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Tour de France Stage 15 Preview

After yesterday’s frantic stage, a flat route along a valley with scenic views of a meandering river and some châteaux-vision today would do nicely to calm the nerves. But no, another big day in the Alps awaits that’ll have viewers perched on the edge of their sofas like cyclists on the nose of the saddle, all anticipating a chink of daylight between Vingegaard and Pogačar. The duel continues.

More-zine: 57 hours of racing and 10 seconds separates first and second place, there’s also one second between third and fourth place.

The stage got off to a bad start with a giant crash at the start, an unexpected band of rain caused a downpour and in the words of Philippe Court, journalist for local paper Le Dauphiné, there was “mousse” on the road, an emulsion of rain, oil and dust. The peloton looked like a bowling pins that had received a strike. Five riders would abandon there or later because of injuries sustained while the race was halted for the best part of half an hour to tend to the injured riders and get ambulances back into the race convoy. It wasn’t obvious at the time but third overall Jai Hindley was among those felled.

Once the race resumed at warp speed up the Col de Saxel, riders tried to get away but the peloton was moving fast. On the descent Romain Bardet and James Shaw crashed and were out of the race, a pity twice over with Bardet missing out on a return to the roads today that saw his 2016 masterpiece while Shaw has been a quiet revelation.

The Col de Cou saw moves form but if the breakaway had all the right climbers in it, a who’s-who of dropped riders able to take a stage win or hunt the polka-dot jersey, Jumbo-Visma wouldn’t give them any space. The previous day UAE had worked all day but didn’t have much to show for it but at least the breakaway stayed clear on the Grand Colombier. Here the Dutch team was like a combine harvester ready to harvest all that stood in front of it, threshing the breakaway and the only things the escapees would get is fatigue, except for Giulio Ciccone who collected beaucoup points for the mountains competition but only an option on the jersey as Vingegaard leads the competition.

Onto the Col de Ramaz and riders started to pop, notably Tom Pidcock, 8th overall and he’d slide to 11th and settle any Ineos leadership questions, at least in terms of resources with the Briton presumably disappointed but learning and perhaps liberated for the coming days too. Down the descent and Simon Yates got caught out by a split in the group and had to chase on the valley road up to Samoëns and he’d pay for the effort, losing three minutes and a place on GC.

The final climb of the Joux-Plane saw Pogačar and Vingegaard conduc their rivalry by proxy at first. After Jumbo had been working all day, Rafał Majka came to the fore at the start of the Joux-Plane, his pace spat out Wout van Aert but the Belgian came back and did a revenge pull which in turn cracked Majka. By now it was just Sep Kuss, Jonas Vingegaard, Tadej Pogačar, Adam Yates, Carlos Rodriguez, Jai Hindley, and the surprise of the day Felix Gall. Gall and Hindley would soon pop, then Rodriguez too as Kuss got to work and for a change he was pulling all sorts of faces, his normal botox-rictus was gone.

Pogačar made his move first. With a nod of the head he got Adam Yates to take over the pace with four kilometres to go to the pass, then 500m later he made his move. Vingegaard’s been working on his acceleration but couldn’t or wouldn’t match this and instead kept the Slovenian in sight at five 5 seconds. Pogačar started to look back more and more and with each turn of the neck he seemed to surrender a second, he knew he wasn’t getting away and two kilometres later Vingegaard was back. Having reunited the pair started marking each other. This wasn’t quite a track stand but Carlos Rodriguez was over a minute down but the Spaniard had halved the gap.

The day’s controversy came when Pogačar tried again attack Vingegaard as they approached the Col de la Joux-Plane arch with its 8-5-2 second time bonuses. Launching with 500m to go he was blocked by a TV and press photo motorbike in his path and had to brake and both motos are off the race for a day, an awkward event for France TV and L’Equipe alike but these are pros who ought to have known better, yet weren’t there because they’re dumb either. It left our tandem marking each other as Rodriguez grew closer and at the last moment Vingegaard surged for the time bonus and took it ahead of Pogačar. It could have been the other way around without the moto incident: most likely but not certain, Pogačar launched so far from the arch that Vingegaard could have had time to respond.

