Tour Rest Day Review

The Tour de France has a pause in Morzine and the surrounding area, and almost every rider will have gone for a ride today in order to keep the legs turning over. A few thoughts and observations on the race so far…

While it’s still just fresh in the mind, a nod to an exceptional Stage 9. The scenery around the shores of Lac Leman was almost as breathtaking for spectators as the sport as wave after wave of riders tried to get in the day’s breakaway before a move finally got clear. The presence of an Ineos rider in Castroviejo and a UAE rider in McNulty tempted Jumbo-Visma to get Van Aert across and Rigoberto Uràn being close on GC meant UAE chased hard all stage. Bob Jungels made his move with 63km to go and went solo, taking time with a descent of the Col de la Croix that had following vehicles screeching tires to keep up. Jungels kept his solo lead to the Pas de Morgins pass when Thibaut Pinot launched and got very close, adding suspense right to the end. The only thing missing was a GC battle with no movement among the main contenders except for Dani Martinez being dropped and falling 20 places to 30th overall. But the final climbs didn’t lend themselves to big attacks and if rivals want to pressure Tadej Pogačar, they might prefer to leave him and UAE to stew a bit.

The first phase from Denmark to the Alps felt like it was monopolised by QuickStep, Jumbo-Visma and UAE. The Belgian team had a great start with the surprise win by Lampaert and Fabio Jakobsen’s win the next day was long due. Wout van Aert’s been on the rampage, got a stage and is so far ahead in the points competition… that it’s not really a competition any more, rivals might even think twice about the intermediate sprints to save their legs in the hope of salvaging a stage win. Pogačar has two wins already and L’Equipe’s thesaurus must be getting must be getting worn as journalists search for ways to describe his appetite…

… but there have been wins for BikeExchange-Jayco, Israel-PremierTech and Ag2r Citroën of course, plus EF had a long and visible spell in the mountains jersey thanks to Magnus Cort. For a big race where the breakaways are so hard fought but struggle to stay away, these teams have hit the jackpot already and others will be wondering how to get a look-in. Simon Clarke’s stage win marked a fascinating stage and because the pavé always bring entertainment (and hype) they’re bound to be back. It’s a pity Mathieu van der Poel’s had such a discreet start because when he tries to win it’s often spectacular, he doesn’t exactly snipe stage wins.

It’s advantage Pogačar now, but just. He’s 39 seconds ahead of Jonas Vingegaard after the long opening “week” from Denmark to Morzine and 24 seconds of this lead is thanks to time bonuses from two stage wins; Vingegaard has collected 6 seconds. The obstacle course moments of the race weren’t ruinous for too many riders. Ben O’Connor crashed and has left the race but was always up against it to repeat last year’s ride. Aleksandr Vlasov is 12th overall after losing time on the Planche des Belles Filles having had a crash the previous day. Primož Roglič is the biggest GC contender to have had problems thanks to a freak crash on the pavé stage, where like many he didn’t have a mishap on the cobbles but on the tarmac.

Vingegaard is still a contender. He sacked Pogačar on Mont Ventoux last summer and might hope to do the same again the Alps as the thermometer is set to soar, a potential weak point for Pogačar but relative and a hypothesis rather than a bankable certainty. Jumbo-Visma have a glass half-full/half-empty scenario with their Dane in a great position and clearly riding so well. But Roglič was a big loser in the first week although he’s not had his last word and just gives the Dutch team more options.

Team tactics will count. UAE aren’t a weak team, they have hired riders who could lead other teams to work for Pogačar. But there’s something, their riders have been dropped at times, distanced at others and while they’re good they don’t scare other teams. Jumbo-Visma have a clearer plan now with Vingegaard as their kopman but how to deploy their riders? Ineos still have a “trident” and we’ll see what they do with it; they had Castroviejo in the breakaway on Sunday, are they stage-hunting this way for fear of Pogačar and Vingegaard hogging the mountains? For the likes of David Gaudu, Romain Bardet, Enric Mas and Nairo Quintana it’s been a successful arrival in Morzine to make it in the top-10 overall without trouble, but now things go from making your own luck to avoid traps, and using up nervous energy, to straight tests with the Granon and Alpe d’Huez this week.

Covid is an ever-present threat. Other riders have had positive tests last week to prove (obviously) that the virus get inside the bubble, it’s statistically remarkable that there were no positive tests after all riders were tested yesterday. But also equally likely a rider can catch it today and left the race tomorrow.

France is set for a second heatwave this summer after one in June. This will be hotter still with temperatures well into the thirties Celsius and it could touch 40°C in the shade for the race. The Tour’s had heatwaves before but it’s hard on everyone. The UCI has its “Extreme Weather Protocol” but to what extent this is evoked remains to be seen, for starters evoking it just convenes a meeting among various groups at the race and any response will depend on local conditions, if you want more detail see the blog post from the past on the subject.

