Tour de France Stage 9 Preview Tignes

The second day in the Alps and a more mountainous stage than yesterday, an extra one thousand metres of vertical gain, all in 145km.

All roads lead to Romme: it took 70km for the break to go clear, although Wout Poels had been dangling solo. It had several good climbers in it but the weather was a factor, Alejandro Valverde had to sit up, shaking with cold, unable to put a jacket on by himself and they’d yet to start an Alpine pass. Others too were frozen, later saying they wanted to attack but couldn’t. Michael Woods attacked on the Col de Romme but looked more laboured than usual, muscling the pedals round.

UAE Emirates’ tactics are still a work-in-progress, at one point Pogačar himself went in a breakaway attempt, then Brandon McNulty went clear. The only signing they made for Pogačar was Rafał Majka who finished in the grupetto. Once Pogačar is side-by-side with his GC rivals the tactics manual goes in the bin because he seems to be able to do as he pleases. He attacked on the Col de la Romme, Richard Carapaz followed, he attacked again and Carapaz cracked. The Ineos rider soldiered on but faded and was caught by the rest of the GC contenders, losing 3m20s to Pogačar.

Teuns passed Woods on the top of the Colombière to go solo for the stage win, the second in two days for Bahrain and so far four teams are sharing eight stages. But the story of the day was Pogačar’s ride. L’Equipe’s Alex Roos called his time trial performance “an axe blow” to the Tour as he felled several rivals for the GC. Yesterday he was wielding a chainsaw like a Bornean palm oil plantation worker, razing the field. He seems unbeatable à la pédale in the mountains and time trials but elsewhere? Possibly as his team look weak, Pogačar might be in the race lead but this not Froome at La Pierre Saint Martin and Fortress Sky, the yellow jersey is going to have a lot on his plate.

The Route: just 144km but over 4,500m of vertical gain, a big day in the mountains. After a dash up the valley the riders take the Domancy climb, used in recent editions of the Tour and Dauphiné and famous as the climb used in the 1980 Worlds won by Bernard Hinault and now renamed in tribute. This takes the riders up to Megève and then it’s across to the Col des Saisies which climbs via the Crest-Volland side meaning there’s no descent two thirds of the way up, it’s a consistent climb to the top. A fast descent down the main road delivers the riders into Beaufort, home of the eponymous cheese.

The Col du Pré is a gem of a climb although you wouldn’t know it at the start with the main road to Arêches looking ordinary. But soon it turns onto a small backroad and a series of hairpins with steep ramps in between. It’s hard, but the HC-rating is stretching things. Then comes a flattish traverse around the Roselend lake before tackling the Cormet de Roselend. Then comes a very fast descent with some sections that are tricky in the dry. There’s little rest as the final ascent begins as almost soon as the riders reach the valley floor.

The Finish: labelled the Montée de Tignes, it’s 23km in the graphic here but climbs just to get to the start. It’s the Col d’Iseran for the first 17km, a main Alpine artery that services ski resorts and then the turning to Tignes below the large hydroelectric dam. It’s a big slog where the distance and altitude count as much as the gradient. The slope levels out for the run through the resort.

The Contenders: the breakaway has a good chance again and there are mountain points on offer, especially with the HC rating for the Col du Pré, a virtual finish line for anyone wanting the polka dot jersey. Dylan Teuns won yesterday but today is that much more mountainous so both he and Matej Mohorič will have a hard time delivering a third win for their team. Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) is perfect for the long drag to the finish but his form post-Giro is questionable. Esteban Chaves (Bike Exchange) is suited too while colleague Simon Yates has gone in the break two days in a row now and come up short so risk being even more tired today, even if the course is ideal. Miguel Angel Lopez (Movistar) has had a rotten Tour so far but the course suits him today too. Jakob Fuglsang has lost time on GC now so has the space needed to attack. Ineos can still get Carapaz on the podium but can probably spare riders for attacks and today is ideal for Richie Porte. Michael Woods went yesterday so does Dan Martin go today?  Neilson Powless (EF-Nippo) was tipped yesterday… and finished second last. Perhaps he’ll go again today?

Otherwise who’d bet against Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates) ? He can take minutes out of the breakaway with an attack on the final climb. But he doesn’t need to, perhaps he’ll only go if provoked by others or if his team mates dwindle again. Richard Carapaz (Ineos) can try and see if it’s third time lucky and the final climb is perfect for him, not too steep and at altitude.

Tadej Pogačar, Jakob Fuglsang, Richard Carapaz, M-A Lopez
Mollema, Chaves, Porte, Konrad, D Martin, Yates

Weather: cold and wet with showers, 17 at most but 5°C at the finish.

TV: shorter in distance than yesterday’s stage but probably 45 minutes longer in time, the stage starts at 1.00pm CEST and finish is forecast for 5.45pm CEST.

Off on a tangent: the Cormet de Roselend features today. Cormet is a local word for a mountain pass but it’s hyperlocal, there’s probably only one other cormet in France. Col is the most frequent term for a mountain pass in France and by a very long way. The “Club des 100 Cols” publishes Le Chauvot, a catalogue of every mountain pass you can tackle with a bike (ranging from tarmac roads to gravel to acrobatique where you’ll be scrambling up a rock face shouldering your bike). There are over 10,000 passes listed for France, 7,600 for Italy and if it’s not a bible for stage previews here, it’s certainly scripture. The vast majority in the Chauvot for France are cols but you’ll find bouche, bocca, brêche, collet, golet, foce, passage, port or sattel. The ubiquitous use of col tells us something about France, a large country with remote parts and bordered by several different languages yet this is a very centralised country where French as the official language monopolises the geography.

180 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 9 Preview Tignes”

  1. You have to hope that something unexpected will happen to give us back a race because the next 2 weeks look set to be a dull procession.

    • I’m tempted to put my tongue in my cheek and to ask “Is this some sort of Anglo-thing?” To see the race as a dull procession now that the name of the 2021 GC winner is already written in the history books?
      I have watched and followed the race with keen interest since 2007 and there hasn’t been a year when 80% (or more) of interest and, sometimes, genuine excitement, has been in my opinion been about what happens in the other competitions, who wins a stage and how a stage is raced and won or lost, and what riders whose qualities and preferred tactics I’ve learned something about manage or fail to achieve within the race.
      To put it a bit rudely: it doesn’t greatly bother me that we know two or two and a half weeks in advance that a rider named will be the one in the yellow jersey in Paris and I don’t give a sh*t that there is absolutely no chance that it will be a rider named !
      The Tour is the Tour! Even when there are dull days – and even on the dull days!

      • Maybe you misunderstand me. I’ll still watch each day but it’s hard to be as excited when there’s so little tension around the result. Like if a football team score 5-0 in the first 20 mins. You still watch the rest of the game but there’s a lot less to enjoy.

        • Nah…it’s like watching the Premier League. Sure Man City have won, but the enjoyment goes on as all the other subplots shine. I reckon this tour still has surprises in store and I will continue to eagerly follow. Some of my best tour memories have nothing to do with the coloured jerseys.

      • Why is it an “Anglo-thing”? Surely this just an individuals response to circumstances. Perhaps we should make lazy assumptions about lazy Spaniards and siestas?! It’s not an illogical response to be disappointed to such a dominant response. It will no doubt affect the psychology and tactics of the riders themselves.
        My personal thoughts are that we will hopefully see the peloton fight cohesively to isolate Pogacar. His team will need to ride on the front till Paris. The rest of the teams can sand bag him and UAE for two weeks. Hopefully the riders still have a lot of fight left in them. The fact is that there will be breaks ad nauseum now. It’ll make it hard to predict winners.
        I wonder how fast Pogacar will cycle now he has a peloton attached to his rear? The third week could be a humdinger of action if he starts to show fatigue and weakness. Taking the jersey so soon is an act of hubris, but since UAE don’t have the legs, does Pogacar? Postal and Sky always had team strength which helped defeat the efforts of others. That option isn’t available here.

      • I totally agree… People complain so much about the Tour you wonder if they are even fans of the sport. This is how cycling always plays out.

        However, I would argue that this tour is far from settled. Pogacar has virtually zero help, each day his team lets a peloton go up the road and anything can happen. One day, even on a flat stage, a pack with Poels, for example, can go up the road and gain 20 minutes because UAE can’t chase. Pogacar will give up the jersey and if this happens repeatedly the GC fight will be over for him.

        This Tour is anything but settled, the Postal/Sky tactics don’t exist this year and our current leader and GC favourite faces two weeks of covering every move solo.

        Sounds like the most exciting Tour is years. Everyone please stop complaining, sounds like a bunch of old guys on a group ride when the young guns turn up the pace!

