Ed’s Le TOUR’19: Final Rant from Paris!
Final Tour Rant: The sun has set on the Champs Élysées for another year – Yes, it’s Monday Tour cold turkey time! Ed is in his virtual Paris Boulevard café with this morning with L’Équipe next to his café au lait and soberano, to give us his run-down on the final week’s action. The end of the 2019 Tour road.
Ed’s postcard from Paris – Happy 30th birthday to La Pyramide du Louvre
Michael and Max dropped him off perfectly – but Elia just didn’t have the legs. Ewan did, coming from way back to take his second stage – three stages for Lotto-Soudal, they did the right thing letting Greipel go – and there’s still the Champs Élysées, aka ‘The Sprinters World Championship’ to come.
Stage 16 last K
But what about Sagan – 2-5-4-1-3-5-5-4-4 on road stages so far; barring disaster that seventh maillot vert looks safe. Fuglsang’s exit; I had him down as joint favourite with Bernal before the start but the truth is that he’s never looked comfortable. That first stage crash was a portent. And today’s crash was a good excuse to call it a day; you could see the man’s heart wasn’t in it.
All over for Fuglsang
Stage wins in the Alps are all that remain for the Kazakh team – but they seem unlikely given the Alps will be a GC battleground.
What now in the Tour for Astana?
What was Asgreen up to? He may have ‘fallen’ into the break but those watts he wasted chasing Trentin should have been saved for the forthcoming three savage days in the Alps when Alaphilippe will need all the help he can get.
What was Asgreen doing in the break?
It would have been nice to see a Cofidis win for Perichon, for all their invisibility in the Tour this year they have supported the sport for a long time, since 1996; Monsieur Migraine the man with the cheque book must have deep pockets and huge love for the sport given the scandals and fallow years which the team has gone through. They’ve been shopping for 2020 already with Elia Viviani coming aboard – can you think of many riders who’ve gone better after they left Patrick Lefevere? Me neither.
Viviani can only watch
Cofidis are not alone in having a dismal Tour thus far. It looks like GVA has won his last big one and if it wasn’t for the orange kit then CCC would be invisible.
Greg kept trying
As for Dimension Data, if I was them I’d have brought Cav – it’s unlikely he could best Ewan and Groenewegen but the Manxman would set the shutters clicking and get column inches irrespective.
Their Tour has been a non-event thus far with little prospect of improvement – and Cav will surely go, given his Tour snub. And in that event the team will almost certainly fold.
Lars Bak in the stage 16 break
AG2R-La Mondiale will be hoping that Bardet can salvage something in the three Alpine days; in fairness to him he’s said that he’s ‘ashamed’ of how he’s ridden – it takes a man to say that about himself.
Bardet was popular with the fans
No complaints from Bora-Hansgrohe, not with the irrepressible Sagan and revelation that is Buchmann.
Emanuel Buchmann was good with help from Muehlberger
Deceuninck – Quick-Step will be delirious about how their Tour is going as will Lotto Soudal with their three stage wins and Jumbo-Visma on four. Mitchelton-Scott’s GC dream is in ruins but with four stage wins they can’t be despondent.
Two stages for Simon Yates and one for Trentin and Impey – Not bad
Groupama-FDJ can’t be unhappy as Monsieur Pinot makes those headlines but Arkea, EF, Katusha, Sunweb (what’s become of Michael Matthews?), Total Direct Energie and UAE Team Emirates have all hugely under-achieved. Teuns saved Bahrain-Merida’s Tour on la Planche des Belle Filles as did Ciccone with his two days ‘en jaune’ for Trek-Segafredo. But what about Wanty-Gobert; one of the lowest budgets, in just about every break and two men in the top 20 – respect.