We can extend the “what-if” scenario such that if Pogačar had got the Joux-Plane time bonus he might have pressed on for the stage win and its ten second bonus, and with these narrowed Vingegaard’s overall lead to just two seconds. But this relies on a few assumptions, namely being aware that Rodriguez was closing in, as his real interest was in watching Vingegaard; and if he knew Rodriguez was coming then he’d probably have felt comfortable about beating him in the flat finish in Morzine. Whatever conditional assumptions we make, the most likely outcome is the time gaps would be microscopic like they are now.

With impeccable timing at the very last moment of the climb Carlos Rodriguez made his way back to the two leaders and had Yates in two. Just as they rounded the final bend before the road plunged, Rodriguez had enough momentum to get to the front and as he came past Vingegaard drifted left, checking Yates accidentally. This left Rodriguez in front with a few metres and he started to pull away. UAE had numbers but Yates was stuck at the back. Bend by bend Rodriguez was able to get clear on the descent to Morzine and stay away for the stage win, a feat of perseverance and then nerves. All the reports say he’s going to Movistar but Dave Brailsford is at the Tour and you’d think the British team would be making Rodriguez offers he couldn’t refuse.

Embed from Getty Images

Moto mayhem aside, the bigger questions are what’s coming next? Pogačar can get the jump on Vingegaard but so far he can’t get away, so things are so close that the time it took you to read this sentence is longer than the gap between them. Jumbo-Visma shredded the race to the annoyance of several rival squads but all they got was a one second gain to show for it (ok, Vingegaard has the polka dot jersey now too, tied on points with Powless), at least as much as we can tell for today will reveal fatigue in others. But of course the fatigue applies to the Dutch team even more who rode aggressively yesterday and now have to try and hold on today.

The Route: 179km and 4,500m of vertical gain. Squint at the profile and you’ll see the climb at the start, it’s the Col de Châtillon. It’s certainly uphill and the first of several unmarked climbs. It’s a big main road and after a quick descent the valley floor across to the also unmarked Col des Fleuries, 8km at an even 5% to help the breakaway get away and then it’s across some lumpy roads to Lake Annecy.

The Col de la Forclaz de Montmin’s featured before and not what the stats say. In total 7.7km with a gentler start and some flat sections along the way but this is just storing up trouble for later and the final 3km are a steep 11% to the pass. It’s followed by a fast descent down to the valley floor and only a few kilometres before the next climb begins, the Col du Marais via the Col des Esserieux, unmarked but 10km at 4.5% and because of a descent midway there’s plenty of 6-7% as well.

A quick descent and then the Col de la Croix-Fry chased by the Col des Aravis. The Croix-Fry starts gentle which means that the 11.3km at 7% has a steeper middle section and it’s arguably the hardest climb of the day. A quick descent and then a right turn for the Aravis, 4.4km at 5.8% and as the stats say it’s not a steep climb. There’s a long descent into Flumet which includes some uphill sections towards the end and then it’s on a big main road to Megève and beyond.

The Finish: a ski station summit finish but with a twist. It’s the same finish as the Tour used in 2016 and the Dauphiné the year before, namely Le Bettex via Les Amerands. Instead of the main road via St. Gervais the race turns right up the mountain side via the hamlet of Les Amerands and there’s almost 3km at 12% and the hardest thing is the irregularity of the road, it rears up and levels out then it kicks up again, all while twisting in places too and there are ramps at 15%. Once the steep part is over there’s a descent and 8km to go, all on a bigger road designed to help ferry bus loads of skiers up to the slopes.

The Contenders: we thought the breakaway would stay away yesterday, will it make it today? Jumbo-Visma could try again but after yesterday’s work-reward ratio they might not try to shred the race, but UAE could decide to test them instead. The course helps too, some sections where a breakaway can get away, they couldn’t outclimb the peloton by much yesterday but a determined group can share the work to pull away. Still they’ll need to take beaucoup time by the start of the Croix-Fry.

Ciccone, Skjelmose, Pogačar
Vingegaard, Woods, Jorgenson, A Yates, Powless, Pinot

Weather: sunny and cooler, 26°C.

TV: KM0 is at 1.20pm and the finish is forecast for 6.15pm CEST. Tune in from the start.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • 150 Watts Sunday, 16 July 2023, 6:13 am

    It is looking as though it will take the race of truth to settle the matter.

    • Tom Monday, 17 July 2023, 6:20 pm

      Or they will still be a few seconds apart.

