:46 am

    Echoing a couple of views above and doing some sums yesterday evening, if Pogacar wins the stage today then Poels needs to be first over the Tourmalet and finish 7th or above to stay in the jersey. Given how much the competition for the polka dots has enlivened the race this year this seems a little unfair. Clearly Pogacar is the best climber but then in almost all GTs the same can be said for the winner, the point of the climbers jersey is to have an alternative competition not to just re reward the overall winner.

    On a separate note, I really hope that the weather at the top of Luz Ardiden is good today, because the hairpins create a really good natural stadium in the last km or so.

    • Richard S Thursday, 15 July 2021, 9:10 am

      It’s because a few years ago everyone moaned that the winner of the mountains competition was always some lowly French guy you’d never heard of who finished 24th 40 minutes down on the winner, but was sweeping up points in breakaways. It was considered that if the winner was the best climber and winning all the summit finishes then they should win that jersey too. To be honest, since the reduction in time trial kilometres leading to the best climbers competing for GC the climbers jersey has become a bit redundant. And as Inrng has mentioned, with GC contenders getting ever younger the white jersey ceases to have any real point. A shake may be due.

      • Larry T Thursday, 15 July 2021, 10:13 am

        Yep, ditch the white jersey and replace it with a GRAY one for over-35 riders. Give Thomas, Froome, Nibali, etc. something to fight with Valverde over!

        • plurien Thursday, 15 July 2021, 10:42 am

          Larry, you’re on to something there!
          But seriously, this edition now serves up a daily game of chess for each jersey and it’s great. Wouldn’t change a thing.
          Could maybe tweak the team competition to give it a tiny bit more prominence. TTT added on to an ITT day of stages would be interesting ( for us armchair heroes ).

          • Tom Thursday, 15 July 2021, 2:00 pm

            If there’s a daily game of chess for the yellow jersey then Pogačar is playing with two queens.

        • Clive Thursday, 15 July 2021, 11:31 am

          I would genuinely love this. I also think it’d draw in the fans more than the white jersey, there’s something more relatable in a way about old war horses battling it out one more time.

          • DJW Thursday, 15 July 2021, 3:46 pm

            Nice idea. It could even influence team’s recruitment policies. A daily appearance on the podium for far less than the salary of a green jersey contender. 24 riders 35 and over on the start line this year with some interesting names.

        • KevinR Thursday, 15 July 2021, 2:23 pm

          I like this idea a lot Larry. What would you call the jersey (other than a colour)?

          • Manda Wicks Thursday, 15 July 2021, 2:32 pm

            The Maillot des Maitres?

          • Chriski Thursday, 15 July 2021, 4:16 pm

            The Maillot des Mamils has a certain (inner) ring to it?

        • Nick Thursday, 15 July 2021, 7:27 pm

          Like it. For what it’s worth, Valverde would be leading this Maillot des Mamils, with Fuglsang second and Porte third. Porte’s only 1.55 behind Fuglsang, can he get that on the time trial?

          Cav is the lanterne gris et rouge.

        • RQS Thursday, 15 July 2021, 8:12 pm

          How about a black and white polka dot jersey for the rider who has been on the front of the peloton (replicating bug splatter)?

          • RQS Thursday, 15 July 2021, 8:12 pm

            Longest

  • DJW Thursday, 15 July 2021, 9:19 am

    I had to wonder at Arkea-Samsic wasting a third of thier three-man team over the first 100km yesterday for no realistic purpose.

  • inabstracto Thursday, 15 July 2021, 9:29 am

    According to Poland’s most narcissistic cycling blogger Kwiatkowski formed the grupetto on the first climb because he was targeting today’s stage. So you may give Kwiato five chainrings straight away.

