Étape of the Day – Rog and Pog battle royale!

Featured image courtesy of Cor Vos/Cycling Tips

The 2020 Tour de France is not the usual Tour de France that we love for a whole range of reasons. Face masks are the obvious difference and today we saw no crowds allowed at the top of the Grand Colombier. This is a Tour de France in September, the first Grand Tour of the year and always with a lingering fear of coronavirus halting the race before Paris. It’s also a Tour that has surprised us, the yearly script ripped up, a new team dominating the road and a young man who’s riding out of his skin.

We knew that today’s stage from Lyon to Grand Colombier was arguably the day that decided who would be in pole position to win the Tour – we got an answer. After winning every edition bar three between 2010 and 2019, the dominance of Team Ineos (or Team Sky as they were known) has finally been broke, the elastic holding the team together has snapped. Egan Bernal suffered to lose almost seven and a half minutes to Primož Roglič, his defence of last year’s victory up in smoke and Bernal even finds himself in a battle to reach the top ten let alone thinking about winning the Tour overall.

It is without question that Team Ineos are not as strong as Jumbo-Visma and we’ve known this for a long while regardless of whether this year’s Tour de France isn’t being raced at its usual time. A delayed Tour in September won’t be an excuse. After a back injury from the Dauphiné could that be the reason? Bernal did look good when the race arrived in the Pyrenees but Stage 13 atop Puy Mary saw time lost and today on Stage 15, he won’t be winning back-to-back Tours.

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There’s lots of talk on social media that Dave Brailsford has made a mistake by not taking Geraint Thomas, who’s riding well at Tirreno-Adriatico right now and four-times Tour champion Chris Froome who moves to pastures new for 2021. Both riders were out of form before the Tour so it is hard to read whether Thomas or Froome would’ve ridden into form. Chris Froome probably wouldn’t have been much better but Geraint Thomas considering how he’s riding in Italy right now would’ve been the better rider.

It is now irrelevant what we all say about who should’ve gone where. Even if Geriant Thomas had of started the Tour, Bernal would perhaps be still suffering despite the argument that Thomas could have been the perfect backup. Brailsford has made decision after decision to deliver Tour de France dominance year after year – for 2020 it hasn’t gone to plan. You have to question why Richard Carapaz was brought in to ride the Tour when he’s never ridden the race before and in Andrey Amador yes, he’s crashed on Stage 1 but he has simply not performed as a super domestique.

Team Ineos in decline is Jumbo-Visma’s gain. Since the 2018 Tour de France we’ve known for a while that the Dutch outfit are the best placed to take on Ineos and knock them off their Tour perch. That is exactly what they’ve done at this Tour. Jumbo-Visma have the numbers, the strongest riders and far more experience than the Ineos train. Primož Roglič is in prime position to win his second Grand Tour, his first Tour de France and he’ll be in contention to do it with the best domestiques. Tom Dumoulin isn’t at his strongest but continues to ride well considering his awful injury at last year’s Giro, Sepp Kuss was once again fantastic to watch and Wout Van Aert near enough put on the pace up the entire climb.

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Jumbo-Visma are the best team at this Tour. At times they’ve looked a little shaky but during week one they rode a more conservative race to take the jersey in the Pyrenees and hold it all the way to Paris. It is now Primož Roglič’s yellow jersey to lose but he might be looking nervously over his shoulder as there’s a fellow Slovenian nine years his junior who is riding as though he’s already won the Tour de France already! Tadej Pogačar is a new revelation, a supreme talent, could yet challenge Roglič for yellow, has a stage in the Pyrenees to his name and just like he did in the Vuelta, today beat Roglič to add another stage atop the Grand Colombier – it doesn’t get any better.

You cannot deny that Pogačar will finish at least finish on the podium and take the white jersey unless disaster strikes. The only disadvantage he has is domestiques yet as we saw today, he used the wheels of the Jumbo-Visma train to great effect to edge out Roglič and win the stage. Jumbo-Visma’s gameplan was to leave it to the final kilometres and set up Primož Roglič for the win only for Pogačar to have other ideas. A long way to go but there’s no doubt that a Grand Tour victory will come Pogačar’s way soon.

With Bernal falling out of contention there’s now a tight race for the final podium spot. Egan Bernal wasn’t the only Colombian suffering today as Nairo Quintana lost considerable chunks of time but for EF’s Rigoberto Urán and Astana’s Miguel Ángel López there’s a chance they could take third place. Urán has finished on the podium before, López is riding his first Tour but other GC favourites could scupper their plans. Adam Yates had a go today, is now fifth, still looking for a stage win and Richie Porte is riding well, that elusive Tour podium not out of the question.

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Elsewhere the lead for Benoit Cosnefroy in the polka-dot jersey is now under threat because of Tadej Pogačar’s stage win and Primož Roglič isn’t far behind. The Alps are still to come and that’s also the next obstacle for the sprinters who made the time cut – Sam Bennett in control of his own destiny to keep the green jersey all the way to Paris.

The second rest day tomorrow, week two is done as the Tour moves into the third and final week. Ineos will have to change their plans for the race, Jumbo-Visma just cannot be stopped, Primož Roglič is five stages away from another Grand Tour, Tadej Pogačar continues to make waves and the fight for the podium will intensify further.