  • HV Sunday, 16 July 2023, 6:53 am

    Excellent writing again, but Vingegaard is tied on point with Powless (54), not with Ciccone (42).

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:23 am

      Fixed, could swear Ciccone was on top when checking the totals but of course not now. Rest day needed here too

  • Tovarishch Sunday, 16 July 2023, 7:18 am

    No chainrings for Rodriguez? I can’t see how Yates has a better chance.

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:23 am

      Adam Yates could force Jumbo to react, a bit like he did on the Grand Colombier. Rodriguez is having a great tour but how to outclimb the rest?

      • Tovarishch Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:49 am

        I think he can outclimb Yates. Not sure about the leaders, though. He’s a young Geraint Thomas.

        • gabriele Sunday, 16 July 2023, 11:46 am

          Much more daring and aggressive in racing style than G. Check the Avenir… he ultimately lost (but, how!). And more, of course. For now, it looks that even in perspective he’ll be weaker than G in ITTs. Sadly, he’s also a bit prone to crashing, tough his bike handling skills aren’t bad in themselves.

        • Jakob Sunday, 16 July 2023, 1:09 pm

          Rodriguez is able to pace himself. He will be a force within 2 seasons..

  • Somers Sunday, 16 July 2023, 7:19 am

    The moto incident seemed to throw Pog out – he went for a few attacks on the plane which weren’t ever going to stick. Then when it was clear that that Rodriquez was going to get away for the win, he should have waited for Adam to get back on and let Adam try and take second – the time bonus difference between third and fourth is bigger than between second and third

    • Tovarishch Sunday, 16 July 2023, 7:24 am

      Isn’t that what he tried? I’d already drunk too much by then.

      • RQS Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:21 am

        +1 unless we were watching in a different reality…

        • KevinR Sunday, 16 July 2023, 11:04 am

          Yep, +1. What Somers wrote is exactly what he did

          • Somers Sunday, 16 July 2023, 12:00 pm

            Hahaha okay, maybe lack of sleep has fried my brain but I thought Pog was riding on the front for ages while Adam was trying to catch on and then used him as a lead out rather than letting Adam go off the front

          • Fra Sunday, 16 July 2023, 12:47 pm

            That’s what happened. Maybe Pogacar shoud have waited for Yates sooner than a km before the finish. That way he would force Vingegaard to react. Perhaps he still hoped for the win, expecting longer flat finnish down in Morzine?

  • J_in_ontario Sunday, 16 July 2023, 8:10 am

    In the KoM, Vingegard is tied with Powless. Ciccone is 6 points back.

  • Mark Westwood Sunday, 16 July 2023, 8:55 am

    Watched the race go past at the spot Pog attached on JP. The striking thing was the looks of exhaustion on the faces of all the riders following Yates, Pog & Vin. Looked like they were all completely cooked.

  • MellowVelo Sunday, 16 July 2023, 9:10 am

    It’s very enjoyable watching Adam Yates, he looks happier and more settled than we have ever seen him ( and it’s reflected in his riding). He seems to have found a niche, I do hope it continues to be his place. I ‘ve always admired him since the incident of The Collapsing Inflatable, which he handled with such stoicism .

    If I was Carlos’ Mum, I’d be telling him to think carefully about Ineos. In recent years they seem to recruit the talented youth but just somehow fail to nurture them.

    • Tomski Sunday, 16 July 2023, 9:36 am

      Even with that in mind, I still think he’d do better at Ineos than Movistar. The only plus for joining the latter in my book would be the Iberian culture.

    • hoh Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:20 am

      Which talented youth had Ineos failed?

      Sure, none became a 2nd coming of Pogacar but that was an once in a generation event.

    • Cilmeri Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:40 am

      In a similar vein to Yates, all the comments I read yesterday from pogacar gave him immense credit. He didn’t have a tantrum about the motorbikes, but reflected that they were a necessary part of his profession and made a mistake. Chapeau.

  • OldRider Sunday, 16 July 2023, 9:38 am

    That duel was riveting stuff and the motor bike incident was simply added drama.
    It’s the sort of thing that leaves you conflicted because you feel for both riders, whichever one you support.

    I’m not the best race reader but I though that Pogačar was about to break Vingegaard when he was impeded.