  • RQS Thursday, 15 July 2021, 9:47 am

    Interesting. Kwiato’s Strava post read something like “one day closer to retirement”. So I think there’s a difference of opinion there, or maybe Kwiato is bluffing like Carapaz…

    • inabstracto Thursday, 15 July 2021, 10:17 am

      That one to me seemed more like a description of a rather uneventful ride as opposed to stages in which he was assigned to lift the tempo on a designed climb or protect Carapaz from crosswind / turbulent sprint finishes. Especially considering he was riding alongside Cavendish who definitely has an eye on retirement ;).

  • Colin N Thursday, 15 July 2021, 10:22 am

    Stage 17

    Total
    75   Deceuninck–Quick-Step
    49 Alpecin–Fenix
    47   Team Jumbo–Visma
    41  Team Bahrain Victorious
    36   Bora–Hansgrohe
    34  UAE Team Emirates
    27  Trek–Segafredo
    18   Team BikeExchange
    18 Arkéa–Samsic
    15   Groupama–FDJ
    15  Movistar Team
    12  AG2R Citroën Team
    12  Astana–Premier Tech
    12   EF Education–Nippo
    7   Israel Start-Up Nation
    6   Cofidis
    5  Ineos Grenadiers
    5 B&B Hotels p/b KTM
    4   Lotto–Soudal
    2   Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux
    2   Team DSM
    0  Team Qhubeka Assos
    0 Team TotalEnergies

    Over the last year 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.

  • William Richard Chorley Thursday, 15 July 2021, 10:39 am

    I just wish to say how much pleasure I get in watching the Tour de France each year; this year I have reported, in outline, the stage result and the top 10 G.C. placings on my ‘Facebook’ page which has been well received by my ‘followers’ some of whom for various reasons are unable to access ‘le Tour’ but wish to know the outcome of each day’s racing. I end by ‘saluting’ every rider; their determination to keep going after heavy ‘spills’ is exemplary.

  • BA's Mohawk Thursday, 15 July 2021, 10:44 am

    Favourite duo of the Tour – Tourmalet and Ardiden. Ardiden, in particular, with it’s lack of traffic, views on a clear day and the shallow (ish) grades make for some lovely riding. Be good to see some attacking on the Tourmalet and hairy decending down to Luz.

    It’s been a while since i’ve been to the Pyrenees, usually camping at Camping Toy in Luz, must go back soon…

  • David Thursday, 15 July 2021, 10:47 am

    Just seen that the Bahrain Victorious hotel was raided by the police last night, sigh.

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 15 July 2021, 11:06 am

      A story to follow. Who knows? Police and judicial investigations can catch as many dopers as WADA/UCI testing. But they can also go nowhere, eg the gendarme bust of Quintana’s hotel room and the post-Tour custody last year made for big headlines but the story of the case going nowhere over the winter didn’t. Time will tell if this is a clever move by the gendarmes or a fishing exercise.

      For all the talk about people in the UAE team with baggage, Bahrain arguably has more.

      • Felix Thursday, 15 July 2021, 11:45 am

        I welcome the raid, whether based on real intelligence or as a fishing exercise, as another means of giving potential dopers pause for thought.

        As to Bahrain, they are certainly on a hot streak of form this year..

      • Anonymous Thursday, 15 July 2021, 1:34 pm

        I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to suggest that a police raid on the yellow jersey team would be undesirable.

    • jc Thursday, 15 July 2021, 11:49 am

      I hope this is all based on some real evidence not the various anonymous whinging from (allegedly) French teams after the Giro and Dauphine.

      • CA Thursday, 15 July 2021, 5:08 pm

        I think the police’s comments mentioned “suspicion” of illegal activities. There did not seem to be any reference to direct evidence or anything concrete. How strong the suspicion was, we’ll never know because they clearly didn’t find anything real or else Bahrain would not have started the race today.

  • Barry James Thursday, 15 July 2021, 10:50 am

    Of the elite mountain men, one who has not fired a shot is Lopez. A couple of half hearted efforts but nothing really. This is his last chance to salvage something. A stage win perhaps.

  • RJMD Thursday, 15 July 2021, 12:32 pm

    I think the evidence is this year’s performances by Bahrain’s riders. Everyone’s tired after yesterday so a breakaway win is my guess today.