Étape of the Day – Two stage wins in two days for Sunweb

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The Tour de France never disappoints, never stops providing drama and is never be an easy day for all involved. Before each stage every team has an objective, a plan and tactics to try and gain the glory. That was exactly what Team Sunweb did today, Danish rider Søren Kragh Andersen attacking at the perfect time after his team-mates did the same.

It was always going to be a tough day for the sprinters. Caleb Ewan managed to make the time cut but it is the fight for the green jersey that continues to shape up. Bora-Hansgrohe did all they need to do to distance Sam Bennett – putting him into difficulty, Peter Sagan taking points at the intermediate sprint and scoring more at the finish line. Bennett’s lead is now 43 points over Sagan so the race for the maillot vert is far from over.

The stage win and the day belongs to Søren Kragh Andersen though. Sunweb played the finale of the stage perfectly after Tiesj Benoot attacked on the penultimate climb, winner of Stage 12 Marc Hirschi did the same on the final climb and then on the descent Kragh Andersen went on a move to leave everyone for dead. The finale in Lyon was full gas bike racing at its finest and the Dane gets his first stage victory at a Grand Tour.

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Team Sunweb are in form, have two stage wins and who knows they could go further. After early disappointment with lead-outs for Cees Bol not going well, the German team have lit up the race after Hirschi winning in Sarran and now Kragh Andersen in Lyon. Ireland’s Nico Roche has never won a stage at the Tour de France so could he complete the set?

Once again, we have questions about Peter Sagan. It has turned out to be a good day for Sagan as he clawed back points to reclaim the green jersey but again Bora-Hansgrohe did all the work on the front to distance Sam Bennett kept on going before Sagan couldn’t deliver the final result. Today was all about tactics and Bora got everything right except being caught out by Team Sunweb. Lennard Kämna went away on the penultimate summit to chase down Tiesj Benoot, went away solo but that was in vain.

Sagan isn’t the only rider who’s not quite finding his mojo. He already has a remarkable stage win and stint in the yellow in the bag but Julian Alaphlippe just can’t find that final kick. On Stage 12 he couldn’t bring back Marc Hirschi as he left it too late and today, he let fly to catch Kämna but was brought back. It goes unexplained as to why Alaphilippe isn’t getting the rub of the green at the moment but opportunities are still there in the stages to come.

On paper Stage 14 looked easy for the GC but with two category 4 climbs in the final 20 kilometres it was always going to be a nervy day for the contenders. You just never know what could happen on a stage like today and in Egan Bernal he epitomised the unpredictable beast as he did accelerate at one point to follow Julian Alaphilippe’s attack. Was yesterday’s shedding of time to Primož Roglič not a fair reflection of Bernal? He still says he feels good but that will depend on the upcoming Alpine stages.

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Tomorrow could be a crucial stage in the race for yellow. The Grand Colombier has never hosted a summit finish until Stage 15 of the 2020 Tour de France. Primož Roglič will look to defend or perhaps strengthen his hold of the maillot jaune but tomorrow does look a suitable finish for Egan Bernal to go on the offensive.

No changes in the other jersey’s after today. Benoit Cosnefroy could seek to extend his lead in the polka-dot jersey and Tadej Pogačar keeps his white jersey for another day too. Cosnefroy will look to do all he can to keep the title of King of the Mountains as somewhat of a moral booster for AG2R La Mondiale. The team lost Romain Bardet to concussion this morning despite Bardet riding to the finish yesterday. There are lingering questions as to why he stayed on the race yesterday despite crashing and now we know that Romain Bardet from scans has suffered a ‘small haemorrhage’. Speedy recoveries to Bardet on what is a sad conclusion to his final Tour de France riding for AG2R.

No easy days at the Tour de France and they don’t get any easier.

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Étape of the Day – A Puy Mary GC shake-up

Never before has the Puy Mary hosted a summit finish at the Tour de France – no doubt that organisers ASO will use the finish again after an incredible day on Stage 13. The GC has been shaken up, the fight for the stage win was enthralling and we’ve seen some heroic rides.

Focusing on the stage win, today was all about the early break. There was a huge fight to form a breakaway with a category one climb right at the start, a day that wasn’t going to be comfortable with 4,400 vertical metres to climb into the Massif Central. We saw the like of Dan Martin, Thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe try to instigate a move and, in the end, they did get away, the peloton happy.

The fight for stage win came down to tactics from EF Pro Cycling sending British rider Hugh Carthy up the road alongside Daniel Martínez and Neilson Powless plus Bora-Hansgrohe releasing Max Schachmann who tried yesterday and recent star at the Dauphiné Lennard Kämna. Powless did amazing work by attacking before the penultimate climb along with Schachmann. Meanwhile Martínez and Kämna caught up with Schachmann on the final climb to duke it out for the stage glory.

After winning the Dauphiné overall, huge expectations have been placed on Dani Martínez’s shoulders, a rider who can seriously climb and deliver. His first Grand Tour stage win has been secured on the steep slopes of the Puy Mary, a great day for Jonathan Vaughters and EF Pro Cycling.