    • Irungo txuletak Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:23 am

      « Break vin », I don’t know. Maybe he could have taken a small gap and maintain it downhill, but we’ll’never know anyway.

    • RQS Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:34 am

      Pogacar is riding a much more measured race this year. Less show boating and wasted accelerations. He’s looks more relaxed and fresher. Vingegaard is beginning to look like Frodo scaling Mount Doom. He knows what’s coming, the weight of carrying yellow is beginning to drain him and despite all the efforts of his friends only he can finish the job… Tolkien eat your heart out. But in all seriousness Vingegaard is holding on by fingertips, and doesn’t appear to have an answer to Pogacar. I think we will see him crack soon enough. But it just takes un jour sans for the race to be decided either way.

    • KevinR Sunday, 16 July 2023, 11:10 am

      TBH I thought Pogacar was showing signs of stress and agitation on the last climb (ironically not after the moto incident). But I could be 100% wrong!

  • Tomski Sunday, 16 July 2023, 9:44 am

    Thanks for the write up as ever Inrng. Been following from afar this year so always great to wake up to these continued best write ups.

    On the Moto incident: once again it reopens the debate about how close the public get to the roads and riders. I’m not sure either motorbike could have allowed Tadej to pass given they would inevitably have run over a spectator. Is it time to expand roadside barriers further down from cop summits? Is it logistically possible? Was this a one-off event or could it have been avoided (- possibly by having a couple of Gendarmes on bikes clearing the way for the media bikes)?

    In the long run, I’m not sure the incident affected yesterdays result by more than a few seconds and I suspect this years tour will be won by a greater margin.

    • DJW Sunday, 16 July 2023, 9:57 am

      Agreed. The problem, at least partly, was spectators blocking the motos. And, on the subject, the exhibitionists and fans running alongside riders make my blood boil. The cyclists must be furious too yet show amazing restraint.

      • The Inner Ring Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:43 am

        Like many accidents it’s often not one error but a compounding series of problems and mistakes, the photo moto *and* TV moto both in the way, the crowds. Also here the position of the “Col de la Joux-Plane” arch wasn’t actually at the top of the climb but on a flatter point, the speed was higher and so harder for the motos to accelerate more, ie going from 30km/h to >40km/h. And if they had roping for the fans, it started a moment later with 400m to go which again might be ok on a slope as it could take an age to reach at 10-12% but on the flatter part meant it was closer in terms of time to the arch.

        As for the fans, there are some who can get in the way – and if you’re there and see someone doing it, don’t hesitate to yank their mankini straps and pull them out of the way – but overall it’s a very positive experience, a wave of euphoria for the riders. Jorgenson said he was swept along by the crowds and then found it mentally difficult on the Puy de Dôme with the silence, although he said Woods was the better rider that day, wasn’t result-changing.

        • Fra Sunday, 16 July 2023, 12:52 pm

          Probably the photographer on that moto is the author of the “climbing Pogacar with eyes wide open” portrait you used to accompany this blog post.

    • hoh Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:24 am

      Barriers might be too much logistically. A few Gendarmes might be a more efficient way of doing it. but with the current unrest in France, not sure they care spare the manpower.

      • The Inner Ring Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:49 am

        The unrest is largely over. The surprising thing at the Tour de France is just how many police there are a long the route, even a farm track joining the road can be staffed by someone in a blue uniform. I’m surprised burglars and bank robbers don’t go on a crime spree when the Tour is near, given the resources dedicated the race. You could make a good, ok lousy, comedy about a crime caper involving a heist and a Cochonou 2CV or Leclerc strawberry getaway vehicle.

      • Tovarishch Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:53 am

        Get a few in from Belgium, they’d sort it (need more ambulances, though)

        • Anonymous Sunday, 16 July 2023, 4:13 pm

          Still drinking? With that comment you may want to call it a day.

  • dft Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:10 am

    It seemed like Pog. found himself with more options than he was expecting or even wanting, in the end he looked tied up in knots thinking about it. Hopefully today will give us more of an indication of who might come out on top, trying to microanalyse every bonus second is getting ridiculous.
    I thought both looked maxed-out yesterday, Pog looked dehydrated at the end, reminded me of Armstrong’s misfirings in the record-breaking heatwave tour of 2003, the “tour of too many problems”.