    • There’s still a lot to go for, but each to their own. Pogačar can be attacked on the flatter stages but whether other teams do this, we’ll see. The polka dot and green jersey competitions are just that, actual competitions at the moment and Cavendish got over the first mountain stage alright too. Plus the stages will probably have huge fights to get in the breakaway and a variety of stage winners, because UAE can’t reel in the field.

      • I think the ‘the Tour is over’ narrative is 100% a media thing and it’s lack of writing or commentary creativity. Anything can happen and the Tour is not purely about the jellow jersey.
        We’ve seen some of the most exciting first weeks in years and without the usual one team controlling the race, every stage will be a fight from now on and I don’t care if it’s about the stage win, who will get on the podium or the overall lead. It’ll be great.

  2. The reference to Sky-era Froome is pertinent but I believe that its context should be turned round.
    Rather than a fortress-like defence, what about the absence of an attack and a King-in-waiting?
    Pogacar has no direct rival, his rivals’ tactics are empty because no one can assume and keep the throne.
    The lead actor has been revealed, and he’s a superstar.
    It’s difficult to say how good, because Thomas’ and Roglic’s injuries have robbed us of that comparison.
    But he looks to be a generational talent, some have said a new Merckx.
    I don’t know, I never saw the great man in action.
    But it feels like I’m witnessing something, and someone, very special.

  3. Maybe Pogačar’s other weakness is going out too hard in the first two weeks. Hopefully he learned from Roglic last year and Yates in the 2018 Giro, and he’s able to pace himself to Paris.

    • What you saw yesterday, I think, was a 22 years old kid flexing his muscles.
      22 years old males are young, dumb and full of the joys of spring 😀
      Except Pogacar is not dumb, he’s very intelligent and very race-smart.
      But if he’s challenged, he’ll flex his muscles and slap you down.
      Inner Ring is right, forget tactics, that was genetics.

        • Not sure how I feel about the implication that most cycling fans are sure Pogacar is doping, whether you feel that way or not.

        • Woah, that’s a very sweeping generalisation there considering there’s been not even a hint of anything suspicious about the kid other than anonymous keyboard warriors throwing around wild accusations. I may be proven wrong over time but for now can we please assume innocence until proven guilty and not the other way around!

          • Not a hint? I guess you don’t know too much about his manager…

            Tadej Pogacar and Mauro Gianetti:
            “UAE’s CEO is Mauro Gianetti, possibly the dirtiest rider and sports director in history. Previously sports director for disgraced riders such as Riccardo Ricco, Piepoli, Juan José Cobo, et al.”

            “Gianetti himself abandoned Stage 3 of the 1998 Tour de Romandie and collapsed soon after, after taking perfluorocarbon (PFC). In default of any obvious medical explanation, doctors diagnosed his condition and he made a full recovery after some ten days spent in intensive care.”




            They’ve obviously found a way around the Athlete Biological Passport (by balancing EPO micro-dosing, reticulate values, plasma volume and other ABP values.) And by beginning doping at such a young age (not uncommon in Slovenia in other sports – google it) that his blood values are already high when he begins the ABP.

          • Sutton, are you saying Pogačar is doping because of the link to managers and their dodgy past, or that he was gaming his bio passport before he joined the team? Both could be true.

            Also if the team were to have some secret potion, why does only one rider get it? Because the rest of the UAE team is mediocre, Ulissi has a couple of wins, Dombrowski got one, the other winners are Gibbons and Mirza in local events and that’s it. Formolo’s GC challenge in the Giro saw him finish 15th, I don’t think he crashed.

            I wouldn’t buy a used car from the UAE managers, both Gianetti and Matxin look terrible but find me the team that doesn’t have dodgy staff, it’s not easy. Vaughters at EF, Matt White at Bike Exchange who both admitted things, “Paxti” Vila, the head coach at Movistar (previously at Bora) has a spent conviction for doping. This isn’t to single them out, the list is very long.

            I find comments on doping fascinating because surely the only honest answer is “actually I don’t know” and at best to advance a hypothesis. The epistemology is interesting both for attitudes to a bike race (and why this happens so often during the Tour but not elsewhere) but wider, it might help explain phenomena in culture, politics, the pandemic etc.

          • The conspiracists retort to the question ‘Why only Pogacar’ is that his personal risk tolerance is higher than his competitors’.

          • I would like to ask Inrng (but I can’t respond directly to his comment) why he finds comments on doping ‘fascinating’. As he says, no one knows what’s going on, so once you’ve written ‘Pogacar rides really fast, some of the people in his team are dodgy, lots of people in the past have doped and, perhaps, Slovenia seems to be producing lots of top cyclists all of a sudden’, that’s it.

          • George Vest, for me it’s the certainty some people express when they can’t know either way, the assertion of belief over knowledge. Now there’s nothing wrong with putting up a hypothesis and exploring it, that’s how we learn. But it’s the certainty of the initial position.

            You can say the same about X rider going fast on T team from Y nation too.

          • Thanks for the response, Inrng. I agree that there’s a degree of fascination in observing people becoming convinced by something despite there being little or no evidence. But for me this very rapidly turns to frustration at the irrationality. My job is sort of in the area of evidence and assertion, so perhaps I’m a bit over-sensitive. I also wonder why some of these people bother to watch the cycling (perhaps they don’t, I suppose) – unless they derive some sort of strange pleasure from subsequently going on to the internet and letting the world know that they think so and so must be doping.

      • I agree Ecky, this is not at all the same as Yates going out too early… Yates took small gaps, Pogacar took minutes. Huge difference. And then comparing this to Roglic is different too because Roglic didn’t go all out too early in the TdF, he just underestimated Pogacar. Pogacar just proved to be far superior on st 20 TT than Roglic.

        About the doping issue, honestly who cares. All the riders of each generation prepare the same way. Right now there is zero proof of anything sketchy so just hold your horses.

    • Two years ago Pogaçar became third in the Vuelta by winning a big mountain stage in the final week. Last year he sniped Rogliç in the final time trial and won the Tour. To me it looks like Pogaçar doesn’t fade in the final week, but the situation now, with the Maillot Jaune on his shoulders and two weeks to go is markedly different.

  4. > Yesterday he was wielding a chainsaw like a Bornean palm oil plantation worker, razing the field.

    How you are spoiling us again.

  5. Could a revived Bernal, with Ineos’ might and guile behind him, challenge this Pogernaut?
    Pretty amazing emergence and at 22, he could win for a decade…

    • Every time someone gets early success a new ear of dominance is predicted, it rarely comes true. A Schleck, Bernal or even Evanpoel recently aren’t all the career hyperbole of early predictions.

      • I agree that predictions of dominance often fail to materialise. But Schleck and Bernal were merely very very good at a young age. Pogacar just seems to be on a difference level altogether. If the Evanepoel of a year ago, before his crash and pretty disastrous showing at the Giro, can reappear, that would be a fascinating contest with Pogacar. I still think I’d favour Pog, though.

  6. Legendary, historic ride by Pogačar yesterday. Best in decades of the TdF, and will be remembered for decades. The kind of cycling that creates cycling fans for life. This is already a vintage TdF whatever happens now on (save a doping scandal). And I also feel there’s more to come.

    • +1 There’s a certain cynicism that can be called “experience” by those of us who’ve been around the block a few times but it’s sad that for so many once “their guy” whoever he might be is out-of-contention we read all the whinging (and yes, I put the G in there for a reason) about “dull processions” etc. from far too many of these so-called fans 🙁
      A) The f__king race is barely one week old. B) The current leader came in at what is likely his top, top form vs the others. Over the next two weeks yours truly is very interested in seeing whether this kid can keep up this form and/or if the others start to get better as the race goes on. C) A couple of the big faves who are now out of contention have only themselves to blame – their crashes were pretty much “own goals” in a sport where being able to consistently stay upright on your bike is a key component of victory. Thank gawd the sport remains far more than a simple watts/kg, “marginal gains” exercise!
      Vive LeTour 🙂

        • +1. Very much the absence of tactics, skill and racing guile. It was the equivalent of a knock out punch: brutal, forceful and unsubtle. The boxing analogy is apt, because the riders still in the ring are on the ropes and but will need to duck, dive, parry, jab and know how to take a punch, otherwise they might as well let their swimming heads fall to the canvas and go home.

        • Well, when it’s your guy doing it, it’s pure talent. When it’s the other guy, he’s a robot controlled by computer & DS.

        • It wasn’t just the poner, it was the daring. It could have gone badly wrong for Pogi, but it didn’t, and he achieved his Mourenx. Something very, very few can boast of.

