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.

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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 – 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 – 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 – Slovenia are at it again!

Featured image courtesy of gettimages

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 – 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 – Wout the Wonderkid strikes again!

Featured image courtesy of POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Is there anything Wout Van Aert cannot do? That’s the question we’re all asking of this amazing young talent who can ride on all terrain whether it’s a time trial, a sprint or an uphill finish – he looks like a rider who’s been riding in the World Tour longer than just one year!

Stage 5 from Gap from Privas was always destined to end in a sprint but we certainly got a surprise at the end. A false flat in the final kilometre was perhaps the perfect opportunity for Wout Van Aert, who earns another stage win at the Tour de France and back-to-back stages for Jumbo-Visma.

Last year Wout Van Aert sadly crashed out on Stage 13, four days after winning Stage 10 into Albi. We certainly hope that the young man finishes this year’s Tour but most importantly this won’t be his last stage win. Yesterday at Orcières-Merlette we saw Van Aert put in a fantastic effort to deliver his teammates up the climb and in the end Primož Roglič getting the stage win – the team are on fire and this latest victory will breath even more confidence.

With Tony Martin as the road captain and Van Aert in the form of his live to offer his best support, Primož Roglič couldn’t be anymore happier with the teammates around him. While the stage was won there was a small scary moment for super domestique Sepp Kuss who had a little tumble – not anything too problematic.

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There was no breakaway today which was odd in itself. King of the Mountains leader Benoit Cosnefroy was allowed to take two points to increase his lead in the polka-dot jersey and the green jersey has also changed shoulders. Sam Bennett has come close to his first Tour de France stage win but becomes the first Irishman since Sean Kelly in 1989 and the third Irishman to wear the maillot vert.

Looking at the final sprint itself it was another missed chance for Bennett but also for Team Sunweb. They had the perfect leadout for Cees Bol. The Dutchman took second place so that is progress and he could take at least a stage win at this Tour. Caleb Ewan came eighth and for Peter Sagan it was another day where the three-times world champion doesn’t look the Sagan of old. To make things interesting it would be great for the race if his hold of the green jersey is challenged. Sam Bennett can get over climbs when the terrain gets tough so maybe Sagan’s dominance in green might be coming to an end? Long way to go still!

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In the most bizarre way possible we have a new race leader in yellow. Julian Alaphilippe took a bottle inside the final 20 km of today’s stage something which you cannot do. A 20 second time penalty for the Frenchman means that Adam Yates moves into the maillot jaune, the ninth British rider to wear yellow. After trying ever so hard to try and claim the jersey in 2016 and missing out, Yates finally finds himself in the race lead but not in the way he probably imagined!

One final point is the combativity award. No breakaway means the award would be given to someone in the peloton. Deceuninck Quick-Step’s Kasper Asgreen put in a small acceleration earlier in the stage but was shut down – the most combative moment of the day!

A nice touch to the race sees Wout Poels given the award for today. Riding with a broken rib, the Dutchman is still going and chapeau to him!

Tomorrow sees a 191 km route from Le Teil to Mont Aigoual for what the organisers ASO are describing as a “finish on a plateau”. The finish is a combination of ramps that rise and fall but the key climb could come down to the Col de la Lusette where bonus seconds are on offer.

What will Adam Yates do in yellow? Will Julian Alaphilippe fight to win back the race lead? The GC men will be all in for trying to edge their rivals.

The first of two adventures into the Massif Central await…

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Étape of the Day – Roglič on a roll

Featured image courtesy of Cor Vos

Early excursions into high altitude mountain stages are a rare occurrence for the Tour de France. Stage 4 to Orcières-Merlette was tipped to be a day for the breakaway but not to be today as Primož Roglič secures a stage win and a psychological advantage over his rivals.

The fight to get in the break was surprisingly not shut down as riders such as Nils Politt, Krists Neilands, Tiesj Benoot and Quentin Pacher went away. There was no threat to AG2R’s Benoit Cosnefroy’s lead in the polka-dot jersey so today was all about having a go for the stage win. It wasn’t to be as Israel Start-Up Nation’s Krists Neilands did go solo but was caught by the peloton just before the final climb.

