Tour de France Stage 17 Preview

The Queen stage in the Alps and we’ll see if Tadej Pogačar is mentally hungover today or has “ants in his legs” as they say in French. There will be a big battle for the breakaway.

Embed from Getty Images

Combloux the doors off: well that settles it, Vingegaard and Pogačar had been inseparable for days and then in one stage Vingegaard gained 1m38s, and not just any stage but in just 22km. And this was the gain on Pogačar, the best of the rest was Wout van Aert more than a minute further back with only Pello Bilbao and Simon Yates within three minutes. This blog tipped Vingegaard for the win, just. But as for the winning margin, nobody saw that, in statistical terms this was long tail distribution to put it mildly. In more florid terms, the French commentary on TV, radio or podcast was often using the verb écraser, to crush.

But you could see it coming on the TV coverage. Vingegaard started fast up the first climb and by manual timing was about 15 seconds up on Pogačar, then on the descent through Passy he was tearing down to the point that it looked like his tires would be screeching as he carved the corners. At the start of the Domancy climb he was 31 seconds up, daylight but this was only the start.

Pogačar’s tactic of a bike change looked wrong from the outside, yes he was able to run an even deeper front rim for the start of the course but lost time in the bike change itself, his rhythm seemed broken and his upright position for the final section of the course gave him the air of a cycle tourist looking for their hotel in Combloux. But we don’t know him, nor his team’s calculations, how heavy is the Colnago TT bike, how is the state of his wrist? Above all this is academic, he was 31seconds down at the foot of the climb before the bike swap. If this was a boxing match we’d call it a knockout but it’s not, especially as Pogačar was himself well over a minute quicker than Van Aert. And they’re back in the (chain) ring today.

The Route: 165.7km and 5,400m of vertical gain, this is the “Queen Stage” of the Tour de France and a route packed with Alpine royalty. The stage starts with an unmarked climb out of St. Gervais, the neutral section’s a warm-up in itself and then the main road dash out out of Megève before the Col des Saisies, a long and scenic climb but the 5.1% average is softened by a descent two thirds of the way up, most of the time it’s 6-7% and so a place for the climbers to get in the day’s breakaway. It’s got a fast descent with some long bends that can be taken at speed but this means you can quickly run out of road too.

Next comes the Cormet de Roselend, a majestic climb with picture-postcard scenery, here climbed the direct route via the Méraillet and its long, regular ramps. Another fast descent awaits and then a valley section to Aime, at the foot of the La Plagne resort.

The Côte de Longfoy is the Col du Tra to locals and up a regular road, but 6.5km at 7.5% makes it hard. After Notre Dame du Pré the route funnels into a small road that tips downhill with getting close to 30 hairpin bends and all with a wilder feel, this is the opposite of Alpe d’Huez and its engineered bends, more a mule path that got tarmacked, but it’s not dangerous by itself, more it’s tiring as it demands concentration, there’s barely a moment to eat and drink.

The Finish: new for 2023 is the start of the Col de la Loze, the road leaves Brides-les-Bains but this is not the direct road to Méribel, instead it’s up to Courchevel and then around the balcony road to Méribel, it’s a longer and more gradual climb, but 14km at close to 6% is plenty for just an approach road.

The road climbs through Méribel and then the Col de la Loze proper starts. It’s a very unusual climb, TV just doesn’t do it justice. For starters it’s not a road but a cycle path and consequently narrower than usual. It’s also very irregular, the pitch changes so often as it climbs through the forest, riders will be going up and down the gears all the time and this makes it hard to get into a rhythm. There’s 20% for 50m, then flat, 12%, then a 6% breather and so on, like some demented BMX course, and it keeps doing this, the average gradient per kilometre tells us little. The path emerges out of the woods with a series of tight hairpins and the road becomes less erratic. The profile above misses the brief descent within the final 2km and then then it kicks up again with an 18% wall before the pass. There’s the 8-5-2 time bonuses at the top and also 40 points for the mountains competition for the first rider, it’s an HC climb but with double points as well as the Henri Desgrange for the high point of the Tour.

What goes up must go down and the cycle path continues downhill. It’s narrow and steep with some awkward corners before reaching the upper parts of the Courchevel ski resort and they’ve put air mattresses here for some of the bends. After the flamme rouge there’s a small tunnel, a left turn and it’s around to the “altiport” airport runway and a steep 350m climb to the line that maxes out at 18%.

The Contenders: can the breakaway stick? There’s a good chance with the length of the stage, it allows the escapees to build up a buffer. Jumbo-Visma want to control the race but they’ll be watching Pogačar in the same way a cook watches a pot of milk on a stove, and less worried about everyone else although for UAE Adam Yates is a wildcard to play, eight minutes down but look to see if he launches early; if not he can move late and won’t be a priority to close down.

Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) is in form and will want to be in the move today to collect mountains points so he can do for stage and the points. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) has been active in the breakaways but this can be a hindrance with accumulated fatigue.

Still Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) is the obvious form pick, and Tadej Pogačar (UAE) has nothing to lose.

Ciccone, Vingegaard, Pogačar
Bilbao, Pinot, Martin, A Yates, Poels, Kwiatkowski

Weather: warm and sunny, 31°C but with the chance of rain and the wind could gust in places depending how and where the clouds build up.

TV: KM0 is at 12.30pm and the finish is forecast for 5.20pm CEST. Tune in early for the scenery and sport alike.

166 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 17 Preview”

  1. Didn’t quite see yesterday’s margin coming: Tadej must be tearing his hair out (of his helmet vents) wondering what went wrong this year – although he looked cooked on Saturday even before the moto incident.

    Jumbo seem to have played their ractics to perfection this year and my mind goes back to the tt at the Giro where much was made of Primosz’ bike change. With UAE emulating this yesterday, could that day in May have been “the moment the tour was won”?

    Part of me is itching to pull a sickie this afternoon!

    What a Tour; what a series of write ups. Chapeau Inrng!

  2. Pogacar needs to be almost at the finish of the final short climb before Vingegaard starts it to make up the time deficit. Looks a bit like mission impossible.

  3. Third to last paragraph „. . . Courchevel ski resort and they’ve .“ Missing a phrase?

    Please delete the comment, but thank you for the awesome blog!

  4. „ riders will be going up and down the gears all the time.“ I predict several mechanicals in this section.

    I really would like to know more about the mechanical issues these days (recent years). The riders can‘t slag on their component sponsors but it sure seems like there are a lot more than normal dropped chains, jammed chains, etc. than in the Goode Olde Dayes.

    • Couple of new bikes in our cycling group with Shimano 12 speed.
      Could be some bias in my brain from reading articles, but I do think they’re more prone to dropping, seems like it to me at least, anecdotal I know.

      • Because the 12 speed chain is narrower it has less rigidity in a horizontal direction, ie perpendicular to its movement so it can be a bit more “whippy”. Also the gearing used now sees rear mechs with large cages and this means the chain tension can vary a bit more, not quite “chain suck” but a bounce and it could slip. Then again the shifting can be so precise that some mistakes don’t happen.

        With 12 speed now you can have a bike with gears that hardly need to be altered, if anything team mechanics are changing the chainrings at the front more often, eg a 54 one day, a 55 the next or even a 56 for sprinters. But today many riders might ask to change the 11-30 cassette for an 11-34 for the Loze.

        • My peeve with the new gearing that it is for pro’s. I am a tourist and 11 and 12 and often 13 are way to tall a gearing, I am left with 12-3=9 workable gears, and no choices in individual gears.😢

          • I’m not sure how the road pros are doing with these narrow ranges in a 1x setup. I ride an 11-50 cassette in a 1×12 setup on my MTB and the range feels a bit limiting at times keeping in mind I enjoy very steep terrain with a lot of vertical gain. The way I’m set up, I’m definitely missing more gearing in the high speed range for the real flat parts. The setup does great before the chain starts getting worn out. The simplicity is great, but I do feel I’m sacrificing some of my top speed on rare occasions.

