Tour de France Stage 8 Preview

A trip across the Jura mountains, this is a good day for the breakaway with a tricky uphill city finish in Lausanne.

UAE à la Planche: having suggested here two days ago that Tadej Pogačar “drinks” the obstacles in his way, it turns out he’s not just thirsty. He’s hungry too, and devouring the Tour de France. After his stage win in Longwy L’Equipe wrote “Pogačar is the rude glutton in the Tour’s canteen: he eats to his full, takes seconds when the others haven’t even filled their first plate…”. Insatiable, yesterday he deployed his team to raid the kitchen and set-up a stage win.

The breakaway formed after a long battle and at first glance included some odd names given the summit finish, Mads Pedersen for example, but his team mate Giulio Ciccone was there so the great Dane was useful in towing the move clear. UAE had Vegard Stake Laengen for reasons unknown and he was soon called back to help chase. Almost the whole UAE team was deployed to chase – Marc Hirschi excepted – and the work paid off because Pogačar just caught the last rider from the breakaway Lennard Kämna to win the stage, countering a late jump from Jonas Vingegaard. But at what price? Yes there are political considerations about mowing down a breakaway but that’s racing and this is the Tour de France, pas de cadeaux. No, let’s stick to simpler story of a team working this hard in the first week, they were toiling like it was a rare opportunity for them. Will they feel indigestion in the coming weeks?

There were two notable GC losses, Aleksander Vlasov lost 1m39s having been lucky so far with a puncture on the cobbled stage and a crash but each time getting back to the leaders. Jakob Fuglsang lost over five minutes which is significant for his Israel team’s points hunt as finishing 12th overall brings as many points as stage win.

The Route: 175km and 2,500m of vertical gain via the Jura mountains. First there’s 30km across the plains to Arbois, birthplace of the scientist Louis Pasteur whose worked contributed to winemaking and vaccinations alike, today the town makes some funky red and white wines. For the riders, déjà vu with the same first 50km as Stage 8 in 2017 so the unmarked climb of the Fer à Cheval won’t be a surprise, it’s 6km long at 4% but goes up with some 7-10% ramps to help the breakaway form.

Then it’s across to Comté country and the gentle rise of the categorised climb to Le Maréchet… followed by the harder and higher Col de la Savine… which isn’t categorised. Then a fast descent to Morbier, of the eponymous cheese, and into Morez. Here starts the longest climb of the day to Les Rousses, 7km at 5% but with a more Alpine feel and steeper parts. It’s across a plateau in the Jura to Switzerland and the juxtaposition of muddy fields and dairy cows with the whitewashed workshops of luxury watchmakers amid the lakes and forests before a small climb over the last mountain, the Col de Pétra-Felix leads to the Col du Mollendruz’s fast descent, no brakes needed.

This eventually leads to the shores of Lake Geneva but it takes a while to get there as the race borrows roads from the Tour de Romandie. Conspiracy theorists will note the race visits Cuarnens and there’s a climb before Cossonay, a sort of Mohorič launchpad to sneak away. Finally they reach the lake and it’s not flat on the approach to Lausanne.

The Finish: a city centre finish in Lausanne, and way harder than the profile suggests, the 4.8km at 4.6% sounds ok but in reality it’s a staircase of a finish. It starts with a left turn away from the lake kicks up at 10%, levels out to go under a bridge, rises up again, flattens for a crossroads and so on. But we can slice it into three sections: steep from 5km to the 3km point, flat/false flat down for a kilometre, and with 2km to go it rises up again before eventually easing by the line.

Overall it’s a hard finish where the right lines, gear choices and momentum will be key to winning if several riders come in together. It shouldn’t be a mystery as the Tour de Romandie had a TT stage at the top in May many a team should have made notes on the finish nearby.

The Contenders: the breakaway has a great chance of staying away for the win. Tadej Pogačar (UAE) can still win this but he doesn’t have to. Today’s finish really suits Julian Alaphilippe but he’s training in Livigno. Marc Hirschi would be ideal but he’s out of form. Tom Pidcock is made for this finish but he’s unlikely to get in the breakaway. Fortunately there are plenty of candidates left…

Does Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) go in the breakaway? He’s clearly a threat and today’s course offers a full 50 points to the winner in case he’s still worried about his 63 point lead over Fabio Jakobsen.