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For Bora-Hansgrohe that was the first stage at this Tour where we saw them in full attack mode in the mountains. Stage 7 to Lavaur was an active day to distance the sprinters, Peter Sagan hasn’t been himself but in the past two days they’ve improved to come within a chance of taking a stage. Winner of Paris-Nice Max Schachmann deserves ride of the day, one stage after giving his all and in Lennard Kämna we have two German riders who are still in with a shout of taking a stage at this year’s race.

Stage win sorted; Stage 13 saw an enormous shake-up for the general classification. The big talking point is Egan Bernal losing 38 seconds to Primož Roglič and dropping to third place overall. Ineos Grenadiers chose to attack the stage today but came out with nothing to show. Richard Carapaz attacked on the Neronne but that went nowhere in helping Bernal on the final gruelling slope of the Puy Mary. Dave Brailsford and the team won’t be running out of ideas just yet but it’s not looking good for the defending champion.

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The only crumb of comfort for Ineos will be what happened last year when by thirteen stages Egan Bernal was 2mins 52secs behind Julian Alaphilippe and then excelled in the third week. There has been lots of talk that because of last year’s Giro d’Italia collapse Primož Roglič might falter – there cannot surely be a way that will happen at this year’s Tour. Primož Roglič is incredible. Jumbo-Visma despite some struggles along the way are the dominant team, the team that look unbeatable. The way Roglič ascended today’s climb hardly out of the saddle was like watching Chris Froome of years gone by.

Another solid ride by Sepp Kuss, Tom Dumoulin isn’t falling away even though he isn’t the strongest man – Jumbo-Visma have dealt a massive blow in their fight to end Team Ineos’s hold of the yellow jersey for the past decade. Primož Roglič though might yet have a genuine threat to his lead and it’s a fellow countryman – Tadej Pogačar. How is this man only 21-years-old? He’s riding as though the Tour de France is second nature to him – he reminds us of Nairo Quintana in 2013, making his Tour debut, winning the white jersey and finishing second overall. Friends and from Slovenia they may be but Pogačar and Roglič could yet be fighting it out together for the top step.

It’s turning into Slovenia versus Colombia at this year’s race. While Roglič and Pogačar moving up to second place, we have four Colombians in the chasing pack – Egan Bernal, Rigoberto Urán, Nairo Quintana and Miguel Ángel López. All four lost time to the yellow jersey, López 16 seconds, Bernal and Urán 38 seconds plus Quintana conceding 40 seconds exactly. Urán was seriously struggling today so not an entirely pleasing day for EF and for Quintana today was the first day he fell backwards.

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Good ride by Adam Yates who still has ambitions to take his first Tour de France stage win and what about Richie Porte – he’s riding slowly but surely to possibly rise up the pecking order but has lost a key domestique Bauke Mollema to a fractured wrist. Bahrain-McLaren will also be satisfied with Mikel Landa continuing to climb consistently.

It was however not a great day for the French. Thibaut Pinot is already out of the GC race, Julian Alaphilippe has missed two opportunities in the last few days but the big disappointment comes from Guillaume Martin losing considerable chunks of time plus Romain Bardet who suffered from a crash. Never nice to see riders fall from grace and there are now no French riders in the top ten on GC. AG2R La Mondiale now have a clear objective – target the polka-dot jersey with Benoit Cosnefroy to carry it onwards, maybe help Nans Peters earn points and hope that Bardet recovers for a stage win to claim some KOM points.

The yellow jersey is now Primož Roglič’s to lose. Egan Bernal is out of the white jersey as Tadej Pogačar moves into it as best young rider. Sam Bennett remains in the green jersey and great to see him making the time cut day after day.

Tomorrow will see another tactical day as the Tour rides from Clermont-Ferrand to Lyon. It shouldn’t be a day for the pure sprinters but should be a stage for the all-rounder. After starting in Nice, tomorrow will be the biggest major city the Tour passes through before Paris.

The Alps are ever closer, the Tour is far from over but after today we now have a new structure to who is on form and who’s not in the race to yellow. Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar – this year’s Tour looks set to be a battle royale between two Slovenians who are showing their strength ahead of everyone else.

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Étape of the Day – Hats off to Hirschi

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Talent and youth are in abundance at this year’s Tour de France. No surprises then that the young guns are shining at the race. Marc Hirschi is one super talent and after two attempts previously the 22-year-old Swiss rider gets his stage win.

Today was the longest stage – 218 km from Chauvigny on the banks of the Vienne river to Sarran in the hilly Corrèze department. From the off we saw attacks to get in the break fighting for the early intermediate sprint at Le Dorat. Nils Politt, Max Walscheid, Luis Leon Sanchez and Imanol Erviti got themselves in a breakaway and in the peloton, Sam Bennett swept up significant points to extend his lead in the green jersey.

The crucial part of the stage came on the category 3 climb of the Côte de la Croix du Pey when Team Sunweb launched Søren Kragh Andersen and Tiesj Benoot up the road after the break was caught. On the key climb of the day the Suc au May, Marc Hirschi himself attacked as the race split with other stage contenders. Marc Soler and Max Schachmann were in contention before a group with Julian Alaphilippe latched on but the attempt was too late.

