Tour de France Stage 8 Preview

The Tour goes into the Alps with a tough trilogy of climbs in the final 50km.

A Stage For The Age: this Tour has had its moments so far, yesterday was action from start to finish. Wave after wave of attacks and over 50km covered in the first hour. Finally Mathieu van der Poel helped tow away a group of 29 riders, of course Wout van Aert was there too. The UAE team were chasing which was odd, burning through riders in an unequal chase, a team of eight versus a breakaway of 29. The group didn’t have any real GC rivals, yes Vincenzo Nibali and van Aert were up the road but the chase could have been more measured, more leash than lockdown but it’s interesting as it suggests UAE are weaker than we thought.

The big group was too big and after a few attacks Matej Mohorič and Brent van Moer got away. Jasper Stuyven and Victor Campenaerts bridged across. The others behind might have had some stronger riders but counter-attacks were marked and there was a stand off. Campenaerts didn’t last long at the front and Mohorič used the Signal d’Uchon’s lower slopes to go solo and stay away for the stage win, a triumph after his horror crash on the Passo Godi during the Giro.

In the peloton Pierre Latour had a go on the Signal d’Uchon and couldn’t get a gap as Ineos chased but the pace saw Primož Roglič ejected and alone, Steven Kruijswijk and Jonas Vingegaard didn’t wait. Richard Carapaz then attacked and got a gap, this had Geraint Thomas dropped but the Welshman got back on the descent while Movistar led the chase to sweep up Carapaz in sight of the finish line. It was all a warp speed stage, 250km with an average of 45.5km/h and almost half an hour ahead of fastest schedule planned.

The Route: 150km and 3,500 vertical metres. A start in Oyonnax, they could have trundled down the valley but instead it’s uphill into the Jura, with 6km at 7% which makes this the biggest climb so far in Tour only it’s an unmarked climb, perhaps it’s all about perspective and what is about to come later on. It’s followed by a regular descent back down to the valley and then a series of big ring climbs where if the break hasn’t gone climbers can still make moves.

The climb to Copponex is only half the climb, the KoM point in the village a staging post as the road carries on rising, the same for the next climb to Menthonnex. There’s a drop down to the Arve valley and from here on things get Alpine.

The Mont Saxonnex climb might be déjà vu for some as it shares the same start as the Plateau de Solaison summit finish used for the final stage of the 2017 Critérium du Dauphiné, a narrow approach road where it’s too late to move up, followed by a even more narrow funnel unto the start of the climb. Listed as 5.7km at 8.3% it’s a hard climb on paper… and harder on tarmac. The valley road feels like it smashes into the cliff and it rears up instantly with 10 and 12% ramps to start and many non-climbers will be quickly dropped here. It climbs up through shaded woodland had some narrow sections and tight hairpins before easing towards the top. The descent is a bigger road and drops the riders straight into the start of the Col de Romme.

The Col de Romme is 8.8km at 8.9% and featured in the 2009 Tour de France where several GC contenders were quickly in difficulty on the steep slopes. The profile says it’s 9.8% for the first kilometre but between the start of the climb and the first hairpin after 1km there’s a long ramp of 11.5%, it’s steeper than it promised and harder still because the south-facing cliff reflects heat back at the start and it’s a tough, selective climb.

A quick and tricky descent through the woodland and the route joins the Col de la Colombière halfway up. From here it’s a wide road and largely a steady a steady climb, first via big hairpins and then a long straight section to the pass with the small time bonuses.

The Finish: a 12km descent, it’s on a big road but not easy to chase, someone with a lead of 20-30 seconds over the top can hope to win the stage. Things flatten out in the arrival town of Le Grand Bornand, there’s 2.5km on flatter roads with a false flat leading back to the finish line.

The Contenders: a good day for the breakaway, but who? A lot of climbing contenders are still close on GC so won’t get much room, think Sergio Higuita or Pello Bilbao. Among those who are no longer a danger to the yellow jersey Dan Martin (Israel) took a fine win in the Giro, is he still fresh enough for a win? Team mate Michael Woods is due a stage but the descent and sprint finish is a risk after he donated a stage in the Tour de Suisse. Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) has given up on GC to go stage hunting but is the form there? Wout Poels (Bahrain) can make a double for Bahrain but is an infrequent winner. Neilson Powless (EF Education-Nippo) another to watch. Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) should fit the bill but he was dropped yesterday, his team say he’s not feeling great… unless this is a bluff.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE) can sprints – see Liège-Bastogne-Liège – from a group. Richard Carapaz (Ineos) can launch on the Colombière.