Finally some praise of L’Equipe. While La Gazzetta Dello Sport alas only sent one reporter to the Giro – they’d have liked to send more of course but the cycling desk feels under-resourced – L’Equipe have too many staff to mention and the paper is full of interesting articles each day. If it’s enjoyable to sit back and watch the stages in the afternoon, starting the day with L’Equipe is great. Now there’s lots of good English coverage too of course, it’s just a pleasure to see the Tour’s house newspaper riding high, hopefully it’s cycling coverage can stay as lavish for long.

37 thoughts on “Tour Rest Day Review”

  1. It seems strange that Tadej Pogacer has appeared to be so dominant yet is only 39 seconds in the lead. If this was a football match the thought would be that the dominant team were only leading 1-0 and might come to regret their carelessness in only scoring that one goal.

    Tom Pidcock has ridden very well both for himself and the team. The thought seems to be that he wont do so well come the Granon and will fade as the race goes on but we shall see. If he can turn his talents to climbing (he seems to have the build for it) then maybe the next British Tour winner?

    • Givn that this first part of the race was meant to have been where Pogacar was got at, his 39” advantage is significant though.
      Jumbo may hope that Vingegaard can at least achieve parity in the high mountains, maybe a little more.
      And, ironically, Roglic’s loss of time can free him up to be used tactically more than he may have otherwise wanted.
      Van Aert, too, is now at the team’s disposal.

      But I still think that in the mountains Pogacar is as good as any two other riders and it may need a concerted attack from another team/s on top to break him, however unlikely a road alliance may be.
      Plus, of course, he still has the big ITT at the end to recover any losses as well.
      Pogacar’s race to lose, for me.

      • I’m not sure what part of last week was where Pogi was meant to be ‘got at’. Given his performance in Vlaanderen the pave certainly wasn’t where I expected any of the other GC candidates to do better . Neither was the itt. Or Planche. A bad day in the high mountains is and was the least unlikely option for an interesting competition in my eyes.
        Actually, when Majka waved his arm on Planche I thought Tadej would spray the rest in dust like the Longwy sprint and take 30 seconds at least. The fact it was so close tells me that there is hope for a battle for yellow.

        • I think some of the talk was that Pogacar could be attacked in echelons, etc. by a more experienced classics team, perhaps recalling his first TdF appearance…didn’t he lose a ton of time that year because he missed a split? My memory is awful…

        • That’s easy – Stage 4. But Wout van Aert wouldn’t wait 2 seconds for Vingegaard (& Yates), and they missed the opportunity to put 30sec to 1min into Pogacar (who was out of position on that final climb).

          Shows that its easy to to target both green & yellow in theory, but when push comes to shove it all falls apart. The footage in the warmdown tent afterwards really told the story – Pogacar laughed at WvA and said “I was so lucky you didn’t wait for your team leader”, and WvA just looked confused. Pogacar couldn’t wipe the smile off his face – he knew Jumbo-Visma had really messed that up to his benefit!

    • i wouldn’t say pog has been dominant, just that he has been very strong. he had an excellent TT, but not significantly better than others. he avoided the bad luck on the pave stage, possibly making his own luck. he used his sprint to snatch bonus seconds but there was no real climbing speed difference between him and vingegaard.

      the real race has yet to start and we will start to see where everyone really is at. pog is definitely strong but so are vingegaard, thomas, yates and roglic doesn’t seem to be much affected by his shoulder. it is quite likely that pog will destroy everyone but there is a lot unknown yet and plenty of reason for optimism that we might yet have a real race, especially since WvA can afford to do some team duty now that green is looking safe as long as he keeps picking up points here and there. i’d quite like to see jumbo take green and yellow in paris just to show that it can be done.

      we already saw on that stage where Wout went on the rampage that pog could have been in trouble if only Wout wasn’t quite so ridiculously strong and had taken vingegard and yates with him

      • Given the stages we have just had it is difficult to see how one rider could have been more dominant, winning or the leading GC rider in all non sprint stages ie 1, 5,6,7,8 & 9. Unarguably impressive yet his lead is small. Perhaps it is unreasonable to expect large leads given the parcours but even so it does feel a bit of a missed opportunity. It is still possible to come up with non far fetched scenarios where he doesnt win in Paris though in all probability he will. To use the football analogy again, Man City absolutely dominated their games against Real Madrid but they lost as they didnt put the match beyond their opponents when they had the chance to. I am not sure what more Tadej Pogacer could have realistically done but there is still some hope for his opponents.