          • I like the big gear when descending a long enough straight enough road – enjoy the ability to push something that pushes back.
            Side-to-side flexibility has changed chains so much that It is not clear to me how the systems are supposed to handle the flex at the outer margins. Of course, I’m still dealing with 40-to-50 year old bikes and drive trains variously made up of SunTour, Campy, Shimano, “Z”, Sedis, Regina, Huret, Miche, Atom, TA, Stronglight…

          • @Gazelle CM- get a subcompact up front, 46/30 or 48/32. Almost any RD will pair that with an 11-34. I have this on my gravel bikes and now my road bike too. Plenty of gear. I suspect you could go wider in back too, with a bit of care.

      • Interesting – and can add my own anecdote – I have had 12sp for a year and have experienced issues a couple of times with drops in recent months.

        Hardly seems worth the benefit of closer gearing relative to to the drop risk. Still, at least it juices Shimano’s margins.

        • I rode a mechanical Ultegra hire bike in Mallorca in May. Dropped the chain twice in a week. Own 12-speed Di2. Not dropped the chain once. I very much doubt statistical significance could be attached to that though!

  5. Vingegaard rode the TT yesterday as if it was a prologue, just balls out full gas all the way. A lot of people saying Pogacar had a bad day but I don’t think he did, I actually think he’s hit the numbers he wanted. I’m sure we will see Pogacar try something early in the stage but, I can’t see any scenario where Vingegaard is troubled. If anything Vingegaard will just counter a fading Pog and put more time into him.

  6. Looking at Pogacar yesterday, I wonder if the difference in form with Vingegaard is the result of (i) an incomplete recovery from the wrist injury and (ii) the Dane’s singular focus on the Tour as his sole objective for the year vs. Tadej’s buccaneering tear through the classics in the Spring?

    Thanks, as ever, to Mr. Ring for your brilliant year-round coverage.

    • Here in Denmark the consensus is that Pogacar is the best rider in the world but Jonas is the king of grand tour. I think your right, the singular focus on Tour de France is one of the reasons why Jonas is best. This combined with his Watt/Kg ratio and restitution ability.

      • 2 TdF + 1 RvV beats 3 TdF so I hope Pogacar continues trying whatever he wants. And he’s still in nappies so he’s got plenty of time to refocus on the GTs later.

        • Sean – I completely agree.

          Tadej won Flanders this year, and is now projected to finish second on the Tour. Arguably that is a better season than Jonas’ at this point.

        • Sorry, add Amstel and Flèche to Tadej’s 2023 Palmares and he blows the doors off Jonas.

          On one hand I wish Tadej got off the bike for a break after Flanders though. He didn’t need to try and race the Ardennes Classics, most Flemish Classic riders had stopped at this point, and they weren’t also trying to win the maillot jaune this year. He needs to be more selective in 2024. He can’t do every single race on the calendar.

    • I suspect the impact of the broken wrist is unwinding in this Tour – less training, less TT miles, more recovery – while JV was doing all his preparation well with his eyes fixed on one prize. TP still did a good TT but with the prep JV had the outcome may well have been closer/different (minus the bike change, which always seemed a strange move).

        • Pogacar did an incredible TT. The problem is JV did an out-of-this-world performance. The tiny little GC climber put time in on big TT powerhouses Kung and Van Aert on the *descent then flat* intermediate section.

          This raises some questions…

  7. As IR suggests and Jalabert said the bike change was probably a mistake, yet these well-funded teams have specialists capable of simulating the options. Not just Pogacar but S Yates too would probably have saved a few seconds staying on the TT bike.

    Great rides from Van Aert, Bilbao, Yates * 2, Skjelmose, Gaudu… yet losing three minutes over 22km (less than 14 miles). Quite astonishing.

  8. Pidcock started decently but then slowed dramatically to finish nearly 6′ down. Could he have been creating spaace for today, or did he simply start to fast? In normal times today’s cycle path and descent would appear made for him.

    • I think if Pidcock wanted to go on the attack, he already had space before yesterday without needing to create more by deliberately losing time. My sense is that he is simply running on empty in the last week.

      • I think so too, his run up wasn’t great with the concussion and the Tour de Suisse and maybe he expected more. The longer stages have just chipped away at his reserves. I think he has the ability if he wants to have a serious crack but he is too good at the other events.
        I just hope it doesn’t put him off. I’d love to see him in the breakaway but can’t see it.

    • Like I said last week, pidcock will do an mediocre time trial and fade in the last week. He’s not even in the top twenty now.

  9. Historical comparisons are never precise, but that feels like “Luxembourg 1992″ in proportions, the time trial when Indurain was described as an extra terrestrial. That day he gained 3’00” on his team mate Armand De Las Cuevas in a race lasting 1h 19′; with his GC rivals even further back. Expressed as a percentage of the winner’s time, De Las Cuevas took 3.8% longer to cover the course than Indurain. Yesterday, the gap back to Pogacar was 5% …

    1956/2054 = 1.05

    • 5% is ridiculous. He even put in time on the big powerful TT riders on the flat.

      Given his team mate Roglic went from “not looking great in the mountains” to also put in an incredible performance in the TT in the Giro, against a very strong Geraint Thomas, and given the history of the team staff… questions really need asking.

      • Oh we know the answer, please don´t ask. It´s 97 Vo2, above-average flexibility and ideal leg proportion, those things. Let´s not forget 110% focus on the TdF and born for the bike.

        I guess modern technology has allowed 60kg riders to absolutely smash 3rd week TTs like that. Maybe in the same way “old” tech has allowed 80kg riders to beat climbers on high mountains in the 90s.

        I admit it was beautiful watching Ving attack the clock, crush the descents and pick those perfect lines but must agree: 5% in 22km and considering Pogacar´s (and WvA´s) better-than-good rides, bike change or whatever… I dunno.

        I´ll just keep enjoying the show but holding my praises for now.

        • No doubt it’s some kind of juice. Rabobank (and its successors) have a history of finding amazing juices for their riders.

          I refer, of course, to the documentary “Tour van Bauke”, where he lets us in the secret of drinking beetroot juice for the nitrates, for performance.

      • If you look at the stats the timed gained by roglic on the last tt closely matches the time ne regained from Thomas in the 3k uphill section in the first tt. So not really surprising….

    • Cillian Murphy crushed the numbers on Twitter. In terms of time gained/km for the winner over the number 2, Vingegaard’s result was the 2nd best ever in a Grand Tour, with 4.38 s/km. Best ever is Anquetil vs. Bouvet in 1961, with an astonishing 5.33 km/s: he put 2:32 into Bouvet in 28.5km round Versailles, so a flat course. Guess he was Mr. Chrono for a reason…

      Indurain in Luxemburg is surprisingly enough not even in the top 5.

  10. The GC is an interesting scenario now, Pogacar has seven minutes to burn if he wants to do an all or nothing do or die early attack. Thats a lot of pressure on him as a great champion who was hitherto pretty much expected to win everything. A lot of pressure on the team too as they theoretically are in a strong position with Yates in 3rd…they could reasonably be expected to try some kind of multi pronged ambush attack, but they are up against a super strong JV who would likely shut anything like that down easily. In the back of his mind I’m guessing Pog is already thinking about 2024, and to finish this tour with 2nd and 3rd is a great result not to mentio Yates’ best result in his career so far. So I’m expecting Pogacar to try something today and saturday but to gain seconds at most and more likely lose a few.

    • Agree with this – the massive time back to 4th provides the freedom for some adventurous racing from the most daring of GC contenders. Whether he has it in the legs is another matter. Like you say, he may gain seconds but perhaps is more likely to lose another minute or more.