Dylan Teuns had a long day in the breakaway yesterday but can have a second go while team make Mohorič might fancy his chances but he’ll need to slip away before the final climb. Michael Woods (Israel) missed the breakaway yesterday and tried to bridge solo but was clearly at a disadvantage and shut things down so he’s fresher for today and the 10% slopes are his thing.

Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco) was climbing well in the streets of Longwy, today’s finish is within his range but if he’s away his presence might force others to attack and he risks missing the move.

Alexis Vuillermoz (TotalEnergies) rides on home roads in the Jura and is good for uphill finishes. Andreas Kron (Lotto-Soudal) is due a big win someday and handy at punchy finishes but is the form good enough? Benoît Cosnefroy (Ag2r Citroën) packs a punch, if he can make the break his challenge will be to match the climbers on the steep parts in Lausanne. Team mates Bob Jungels and Ben O’Connor have a chance but are better suited for tomorrow. Otherwise there’s a long list the stage is accessible to, think Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Andrea Bagioli (Quick-Step) and more. It’s also ideal for Magnus Cort (EF Education-Easypost) on paper but he must be fried by now.

Michael Matthews, WvA, Woods
Kron, Cosnefroy, Teuns, Mollema, Wellens, Mohorič

Weather: sunny and 27°C.

TV: the start is at 1.00pm CEST and finish is forecast for 5.40pm CEST. Tune in to watch the ding-dong attacks from the start which could the liveliest part of the stage.

Food and drink: a gourmet’s stage, you can take your pick among cheese and wine from either side of the Franco-Suisse border. The race goes through Arbois which has the first ever AOC wine, although that could just be admin because of Arbois’ alphabetical advantage, but it does make some interesting wines. Famous for the sweet vin de paille and vin jaune, the wines on the up are the dry savagnin and chardonnay whites. For cheese, take your pick with famous names like Comté and Morbier but if we’ve got a wine from France, let’s take a Vacherin-Mont d’Or cheese from Switzerland (photo from It’s made on both sides of the border but each country imposes different rules, the Swiss version uses pasteurised milk -boo – but is aged for longer – yay – and both are wrapped with a belt made from pine bark which lends a distinct taste. Paired with an Arbois wine, it’s probably not something the peloton can savour this evening.

63 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 8 Preview”

  1. The moment the race was won was when Vingegaard sat down momentarily thinking he had done enough … also momentarily … leaving the door open. An opportunity to land a small psychological blow was lost.

  2. I’m enjoying the new food based epilogues you the previews. Maybe you could extend into giving the odd local recipe like Jonathan Harris-Bass used to do on Eurosport?

  3. To be honest, I don’t think Vingegaard had a choice at that point. He was out of fuel and Pog is one of those riders who always has a tiny bit of twitch for the last sprint. We’ve seen it before.
    So cruel on Kamna!
    I thought Pog looked as ‘vulnerable’ as we’ve seen him despite winning. I thought he might fly away when Majka pulled off and take 30 seconds more.
    The contenders are closer than expected still – which is not to say he won’t blow them away in the high mountains.

    • Hard on Kanma but he was totally done. I’m impressed he kept the bike upright when he got passed, his cadence was so slow and blocky.

  4. Despite Tadej Pogacer looking completely dominant, incidents and medical issue aside, and a shoe in for the win, he does not yet have an unassailable lead. The top 10 are all within 2 minutes and Primoz Roglic is still seen as a threat. Do UAE soft pedal (in relative terms) until the peloton reaches the Maurienne valley or do they expend energy trying to build a dominant lead. In his current form Tadej Pogacer would be a favourite for all of the next few stages but would it be better to simply ride defensively and let breaks go? Not sure that is in his nature. The longer term forecast is for very high temperatures next weekend, which rumour suggests, does not suit him maybe better to take time now rather than wait? I would go with TP taking this stage too.

    • Personally, i dont think pog will go for it today. The team cant ride like crasy every day. Yesterday was long planed and eyed out stage win for Pog, not only he wanted to win that exact stage, but it seemed also a stunt to promote some special shoes he used, and somehow that was related to donating money for cancer research. I dint understand the story completely. But was something like this related to his beautiful cyclist girlfriend who lost her mother to cancer lately.