Nobody could catch Marc Hirschi today. A fantastic burst of pace to attack on the Suc au May, descend down to the finish as others couldn’t get organised. With three riders finishing in the top ten, Team Sunweb played the day perfectly but Deceuninck Quick-Step did not. We already know the talent of this young man. At the Clásica San Sebastián last year Hirschi came second to Remco Evenepoel and at this Tour he’s already come close.

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Stage 2 in Nice he was just edged out by Alaphilippe and on Stage 9 we saw him do a daredevil descent off the Marie Blanque only to be denied by Tadej Pogačar in Laruns. What we have here is a new Fabian Cancellara and that’s not very surprising considering Marc Hirschi has surrounded himself with Cancellara to gain experience. Spartacus was spectacular so enter the new kid on the block who will undoubtedly go on to do great things! Today was suited to Julian Alaphilippe but he left it too late. The Frenchman might have a new rival for punchy hilly stages at Tour de France editions to come.

Good ride today by Max Schachmann as Bora-Hansgrohe continue to find that stage win they’re missing and also Movistar’s Marc Soler gave it a go too. We haven’t seen much from the Spanish team although they do lead the team classification. Alejandro Valverde has been the quietest we’ve ever seen him at the Tour in recent years which perhaps isn’t entirely surprising as Enric Mas is the team’s big GC hope.

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Sam Bennett’s lead in the green jersey has been extended his hold of green firm. Peter Sagan did everything he could to instigate a move at the start of the stage but was once again shut down at the intermediate sprint. Benoit Cosnefroy stays in the polka-dot jersey and at the moment AG2R are in prime position to take the jersey all the way to Paris. Cosnefroy could get himself in the break tomorrow and win more points but they do have Nans Peters as back up.

No change in the GC, Primož Roglič with another day in yellow tomorrow but will he keep it? Stage 13 is arguably the hardest stage of the entire Tour in the Massif Central – seven category climbs with an incredibly difficult finally up the Puy Mary. Who will attack? One minute 42 seconds separate Mikel Landa in tenth to Roglič in yellow just 21 seconds are between Egan Bernal and him taking yellow.

The Tour climbs again tomorrow. Marc Hirschi delivers a captivating stage win – who else will create some special stories at this year’s race to come?

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Étape of the Day – A four-way sprint in Poitiers

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Thank goodness long flat stages at the Tour have trimmed down the kilometres over the years. 200-kilometre stages are always long transfers to get across France but thankfully there’s none of that in the last two editions. 167.5 km from Châtelaillon-Plage to Poitiers with one hill outside the town of Niort is hardly exciting but today was all about the final sprint.

Focusing on the positives, Caleb Ewan has his second stage win now his fifth at the Tour and ninth at all three Grand Tours. The Aussie will want more and he’ll hope to make it over the mountains to Paris. Lotto Soudal will be satisfied and the team could even give it a go with Thomas De Gendt in a breakaway come the Alps and Stage 14 into Lyon could be the perfect day for the Belgian.

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The sprint in Poitiers was messy, chaotic and there was no structure. Deceeuninck Quick-Step perhaps got it slightly wrong today with Sam Bennett isolated, Bob Jungels went off the front on the false flat but they’ll be quietly pleased that Bennett has increased his lead in the green jersey. Why? Because the big talking point is the disqualification of Peter Sagan.

Sprints are always nervous to watch and cycling fans all over the world know from the past how dangerous they can be. The sprinters trying to find their lines, following the wheels of rivals and looking for that small gap on the road to make it to the line – we wonder how they all stay upright!

On this occasion, Peter Sagan tried to find a gap on the right because there was nowhere else, he could go to get past Wout Van Aert. The only thing you can’t do is use your head to barge yourself through! The incident could have possibly caused a crash, it could have been worse.

Sagan was rightly disqualified to last place, disappointing to see as second place today was his best finish at this Tour. He’ll finish last today and he’ll lose out on earning points in the green jersey competition. If anything goes wrong and Sam Bennett doesn’t get over the Alps to come then surely his hold of the maillot vert is going to be untouchable.

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For the first time in eight years Peter Sagan’s dominance of the green jersey is coming to an end. This is the first Tour where Sagan is not getting his way – no stage wins yet and his green jersey under threat. Cycling loves Peter Sagan without him the attraction of our sport wouldn’t be great. At the moment he’s not winning but not for the first time. Remember 2015 when he had a similar Tour where he came close to wins, took green but that was all. Sagan is a three times world champion don’t forget, he’s world class but the shine might be disappearing.

Away from the sprint we must say chapeau to Mathieu Ladagnous for being brave and going into a one-man break. There was a small incident in the neutralised rollout with Ilnur Zakarin and Alexey Lutsenko falling on a roundabout but nothing serious just unfortunate to see. Finally, there was one non-starter in UAE’s Davide Formolo which is a shame because he’s been in good form going into the Tour. The Italian leaves the race after crashing yesterday – a little blow for Tadej Pogačar.

The GC doesn’t change. Primož Roglič is in yellow, Egan Bernal stays in second and Guillaume Martin in third.