    • Also, I am not sure how much of an adventage having Yates in 3rd really is for Pogacar. Trying anything with Yates means activating Ineos and other podium hopefuls, meaning help for JV. Only Pogacar himself can attack to put pressure on JV. How to go early and make it stick?

    • IMHO Pog has looked cooked since at least Saturday if not Friday. Not sure what or why but kinda Friday evening j got the feeling this was Jonas’tour to lose.

      Still the most exciting tour I’ve seen in ages !

  11. I wonder if there will be any reactions today from the efforts yesterday. We have seen in the past riders produce an unexpectedly good TT but then fall back in the succeeding days eg Simon Yates in 2018 Giro. As ever it is difficult to know where Jonas Vingegaard’s performance compares to past riders (or even those such as Pipo Ganna and Remco Evenepoel who were not there). At a guess just going with recent riders maybe Tom Dumoulin on his Bergen world championship form, perhaps peak Chris Froome or Bradley Wiggins Olympic gold medal form (though that was flat). It was certainly up there with the best TT performances in the past 15 years. I wasnt watching when Miguel Induran or Greg Lemond were riding so no idea how they match up.

  12. Like to think Pog had a bad day yesterday but the truth is he put over a minute on Aert and distanced the rest of the field. I reckon he would have been pretty pleased except for the elephant in the room that is Jonas. I suspect Jumbo has discovered some magic ingredient in their protein shakes so if Pog is to gain the time back I suggest his only hope is don the Visma bib and sneak onto the team bus pre stage, otherwise he’s no hope.

  13. Is there enough history on Vingegaard’s 3rd week performance to make conlusions? If I remember correctly, also on last year’s tour he had upper hand during the 3rd week. Perhaps he has the ability to remain (relatively) fresh through a 3-week GT, either through unique recovering ability or carefully not going in the red zone during the early stages. Or both.

  14. The Col de la Loze looks terrifying at 28.1 km, arguably tougher than Le Tourmalet at a mere 17.2 (although a steeper average gradient).

    On the graphic it bears the rubric ‘Souvenir Henri Desgrange’.

    Who is/was he?

      • Came to cycling late in life in my sixties. Club rider when living in France, so followed the Tour with my pals and saw it go by on three occasions, but not that good on the history.

        Still riding in my eighties with a FTP of 150 so I imagine a fair advertisement for the benefits of ‘le vélo’.

        • Still riding in your eighties. Chapeau, and you are my hero and someone to aspire to. 🙂

          Any tips on keeping joints and everything going?

          • I got lucky with arthritis – don’t suffer from it apart from one or two fingers.

            Best tip I guess is know your limits, don’t overtrain, compete only if you must, take rest days.

            Don’t drink apart from the odd glass of a well-aged Châteauneuf Du Pape, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, ever, eat well – not too much meat and plenty of fresh fruit and veg.

            All pretty much common sense.

      • Man, you must feel good. Snarking at a guy in his 80s. You must be really proud of yourself. Here’s the thing, brains. Perhaps people in their 80s aren’t so fond of google? Just a thought….

    • This is the output of my current AI of choice:

      Here are some key facts about Henri Desgrange:

      He was a French cyclist and sports journalist who founded the Tour de France cycling race in 1903. He organized and directed the Tour de France from 1903 to 1936.
      He was born in Paris in 1865. As a young man he excelled as a cyclist and set numerous world records for speed and distance cycling.
      In 1891 he began his career as a sports journalist. He wrote for publications like Le Vélo, Auto-Vélo, and La Vie au Grand Air.
      In 1900 he founded the sports newspaper L’Auto-Vélo. This later became L’Auto and is the predecessor to today’s L’Équipe newspaper.
      In 1902 the circulation of L’Auto was threatened by its rival Le Vélo. To boost sales, Desgrange conceived the idea of an epic multi-stage bicycle race across France – the Tour de France.
      The first Tour de France was held in 1903. It was an instant success and helped cement L’Auto as a leading sports publication.
      Desgrange not only founded but organized every detail of the early Tours de France. He was known for being a strict taskmaster who expected the highest levels of performance and honor from cyclists.
      He introduced Important innovations like mountain stages, time trials, and yellow jerseys to mark the race leader. His vision and flair for publicity built the Tour into a beloved French national event.
      Desgrange led the Tour until his death in 1940 at the age of 75. He has been called the “Father of the Tour de France”. A prize in his name is still awarded to the winner of the Tour’s most aggressive rider.

  15. “But we don’t know him, nor his team’s calculations, how heavy is the Colnago TT bike, how is the state of his wrist?”

    Do we think that there would be such a difference between Colnago and Cervelo TT bikes that it would justify different tactics? Other factors I totally buy, wrist, individual preference, team (mis-)calculations, and to.. and I’m genuinely asking from people who may know more, for the road bikes I don’t believe the bike makes any difference but for TT I could believe, I just don’t know myself.

    • Teams can model it all, it’s not too complicated with a spreadsheet and some Newton and here it could be the team calculations vary. But I can’t see how the numbers work, even if we attribute the Colnago is very heavy.

      I’m still left scratching my head. If I do the numbers a 2kg weight saving for the Domancy climb (2.5km, 12%) is worth 20 seconds tops but that’s lost by not having the TT bike for the final part of the course, the 3.5km uphill at 4-5% where a trained rider who can hold the TT tuck despite the gradient can gain a lot of time compared to one who is left with their hands on the brake hoods and elbows out.

      Plus there’s the bike change itself, a rider has to brake, wait and then get going again and even with a very long push it’s change in rhythm, this alone chomps into the 20 second saving so even if the finish line was at the top of the Domancy climb was it worth it? Like I say I don’t understand the bike change but teams must have their reasons.

      • I suppose it was more a desperation measure trying to salvage something than really planned. Maybe it was their option B depending on the intermediate time checks. I am sure that if they were more or less tied until then than Pogacar wouldn’t have swapped bikes but once it was clear that he was trailing by so much he decided to change trying to make up some time. It obviously backfired even more.

        • No, cyclingnews reported that the team DS said that when they practiced the time trial, it was clear the Pogacar was faster by changing to his road bike. Yes, they lost 10-20 s in the charge-over but the advantage outweighed that. Likewise, they saw that Yates shouldn’t change bikes.

          If we subtract JV’s otherworldly performance yesterday, where even he said he didn’t believe his power meter, then today we would be talking about how Tadej sealed his 3rd Tour win in the TT. Tadej put over a minute into van Aert yesterday and caught his 3 minute man.. It’s not like he had a jour sans and was passed by 5 people. He rode a spectacular TT. He didn’t lose time so much as JV gained time.

          I’m with the other commenter who said that the only way Pogacar wins this is if he sneaks aboard the Jumbo bus to steal their special sauce for today.

  16. Watching Vingegaard in yellow in a helicoptre shot the other day, my two year old son pointed and said «chicken».

    I never know what to believe when it comes to performance-induced suspicion but this time maybe my son did?

  17. vingegaard yesterday looked as he knew the course by heart, every corner taken precisely, probably also what kind of effort was ideal for the individual sections and then perfectly spent afterwards. meticoulous planning and maximal use of ones abilities?

    • He wasn’t really that faster on the downhill/flat section (3 secs quicker than Cavagna). On that point I thought coverage was terrible, not really interested in watching someone grinding uphill but would have loved to see more on the descent. Since the change to Tudor timing the on screen graphics seem a lot worse, as well.

      • Agree, the brief shots of the TT bike descents were gripping: you could really see who’s mastered the TT handling and who was struggling. Vingegaard looked to be ripping it down the first descent; Gaudu looked to be struggling.

  18. “In statistical terms this was long tail distribution to put it mildly.”