Michael Woods, Tadej Pogačar
Carapaz, D Martin, G Martin, Lopez, Bilbao, Izagirre, Yates, Herrada, Benoot, Powless

Weather: a big band of rain pushing through from 1pm onwards, up to 22°C before the rain hits and then cooler with a chance of a thunderstorm.

TV: the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. Tune in from 3.3opm to watch the approach to the Mont Saxonnex climb.

Embed from Getty Images

On a tangent: A start in Oyonnax, an industrial town known for its plastics. It’s where the Bollé was founded in the 19th century, it started making combs and frames for glasses. In 1956 Bollé launched the “Nylon Grand Sport”, the first cycling-specific sunglasses. The brand still exists but these days Bollé is just that, a brand and there’s no local connection. This would probably annoy Roger Vailland, the writer who won the Prix Goncourt in 1957. Two years before Vailland penned “325 000 francs”, one of the few novels to feature a racing cyclist as the protagonist. Set in “Bionnas”, a fictitious name but Oyonnax, it’s the story of Bernard Busard who gives up his ambitions as a racing cyclist to work in a plastics factory in order to accumulate the 325,000 francs needed to open a roadside café and become the businessman his girlfriend thinks he should be. Busard toils, even doping himself with amphetamines to match the frenetic pace of the giant press that moulds plastic toys day and night. Vailland, a communist sympathiser until the Hungarian revolution, portrays a world where Busard can’t find happiness chasing money but the novel is far from a political tract, it’s readable with a good description of a bike race at the start and economic prose comparable to, say, Hemingway. There’s also a film adaptation.

90 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 8 Preview”

  1. Great write-up/Review. Like most of us i guess yesterday turned out to be a day watching the race in full rather than see start/ watch break go/ come back for the final hour.. i was glued to the TV, completing my work timesheet might be a bit more creative than usual!!

    Pogacar will still probably win this race, but, controversial I know, I would leave UAE if I was him, I’m not sure their setup is allowing them to build a ‘Team’ mentality, they are no doubt one of the richest teams and they are recruiting great young riders, but no matter what we all think about the Empire, Ineos really do have a great mentality on the Team, and their buying policy seems to be as much about personality as it does ability.(I’m not for one second suggesting he goes to Ineos!, please no)

    Absolutely great race so far, 2 more weeks of this to go, lets hope it continues once VdP and VA get dropped and are no longer yellow contenders.

  2. An outstanding stage with an interesting cameo part for Cavendish who produced an intelligent ride.

    Picked up green jersey points, yet was able to fulfil some of his domestique duties, while coming home cosily in his own time.

    If he survives the big climbs, surely the green jersey is his?

  3. breaking cover after literal years reading every word on this great website: i would have no interest in road cycling without tge Inrng blog and, may i add, the self-correcting band of commenters gathered here. today’s stage the first i’m able to sit down to watch this year (well, clean up, start a stew, write a letter, and clear a laundry backlog) and i wanted to thank Inrng and all of you in advance for so enriching the experience.

  4. “Stage for the Age” indeed! IMHO it had it all: the destruction of the “Pog vs Rog” mythology, kitchen help rising up against the royals at INEOS, peloton working (sort of at least) in unison against their biggest threat (very much unlike the BigMig daze) and guys racing to win rather than not-to-lose. And in the end the old Shark of the Straits moves up to 6th on GC! Che spettacolo! Plus the Italians beat the Belgians last night in football. One question though – did they get rid of Roglic only to replace him with WVA? Jumbo-Visma seems to have made that decision pretty easily.
    For me today’s bound to be a letdown after all of that, but who cares….this is only the first week..Vive LeTour!