    • Irungo txuletak Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:19 am

      I also had the feeling that Pog was not so well.
      At least he did look so.
      Probably a wrong feeling since he tries to
      go 4k before the top of joux-plane.

  • Irungo txuletak Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:14 am

    Flemish press is very critical about the organization: « the moto incident, no nadar on top of joux-plane where there were bonis, all this was amateuristic and has very likely biased the outcome of the stage. »

    These are strong words, but of course these people know there are nadars all the way up the Kwaremont in the Ronde… let’s imagine that pog get hindered there allowing mvdp to get back.

    • RQS Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:52 am

      I agree that Pog probably would’ve taken the summit. He may have taken the stage too, but there was little to suggest he would’ve dropped Vingegaard on the decent. Quite the opposite. I think Vingegaard was descending much better than Pog and was glued to his wheel. I think Vingegaard was very comfortable with Rodriguez winning and conceding the bonus seconds to Pog on the line after taking the summit bonus. He knew he would lose in the sprint, but that he didn’t need to take any risks and would end up a second up on the days start (or at least not losing as much/much time).
      I’d be surprised if the moto incident decides things. A bit unfortunate. The crowds at the top were a little uncontrolled and the narrow twisty and turny nature of the roads probably caught the cameramen out – unable to clearly see space in the crowds to accelerate out.

  • James Anthony Barr Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:38 am

    This is an excellent Tour and your article is of a standard to match. Very well done.

  • MS Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:43 am

    The Pogacar/Vingegaard duel is turning out to be a classic but the tactical rivalry between their teams is just as fascinating. Honestly I do not understand what they are thinking about half of the time, which makes it even more interesting. The big question mark for me yesterday was Majka overtaking the JV train to up the pace on the lower slopes of the last climb. Surely Pogacar as the more explosive one would benefit from a more steady approach to his all out 4 km attack (which was probably too early?) And with JV willing to work they could save Majka for today, as a bonus.

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:54 am

      Maybe Pogačar went early because he thought Vingegaard was going to try a move as soon as Kuss was done, the final piece of Jumbo’s day long efforts, so he pre-empted this by getting Yates to up the pace and finish off Kuss? But as you say the team tactics are both obvious but not, Jumbo tried to break the race yesterday but they must be kicking themselves that it ended with just a one second gain. It’s a steam roller tactic rather than ambush so far.

      • Martijn Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:58 am

        I think Jumbo has always stated they feel it is to their benefit to make the racing hard, as hard as they can, as they feel Vingegaard recovers better and is better able to keep a high level. So you should see it as an overall race approach, and they managed to get Pogacar to waste energy without achieving much. The one issue might be they will run out of stages to gain advantage of this situation.

        • rob md Sunday, 16 July 2023, 11:24 am

          Full gas, all the time seems to be Jumbo’s approach. Not having Roglic and having a group of classics riders means they might not have a plan B.
          Can Jumbo keep up the steam for the steam roller today? It really is becoming a battle of the “recovery processes” between Jumbo & UAE.

    • CA Sunday, 16 July 2023, 5:08 pm

      MS – I agree, zero clue what tactics these guys are employing. Today is a day Jonas needs WVA right beside him. If WVA gets a stage win but Pogacar gets the jersey…

  • Steppings Sunday, 16 July 2023, 11:02 am

    Did I dream it or was it a (few) years ago that roadside fans were banned from running alongside riders?

    • KevinR Sunday, 16 July 2023, 11:19 am

      Not sure but if all the roadside fans they’re the ones that really worry me. Difficult to stop too without risking rider safety at least a little bit.

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 16 July 2023, 1:20 pm

      You can’t ban it. But the French TV coverage has regular adverts saying “don’t run along side the riders, watch your kids, look what you’re doing” etc. The trouble is 99.99% of people know this or get the message, it’s the ones that don’t.

  • DJS Sunday, 16 July 2023, 11:32 am

    There would have very likely not been a moto incident if the organisation had not decided to give away bonus seconds at the top of the climb, which, imho, is a stupid thing to do.
    Sure, bonus seconds add some spice but especially at the top of the last climb of the day where the people collecting these seconds are most likely to be the ones picking them up at the line as well – on top of having distanced most of their rivals – I think it is totally unnecessary. Without any bonus seconds the gap between Pogacar and Vingegaard would still be 28 seconds. It seems that even the duel for yellow may be decided by who sprints best.

