Tour de France Rest Day Rant #1: Instead of being ‘roadside’ in ‘La Belle France’ Ed Hood has been ‘TVside’ in sunny Scotland. Just because he’s not at the Tour doesn’t detract from his insider view from years of Tour watching. Here is his first ‘Rest Day Rant’ covering the stages 1 to 9.
All the way to Paris in yellow?
As a ‘dinosaur’ I’m guilty of harping back to the 70’s – Eddy, Roger, Felice, Luis – when ‘men were men.’ But when you see those Stage One crashes it reminds one that pro cycling is still not a sport for the faint of heart – I can’t help but shout out loud with horror when I see so many riders go down like that. Narrow roads, gnarly surfaces, high speeds, huge peloton, first day nerves are all bad enough but what WAS that idiot woman thinking with that damn sign?
Dinosaur though I may be, I can’t buy into the ‘retro’ thing, L’Eroica isn’t for me and the Alpecin, Mercier ‘throwback’ jersey isn’t for me either – but here I am writing about it, so ‘job done’ by the marketing guys. But then I never was a big customer for shampoo manufacturers.
Julian Alaphilippe – please, please, not ‘Loulou’ which is wearing on for being as bad as ‘Dudu’ or ‘Pinpin’ – the man is ‘special’ for sure. A pure ‘old school’ attacking rider, no cold calculation, just heart on his sleeve, ‘damn the torpedoes’ bike racing as God intended. It was David Millar who once said to me that; ‘all very the best guys are a little bit crazy,’ and Iljo Keisse’s dad, Ronie Keisse told Dave and I during an interview that all the best guys on Deceuninck – Alaphilippe included – were a little crazy.
The perfect attack from Alaphilippe
If ‘crazy’ produces finales like yesterday then can we have some more please? Mur de Bretagne tomorrow – more fireworks for sure. . .
Stage 1 highlights:
I’m a prologue man myself, big ‘Boulevard Blasters’ on huge gears, the ‘tech,’ the speed, the mounting tension as the late seeds roll off the ramp and immediate clues as to who’s ‘on it’ and who’s not. But I have to admit that ASO’s choice of parcours for Stage One and Two has been a spectacular success – unless you were a rider sampling Bretagne tarmac, that is.
Those Bretagne roads
If Stage One was designed for Alaphilippe then that’s the way it’s always been, the Tour was TT-ed to the max in the days of ‘Maitre Jacques’ and ‘Le Blaireau.’ And they couldn’t have wished for a better opera house than the Mur with centre stage Tenor, Mathieu the star. He tamed the first ascent of the Mur, then for an encore, went and did it again. Stunning – I’d love to see his power files for the day.
But back to my original point that the prologue provides an early shuffling of the pack. In overall way of things Mathieu’s ride is what back between September 1939 and May 1940 was referred to as ‘Phoney War’ – Mur de Bretagne is a tough climb but le Ventoux is a killer climb. Rest in peace Tom Simpson.
RIP Major Simpson
Stage Two saw that first shuffling of the cards; behind the stunning victor, Team Slovenia was right there, the bookies two top faves in second and third spots. Stage One wasn’t good for INEOS with Porte and Geoghegan Hart both losing time; after Stage Two the Tasmanian is at 3:08 and the 2020 Giro winner at 9:31. So we can safely scratch two of the points from the much discussed INEOS ‘four pronged attack’.
No hard feeling from the World champion
Of the other two, Geraint Thomas dropped 10 places on Stage Two and is now close on half-a-minute back on the Slovenians. Ecuador’s finest, Richard Carapaz ceded some 10 seconds less to the men from Slovenia than the Welshman and whilst it’s early days, Sir David might just be thinking that empanadas are spicier than Welsh cake. . . The sprinters should have their say on Stage Three – Cav?