    • I’m hopeful of another aggressive days racing. A ramp at the start to aid the break, a chance to go long on the Col de Romme, another chance on la Colombiere, all followed by a chance for mayhem on a downhill dash for the line. I like the parcours. Sometime the giant HC climbs are selective but more attritional in nature, these 7-8 km climbs back to back can make for good racing. There will be tired legs so even with no attacks I think anyone struggling could get dropped on the penultimate climb and shed 2Mins +.
      All that being said, the break will probably come in ten minutes up and it’ll be gruppo compatto for the GC. I hope not though.

      • Richard S – Picking up my pizza last night the guy says, “You ARE rooting for Italia tonight, not Belgio, right?” I smiled as I replied in my “ebonics” Italian: “WTF? Of course! I’ve just put up the Italian flag in front of my house as we’ve done for every game!”
        I’ll always be a loud, ugly foreigner here…but they still sell me pizza. Life is good 🙂

      • Soccer is in fact originaly a benign english (Oxford-er) word. There are many kinds of football (i. e. Rugby football), but there is only one association football (codified by FA – The Football Association – in 1863); association – soccer. Or football, as we know the game nowadays. Rugby is supposed to be called “rugger” back in these days.

        I would suppose Larry to mention “no al calcio moderno”, rather than soccer. 🙂

  5. That was a compelling stage, lots of narratives within the narrative, the commentary team did a good job for the most part keeping track of all the groups. Man I felt sorry for Carapaz, all his efforts were in vain. It looked from the TV coverage that he was going to earn a few seconds and then right at the death, swallowed up by the Peloton. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Carapaz since the first Movistar documentary on Netflix when he won the Giro and you got to see him back in Ecuador with his parents etc

    • I would certainly buy a used car from Mnsr Ring (and Chris Boardman for that matter) but I can’t buy this Carapaz for GC that’s on offer?
      He got burned yesterday but, even if he did get away and even if he took the yellow jersey, what then?
      Ineos have to shuttle him up climbs with Pogacar hovering behind?
      Yesterday was a cool action movie but we need a lead actor.
      And as entertaining as it was, there’s no obvious narrative or coordination that seriously endangers Pogacar’s position yet, I feel.
      In fact, I’m taking him to stomp on some heads today and come out fighting.
      Let’s get ready to rumbleeeeeeee.

      • This for me hits the nail on the head. What’s the narrative going forward? After the rest day easy to see the air seeping out of this tour with riders eyeing Olympic gold. The counter narrative is the hike across the South to the Pyrenees, the wind blows and bedlam ensues…

      • Sadly, all that effort from Carapaz left him in the same position as Thomas, who spent quite a while trying to get back to the peloton after being dropped. I’m not sure what Ineos do tactically but I guess it could involve Richie Porte going on a do or die break (maybe with others). Don’t know how far back he is on GC but he and Ineos couldn’t lose with that approach

      • Do this a few times on a big enough stage (say tomorrow), he will have the cushions he needed. We are also yet to see how consistent is Pog in Tour TTs. He is certainly blowing hot and cold in non-Tour TTs. Does he have a different DS in the car? Or maybe he is such a talent that he does better without one (his earpiece was out apparently in the last TT).

        With Carapaz, at least he was willing to try and he didn’t wait around for it. Neither is he Quintana on an off day that would be pulled back 1km later.

        Obviously there was debate whether Movistar should have chased. But they do get stared down pretty easily by Pog or the UAE DS behind him. Expected from Moviestar really. Or maybe the Carapaz attack was too close to the line to give other teams time to force Pog to chase/tire out before counter.

        During Froome time, we all complain other GC contenders didn’t attack. Yet, when Carapaz tried, instead of cheering him on, we are like “what a waste of effort”. Eurosport’s breakaway show hardly mentioned him.

      • Agree with Eky on this.

        Why oh why did Carapaz not just knock it off once they knew Movistar was chasing??? Clearly nothing to be gained but tired legs. Bit like a Pier Rolland (t) Energy Wasting Attack.

        And why did Movistar not attack rather than chase – Mass and Omar or something rather than putting the whole team on the front to close it down. Make Pogacar do some work instead of working for him and towing him around (de jar Vue)

        Think Porte might be the most credible contender now, shame they wasted him working on the Mur and lost more time.
        Think this weekend would have been good for Teo too.
        I think Nibili and Yates will fizzle our before the end sadly.