    • pax Sunday, 16 July 2023, 11:44 pm

      I think you make a good point. You could also argue, that they should have added barriers where there was likely going to be an attack before the top.

  • hoh Sunday, 16 July 2023, 11:36 am

    I can’t wait to see how Cummings planned yesterday in the Netflix series next year. I can imagine how he soft talked the idea into both Pidcock and Rodrigues last night. “What do you think of the idea of …”.

    In Cummings, Ineos finally finds someone who can take up the mental from Portal. In a way, he is exactly what they need, now that they no longer have the strongest rider in the peloton in the team.

    • Steppings Sunday, 16 July 2023, 2:37 pm

      Rodrigues win yesterday reminded me of how Steve Cummings won stage 14 of the 2015 Tour whilst riding for MTN. “Straight over the top”

    • Broke n Spoke Sunday, 16 July 2023, 3:24 pm

      Rodriguez himself all but admitted that he got lucky to claw back because the big 2 were playing cat and mouse – I don’t think one plans for that! Credit to Ineos for seizing the moment , though, and whatever words / screams of encouragement they gave when Rodriguez was staying away.

      • hoh Monday, 17 July 2023, 12:05 am

        You can well anticipate the cat and mouse. They might not expect to get back on before the top.

        But I bet Cummings told them to shoot past if they got back on.

        Cummings also talked Thomas into letting Pidcock have a go last year.

    • MS Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:37 pm

      Is this some sort of irony?

      • hoh Monday, 17 July 2023, 12:06 am

        I guess it was. He didn’t fit in when he was there as a rider. Now he is lead DS and they are riding his tactics in the Tour.

  • That MTB Guy Sunday, 16 July 2023, 12:16 pm

    I saw JV’s tactics as defensive. If they didn’t intervene and make the stage hard, Pog could have gotten yellow and some time. They prevented it. I view this as a success. But what’s next? Can’t wait to find out!

  • John Crick Sunday, 16 July 2023, 1:36 pm

    Fascinating stage yesterday with more brutal climbs to come. Pogacar has the acceleration to pick up seconds here and there but will that be enough? The 16th stage time trial which also has a climb could well be crucial.

  • cp Sunday, 16 July 2023, 4:15 pm

    A minor “marginal gains” question: why do teams use dark jerseys in the heat? If they can do a redesign once per year, why not a pale jersey for July? And the helmets? I always steal my kid’s white helmet on warm days.

    • Jon Greengrass Monday, 17 July 2023, 9:20 am

      There are coatings/treatments that can be applied to dark coloured fabrics that refelct heat. I recently got a new pair of shorts treated with Schoeller® Coldblack®, they barely get warm when exposed to direct sun, its quite amazing and totally counterintuitive. Added to the fact that dark material radiate heat more effectively, a black jersey can actually be cooler than a white one.

    • Tovarishch Monday, 17 July 2023, 10:26 am
  • CA Sunday, 16 July 2023, 5:00 pm

    Why is WVA driving the break???

  • Tomski Monday, 17 July 2023, 1:03 am

    Maybe I’m overthinking/over interpreting but there was something telling about the Soler/WVA ‘battle’ today:

    Soler goes, Wout (VA) tracks him then Poels goes, then the Wouts give chase for a bit.

    I thought (buoyed by tv commentary) that Soler was going for the win and somehow was let off the leash and that also WVA was allowed to chase to suss him out. Poels joins them and (for as long as anyone has followed since his sky days) is clearly the best climber on his day. WVA susses this but hangs back enough to let Soler think he has a chance and in doing so cooks Soler.

    Played out, the race leaders both have a rider up the road, Yates goes to form the Soler- Yates train but Soler is done, Jonas meanwhile knows he’s strong enough to mark/track Pog so says to Wout “ride your own race cos I’m cool and we have a rest day and a tt which is all but meaningless to the top two and tt winner so win or not but two days off to recover”…

    On paper Vinny is better at altitude and Pog is better in the tt. I’m leaning a max of 20 seconds for Pog in the tt and JV’s tactics to today and would marginally call it in Vinny’s favour if Kuss isn’t too bashed up.

    Jonas in yellow next Sunday. You heard it here now.