      • +1 Larry T. I can’t recall a recent grand tour where there haven’t been comments about it being ‘over’ after the first week, despite history showing us how rarely such certainty pans out! What short memories we seem to have.

        I think this first week has been excellent for many reasons. Even if some skepticism about yesterday is inevitable, there’s still so much to look forward to.

        • How about the year before last when it was all about whether anyone could dislodge Alaphilippe in 2019? When everyone expected Froome to overtake Thomas in 2018? Or when Andy Schleck fell short in 2011? F**k memories are short.

        • Could be..only (so far) the lack of dodgy TUE’s, massive legal challenges and steamrolling/suffocating racing tactics set the two apart. 🙂
          Just to keep you honest, can you point out anything I’ve posted that would indicate Pogacar’s “my man” in this race? “My man” was Nibali who’s long gone from the GC fight, but you don’t read whinging from me here about that, do you?

  7. This is probably the best start to a TdF I can remember. But if Pogacar goes again today he will probably just kill the race off. Let’s hope he shows some tiredness at the very least.

  8. Not even a chainring to spare for Nairo Quintana? History tells us he’s good for a mountain raid per year, was on the attack yesterday so we know he has at least decent legs. What better chance than a long climb to a high-altitude summit finish, possibly in sour weather?

    His form has been unconvincing all year and normally he is peaking in week 3, but I for one wouldn’t be surprised to see Nairo in front tomorrow. I hope his knee troubles won’t mean we’ve seen the last of Quintana’s climbing brilliance. Unfortunate too that his big deal is with Arkea, would love to see what he could do with a proper team (one with some tactical sense) and coaching.

  9. I’ll avoid the M word and the inevitable comparisons. Even though I’m old enough to remember those days clearly, the coverage and the game were in many ways very different.

    Just one possibly naïve, but half-serious question. On current form, does Pogacar need a team behind him in the way that all recent winners have?

    • No, I think is the obvious answer. He’s 5 minutes ahead of his nearest rivals after two stages of individual effort. He could enter as an independent.

      • I’m not so sure Rui Costa, Formolo or McNulty (publicly thanked by Pogacar for their help on that stage) would agree with you on the independent idea Richard S.
        On the “…implication that most cycling fans are sure Pogacar is doping,” sentiments posted elsewhere here I’d ask what this is based on? In the past we’ve had people who weren’t very good, some even on-their-way-out of the sport (a guy on Barloworld comes to mind or another guy from Texas, who after getting his a__ kicked said to someone “We gotta get on a program!”) rather suddenly make amazing improvements, going on to win Le Beeg Shew multiple times. Those guys raised eyebrows and IMHO for good reason but the current wearer of the yellow jersey, unlike these two seems to have made strong and steady progress, no? Even last year he wasn’t stomping his rivals into the ground, winning LeTour as much for his brilliant final chrono performance as his rivals rather dramatic collapse. We’ll have to wait and see if he can continue this kind of dominance all the way to Paris.
        While I’m no fan of some of the UAE management (not to mention their sponsor) assuming Mauro Gianetti is still involved and wonder about the various allegations swirling around other Slovenians, especially with the Bahrain team…making doping claims at this point seems based only on how badly the accuser’s guy is being beaten at present rather than anything credible. The old “put up or shut up” slogan comes to mind here.

        • Dear oh dear Larry. Roglic’s TT performance on the Planche last year was actually good, not disastrous. Pogacar’s, to use a Carlton Kirby word, was stellar (passing no judgment). I’d be interested to know your factual source for Froome TUEs in the plural too.

          • Back in 2013 the proof that Froome was guilty was that his numbers were supposedly not human. Social media and pundits were obsessed with wanting his data. The definition of what it is to be human has apparently changed a lot in the last 8 years.

        • I don’t see where this ‘they were doping, but that guys authentic’ comes from based on… what? I mean there’s the legal aspect of innocent until proven guilty, and we know that sport people do not have to meet the higher standard of ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’. Rarely in sports is anyone caught by doping controls (especially in cases where we later find out they have been doping). Athletes know how to walk around these things. There are always ways of explaining away why rider a is not rider b, even when direct comparisons with a doper and “non-doper” show favourable speeds and results for those ‘above suspicion’ (read: not yet caught). If sports people want us to believe they’re clean then they need to devise ways of cleaning up sport for their own good – because the system is broken.
          I’ve heard lots of excuses why sport x or sport y doesn’t have doping, and in each case the opposite is true. The Ukrainian soccer player the other who played the other night, who got banned for a year for an adverse finding – no one really bats an eyelid.
          The often quoted “he got great junior results and is consistent” line is no more credible than “there’s no need for PEDs in a skill based game like football”. Riders like Armstrong and Pantani were doping since they were juniors too. They excelled as juniors too! Armstrong knew to look for a new program because the one he was on wasn’t doing it for him any longer, the sports science had moved on. The same is probably true about Pogacar’s rivals. I suspect he is gaming his longitudinal results on a steady trajectory which his youth affords because he hasn’t established his top end like other seasoned pros. But this is supposition/opinion. We don’t know what’s going on one way or another. But the presumption of innocence seems entirely naive to me because anti-doping isn’t effective. Though my estimate is that it has curbed some of the most egregious gaming – my only evidence being that by and large we don’t see the same explosive efforts. It’s still the same ‘usual suspects’ because having the best doctors and facilities help you maximise your gains. But seeing the rise of Mohoric, Pogacar, Tratnik and Roglic forms a similar arc to seeing the rise of the Americans in the late nineties/early noughties, the British riders and seems to be occurring at the same time as the Danes. At the end of the day they’re all tainted. I just cannot see any way in which you can credibly exculpate the incredible results over the those which are ‘ordinary’. It’s not logical.

          • Paradoxically, although I might agree with most of your points, this debate looks quite much cyclingnews’ clinic material. It can hardly go anywhere, things as they are.
            By the way, what’s your source about Pantani doping as a junior? Rumours or something else? If it’s rumours only, the opposite rumours are equally out there since long… both being essentially irrelevant.

          • A lot of words and a lot of guilty by association and no proof. Sure, questions have to be asked, but the suggestions go nowhere. Lots of so called fans of cycling simply like to feel superior by venting their cynisism from the couch. It’s the internet version of the guy at the bar with the aura of look at me, I’m smarter and not naive like all of you, I know how to connect the obvious dots and I will say ‘told you so’ when a case does come up (and forget about all the others that don’t fit the message conveniently).
            There’s no reply to these users, because it’s easy to build a strong suggestion, but there’s no way to prove something does *not* exist. It’s a believe in a conspiracy theory, nothing more than that.
            Also, the nationalism based prejudice is way too obvious. Riders like Evenepoel, Alaphilippe or van Aert or from Scandinavian countries are questioned far less. The scepticism is allways directed towards former-USSR countries and after that the mediterrenean countries.

    • No, he clearly seems to need a team less than most other winners – he’s already proved this last year. But that’s not to say that he doesn’t need a team at all – to help out if he crashes, or gets his fuelling wrong – any of the things which can potentially derail a rider.

    • Pog doesn’t need a team if he can stay on top of the bike with a support car close by: Big “if” where a mechanical can turn into a huge time loss for a lone rider. That said, this kid seems to have it all: strength, endurance, recovery, bike handling, race sense, love of the sport. Too early for the M-word, but if it keeps it up …

  10. How can one person be so much better than all the others ? Reminding me of something seen before, but hope there is a more natural explanation

    • It’s genetics and physiology. The increased popularity (and money) in cycling means that more of these physical “freaks” will be drawn to the sport. I never expected to say this but thank Dog for Evenepoel who is equally freakish and will at least give him some competition.

      • Given the rate at which the sport seems to be changing/advancing, it might only be 2-3 more years before new riders emerge to make Pogacar look somewhat ordinary.

      • Not only genetics. Taking in consideration his not very beautifull position on the bike, seen his thinness, I could believe he has the morphologie of a climber, but not of a TT-specialist and decent sprinter. But having seen the way he was climbing on a monster gear, no way its genetic or natural at all. Even in what should be his speciality, climbing.

          • I was thinking the same thing, while also wondering why he was riding cross-chained. Was he leery of dropping the chain with a shift to the small ring?

        • Cross chaining is hardly the sign of great ability. But, hey, when you don’t have to worry about components, why worry. As Someone else posted, probably didn’t want to change on to the small ring and drop the chain, but probably laziness too.