  • CA Thursday, 15 July 2021, 4:15 pm

    Tactical dunce award continues to be the toughest fought competition in this Tour. Why is Ineos putting the train on the front? Protecting Carapaz’s 3rd place from what, exactly? Uran is safely in the bunch. Besides, they need to fight the men in front of him, not behind. Stick Ineos’ train immediately behind whatever bunch UAE can muster and watch the UAE riders pull the peloton (and promptly burn all their matches). Isn’t that the logical plan? UAE/Pogacar needs to be on the front 90% of the stage.

    • cp Thursday, 15 July 2021, 5:31 pm

      To get more time on Uran before the TT? If that was the goal, it worked.

      Or maybe the goal was to secure third place in the overall and on the stage second day running? Reminds me of my daughter’s soccer team, whose ambitions always seemed to be to win the consolation game in the tournaments…

      • CA Thursday, 15 July 2021, 5:53 pm

        For Ineos to shoot for any spot other than 1st is a failure – imagine Mercedes being happy with Lewis finishing 2nd or England being happy with runner-up (sorry, too soon?). Better to say if Djokovic came second at Wimbledon. For him, 1st is the only option.

        Anyways, taking their strategy at face value – it didn’t necessarily work better than fighting for 1st would have. My strategy would have been make UAE lead over Tourmalet/Ardiden. Then part way up, either a) the remaining Ineos team launches a vicious attack or b) Carapaz attacks and the top Ineos domestiques mark Pogacar’s wheel. These strategies would have hurt Uran in the same way.

        Congrats to your daughter’s soccer team – I wouldn’t judge their efforts in the same way, unless she is a child prodigy. Even then having fun is the name of the game so hopefully she will love it regardless how high she goes with it.

        • cp Thursday, 15 July 2021, 6:27 pm

          No judgment on my part of my kid. It was her coach, plus all the other teams were juiced so 3rd was like first! (Just kidding; I could not care less how her team did in soccer and it was years ago. It was just a good analogy.)

          I didn’t watch the whole stage, just the final climbs–how would your proposed strategy have worked? How could they compel UAE to ride? Would that not have meant they were assuming Pogacar would make the team ride to get the stage? Genuine question.

          • CA Thursday, 15 July 2021, 7:13 pm

            Understood – if I was Ineos or JV, I would refuse to put my team in front of UAE, it’s that simple. Each day as the stage progressed, Ineos should line up BEHIND Carapaz and Carapaz glues himself to Pogacar’s wheel. Or, let Vinegaard in there too. But, absolutely under no circumstances should Ineos pull the bunch.

            In any other stage race, the leader’s team has to pull the bunch around. Only on sprint stages would another team take control, but only after the leader’s team led for most the day.

            Then, on a mountain stage, Ineos’ domestiques will be fresher than UAE’s. Absolutely, 100%, they are fresher. So, let’s apply this to today’s stage:

            ~ UAE has been forced to keep the break in check all day long – from the moment the break took off, up Tourmalet, down Tourmalet and start of Ardiden
            ~ with 30 minutes left of Ardiden, how many riders does UAE have left? Have they been able to keep the break to within 5-minutes? Is Pogacar likely on his own now?
            ~ it is likely Pogacar is on his own at this point and Ineos for sure has a fresh Gaoghan Hart or Van Barle or someone. JV has Kuss and Van Aert.
            ~ Van Baarle launches a strong attack with Carapaz glued to his wheel. Pogacar marks it, Gaoghan Hart and JV (with Vinigaard) marks Pogacar.
            ~ Then JV goes, same result
            ~ This happens a few times and then Pogacar has had to pull back 4-5 attacks on his own after helping his team pull all day.

            At this point, Pogacar is much more tired than if Ineos lead up Tourmalet, giving UAE a break.