      Also the early hills today suggest that hilly or mountain type cyclists will have a easier time to get free.. if the main group are to go full speed uphill after 25km.. there will be lots of raiders dropped of very early. Now that can happen, and i really dont know. Just belive that pog will look for several other stages and think that in general uae should do smarter to let a breakaway go today and try to save some energy for the heavier mountain stages. We will find out.

      • He started a foundation to sponsor cancer research, it was launched today. The shoes were also there to promote the foundation. He really wanted to win to get more attention to that.

  5. I honestly think that it’s immaterial if Pogacar’s UAE team run out of gas in week 3.
    The only way he may remotely look in trouble is a collaboration from two or more teams.
    For that to work, it’d have to include Jumbo-Visma and Ineos.
    Pogacar sailed around the peloton pretty much on his own in the opening few days of the Tour and he’s quite capable of doing so again at the race’s conclusion, whatever the terrain, in my opinion.

    • Agree on collaboration … It would be most cool to see Ineos and JV put Yates or Martinez and Roglic (together with a helper or two) in the break today and then work together!

      • If I had a Euro each time I heard about teams having to form an alliance to beat the leader, well I could buy a case of Arbois wine. These things do get talked about but rarely happen, although it can, especially to split the race in the crosswinds. But taking on the GC is a bigger ask. I suspect teams will see what happens on the Granon and Alpe d’Huez next week.

        • “My enemy’s enemy is my friend” is probably what Pogacar is thinking now. Smart to use Ineos & Jumbo against each other for now. Cross winds is the only time Pogacar has lost significant time in TdF.

    • Alliances. Yeah right. But both JV and Ineos having multiple leaders plus some strong domestiques makes for a lot of competition. 35s to Vingegaard is a small margin and there is a lot of ground to cover. Yesterday was very close, not yet the decisive blow some had expected. Pogacar won’t be easy to beat but it doesn’t look impossible yet. He’s been using up a lot of energy. In the past he has shown that he can keep it up for the full three weeks but nothing is certain.

  6. Pogacar is in full cannibal mode. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins 5 or 6 stages. I have no stats, research or even casual observations to back it up but I’d guess that when we get these 5 Tour winning freak shows they tend to be at their best in their 3rd? Having gained experience and strength but not started yet on the downward slope. At Pogacars age though he’s probably still very much on the upward curve.

  7. Curious to see what Ineos do with their four riders in the top GC ten. Pidcock was not supposed to be there (GC) but with the white jersey – even if by default, he can hardly be expected to cede time yet. If not before, stage 11 and the Galibier should clear things up for the team.

    Looking at Pogecar’s talents in a wide range off circumstances, team managers and riders will be spending time looking for Pogecar-free races over the next few years. A little like the days of Merckx, though Merckx rode everything and always to win.

  8. Roglic not worth a mention? He wouldn’t be my favourite but he came third yesterday, ninth the day before, and has a great kick. His shoulder injury doesn’t seem to be hampering him too much.

      • Yeah, agree it’s difficult to see past Pogacar, never mind someone who’s carrying an injury as KevinK outlines. I’d still make Roglic one of the best GC bets though. I can only really see WVA beating Pogacar in a reduced sprint though. One of those two or a breakaway most likely.

    • Roglic said something along the lines that with every seated pedal stroke felt like a knife in back. He’s not a rider prone to making excuses or exaggerating, so I’m going to assume that it may indeed be hampering him somewhat. The fact that he could still make third place yesterday, despite that, only adds to my admiration of him. Hopefully that pain rapidly diminishes as the race continues (as I expect it will as the acute inflammation subsides).

      • To finish back to back top 10s, after dislocating a shoulder, is phenomenal. The TJV doc from last year’s Tour showed how tough he is too.

  9. As has been said before UAE seem to have bike problems – Hirschi changed bikes 4 times on one TdS stage and 3 guys (including Pogacar) had mechanicals yesterday early on. Ineos seem to have a Pavlovian reaction when a hill comes in view – all to the front & full USPS order. So much for Cummings’s comments – sending Ganna on his own with Geschke in the break was certainly novel though. Surprised Yates did poorly and how well Roglic did after his crash. Hopefully Bora can liven things up again as in the Giro – Vlasov’s crash has seemingly dented his podium chances.

  10. An itneresting dilemma for the other GC teams, if Pog continues to dispatch other riders with ease on this tour would you bother focussing next years program on the tour or take your best GC rider elsewhere? The tour is the tour but no one reminders the second place, better a possible win on the Vuelta or Giro. I will no doubt be eating humble pie if the road throws up a surprise.