    • Tomski Monday, 17 July 2023, 1:06 am

      That said, this has been so knife edge I’m not gonna be too upset if I’m wrong and I’m certain our two favourites will be as sporting in victory as defeat. REALLY looking forward to next week and saying a prayer against mishap. (Gonna miss Jensie on the bike)

      Cheers InRng, enjoy your rest day!

      • Cd Monday, 17 July 2023, 2:53 am

        Jensie is the worst. To be fair, none of the moto commentary is any good.

        • Paul J Monday, 17 July 2023, 11:12 am

          Renaat Schotte on VRT/Sporza is usually good on the moto. Least, during the Belgian classics when I watch. There seems to be better coordination between him and the main commentary, so he seems better able to bring insights from the bike to the commentary in a timely/relevant manner than Eurosport/GCN/whatever their confusing marketing is trying to brand it as now. He also seems to be better at getting info from the team cars and riders – probably cause he’s been doing this so much longer and /more often/.

          • Paul J Monday, 17 July 2023, 11:15 am

            As per another comment here, Jensie is quite good on the bike. Adam isn’t bad either.

            I think all the commentators are pretty good TBH. Even Carlton Kirby – he and Rob Hatch have a function to fill the air, while the ex-racers can cogitate and come up with more insightful stuff, and they do that job well.

            King Kelly tends to have the sharper insights into tactics.

    • cp Monday, 17 July 2023, 2:08 am

      You don’t think van Aert would go for it in the TT? too hilly? On a leash?
      Don’t worry about Jens Voigt not being on the bike. You get Adam Blythe. Maybe he’ll wear something silly…

      • oldDAVE Monday, 17 July 2023, 7:32 am

        I like Adam Blythe.

        Jens is by far the best on the bike but Adam is a fun presence in studio.

        I’m shocked people have an issue with him wearing clothes that are a little louder than a grey GCN T-shirt. Shows you how boring most viewers are that they like their men either suited and booted or at most in a muted palette to take them seriously.

        I heard Armstrong complaining last year about EF’s Palace ensemble (which was great) and likewise just depressed me.

        We have a historically bad year in jersey design this year with multiple teams looking the same or extremely forgettably designed so I guess the dullards can be happy and continue hating on Blythe until our TV screens are as boring as the peloton.

        • Tomski Monday, 17 July 2023, 8:02 am

          @oldDave +1

          Absolutely loving Adam and Orla’s outfits daily.

          As for Tex, the guy who was happy to wear the colours of a petrol state for his “comeback”, not sure his costume(/lifestyle/sporting tactics) choices can ever be regarded in seriousness….

          Adam seems to have stepped up his satin Hawaiian shirt game this year which can only be a good thing for cycling!

          • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 18 July 2023, 12:13 am

            I don’t watch English-language Eurosport for the Tour if the presenters and their outfits are the story, is this not a bit odd? Hopefully they have good analysis and insight as well as a wardrobe budget.

        • cp Tuesday, 18 July 2023, 1:34 am

          Silly is not meant as a criticism. Imagine him on a motorbike in a great outfit. I’d be pleased.

          I like some of his commentary–it’s gotten much much better, I think, recently–and I like how he diplomatically disagrees with Kirby. His stuff when he does the video breakdowns can be really enlightening–there was one a few days ago where he was talking about descending lines that was really instructive.

          And I very much like the suited, booted, or muted line in your post.

  • oldDAVE Monday, 17 July 2023, 7:24 am

    One thing on yesterday and the current race situation – is it a little artificial? (I don’t know I’m just wondering)

    Every year we hear riders and commentators say how hard the years route is but this year I’ve also heard many comments that Prudhomme’s route is also designed to keep things close.

    Which is it?

    I know we have fewer TT and overall kms in recent Tours but is it also true efforts have been made to keep gaps down between the best? If so when did this begin?

    Obviously it’s easier said than done, and ASO can only do so much to make a close race, but I just felt a little short changed yesterday as if everyone knew (Sean Kelly predicted it in commentary very early) the last climb was too easy for a GC battle and I’d been a bit of a fool getting all excited for it.

    Just made me feel the race situation was a tiny bit disingenuous even though I know the TDF is regularly laid out to favour a battle like this however rare they are.

    I should probably just shut up and enjoy.