          • Fra Friday, 16 July 2021, 12:20 am

            “UAE has been forced to keep the break in check all day long”

            Well… why? They could just pace themselves and let the break off with 20-30 minutes, couldn’t they? During this TDF something similar hapened twice: both O’Connor and Martin endangered the GC positions from the break, but crucialy not Pogačar’s position so it was up to other teams to check their advantage. Ok, perhaps it was a wrong strategy of those other teams to pull instead of UAE

          • Fra Friday, 16 July 2021, 12:23 am

            … but to what avail it would be to those teams if let’s say Martin would win a stage with 20 minutes advantage?

            That was Pogačar’s strength – whoever endangered his position also endangered other riders’s positions…

        • Anonymous Friday, 16 July 2021, 12:16 am

          England should be reasonably happy with runner-up – their best ever Euro performance. They are no powerhouse such as Denmark, Greece or former Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia… (They won one major tournament – thanks to European cause of literally beating Brazil, far stronger team than England, some luck in the final match and West Ham United.)

          The thing is – no Ineos rider was considered among the top-tier favourites for the race, that is among Roglič and Pogačar. You can very well have the strongest team, but you need a strong enough rider to exploit your team’s dominance, don’t you?

          I also wonder what would happen if Carapaz or some other GC semi-threat went into a breakaway. The problem is, Carapaz would propably lose more time to Pogačar in the ITT and can possibly be perhaps even about 8 minutes down in Paris. Overcaming such a gap is probably almost impossible, even for Froome on Finestre… and Carapaz is no Froome.

          Your scenarios don’t bode well for Carapaz either – what’s the point of attacking Pogačar on Tourmalet or Ardiden if you have just one option in Carapaz? Pogačar would simply mark the attack and then probably even distance Carapaz just as he did in the Alps.

          • RQS Friday, 16 July 2021, 7:39 am

            If you look at INEOS’s approach, they sent Bernal to the Giro (who won it) and Carapaz to the Tour.
            I think there is a tacit acceptance that Pogacar and/or Roglic would most likely win it as in the last few years those allocations would be reversed. That’s twice in a row they’ve won the Giro, but not the Tour too.
            Bernal’s back has obviously been a factor, but Carapaz is not their ace card.

  • Richard S Thursday, 15 July 2021, 6:40 pm

    Pogacar hasn’t learnt yet what Armstrong never did but Froome eventually cottoned in to, and Indurain always understood. If you’re the dominant rider you don’t necessarily always have to take full advantage of your dominance. All you do is draw much attention and much negativity on yourself, whether you’re up to anything untoward or not. He might eventually learn and in a few years make it look like he’s just scraping in 50 seconds in front of Uran.

    • Bern Thursday, 15 July 2021, 8:04 pm

      Uran should be so lucky…in a few years…

    • RQS Thursday, 15 July 2021, 11:14 pm

      Way too many comparisons to known dopers there.

      Pogacar’s post-race interview was enlightening. “Yeah, I felt good today” big smirk. No effects from pulling hard and winning the race yesterday then? “Pas de normal” as Lance would say. His toying with Carapaz has been distasteful too. He could more of less ride off on his own at the bottom of the climb, but he’s like a neo-pro playing his school mates on a Sunday ride. Except it’s not, it’s the TdF, the biggest race in the world. Three weeks in yellow and while he breathes hard after sprinting up a mountain he doesn’t look troubled. Beyond his youthful arrogance he seems like a nice guy, but I’m still not buying him as vaguely authentic.

      • Fra Friday, 16 July 2021, 12:00 am

        Just one known doper, if I am not mistaken. 😉

    • Fra Friday, 16 July 2021, 12:01 am

      Or he could enjoy his temporary dominance like Merckx did?

  • Anonymous Thursday, 15 July 2021, 8:06 pm

    On a tangential note, give it up for the last placed rider in the mountains competition (at least as I’ve been able to find so far):
    62nd Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Israel Start-up Nation -1

    How is it possible to score a negative number of hill climb points?

    • Lukyluk Thursday, 15 July 2021, 11:35 pm

      You can get points penalties after misdeeds during the race, on top of fines and time penalties.