    I am a statistician, physical endeavors can always be classified under what Carl-Friedrich Gauss called “normal distribution”. Around 66% of the cases fall within +/- 1 standard distribution, 95% under +/- 2 and 99% under +/- 3.

    Vingegaard’s victory yesterday is what you deem a “Black Swan”, which are events that don’t follow a normal distribution but a “fat-tailed” distribution. This type distribution, follows man-made events, for instance, Elon Musk’s wealth is always likely to be higher by a large order of magnitude of all the other people combined when he walks into, say, a McDonald’s.

    Unfortunately, for me, Vingegaard’s performance – his average speed was over 40kmh, faster than ITT prodigy Van Aert – leaves too many questions in its wake.

    • I wouldn’t call it a black swan event as these are meant to be events we just couldn’t imagine or know ex ante. A cyclist beating another by a large margin in a race is not an unknowable outcome, but the margin is just one few would have seen coming.

      • It *was* a Black Swan, as both relative and absolute values expressed by the V bomb were well offset when compared… to the more extreme case ever recorded in cycling history (Luxembourg, Bergerac by Indurain, Ullrich 1997 etc.). We’ve got quite a vast sample of iterations about ITTs in TDF. Relative values mean that it’s not (just) about general improvements in “sport science”, which should be shared by other athletes or at least teammate, while absolute values mean that it’s not about the rest of the field being weaker. Nobody would have come close to predict these differences, not only to Pogi (whose performance was in itself a good deal above the rest of contenders), but to the whole field. Most experts went wrong by one magnitude, as most estimated that any of the two (note this!) could gain *at most* 10″ over the rival. Wildest prediction got to one minute and were often labelled as the longest shot.
        It’s like you were saying, “we’ve got some 20m-high waves in Nazaret, ok, so high waves are a predictable event there, hence it’s not any Black Swan if we just got a 200m-high one…”

        • But those prediction were based on water rather than data or any real insight into the situation.

          Is it inconcievable to see Vingegaard beating the likes of Yates and Bilbao on a hard tt course by three minutes (10%) that late during a GT? (I don’t know the answer, btw.)

          • They were based on reasonable expert expectations actually formed on data and insight, although full disclosure is never possible (someday I’ll maybe write a short essay on cycling as the sport of “alethé”, i.e. “truth” as “disclosure” or “uncovering”).

            We sure had, to say the least:

            1) a vast sample of previous comparable cycling performances, even if we reduce it to “TDF ITTs”, and the relative difference among contenders (including a broad set of factors an expert person can and will take into consideration). Of course, it’s possible that Vinge’s result is a Black Swan.
            2) several previous performances during this same TDF. Of course, it’s possible that it’s all a well-studied “trap” or “theatre” of sort by Jumbo and Vinge was deliberately underperforming on several stages etc.
            3) the current record of both athletes in previous competitions.

            – – – – – – – – – –

            That said, let me also answer to your second question. Yes, that’s absolutely out of this world.
            Simon Yates especially, but also Pello Bilbao, can be excellent riders on a good day, and on such a course (short and hilly).
            Simon could also be deemed an absolute level contender for the stage win.

            You might remember him storming the Brabantane ITT at Pa-Ni or winning in Budapest last season. He also was a very close runner-up to a top-form Roglic on San Luca (a course with some technical similarities to yesterday’s, albeit shorter). We also know he’s far from a consistent athlete and has huge up-and-downs but we must also assume he was performing well yesterday, no?
            When he’s competitive, he rarely suffers big differences even if he’s not podiuming the ITT. For example, in a flat ITT well into last Vuelta his difference to Evenepoel was less than 5%. During last Pa-Ni only Van Aert, Roglic, Dennis and Küng beat him on a 48-49 km/h ITT and in some 16′ he lost only 11″ to Wout. Same at the start of the 2018 Giro in Jerusalem, he was beat by then top specialists like Dumoulin, Campenaerts, Dennis, Dowsett, and, guess who?, Pello Bilbao! However, he lost 20″ in 12′ to the eventual winner.
            Of course, we could put the stress on considering only GTs and only later ITTs, but the sample would shrink a lot, given that we should take into account when he had already rode another GT before, if he was sitting up etc.
            However, in 2016 late in the Vuelta Froome put in an impressive ITT to try and grab back the GC from Quintana. Contador, 3rd in GC after the stage, lost some 2 minutes to Froome. Simon, only 32nd, was still “only” 8% slower than Froome.
            Even better in Marseille the following year, we all remember that ITT because of Bardet, I guess, well, S. Yates without having any great day (32nd) still lost “only” 1’28” to Froome (5.3%). Both ITTs were raced at 48 km/h, so one should also ask himself if with a more favourable course Simon would have performed even better.
            In the 2018 Giro, stage 16, T. Martin, Dennis, Dumoulin, a little back even Froome, were fighting for the over 50 km/h flattish Rovereto ITT. Simon lost less than 3″/km (less than Pogacar yesterday…) and was 4% slower than eventual winner Dennis.
            In a very very similar ITT (same avg., same distance, same winner) at the Vuelta later that same year Simon repeated the performance. Very similar time for Bilbao, by the way.
            Same could be said for the last ITT on stage 20 at the 2019 Giro, not a great day but he only was 1 minute behind the winner (Bilbao made the top-ten at 17″).
            The only apparent outliers in this specific sample are the TDF 2019 where he was way back (he had ridden the Giro) and the Giro 2021 where he hadn’t much to win or lose in the last Milan flat ITT and was 50th… losing 2’45″… to in-form and motivated Ganna! (8% slower).

            Pello Bilbao couldn’t be seen as a potential winner, but in his case too there’s a solid record which make you expect that in a good day he can be up there, and surely not lose that much time to the eventual winner. He obviously had no adequate prep in his years out of the WT (Caja Rural), but after his first season at Astana he started to collect top-tens in ITTs. Between 2019 and 2020 he raced 16 ITTs and was top-ten half of the times (plus twice 11th and once 12th). His record got worse recently, but it depends a lot on him happening to be racing mostly fast ITTs: if the speed is below 50 km/h, his performances immediately turn more interesting, for example, just to pick a very adequate case, on the 2020 Planche at the TDF, stage 20, partly similar to yesterday but longer and deeper into the race. Bilbao was 12th and 5.8% slower than winner Pogacar.
            Of all the ITTs which Pello rode in his career, considering only those when he was *minimally* competitive (and we must assume that yesterday he actually was), that is, taking into account only those where he was at least… 50th…, his absolute *worst* performance was on the flattish stage 20 ITT during the 2021 TDF (51 km/h). He eventually ended up 42nd. Well, even in this extreme “worst case scenario”, then the difference to winner Van Aert was slightly below 9%. Factoring in a decent number of ITTs he raced at the Giro, when he’s not very brilliant you can expect him to lose some 4 to 7% to the winner (usually Ganna…).
            Being clearly in great form, on a very favourable course, 10% is totally crazy for him, too. 4th placed.

          • Gabriele, the first paragraph says it all- unless one of us is an insider, which I definitely am not, there is not that much data to base a qualified estimate on, rather unknown variables. (Truth is a complicated concept we shouldn’t drag in here, I am fairly sure we’d agree on that point. 🙂 ) Was Pogacar stuggling during the weekend? Was Vingegaard bluffing? And that’s just one fairly important point you mention yourself.

            Also, some “experts” (don’t remember who) actualy predicted JV’s time as a estimate of plausible winning time pre-stage; available estimates of 33% time limit were about correct. (It’s not like Vingegaard shattered the expected time, is it?)

            I appreacite the discussion of Yates and Bilbao you did. I see your point, of course – that the distance to the rest of the field is huge and there is little chance the rest was that bad at once. But at the same time, Yates and Bilbao shows rather fluid (good, but inconsistent?) form, for WvA the TT was probably too hard (10% ramps) while he probably didn’t rode for the win anyway and Jumbo is clearly dominant TT team right now. (I kind of hope this race would raise the question of banning TT specific gear, btw – but consider it improbable due to the corporate pressure.) Even Pogacar, who seemingly struggled and was disappointed with his ride, destroyed the rest of the field by huge margin.

