Étape of the Day – The 107th Tour de France

Featured image courtesy of gettyimages

21 stages complete, the final Étape of the Day for the three weeks as the 2020 Tour de France drew to a close in style. While sad as it is without crowds on the streets of Paris, it remained the Holy Grail for the sprinters, always a lottery to predict who will win on the Champs-Élysées but by now we definitely know who has won the yellow jersey.

It doesn’t get much better for Irish sport than today! Sam Bennett becomes the first Irishman to win the green jersey since Sean Kelly in 1989, the first Irishman to win on the Champs-Élysées and fifth to do it with green on his shoulders and the first Irishman to win multiple stages at the Tour in 40 years – not a bad Tour de France for Sam Bennett!

He has made history for his country; he should be incredibly proud with two stage wins to go with the maillot vert – a special moment in the history of this superb bike race that continues to create stories year after year without fail. Deceuninck-Quick Step gave him the perfect leadout to beat his fellow sprinters including the man who has dominated the green jersey since 2012 – Peter Sagan who finished third. Bennett’s passion to raise his bike aloft loud and proud, we salute him!

Getting over the mountains, taking the race to his rivals, emotions running high, two glorious stage victories and now the green jersey – Sam Bennett could easily do it all again next year. Peter Sagan has a new challenger to the green jersey for years to come now, Bora-Hansgrohe didn’t give Sam Bennett an opportunity at the Tour, Quick-Step did, he thoroughly deserves to be happy as a result.

Embed from Getty Images

It was close but not quite close enough for the world champion Mads Pedersen. The Worlds are fast approaching, the Dane has performed at this Tour despite no stage wins. Because of the pandemic scuppering up the season you have to feel a bit for Mads Pedersen, who unless he wins the road race next Sunday, won’t wear the rainbow jersey at the upcoming Spring (now Autumn) Classics.

Alexander Kristoff, Elia Viviani, Wout Van Aert, Caleb Ewan, Hugo Hofstetter, Bryan Coquard and Max Walscheid rounded out the top ten on the Champs-Élysées.

The night belongs to Slovenia as Tadej Pogačar is crowned winner of the 107th Tour. A huge talent who let’s not forget only turned professional last year! We’ve seen him excel at last year’s Vuelta by winning three stages and finishing third overall, but this is on another level! An outside bet that nobody had even considered.

With Egan Bernal and Primož Roglič arriving with strong teams in Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma, it just proves that the numbers of a team don’t always matter. Pogačar’s team was nowhere near the strength of Jumbo-Visma, a team that was without doubt the strongest but go home without the prize they’d hoped for.

The young man rode isolated but sensibly without losing his cool. On Stage 7 he lost over a minute to Roglič in crosswinds, responded in the Pyrénées to take time back, beating his compatriot on Stages 9 and 15 before the final time trial up La Planche des Belles Filles saw Pogačar in the form of his life! One of the most dramatic editions of the Tour, one we’ll remember for years to come. It is remarkable that he becomes the 12th rider to win yellow on his debut but most significant the youngest winner of Le Tour post-1945 – chapeau! For the next four editions of the race Tadej Pogačar will still find himself in the age range to compete for the white jersey – that’s the scale of this remarkable achievement.

Credit must go to Primož Roglič who’s been humble to his usurper, simply beaten by his younger Slovenian on the crucial stage to seal the general classification. Jumbo-Visma will go home shocked at how they did not win this year’s race but for Roglič himself let’s not forget the trajectory of his career. A ski jumper only eight years ago and in all the years previous he has become a fantastic Grand Tour contender with one under his belt already for goodness sake! Nobody can take away his Vuelta triumph last year, Primož Roglič may not say much off the bike, but on it he’s just a legend.

Legend status also belongs to Richie Porte. A Grand Tour podium for the first time in his career before he returns to Team Ineos in 2021, he didn’t win the Tour but remains one of the best climbers in the world.