        • I’m not defending Pogacar – I’m firmly in the ‘suspicious but don’t know’ camp (as I am about almost every rider), particularly as he’s so good at climbing and TT’ing (like other ‘out of this world’ riders I’ve seen: Indurain, Armstrong, Contador [before he was caught], Froome) – but the competition in this race is not good (mainly due to crashes, etc.). My other point would be that if he is doping I very much doubt that he has different doping products from other riders, so why is he so good?

    • He also had a much smarter distribution of his energy. He “saved” as much energy in group, and having team mates running a leadout up the Mountains… then some 30 or 40 kilometers before the goal, He went for itt similar run… the guys He passed on the way up was riders Who was already getting tired from being houers in the breakout. So in combination with being Young and fresh and in a very good shape, it was a very good tacticaly race. If He do this to much He will also get tirsdag. He seemed exhausted in the end.. so his strategy now should be to conserve his energy and defend his lead… basicaly responding to other team attacks and only going by opportunity… I would think He should focus today to have a more sheap Day for his legs to be sure to not tier him self out… because of if He go on like this, it will Come back to him towards the end of the tour.

  11. Pogacar played the tactics perfectly for a guy without a super strong team. La course en tete! The only surprise was the size of the the time difference. Incredible!

  12. Lost in the excitement as Pogacar lights up another Tour is that Bahrain lit up yet another mountain stage. Giro, Dauphine, Tour. Caruso, Padun, Mohoric, Teuns. Forgive me if my eyebrows are a little higher than usual.

  13. Jan. I share your concerns, as any right thinking person must given the sports history.

    In mitigation, the competition appears much weaker than ever, as Larry points out it is important to stay on the bike and the so called ‘strongest team’ has turned out to be a team of straw.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next two weeks.

    • Also Carapaz was probably tired from his exploits the day before. And while I really like him, unfortunately he is probably generaly weaker than Pogacar / Roglic.

      The race is far from over, but covid or crashes aside, Pogacar should be quite comfortable because apart from Carapaz – 5 minutes down – there is probably no rival left in the race capable of beating the peloton.

    • The rest stinks a bit. Not sure about that. Cyclists and teams have spent decades interpreting rules and controls rather than looking to fully comply with the spirit of them. But maybe Pogacar simply had more talent, confidence and form than the rest yesterday. Lappartient’s comment that we have no reason to doubt Pogacar didn’t sound like the most sincere endorsement possible and without substance is meaningless. Silence is golden – at least while awaiting the test results.
      And yes, Pogacar looked comfortable yesterday but we are only 1/3 in. More surprises await

  14. Off topic, but that is such good writing – up there with the best travel/ sports writing I’ve ever come across. Do you spend the year preparing these daily pieces for the big races? That extended metaphor of the tree felling/ axe — chainsaw is pure gold.

    I hope the weather doesn’t impact the helicopters and landscape shots today – another good reason for watching cycling. Plus the local cheese, of course.

    • “I hope the weather doesn’t impact the helicopters and landscape shots today”
      C’mon, dontcha know that happens ONLY in the Giro because Italy’s RAI TV is totally incompetent? 🙂

      • I read somewhere that the relay tech used by the Giro and Vuelta is on a wavelength that suffers interference from water droplets in the air. The Tour uses more powerful signals and has more data relays so is not perturbed by atmospherics. Even trees used to break up tge signal, but not any more.
        Their aerial coverage is clearly on another level, too, making it easily possible to see dossards in the pack for long periods with highly stable pics.
        This all makes for fantastic viewing and we get so much to watch.
        One thing I noticed yesterday was they replayed Pogacar overtaking Woods(?) and then continued coverage from there, meaning a ten second or so delay had been introduced in the feed. Later on, as the riders came onto the flatter run in there was a bit where the leader seemed to have made really good progress whilst coverage was elsewhere. – I’m thinking they do this so we wouldn’t have to watch live as any severe chute happens.

        Pogacar’s ride was a fantastic illustration of power and confidence. He’s always ridden that way and so must have attracted more than his share of attention from every rider and team he’s raced with, and at doping control over many years of his career, still aged 22. – Suggest he deserves credit and not suspicion for his achievements.

        • Larry T. I agree with your above comments. Not contradicting you about Pogacar. It’s all the others who’ve jumped on the theory that a negative not proven somehow must be a positive.

        • Interesting point – whooda thunk French TV would be superior? This reminds me of a guy (who posted here I believe) claiming that the TV equipment, crews, aircraft and other technology used to broadcast these races was provided by some sort of generic specialist operation that served ’em all. We exchanged some comments as I thought this to be BS, having seen both LeTour and Il Giro up close for decades and noting the vast parking lots full of big trucks with either RAI or French TV logos on them. There would be no way the markings and paint schemes on all of these could be swapped depending on the event. I met a camera operator for RAI who does NOT work for anyone else so I dismissed it all as social-media “knowledge”. Wonder how this guy would explain the technology differences you describe?

    • Ha, these previews get rustled up in 15 minutes late on the evening before each stage, obviously you need time to digest what has happened in the stage etc, you can’t prepare them in advance. This explains the typos.

      There is work in advance, I try to recon the key climbs and places if I don’t know them already, study the maps etc. People keep asking by email how the previews are done, maybe I do a blog post explainer someday.

  15. Now that the main prize is sorted (maybe) we can enjoy 2 weeks of glorious swashbuckling stage hunting! At least that’s what I am hoping.

  16. “Race is over, unnatural performance, procession to Paris, doping insinuation, doping insinuation….”

    This has been the most entertaining first week of the Tour, probably, in living memory. Incredible performances and unscriptable narratives daily, but still the usual complaints. Tough crowd.

    • Agreed. Also, history show that top shape dont last forever, so many riders has been in great shape, for then later to be beaten or show weaknes.. roglic also looked un beatable sometimes, look at him now. It shows that he didnt start with cycling, but comes from skijumping. He has problems to stay at top form long. Pog is more young and a more “pure” cyclist but hi will also get to the times when he is tired or form is fading. Just a question of time. There is absolutely nothing unormal about some riders beeing in better shape than others for some time.

      But crowd will always be a bit judgemental and run to conclusions. There is no reason to suspect somebody for doping just based on good performance and shape. 22 years is also a good adge to be in great shape on, recovery is faster in this age. Combine it with smart strategy like we saw yesterday and its hard to beat.

      • Sadly the history of the sport means that there is reason to be at least a little sceptical about outstanding performances. But somebody has to be the best, and peaking earlier than your rivals isn’t unheard of.

      • “There is absolutely nothing unormal about some riders being in better shape than others for some time.” Seriously ? In better shape ? His performance are incredible. And he is not tired at all after finishing.
        Otherworldly reactions like yours, we have read them before. In the Armstrong area. And the evening after Landis did his monstrous solo….

    • +1. Cav’s first stage win was, for me, one of the most exciting finishes in years: catching the break at the death and proving so many doubters wrong. So much emotion in that win! Then seeing Van Aert and VdP’s exploits, plus Friday’s brilliant stage. A beautiful first week : )

  17. After stage 8

    41 Alpecin–Fenix
    39   Deceuninck–Quick-Step
    27  Team Bahrain Victorious
    20  UAE Team Emirates
    15   Team Jumbo–Visma
    14 Arkéa–Samsic
    10   Team BikeExchange
    9   Bora–Hansgrohe
    9   Groupama–FDJ
    7  Trek–Segafredo
    6  Astana–Premier Tech
    4   EF Education–Nippo
    4   Israel Start-Up Nation
    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.

    • BikeExchange have been disappointing so far. Matthews close but not quite there early on. Hopefully Yates and Chaves can kick something off today.

      • S’alright as Alpecin Fenix has folded its tent as both MVP and Merlier have withdrawn pour encourager les autres. Wonder what the remaining riders do now – Have they been given a bag of sandwiches and hotel vouchers?
        How will Movistar move up in these rankings?

        • “Have they been given a bag of sandwiches and hotel vouchers?”

          Haha! That made me laugh out loud. Will we see them hitching a lift between stages?

  18. It’s brilliant to see a young fearless rider attack! Apart from Carapaz none of the others in the lead group took up the challenge! Why ride for 5th?

    • But I think the wealthiest team should be doing more than getting Carapaz to occasionally publicise their logo.
      I wonder what has gone wrong with Ineos’ preparation… they seem to have learnt nothing from last year and for some reason are sticking with a tour build-up that doesn’t work anymore.
      Ultimately they need to find ‘their man’ and build around him, perhaps uncertainty with Bernal (back, mental resilience) is distracting them a bit.