            Both probably spent a lot more time reckoning and preparing for the TT than the rest of the field. And anyway, it’s quite clear the duo is stronger by an order of magnitude nowadays. Both Pogacar and Vingegaard managed to surprise us by their TT performance in the past, and both are still improving, as far as I know, based on power output data available. Yesterday the difference were unusual, but that actualy don’t answer my question – about plausibility, because this TT at it’s particular context was perhaps (plausibly) also quite unprecedented. This year’s race was raced pretty hard, I suppose, perhaps the hardest ever. (I am speculating.) Ok, I reckon with such reservation everything could be called plausible, but that’s close to my point – we (or at least I) don’t know whether it is or is not a plausible result – and I am not sure the past exammples or even past hard statistical data about TT deltas are of much use here.

            I surely know this is much lighter argument than your data, or rather a futile and pompous one, but frankly I wans’t that surprised by yesterday’s results. Ok, I cheer for Pogacar, but i fully expected him to be soundly beaten. Almost two minutes are surprising, I expected say a minute – all based on JV’s performance curve of past two years (2022 he was totally dominant after Granon and beaten Pogacar in the TT easily) and mainly on Vingegaard’s and Pogacar’s body language. The unsuccesfull attack on Joux Plane seemed to deprive Pogacar of hope, slightly, it felt he knows, deep down, that tha race is lost. He even said that they learned a lot of informations that day, with hindsight omniously. On sunday, Vingeggard almost cluely and definitely calmly showed he’s able to beat Pogacar in the sprint for seconds even at the finish line, undisturbed by futile superiority in numbers. So… I definitely appreciate your point is much more valid and actualy based on some data, while mine is bordering magical thinking.

          • @Fra
            Just three very short points.

            1) My first paragraph wasn’t referred to me or inrng’s readers (although I used maybe some plural 1st person as in “we have data” which may have led to misunderstanding), I was thinking of people I had been talking with these days who can be considered as experts even if not working at WT level. Even in specialised media – which I didn’t follow with much attention, and where not everybody is an expert, surely – most previews were along the lines I defined above.

            2) In this case, we need figures to better grasp the physical meaning of what happened. Given the way our mind works, it can easily get tricked by the fact that “less than 2 minutes” doesn’t “look much”, anyway. In that sense, what’s really notable is the relative distribution of the time difference and its measure in sec/km or as a %. A small example: you saying, “I expected one minute…” (which would have been indeed comparable to Pogi over Roglic, that is everything goes great against a bad performance), “…well, it’s 1’38” after all”. That’s a hell of a lot of a distance, among the two figures! Various known factor are at work to produce this “sensations” (for instance, 1 minute being 60″ 😉 ). Imagine you go and buy something you expected was worth 60 euros and they ask you 100. You wouldn’t say, “oh, well, more or less…”. (Depending on your wealth you might need to make the test with, dunno, buying a house for 600 K, then they say, sorry it’s 1 M, and so on).

            3) The fact that Simon or Pello aren’t consistent isn’t relevant in this case, or it even works the other way around! You can’t assume that *all the field*… had a bad day. Yates and Bilbao quite clearly made everything well, as you can say checking them against the rest. So they were on one of their ups. Being not consistent, means that when they have a great day they’re really really up to an impressive level, compared to our general expectations about them. And it also means that if they were having a mediocre day, they’d have fallen much lower in the ranks.

            All that said, let me say that I quite much agree with your general reading of the race. But as every “interpretation” of a rather mute reality, it’s wildly subject to ex post confirmation bias. And isn’t consistent with the level of absolute performance produced by Pogacar yesterday.

          • @ gabriele

            1) I consider you an expert at least concerning racing history – your memory of racers’ history and previous results never cease to amaze me. (As well as your wilingness to cite such information and base your claims on critically assessed facts, many thanks for that.)

            2) I get this. I just question whether the context of previous results is that substantial here – genuinely question, not dismiss. I suppose it is. But the missing data which may correct the statistical analysis of previous deltas in comparison to yesterday’s is the general level of yesterday performances. You are right, hindsight is a big caveat, I’d never expect the likes of Rodriguez, Yates and Bilbao to tackle the TT easily because it’s not what top10 riders tend to do, even if today’s stage may be perceied as omnious; and still my explanation of yesterday is based on assumption the general level was somehow lower that usual.

            Anyway, I see your post on 2:16 down below as wise and quite conclusive – at least as far as our debate is concerned. Thanks. 🙂

        • It was a Black Swan in the way it practically and unexpectedly sealed the race. Unless another Black Swan turns things over again today or during the week. Though that would further prove the JV´s ITT result (or performance) was a Black Swan.


    • As an ergonomist – a discipline that includes both physiology and statistics, I spent half the night trying to get my head round his performance.

    • This assumes that performances in a short, third week time trial will follow a normal distribution, whereas there are very good reasons to expect that they won’t. Only a handful of riders have much interest in going flat out for the stage win, or to seriously protect their standings in the overall, and many riders are likely to be managing injuries or illness. Plus the riders in the tour are already a cohort of athletes taken from one end of the bell curve already so we’d expect to see a skew in this data (and guess what – we do! – there’s a plot available online and it skews to the right, as we’d expect).

      You might be a statistician, but your starting assertion that it will be normally distributed simply isn’t valid, and the data itself demonstrates this even if you remove Pogacar, WVA and Vingegaard’s results from the plot.

      • On a physiological measurement, a select group of athletes, specifically trained, will not follow a normal distribution. That only applies to the population as a whole. This group inhabits the tail of the bell curve and, therefore, of course, is a skewed distribution. It is still possible to identify anomalies in the data.

        • Exactly, Black Swan events are not animals that people didn’t know they existed. Black Swan events are events that define the distribution. This is exactly what happened yesterday.

      • It’s not like we don’t have a more than decent sample of recurrent / most probable distributions of the athletes’ performances in this kind of events.

      • On Twitter Simon Warren showed a nice graph of distributions of the TT finishing times:

        Overall this shows a slight skew from normality, but closer inspection shows one normal distribution ranging from ~32-35.5 kph, then a second population finishing faster than 35.5 kph. I’d conclude that those who were going hard for the stage (GC contenders + WVA?) are in this second population. You then have Pogacar as one outlier (not sure how many SDs?) but Vingegaard as a truly extreme outlier.

        • Standard deviations don’t work with fat-tailed distributions, you need kurtosis. In fat-failed distribution there is no outlier, the outlier aka the Black Swan, defines de distribution.

      • A lot, quite a lot, was said back then. Rivals like Dumoulin came close to be explicit.

        That said, Roglic didn’t produce the sort of performance which 2nd placed Pogacar still offered yesterday. Just look at that photo! Or at the times. He was beat not only by teammates WVA and Dumoulin, but by Richie Porte, too. On that course, he made the same time as Cavagna. Caruso and De la Cruz (!) only lost some 30-40″ to Rogla. He wasn’t absolutely horrible, but surely he wasn’t performing as when he won his titles – or on Lussari.

        To put thing into perspective, during that ITT who shook the world, three riders were “only” ~2.5% / ~2.5″/km slower than Pogi, and *that* was already impressive. Roglic was 3.6% slower than Pogi (3.3″/km).

        “Pogacar” (5% slower) would mean being 8th-10th, as in David de la Cruz, Rigoberto Urán, Enric Mas. The rest of the world at some 10% back would correspond to being from 30th down, like Jesús Herrada, Dan Martin, Grossschartner, Jungels, Fraile…

        And, as I said, that performance was already deemed impressive to shocking.