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Last year we had a frightening altitude finish atop La Planche des Belles Filles as early as Stage 6, this year another altitude finish but earlier on Stage 4. Orcières-Merlette isn’t the hardest climb but being early in the race it was always going to be a first test to see who’s in shape. Today’s stage finish wasn’t the most spectacular but it was interesting to see who was there and thereabouts.

Credit must go to Jumbo-Visma who are the team to beat. The pace of Wout Van Aert and Sepp Kuss to deliver a Primož Roglič, who is the form man making a statement that he is the contender to beat. In the final kilometre he produced a brilliant sprint, which we’ve seen in the weeks previous at the Dauphiné and the Tour de l’Ain, to steal some seconds on everyone else.

We are only in the first week yet Jumbo-Visma are dominating the peloton, have just produced a strong display atop a mountain and are in charge of their own destiny.

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Julian Alaphilippe remains in the yellow jersey, looking fresh and Mitchelton-Scott won’t be left disappointed despite not taking the jersey. Adam Yates climbed well to finish tenth, Esteban Chaves was alongside him and as ever Mikel Nieve took a turn to control the pace.

Alaphilippe could keep yellow until the Pyrénées or judging by his early visibility at the front of the race could he go all the way? France expects and in Alaphilippe they have hope, Thibaut Pinot once again finished strongly with team-mate David Gaudu recovering and the French have a third rider to cheer now. Guillaume Martin attacked in the finale, he rode a good Dauphiné and who knows could there be an all-French alliance?

Nairo Quintana found himself in contention, Mikel Landa quietly finished ninth and another Slovenian we absolutely need to keep an eye on is Tadej Pogačar. He can ride on the wheels of other GC trains; he was a superstar at last year’s Vuelta – Pogačar is the dark horse and now finds himself in the white jersey as best young rider.

Jumbo-Visma have the edge at the moment at the expense of an Ineos team that won’t be panicking yet but will be slightly concerned at how Jumbo-Visma controlled the pace so well, seem to have stronger domestiques and Roglič leaving it to the final kilometre to sprint to the line. Egan Bernal has conceded a few seconds but we have a hell of a way to go.

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Stage 6 to Mont Aigoul is the next serious GC day before the Tour reaches the Pyrénées. After suffering from a fall on Stage 1, Pavel Sivakov looks to be saving himself for the weeks ahead but speculation that Richard Carapaz might be contender for the yellow jersey might be already out of the window. The current holder of the Giro lost 28 seconds to Roglič, an early answer to where Carapaz is at but he could yet recover in the upcoming stages. Ineos will be saving themselves but of course they can’t save themselves too late before the race might be lost.

Krists Neilands deserves ride of the day. The first psychological blow has been hammered by Jumbo-Visma and Primož Roglič. A long way to go as the sprinters get their time to shine again tomorrow. Mont Aigoul is the next obstacle – Stage 4 was a premature indicator of who’s in contention – this Tour is far from over.

Dissecting the Dauphiné – Stage 5

Featured image courtesy of @ASO/Criterium du Dauphine

The 72nd edition of the Critérium du Dauphiné, shortened as it was, will go down as one entertaining showdown before a Tour de France where we have no idea who will win the yellow jersey in Paris.

Despite the pandemic causing mischief, a five stage Dauphiné has brought drama, surprises and individual glory. Every year this race acts as the best indicator of who’s in form before the biggest stage in world cycling.

EF Pro Cycling’s Daniel Martínez wins the 2020 overall after Jumbo-Visma took their 17th victory of the year with Sepp Kuss. A mixed day for the Dutch team after Primož Roglič abandoned after a crash on Stage 4.

The Tour is now two weeks away, lots to dissect from this year’s Dauphiné.

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First up, the stage winner and another win for Team Jumbo-Visma. We saw attacks everywhere across the 157 km stage, the finish on exactly the same terrain as yesterday in Megève.

