Tag Archives: Race reports

Groenewegen takes the unofficial sprinters world championship; Froome wins the Tour

groenewegen-paris

It all went to script today. You know the drill if you've seen this before. The champagne pictures on the roll in to Paris for Team Sky. The yellow, green, polka-dot and white jersey wearers photographed together. A pretend attack by Mikel Landa on Romain Bardet, but never any intention of anything real. And then a criterium around the streets of Paris to decide the unofficial sprinters world championship.

And it was Dylan Groenewegen who won it. Close on several sprint stages already, he got the biggest sprint win of all today. Second was Andre Greipel. His long streak of winning a stage at every Grand Tour he had entered, dating back to the 2007 Vuelta, was over. A disappointing Tour for the big German who came fast in the sprint but left it a little too late.

Continue reading Groenewegen takes the unofficial sprinters world championship; Froome wins the Tour

Drama in Marseille, but not were we expected it

Romain Bardet did it. By a single second. No, he didn't win the Tour with the time trial of a lifetime, but rather clung on to a podium position after a ride to forget. We got the drama we were hoping for today, only it didn't come in the manor we expected.

As Bardet rolled down the start ramp inside the Stade Velodrome in Marseille, the crowd roared in hope. Two minutes later, the cheers turned to boos for Chris Froome. That may seem unfair, but given he was the man standing in Bardet's way, you could understand it. Froome himself could have expected nothing less. But when Bardet returned to the stadium a half hour later, the roars were cheers of nerves. He hit the line and retained his podium by a single second from the surging Mikel Landa. Following him into the stadium, only seconds later, was Froome. The boos had quietened. Reality had set in. The dream was over for the French; the Englishman had won a fourth Tour de France.

Continue reading Drama in Marseille, but not were we expected it

Fitting win for Barguil; Stalemate on the podium

Barguil in polka-dots wins on the Izoard (Getty Images Sport)

It was the last chance saloon for the climbers. A last opportunity to try and take time from Chris Froome before Saturday’s time-trial. A final battle between Louis Meintjes and Simon Yates in the white jersey contest. One last chance to stop Warren Barguil’s claim on the polka-dot jersey. And the little matter of someone winning the stage.

This was a stage race within the race in which there were many mini-races taking place. Once they hit the final climb of the Col d’Izoard, you didn’t know where to look. There was always something going on. It was the first time the race has finished up this Alpine Giant and you have to wonder why it took so long? It was a brute and it wore the very best down to exhaustion.

Continue reading Fitting win for Barguil; Stalemate on the podium

Roglic rides to glory; Matthews takes green; Aru loses time

The top 3 on GC battle for 2nd on the stage (Bettini Photo)

The last time a stage of the Tour de France finished in Serre Chevalier was in 1993. Tony Rominger won that day though it was the first mountain stage of the Tour unlike one of the last this year. Miguel Indurain, the dominate rider of the 90s, finished second on the stage. He had taken the yellow jersey at the individual time-trial the day before and would carry it all the way to Paris. It would be his third straight Tour victory. Chris Froome, the dominant rider of this decade, finished third today. He is hoping to carry yellow on into Paris too now for what would be the third straight time, and fourth in all.

Froome’s time-trial is still to come but the distance against the clock is much less these days. As such the time gaps are tighter. It may have only be the 10th stage that year, but Indurain already led the second place man by more than 3 minuets. Froome went to bed last night with less than half a minute lead over two men. The similarities are there though. The man in second place in ’93 was Colombian Alvaro Mejia; this year it is his compatriot, Rigoberto Uran. Mejia would go on to finish 4th that year with Rominger coming up to second. Uran will be hoping for better.

Continue reading Roglic rides to glory; Matthews takes green; Aru loses time

The cross winds arrive and Dan Martin’s GC hope get blown away as Quick Step drop the ball

Cross-winds for echelons and split the race late (Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)

If I told you before the stage to name me one team that would thrive today in cross winds, who would it be? My guess is you would name either Lotto Soudal or Quick-Step. And that would be my pick too. Yet, when the winds blew and the gaps began to form, Quick-Step where missing.

Dan Martin, their best placed rider on the general classification (5th at 1’12”) was left exposed. A climber by nature he isn’t built for this and needed his team more than ever. Heck, they have been absent in the high mountains so now seemed like a good time to show up for him. But where was Quick-Step? Philippe Gilbert didn’t start the stage citing illness, but the rest were off the back. Way off the back. Protecting the green jersey of Marcel Kittel instead. Continue reading The cross winds arrive and Dan Martin’s GC hope get blown away as Quick Step drop the ball

Fireworks on Bastille Day: A French winner and more contenders for GC

What a frantic day. A 101km stage across three category one climbs. It had all the makings of a classic, and so it proved to be. Fireworks across the mountains on Bastille Day. Attacks at the sharp end of the general classification, and a French winner to boot. The first such winner on July 14th since David Moncoutié in 2005.