Embed from Getty Images

At the end of three weeks this year’s Tour de France feels like a changing of the guard. For two years in a row youth has won the yellow jersey, new sprinters are winning the flat stages, the green jersey has changed shoulders and fresh talent is shining. The most combative rider was awarded to Marc Hirschi who thoroughly deserves the title after his breakthrough stage win into Sarran – Team Sunweb have had a brilliant Tour.

From Nice to Paris under the lingering threat of a pandemic – the Tour de France thankfully made it all the way round. Did it have an impact on Covid case increases in France? Too late now as the race has been and gone. Was it the right decision to hold the race? Again, too late as the race has been and gone. The organisers have done their best to keep riders and staff safe, some fans were irresponsible and for the good of the race reduced spectators at the side of the road would’ve been better.

Coronavirus has mixed up the season, a Tour de France in September that has been an unbelievable to watch. We sincerely hope that next year’s race won’t be held with a pandemic on – we hope and pray for this nightmare to be over. Tadej Pogačar is our champion in the most dramatic of circumstances – we’ll never live down what was the 107th race for the maillot jaune.

Vive le Tour!

Embed from Getty Images

Étape of the Day – From 57 to 59

Featured image courtesy of gettyimages

A Tour de France held in September during a pandemic is one reason why we will remember the 107th Tour de France for years to come. It has been three weeks of suffering for the sprinters to get over mountains, three weeks of incredible stories and it all came down to a final time trial up La Planche des Belles Filles still with the ceremonial procession in Paris to come.

Saturday 19th September will go down as the most dramatic day of bike racing cycling has even seen, the day a young 21-year-old kid from Slovenia overturned a 57 second deficit to win the Tour by a margin of 59 seconds over a fellow countryman. Tadej Pogačar becomes the youngest post-war rider to win the yellow jersey and he did it in style with an extraordinary comeback that has shocked the world of cycling.

Embed from Getty Images

Pogačar was the fastest at every time split, took a bike change with good effect up the climb and beat Tom Dumoulin by a margin of 1 minute 21 seconds to win his third stage at this year’s race. Before the stage began there, was always a chance, confirmed in our minds that either Tadej Pogačar or Primož Roglič would make history to become the first Slovenian to win the Tour, but did we ever believe that the apprentice would overthrow the master? One of the most unexpected victories and oh so similar to 1989 when LeMond overcome Fignon by 8 seconds, the margin not as tight in 2020 but dramatic all the same!

After taking the yellow jersey on day one with Alexander Kristoff it has been a full circle for UAE-Team Emirates who now have the maillot jaune at the crucial point in the race. To make things better Tadej Pogačar takes the polka-dot jersey off Richard Carapaz and as a reminder to his GC rivals, a youngster in the white jersey – never before has a rider won three jerseys altogether. Huge celebrations in Paris tomorrow, he turns 22 on Monday and this is his Tour don’t forget!

You have to feel so much sympathy for Primož Roglič who has looked untouchable throughout the three weeks. Jumbo-Visma will finish the Tour as the strongest team, Roglič supported by superb domestiques, a stage wins at Orcières-Merlette, two for Wout Van Aert but overall, the prize they were after just slipped through the fingers. Roglič simply did not have the legs and it will beggar belief that he lost the Tour de France after a 36.2 km time trial atop La Planche des Belles Filles.

This isn’t the first time a key time trial at the Tour has gone wrong for Primož Roglič – Stage 20 in 2018 when lost time to Chris Froome and didn’t make the podium. Last year’s Giro was a brilliant showing from him until he faded in week three – Roglič is a fantastic rider but on evidence he trails off at the pivotal moments. So much sympathy for him though, a man who may not have a lot to say when asked questions but on the bike is one of the best.

Embed from Getty Images

What will be hard to stomach for Jumbo-Visma is all the hard work that will feel like a total waste. It is extraordinary that three of their best time trialists were beaten by such an enormous margin. Tom Dumoulin 1 minute 21 seconds down, Wout Van Aert 1 minute 31 seconds and Roglič at 1 minute 56 seconds behind. It was never a course for the pure time trialist but the calibre of names Pogačar beat deserves praise.

