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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Étape of the Day – Super Sam Bennett

Featured image courtesy of Yuzuru SUNADA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Étape of the Day – Slovenia are at it again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Étape of the Day – Talent and time lost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Étape of the Day – Lutsenko launches the first breakaway win

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Étape of the Day – Wout the Wonderkid strikes again!

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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

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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.

Étape of the Day – A sensational sprint in Sisteron

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There is never a dull day at the Tour de France. A three-man breakaway fighting for the early King of the Mountain spotlight, a solo rider out on his own, a peloton bringing it back and the sprinters teams positioning themselves on the road to deliver their fast man.

After two tough stages around Nice, Stage 3 left the Côte d’Azur with a 198 km route to the “Gateway of Provence” Sisteron. Even on a stage suited to the sprinters today wasn’t all flat with four categorised climbs and a headwind on arrival to the finish.

We’ll tell future generations of cycling fans what happened on Monday 31st August 2020 – the day when Caleb Ewan won perhaps the most messy and chaotic sprint in a headwind in the most insane way possible!

In the final kilometre it was looking very good for Cees Bol as Team Sunweb formed a decent train before they suddenly disappeared. Three-times world champion Peter Sagan was in the mix, European road champion Giacomo Nizzolo was there too and Deceunick-Quick Step’s Sam Bennett almost reached the line.

After winning three stages last year, this latest victory for Caleb Ewan is without doubt his best career win to date. Coming from far back finding a gap just beside Peter Sagan and edging Sam Bennett to win the stage – it was as if we were watching a young Mark Cavendish taking his first collection of stage wins back in 2008. The way Caleb Ewan darted from nowhere to sprint with raw speed and his low aero position – it was Cav-esque!

A rotten start to this year’s Tour de France for Lotto Soudal after losing John Degenkolb and Philippe Gilbert, now a victory that will be very sweet indeed.

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With this year’s edition seeing a feast full of climbs it isn’t entirely a sprinter-friendly Tour de France. More opportunities will come providing the race isn’t stopped but for Sam Bennett he’ll be left wondering how he didn’t win today. It’s a question of when not if the Irishman will take his first stage win at the Tour de France.

His debut season at Deceuninck-Quick Step the pressure will be on for him to deliver but perhaps patience is a good thing at this point. It is absolutely clear that Sam Bennett and Caleb Ewan are the best pair of sprinters you’ll find in the world right now, both similar and both riders will have a stage in the bank by the time the Tour hopefully reaches Paris.

Cast your mind back to last year and you’ll remember that Caleb Ewan had to wait until Stage 11 in Toulouse to secure his first stage win at the Tour – Sam Bennett might have to do the same but it will come sooner rather than later.

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Elsewhere we saw an all-French club fighting for the early polka-dot jersey – nobody else invited to the party just yet! Taking the maillot à pois during the opening stages is always a bonus for your team sponsors and in the break, AG2R’s Benoit Cosnefroy, Jérôme Cousin for Total Direct Énergie and Anthony Perez for Cofidis were our escapees for today.

Cosnefroy and Perez then found themselves back in the peloton as Cousin went solo. A winner in Sisteron at Paris-Nice, Jérôme Cousin thoroughly deserves the combative award for Stage 3 and we wish a speedy recovery to Anthony Perez, who abandoned with a fractured left collarbone after crashing into his own team car. An unfortunate way to leave the race and we hope to see him back racing as soon as possible. Benoit Cosnefroy remains in the polka-dot jersey.

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Another day in yellow for Julian Alaphilippe but will he still be in yellow after tomorrow’s first summit finish?

Stage 4 to Orcières-Merlette isn’t likely to see a Luis Ocaña style attack as he did in 1971 to put almost nine minutes into Eddy Merckx and take the yellow jersey. Instead it could be a tale of two races – one for the stage and one for the general classification.

35 riders are 17 seconds behind Julian Alaphilippe in the GC so tomorrow we will see a sorting out of who’s in form and who’s not after three days of crashes and climbing in the south of France. The jersey could change shoulders and Mitchelton-Scott’s Adam Yates could be our new leader if he’s up for the fight. The first GC battle is on the way so who ends up in the breakaway tomorrow could be interesting.

The first summit finish at this year’s Tour one day after a phenomenal sprint victory for Caleb Ewan in Sisteron – there’s never a dull day at the Tour de France.

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Étape of the Day – Bravo Julian!

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If Stage 1 was an unexpected win for Alexander Kristoff, Stage 2 certainly wasn’t an unexpected triumph for a rider who lit up last year’s Tour. There was no hope in betting against Julian Alaphilippe to win today’s stage in a three-up sprint with the approaching peloton.

After lighting up the Tour last year it isn’t surprising that Julian Alaphilippe has done exactly the same again. He’s back in the yellow jersey and who knows for how long!

The day started with the fight for the green jersey as Matteo Trentin fought for points up against Peter Sagan. In the break, AG2R’s Benoit Cosnefroy and Cofidis rider Anthony Perez battled Frenchman on Frenchman for the polka-dot jersey. Cosnefroy himself put in so much effort to keep up with the pace on the Col de Turini so hats off to him – our new leader in the polka-dots!

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The break was caught on the descent of the Turini and throughout the final 80 km we saw Jumbo-Visma control the race up until the final climb on the Col d’Èze.

The stage headlines though belong to Julian Alaphilippe, a rider who attacked on the final loop of the Nice circuit was joined by Adam Yates and Marc Hirschi before jumping them both.

Last year Alaphilippe lit up the race and who would bet on him doing the same again. A superb stage win another appearance in the yellow jersey, could the GC now be Alaphilippe’s target. If you were Jumbo-Visma or Ineos – here is a rider who could easily spring a surprise.

For Sunweb’s Marc Hirschi he’s another talent who should be proud for having a go but for Adam Yates, he’s in a similar situation to Alaphilippe himself. Both riders have declared pre-race that they’re not going for the GC but could they be bluffing? We’ll have to see how they both fare in the stages ahead.

All the contenders finished safely. Ineos pair Egan Bernal and Richard Carapaz are in the top ten as is Tom Dumoulin. Both Jumbo-Visma and Team Ineos will be relatively happy with the start to their Tour despite some bumps and bruises. Controlling the front of the peloton seems to be Jumbo-Visma’s new role, a role that we’ve been accustomed to by Ineos over the years. The battle between the two teams goes on.

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Ride of the day though belongs to Groupama-FDJ’s David Gaudu. A key domestique to Thibaut Pinot we saw him suffering with a back problem as soon as the stage began. The young Frenchman finished the stage – chapeau sir!

Early days but the GC now has a structure. Julian Alaphilippe is in yellow and for Deceuninck-Quick Step another opportunity for Sam Bennett to sprint tomorrow.

Stage 2 was a classic, edge of your seat stage. It was classic Julian Alaphilippe, one of the best if not the best bike rider in world cycling right now.

He’s back in yellow. Could the 2019 Tour de France be repeating itself?

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