  6. Is it necessary to do such long stages? Isn’t it better to stick to “fast and furious” U19 distances? And don’t you see how bad races get when teams don’t manage to control them? Yesterday was the antithesis of civilised cycling as we know it.

  7. Not wishing -IR – to dismiss your selections but this stage has got Jacob Fuglsang write large on its final roads no? I’d also like to think that young Gaudu might fancy a blast but he’ll surely be saving himself for tomorrow’s uphill finish.
    What really intrigues me today tho’ is just how, and to what purpose, Jumbo Visma will now deploy their team. WvA clearly fancies a stint in yellow; his GC time suggests that with the entire, unstinting support of the team he could well manage that feat on today’s parcour. Overall though, as he doesn’t seem to have those climbing legs that were evidenced last year, such a tilt for yellow would be unsustainable… even into Sunday’s stage. This being the case will the team expect him to (again) eschew his own desires and put his strength behind Vingegaard for the rest of the tour?
    For sure Roglic’s demise on yesterday’s roads has given JV’s management a real problem of deployment.

    • The aim definitely seems to be to get WVA into yellow today. He’s got a bit of a head start on the GC men but would have to be climbing a couple of levels up even on last year and be absolutely flying in the TT to be a genuine threat. Maybe they’ll start aiming him for green, and Vingegaard and Kruijswijk can aim for a high GC place and/or the mountain jersey between them.

    • Fuglsang’s one of those guys not far enough down on GC to get a free pass for today. He can go but more teams will want to chase if he’s up there.

      It’s “Operation Save The Tour” now for Jumbo-Visma and WvA in yellow is a big deal. The trilogy of climbs will be a lot for him today, especially with yesterday in the legs but we’ll see how fast the peloton/leaders take it.

      • That would suit Ineos. Carapaz would need some rest, Thomas would need to steady the ship. Let JV control the race so they get an easier ride. Then they can try tmr.

      • A bit fatalist to say, but now that Carapaz know that he couldn’t stick with Pogacar, not when Pogacar’s got the momentum anyway, he probably should get a bit more patient.

        Instead of try to go with him each time, stay with the rest of the group. Use his team mates to limit damages if they can. Attack later.

        As we’ve seen with Bernal in the Giro, Pogacar can’t possibly keep this form forever. Unlike Bernal, he hasn’t got the team to save him. It might be best for Carapaz to save energy, bide his time and attack the moment Pogacar show weakness.

  8. Given how Geraint Thomas dangled at times yesterday, I wouldn’t be surprised if he cracked today.

    Interested to see how MVDP and Van Aert go with the climbers today.

  9. Gaudu is young and was reported in the French press as not feeling great yesterday. Sounds like a day for conservation I think. As for Yates, a long day yesterday where he couldn’t match the best in the final. He will surely need to recover now and plan for the Pyrenees.
    Vingegaard seems the obvious solution for JV with Roglic withdrawing then coming back into an already rich Vuelta field.

  10. After stage 7

    41 Alpecin–Fenix
    39   Deceuninck–Quick-Step
    17  UAE Team Emirates
    15   Team Jumbo–Visma
    15  Team Bahrain Victorious
    14 Arkéa–Samsic
    9   Bora–Hansgrohe
    9   Groupama–FDJ
    9   Team BikeExchange
    7  Trek–Segafredo
    4   EF Education–Nippo
    2   Team DSM
    1 B&B Hotels p/b KTM

    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.

  11. What a mad chaotic stage.

    The fact that there is not a team who either wants to or is capable of controlling the race means that big powerful breaks are likely, probably again today. I cant work out what MvdP is trying to achieve beyond extending his rivalry with WvA, surely today he will fly too close to the sun and fall back to earth. UAE struggles will have been noted, the team are going to be completely shot very quickly, there might even be a case (though this is probably too much fantasy cycling manger stuff) for Tadej Pogacar to loose some time and let Ineos or DQS take over. Not sure what Jumbo are doing, clearly they knew Primoz Roglic was going to struggle but WvA’s riding has a “freelance” feel to me, I wonder if there is some internal tension there, where is Sepp Kuss? Movistar, as ever, make no sense. Yes I can see that defending Enric Mas would make sense but this is the first week not the third. Surely the only sensible tactic, which will help them longer term too, was to make Tadej Pogacer chase not tow him to the line. Michal Kwiatkowski was obviously very unimpressed given the contretemps at the finish. Mark Cavendish deserves another mention, not sure he is going to make it through the next couple of days, but to get in the break in the Green jersey to take the sprint points underlined just how good he is at the moment, if he can avoid being OTL then the jersey (and the record no one is allowed to mention) must be his.