Another man who deserved huge congratulations is Richie Porte. So many years of sacrificing himself for Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome when at Team Sky, so many unlucky moments at BMC and now for Trek-Segafredo he will finally be on the podium at a Grand Tour. It is no secret that crashing on the Mont du Chat descent and breaking his collarbone before making the Roubaix cobbles in 2018, we’ve shed a tear for Richie Porte. Now pure happiness for Australian who thoroughly deserved third place overall. It just wasn’t to be for Miguel Ángel López who was simply up against the better time trialist.

Embed from Getty Images

It will be a special day for Ireland tomorrow! Sam Bennett will win the green jersey on the Champs-Élysées and could even win the stage to cap off a great Tour. All the main players for the final sprint in Paris have made to Stage 21 to fight it out for the Holy Grail of all victories for a sprinter.

The most extraordinary Tour de France draws to a close tomorrow in Paris. Every stage covered for The Chain Gang – one more finale to come!

Étape of the Day – Kragh Andersen does it again!

Featured image courtesy of AP

Stage 19 of the 2020 Tour de France was always going to be straightforward for the GC contenders. Only crashes could have hampered their chances but no such worries for Primož Roglič in yellow, Tadej Pogačar in second and Miguel Ángel López in third overall. Everyone stayed upright, all safe and through to the penultimate stage tomorrow.

Today was all about the stage win, the breakaway and the green jersey. While the team classification determines the number one team (Movistar on track to do so again), it is fair to say that Team Sunweb have been fantastic at this year’s race – tactically spot on, prepared to take risks and now have three stage wins to celebrate.

Søren Kragh Andersen takes his second stage win to go with his victory in Lyon. The Dane attacked 16 km out from a break that included Peter Sagan, Sam Bennett in green, Greg Van Avermaet and Luke Rowe. Kragh Andersen never looked back even screaming at a TV motorbike for a secure time gap on the road – never mind Søren you were well clear!

Embed from Getty Images

Huge credit to Team Sunweb who have emerged from Michael Matthews out of form moving to Mitchelton-Scott next year and Tom Dumoulin sadly crashing out of the Giro – 2019 wasn’t a great year but now put behind them. Marc Hirschi has made an enormous breakthrough, Søren Kragh Andersen taking two stages and getting into the breakaway on numerous occasions. There’s still one more opportunity to go in Paris with sprinter Cees Bol, you just never know what Team Sunweb could do at this Tour.

The green jersey is now all but sealed on the shoulders of Sam Bennett. His main rivals Peter Sagan and Matteo Trentin unsurprisingly got in the break to try and put pressure on Quick-Step but they’ve run out of road to stop Bennett now. The Irishman got into the break himself, scored more points at the intermediate sprint and in Champagnole finished eighth to more points. A total of 319 now, 55 points ahead of Sagan and 69 ahead of Trentin. All Sam Bennett has to do now is finish the time trial up La Planche des Belles Filles, make Paris and wouldn’t it be something if he could win on the Champs-Élysées to seal the deal.

Peter Sagan’s dominance in the maillot vert is over. Something fresh and new has arrived in the form of a serious competitor to challenge your throne. Just like Ineos having to change their thought process going into next year’s Tour, Peter Sagan will have a new challenge to try in 2021.

Embed from Getty Images

Lots of riders in the break and most of them from team who have nothing to show at this Tour unless they try for the two remaining stages. Luka Mezgec, Jasper Stuyven, Greg Van Avermaet and Edvald Boasson Hagen all tried but Mitchelton-Scott, Trek-Segafredo, CCC and NTT plus many more won’t be taking anything from this Tour unless we’re proved wrong.

Two unfortunate incidents today with Pavel Sivakov suffering from a tumble and Bora’s Lukas Pöstlberger abandoning due to a bee sting in the mouth! Such an unlucky Tour de France debut for Sivakov after he crashed on the opening stage in Nice and let’s not forget he fell on the final stage at the Dauphiné – lots of sympathy for him.

