Étape of the Day – Superman surges onto the podium

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Il Lombardia 2020 – Five talking points

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The 114th edition of Il Lombardia certainly provided drama, a race that usually takes place in October but this time in August. A historic day in Lombardy as Jakob Fuglsang takes the win as he prepares for the Giro d’Italia in October.

While we’re happy for Jakob Fuglsang and those who rode well, there is however a tinge of frustration, disappointment and concern in the following piece. One rider horrifically crashed into a wall falling off a bridge and another flew into a car! 

The five talking points below.

1 – Fuglsang goes into the record books

There’s something to smile about for Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang, a rider who’s in top form and preparing himself for the Giro. He now enters the history books as the first Danish rider to win Il Lombardia and joins an elite list alongside John Degenkolb, Alexander Kristoff, Dan Martin, Peter Sagan and Niki Terpstra to have won two career Monuments in the current peloton. 

35-years of age it is fair to say that Jakob Fuglsang is one of the greats. Two overall wins at the Dauphiné, last year’s winner at Liège–Bastogne–Liège and now another Monument to his name in Lombardy. The way he attacked on the Civiglio, rode alongside teammate Aleksandr Vlasov, held off a chasing Trek-Segafredo pair of Ciccone and Mollema as well as putting George Bennett in difficulty on the final climb – that was a legendary ride by the Dane.

Numerous stages have been won at Grand Tours and although he’s had some unlucky times at the Tour de France, Jakob Fuglsang has a terrific opportunity at the Giro this year. Could he possibly win it? Perhaps too early to say but you never know in cycling. 

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2 – George Bennett should be pleased with his second place

Jumbo-Visma are the form team in world cycling right now but sometimes you can’t win everything. In George Bennett, the team should be proud of how well he’s riding right now. After winning Gran Piedmonte in midweek, perhaps was one step too far today as he simply didn’t have the legs to keep up with Fuglsang on the final climb but nevertheless the Kiwi becomes the first man from his country to finish on the Il Lombardia podium.

In fact Jumbo-Visma in their current livery should be happy that Bennett’s second place is also the first time in a long while that they’ve come close to a podium place. Dutchman Michael Boogerd was the last man in 2004 to finish second when Jumbo-Visma were then known as Rabobank.

George Bennett looks set to ride the Tour de France next especially after Steven Kruijswijk suffered from a dislocated shoulder at the Dauphiné today. Bennett is in top form, he’s been a crucial domestique for the team at the Tour de l’Ain, a superb win at Gran Piedmonte and now second in Lombardy – he heads to the Tour full of confidence for sure.

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3 – Trek-Segafredo left frustrated?

Defending champion Bauke Mollema, Giro stage winner Giulio Ciccone and the ‘shark of Messina’ Vincenzo Nibali will look back on today’s race not so much as a disappointment but still some extra mileage into the legs. Nibali was dropped on the Civiglio but Mollema himself alongside Ciccone tried everything they could to claw back the three leading riders. 

Jakob Fuglsang, George Bennett and Aleksandr Vlasov could have so easily been caught if they started to look at each other but it just wasn’t to be for the Trek trio – Mollema and Ciccone even suffering from a mechanical in the finale.

Bauke Mollema should be heading to the Tour next to support Richie Porte, Giulio Ciccone could be doing the same and for Vincenzo Nibali, like Fuglsang, he’ll be heading off to October’s Giro.

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4 – Max Schachmann crashing into a car

Words cannot describe how awful it was to see Max Schachmann colliding with a car that should never have entered the road. We’ve seen so many accidents for riders in training so we don’t need it to happen on an actual race!

Young riders have died in accidents and big questions need to be asked of the race organisers RCS sport – how on earth did the car enter the road?

We’ve seen rider safety put into question after Fabio Jakobsen’s crash at the Tour de Pologne and now more questions of those in charge after Schachmann’s collision with a car that shouldn’t have been on the road.

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5 – Hoping and praying for Remco Evenepoel

Since the start of the year we’ve been saying how brilliant Remco Evenepoel has been. First overall at the Volta ao Algarve, the Vuelta San Juan, Vuelta a Burgos and an incredible solo attack to win the Tour de Pologne – what a fantastic young talent we have on our hands.

We know how dangerous cycling can be and unfortunately you never know what can happen on 231 km’s of road in Lombardy. Remco Evenepoel crashing on a descent by crashing into a wall and falling down a bridge – our hearts we’re in our mouths.

We certainly wish the young man a speedy recovery but why did RAI (the Italian host broadcaster) decide to show numerous replays of the crash and show us pictures of Evenepoel on the stretcher?

It’s never nice to see. We can see the crash once but we don’t need endless repeats of him crashing and falling off the bridge! 

A tough time for Deceuninck-Quick Step after Fabio Jakobsen suffering from a terrible crash in Poland last week and we also sincerely hope that Remco Evenepoel will return sooner rather than later. His Monument debut and sadly for all the wrong reasons he’ll never forget it.

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Don’t forget to check out our latest pieces on the Dauphiné as it reaches its conclusion. The Tour de France is also not far away too!