Tomorrow the Tour moves back towards the Massif Central. The puncheurs and the GC contenders will fancy the finish as there are some serious climbs before the run in to Sarran. A breakaway might also take the stage to the bunch too.

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Étape of the Day – Super Sam Bennett

Featured image courtesy of Yuzuru SUNADA

The Tour de France is back on the road. Week one was eventful, chaotic and some GC contenders riding conservatively – week two began with the flattest stage of the entire race. Stage 10 from the Île d’Oléron to the Île de Ré via coastal roads of the Charente-Maritime was always going to end in a sprint but for the GC it also turns into a stressful day. Let’s unpack the day on what was a fantastic day for Ireland!

After missing out on selection at last year’s Tour for Bora-Hansgrohe, it’s no surprise that the emotion emerged in Sam Bennett’s post-race interview – a sprinter who’s been denied his opportunity at the biggest race in the world but now finally has a Tour de France stage to his name.

A well-deserved victory for Bennett who joins an illustrious list of Irish stage winners, the Dan Martin’s, the Sean Kelly’s and the Stephen Roche’s – we now have another that we’ll talk about for years to come. Deceuninck Quick-Step made the day perfect with terrific work by Tim Declerq all day at the front, Kasper Asgreen with solid work and the leadout by Michael Mørkøv was superb.

Stage wins at the Giro, the Vuelta and now the Tour don’t come sweeter for a sprinter. The ability he has, Sam Bennett should realistically already have won stages at the Tour. Difficulty in resolving his contract at Bora-Hansgrohe, its been frustrating and has taken so much hard work to get to this point. Quick-Step have given him a chance and he’s taken it. Caleb Ewan beaten at the line will be disappointing for him but judging by his social media it’s always nice to see fellow sprinters praising each other, Ewan saying he’s pretty happy for Sam Bennett and we are too!

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Elsewhere today’s stage was the best placing for Peter Sagan in third but he’s now out of the green jersey. We are witnessing something we’ve not been used to at the Tour in eight years – a competition for the maillot vert. Sagan does not seem himself. With three realistic stages left for the sprinters, if Sam Bennett storms to victory again at this Tour and scores more points at the intermediate sprints from now until Paris, then he’ll win the jersey. While the world of cycling absolutely loves Peter Sagan, surely it would be nice to see a change in green?

Great to see André Greipel finishing sixth but for Elia Viviani the wins just aren’t coming. The Italian finds himself in exactly the same position when riding for Team Sky – a team targeting the GC with Guillaume Martin and not much resource for his own goals in the sprints. No disrespect to Viviani as he’s a top sprinter but the man himself form wise is going backwards. Cofidis are a completely different team to Quick-Step but perhaps time will tell as to whether Elia Viviani can get better.

Major enquiries are going to have to be made at Team Sunweb. They once again had the perfect lead-out for Cees Bol but disintegrated again – the Dutchman finished eighth.  Jasper Stuyven and Luka Mezgec rounded off the top ten.

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For the yellow jersey contenders, the GC doesn’t change but it was far from a quiet day. Flat days, road furniture, roundabouts and a stage that hugs the coast always cause nerves among the peloton. Guillaume Martin and Tadej Pogačar both hit the deck but nothing serious, Miguel Ángel López looked at one point cut off by the winds in the finale and even Primož Roglič’s team Jumbo-Visma took a wrong turn at a roundabout in the final kilometres. Ineos Grenadiers did their usual work at the front keeping Egan Bernal safe – job done for everyone and another day down.

Crashes were in abundance. Many speedy recoveries to Mitchelton-Scott’s Sam Bewley who suffered from a fractured wrist – a cruel way to end his Tour de France debut. Toms Skujiņš, Davide Formolo and Nico Roche all hit the deck with nasty ripped jersey’s and road rash – UAE’s Formolo the most prominent being a domestique to Tadej Pogačar.

The Tour is back on the road as week two rolls across the heart of France. Nothing pleases us more to see that after Covid tests on the rest day, no rider has tested positive. Some team staff have been sent home after testing positive and how sad that the race director Christian Prudhomme tests positive and has to leave the race! We wish him a speedy recovery but it’s a reminder that this race is still in the balance.

While the racing is still on, we keep going. Tomorrow is another flat stage although there is one category 4 climb! For the sake of our enjoyment – Vive le Tour!

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Étape of the Day – Slovenia are at it again!

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For each and every rider a rest day will be well deserved after a relentless first week at the Tour de France. The climbing has been non-stop, the crashes have been unfortunate and the sprints breath-taking. Stage 9 saw the finale of the first week in the Pyrénées with a 153 km route from Pau to Laruns via some tough summits including the Col de Marie Blanque before the final descent to the line.

Similar to yesterday we saw a breakaway rider try ever so hard to win the stage. Nans Peters was successful in Loudenvielle, Team Sunweb’s Marc Hirschi however didn’t quite complete the job. The young Swiss rider is having a great Tour despite him not taking the stage, to ride like he did today at his age – lots of great things are still to come from Hirschi who deserves the combativity award.

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Cycling’s new nation of superstars are at it again!