The penultimate stage tomorrow as the final weekend sees the 107th Tour draw to a close. A time trial up La Planche des Belles Filles to bring the curtain down on the general classification. Richard Carapaz will be keen to keep his polka-dot jersey, the stage win is up for grabs too and who knows Primož Roglič could take it to end up with the ultimate triumph!

The final word must go to Søren Kragh Andersen. His stage win summed up what has been a pulsating and exciting Tour despite it being in September! We love the Tour; we love cycling and we cannot wait to celebrate the end of the race this weekend.

Embed from Getty Images

Étape of the Day – Arm in arm across the line!

Featured image courtesy of POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The Tour de France always creates stories year after year. It excites, entertains and is of course brutal. The power of La Grand Boucle can carry you over the line, give you strength and determination, but most of all pride. So much admiration for Ineos Grenadiers today after a superb double-act secured a well-deserved stage win for a team that hasn’t achieved its aims but will finish the Tour with something to savour.

Finishing arm in arm after going in the break it is no surprise that the stage win for Ineos Grenadiers was filled with emotion. Determination after the death of director sportif Nico Portal on top of smiles at the line as Michał Kwiatkowski wins his first Grand Tour stage – thoroughly deserved for a man who’s sacrificed himself over the years to deliver Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal Tour success. To add further gloss to the Ineos performance they now have Richard Carapaz leading the King of the Mountain classification – a superb day for the team.

To lose their main man just two days ago it is testament to Ineos Grenadiers for trying everything they can to get in a break, go for stage wins and now maybe seal the polka-dot jersey. While it isn’t the result Dave Brailsford and co would have wanted today’s, stage served a reminder that the team still have talent within their ranks. While Tour de France dominance is over, the drawing board changes the team will return.

You must be made of solid stuff to go in the break three times over three days and not take a stage win. To his credit Richard Carapaz has done immense work to try after team disappointment but helping Kwiatkowski to his first stage at a Grand Tour is quite a moment. Carapaz enters the polka-dot jersey but can he keep it until Paris? With Bernal dropping out, the Ecuadorian has been given freedom to attack – it would be a mini triumph for Ineos if he could hold the jersey.

Embed from Getty Images

So many races in one stage today! Primož Roglič and Jumbo-Visma once again got through the day, Roglič just has one final time trial to get over before Paris. He will be the Slovenian rider happy with the gaps between himself and those behind him, Tadej Pogačar 57 seconds down shouldn’t trouble Roglič much. Pogačar though could still take the polka-dot jersey off Richard Carapaz but for sure he’s guaranteed the white jersey and second overall.

If there’s one rider you have to feel for it is Richie Porte suffering from bad luck once again. Just like his former Sky teammate Chris Froome, he got a flat front wheel on the Glières plateau, but thankfully he didn’t lose any time. He managed to claw back the leaders but it was not the bad luck you want in order to attack. The final time trial does offer up an opportunity for Richie Porte to sneak onto the podium if Miguel Ángel López has a bad day which he has in the past against the clock.

Embed from Getty Images

Great ride by Enric Mas who’s quietly ridden himself up to sixth overall but at the expense of both Adam Yates and Rigoberto Urán who lost significant amounts of time today. Every sprinter made the time cut today except André Greipel who abandoned to become the 27th rider to leave the race. Sam Bennett finds himself in green with three stages remaining – the mountains are behind him so surely; he will make Paris now with green on his back.

A mention must go to Marc Hirschi today. After winning one stage, getting in the break today made it clear that Team Sunweb were chasing more. If Hirschi hadn’t of crashed then his probability of winning the stage could have been higher. Disappointing to see him crash after over-cooking a descent but take nothing away from the young man he’s had a fantastic Tour.