    Today is again impossible to call, I think we are looking at another big break, maybe even with a real GC contender in it. It is in Ineos’ and DQS’s interest to encourage chaos. Perhaps Julian Alaphilippe can win again in Le Grand Bornard , I suspect Richard Carapaz will be thinking more of tomorrow but if the situation arises an attack on the Col de Romme cant be out of the question.

  12. Thanks for the literary tip I shall go in search of it.Wonderful previews and summaries of each stage for which , thank you .

  13. The days when it was the height of cool and sophistication to be photographed with lit cigarette and / or a trail of tobacco smoke from your mouth.

  14. The fight for the break should be compelling viewing today. I’m tempted to put a few quid on Nairo on the chance he sat up yesterday rather than dropped.

  15. Sensational racing, this along with stories, make Le Tour the great race that it is. Other items for discussion: Pogacar to Bike Exchange (that’s the team his girlfriend races with). Jumbo to support WvA surely?

        • And who is there out-of-contract this year NOT being rumored to be going to UAE? Anyone except Nibali? IMHO they’re in danger of becoming the next SKYNEOS, way too many expensive generals and too few privates, though (for now anyway) without the “royals vs kitchen help/butler” situation….but even that could change, who knows?

  16. Why did Movistar chase Carapaz? It meant Ineos tracked them and Pog just got towed along. Surely the smart move would have had all teams letting him go to pressure Pogacar to work.

    Am I being too optimistic to think WvA could aim for a GC podium if he can ride like he did last year? He has 4 mins+ on his rivals which seems like a decent buffer for someone of his ability.

    • Why? Typical clueless Movistar tactics. In the short term, it limited Mas’ loases but in the longer term it helped ensure Mas loses. Teams are going to have to collaborate much more and send someone/riders up the road representing them all if they want to crack Pogacar (ie Movijumbo Grenadiers powered by Trek).

    • Because they are Movistar. That has been their role in this 🤔… ongoing movie, coming up with “tactics” 🤣 that no one understands and most often backfire.

      With the shape Wout had in last year’s TdF and on this year’s course I’d agree that he had a good chance for the final GC podium qith 4 minutes advantage. But so far it seems as if he doesn’t have the same shape. Which is understandable considering his recent health problems.

      • They are here to sell their sponsor’s subscription service. The more head scratching decisions they make, the more people are going to log on and to see them clumsily explain that rationale.

        Even that has some irony baked in, since most international viewers would likely watch it on Netflix.

  17. Would love to know a bit more about the etymology of those local names all ending in the suffix ‘-ax’. It reminds me of all those Asterix characters, though the setting is much removed from Goscinny and Uderzo’s books. Are they old Gaulish names I wonder?

    Fantastic stage yesterday, probably ear marked as boring by some of the critics pre-race. Circumstances dictate the racing, so had Pogacar not won the TT, and MVDP not been in yellow you’d probably of had a three man break swallowed up, and something far more processional. You just have to tune in and enjoy the Tour for what it is. I think the story as written is setting for a fantastic second week. Pogacar hasn’t won this race yet!

    • The area around Oyonnax has a lot of odd sounding places, Rogna, Cogna, Aroma. In the wider region there are places ending in -x and -z but they’re often – but not always – silent, like the La Clusaz ski resort near today’s finish, it’s an old way of spelling. Oyonnax could be Oyonnas if it was closer to Lyon, or Oyonnaz too if it was in Savoie or Switzerland. Wikipedia says it’s been Oyonat and Oyonnas in the past too.