Stage 2 highlights:
“It’s not just the route, it’s not just the organisers’ fault, it’s also the riders and our international authorities which do not run the sport and who do not pay attention to what former riders have to say. But we have to do something or otherwise there will end up being deaths. This can’t go on. It’s no longer bike racing.” The words of Monsieur Marc Madiot, manager of Groupama FDJ and a man who knows a wee but about bike racing as former French Champion, double Paris-Roubaix winner and Tour de France stage winner.
Marc Madiot – Not happy
To run the race on wide straight Route Nationals wouldn’t be the answer, it would make for a boring, visually uninspiring race but there must be a compromise, roads which are technical to an extent but not what we’d call in Scotland; ‘wee farm back roads’ in Brittany which are what’s contributing to the mayhem. If you ridden a bike in the region then you’ll know how technically demanding those lanes are and how gnarly the surfaces can be.
But then there’s the bikes; rigid frames, unforgiving wheels, twitchy, short wheelbase, rocket ship machines built with comfort and stability well down the list, despite what the manufacturers say. Many of the pros look ‘perched on’ rather than ‘part of’ their machines. Then there’s the dreaded, race radios – the damn whole peloton can’t all; ‘Move up!’
I just hope that no ‘rider protests’ are in the offing.
When is Thomas’ next crash?
And the INEOS four ‘pronger’ is now down to just one sharp point with Geraint Thomas – however tough he is – no longer 100% after that nasty crash. But as my buddy, Harry Tweed says; “Thomas and Porte – crash magnets. . .”
Roglič – The next crash magnet
Primoz Roglič too is a man prone to bite the dust but that’s perhaps not so much of a surprise with his coming late to the sport and not really serving an apprenticeship? And whilst it’s very sad to see any rider injured and out of the race, when Caleb disrespected the maglia ciclamino in the Giro by climbing off with that beautiful garment on his back, I said of his action in my ‘rest day rant’ at the time – ‘Karma is funny old thing, Caleb.’ Final word – is it a coincidence that Merlier and VdP who navigated the mayhem of the finale with aplomb are both men who have spent their winters in the mud and really know how to handle a bike? Another ‘Sprint Fest’ for Stage Four – or should that be ‘Chute Fest?’
Stage 3 highlights:
It’s not often I’m lost for words about cycling but today I am. I guess there are really only two words relevant: ‘Deceuninck’ and ‘Quick-Step.’
The win for Cavendish
Cav won the stage – but the whole team worked and believed. Perhaps it’s wrong to pick out names, Deceuninck – Quick-Step is not about individual names, to use the cliché; ‘there’s no letter ‘I’ in the word team.’ But tireless Tim Declerq, ice cool Michael Mørkøv, world champion and green jersey Julian Alaphilippe – and most of all the Maestro, Patrick Lefevere all have to be given a special mention.
The man behind so many wins
Lefevere is a West Flandrian, his hand shake is his bond, there’s no need for screeds of paper; if Lefevere shakes your hand then the deal is done and cast in stone. He has the instincts that only the great managers in sport have – the Brian Cloughs, Peter Posts, Alex Fergusons, Vince Lombardis – are gifted with. I’ll not name names but look at the riders who leave for greener pastures and do – NADA. But look too at Philippe Gilbert and now, Mark Cavendish – resurrected, born again, brilliant.
Beautiful, brilliant and confirmation that ours is ‘King of Sports’
I ‘fell on my sword’ today, I didn’t think Cav could do it – he proved me wrong and I’m delighted he did so. Beautiful, brilliant and confirmation that ours is ‘King of Sports.’ Thank you, Mark Cavendish – but let’s not forget Brent Van Moer – respect sir, you played a wonderful supporting part in a beautiful finale.
Stage 4 highlights:
At the risk of pursuing a degree in what John Cleese classified as; ‘Stating the Bleeding Obvious,’ let’s begin with what we already knew, with a few ‘BUTS’ thrown in:
Again we see that beautiful jersey giving wings to a man not normally noted for his prowess against the watches.