Tomorrow will be an easy day for the GC men. Only one category 4 climb, expect Peter Sagan and Matteo Trentin to get in the break to put late pressure on Sam Bennett but overall Stage 19 should be one for the breakaway. It is a lumpy day not entirely flat but teams who have no stage wins to show should go in the break.

Another day down with Paris on the horizon. A sweet day for Ineos Grenadiers, no trouble for Primož Roglič and great to see Sam Bennett survive the time cut. Days like today remind us that cycling is such a brilliant sport to watch!

Embed from Getty Images

Étape of the Day – Superman surges onto the podium

Featured image courtesy of gettyimages

You could not have asked for a more gruelling stage at the Tour de France. 170 km from Grenoble over the Col de la Madeleine before a new summit finish at Méribel – the Col de la Loze at 2,304 m above sea level. Stage 17 was the ‘Queen’ stage, a crucial day in the race for the yellow jersey. Lots to play for, the GC positions, the polka-dot jersey changing shoulders and the fight for the maillot vert isn’t quite over just yet.

We are almost guaranteed a Slovenian one two on the podium although today we saw the master outplay the apprentice. Primož Roglič moves ever closer to securing his second Grand Tour title after some impressive tactics by Jumbo-Visma once again. While Tom Dumoulin knows he’s riding back to form after injury last year, it’s the mark of a true gent that he’s sacrificing himself for Roglič, but where the Dutchman is magnificent what about Sepp Kuss! The American made the perfect move to attack, draw out Roglič’s GC rivals and then fall back for his team leader to go on the offensive – it was genius Jumbo-Visma teamwork on full display not forgetting that this is Sepp Kuss’s Tour debut!

Jumbo-Visma are the strongest team in the race, they’ve built up to this moment in the last few years, and today they might have just struck the knockout blow. Three stages to go before Paris, Primož Roglič had the legs to fly away from everyone else leaving a few bike lengths away from his younger Slovenian compatriot. It was the first time we saw Tadej Pogačar in difficulty – losing 15 seconds plus bonuses to Roglič.

Embed from Getty Images

Take nothing away from the effort and determination Tadej Pogačar has shown at this year’s Tour. Debutant, the white jersey will definitely be his come Paris, and there’s still a chance he could claw back some time in the coming days. The time trial coming up serves us a reminder that Tadej Pogačar beat Primož Roglič at the Slovenian national championships to become time trial champion. You just never know what could happen if Primož Roglič has a bad day.

The fight for the podium has also been shaken up after today. Miguel Ángel López is another Tour de France debutant this year. A stage win at his first attempt isn’t half bad – the Colombian now in third overall, a podium place in his sights. Astana will be thrilled to see their team leader now within touching distance of Paris. Third at the Giro and third at the Vuelta in the past – Superman López continues to get better and better. At the moment he’s not quite at the peak to win a Grand Tour overall but still a huge threat to take third and deny his rivals.

Another good ride by Richie Porte today. Trek-Segafredo have been far from quiet at this Tour, Porte himself always fighting and always in and among the climbing elite. Miguel Ángel López might be third at the moment but Porte could steal his place via the Stage 20 time trial. Adam Yates is still behind. He lost some time today, a podium place now unlikely, but a stage win is not out of the question. The big loser today was EF’s Rigoberto Urán conceding 1 minute 59 seconds.

The team that will be most disappointed though is Bahrain-McLaren. You have to admire the guts on display today, the team setting pace up the Madeleine (Sonny Colbrelli what a machine!), keeping the pace on the final climb but then team leader Mikel Landa cracking. Hats off to the Basque rider today, who’s been given free reign at a Grand Tour for the first time in his career, team leadership and should be proud at his teammates today. Bringing in former Team Sky coach Rod Ellingworth as general manager, it’s no surprise that the Ellingworth effect to take risks and have courage was the motivation today. Landa gave it a go even though it backfired – brave move, tried his best, deserves our praise.