    • When you look at the difference from 2nd in GC back to 3rd… and also how the race has been going, with these two soooo much better the rest… it’s just a little depressing for me TBH.

      Maybe Lance was talking directly to me all those years ago “I’m sorry you can’t dream big and I’m sorry you don’t believe in miracles…”

      Been a long time since I’ve seen such a race of two speeds.

    • De Las Cuevas (2nd) at Luxembourg 1992 took 3.8% longer than Indurain and the next riders were fairly close behind.

      Yesterday, Pogacar was 5% longer than Vingegaard, but was himself already well ahead of the 3rd place rider. Van Aert was all but 10% behind.

      To me that’s well beyond Indurain levels of “extraterrestrial”.

  19. I get the impression Pog performed as he hoped he would, don’t forget some people were tipping Wout to challenge for the stage and Pog beat him by a 1min20. The gap between Pog and Vingegaard was phenomenal. I feel in the past this would have produced scepticism; I wonder how big the gap would have to be been to see more questions?

      • It’s a little bit of a funny situation…

        Because you have people suspicious and people celebrating and then people calling out people who are suspicious as boring oldies and people calling out those enjoying as naive… what I don’t get is why you can’t think both at once, as to me all opinions are valid?

        I was blown away yesterday and have deeply enjoyed this Tour, it’s been obvious we’re watching an all time great rivalry for a while now and it feels like a privilege. Vin’s ride yesterday was up with the best and will be rightly remembered as a great Tour moment.

        At the same time given cyclings history even I, as someone who’s been willing to accept the general success of the bio passport and anti doping movement in the past decade, had to do a double take and wonder what if… for a moment…

        It seems to me that both are acceptable thoughts/opinions and one person can reasonable hold both at the same time so there’s no need to criticise either side unless they go overboard.

        I never understand why people don’t realise it’s possible to think two things at once

        • We’ve had statistics above – so how about a bit of philosophy/cultural studies? The ability to hold “dual consciousness” goes against the rationalism of western enlightenment. We’re not conditioned to accept not knowing and not believing – especially in binary situations where there meant to be clearly defined winners and losers.

          This inability to hold dualities can be seen as having profound impact on nationalism, racism and cycling blog doping discussions.

        • I wouldn’t put much faith into the bio-passport. It leaves very wide margins, simply because our provable knowledge of physiology is limited. And then add in the fact that some of the same people who do the research in/around the bio-passport markers ALSO act as advisors to the top athletes.

  20. Pogacar’s bike swap was a mistake. But say that cost him 40 seconds, Vingegaard has still put a minute into a rider considered his equal in 22km. That’s still a very big gap in a relatively tiny time trial. It’s another one to put on the list of things that happen in bike races that Jumbo Visma contest, which if we are being honest with ourselves probably started with that Giro Kruiswijk dominated but didn’t win. Pogacar didn’t have a bad ride and wasn’t flat. He put over a minute into Van Aert. He did a similar ride to when he poached the Tour from Roglic. If it was the World TT champs or the Olympics or any of the other big races Vingegaard’s doesn’t do we’d be acclaiming it as one of his great rides and he’d have a gold medal. For the sake of comparison it’s a shame Evenepoel wasn’t there. We watch Pogacar and Evenepoel (and Van Aert) smash races to pieces and acclaim them great riders. We sometimes call them the New Merckx. What are we saying then about Vingegaard? Is he so good that he’s beyond comparison? Is he the Jacques Anquetil of modern time trialing? Was it his absolute day of days? Who knows.

  21. So many accusations here. I find it laughable. Vingegaard rode like a man possesed, attacking all corners full on. And you can see his position has been worked on meticulously. I see no red flags when I look at the vertical meters in this TT and the top 10.

    If we are going to be pointing fingers it should be at Gianettis new version of his Saunier Duval team, and their results since 2020.

    • Yes, of course, attacking corners, ROTFL, he rode * 10% * faster than a bunch of amateurs. The good thing is that at least when you take a sudden chunk of 10% faster over the rest of the pro field (barring one man, who was “only” ~5% slower), well, at least you can’t use anymore the “marginal gains” buzzword. “Massive gains”? I’d suggest something along the lines of “Dane gains”, it sounds well, has historical depth and at the end of the day we had 4 Danes in the top 15.

        • Yeah, and we know our Slovens, plus who manages UAE Team. Although neither aren’t currently on the very top step of sport science, we can feel assured that they also know a thing or two about, ahem, pro cycling.

          It’s not like Armstrong riding against Moncoutié… isn’t it?

          Oh, by the way, I checked some TDF ITTs during the Lance era which were slightly comparable to yesterday’s in that they implied some level of climbing (avg. speed closer to 45 than to 50 km/h, or below of course), and the difference between Armstrong (winner) and Moncoutié (normally placing between 20th and 30th, with the 9th on Alpe as a positive outlier and S. Etienne at 103rd as the negative one), well, *their* difference was usually minor than between Vinge and the rest of the field barring Pogi. Better said, it often sat close to the difference between yesterday’s top two.
          Chamrousse 8%, Luxembourg (prologue) 3.1%, Macon 6.3%, Alpe 5.8%, Saint-Etienne 12.5%

          10% to 3rd placed among the pros is beyond shocking.

          • It probably is, but still, with the huge amount of variables (accumulated fatigue, form, preparation…) it’s still in the realm of plausibility – or rather; not in the realm of inplausibility?

            (Yes, I kind of implied the Slovene / UAE innuendo of past, raised against Pogacar after the Planche.)

          • (And also… Slovenia and Denmark have a combined population of less than 8 millions, less than Sweden or Czechia. In Denmark, cycling is firm part of the culture, but not necesarily of sporting culture? I’d expect it to be about similar to Czechia rather than Belgium. And still, both Danes and Slovenes seem to feed the peloton with top talent. It’s bound to be caused by better sports education / training programmmes, but I wonder – clearly those “nations” know a thing a two. It would be interesting to know wheter there are some nationwide / state programs or whether it’s a case of few people’s work in youth development.)

          • It is also a question of how many different sports there are competing for the boys and girls, how they rank in attraction value and how good they are finding and keeping the exceptionally talented.
            I would imagine that in Denmark cross-country skiing, running and orienteering “steal” far fewer youngsters with a suitable set of genes, the right mindset and a supportive family than, say, in Norway or Sweden.
            And when there is a history of success at top international level and a number of active idols whom the kids can seek to emulate and when there are local clubs and sponsors, I don´t find the “overrepresentation” of Danes and Slovenes in pro cycling any stranger than that of, say, Finns in rallying and Formula One once upon a time…

          • Wasn´t Saint-Etienne stage 20 that year? One is tempted to argue that the result therefore is not an outlier but normal for a third week…

            …but that would probably only beg the question whether that is a result of a simply exceptional, but not extaterrestrial, capacity for recovery or whether a level of endurance that is so much higher than everyone else´s is in itself shockingly too good to be true.

          • Yes, that’s a good point I tried to take into account or rather mention – because I may presume a boom of bike racing or amateur riding in Slovenia and Denmark (similar to a recent clearly apparent boom in Slovakia caused by certain Mr. Sagan’s mischiefs) but I don’t know sociological data etc.

            In Slovenia, cycling competes for attention with winter sports, football, basketball and others. According to Wiki, cycling wasn’t among top 10 sports in Denmark based on club membership data in 2013. And the current crop was developed back then, of course. Ok, Sweden wasn’t probably the best example, but Czechia actualy is. Cycling has a long and quite fruitful tradition here, the governing body was founded in 1883 (!) and even Slavia Prague formed as a cycling club, originaly. Ok, Czechs do just about every sport this side of hurling and pelota, true. Nowadays cycling is a minority sport, surely, but I’d actualy like to see data of club membership etc. – I am not sure Denmark and Slovenia would have that big advantage and still Czechia produced a Stybar here, some Kreuziger, Hirt or König there, while Slovenia…

          • Look at the management and DS staff of TJV too. Start with Grischa Niermann.