        • Ciry bottled those games mentally. They actualy weren’t dominant – Madrid created and taken too much chances and Benzema was easily the man of the tie. City let Madrid to force their game on them, not the other way round. Chelsea, PSG and Pool were actualy considerably better (except moments / one half).

          So, do the analogy work? Perhaps the other way round, Pogacar being Madrid and using every opportunity to hurt the stronger team by moments of greater individual quality.

          But I want say he is fominsnt so far, I would even say he must be concerned by Vingegaard’s strength.

  2. The next British winner hmmmm…. I think it’s more likely the next Aussie winner. And using your analogy JC I think its more like 3-0 with Pogacar seemingly gaining time on stages you would not expect. In fact the only moment his nearest rival had, he trumped him in the last 100 metres! As EckyThump says ‘game set’ Pogacar, ‘match’ is a formality

    • We’ve just had 9 stages so far, it’s not a formality by any means. It’s advantage Pogacar, but in order to win it, he still needs to come on top more often than not in the battles to come.

      • Agree, grand tours are never a formality. Just this year we had Richard Carapaz crack and lose minutes to Jai Hindley on stage 20 at the Giro. This despite dominating every climb and supposedly being a ‘late bloomer’ in grand tour races, always putting in his best performances in the 3rd week.

        • Sorry Richard – Carapaz and Pogacar aren’t comparable. Eg. zero chance Pogacar would have lost this past Giro against those riders, he is in a different league to them. Same if WvA carried Yates and Jonas up the road, the UAE chase would have been fierce plus Pogacar would have taken up the chase too.

          Pogacar always gives the impression he is leaving something in the tank for later.

          • Sorry CA – i don’t think Richard was saying that C and P are comparable. But what do you think: if we, for a moment and for the sake of armchait analysis and idle speculation (that we don’t even get paid for), compare the situation between the GC leader/sovereign top favorite vs. the main contenders, was Hindley really significantly closer (in overall ability or in any specialty that might win him a considerable amount of seconds) to Carapaz than Vingegaard is to Pogacar?

            Anyway, I believe all that Richard wanted to point out that until Carapaz cracked, he had looked as invincible (and as riding nowhere near his limit) as Pogacar looks now. The thing about sudden, unforeseeable bad days in the saddle is just that they are sudden and unforeseeable. Being Pogacar is no guarantee against those kind of days – even if we perhaps haven’t seen too many of them yet. (I cannot recall any, actually.)

          • Good points – Carapaz was riding extremely strong all Giro, and his crack did come out of left field. But, I wasn’t shocked at all when it happened, but if Vingegaard pops Pogacar I’ll be completely shocked.

            The only time I won’t be shocked is when Bernal and Pogacar face each other – if Bernal is on top form, I have no idea how that battle will play out.

            MTB guy (btw – you sure this is the site for you? jk) – of course it isn’t over yet, but even though I think Pogacar will win, I still can’t wait to see it play out. He’s a special rider and makes watching it a lot of fun.

          • CA, I can’t wait to watch on it play out either. And yes, absolutely the site for me, I love it! I only ride MTB, but I love watching the grand tours, classics and other stage races. I discovered the joy of watching road racing only during the pandemic. Eurosport here were rerunning classic Tours, Giros, and Vueltas and got me hooked. Then I discovered Inrng and it helped seal the deal.

  3. If it stays as close as it is now, the final ITT will be a banger. From memory, Vingegaard took about 20 or 30 seconds out of Pog last year on the penultimate ITT.

  4. Re the COVID testing, I saw Pog say that they were testing people to see if they were “above 33 points” of infectiousness. I don’t know what this means but it may be different to the usual Covid test and might be why no one has yet been sent home?

  5. As always, I enjoy your blog, but I think you have gone a bit overbored lately, what with the puns that might, or not be puns and having to explain them afterwards, awkwardishly. It is a minor bug. Catch 21

    It is still hells bells and buckets of good, hells wheels and heels over other commentaries though, so keep up the good work. For no fee and for the love of the sport, a rare person you are indeed inrng. And saying more than a thousand of ordinaire pictures, and pundits.
    Thank you

  6. Three wishes for LeTour 2022 1. No more Covid positives. 2. No invoking of weather protocols. I followed Le Beeg Shew from 1989-1998 all over France and it was hotter n’hell plenty of times but they never messed with the race. 3. The whining about Pogacar’s “appetite” doesn’t reach the level it did last year. C’mon folks, the man is less than 40 seconds ahead of his biggest rival, is he supposed to throw away time (especially bonus seconds) in some distorted spirit of fair play? If he has any opportunity to take time on rivals he should do so. I can only imagine the comments that would result if he gave away some time as so many seem to want, then ended up on the 2nd or 3rd step of the podium in Paris as a result. Vive LeTour!