  18. Great preview inner ring as always.
    Yesterday was an exciting stage!
    Curious on your thoughts with Jumbo Visma.. will they today sacrifice Jonas Vingegaard chances in the GC today to help get WVA in Yellow, which maybe only temporary. VINGEGAARD seems really strong, although still learning, surely can’t turn up a chance for him to possibly podium in Paris?

    Cheers all the way from Australia

    • Vingegaard is interesting as he’s a good punchy climber, been one to keep an eye on. His time trial has put him in the spotlight now. A podium is a big ask, he’s only done a Vuelta before and was helping Roglič, but he was helping a lot in the mountains into the third week which bodes well.

  19. Put me down as another of those who just meant to see who was in the break, intending only to watch the last two climbs yesterday. Ended up watching 210km.

    Delighted that the longest stage seemed too short for all the action that played out. The MVP and WVA alliance meant one could stay in yellow and the other take the JV leader role from Roglic, who the team knew was out of contention. Mohoric and the New Thomas de Gendt went on for glory while Ineos behind fell into the trap of feeling they had to do something. Carapaz will suffer today while Pogacar had protection all day long and can be fresh.
    Our host so nearly had it right in the stage preview;- “The Contenders: it’s a big day for a breakaway” ..just move ‘big’ next to ‘breakaway’..
    Thank you for your coverage.

  20. What, no stars for MvdP and WvA? 😀

    I am curious to see if MvdP’s endless tank has finally emptied or if he tries to get in the break once more.

  21. Very good stage indeed, I’m very happy. I did the final from Autun yesterday, after the race, and it is really funny to see the after-Tour countryside : trucks taking the stuff away with drivers taking a quick aperitive, lots of big tables in the fields or garden with a lot of slightly drunk people with all the same casquettes and AG2R or Leclerc shirts encouraging you with always the same jokes (“you’re late, mon grand !”). It’s like the end of a wedding…
    The big surprise yesterday was Franck Bonnamour : who would have thought he was so strong, with Konrad, Asgreen, Cort Nielsen, on a stage this hard ? It’s the first time of his career that he does such a performance (since his junior days anyway). We have to wait to see if it’s his day of glory or if it’s the beginning of a new career.
    For today : Rolland might be in the breakaway, but I’m not sure he’s still enough strong to win a Tour stage. O’Connor, Gesbert, Dillier should try too…

  22. I hope the adulation and praise for todays performance are not made to regret their unquestioning faith. Big ring up a nearly 9% climb, at the end of 150 wet and aggressive kilometres putting minutes into the best climbers.

    For me, there is a very big question mark over this performance.

    • He’s cycling’s Flo Jo (whatever that actually means).
      I think following Cavendish and the grupetto will be at least as entertaining as the GC race in the mountains from now on.

    • It’s right to ask questions but we’re unlikely to get much in terms of answers. Having Matxin (Cobo’s DS from the Vuelta) and Gianetti around is bad, I’m surprised they haven’t been pensioned out for the sake of the team’s image. But all we’ve got to go on is that Pogačar is riding faster than everyone (both the field and comparative times on the climbs). If Roglič was still in the game things might be different, we don’t know.

      Also if the team were doping, why are the others so average? Formolo blew a gasket today on the Col de Romme but used himself up rather and new recruit Rafał Majka is grupetto grade at the moment.

      Anyway, putting a rider on trial via blog comments just tends to use up bandwidth rather than inform, so might turn the comments off.

    • It’s just in the field of “we don’t know”, for now.

      To me, what looks worst is his company in the team car and so. What looks good (which obviously doesn’t mean “he’s not doping”, given that we’re speaking of a pro sport: it would be rather something like “he’s not enjoying any *special* sport science advantage when compared to competitors”) is that he’s always been hugely good.
      We’ve been knowing he was coming for years, since he was literally a teenager, although – as always – you never know in advance if an impressive youngster will get as good as you’d expect and how fast will it take.

      The “big ring” image means nothing at all: big ring… and huge sprocket! I guess it could as well be something psychological or aimed at impressing the rest. Contador and Flecha were guessing a 52×30, but even if it was a 53×28 or the likes, well, all in all we would still be in the range of a 39×21 or 39×23, which is actually nothing special for a pro climbing a 9% gradient at 18-20 km/h.