            Frank Maassen is the only one of the senior DS staff that you might not lose money on if you placed a bet on which TJV staff have a clean history.

          • @Wednesday, I think the %s that Gabriele refers to above are the time differences between Armstrong (doped) and Moncoutié (known to not have doped, according to the Cofidis manager), not between 1st and 3rd in the TT. So, the fact that there was a time difference of 12.5% in a day 20 TT is not unusual; but a 10% difference between 1st and 3rd, in the TdF, is unprecedented.

    • The only real section where cornering and aerodynamics would have a big impact was between T1 and T2. Vingegaard was 3 seconds quicker than Cavagna.

  22. The GC battle is over, JV will just mark time now and enjoy a few swaggers for the cameras, TP might be throwing punches and be flying about like a paper kite but he will be hitting fresh air!

  23. Jonas’ performance makes me very suspicious. He put 3 minutes into WVA over a 22km TT, yes there was climbing but this was not a glorified hill climb where a 50kg mountain goat has a huge advantage. This TT also had sections where being heavier and having outright power, not just power to weight would come in to play yet despite that he put nearly 3 minutes into WVA who is one of if not the best TT rider in the world. With this being only a 22km TT the size of the margins are somewhat surprised, if extrapolated to a more tradition lengh we’re talking FIVE minutes over WVA and 3 over Pogacar. WVA made a freudian slip saying he was the best of the normal riders, his face said it all. It was an unbelievable performance and I agree, it was unbelievable.

    • I wouldn’t use WVA as the best reference here. He didn’t achieve the TT of his life, to say the least. Almost equalled by Simon Yates and Bilbao, whom, despite the hilly course, he should have distanced much further.

  24. Jonas rode superbly from the start ramp. Cornered much better and powered more smoothly through the corners than Tadej. I think Tadej is not a bad descender but there’s room for improvement. I don’t don’t think he can get as low and aero as Jonas, so he needs to rely on watts rather than CdA for his TT ability (compared to JV). Tadej is looking more fatigued than Jonas and it will be hard for him to do do a big attack on today’s stage 17 and get clear of Jonas who will be sticking to him like glue. I know Tadej has some superb recovery powers so an attack from him is likely today but I think it won’t stick. Maybe stage 20 will be better for Tadej for an all out attack.

  25. Because I’m a geek I listen to Cycling Podcast, Geraint podcast and BOTH Lance podcast’s after ever stage!!!

    Something that confused me is the Cycling Podcast spoke at length about how Jonas did not say his wattage…

    But Johan B spoke about how Johan said he’d expected to cycle 360w in the middle section but ended up riding 380w…

    Did he or didn’t he say this! I’m confused…

    I think armchair scientists trying to extrapolate too much from these bits of little data can get tiresome but I do listen when Johan says they rode 6.8w/kg up climbs earlier in the Tour so am interested in a surface level.

    Re doping suspicions above… people do need to remember they need to have a lot more information and knowledge before they make up their minds, it’s fine to be suspicious but we can’t truly make up our minds from just our own eyes and general pro-cycling watching knowledge.

    For me a raised eye brow is fine and made up mind speaking as if they know more than they do is not.

    • One can and should be suspicious when a performance is outside of normal understanding without the need for further evidence. Science has moved way beyond needles and blood bags. Totally unconnected, WADA recently tendered for the development of a new test for gene doping.

      • Agree with this sports science is now “sculpting” athletes in all sorts of sports, the blood bag circus is now stone age stuff, no one serious would even consider it. Nothing to do with ethics, micro manging diet and training programmes with those who have the “right” sort of genetic disposition is far more effective and legal within the current framework.

  26. One interesting (to me) subplot, is that amidst all the Vingegaard furore, Ciccone posted the fastest time up the climb and took maximum KOM points. Impressive, considering the day JV was apparently on.

    • Actually, it makes Vinge’s performance even more shocking. His power output was pretty consistent through the ITT (checked against rivals), so his level for a >30′ effort was comparable to Ciccone’s in a <10' effort. Mindblowing. It's the same difference between a typical pro and a (committed) amateur.

      (Ciccone strolled through the ITT save for the climb to get the KOM points)

      • This is an interesting point. I regularly time trial at a very amateur level and the time gaps yesterday over such a short course were the type of differences you would see between good amateurs who train a lot and take it quite seriously and fat old men who turn up for the fun of it. Or the difference between a good amateur and when you occasionally get a pro turning up. To have such big gaps when the differences between each rider is supposedly so small and the likes of Van Aert and Pogacar are obviously at an already enormously high level is, erm, interesting.

        Guillaume Martin’s time (presumably he was trying as he was in the top 10 and leading Frenchman) was akin to someone doing their first TT, on a road bike, with a baggy jersey on, with a flat tyre.

        • I also regularly ride TTs, and I am not sure this fits with my experience. I am a middle-aged amateur with modest abilities, and my time over a 10-mile TT is normally around four minutes slower than that of national elite amateurs, who tend to be a little slower than the local pro racers. I do maybe seven hours of structured training a week, and I beat riders in the second half of the scoreboard by anything between two and eight minutes (can be more, but then they are certainly beginners or hobby cyclists). So I would claim that the time difference between what you call “good amateurs who train a lot” (i.e. people a fair bit faster than me) and “fat old men who turn up for the fun of it” (riders a fair bit slower than me) can easily be six to eight minutes over 10 miles. Is that not what you observe as well? Yesterday’s TT was almost twice as long (in terms of time raced), so I’d say the gap was by far not as outrageous as you claim. Yes, it was an astonishing performance by Vingegaard, but how much of our reactions are based on a pro-Pogacar bias? I doubt we would have seen anywhere near the number of raised eyebrows if Pogacar had won by that margin. Everybody seems to have agreed that Pogacar is the new Merckx, but fact is that Vingegaard is the defending champion and had a near-perfect preparation for the TdF, whereas Pogacar had all sorts of other goals earlier in the year, couldn’t properly train for an extended period and has raced more aggressively. Scepticism is always justified when we see exceptional performances, but I don’t think that this TT has been as much of a red flag as many people here and elsewhere claim.

          • I don’t think the scepticism is down to Pogacar vs Vingegaard bias; it’s just about the unprecedented size of the winning margin (in terms of seconds per km), and the % difference in winning time between 1st, 2nd, and the rest. If anything, if Pogacar had put in this winning performance I think more people would be skeptical, given that he already peaked for the spring classics, had an imperfect run up to the Tour, and has been burning more matches than JV so far.

  27. Thanks again to Mr Ring for the review/preview.
    Even with all the planning, technology, nutrition etc the cyclist still has to pedal his way to the finish. Vingegaard’s performance yesterday on stage 16’s TT raises more then an eyebrow, but until we know more, we’re left with unanswered questions.
    Pogacar’s only hope seems to be if Vingegaard went too deep and even Jumbo’s recovery process can not stop him shipping time.

  28. Well I kinda saw that coming: on climbs of recent stages Vingegaard’s style and tactics hinted the priority was energy conservation. As with Roglic in the Giro, Jumbo simply spent 2 1/2 weeks positioning themselves before sealing the victory with the TT. Maybe putting the TT earlier in the race would make this tactic more difficult for them to nail on.
    I’m conflicted about Pogacar: nobody wants him to change his outlook, but the Tour de France isn’t just another bike race. Personally I’d like him to build his season around the Tour a bit more so that Vingegaard victories don’t become inevitable (although I appreciate Pog’s preparation was seriously disrupted this year).

  29. I must admit I am a bit annoyed about all the one-way skepticism that surrounds Jonas Vingegaard after his crushing win yesterday. Let me try to explain.