Warren Barguil will be the toast of France in his polka-dot jersey. What a courageous ride it was as the drama and action for the yellow jersey blew up around him.

It was a stage tailor made for an ambush, but who would have thought the ambush would come from within? Or at least that is how it looked when Mikel Landa shot up the road at the first opportunity with Alberto Contador. The two Spaniard’s illuminating the race. When we first seen this stage we thought right away about Contador. His kind of day but a shame as it turned out that he was so far down on GC. But Landa wasn’t.

Rumours had blown up over night about who exactly Landa was riding for? Himself or his team leader, Chris Froome? It’s still hard to say because the move in itself to go up the road was a good tactic by Sky. It put the onus on others to work and chase. It allowed Froome to sit in. Michal Kwaitkowski also went in a move with Barguil and Nairo Quintana. The Colombian, like Contador, out to salvage some pride after a rough Tour thus far.

Froome is a hard man to read though. On each climb, in particular the final climb of the Mur de Peguere, he looked to be in trouble. That pained expression, the constant glances down at the bike computer, and momentary gaps between the wheels. And yet right when you expected him to crack, under the relentless pace being set by Dan Martin, he attacked. The attacks didn’t stick, but they where there nonetheless and the rest did no attacks of their own.

Up ahead Barguil and Quintana dropped Kwiatkowski and set out in hunt of the Spaniards. They caught them right at the top of that final climb and the four set about the descent together. At one point the lead held by Landa was enough to put him into the yellow jersey on the road. By the decent though the gap had come down, but not by a lot. Aru, without any team support and isolated, decided to focus on Froome. It may result on more men coming into contention for this Tour, but at least it might keep him in yellow.

Froome and Bardet wouldn’t give the Italian an easy ride though. Both took turns attacking on the descent but it was a gentle drop off the mountain and gaps were hard to come by. Froome would go, then sit up, followed by Bardet. Dan Martin got back on when the hesitancy to set a defined pace slowed the group. That also pushed the lead of those ahead back out to two minutes. With Kwiatkowski by his side by now, Froome tried to launch a two-up attack, but Aru was alert.

If anything though, this was working Aru over. They may not get him on this day, but Aru might pay for it later. Froome looked strong again. It is so hard to call, but I’m starting to think that it’s the sharp gradient climbs that Froome is struggling with. His big motor finds it hard to get up to the speed of the pure climbers on those short bursts. It cost him yesterday and it might have explained the pained moments today. Now with the downhill and the smooth run in, he could get back to his best. If he could only create a gap he might yet time-trial away. Instead it was Dan Martin who got the gap. Not far behind on GC, but not an immediate threat they let him go and he was soon joined by Simon Yates. The pair wary of Landa and Quintana pushing them down the classification.

As the kilometres ticked off fast, the advantage of the four ahead was slow to come down. Barguil, with nothing to gain on GC but a stage to win, was happy to sit on the back. Contador too. Landa, and even Quintana, had gains to make and kept the pace high.

It was with that in mind that Froome and Kwiatkowski gave up the attacks on Aru and went about setting the pace. This seemed odd. In doing so they may have been costing their man a shot at yellow. Better to leave Aru exposed, you might think? But Froome is the team leader at Sky and there is a bigger picture to look at. Stages 17 and 18 look more suited to Froome in this Tour, and only six seconds back on Aru, he must still feel in control.  It might suit Sky to pull Landa up the classification, and add another worry for Astana, but not by too much. He might serve as a plan B, but it was far from time to turn to plan B. Not yet. But Landa in the mix could allow Sky to play the double act. The kind we’ve Movistar play with Quintana and Alejandro Valverde in the past. Take turns attacking and soften up Aru.

Beyond that Sky will not have wanted yellow back on someone other than Froome’s shoulders. Expectation would then fall on Sky to work and to defend and in doing so, wear down Froome’s key lieutenants.

As it stands the onus will still be on Astana to control the race, for Aru to mark moves. And as they rolled into Foix so the list of contenders in this Tour grew. Barguil came around Contador in fine style to take the sprint, but it was Quintana and Landa who would be looking at the clock. And as things now stand, seven men are within 2 minutes 7 seconds of Aru. The seventh of these, in eighth place, is Quintana. Dangerous again with those 17th and 18th stages also suited to him and another reason Froome had Sky push towards the end today. And Martin was right to worry. Landa move ahead of him up to fifth, 1’09” behind. Had Dan Martin not crashed over Richie Porte on that stage 9 descent to Chambery, he would be in a podium position only 7 seconds behind Aru. The “what if’s” of the Tour.