Julian Alaphilippe and Pavel Sivakov found themselves caught by the main pack before the race came to life with the likes of Miguel Ángel López, Tadej Pogačar and even Sivakov, who suffered from a crash, trying his best for Team Ineos.

After leader of the race Primož Roglič didn’t start this morning, you’d think that Jumbo-Visma might rest up easy and save their legs. Forget it! Tom Dumoulin attacked on the Col de Romme and in Sepp Kuss he now adds a stage victory from the Vuelta last year. The American has not put a foot wrong over the five days – a loyal domestique, got a free hit today and delivered! Should he be off to the Tour? On this evidence absolutely!

One final climb, one final push to finish this Dauphiné on a high after some disappointment along the way – Jumbo-Visma are fully prepared for the Tour. Despite losing Steven Kruijswijk, losing Primož Roglič to rest easy – they should be satisfied.

The big question is what condition will Roglič be in for the Tour? A question that we’ll ask but three stage wins out of five at this Dauphiné – lots to smile about.

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Second, let’s look at the overall winner of the 72nd Dauphiné – Daniel Martínez. Stage winner at Paris-Nice in 2019, he’s a new talent and a worthy win, the best of his career to date. Martínez found himself isolated but that didn’t matter – EF Pro Cycling and Jonathan Vaughters will be delighted!

Credit must go to Thibaut Pinot who finishes second overall. He did look quiet in the first few days of this race but did start to pick it up – climbing quietly not attacking too much before the final two stages not necessarily a bad thing.

Pinot goes into the Tour as the big French hope. After suffering from an unfortunate knee injury last year – now is the time for redemption. He could have taken the overall today, he gave everything by attacking the race – Pinot deserves credit for having a go.

The French wait for a Dauphiné victory let alone a Tour de France goes on. Not since Christophe Moreau in 2007 has their been a French winner of the Dauphiné but there were even moments today where fellow French riders were trying to help Pinot – some might find that annoying but others might have different opinions. To make things more important for the French they’ll be pleased to see not only Pinot make the podium but also Guillaume Martin, who’s ridden consistently too.

We say it every year that not since 1985 have we had a French Tour de France champion. 35 years since Bernard Hinault in yellow – Thibaut Pinot could end the wait.

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Other names who deserve a mention include Miguel Ángel López, who rode better today and also Julian Alaphilippe seems to be getting stronger day after day.

Ride of the day belongs to Pavel Sivakov. An unfortunate crash on a descent (we’ve had a few!) but he kept going. The Russian even attacked on the final climb, great to see while nursing nasty road rash and a ripped jersey.

So what can we take overall from this year’s Dauphiné?

We’ve seen a head-to-head between Jumbo-Visma and Team Ineos where both their riders in form abandoned the race. Jumbo-Visma will come away the slightly happier and Ineos will wonder where they got some things wrong.

Youth shone brightly at this Dauphiné as we saw huge glimpses into who will be riding and targeting future Grand Tours. Lennard Kämna, Tadej Pogačar, Daniel Martínez, Pavel Sivakov and even key domestiques such as Sepp Kuss are the ones to watch in future.

On a sad note we saw some favourites crash out. Egan Bernal, Emanuel Buchmann, Steven Kruijswijk and Primož Roglič were four big casualties of the race – their prospects before the Tour has begun will be interesting to predict especially as three of the four names above were the fourth placed, third placed and defending champion from last year’s Tour.

Today’s stage also saw a slow ride protest after Kruijswijk himself suffered from a dislocated shoulder on a descent described as having a horrendous road surface. Fabio Jakobsen’s crash in Poland after a downhill sprint, both Remco Evenepoel falling off a bridge and Max Schachmann colliding with a car in Lombardy – rider safety is in an unwelcome spotlight at the moment, something to ponder.

The Tour de France is now so close. All the preparation is complete. We cannot wait until Saturday 29th August in Nice…

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Dissecting the Dauphiné – Stage 2

Featured image courtesy of Criterium du Dauphiné

As the weeks go by, as the Tour gets ever closer, we cannot help but wonder whether times are changing. We’ve got a serious battle on our hands between a team that has dominated the Tour de France since 2012 and a team looking to usurp their crown.