The Tour heads into the rest day with a new race leader. Pre-race favourite Primož Roglič is our new leader in yellow, the perfect position for Jumbo-Visma to be in ahead of the first rest day. The Slovenian was once again on form, took second on the stage to take key bonus seconds and will now do everything in his power to keep yellow all the way to Paris. Roglič has a stage win under his belt, Jumbo-Visma have been the dominant team despite a few moments where domestiques were going out the back. Sepp Kuss looked better today so all in all they’ll be satisfied with how week one has fared after three stage wins and now the lead of the race.

Last year’s Vuelta was a huge historic moment for Slovenia, so could history be made further for the country at the Tour de France? After losing time in the crosswinds on Stage 7 two stages in the Pyrénées have been the perfect tonic for young Tadej Pogačar. At 21 years old he becomes the youngest stage winner at the Tour in the 21st century and has clawed back precious time to move himself up to seventh overall, 44 seconds behind his Slovenian compatriot. Pogačar breathes confidence and he has provided entertainment for us at home. You have to feel for Marc Hirschi riding well and denied the stage win but that’s bike racing – Pogačar now has stage success at the Tour one year on from the Vuelta.

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The GC is tight after week one. Going into the rest day both pre-race favourites are in first and second – Primož Roglič and Egan Bernal. Ineos Grenadiers have not been at their best and that’s not an unfair criticism. The numbers game has been won by Jumbo-Visma but then again, the numbers game won’t matter if you don’t deliver yellow come Paris.

The defending champion Egan Bernal is still in a good position in fact today was his best showing as he attacked twice on the Marie Blanque but couldn’t quite distance his rivals. It’s a hard race, it’s a mountainous Tour, it’s still in the balance for Bernal to defend his title. At this point last year, the young Colombian was behind Geraint Thomas on GC, not excelling on the climbs but still in the mix to make the podium. Bernal has a challenge on his hands, Dave Brailsford always has a plan up his sleeve, Ineos have to find a new way to win the Tour. They are still in the hunt.

Who were the winners and losers from Stage 9? We’ve mentioned Roglič, Pogačar and Bernal so what about the French prospects after Thibaut Pinot’s horror show yesterday? Guillaume Martin and Romain Bardet both lost 11 seconds on GC but Martin himself remains in third overall and Bardet just behind his compatriot. Cofidis haven’t won a stage at the Tour since 2008 – could Guillaume Martin end that drought? We saw him attack yesterday so perhaps he was paying for his efforts today. A long way to go but Martin is turning out to be the surprise package at this year’s race. Romain Bardet also looks a rejuvenated rider. He’s participating in his last Tour de France for AG2R La Mondiale so one more Grand Boucle to make his team proud?

Colombia are once again having an excellent Tour de France. We know that Egan Bernal became the nation’s first Colombian winner of the yellow jersey last year but for 2020 could we see two Colombians make the podium? Nairo Quintana couldn’t close the gaps on the attacks today but still looks fresh ahead of week two and EF’s Rigoberto Urán is once again putting in good performances at the Tour. He may not be able to repeat his fantastic second place behind Chris Froome in 2017 but a top placing on GC isn’t out of the question. One rider from Colombia who didn’t have a good day was Miguel Ángel López who find himself outside the top ten one minute fifteen seconds behind Roglič.

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Mikel Landa is once again shining bright; Richie Porte is in with a shout of a top ten but the big casualties are Movistar’s Enric Mas and Bora-Hansgrohe’s Emanuel Buchmann. Both teams aren’t having the greatest of Tours, Movistar haven’t done much despite leading the team classification and even though Peter Sagan is in green, not much to shout about for Bora either. Buchmann to be fair did suffer from a crash at the Dauphiné so is unsurprisingly suffering.

A final word must go to Adam Yates who found himself in yellow after bizarre circumstances, rode strong to avoid the crosswind chaos on Stage 7, hung onto the jersey after Stage 8 but wasn’t able to follow the wheels today. He’s out of the maillot jaune but has done a tremendous job in honouring the jersey and making more history for British cycling. The objective now changes for Mitchelton-Scott as they’ll target stage wins for Yates and there will also be opportunities in the sprints for Luka Mezgec.

No change in the green jersey standings as Sam Bennett remains seven points behind Peter Sagan. Benoit Cosnefroy still has the polka-dot jersey and Egan Bernal shoulders the white jersey although Tadej Pogačar could be a threat to him in the weeks ahead.

One non finisher today and a blow to Tadej Pogačar himself with key domestique Fabio Aru leaving the race. Never nice to see a rider leave the Tour and we hope to see Aru back at his best in the not too distant future.

Week one is over, the Tour is on rest day number one. There is still the lingering cloud of coronavirus over the race and it’s particularly annoying when you see spectators not wearing face masks properly. The race moves to the Atlantic coast to begin week two – the 107th Tour rolls on…

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Étape of the Day – Peters powers to victory in the Pyrenees

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The Pyrénées have well and truly given us a thriller of a stage at the Tour de France. Stage 8 from Cazères-sur-Garonne to Loudenvielle suited an early break and in Nans Peters, AG2R deserve all the plaudits for getting in the break and delivering a sensational breakaway stage win. For the GC there’s a lot to pick out so let’s go through the current standings one by one.