    • That exists already, Ineos sent Carapaz to the Giro, Astana had Lopez, and other teams sent many strong climbers there knowing the Tour’s TT didn’t suit. It could be more pronounced but don’t forget the Tour is so big that second place still generates a lot of attention. Studies by marketing agencies suggest for some teams the Tour is 70-80% of their annual media exposure.

  11. Sadly I was in a zoom meeting yesterday during the last 20 km of yesterday’s stage, and looked at the race feed just as Kamna wobbled across the line. I couldn’t resist continuing to watch so that I knew the outcome by the time the first replays of the last few hundred meters were aired, so I missed all the drama. This must have been a nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat, should at the monitor kind of finish that I was sorry to have missed live.

    This stage reminded me that, however much people want to see WvA as the greatest and most versatile rider of this decade (with MvdP as a close second) the real GOOT (“Greatest Of Our Time”) is Pogačar.

    A quick (and trivial) question for our host regarding this line: “…steep from 5km to the 3km point, flat/false flat down for a kilometre, and with 2km to go it rises up again…” I take ‘false flat’ to be a section of road that is slightly inclined but which appears flat in the context of a very steep section of road just before. I thought the key point of this was, while it might appear to the rider who is almost spent from the steep section that now they’ll have a moment to recuperate, instead they’re still actually climbing, just less severely. In this case (and I realize that the little graphic is a simplification) it appears that this section doesn’t incline at all.

    • Agree about Pogacar at the moment – TT, then the pavé and then yesterday’s stage shows his all round talents. I just hope that the TdF decides to have some mountain stages over 150 km so we can see how well he can perform on multiple very hard days.

      • I just noticed Pogačar is second in KOM points (by 1 point) and third in the Points classification. Imagine that he wins several more stages, and maybe WvA gets COVID, and Jakobsen can’t get over one of the mountains in time. Pogačar could finish this Tour with every jersey! Yes, I know the points jersey is an extreme longshot, and the KOM scoring has been modified to make it less GC-contender friendly, but it seems like if it was ever going to happen again (1969 being the only time someone won all the jerseys), this could be the year.

    • What’s the time-frame for “Greatest of Our Time”? So many “Greatest of All Time” lists contain only what happened since the author started paying attention to pro cycling, so I’m curious.
      Are we ready to declare Pogacar the heir to Merckx? Hinault? IMHO he’s certainly better than Froome and the guy who wore yellow all those times before him and probably BigMig…

      • It should be self-evident. The greatest on one’s time is . . . (wait for it!) . . . one’s time! I would argue that Sagan was the greatest rider of his time. I.e., the period of his relative dominance plus a year or two on either end, so basically the decade of 2010-2019. I specifically made up the term GOOT (or, for past periods, GOTT for “greatest of their time”) to avoid the obvious issues with GOAT lists. So in a sense you’re correct, I’ve anointed Sagan the GOTT which correlates roughly with the period that I’ve been paying attention.

        Did anyone here call Pogačar the heir to Merckx? I didn’t, though it’s hard not to see a pattern forming. This is another example of your tendency to create straw men with which to do battle.

        • Unsurprisingly, I’d make an argument to award Nibali such a prize during roughly those same years. And I say “unsurprisingly” because the contest becomes easily a “who were you fan of?” sort of thing. Well, I must admit that I also rooted for Sagan… or the others I’ll name below.

          By the way, what happens when the years relative to two riders do overlap only partially? I guess that Tom Boonen – who should sit pretty much over Sagan according to any standard – can be considered “ancient history” when compared to Sagan, that is, despite his incredible 2012 season we can more or less safely consider that the rise of Sagan corresponded to Boonen’s long goodbye.
          Fine, let’s skip the whole debate.