  19. Great article as ever. I’m no expert and just an armchair viewer, but I’ve no problem with one rider racing away in the overall in the first week. Cream rises to the top. Sure this tour has been hit by some quite nasty crashes and have reduced the ability of possible contenders. What really gets me going is the lack of fight by teams with riders in the top ten. It seems to me over recent years that teams are more bothered about losing a top ten spot than actually winning a jersey or a stage. Teams no longer work together to try and put pressure on an outright leader anymore either. These are the things in my opinion that made cycling exciting to watch irrespective of who the overall winner is. The determination to keep sponsors by playing safe and not taking risks seems to me to be sucking the joy out of the sport.

  20. What consistently impresses me about cyclists is the sheer effort they put in, day after day, in weather where you wouldn’t put the dog out. Their ability to pick themselves off the floor, often leaving skin and hair, and peddle on. I know there’s some concern over riders getting back on their bikes with concussions and various broken bits, and this is a valid point. However, when you compare them to the grunting fools at Wimbledon or the footballers rolling around faking injuries, there’s really no contest.

    • It’s very different to football as all that rolling can gain your team an advantage like a penalty or a free kick, players are incentivised to do it. In cycling if you linger on the ground you are worse off. If stage races rewarded this, eg if you graze your knee but faked a deeper injury to, say, get a tow back to the peloton attached to the race doctor’s car… then probably cyclists would be doing it too. But they don’t so we joke about the differences.

      • I understand why they do it, but it saddens me and is one of the reasons I no longer watch football. Agreed that cyclists may well game the system in a similar way if there was an opportunity and advantage to be had, it’s not like they haven’t tried a variety of other methods! However, the sheer cynicism, not to mention the appalling acting, means I have lost all interest in football, despite being English. Perhaps I’m the only one….

  21. Possibly today will be Jumbo Visma day, Sepp Kuss rides for the stage to rescue what has been disastrous attempt on the GC for the team,

    But maybe not…a

  22. The time Pogačar put in to Carapaz was absolutely massive. Far greater a difference than what Froome has done in 2013 and 2015. Armstrong on Alpe d’Huez in 2001 isn’t even there, only on Hautacam in 2000 is the difference (relative to duration) almost as big as yesterday. Not even Pantani managed to make so big a difference to his nearest rival in the Tour. A truly historical feat yesterday.

  23. The writing is both lovely and edifying, and enriches my enjoyment of these races. I’ve only been following and watching cycling races for a few years, and already I can anticipate 90% of what the race commentators will say. Here I’m constantly surprised. The context, background, and analysis is wonderful, so thank you again. Also, I love the tangents!

  24. Dave B talked about managing Carapaz’s efforts. I wonder if they missed an opportunity by not doing it yesterday.

    Potentially Carapaz tired himself out before a day that better suits. For the last two days, he was pulled back either on flat or downhill. There are less of these today and the last climb is longer. He also set himself up to be marked.

  25. Re the language of the geography of the Tour.
    The French do seem to have a curiously narrow attitude to languages other than standard French, which speaks to the country’s centralised nature, I guess. There were protests a few weeks ago against reforms which endanger teaching in local languages other than French. It does seem rather short-sighted attitude; once a language is gone, it’s gone – my own local ‘parler’, Aour’gnais effectively dead in the last century (yes, it was overrun by the English language, not French, under different circumstances, but gone and not coming back all the same). Luckily, certain regions have strong enough identities and traditions to resist – Brittany, of course, and Corsica too.
    So it is always a pleasure to read Inrng and to get so much local flavour beyond just the racing.

    • These identities and traditions exist, but to cut a long story short and there can be a few exceptions, the publicly funded schools are under the Ministry of Education in Paris and that means French, kids are more likely to learn English or German than Breton, it’s for parents and others to invest in. It’s just different to Italy or Spain but we see it right down to the names given to mountain passes on maps etc.

  26. About the word Cormet . Scottish Mountains have different classification names determined by their height . Above 3,000′ Munros and between 2,500-3000′ CORBETTS.

    Team Bike Exchange today – Chaves & Yates to end up working together after breakaway caught.

    ” The Munros are the highest of Scotland’s mountains, 282 mountain tops named after the man who first catalogued them, Sir Hugh Munro. The Munros are among the finest mountains in Scotland. The Corbetts are the equivalent mountains with altitudes between 2500ft and 3000ft and The Grahams between 2000ft and 2500ft. Whilst smaller in stature many Corbetts and Grahams rival Munros for walking and … “

  27. Attacking solo on the penultimate climb and 30 kms from the line under the rain is now dull?
    Ouch, bring back the fifteen (or ten) minutes efforts or the flamme rouge mountain sprints!

    Even the strongest rider can be sent off race, if his team fail, even more so on “easier” days. Which may not be the case, since UAE is no SKY nor USP, not even Lotto Jumbo, but they’re still a decent team, especially if some of their men find back some form after the brutal effort of Friday. Frankly far from a poor startlist for them. Yet, Pogacar came close to being isolated several times, and while you can just ride away on a hard stage with a hour of climbing left, it’s a different story if you’re left alone among the pieces of a splintered peloton during a flat or hilly stage some 100 kms to the line. It might become good to see, if the rest of the field smells blood and find the spirit to keep on trying.

    Plus, obviously, the various subplots. We’ve had plenty TdFs (most of them) where nothing interesting happened after the first mountain top finish, or until the very last couple of mountain stages. Or nothing interesting happened at all. If you want an interesting bike race every day, just watch the Giro. Normally, the TdF is more about making a big drama about little things (which looks Italian stereotype, but, hey!) and fantasising about ‘what ifs’ and ‘imagine that’. It’s a large, boring, pompous 1,000 pages novel – some of us happily read all the same, because it’s precisely the implied *greatness* of what’s at stake that makes it great. As a spectator, you must rely on inertia or finding your own motives – several of them on offer. But, yes, the Tour can be and often is very boring. No news if it was this year, too. At least we’ll have had a good first week!

    However, Pogacar was on paper the strongest rider even before the whole thing even started, he had shown so this year on every available occasion. Which didn’t imply him winning ’em all, by the way. He just confirmed that. In sporting terms, that’s how things should be, and until now we’ve been granted a serious show, too.

    That said, his only rival “mano a mano” was Roglic, and barey so. Just have a look to inrng’s chainrings. Carapaz and Thomas’ hopes depended *heavily* on their team’s options to play it tactically, that is, to take advantage (*one* of them) of some serious gameplay through two-pronged strategies. Neither, in their career until now, looked like they had that sort of absolute level (which didn’t prevent them from winning big, if circumstances helped; and that can still be the case this year!).
    Have you seen the rest of the field (as for inrng’s preview)? Porte, Kelderman, Alaphilippe, López, Mas, TGH, Urán…? It was already a huge surprise when they could podium in the past. Those of them who could podium. Several of them weren’t even going to go for yellow in the first place. The generational shifts which have been taking place in GC riders show their effects, and the Tour is also been having weaker startlists in recent years, for a series of different reasons. It’s not unexpected that the race dynamics just mirror that.

    The whole doping innuendo doesn’t make sense for now – not that I think “he’s not doping”, whatever that means in the heads of so many commenters; it’s rather that we should ask, if anything, if he’s enjoying any *particular* advantage, be it thanks to political protection (his country or his sponsor) or maybe some sort of technological advantage – and, in that case, to me it would make little difference if it was “legal” or not.
    Why does it make little sense (for now) to enter this otherwise interesting debate? IMHO, because in most case some sort of perspective on the subject becomes available only in some years’ time, as clues and circumstances sum up.
    That said, if I had more time I’d have some fun crosschecking if those hinting at Pogacar’s possible “doping advantage” do sometimes correspond to the same commenters refusing any remark on those same lines about the surprising comeback of Cavendish.
    I consider that there are several points in common between the two situations, for good or ill, and, personally, I don’t find that relevant insisting on doping in both cases, even less so in a public discussion. Yet, I would find it quite curious if the same people who were rejecting categorically any insinuation about Cav where now ready to snub Pogacar, and call ingenuous anyone who just think that – more often than not – doping isn’t the one and only explainer in cycling.

