Chris FROOME (SKY) | Peter SAGAN (TNK) | Rafal MAJKA (TNK) | Adam YATES (OBE)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Le Tour review: Overall standings...alternative standings...predictions of the Tour

Here is a look across all the various final standings of the 2016 Tour de France with a little word on each. From the overall classification to the best French riders and from a review of my questionable pre-Tour predictions to my overall team of the Tour of which there can be no debate! First up though, the yellow jersey...

The Final General Classification:

1. Chris Froome (GBR/Sky) in 89h04'48"
They took out the early summit finish to try and test him more, so what did he do? He took the race by the scruff of the neck by attacking on the descents and in the cross winds, by out gunning his rivals in the time-trials and by running up Mont Ventoux. There's no doubt Froome was the best rider here but unexpectedly, he was also the most entertaining.

2. Romain Bardet (FRA/AGR2 La Mondiale) @ 4'05"
I'd picked him for the top five but didn't think he could soar this high. No pressure goign forward for the young Frenchman, but he showed a lot of maturity in this race, got stronger as it went on and took an excellent stage victory to Saint-Gervais-les-Bains to move onto the podium.

3. Nairo Quintana (COL/Movistar) @ 4'21"
Failed to flatter and rarely left the rear wheel of Froome. By the time he attakced on Mont Ventoux he was already trying to make up time and by the time he went again it was on the final 4th cat. climb just outside Paris and the Tour was long over. Allergies or too long training back in Colombia? Whatever the reason this wasn't the Quintana we expected...and yet, he still made the podium.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

André Greipel keeps his streak alive...Chris Froome wins his 3rd Tour de France

They call the final stage into Paris, and the charge up the Champs-Élysées, the sprinters World Championships, and rightly so. It's the most spectacular bunch gallop of the lot and the one that every sprinter wants to win...and one of the most satisfying to win at that. Partly because of where it is and partly because of what race it is, but also because you've survived 21 stages, several mountain ranges and everything else that comes with a Tour de France to earn the right to partake in it.

It's why someone like Mario Cippolini, regarded by many as one of the greatest sprinters of all time, never won here. He couldn't make it through all twenty stages before hand to get the opportunity. Mark Cavendish won four stages this year, but he never made it across the Alps and so he didn't get the chance either.

Cavendish, of course, has been here before however. He won on this wide cobbled boulevard four straight times between 2009 and 2012 and would surely have been the favourite this time had he made it. Instead it was a fourth straight German win, this time by André Greipel, who won it for the second straight year to go with the two won by Marcel Kittel in 2013 and 2014.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Top ten shakeup but Froome avoids trouble

On a stage which finished with a ride over the Col de Joux Plane in the driving rain followed by a tricky descent down into Morzine, the potential there was for all kinds of drama, especially after what we had seen in the rain just twenty-four hours before, but as it was, the mayhem failed to unfold and while the the top ten had a few names drop out and a few new ones come in, the top five remained unchanged as Chris Froome kept his cool, avoided trouble and is now a short procession into Paris away from being crowned a three time winner of the Tour de France.

All the major action was reserved for the battle to win the stage. That is if you discount the anticipation of someone taking a risk on the descent to try and unsettle Froome behind. But up front it was Vincenzo Nibali out looking to take a consolation victory away from a Tour in which he arrived as the Giro d'Italia champion but very much out of form and using the Tour to build his condition ahead of a Gold medal bid in Rio in a few weeks time. He made the last major move on the Joux Plane from a large group of stage hunters, made up of many of the same names we have seen day after day trying to take some glory from this Tour, and it looked to be the winning move by the Shark. That was until the pair of Jon Izagirre and Jarlinson Pantano worked their way back to him in time for the summit.

You may have noticed that up until this point in the Tour that there had been no Italian or Spanish stage winners, a rare sight indeed, and only until yesterday, when Romain Bardet won, were the French also looking for a stage. The globalisation of the peloton had never been clearer. So no shock then to see the Spaniard in Izagirre and the Italian in Nibali trying to put things to rights, with Pantano looking for his second stage of this Tour alone.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Drama hits the Tour as the rain falls, riders fall, the classification implodes, and the French get a win with Bardet moving to 2nd overall

If this was the drama you felt was sorely lacking in this years Tour thus far, then you got it all in spades today. A reminder that the Tour is never over until it reaches Paris, or at least until it gets itself out of the high mountains...especially a mountain range in which the rain decides to descend upon it. It was unfortunate that a lot of the drama came by way of general classification riders crashing, but action packed it was nonetheless and while the rain played a big part, the tactics of Astana to drive the pace all day left me wondering why they had waited until three days to go to turn this kind of race on?