Embed from Getty Images

As one Colombian won the stage today another did not start. Egan Bernal has abandoned the race, the defending champion suffering for the past four stages, the reality now that Team Ineos’s dominance of the Tour de France is over. 2014 was the last time the Ineos/Sky machine didn’t win the yellow jersey – that’s now fact and a new challenge awaits Sir Dave Brailsford. Lots of questions about team selection but now Bernal is out of the race, the tactics change to target a stage win. Great to see Richard Carapaz giving it a go in the breakaway again, the current holder of the Giro rightly has that title to his name after holding out for so long on the final climb.

The green jersey fight is almost complete for Sam Bennett. The sprinters all made the time cut and barring them not making the cut-off tomorrow, every fast man should make it to Paris. Benoit Cosnefroy’s hold of the polka-dot jersey is over as Tadej Pogačar now leads the competition.

One final point to make are some idiots on the side of the road not wearing face masks. The President of France Emmanuel Macron was special guest today, so what a stage to show some stupidity from minorities not adhering to guidelines with the Tour held during a pandemic. Wear your face masks!

The final stage in the Alps tomorrow. Expect Tadej Pogačar to attack tomorrow if he can to close the gap on Primož Roglič before the time trial and Miguel Ángel López to do the same. The King of the Mountains competition will be intriguing and Sam Bennett just needs to get over the climbs as well as scoring some further points.

We might have got an answer as to who will win the 2020 Tour de France today. Primož Roglič is almost in sight of the Champs-Élysées, the taste of a champagne procession within touching distance.

Embed from Getty Images

Étape of the Day – Arise King Lemmy!

Featured image courtesy of gettyimages

This is turning out to be a fantastic 107th edition of the Tour de France. We’re seeing new talent emerging on the biggest stage and today another young gun blew everyone away. The Alps have arrived, the GC race continues – so much to summarise!

Let’s start off with the stage win. A mass break went away including Pierre Rolland and after Egan Bernal’s prospects of defending his title went up in smoke, it wasn’t surprising to see Ineos Grenadiers get in the break too. Giro d’Italia champion Richard Carapaz and Russian Pavel Sivakov went up the road but they were joined by young German star Lennard Kämna, recent stage winner at the Dauphiné, and now at a Grand Tour.

24-years-of-age this is without a doubt Kämna’s biggest moment in his young career with many victories still to come! He had to follow Richard Carapaz’s attack on the penultimate climb and then managed to distance the Ecuadorian to take all the glory. A magnificent ride, a turn up for the books and a huge boost for Bora-Hansgrohe at this Tour. The team have shown some strength in breakaways, they’ve worked hard for Peter Sagan despite he himself not being his best and now Lennard Kämna delivers.

Embed from Getty Images

GC aspirations are gone for Egan Bernal who once again lost time today. You must however take your hats off to the young man who’s been honest that he hasn’t been at his best. It is absolutely the case that this defeat will be a learning curve for Bernal but more importantly it changes the mood of the team. Ineos Grenadiers certainly changed tact today by putting Carapaz and Sivakov in the break – stage wins are now the priority.

One point to make is we’re not seeing the Julian Alaphilippe from both 2018 and 2019. Of course, he has one stage win in the bag after Stage 2 in Nice plus the yellow jersey as an added bonus. Today though he couldn’t follow Richard Carapaz’s attack and Lennard Kämna either. It shouldn’t be too much of a concern it’s just a case of not having the punch to follow attacks.

The race for the green and polka-dot jerseys are enthralling this year. Benoit Cosnefroy’s lead as King of the Mountains is now level with Pierre Rolland, Cosnefroy won’t be keeping the jersey until Paris unless he attacks tomorrow, takes point atop the Col de la Madeliene and wins the stage overall! The Frenchman will have to go deep if he wants to keep the jersey.

Sam Bennett remains in green but he still faces a fight. The terrain doesn’t get any easier and if Peter Sagan can distance Bennett over the coming stages plus the intermediate sprint in Paris as well as the final showpiece – the maillot vert isn’t entirely secure for the Irishman. Add Matteo Trentin going in the break to the equation and that doesn’t make things any easier!