    • Again and again this tired comparaison between Tour and Giro, with all the tired commonplaces, half-true half-wrong… “If you want an interesting bike race every day, just watch the Giro.” Every day ? Never a boring day with two Bardianis and one Androni in the front, finished by a sprint ? Can’t you enjoy both, and one without denigrate the other ? “Long, dull and pompous book” : always ? I don’t know if the Tour 2011 follows this description…
      Sure, Giro is often more enjoyable because it’s more lively : but it’s also due to a less homogen peloton, to a lower general level (for stage hunting, for example) : it doesn’t make the race less good in my opinion. I really start to believe that Italians (or Italy appassionati) cannot forgive to the Tour to be the oldest and the most prestigious race ; Giro is more loved by real fans, but apparently it’s not enough. It’s like an strange inferiority complex, that only creates bitterness, and I’m not sure anyone has something to win.
      I’m sad to write this, because I really like Italy and Italians ; I lived there, I love the culture and the arts ; but really there is sometimes a bitterness (or extreme chauvinism) in italian tifosi that is not very pleasant (even in calcio : during the 2018 World Cup, there was only one page everyday in the Gazzetta on it, and twenty on Ronaldo coming to Juve. As a comparison, yesterday the une of L’Equipe was about the Squadra Azzura…)

      • Chauvinism is a French word, no? Having spent the same time following their respective Grand Tours I’d say they’re about equal in chauvinism though I’ll admit to being pulled over by the Italian police on the highway the morning after the French beat the Italians in a big football match. Once the cops found out we were Americans they let us go, laughing. We came to the conclusion they pulled us over because our vehicles had FRENCH short-term lease license plates?!?! Vive LeTour, W Il Giro!
        For more:

        • Maybe a more objective measure of the level of this year’s TDF over the Giro is to look at Tao Geoghegan Hart His battle for pink was fantastic and made him a worthy winner much to any fan’s delight. But here, no not remotely on the same level.
          The long hours of ‘buon pomeriggio, buon lavoro’ and ‘a tei Andrea’ we’re treated to on RAI are just different, being far more reliant on the final 20k with the typical surprise uncategorised climb and dash into the main square. It’s usually carefully choreographed by the teams, and this is possible only because the stakes are not as high.
          This Tour has come at exactly the time many top young riders are, well, top and realise there’s more to be gained by making attacks sooner and deeper than they could ever get by waiting for team instructions. Just enjoy watching them boost their earnings potential on the biggest stage.

      • What looks quite funny to me is that from a way larger comment you chose to focus on that single point, which, by the way, was quite marginal and was also meant to *defend* the current (and, to me, very good) TdF.
        As a side note, I don’t think it’s pure chance that, as we knew in advance, the “first week” (9 days) were extremely well-designed.
        The very general considerations about Giro and Tour look just obvious to me and were only meant to underline that people started whining (with no reason to do so, yet) about some *possible* and *future* circumstances (“boring race, dominated by too strong a rider, lack of action”) which are often inherent to the TdF as such, so my point was… why were they still watching, in the first place?
        In fact, you didn’t even notice that most of what I wrote about the question which matter so much to you was meant to be ironical in a benign way (while standing reasonably true, of course) as in “some of us happily read all the same, because it’s precisely the implied *greatness* of what’s at stake that makes it great”, which is precisely what you then echo in your rant… well, monsieur Lapalisse, as I said I’m watching the Tour(s), even the most boring ones (you actually didn’t need go all the way back to 2011: 2013 or 2015 were also fine!), and I find that there are lots of reason to do so.
        Let’s jump to Spanish: “quien se pica, es porque ajo ha comido” 😉

        • Generally I try to add to the debate by giving depth, not barbs. Volume alone indicated your comments were intended to draw the comparison – ‘thousand page novel’ and so on – forcing the point that the Giro is somehow better by being less prolix – to continue the literalogical theme – and more about action.
          There is value in studying each GT for what it brings us each day of a three week span. They are all different and worthy in their own right. The riders are in the midst of the work and we just turn it into spectacle, speculation and written output through our own interpretations. They are not doing it ‘for us’ they are there because it’s their job, with the whole road race cycle sport business regarding Le Tour de France as the pinnacle. If we choose to enjoy other events on the same level that’s up to us.

          • Dear plurien, should I remeber you that another commenter thought one of your comments was *mine* and referred at it as such not long ago? 😛
            Then said it was because of its length…

            That said, above I had: 3 lines about how good was Pogacar’s move; 8 lines about Pogi’s team and the chance of them being pushed to the ropes; 10 lines about the Tour as a race (with a reference to the Giro); 4 lines about Pogacar again; 12 lines about the competition and the generational shift; 16 lines about doping innuendo.
            Even if you take the whole paragraph about the Tour as a “Tour vs. Giro comparison” – which would be misreading, at best! – it’s 10 lines among more than 50 that touch every sort of different subjects which have nothing to do with the Giro or Italy or French coffee or Zidane and Materazzi.
            I guess you (and/or Cascarinho) are *just a little* biased.

            By the way, I often criticised the Giro (TV production anyone? Disappointing plan B courses? Poor management of the relations with riders?) – as you say, they’re different races, it’s easy to appreciate both, but that shouldn’t prevent anyone from being able to highlight weak points as well as positive or negative changes which might occur. In both cases. Appreciating a race for what it is also means being aware, well, of what *it is*, for good or ill.

            However, such a boring and self-referential subject doesn’t deserve further answer. Your replies are bordering on straw man argument, so I’ll leave you alone, although, of course, I’ll go on reading if you feel the need of adding anything else.

          • Oh, and both professionally and personally I am an avid and engaged reader of 1,000 pages novels, be it Infinite Jest, 2666, Illusions perdue, Underworld, Ulysses, La Storia and so on. Of course, I love (and work on) shorter ones, too – LeGuin’s, for example. Bolaño himself’s got a couple of great pages on the subject.

        • If I reacted, it is precisely because you couldn’t avoid mentionning this topic even in a non-related post, and because it is not the first time (PN/ Tirreno…) I really don’t see what you were adding to your interesting and well documented post (like always) by mentionning this point.
          Of course I’m biased, like you or everybody else, I don’t see the point here. If we were not our comments would be very uninteresting.
          We agree on the Tour parcours, and on almost everything else : it is when you find somebody interesting that you are most disappointed when they say something you consider not very true nor very clever.
          So maybe I ate garlic, it’s stinging me and my breathe doesn’t smell so good, I will try to speak from farther:)… Maybe I was triggered by your comment because something was bugging me for some time, and my comment back isn’t really deserved.
          Italy coffee and food are way better than their french counterparts, don’t worry about that 🙂
          I’m happy you spoke about Illusions Perdues which is one of my favorite novels ; if Italy and France animosity can already be found nel Dante, I propose the very italianophile Stendhal, rather, to make definitely peace.

  28. In terms of the entertainment to come, this reminds me of 2014, when Nibali was so much better than his main contenders that were left in the race. I remember enjoying 2014 (possibly because I was unreasonably delighted about Thibaut Pinot getting on the podium), so I’m optimistic there’ll still be plenty of entertainment to come, though the only way my unimaginative brain can imagine it leading to GC drama is through crosswind chaos. But heck, 12 stages and a procession is still a fair bit of cycling potential drama.

  29. All in all, what’s more worrying for Pogacar is actually what happened to the previous slot of “golden boys”… While the former generation of top GC riders stayed on top (being able to podium a GT) through some 9-10 years (Nibali 10, Contador 9, Froome 8), the following GT winners (Aru, Quintana, Dumoulin), while being generally more precocious, lasted at most 5-6 years at peak level.

    And we’ll now see what about peculiar cases like Roglic or, even more so, Thomas (late starters as GT riders), as well as what can be expected by those who’re supposedly entering their prime – yet look like they still lack seomething – like Yates, Tao or Carapaz. Some of them looked already a bit stale even before the new wave of talent appeared on scene.

    Dunno. I’m sort of afraid that *very* early talent (Pogacar, Bernal, and in a sense also Evenepoel, whether he’ll get to be a GT rider or not), although they’re not just a sheer promise but a well-confirmed reality, might get burnt off fast – which, after all, would be no novelty – the likes of Merckx or Saronni were essentially over at 30 (like the present 1990 generation); Indurain, LeMond, Fignon or Hinault lasted a couple of seasons more but then jumped directly into retirement. The Bartali, Gimondi or Zoetemelk thing isn’t for everyone.
    Yet, I’d be worried if the blooming period ended up being cut even shorter than what we’ve seen until now.

    • At least, Evenepoel turned out to be human in the Giro. As Bernal did in the Tour last year, and to a lesser extent this year, in the Giro. Having at least a bad day.

      I am absolutely convinced that Pogacar is on the banned products, just like the Bahrain riders.

      • Possible or even probable (as so many others).
        But – is that the only or main explainer of his feats? Of course not.
        Your point re: Bernal or Evenepoel is moot… if Pogacar’s got a bad day at some point in the future, you’ll discount him as a “doping suspicious”? Just from that moment on or retrospectively?
        Did, say, Bernal dope, then he stopped, then he started again, then he stopped again… or what?
        As I wrote elsewhere, it rarely makes sense to go wild guessing about doping in the short terms. And people get so blinded by that possibility that they forget it’s normally only a little part of a way bigger picture, thus losing in the process all the other elements which are equally paramount for a decent analysis.