Stage 2 of the Dauphiné was the first big test of the five day’s as the race reached the Col de Porte, high above the city of Grenoble and another hurdle overcome yet again by Jumbo-Visma, Primož Roglič wins another one after victory at the Tour de l’Ain last week.

Time to do some dissecting…

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Hats off to CCC’s Michael Schär who went off in the break to sweep up some mountain points in the KOM jersey alongside numerous companions including Groupama FDJ’s Bruno Armirail. They were both caught on the final climb and immediately we saw the usual sight we’ve been accustomed to at the Tour and Dauphiné in recent years – Team Ineos controlling the pace and causing other favourites to struggle.

It looked like the usual gameplan, keep up the pace, put others in the hurt locker and then allow your leader to wrap things up – yet Ineos did it too early!

Jonathan Castroviejo and Michał Kwiatkowski did turns and Chris Froome is clearly on domestique duty but how surprising was it to see Geraint Thomas not go further, Pavel Sivakov struggle and Egan Bernal not keep up with Primož Roglič when he attacked in the final kilometre.

We saw glimpses at the Tour last year that Ineos had their moments in controlling the pace they certainly did not dominate. For this year’s Tour they certainly have met their match in a Jumbo-Visma team that just gets better and better the more you watch them.

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Wout Van Aert yesterday, Primož Roglič today – it’s turning out to be a superb season for Jumbo-Visma despite the season itself being disrupted and mixed up. Roglič took the win with ease, mirroring exactly what he did at the Tour de l’Ain with Ineos falling away, Bernal isolated and the current Vuelta champion taking victory. Also let’s not forget Sepp Kuss in all this who again did some great work to help the current Slovenian road champion.

It’s all down to team tactics but surely Jumbo-Visma will have looked at today and think they’ve played a very good game. Tom Dumoulin and Steven Kruijswijk did fall back which could be a little pointer as to who’s in the best shape but overall Ineos did all the work before the yellow troops pounced.

Cycling is complicated to describe but let’s just say that Jumbo-Visma are the form team, Ineos still have questions to answer and other names are still in the hunt.

One piece of encouragement Ineos will take is Primož Roglič himself winning now before the Tour has even begun. Think back to last year – wins at the UAE Tour and Tirreno-Adriatico, impressive form for the Slovenian before faltering in weeks two and three at the Giro.

The Dauphiné isn’t over yet, the Tour hasn’t even started – there’s a long way to go!

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Other points to discuss include the winners and losers.

French fans will be bittersweet with Thibaut Pinot putting in a good effort in the finish but last year’s Tour de France hero Julian Alaphilippe struggled on the Col de Porte. Riding for stage wins and aiming for the polka-dot jersey – could that finally be the answer to his goal for the Tour? There’s also another Frenchman to add to the mix as Cofidis’s Guillaume Martin finished fourth on the stage – one to watch?

After crashing yesterday, Emanuel Buchmann bounced back to finish third and the top ten consisted of three Colombians. Apart from Bernal, Nairo Quintana yet again looked strong, Miguel Ángel López always produces decent results alongside Daniel Martínez for EF although Martínez’s teammates Rigoberto Urán struggled and Sergio Higuita crashed before the climb.

Tadej Pogačar once again looked impressive but surprising to see his key domestiques Davide Formolo and David de la Cruz blowing up quickly. It was sad to see Dan Martin fall before the final climb. The Israel Start-Up Nation rider will be left disappointed that a silly crash for no reason stopped him from possibly having a go in the finale.

Also from a British point of view, surprising to see Mitchelton-Scott’s Adam Yates falling backwards way before the finish – but there’s still time to get more racing in the legs. Perhaps a bit harsh as this was Adam Yates’s first official race after cycling was halted – maybe just race fatigue.

Ride of the day belongs to Groupama-FDJ’s Bruno Armirail and team of the day was Jumbo-Visma – who else!

Three stages to go…

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