Adam Yates clings onto the yellow jersey. He has a three second lead over Primož Roglič, he was seen struggling to hang on to the main group of favourites but did well to bring everything back. Yates stays in yellow but for how much longer remains the lingering question. Attacks from Tadej Pogačar and Guillaume Martin certainly put his chances of staying in yellow in jeopardy but all in all Mitchelton-Scott will be pleased that their man rode his own pace to keep the lead.

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Most surprising to see was that Jumbo-Visma weren’t as strong today as we expected. Yesterday’s stage winner Wout Van Aert did amazing work over the Port de Balès but on the Col de Peyresourde the numbers game was significantly down from what we saw on Mont Aigoual two days previous. Tom Dumoulin went backwards and Sepp Kuss was nowhere. The American did suffer from a fall a few days ago so is he perhaps not in the best shape?

Primož Roglič is in prime position to take the jersey if he can distance Adam Yates tomorrow. Roglič still looks good and did attack on the descent into Loudenvielle before everything came back together. Nairo Quintana even had the legs to follow Primož Roglič too, he’s looking fresh at this year’s Tour and could easily climb onto the podium come Paris.

Today was not a great day if you’re a fan of Thibaut Pinot. Clearly suffering with bad legs, the Frenchman is out of contention to win the Tour de France and after seeing those heart-breaking images last year, today was no different. Never nice to see but the objective for Pinot now changes – stage wins.

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We got answers from Julian Alaphilippe today as he went backwards on the Peyresourde, clearly, we’re not going to see the same heroics as last year but while Pinot and Alaphilippe have lost time today, France now have Romain Bardet to possibly light up this Tour but also Guillaume Martin. The Cofidis rider was impressive when he attacked twice up the Peyresourde and found himself in the virtual yellow jersey at one point. Might he be the man to end the French hurt? Guillaume Martin is certainly a man that’ll need to be marked in the weeks ahead.

After getting caught out in the crosswinds to Lavaur on Stage 7, Tadej Pogačar put in a minute on the Peyresourde to claw back some precious time on his GC rivals, ride of the day and puts him back in contention to try and win the Tour de France overall. The young talent that he is, there is no surprise to see him riding exceptionally well and he can easily challenge for the yellow jersey in the coming stages. You only hope that getting caught out in the wind yesterday doesn’t become the difference in winning or losing the Tour.

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Egan Bernal responded to all the attacks and stays in contention as do fellow Colombian’s Miguel Ángel López and Rigoberto Urán.

Stage winner Nans Peters deserves praise too. He took a win at the Giro last year but now he’s gone one better to take a stage win at his home Grand Tour. A great day AG2R La Mondiale as Benoit Cosnefroy remains in the polka-dot jersey, Peters himself isn’t far off in the same competition and Romain Bardet finds himself fourth overall on GC.

Peter Sagan stays in green with Sam Bennett not far behind. We are however one sprinter down as European road champion Giacomo Nizzolo pulled out of the race for NTT Pro Cycling.

One Pyrenean stage is down, one more to go before the rest day.

Étape of the Day – Talent and time lost

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Why on earth was there so much negativity yesterday? Comments on social media saying the Tour is boring and that the GC were a disgrace for not attacking on the finale up Mont Aigoual. Not every day is a day when the GC men want to attack but today Stage 7 saw the overall contenders having to be on red alert for crosswinds and echelons towards the finish in Lavaur when we least expected it.

The stage on paper was either suited to a sprinter or an attacker. Right from the gun underneath the engineering giant of the Viaduc du Millau we saw the sprinters distanced after some pressure at the front from Bora-Hansgrohe. Sam Bennett and Caleb Ewan were distanced, Bennett’s hopes in the green jersey damaged as he now loses the maillot vert to Peter Sagan.

There are moments in cycling when just the wind can hamper your chances, cause carnage and create splits. Echelons in the final 30 km and in seconds key favourites such as Mikel Landa, Richie Porte and Tadej Pogačar caught out losing time but others such as Egan Bernal, Primož Roglič, Guillaume Martin and Thibaut Pinot safe at the front. One split one moment and your Tour de France prospects are blown out of the window.

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Despite being isolated, the yellow jersey Adam Yates did amazingly well to stay at the front and he remains in the lead going into the Pyrénées. Julian Alaphilippe even had a go in the sprint, the Frenchman still in top form. Pogačar will be the main man left disappointed as he lost over a minute and loses his hold of the white jersey to Bernal.

For the stage win, this year’s Tour just gets better and better for Jumbo-Visma as Wout Van Aert delivers his second stage win after Stage 5 in Privas. He becomes the first Belgian in 13 years to win more than one stage at the Tour de France. The young talent is making strides in the peloton and continues to shine bright. One year on after a horrific crash in Pau it is fantastic to see Van Aert, the winner of Strade Bianche and Milan-Sanremo don’t forget, back to his best. What makes him so unique is his daily routine at this Tour. One day he’s winning a sprint, tomorrow he’ll be climbing for his teammates in the mountains – a rider of supreme ability!