        • But it’s Pogacars third season (since he became a top cyclist) without a bad day.
          I suspect that the team management will now force him to drive defensively, even faking occasionally that he is having a difficult day. After the avalanche of suspicions. But real cycling connoisseurs will not be fooled by that. Naives do. It’s up to you to choose which category you belong to.

      • It’s interesting. Gilbert, not far off 20 years into life in the peloton, put on Instagram yesterday he’d never known the bunch ride so fast (presumably on mountain stages). And who’s up there coming 3rd? Bahrain’s sprinter (I know he’s a bit more than a sprinter). Plus last year you had Van Aert climbing like he was, well, a climber. What were we all told by the likes of Fignon and Lemond about the advent of the EPO era? They could tell something had changed when suddenly bigger riders were flying up climbs. The thing with modern cycling is you don’t get certain riders suddenly appearing much better, but entire teams. Bahrain this year, Jumbo Visma last year, Ineos at every grand tour bar this one. Not to mention the cases of disappearing talent of anyone who leaves Quickstep.

        • “Not to mention the cases of disappearing talent of anyone who leaves Quickstep” ? I disagree with that statement. Some riders just performed better after leaving the team . But most riders leave the team because of money. Only to find out that the atmosphere in their new team is bad (or not ideal), or that they do not receive sufficient support from the team management and teammates. And then they will automatically perform less.

      • Feel the sponsors of these two teams are competing with each other for prestige. Both think nothing of bending rules (or ignoring them completely) to get what they want. If you’re complicit in massive human rights abuses then giving then green light to doping on your cycling team is an inconsequential decision.

  30. To relate the Pogacar effort to another recent race is almost impossible. I can think of maybe one or two in the past 30 years. And they were due to “artificial or illegal” aid. It isn’t over yet, but barring any self-implosion or other unforeseen events there is little doubt who should win. I thought Evenepol and “Pogo” would supply exciting action this year. I was proved wrong on that and the surprise emergence of the Manx Missile! Vive le Tour

  31. It’s inexplicable why INEOS pulled after UAE burned off. Carapaz clearly isn’t in any shape to burn Pogacar off his wheel, and hasn’t looked like doing it with any of the other GC rivals. They might as well be throwing petals and shouting “all hail king Pogacar, long live the king”

      • Well, Lutsenko, Gadu and Kelderman did loose not insignificant amount of time, so it is not entirely pointless.

        Pogacar would do whatever Pogacar feels like, so there’s no guarantee he wouldn’t go anyway.

        Potentially, Wednesday can be interesting. Maybe Ineos should let O’Corner attack, promoting a Pogacar chase, before try to chase them with a train.

  32. Love the tangent. As INRNG notes, Col is the most common name for a mountain pass in France, but the others aren’t randomly distributed, but quite local. So Bocca is pretty much only found in Corsica. In the Jura, Golet is common. In Savoie and neighboring Switzerland you get several Col de la Forclaz, with Forclaz being itself a word for pass, a Redundancy Pass if there ever was one. There are also Baisse and Basse, and Collet, Pas and Passage, Trou, and in the Pyrenees you also get Collada, Couret, Cot and Hourquette, among others.

    • Inrng included breche. The only one I know is Breche de Rolande in the Cirque De Gavarnie. I always took this to be analogous with Break or breach. Anyway the background to the name is very cool

    • You’ve probably got all the other names in France and as you say they tend to be local. Forclaz has the same routes as a Forcella or a Forca in Italy, presumably Furka in Switzerland. You can often get this Pass of [Local Word for Pass], like we saw in the Giro with the Passo della Colma.

      • A definition, or a hint to the etymology of Cormet would be interesting. It was noted above that Scotland has Corbetts, but that appears to be a coincidence, with their heights being derived from names of famous hikers/pioneers, rather than cognate, based on sounding similar.

  33. Yesterday Carapaz really should have left to his team mates to do the chasing. Both TGH and Porte were in the group and the moment Carapaz went with Pogacar they sat up. That said if they didn’t have the legs, it makes sense for Carapaz to go. He’d been leaned on to do the chasing. At least someone else had to drag that group back up to him.

    Apart from this, Ineos tactics was not bad. A surprise attack on Friday and Carapaz would have gained time if not for the old feud with Moviestar (or we should congratulate them for having the foresight to not bother with Pogacar); then maybe a long one today.

    Unfortunately, after yesterday, Carapaz was probably tired and didn’t have the Zap in his legs to really pull a gap or go long. Or maybe other contenders are more willing to chase given they are closer to the line today.

    • Yep, too bad INEOS’ Rasch and Knaven don’t get your advice BEFORE the stages. I’m sure the team would be doing much, much better if that was the case 🙂
      Reminds me of the Eurosport Italian coverage – ol’ Riccardo Magrini laughs at most of the “keyboard DS” comments Luca reads to him during the shows. He’ll often ask “What is this persons name? How many Tours has he raced or been the director on? I can’t find his name anywhere so why should what he thinks be important?”

      • Well, to be honest Larry, my “keyboard advice” and this kind of behaviours are more about seeking assurance that our guy could have done better (if not for that [xxx (well, welcome to fill-in whatever)]) than to prove that we are better than the actual DS behind the wheel.

        Well, I suppose unless the guy you are rooting for happens to be riding for Moviestar.

        So, why not humour us? It is harmless.

        And to highlight how little tactical value my comment contained, Porte and TGH looked cooked when Carapaz went with Pogacar on stage 8 so would likely provide little help. Should Carapaz stay, he would be forced to chase. At least as it happened somebody else had to do the chasing and he can ride his own tempo rather than the start/stop.

  34. Is it not odd that a guy pulls out of the race assoon as it hits the mountains so he can prepare for a mountain bike race? We should use the French term vtt.

  35. I was feeling quite smug about tipping Quintana for a chain ring…..until the last 20km or so. Did he puncture or just go pop?

    • Just ran out of energy, the cold made a lot of riders crack yesterday. Plus the sprints for the mountains could be a factor, he’s usually such a steady climber that going in and out of the red seems to cost him a lot.

    • His back numbers kind of dissolved in the rain. You could see them coming loose and hanging down at various times before (I assume) they just fell off.
      The race jury has enough to keep their eyes on, in those conditions why make a big deal out of something so trivial when they have transponders and numbers on the bikes as well, especially when they allow those semi-transparent pockets on the jersey to be used to display the #’s? At least on TV the #’s are much harder to make out on riders using them. but it doesn’t seem to matter.

      • He pulled it off and threw it away , it had detached itself and was flapping up and down, must have been driving him mad. No fine for littering, though ( that’s a joke by the way).

        However, he did put on a rain jacket which did not have any team logo on it. That’s what he wore throughout the time he was on the main screen, tussling for the points and the stage. If I was the team sponsor, I might be quite miffed by that.

    • That would be harsh – it blew off during a descent. Shame he cracked as he was doing well, but nice to see him in polka dots.

  36. “I rode one of my best ten-minute efforts ever at the start [of stage 8]. Those values have been recorded since 2013,” De Gendt told Sporza. “Normally, with those values, I can ride the whole peloton to pieces. Here, I was 100 metres behind in a group of 70 riders – and I started from the front row. When you’re not in the peloton after that it’s clear that the general level is just much higher.”

    Is this something to be worried about? I recall Fignon saying stuff like this about the 1990/91 peloton..

    • I can already see some evidence that the level has increased in recent years if you look at the climbing times on some mountains. But I would not count a single measurement with a powermeter. It could very easily be that the zero offset of the powermeter has been changed (due to temperature fluctuations). In order for powermeters to work reliably, you have to set this zero offset regularly. This is absolutely flawless only by stopping and going off the pedals. Powermeters have a built-in algorithm that can automatically set the zero offset while riding, but it is prone to errors because it assumes that zero torque has been applied to the crank for a long time.

    • Sounds like the old “I can’t understand how/why I was dropped. My numbers are the best they’ve ever been/same as before, blah, blah, blah.” usually said by racers in their mid-30’s as they approach their sell-by date. Thank gawd numbers don’t matter – it’s a bike RACE 🙂

  37. I watched two days of hard riding in the rain, and I saw only a couple of riders get flats. Can anybody comment on what’s changed in tire technology? Also, the disc brakes seemed to give the riders better control on the downhill runs.