          But what about Gilbert? You can’t ignore his 2008-2009-2010 (and you could easily add in 2006), but you can’t avoid stretching his career to 2017-2019, either.
          Gilbert’s longevity, by the way, is precisely a significant advantage point over Sagan if you want to somehow estimate the “greatness” of a rider, it should be a feature, and a very relevant one.
          Hard to compare the two, given that they “only” have in common being superclass explosive Classics riders (are they both?), but Gilbert never even tried to become a bunch sprinter of sort (as, say, Bettini did back then in the final part of his career).
          In that sense, the 80 victories of Gilbert are probably worth even more than the 120 by Sagan. And if you look at them as “Classic riders”, well, Gilbert having won pretty much every one-day race you can imagine barring Sanremo (hey, another shared trait with Sagan!) should be valued more than Sagan, despite the multiple green jerseys and the triple rainbow.
          If you put Sagan in the “sprinter category”, considering his Monument wins “just” an added value of sort (as in Zabel, Freire, or more recently and on a lesser level the likes of Degenkolb or Kristoff), well, I’m afraid that it means starting on the backfoot when speaking of being the greatest “in cycling”.
          Cav, as “the best sprinter ever” could be seen as “the GOOT or GOHT”, no? Surely somebody will defend the point below – not me.
          As a one-day racer, OTOH, Sagan appears a little limited both in scope and in quantity: two third of his victories are actually stages (and 17 of them at the Tour of Cali, eyerolling).
          Moreover, the sensation that for whatever reason Sagan really didn’t accompish his full potential doesn’t help much, either, nor does it help having the reference of both Freire and Zabel so close in time, although they are maybe – just maybe – a little below him (or Boonen, above him, or even Robbie McEwen, further below, all very close in time).
          Gilbert has few comparable riders since the 80s with Sean Kelly and Kuiper, 30 to 40 years ago. Those who came someway close in the meantime, like Cancellara, Bettini or Bartoli didn’t ever gave a real impression they could actually “strive for 5” as Gilbert no doubt did, even more so considering that, in fact, he podiumed a couple of times in Sanremo plus several top-10s or coming close without that being mirrored by the final placing.

          Oh, and I didn’t even get started with Nibali 😛

          • Along the lines of what I’ve been writing above, what’s notable about Pogacar is that he has already achieved 2 different Monuments and the TDF (a couple of them, actually), which, even leaving the huge rest aside, makes of him a very special rider. He makes it all look easy, but – in a very very broad sense – he’s already someway close to Nibali, who on turn looked sort of a unique specimen in these last three or four decades of cycling. And as we all know the shocking sensation is that it’s not absurd to think that he can go for it all – not out of more or less far-fetched extrapolation as in Nibali or Valverde’s case, rather watching his factual results.

          • It is of course subjective to some degree, but I take the density of victories, the number of world championships (by virtually all standards the apex of one-day races), annual rankings (I prefer the PCS rankings), the range of races won, the range of races the rider was competitive in (top 3 finishes, top 10 finishes), all over a substantial period (i.e., a decade) but not an entire career. I choose a decade because in a very large number of endeavors (esp. sports, but definitely not just sports) the greats tend to do their greatest work over about a decade. Longevity is a totally different thing – being good forever doesn’t earn one the appellation of a “great.” And to compare Sagan’s classics wins to a classics rider, and his sprint wins to top sprinters, and so on, is nonsensical. Sagan excelled at classics, at stage races, at sprints, etc. That’s part of what I mean by greatest of his time. The other riders were relatively specialists. He could go toe to toe with the best sprinters and beat them often enough, he could go toe to toe with the best classics riders and beat them, he’s won an extraordinary number of individual stages in the hardest stage races, and he even won a few stage races and ITTs. I was once looking at his top placings in every race that he’d ever done, and it was astonishing how many different races he’d won. If you want to talk about best classics riders, or best sprinter, etc., then just use that terminology. But I’m talking about the dominant rider of their time, the rider who in the majority of their races was being marked by other riders. For the period of 2010-2019 only Sagan is that rider. This decade it’s either WvA or Pog.

          • Sagan won too few Classics, essentially. And he chose to be a sprinter of sort. Winning a lot of stages in stage racing is in a way the lesser accomplishment a rider can hope for. Quantity over quality. Thinking about his potential… At the end of the day, it’s not that your choice is not plausible, it’s just very far from being self-evident.

          • To elabore slightly… Nibali was nowhere close to being the leading GT rider of his time nor was he a leading classics rider. Or perhaps close to both, perhaps. Pogacar is already at least a class above Nibali, as is Froome – in terms of GTs – who actualy won TdF (and Giro) against top oposition (while Nibali’s TdF triumph was a freak accident, iirc).

            A matter of opinion, of course, and I’d happily admit your’s almost certainly much more relevant to mine, but still… why Nibali – because he was a daring rider combining stage racing with some classics success?