This Tour is so wide open and so hard to call. So many questions remind unanswered, not least the status of Landa and the absolute form of Froome. The idea that it is anything other than thrilling is alien to me. Too many wrote it off after a handful of sprint stages. But anytime there has been climbing to do, the action has come a plenty. The fear too that after nine stages this Tour was already over with Sky in control and Froome too strong, is long gone. It as a silly suggestion to begin with. Sky are still a strong team and Froome may yet prove the best, but the rest see a man they believe they can beat. The fear is no longer there.

So much is up for grabs now and the best is still to come. We are in for one of the most exciting third weeks of a Tour in recent memory.

General classification after stage 13:

1. Fabio Aru (Astana) in 55h30’06”

2. Chris Froome (Sky) +6″

3. Romain Bardet (AG2R) +25″

4. Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) +35″

5. Mikel Landa (Sky) +1’9″

6. Dan Martin (Quick-Step) +1’32”

7. Simon Yates (Orica) +2’4″

8. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +2’7″

9. Louis Meintjes (UAE) +4’51”

10. Alberto Contador (Trek) +5’22”

Change in yellow…Tour blown wide open!

A change in the race lead shouldn’t come as a major surprise. I mean, Fabio Aru did only trail Chris Froome by 18 seconds coming into the stage. And yet, I’m still shocked that it has happened, and I don’t quite know why? Aru has looked excellent thus far in this race, winning a stage, while Froome has failed to isolate the Italian when given the chance. With the stage win going to Romain Bardet ahead of Rigoberto Uran with Aru two seconds behind in third and Froome 7th at 22 seconds, Aru is into yellow. He leads Froome now by 6 seconds. Bardet is still in third, but only 25 seconds behind, with Uran a further 30 seconds back.

The big losers on the day were Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador and Jakob Fuglsang. Quintana lost 2’04” and is now 8th at 4’01” on GC, Contador lost 2’15” and is 11th at 7’14”, while the injured Fuglsang lost 27’42”.

The change in race lead means Sky have lost the jersey for the first time this race. Had they gone from start to finish in the lead it would have been the first time since the Faeme team did it in 1970. Tomorrow will be the first time in 26 stages dating back to last years Tour that a Sky rider hasn’t held the jersey. Beyond that, it is the first time Froome has lost the race lead to another rider since stage 4 of the 2015 Tour when Tony Martin took the race lead. He had never lost it to a GC rival before today.

Do you get the sense that the tide is shifting?

Anyone who dismissed this Tour as over when Froome donned the yellow jersey last week, will now find themselves crawling back to see what is going to happen. With four men within a minute of the race lead this is setting itself up as one of the closest Tour battles in years. Froome has a fight on his hands if he wants a fourth title. With a time-trial to come on stage 20, Froome might yet be good for at least another minute, but there is a lot of climbing between now and then.

Tomorrow’s stage is a mere 101km in length but includes three category one climbs before a downhill finish. The pace will be frantic from the start as riders look to isolate one another. It was a stage I felt that Froome’s rivals might try to isolate him. As it turns out it might be the stage Sky need to isolate the rest.

Froome still looks a gear below is best. The argument will be whether he can find that gear or not. Was today his bad day, or is it a sign? There has been a suggestion that Froome is riding himself into top form this year, highlighted by the fact he was below the boil in the tune-up races. The thought is that he will peak for the third week and explode on the likes of stages 17 and 18. On the other hand Froome might already have hit his peak and may need to find other ways to out smart his opponents. We already seen shades of that last year. And it will be a big ask to do, as Aru is looking strong and there is no reason to suggest he will fade as the race goes on. Stages 16 and 17 will suit him too, with stage 17 in particular looking good for Bardet. That descent alone could see him net 30 seconds if he plays it right.

Everything will be won and lost and it looks now as though the time-trial will play a factor. Whether it will see Froome having to regain time remains to be see in the days ahead. The first half of this Tour may have belonged to the sprinters as people yawned their way through repetitive flat stages, but the narrative is turning towards the GC men now.

This Tour is wide open.

General classification after stage 12:

1. Fabio Aru (Astana) in 52h51’49”

2. Chris Froome (Sky) +6″

3. Romain Bardet (AG2R) +25″

4. Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) +55″

5. Dan Martin (Quickstep) +1’41”

6. Simon Yates (Orica) +2’13”