As it was the French got a win. Until today it had been a terrible Tour for the home nation. No winners and nobody seriously contending, or so it seemed. Romain Bardet has quietly gone about his Tour until today, sticking around, marking moves, hanging tight and keeping without touching distance of the podium without really being noticed. Now suddenly the French have a race win and Bardet is up to second overall and from a terrible Tour they are just one disaster day for Chris Froome away from having their man win it!

That may be unlikely but it may not be as unthinkable as it might have been twenty-four hours ago when Froome won the time-trial leaving some to write the Tour off as finished. It was hard not to, but today served to remind us that on days like this anything can happen. Tomorrow is another day of high mountains, tough climbs and dangerous descents and, according to the forecasts, more rain is a certainty.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Froome wins uphill time-trial as battle for podium place grows tighter

Baring a disaster of epic proportions, the battle for the yellow jersey is over. Still, the fight for a place alongside Froome on the podium in Paris has rarely been closer or involved so many riders. In what is becoming a Tour much like 2014 when Vincenzo Nibali ran away with the win and a handful of others fought out for the lower podium spoils, this year we have five men positioned from 2nd to 6th sitting within 1 minute 8 seconds of one another after an uphill time-trial that Froome won and the top six remained unchanged but seen a dramatic tightening of the pack behind the Sky rider. Richie Porte continues his third week surge while the likes of Bauke Mollema and Nairo Quintana are very much on the defensive.

Yesterday I said that after today Chris Froome could be leading the Tour by four minutes. He's not, but he is just eight seconds short of that mark thanks to a mightily impressive ride over the 17km mostly uphill individual time-trial. He timed his effort to perfection, getting stronger as the course went on whereas his rivals slowly faded.

A look at the various time splits gives an idea as to how well Froome measured his effort. At the 6.5km check he trailed the best time of Richie Porte by 23sec, with Porte himself 9sec better off than Dumoulin. By the 10km check it was Dumoulin leading Porte by 9sec with Froome just 1sec further back. 3.5km later at the final check Froome took the lead for the first time, 13sec ahead of Dumoulin with Porte at 22sec. And then on the line, the win for Froome, 21sec ahead of Dumoulin and 33sec ahead of Porte. Another who measured their ride well was Fabio Aru. At each time-check he trailed Porte by 25sec, 14sec and 7sec respectively, and finished on the same time as the Australian.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The waiting game of others pays off for Froome

They waited and they waited and they waited. They waited until the final two kilomtres of the final climb up to the summit at the spectacular Finhaut-Emosson before a serious move was made. By then we already had a stage winner in Ilnur Zakarin, the best of the days large break that had taken so long to form but from which so many common names for such moves in this years Tour finally got away. They waited because they couldn't go before or because they didn't want to risk going before? It was hard to say in the moment, but wait they did, and by the time Richie Porte sprung clear the gains were only ever going to be minimal but what became clear was why they were waiting. Chris Froome must have been delighted.

The pace was high all day and that probably played into it, but the stage was made for an early move. For Astana or Movistar or BMC to throw caution to the wind and try to isolate Froome from as many of his men as they could and not wait until the final climb were the pace might limit them. It's easier to say than to do, and perhaps nobody had the legs to try something like that, the finish perhaps alluded to it. So as it was they waited over two third category climbs, a long valley road and then the first category Col de la Forclaz at 13km and 7.9%, content to sit in the wheels of Sky...and wait.

When they hit the final climb of the day, a brutal 10.4km grind at 8.4% with long sections coming in at over 10%, Astana did move to the front but only to set a tempo. They burned one match after another until suddenly Fabio Aru was on his own, and with it Team Sky slowly retook the front line and continued their pace setting with a thank you very much to Astana for doing some of the heavy lifting.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A quiet rest day is how it should be

How strange it must be for everyone on the Tour to have such tranquility on the rest days? It's been going that way the past few years but more so this year than ever before has there been a distinct lack of gossip and controversy and despite what some suckers for such stuff might tell you, it can only be a good thing and a sign of the times of where the sport is at.

Once upon a time a rest day at the Tour couldn't come or go without a scandal, and usually a doping scandal at that. A top rider testing positive; a collection of riders being caught. The press would scramble, rumours would swirl and the fallout with threaten to overshadow what was going on in the race itself.

In more recent years with the number of actual positive tests going down the scandal pages (or twitter accounts as it has morphed into) have been filled with speculation, accusation and innuendo. Whomever happens to be wearing the yellow jersey at the time of either rest day -- and more so the second rest day because that is often the man in yellow who might well keep it until Paris -- is hit with a barrage of questions about his stance on doping and whether he himself might be doping.