          • “Sagan won too few Classics, essentially.”

            It’s true he didn’t win the monuments he was expected to win, but if you look at his record in the Classics as compared to the riders he actually rode against (i.e., excluding Boonen and Gilbert pre-2010) then I’m not sure who you think clearly superior. He had two different monuments along with many near misses, 3 GW, 3 Canadian classics (yes, they have little history, but they were major one-day races in the calendar that Sagan raced in), E3 Harelbeke, KBK, De Barbantse Pijl, and would have won Strade Bianchi if he didn’t have a teammate up the road who rode the race of his life.

            In addition, and perhaps more importantly, he usually raced against the entire Quickstep team, who had a motto “Ether we win, or Sagan loses” which they had the talent to actually implement many years. Sagan generally rode these races with teams that were at a substantial disadvantage in supporting him, and was THE marked rider often, which resulted in many top 10 finishes but fewer wins.

          • ^___^
            No point in delving further into a pointless debate. If we really had a GOTT mit uns these decade, we’d pretty much know it, just as we feel that can Pogacar might turn out to be if everything goes his way. That’s what I’m more or less defending, actually.

            Re: Sagan, one could in fact say that his main limitations is über-specialisation. Without two competitions (Green Jersey and Worlds), although very important, he’s got a serious palmarés but really not that special. And, no, the Worlds aren’t the very top of anything, cycling doesn’t exactly work like that, it’s really the interaction of “who” and “how” besides “what”. Sagan can still step up if he brings home at least a Sanremo or a 4th rainbow. But I feel that he already traded glory for money. He had the potential to leave a huge mark in history (as I defended elsewhere) – he sure left a huge one in marketing. Which is great for cycling’s growth, too, perhaps not for cycling books. He’s a figure which will stand as time goes by, no doubt, but him being the most notable cyclist of the decade in technical terms. No, he’d need to be the best ever and by far in what he does, and he just isn’t, besides having restricted too much the “what he does”, a bit like Valverde. The umpth Flèche or Liège should have been swapped for any other Monuments, possibly two different ones…

            Re: Nibali, the debate about 2014 is quite open. Surely he dominated because a lack of competition, it’s quite much to be seen if he wouldn’t win. By the way, neither crash of his rivals was sheer bad luck, quite the other way around. However, it’s clear that he really never looked so absolutely dominant as say Gilbert 2011 or Boonen 2005/2012 (don’t trust too much PCS points, they aren’t thought for this), although in 2013 and 2014 he came pretty close. However, the point is another one: if we speak of “the best cyclist”, being an overall competitor is a huge added value. Nobody came close to matching Nibali’s palmarés in terms of a broad range of the top races in cycling. And it’s not just about a “broad” palmarés… not many cyclists in this generation have won 3 Monuments (especially if you include two different ones) *or* 4 GTs (again, especially different ones), let alone the two achievements by the same person. It’s so unique that it’s shocking, indeed (Pogi is way more of course). Surely among the *three* best GT riders after Armstrong, and probably among the five best Classics riders 2010-2020, roughly between Boonen and the Vans/Alaph – surely in terms of results (Gilbert, Cancellara, Sagan, Valverde… anyone else with three Monuments or Worlds).

          • I love it when people say “no point in delving further” and then go on for several paragraphs. 😉

            You say of Sagan, “No, he’d need to be the best ever and by far in what he does, and he just isn’t” and then as counter examples of riders who should be considered the greatest riders of this period you again mention Gilbert (who is a pure classics rider and isn’t remotely the best ever at this, and certainly wasn’t the best at it during Sagan’s career) and Boonen (classics specialist who also won a lot of stage races, and was better than Gilbert but also clearly not the best ever). Interesting that you don’t mention Cancellara, who was arguably the greatest classics riders around during Sagan’s career. And, staying on classics, Sagan didn’t really start riding classics to any extent until 2013. Perhaps we should ask who was the clearly better classics rider in actual competition with Sagan in the races he actually rode? I don’t see a dramatically superior classics rider here, and Sagan’s results compare very well on that score. So while it’s fine to talk about what Boonen and Gilbert accomplished while Sagan was a kid riding mountain bikes or at the very beginning of his precocious career, you might as well also bring up Merckx and De Vlaeminck.