    • WillC Monday, 17 July 2023, 10:54 am

      I don’t think you can say the last climb(s) of stage 15 were too easy for a GC battle: as always, it depends how they’re raced. I looked at it and thought the Côte des Amerands would be an ideal place (for Pogacar) to launch a huge attack, and then try to maintain this on the final steadier climb. These final climbs were certainly enough to put most GC contenders to the sword (everyone except Rodriguez lost >1min) so there definitely was a GC battle. It’s just that TP and JV are so closely matched. We certainly can’t accuse them of being passive, at least… a great Tour so far!

      • oldDAVE Monday, 17 July 2023, 11:14 am

        I guess I’m taking my lead from Pogacar saying it was too easy after and Kelly saying similar before the climb began and linking that to word that the course was designed to keep things close.

        My feeling (after watching I’ll highlight, I’m not in tune enough to say this while watching!) was that it would be mad to attack early with a descent to come midway on the climb despite the steepest stuff being at that point so that’s what made it too easy and likely a tactical blunder for anyone to go early.

        I do think it’s a great Tour so far and I’m likely just eager to see more true face offs between the top two, but the current stalemate just made me question if their closeness was a true reflection of what’s happening or whether the course was impacting a little too much.

        Admittedly both going in for huge attacks has a likely been taken off the menu because of Granon last year and Tourmalet this year where both ended up with egg on their face for similar reasons, so we won’t see anything like that unless one or the other is desperate.

        • Davesta Monday, 17 July 2023, 2:36 pm

          I would look at the time gaps in the top 10 to determine whether the route has “manufactured” close racing – there’s almost 15 minutes between 1st and 10th, and similarly on yesterday’s final climb the gaps across the GC were huge…but Pogi & Vinge are so closely matched (Marie Blanque aside) that it’s creating a kind of stalemate at the top. Neither has gone for a Hail Mary yet, understandably, but they’re still taking chunks out of each other – yesterday’s finale was fascinating to watch them so wary of each other in terrain where an attack could easily be countered…I honestly think we could be looking back on this race as being THE TdF duel of our lifetime!

          • oldDAVE Monday, 17 July 2023, 9:17 pm

            Sorry I 100% agree this will be a legendary tour – I’m fully on board and loving it just mulling after yesterday but I’m very likely wrong.

          • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 18 July 2023, 12:11 am

            A better duel would see the yellow jersey changing shoulders back and forth but it is very close and this is great, and there’s still time for the lead to change one way and the other and so on. The time to rate and review though is after Paris but for now it’s certainly a vintage edition.

  • Somers Monday, 17 July 2023, 12:56 pm

    Can someone remind me why we don’t have a swarm of drones at the TDF in the place of moto’s

    • Somers Monday, 17 July 2023, 1:11 pm

      Scratch that – a quick google search answered it

      • Vince Monday, 17 July 2023, 9:47 pm

        Ok, I googled this topic and just got some vague mentions about airworthiness. Did you find anything more specific? Seems the UCI has no issues with them flying over CX races so how if the TDF different?

        • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 18 July 2023, 12:03 am

          200km a day, open countryside, hundreds of thousands of people beside the road… it’s a simple idea but complex to execute. OK on a fixed circuit for one camera in a zone where fans are excluded. But also as touched on here before, untethered drones for this use are illegal in France so a non-starter too.

        • Somers Tuesday, 18 July 2023, 5:33 am

          Here’s a good article – https://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/bad-news-heres-why-drones-are-a-long-way-off-from-replacing-helicopters-in-cycling-races
          Apparently battery life would only be 20mins and the fact you need to be in direct line of sight are significant problems…amongst others

          • Vince Tuesday, 18 July 2023, 4:35 pm

            Thanks for the link. All I was finding was the mention of airworthiness, not the whole article. Still, I’m amazed that the cost of drones is so high compared to the cost of a helicopter.

  • rob md Monday, 17 July 2023, 5:05 pm

    Apparently record number of TV viewers in France for the Tour. Did the Netflix series help, I wonder.

    • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 18 July 2023, 12:12 am

      It’s a record but for this century, they’ve had more before but in an age when there were only a handful of channels. Netflix won’t have harmed things but seems to be a trend with some high scores of late.

  • Tovarishch Tuesday, 18 July 2023, 2:07 pm

    As Carlton Kirby might be saying – decision to change bikes in quite a conundrum 50-50 at the moment!