The yellow jersey had its effect
‘Obvious’ statements made, other names to conjure with:
Vingegaard – Man of the future
This year the Dane has confirmed – a stage in the UAE Tour, two stages and the GC in Coppi e Bartali, second on GC in the Basque Country, ‘right there’ on Stages One and Two in this Tour and now beating the likes of Van Aert and Asgreen in the chrono.
If Primoz should stumble. . .
TT win for Pogačar
Stage Five was ‘le course de la vérité’ for sure; but the TT irons are back in the trucks and Stage Six is for the men who hate chronos – and mountains. . .
Stage 5 highlights:
I could be effusive and scrape the side of the superlatives jar about Cav but no, let’s be Vik – PEZ’s champion ‘nae sayer’ and the man who keeps our feet on the ground for this one. ‘Ewan’s not there’ – Cav can only beat who’s there, Vik and the way he’s going it’s arguable that the little Aussie would have his work cut out, Cav’s speed for the last 500 metres was 70.5 kph.
And another stage win for ‘Cav’
‘Anyway, Groenewegen is faster that any of them’ – see above. ‘Bouhanni is finishing every bit as quick as Cav’ – it looks that way but it’s hardly Cav’s fault that Deceuninck are lead-out maestros and Arkea Samsic ain’t. ‘Alpecin-Fenix are just as well organised, I mean, even the maillot jaune is involved’ – that’s true but it has to be explained to them that you’re racing against the other teams, not, each other. . .
‘Bennett’s not there so who else is Cav beating anyway?’ – Philipsen, who won the Scheldeprijs this year, Merlier with a Giro and a Tour stage under his belt already this year, Sagan – no explanations needed, Démare with eight UCi wins this year so far, Bol with a Paris-Nice stage to his credit this year, Van Aert with Gent-Wevelgem, the Amstel and Belgian Nationals to his name this season – I could go on, Colbrelli, Pedersen, Coquard. . .
All happy at Deceuninck – Quick-Step
‘The race is a week too long anyway, folk start to lose interest in it after the first week’ – yes Vik, when you land that top job at the UCi you can campaign to shorten it. Now that Vik is back in that quiet, dark room; congratulations to Mark Cavendish for enlivening an already excellent 2021 Tour de France – or should that be Tour de Ceuninck?
Stage 6 highlights:
Who’s writing this script? It’s all over the place. Cav comes back from the dead; Pogačar beats the specialists at their own game in the TT; three of the bookies top faves are at 5:19, 5:29 and 9:11 and we’re not even at the first rest day.
The yellow jersey was in the break
Then the maillot jaune goes in the break and strengthens his grip on the lead. Those ASO boys won’t be ordering ‘vin de la maison’ with their dinners after the hugely media friendly stages we’ve been witnessing. But this day was about Slovenia, Matej Mohoric [Bahrain Victorious] took the biggest win of his senior career – remember that the man was a u23 World Champion – whilst Primoz Roglič [Jumbo Visma] lost a monstrous nine minutes on MvdP; no surprise, sometimes it takes a couple of days for the shock of a bad crash to really kick home.
A storming ride from Matej Mohoric
But what of ‘the other’ Slovenian? Tadej Pogačar [UAE-Team Emirates] missed the break but still sits in fifth spot overall; of those ahead of him on GC his only fear will be of Wout Van Aert – MvdP, Kasper Asgreen and stage winner, Mohoric are not, ‘men of the high mountains.’
Van Aert looked good
But last year we saw WVA ‘right there’ in the mountains ‘in service’ to Roglič. Roglič’s collapse today means he bears no such responsibilities and has men like Tony Martin, Jonas Vingegaard, Sep Kuss, Robert Gesink and Steven Kruijswijk at his behest – a podium is possible. But that said, the strong Vingegaard card could be the one that Jumbo Visma play with WVA as the ‘decoy?’ Tomorrow the picture will become clearer – five cols, three of them first category but with a downhill finish so it won’t necessarily be a ‘pure’ climber who wins. Ala?