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Looking at the sprint itself, one team and one man will rue the chance that they missed today. Bora-Hansgrohe did all the work in the early kilometres to distance the sprinters, kept the pace throughout the day but only for Peter Sagan to finish the sprint in 13th. He did have issues with his chain but this was the perfect chance for Sagan to bounce back and take a stage win.

Without criticising him too much because he’s a phenomenal bike rider, today he blew his big opportunity – Bora will be left with so many questions. Emanuel Buchmann is still 12th in GC and Lennard Kämna has yet to try for something special but at the moment Bora’s Tour has been far from happy. Yes, Sagan is back in green but he’ll be in no fit mood to celebrate right now.

With Giacomo Nizzolo out of the frame, NTT’s Edvald Boasson Hagen had a free hit today but finished in second and in Bryan Coquard we have a man who has come close to taking his first Tour stage win again. Stage 4 in 2016 to Limoges when Coquard came within inches only to be denied by Marcel Kittel, today couldn’t have been a better opportunity but unfortunately for Bryan Coquard it wasn’t meant to be.

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Benoit Cosnefroy stays in the polka-dot jersey and a Tour de France stage is never complete without a Thomas De Gendt solo attack. He held a gap for some time before being reeled in as the riders headed through Castres – well done for trying Thomas!

The Tour heads into the Pyrénées tomorrow with our first super-category climb on the menu – the Port de Balès. Those that have lost time in the crosswinds today will be keen to claw back some time as quickly as they can. Adam Yates in yellow is the interesting talking point – what will Mitchelton-Scott’s tactics be tomorrow?

There are no summit finishes in the Pyrénées this year, two stages that finish downhill and perfect for the likes of Julian Alaphilippe or Primož Roglič to attack with their descending skills. This year’s Tour is far from boring on all terrain. Hold onto your hats because it’s about to get very interesting as week one draws to a close.

Étape of the Day – Lutsenko launches the first breakaway win

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We’ve been speculating for days when the first successful breakaway would go all the way and take the stage win. Stage 6 to Mont Aigoual finally delivered a day where a strong break got themselves organised and stayed away after a slow pace delivered by the GC.

Alexey Lutsenko takes the win and takes a huge amount of pride for not only himself but his home country. With the colours of Kazakhstan broad across his chest Lutsenko becomes the first Kazakh since his team manager Alexander Vinokourov back in 2010 to win a stage at the Tour. For a team that’s been around for 14 years now it’s surprising that this is only Astana’s 13th stage success at the Tour de France. More stages will come of course and in Miguel Ángel López the team still have something to fight for.

Lutsenko should win more stages at this Tour and will surely be in more breakaways. The man himself continues triumph and continues to perform at the highest level. As soon as today’s break went, we knew it would be possible for them to stay away. Greg Van Avermaet, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Nico Roche, Jesús Herrada and Neilson Powless are five names that make a powerful breakaway that can make it to the finish – which they did.

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The final climb of the day at the Col de la Lusette saw Powless attack but with nothing left to give. Lutsenko rode clever to close gaps and then take up the acceleration himself. A strong second place for Spanish rider Herrada who has taken a stage at the Vuelta before and could have been a threat to the stage today. He’ll be back for more and we’ll keep willing Team Sunweb’s Nico Roche on as the Irishman has never won a Tour stage.

For the GC is was like watching a goalless draw at a football match. INEOS Grenadiers had control at the front to keep Egan Bernal ticking along nicely but the pace wasn’t putting anyone into difficulty. Even former world champion Alejandro Valverde was seen smiling at the lack of pace in the main peloton up the Lusette!

Yet that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Ineos. Why put on a strong pace at the front and waste lots of energy before you’ve even reached the serious stages at this Tour. Andrey Amador and Pavel Sivakov are nursing injuries, they should come good in the final week but there is still a big question as to whether Ineos look up to it. Jumbo-Visma had a quiet day, Tadej Pogačar did have a small mechanical, his teammate Fabio Aru went on the attack and one rider we haven’t seen or talked about as much is Movistar’s Enric Mas. The Spaniard suffered from a small crash today but nothing too serious – we hope to see him come good at this Tour.

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Adam Yates remains in the yellow jersey and looked fresh at the front alongside teammates Mikel Nieve and Esteban Chaves. Unless anything unexpected happens tomorrow, Yates will carry the jersey into the Pyrénées. Mitchelton-Scott are still adamant that Adam Yates is targeting stage wins and not the general classification but is that true? We are only in the first week but he’s looking in good shape at the moment before the serious climbs start to begin. Last year we saw his twin brother Simon win two stages in the Pyrénées so could Adam try and do the same?

Julian Alaphilippe stole a march to claw back a second, the Frenchman also looking in great shape too. Every contender seems to be locked inside the shed at the moment, not much between them but knowing that with the mountains incoming we could see some shake-ups.

Sam Bennett remains in green, a proud day for Ireland and AG2R’s Benoit Cosnefroy should keep the polka-dot jersey before the high mountains. Could he go on the attack and claim more points?

Millau to Lavaur tomorrow should be another chance for the sprinters unless the wind blows. Two more days until the race arrives in the Pyrénées, the first week is slowly coming to an end and still we have no clear idea who will win the 107th Tour de France.

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