            And you manage to put down the WC race as not so special, but surely it is at least the equal of any monument. Winning three is extraordinary, winning three consecutively is jaw dropping.

            You also went to great pains to denigrate stage races as nothing special, but it appears to me that the majority of pro races are indeed stages in stage races, and the majority of cycling teams appear to be oriented to win in these races. Are they really just filler? At the end of the day, the goal of a bike racer is to win bike races, and especially to win top bike races. Sagan won more races than anyone else during his career, and he won far far more WT races than anyone. Plus he had far more top finishes than anyone (over 500 top 10s, for example). The salary he accepted, or the fact that you judge he didn’t reach his full potential are irrelevant. And as for his “missed potential,” here I think you badly underestimate how much the rest of the peloton were riding against him in many cases, how weak his teams tended to be, and how much luck comes into play at the finish. The fact is he was extraordinarily consistent, winning year after year, constantly there at the finish, while the other riders you have mentioned went from having good years to being invisible time and again.

            As for the choices Sagan made, take a close look at his career. By 2012, as a 22 y/o, he had barely started racing the classics but he was already a dominant stage racer with 3 stages each at the TdF, Vuelta, and Suisse, two at PN and Poland, one each at Romandie and TA, and 8 at the TOC (plus a couple of minor GC wins and a green jersey). For most pros, this would have been an outrageously successful 15 year career! By your reckoning he should have given up an emphasis on those races to focus on the classics. The fact is he tried to do both from 2013 on, and he succeeded to a greater degree than anyone else I can see in the peloton.

            And Nibali was clearly an amazing rider, winning a wide range of races and being the rare GC rider who could win GCs, stage races, and monuments. But he was never a dominating rider like Sagan and frankly needed things to break just right to get many of his key victories. And, of course, by your “he’d need to be the best ever and by far in what he does” standard, Nibali lags.

          • Errrrr, I think you just didn’t understand several points, but that’s because of poor editing, too. You’re right about Cancellara, but he doesn’t equal Gilbert in Classics, which, let me remind you, aren’t cobbled ones only. Of course he should be credited as a freat ITT man (slightly different time spans, yet). My main point you clearly missed is that when you reduce your scope to very specific goals, you need to be progressively better if you want to be “so special” when compared to the rest of riders (all riders) of your generation. An absurd “rule” of sort? In a sense, but it comes from a more basic principle: to know how exceptional a rider is, just check how many you can find (or how far back you need to go) in order to find a similar or comparable profile.
            Sagan is superior but not hugely so when compared to Zabel or Freire, and probably on par with Bettini, or even slightly below depending on tastes and POVs, a different rider with a palmarés of similar weight.
            I didn’t explain that above in detail but I supposed that the examples made that clear (the Valverde one was pretty explicit, as Nibali’s, including figures and estimations)… only, you just failed to get the point – check what you write about Nibali against what I was actually writing.
            Boonen was essentially a cobbled classics specialist with a couple of (big) extras, but he was probably the strongest riders on the cobbles… *ever*. Which keeps him “a step above”, so to say.
            Oh, by the way (speaking of Boonen and Cancellara), a huge rider like Sagan just doesn’t deserve that list of excuses, it’s just cycling, as you grow stronger things go less and less your way, even on a devoted team (the “Devolder effect”). You’re a superstar and a superior athlete, take measures… on the road or on your contract.
            Finally, and I insist I won’t delve further into the subject – proportionally to what *could* be said, of course – yeah, stage wins are mostly fillers. I thought everybody had noticed. Tour of Poland as a whole, GC included, is also a filler, as Romandie, Tour of Cali and other WT races. They aren’t *always* fillers, much depend on what actually happens, but, yeah, they generally are. Just check this against your own memory. Sprint stages or classics are also more of a filler. That’s precisely their function. Plus, given that cycling really hasn’t a true league system, cycling creates different objectives for cyclists of different level often within the same race, or through the calendar. So, a lesser athlete can become competitive on goals which are important but *less of a priority* for top athletes, forcing the “strain” or “cost” of winning. Guess what happens when a top athlete goes all-in in a smaller pool?
            Speaking of “forcing”, the debate is forcing me to stress Sagan’s limitations, while I obviously consider that he’s an obvious candidate in the (meaningless) debate we’re in. The only legitimate answer is that we have had a generation of exceptional athletes, especially in one-day races, which surely includes Sagan. Equally, I didn’t insist on the factors which do limit, say, Nibali, which are also important, albeit frankly different from the ones you highlight (with such a bulk of big wins speaking of “things going his way” as a matter of luck or random chances doesn’t make sense, as you can notice thinking about podia, too, besides victories; it’s rather about being *nearly always up there*, plus having a talent for grabbing the moment or pronlem solving which makes for the lack of sprint).
            I’ll leave it here.