    • (1) My wish (and no doubt everyone’s), too – but it’s perhaps worth pointing out that we have had only three abandons (Bouchard, Laengen, Martin) due to Covid positives. That is 3 out of 13 DNFs or DNSs so far. (6 due to crash injuries, 4 “other”.) Fewer than I feared,
      (2) In the past it’s been hot in Spain as well, but should temperatures rise to a unprecedentedly high level and the EWP comes to play, I wish that we could all simply accept it. The debate that is likely to ensue doesn’t exactly promise to be thrilling.
      (3) Wiggins had a point when he commented that when someone is too good, wins too often and wins by too much and seems to win too easily, the popular opinion tends to turn against that rider. But I’m not too sure there was all that much “whining” – we never whine about anything, now do we? it’s always those who have opinions that differ from ours who do! – about Pogacar’s will and desire to win (and sometimes to win by a large margin)?
      Anyway, Wiggins also seemed to refer to some (distant?) era when the rider in the yellow jersey was not supposed (acording to some unwritten rule) to take stage victories for the sake of winning or even in order to take bonus seconds (if there were any to be won?). In other words, he seemed to suggest that Merckx was an exception in his time and therefore rightly earned the nickname – whereas Pogacar does just what every other rider in the yellow shirt in his place would do (if he had what Pogacar has).

      • Re 3: interesting point. But it seems the organizers wanted the GC contenders to take stages, therefore time bonuses for the win. It’s understandable, because of the added drama of gc/yellow rider fighting for the win.

        Iirc, the iconic Anquetil/Poulidor stage to Puy de Dome offered 1 minute (!) time bonus for the win – and Poulidor could win the race by taking the stage.

        • I don’t like the the time bonus system for stages. It distorts the reality too much and turns riders into ‘finishers’ (to borrow a cricket word). The most obvious example is Roglic, although it’s unfair to single him out.

        • Poulidor could have got yellow at last had he won, but it was Saucy Julio Jimenez who got the bonus. If you didn’t see his recent obituary here, it’s a few weeks back

      • “..temperatures rise to a unprecedentedly high level ” isn’t all that well-defined in the protocols as far as I know. Some authority in France already curtailed a lesser race not that long ago due to a heatwave. I can remember riding my own bike in the Pyrenees during LeTour (maybe the year Casartelli was killed?) and doing a connect-the-dots route on the road to get a tiny moment of shade from the blazing sun…from road signs! It was hot, but the heat killed nobody involved with the race as far as I know.
        Coppi and Co didn’t race heat-shortened stages despite riding those heavy bikes while dressed in wool and drinking from aluminum bottles baking in the sun…so why now with ice packs on backs, cold water handed up almost constantly and modern fabrics that promise so much cooling someone even calls theirs “cool black”?

        • Meet Larry, climate change downplayer, cause he can remember a day in 1924, when it was hot too and we only had steel bikes and wool jerseys. So these spoiledyoung kids can ride at 42°C!!11!

  7. I saw somewhere that so far this is the fastest TdF since 2006 when a certain American won. Let’s see if they can keep the pace up.

  8. Just to say thanks for your coverage and insight. Not forgetting the opportunity we all get down here to comment. Our circle of hell is as nothing compared to that of each rider and support worker. Vive le Tour et bon courage les gas! Salut à tous mes confrères sous la ligne.

  9. “While La Gazzetta Dello Sport alas only sent one reporter to the Giro – they’d have liked to send more of course but the cycling desk feels under-resourced ”
    Just wondering if you know how many L’Equipe sent to the Giro this year? I still remember following La Corsa Rosa across the border to a finish in Briancon and being unable to find the race on French TV.

    • L’Equipe had one to start with in Dominique Issartel, then Gaetan Scherrer joined for the second half of the race. You can’t get the Giro on mainstream, free TV in France but it’s odd that a French paper offers better coverage than the Giro’s house newspaper. L’Equipe goes to town on the Tour de France, it’s like Het Nieuwsblad during the week between the E3 and Vlaanderen.

      • L’Equipe is NOT the Tour’s “house newspaper” in a similar way La Gazzetta is the Giro’s? I’m not so sure comparisons are really fair – for example what else is going on in the world of sport in July vs May? One thing that comes to mind is football…something Italians are pretty passionate about. Sadly, it sort of drowns out pretty much everything else here in Italy during the Giro period, unless maybe an Italian is winning? The only football-related stuff I see now is training-camp footage as the teams get ready for a new season, hardly the stuff L’Equipe would cover much when Le Beeg Shew is going on. Does anyone here live in France? Can you watch Il Giro there on French broadcast TV these days? RAI shows LeTour live here though we’ve been streaming Eurosport for most of it, but there’s no doubt they’re not putting in the same effort with LeTour as they do with Il Giro.

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