    • By the way, it’s not like the competition was that awesome.
      Because of the early decline of the 1990 generation, we’re living a transition moment where any glimpse of talent shines much often without a proper term of comparison (more or less the opposite of what’s happening in one-day racing).
      It’s shocking the still in 2019 (!!!) two hugely talented and yet undoubtedly old athletes like Nibali and Valverde were runners-up in their home GTs, beating respectively Roglic and (a very young) Pogacar.
      It’s been long analysed that the 1985-1989 generation had been weak in talent, whereas that single 1990 indeed produced a huge spark of talent… now declining earlier than expected.
      From 1991 to 1995 we had more sparse talents (the Yates, Kelderman, Carapaz, Carthy, Superman López, Mas… more or less as many top level GC athletes as in that single 1990 year!), and they needed a little more time to get to the top, which *might* mean that their absolute level wasn’t as good as the previous top generations.
      That said, when an athlete is really exceptional in the sense of far off in the Gaussian distribution of physical capabilities, the most probable thing is that he or she finds a reduced number of opponents, which also tend to be always the same. If they crash, have a bad year or whatever, it’s suddenly absolute superiority.

      • Or they might be cheating. I might be less naive than you, but decades of watching sports have generally left me concluding that extraordinary performances in any endurance sports are almost always the result of cheating. My cousin has won two Olympic golds though, so I might make some enquiries.

        • I don’t know much about cycling ( yeah thinks everyone) but I have owned quite a few racehorses, and watched a lot of grade one ( as one might say, G T. Equivalent races).

          Some horses are just ‘different’. They have more speed, more power and more appetite to win; the best of the rest can have their hearts broken by competing with them. Arkle, Flying Bolt, Desert Orchid, Denman….they were just exceptional, not dodgy, or doubtful, just on a different level. If you went in their box, you could feel it.

          • Well Arkle is the outlier; the Merckx of NH racing – so good, they had to invent a handicap just for him.
            I’m pretty sure a lot of racing champions have been found to have larger lungs, bigger hearts, etc

        • A lots of pro athletes, not only in cycling, and probably most of them in so many contexts, could be related to practices of pharmacological enhancement of performance. Which makes it a very feeble explanatory factor when speaking of a whole generation.

      • This is quite interesting… I could be wrong on pogacar… But watching today the shocking thing is how ordinary the field is. Granted roglic and Thomas are clearly casualties of the first week, but the rest?

        WVA was asked about GC and replied ‘no chance’… Hasn’t trained for it, not the weight for it… But there is so little between him and the supposed all rounders/climbers in the first mountains.

        • It not only depends, it varies as well.
          But one thing I’ve learned not to be naive about is people who think of themselves or present themselves as less naive (and sometimes also more grown-up) than others who don’t share their views and opinions or just aren’t as ready and willing to go as far in simplifying things.
          But it must be granted that people who begin with “Call me a cynical old bastard but…” are even worse : D
          PS When I bought my first road bike it had 2 x 9 gears and the rule that one simply didn’t break was “Never ride with the chain in the big ring and on the largest sprocket!” You can imagine it hurt my eyes to watch Pogačar!

          • I laugh when I see ’em totally cross-chained….just waiting for the KABOOM moment when/if they have to shift down. How many times have we seen it? KABOOM! Chain pushed off the big ring under pedaling load + spring tension from the pulley cage…and ends up pulled way past the small ring and onto the BB shell, too often not stopped by whatever chain-catcher the mechanics install….and suddenly the guy’s pedaling but going nowhere..or worse, the chain’s now jammed up and he’s dead-in-the-road.
            Even the snake-oil/wax salesmen will admit cross-chaining like that wastes power but the pros don’t seem to care about those “lost watts” they just ride the bike and STFU, Pogacar likely in 53 X 30…a guy like that’s not gonna have to shift down.

  23. I love Brian Smith’s comment today about Pogacar. After talking about all the faces the riders were pulling in their agony, he says “And Tadej Pogacar, well, he’s just picking his nose…”

  24. This ride reminded me of Merckx in “Stars and watercarriers”, on the Monte Carpegna where he just butchers the peloton completely. The 1973 Giro.
    I think it was Merckxian this ride. He wanted to make a statement.

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