    In cycling we do from time to time see astonishing wins where truly great cyclists loose what most people expected them to win. Think of the last ITT in TdF 2020 where no. 1 lost close to two minutes to no. two, even though being a highly competent time trialist. Or think of Flanders 2023 when a two time winner plus second place holder, literally borne for this kind of parkour lost to a rider who should primarily excel in stage races and classics with longer ascents.

    In each case I don’t remember much other than unison appraisal and little effort to try and explain what we just witnessed, other than a generational talent who was capable of doing the impossible while at the same time being such a playful character.

    In other words, be as skeptical as you like, but don’t let your admiration cloud your skepticism. Be skeptical every time you witness the extraordinary or come up with a plausible explanation or keep the innuendoes to yourselves.

    • What people often don’t perceive is how different was yesterday.
      That’s why I’d have hoped that Jumbo did the same, if they needed so, but in a more normal way, just not to spoil the show.

      Above, I compared that famous st. 20 of 2020 to yesterday: have a look. This is something unique in cycling history, and by far. It blows away anything in modern cycling, and being an ITT the variables are even more reduced. It blows away top Indurain and top Ullrich. Armstrong or Froome obviously never came even close (in ITTs).
      This year, Vingegaard started winning ITTs for the first time in his career. This is only his 2nd one (after O Gran Camiño…). He rode some 30 of them in previous years. This wasn’t the case when Indurain or Ullrich put on their most famous shows.

      Same for Pogi in the Classics (and the Classics have a huge lot of variables implied, they tend to be less doping-reactive or doping-exclusive, while ITTs are on the opposite pole). However. It’s not like you couldn’t see it coming at all when he won Flanders this year.

      Of course, we all could see Vinge winning this ITT. Yes. Perhaps. But… winning with the biggest % or sec/km difference in 60 years of cycling history at least? The biggest by far? As if we hadn’t had our good share of pharma-/physio- -logical monstres? Nah.

      All that said, as I pointed out above, when TDF 2020 happened, uff, we had a more than decent share of innuendo about Slovenian athletes.

      *And* even on these same pages, both today and in previous months, I myself have hinted at suspicious “sensations”, far from limited to the Jumbos, although at team level they’re the most impressive by far.
      I try to avoid (I try, I try…) to avoid the doping talk, among other reasons also because I don’t believe it’s the most decisive factor in cycling. Most of the times. But then… yes, in some specific cases, it is *the* factor. Is this one of them? Dunno. Or instead is Vingegaard the most absolute power freak in freaking cycling history? Only time will tell. But this went far enough to call for an answer of sort.

      • These are just your suspicions based on armchair analysis. I get, once burned, twice shy. But how does comparing performances of a peloton full of dopers mean anything to a peloton that is mostly clean? You don’t know that answer. No one does really. And why did JV only give JV the magic sauce, huh. Didn’t want WVA winning Flanders? Wanted to make the Giro close with Rog. The doping innuendo is sad on here. And no one talks about the motors in the bikes anymore. All the rage for awhile with you folk and Lappartient who still checks bikes every day at the Tour and has found absolutely nothing for five years. All the Zapruder like analysis of crashes where wheels continue to spin has stopped. But now this crowd has new “meat” because JV did well. I feel sad for you guys.

        • But how does comparing performances of a peloton full of dopers mean anything to a peloton that is mostly clean? You don’t know that answer.

          Ah ah ah ah, no it’s rather that I don’t know the question ^___^

        • ” But now this crowd has new “meat” because JV did well. I feel sad for you guys.”

          Yep it´s sad, you´re correct. But “meat” was the other guy. This time it´s “fish”.

  30. Is the enormous time difference between the top 2 and everyone else a sign that no one really rode the TT at full gas except them 2 and a few others in the top 10 who don’t specialise at TT. As a TT with both flat sections and hilly sections it didn’t suit a TT specialist and there are few who excell at both. Otherwise I can’t get my head around natural causes for the state of the results.

  31. If the team of Jumbo Visma and Vingegaard really had something to hide, wouldn’t they be more careful and be rather doing a TT where Vingegaard beats Pogacar by 20-25s with most of the gains in the climb, which wouldn’t have raised as many eyebrows and escaped detailed scrutiny?

    Remco did a fantastic TT in giro in Stage 1, where he was faster than Ganna by more than a sec/km in the flat, and there was no single comment on the performance differential between him and the next best.

    Vingegaard’s tour TT performance is one of those examples of a 1 in 100 chance occurrence for a highly trained athlete when everything comes together, and like Mike Powell in the 1991, Bob Beamon in 1968, or Jonathan Edwards in 1995, they set a whole new level with their performance that even they couldnt believe they were capable of achieving.

    • Beamon maybe, though altitude helped, and Edwards had a summer as perfect as Phil Gil’s classics campaign. But Powell beat a twenty plus year old record by five centimetres, hardly a massive leap forward. A better example would be Carl Lewis’s lost nine metre leap, where he supposedly jumped a foot beyond Beamon but clipped the plasticine on the way. I’m doubtful that one off explosive leaping is remotely comparable to an endurance event anyway.

      • Maybe the explosive leaping here is the leap of faith we’re being required.

        Jokes apart, answering to Hari above, of course Jumbo doesn’t know exactly how much margin they have over Pogacar or how strategy could affect the racing (at this speeds, drafting, even uphill, can mean more than 5%). Plus, you can have accidents of sorts, so the ITT is really when you must give it all. For example. And/or, as Vingegaard said, you push the boundaries and you yourself sometimes don’t know where *that* can bring you, summed up to a competitive context and the right conditions. And more.

        Remco got his good share of innuendo for his performances, at least on Italian media, especially once he left the race. Still, the impact of his performance was inferior to Vinge’s yesterday.

        However. Let me stress that, unless this is about a motor (hope it isn’t 😛 ), it’s not like “Vinge got a magic potion, full stop”. Surely he put in a great performance and had a great day. The question mark is about *what* exact time difference/power output is being actually reached thanks to a great performance on a great day… and what is a *possible* extra.
        Of course, it’s perfectly possible that it all happened as a special special special event like those cited above. Only, chances are very low. Low doesn’t mean not-existing. Implausible is not impossible (just as possible doesn’t mean plausible).

  32. I am a huge Pog fanboy. But, after Stage 17, I am shocked and disappointed.
    Maybe the extraordinary spring palmares finally took its toll. Even among the most elite of the elites, seems virtually impossible to have two major fitness “peaks” that close together, without Pantani era doping.
    Loss of training from broken wrist was surely another factor.
    In retrospect, the 1 minute time loss on stage 5 was a harbinger that something was not right.

      • Grizzled veteran Patrick Lefevre may be doing huge favor for Remco , by keeping Remco out of TdF for another year.
        The conventional wisdom had been that endurance athletes don’t reach maximum potential until late 20s – early 30s. Maybe some truth to that, despite all the improvements in training, nutrition, equipment, etc.

    • Please keep in mind that even with the “poor” TT showing and a very bad today, he is still in second place in the TdF after a very impressive spring campaign. Let’s not write his eulogy just yet?

  33. Pogi has not looked well the last few days. Pale and depleted. The next question might be how a sick Pog can take 1 minute out of WvA in a 20K time trial.

    • “how a sick Pog can take 1 minute out of WvA in a 20K time trial.”
      Remco was starting showing signs of covid illness during Giro. Didnt he still win the 2nd TT, albeit by a very narrow margin?

      • Yeah, that’s true. I think we are experiencing an era of super-talents who are just that much better than the rest. If that’s the whole story we might never know. We can just enjoy the spectacle for now.

      • 1 sec over a very old Thomas and TGH who hadn’t been a strong TTer so far (though he was hampered and hence released from UCI’s silly handicap on riders of his height).

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