Embed from Getty Images

Two French riders also abandoned today. Lots of respect to Groupama-FDJ’s David Gaudu who suffered from a back injury earlier in the race plus Jérôme Cousin for Team Total Direct Énergie who went solo on Stage 3 and on numerous occasions found himself in a breakaway.

Tomorrow sees the highest point of the Tour at Méribel with an extra paved road, the Col de la Loze at 2,304 metres in altitude. The GC contenders rode conservatively today probably knowing what is to come, Jumbo-Visma in defensive mode. Tadej Pogačar did accelerate towards the end, Primož Roglič followed but the race for the podium will be interesting as Miguel Ángel López did show his wheel today.

Massive stage tomorrow. Jumbo-Visma have it all to do to keep Primož Roglič in yellow, the battle for the podium intensifies and who will be in the polka-dot jersey? Thankfully the race will make it all the way to Paris with no riders testing positive for the virus. Great to see race director Christian Prudhomme return a negative test after self-isolation, he’s back waving his flag – Vive le Tour!

Embed from Getty Images

Tour de France: Five Key Takeaways From the Second Week

Featured image courtesy of Tim de Waele/Getty Images

With the first serious mountain stages now behind us, the General Classification (GC) battle continues to unravel, with Primoz Roglič in control in front of an aggressive Tadej Pogacar knocking at the yellow jersey’s door. Let’s examine the main events from the second week of La Grande Boucle.

A Two-Horse Race?

Embed from Getty Images

It’s been rare in the past few editions of the Tour to have more than one rider still capable of taking the overall victory at this stage of the race; we’ve been used to Chris Froome or Geraint Thomas holding a commanding lead well before the second rest day.

But here we have a fascinating scenario unfolding between Jumbo-Visma’s Primoz Roglič and the ever-aggressive Tadej Pogacar of UAE Team Emirates

Few predicted Pogacar to challenge for the overall win before the race, but the youngster will be evermore confident after taking a second mountain stage win on stage 15, where he used his fast finishing kick to overcome Roglič once again.

Roglič still leads, albeit by a slender 40 seconds. He is yet to drop Pogacar in the mountains, something he will want to rectify on stage 17’s summit finish on the Col de la Loze. Otherwise, he will have to count on his noted time-trialling skills, although his defeat at the hands of Pogacar at the Slovenian national time trial championships will surely worry him.

He will be encouraged by Pogacar’s lack of a strong team however, he only has David de la Cruz and Jan Polanc for support in the mountains, and has been frequently isolated. Not that this has proved detrimental in any way yet…

Fini for Bernal

Egan Bernal’s attempt to defend his Tour de France title came to a sudden end on stage 15, losing over seven minutes after he was dropped 13km from the end of the ascent of the Colombier. He now lies a distant 13th in the GC.

There were several doubts over Bernal’s form coming into the Tour due to his abandonment from the Criterium du Dauphiné with a back injury.

Bernal refused to use this as an excuse however, conceding that he simply ‘did not have the legs’ in a post-stage interview with ITV, and conceding that other riders were simply stronger.

Embed from Getty Images

A simple ‘jour sans’ seems an odd reason however, he has hardly looked his best in any of the mountain stages. He just barely held on in the first week, and lost over 30 seconds to Roglič and Pogacar on stage 13’s steep final ascent to Puy Mary.

The Ineos Grenadiers will be scratching their heads as to why their prime contender could have failed so dramatically, given how famous the team are for never putting a foot wrong at the Tour.

Is there an illness within the team, or have they been hampered by the Coronavirus lockdown restrictions, disrupting normal training and racing regimes? Nonetheless, such a huge time loss is surely indicative of a deep-rooted issue.

Jumbo-Visma Dominate as Ineos Grenadiers Crumble

Any hopes that the days of one team controlling entire mountain stages from the front were quickly dashed this week, with the strength of Jumbo-Visma easily neutralising attacks and putting Roglič in a prime position whenever needed.