    • Back-in-the-day they used to say water from wet roads lubricated the pointy things in the road, making it easier for them to penetrate the tire tread and puncture the tube. Assuming there really were less flat tires (which I wonder about with the TV directors so often switching away when a rider has any kind of mechanical issue, only to come back once he’s going again, usually with a replacement bike these days) it might be due to more use of road tubeless tires with sealant inside?
      As to the brakes, was UAE’s McNulty’s (who ran off the road and into the ditch on a descent) bike equipped with discs as his team leader’s is this year vs last year when the Colnago’s mostly had traditional brakes? One thing’s for sure, the disc brakes certainly make a lot of noise – reminds me of my old Schwinn Varsity and it’s chromed steel rims squeezed by hard-as-a-rock Weinmann brake blocks. IMHO it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard!

      • McNulty rode off the road because he wasn’t looking where he was going – I’m not sure any kind of brakes can do much to help with that.

    • It can depend as much on the local geology, rain in the Alps doesn’t equate to punctures as there’s not much debris on the roads that gets washed into the way, nor is the geology often the kind where you get sharp flintstone washed into the roads. Riders often puncture now because they slam their bikes into potholes and kerbs and again in the French Alps this is less of a problem. Not sure if the tech has changed too much otherwise compared to the last two years?

      • I can second that. I used to puncture regularly when riding in Limburg in the Netherlands as:
        1. It’s often raining.
        2. The fields are full of marl (clay), that has lots of flint mixed in.
        3. The rain and farm machinery brings the flints onto the roads.
        4. I spend ages in the pouring rain changing tubes….

  38. i also saw DeGendt’s comments. and I saw a link to (and analysis of) O’Connor’s ride. that data looks crazy impressive. i have to wonder could any of the top 10 (top 20) in the race produce a day like that after 8 days? if so, I have to think DeGendt is exactly right – the level is crazy high. If O’Connor can crank out a ride like that – does that mean time cut on Ventoux stage and a couple Pyrenees stages will put more riders in danger?? As a big Sagan fan – I have to wonder (just like DeGendt’s sentiments) if Colbrelli’s ride and the Asgreen/MVdP/WvA/Stuyven/Mohoric ride 2 days earlier mean his days are done. This breed of classics rider can really climb.

    • I’m stating to think a new legal “supplement” to aid recovery is being used. Also its been cool wet weather and Pogacar loves that and many riders dont. Maybe a heatwave will slow Pogacar.

    • No doubt the level is very high. De Gendt’s made a headline on Sporza that has gone around lots of the cycling media but has anyone looked got his power data and crunched the numbers? Some context can help as if De Gendt can get a gap and do his big watts then he’s very hard to get back. But if someone else gets a gap then De Gendt and company have to produce similar power to get the other riders back. Watts are a very useful tool of analysis but we need to know the context, the road, the tactics etc to get a better idea.

  39. I do not want to kick off another round of -he did, he did not- (and btw: not every discussion about certain things is „cyclingnews clinic-like“! This is such a passive-aggressive gaslighting, it is ridiculous, that some still use it. It is like trying to silence a woman with „you sound emotional/angry“ (and yes, this still happens) or calling magazines „tabloids“).

    But I have to say, that this „there is no proof“ shtick is ridiculous.
    1. we do know, that many riders doped, but never had a positive test, although they were tested hundreds of times – so absence of „proof“ means absolutely nothing. I do not get why this is so hard to understand once and for all: absence of proof does NOT mean a rider is not doping.!

    All it means is, that in this special instance a test could not find a specific substance. People act as if one doping test magically tests for all things doping ( it does not, it tests only for a few substances) and once one test is negative, the rider is doping free. This is not the case. And I think it is now accepted, that the blood passport is meaningless. Just think about denifl and co. It can be gamed and so if anything it only catches those, who do not have enough money to game it. It is high time people finally wrap their head around all this. The whole thing gets so boring and tedious otherwise.

    2. what „proof“? Since when does observation, knowledge and logic no longer count as „proof“? That would be ridiculous – although it would fit into our strange times!

    Observing, understanding, knowing something is as definite a proof as is seeing someone do something. Take gravity: We can not see, it, taste it, touch it, smell it or even really feel it. Yet we do know it exists. We have „proof“ it exists. How did we get this proof? Solely through observation, logic and thinking. And after some got convinced of their observation, they invented round about ways to measure it. And „prove“ it. Today we are so convinced gravity exists, that it actually feels like something that we can see and feel. But in truth all our proof, all this is still solely based on observation, imagination and knowledge which formed a concept, that we accepted as „truth“.

    The whole discussion here about this seems to me infantilised. I wish there would be more emotional, intellectual rigor and effort put in. Without this it largely is people endlessly talking to themselves. I understand, that some find it difficult to believe in things they can not physically see, but that is just their personal problem they have to work on, it has nothing to do with reality or the quantity of truth in something.

  40. CHF 7.5 million (EUR 7 million)* says dopers do get caught, but of course any contention that relies on simply not being able to disprove a negative really means nothing – Unless and until there is something by way of concrete evidence. Cheaters deserve to get caught and they do get caught
    Why do you watch the sport at all if it’s such a sham to you? Is it worth your time?


    • I assume this is an answer to my comment? I do not understand the money-thing. Do you want to say, that money is spend on something means it is working? Come on.

      And since when do people not watch something, because it is a „sham“? wrestling and movies are popular, yet none of it is „real“. cycling is no cult or religion, where you „believe“ and then are righteous or you do not „believe“ and are therefore wrong and to be discounted.

      Aside from everything: I did not say, that it is a „sham“ . That is your emotional reading of what I wrote. It has nothing to do with me or what I actually said. You have no information how I think about that, what my values and my understanding/judgment about it is. Sorry.

      I do not mean to be divisive or argue for the sake of arguing. I also do not mean it personal. At the same time I am so, so tired of all this. The real problem is that a thing like this comment section exists. It is a performance. And mostly one, who does not further anything. It is space to be filled and therefore people fill it. It is like taking a selfie in the mirror. People largely talk to themselves and reinforce their own emotions, no matter what the other person actually said. Like with that „sham“ thing. And if nobody says anything, this is accepted as normal/real. As an accepted action and standard. And from there it takes hold and everybody feels it is ok to make assumptions, to simply act on their emotions, to not respect others (because answering to the feeling a comment gives you instead of what the comment actually says is a form of disrespect).

      But most of all this is really a problem for our society. Just look where we are right now in the world, when everybody has absolutely no restraint emotionally or intellectually, when it is accepted to not put effort in. When we all just travel in self-comfort. There is so much space to be filled. Quantity without quality or quality control. It gives us an inflated feeling of our own worth, we constantly spend time reinforcing our selves, but not in a constructive, but in a totally sterile way. And this constant occupation with our own emotions and judgement leads to us thinking we and our own emotions are so much more important and right than those of others. After all, we got likes!. After all, we can publish our comments! We are after all the only „real thing“.

      Which in turn means we feel we do not have to respect and accept others and their opinions. First we discount and disrespect others a little and when nothing happens, we continue down this path. Till we think it is our way or the highway. And comment sections like this here multiply this. I think social media like this comment section and millions like it are really harmful to society. There are indeed really good comments, good conversations, but they are the minority and in no way outweigh the damage of the others.

      Again: I do not mean this personal or as an attack. At the same time I think it must be said.

  41. i wasn’t using DeGendt’s comments to say this looks like some sort of illegal performance enhancing product. that is (as is probably pretty obvious from all the tangential comments) a complicated subject. what is tested for? what will be deemed illegal in the future? how easy is it to evade a test with microdoses (how effective are those?)? i think for better or worse – testing is really only a margially effective way of weeding out illegal performance enhancing products/methods. i’d venture to say truth telling team physicians and riders would be more effective.
    back to my interpretation of DeGendt’s sentiments – if indeed the level is higher (Bahrain’s performances alone make me think it is), why it is higher is, of course, very compelling but ultimately very hard to know. That it is higher has additional implications – i’m thinking the crashes (more speed makes the draft even more important and breaking the grip of the draft even tougher) and the tactics about closing down gaps quickly and that older riders may not be able to improve any more to get up the higher level. If the level is higher i have to think we’ll see it in the Olympics endurance events with records falling – no way cycling is the only sport to find better aerobic athletes. i actually don’t think Pogacar’s performance is too different from last year’s TT. he is a TT climber not a Bernal or Carapaz accelerating climber. he is the FASTEST tt climber. i think Ineos (or anyone else) jacking the pace just plays into Pogacar’s hands. I also hope for some sunny weather again!

  42. There is a descent on the climb to Col des Saisies via Crest Voland (about a third of way up as the road crosses the Nant Rouge) – it’s not as long as on the main route via the D218, but a bit steeper (enough to feel it in the legs if returning to flumet via this route)

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