          • I’m sorry, gabriel, but you do so much hand waving and bringing up exceptions to exceptions that it’s easy to lose track of the point you might be trying to make. Frankly, I think that’s part of your debate style – overwhelm them with tangentially related and slightly relevant factoids, but never actually build a clear case. I stopped reading this time when you mention Zabel and Freire – they were great riders in their era, and would be in the running for “GOTT” status. But it’s irrelevant to Sagan, since they were not of his era.

            I’m not sure why you have so much trouble understanding that. I never said Sagan was the greatest of all time, or the greatest rider of his type (if he really has a type) of all time, just that he was THE rider of his generation, of his time, the twenty-teens. You can make the case for Nibali, and maybe even Valverde, but Boonen/Gilbert/Zabel aren’t even in the equation – their best years were before Sagan came along – and the riders you mentioned a few posts ago (Kristoff, Degenkolb, Cavendish, etc.) can’t hold a candle to Sagan, either because they do what Sagan can do but not as well, or they’re dramatically more limited riders who have factored in a small percentage of the races they enter.

            By the way, I don’t mean what I said in the first paragraph to be an insult. I think you have a hard time being clear and decisive and taking an actual stand. With everything you’ve written, I still have no idea who you think is the GOTT of the last decade if not Sagan. You’ve mentioned a list of riders who should be considered, and another list who would be good candidates for the GOTT of the drug-fueled ‘Naughties’ (2000-2009), but I still don’t know what you really think.

  12. Minor pedantic correction: the Vin Jaune isn’t sweet at all. It’s bone-dry and sherry-like. In fact, It’s made in a similar way to Sherry, and tastes somewhere between a Fino and an Amontillado.

  13. Thank you, I’m a big fan of Vin Jaune. It’s excellent (but pricey). I still have a bottle or two from the case I bought the day my son won a race in the area (your comment about buying a case of Arbois wine brought me nice memories). 😀

  14. For a lot of hardcore wine folk the Jura is the most exiciting wine region in all of France.

    Because of the hype and relatively low production levels, prices have increased massively over the last 5 years (particularly from my vantage point in Australia!).

    • I’d tried Jura wine before and found it horrible but it seems the cheap stuff is bad, the pricier stuff is, well, better value. As part of the route recons I stayed in Arbois and a hotelier was raving about the wine and I left convinced as well.

    • Some variety and as the cliché goes the Tour de France is also the tour of France so you see all parts. Today’s finish isn’t in France of course but a rare city finish. We had one in Lyon in 2020 and they always have a different feel. The photo’s from the town of Dombasle by the way and a big chemicals plant.

    • Not in the UAE camp; even just one of the hundreds of thousands of roadside fans the riders pass each day is a far more likely source. The very thing they come to cheer on is threatened by doing it.

      What’s happened to Ben O’Connor since his st4 debacle?

      • It’s extraordinarily unlikely (like one in a billion I’d estimate) that the roadside fans the riders pass are the source of an airborne infection. There are decent studies that show that momentarily being in the same enclosed space with someone having COVID is almost certainly insufficient to spread the illness, and outdoors the potential infectivity is vastly less likely. The greatest likelihood is a close contact who has shared indoor space with the infected person, so the team camp, as is any friends/family/press/whomever that the rider has spent time with.

          • The only time that can possibly happen is on a very steep climb with a fan running beside and slightly in front of the rider and shouting right in their face while looking directly at the rider. Compared to spending hours in hotel rooms or packed into a bus with recirculating air with teammates, staff, etc., then I think the risk balance is clear. And one thing that is very clear about COVID, it is rarely spread by droplets, but is usually airborne (i.e., aerosolized), and requires a significant viral load for infections (a few virus particles in the open air aren’t going to do it).

  15. Roglic needs to get in a break and make UAE chase all day. Next day Yates needs to get in a break and make UAE chase all day. Even with a weakened team Pogacar may still be too strong as he showed in his first win.

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