Nowhere else was this more evident than on the Grand Colombier on stage 15. The Dutch outfit began the 17.4km test with six riders, far outnumbering any other team.

Attacking from the group of favourites proved impossible due to the pace set, indeed just one rider attempted to in the form of Adam Yates, who was swiftly reeled back in.

Embed from Getty Images

Worth noting though is that the time gaps were not huge; it was customary for Team Sky in their heyday to simply drop every other rival and leave Froome to attack. Jumbo-Visma were more akin to a sprinter’s lead-out train, setting up Roglič for his customary late sprint to the line (although again he could not overcome Pogacar).

The Ineos Grenadiers were left for dust, with the usually-reliable Dylan Van Baarle and Andrey Amador dropped very early on, quickly joined by Pavel Sivakov and Richard Carapaz. Bernal was left with just Jonathan Castroviejo and Michal Kwiatkowski to painfully shepherd him to the finish.

This Tour has proved a disaster for the British squad, and serious questions will be asked of their preparations for the race, given how high the level of expectation is for them the Tour, and rightly so.

Questions will also be asked of their team selection: Geraint Thomas currently lies third overall at Tirreno-Adriatico, and likely would have proved far more reliable than much of the Tour squad.

One must also ask whether it is time to completely revamp the Ineos Tour de France team; a roster with an in-form Ivan Sosa, Eddie Dunbar, Tao Geoghegan-Hart and Jhonatan Narvaez would surely be more than capable of supporting Bernal.

Sam Bennett Tightens Hold on Green.

Embed from Getty Images

Finally, it looks like the green jersey could change hands this year, after a run of poor form has left Peter Sagan unable to take a decisive lead in the Points Classification, something he has managed with ease since 2012 (barring his disqualification in 2017).

On stage 10, Bennett became just the sixth Irishman to win a Tour de France stage, beating Caleb Ewan and Sagan. With it, he reclaimed the green jersey, and was able to strengthen his lead on stage 11 with a second-place finish. Unfortunately this was in controversial circumstances; Peter Sagan had himself finished second but was relegated for dangerous sprinting. Otherwise, he would have been in touching distance of green.

He currently trails Bennett by 45 points, this despite a concerted effort by Bora-Hansgrohe on stage 14 to drop Bennett and take 15 points in the intermediate sprint.

Providing Bennett does not fall foul of time cuts in the mountain stages, he is in a fantastic place to take green to Paris, with another two flat stages. The remaining intermediate sprints are also early enough in the hillier stages that he should be able to contest them without being dropped beforehand.

A Close-Knit Battle for the Podium.

It seems unlikely that anyone can knock Roglič and Pogacar from the top two positions, but there are a whole host of riders in touching distance of the podium.

Third place is currently held by EF Education-First’s Colombian Rigoberto Uran, who looks set to produce his best performance in a Grand Tour since finishing second in the 2017 Tour. He can count on a strong time-trial to overcome his nearest rivals on stage 20.

Trek-Segafredo’s Richie Porte seems the best of the rest, lying in sixth place. However, he will have gained confidence after finishing third on stage 15, just five seconds behind Roglič and Pogacar. He too can produce a decent time-trial when it counts, especially an uphill one.

Embed from Getty Images

Elsewhere, Astana’s Miguel Ángel Lopez has quietly ridden into fourth place, just 11 seconds off the podium in his first Tour. Mitchelton-Scott’s Adam Yates lies a further 10 seconds back. Both riders will be hoping they can take time back before stage 20.

Bahrain-McLaren’s Mikel Landa will be rueing his time loss in the crosswinds on stage seven, had he not lost over a minute that day he would be currently lying in third place. It will be a huge ask to take that much time back with the opportunities remaining.

Much of the top-ten are closely matched in terms of climbing ability, and thus it is likely the battle for the podium will come down to Le Planche des Belles Filles on Saturday.

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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

Featured image courtesy of gettyimages

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images