Stage 7 highlights:
What’s that you say; ‘you can see Paris from the top of the Colombiere?’ Yeah Dude, it’s looking that way. Given the way Tadej Pogačar tackled the chrono the other day, today’s dazzling ride came as no surprise. As we alluded to yesterday, MvdP, Asgreen and Mohoric have all vanished from the leader board with only WVA ‘hanging tough’ in second place – albeit @ 1:48 – his first major test comes tomorrow with the race’s first mountain top finish at Tignes. If he gets a pass mark then a podium is well possible – and Jumbo Visma have quality Dane, Jonas Vingegaard in fifth place @ 5:00 on Pogačar should Wout stumble.
Top place for Vingegaard, maybe not Lutsenko
Five minutes is a huge deficit before week one is out but barring act of God the rest know they’re racing for second and third places. Lutsenko lies third @ 4:38 and whilst he’s quality – second to Porte in the Dauphine, this year – his best Grand Tour finish out of eight starts is 19th in the 2019 Tour. Three weeks seems too long for him.
Rigo Uran – Quiet but effective
The man in fourth place, 14 seconds ahead of Vingegaard, Colombia’s favourite, Rigo Uran is a definite contender for the podium – that TT win and second on GC to Carapaz in Suisse tells us much about his condition.
Carapaz – Now the INEOS one prong
On the subject of said Senor Carapaz, he lies sixth just one second behind the Dane and is the ‘one pronged’ INEOS assault on the GC with no quandaries about who’s team leader with Thomas now at 36 minutes. For us, the podium will come from the names above, less Lutsenko – but it would be marvellous to see a French rider on the podium.
Stage winner Mohoric
After the chrono I asked if this is the year Pierre Latour comes good? That’s a, ‘No !’ But Groupama FDJ hope David Gaudu moved up into the top 10 today, we can but hope. . .
Stage 8 highlights:
Well, I wasn’t so far wrong, Rigo, Carapaz and Vingegaard have a good day, as WVA fails his exam and the GC gels – but where did that pesky Aussie come from?
A nice job by the AG2R man with tonight, tomorrow and Tuesday morning for the soigneurs to work their recovery magic on him. A Tour stage win means a lot to a French team, preferably with a Frenchman but Hey! They’ll take one from a Western Australian just fine. . .
Pogačar was not going to let the yellow jersey go
A good day for Ben, AG2R and Pogačar who defended the jersey; ‘because he likes to wear it.’ And not a bad old day for the host nation with AG2R’s win, Martin riding into the top 10 on GC and Gaudu remaining in the top 10 on GC. But not such a good day for Wout Poels, who lost his hard won maillot a pois to Quintana; and for WVA who tumbled from second to 20th on GC. But WVA’s head will be in Tokyo now.
It was a real fight for Cavendish
And taking a peek at the nether regions of the stage times, Cav, Michael Mørkøv and Tim Declerq had just 1:31 to spare on the time cut whilst Van Avermaet and Campenaerts edged inside by five seconds but Démare – who’s had a dreadful race – and Coquard are both heading home. There’s no sentiment, salutes or joy at that end of the classement. Mustn’t grumble though, I get Monday off.
Stage 9 highlights:
Tour de France Overall After Stage 9:
1. Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates in 34:11:10
2. Ben O’Connor (Aus) AG2R Citroën at 2:01
3. Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education-Nippo at 5:18
4. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma at 5:32
5. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) INEOS Grenadiers at 5:33
6. Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar at 5:47
7. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) BORA-hansgrohe at 5:58
8. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech at 6:12
9. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis at 7:02
10. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ at 7:22
11. Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious at 8:38
12. Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 11:38
13. Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroën at 11:54
14. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious at 20:54
15. Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) BikeExchange at 22:22
16. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkea-Samsic at 24:25
17. Franck Bonnamour (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM at 25:07
18. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain Victorious at 25:59
19. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux at 26:40
20. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma at 27:23
21. Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) INEOS Grenadiers at 32:23
22. Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Qhubeka-NextHash at 32:51
23. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 36:00
24. Ion Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech at 36:06
25. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Education-Nippo at 36:57.
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