Always a Wanty man off the front
Like it or not, it’s not the 70’s anymore and 21st Century bike racing IS decaffeinated; it’s really a ‘storm in a teacup’ and hardly deserves a mention – the ‘Rowe and Martin handbags at dawn’ affair involves experienced riders who should know the score and not muck about the way they did in front of TV cameras which broadcast to millions That said, what about Lopez laying into the fan who knocked him off in the Giro and not a word said? There’s definitely a lack of consistency in the commissar judgements. But that was quickly forgotten as the circus rolled out of town.
Happens every day
Quintana wins but his team’s tactics are no less than baffling – but the wee chap has to go through the motions of thanking them at the post-race interview. ‘They were chasing you, Dude!’
Last win by Quintana for Movistar?
Ineos for all their money, tech and Tour wins also seem not to be sure about how to play it; Bernal is told to go by Thomas, makes gains then Thomas counters, dragging the rest and negating a chunk of Bernal’s advantage. Curious. Or is it? Thomas won this race last year and wants to win again – perhaps it’s karma, Geraint? Last year Froome wouldn’t let the dream go until way into the last week. . .
Bernal made his move on stage 18
Alaphilippe? The best thing to happen to the Tour since Fignon; win or lose he’s the man of the race with his riding largely responsible for a surge in TV viewing figures. Everyone is so used to the ‘win the time trial then defend’ template that this race is a breath of fresh air. And for a ‘Classics/sprinters’ team his boys aren’t doing too bad.
Alaphilippe saved the yellow jersey with his descent
Consolation comes with spots on for Bardet and if he carries that through Friday and Saturday he’s saved AG2R’s Tour. Two days to go – can the wee fella do it?
Stage 18 – Bardet took the KOM from Wellens
In short ‘probably not.’ But don’t worry, you’re not going to get a; ‘they’d just have raced through that storm back in the 70’s!’ from me, HOWEVER. Sad old me checked the weather forecast for the area; “Rain and a thunderstorm from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon can lead to flooding. . .” That took all of one minute to ‘Google’.
The mudslide by Tim Harris
A storm – albeit brief – of that intensity may ‘just appear’ to us down there on terra firma but the forecasters know it’s coming, witness the forecast. That being the case shouldn’t there have been a ‘Plan B’ for the stage, finishing it in the valley if needs be? It’s very difficult to say what would have happened had the rain, sleet and snow not materialised – albeit there are many clairvoyants out there on social media who can tell you EXACTLY what would have happened – but there’s no doubt that the way it ended was an anti-climax of massive proportions.
As my amigo Dave said; ‘I feel flat as hell after it ended that way’ and no doubt that feeling is present in all who witnessed the sorry proceedings. If Alaphilippe hadn’t made up time on the descent and Bernal had put more time into him on the climb to the finish then ‘fair enough.’ But this way with so many question marks is not satisfactory; this Tour, Alaphilippe and the fans deserve better. It took hours for the new Bernal headed official GC to appear so obviously there was debate back at ‘ASO Central’ about what to do.
What do do?
I’m a Deceuninck – Quick-Step fan, so perhaps folks would say that; ‘you’re only upset because Alaphilippe lost the jersey,’ but it’s not that, it’s just such a pity that such a terrific Tour should be coming to an end in such a confusing, shambolic way. And to those who say that it was a French move to avoid Alaphilippe slipping off the podium; have they considered that ASO would have been perfectly within their rights to void the stage, the riders not having completed the parcours – in which case Alaphilippe would still be in yellow?
The last Alaphippe yellow jersey
Pinot; only the most heartless wouldn’t feel for the man, ‘merci Thibaut’ you and Julian have given us the best Tour in years.
The dream is over for Pinot
Those of a ‘cheese eating surrender monkeys’ disposition would be please that the little fellow from Saint-Armand-Montrand finally cracked; but what a race he rode: two stage wins, 14 days in yellow, fifth on GC and ‘man of the race,’ – not a bad old three weeks work. CHAPEAU! Julian.
Alaphilippe – Super Combatif
And Vincenzo proved there’s life in the old selachimorph [that’s ‘shark’ to you, mon ami] yet with a fine win – and that’s Bahrain-Merida nabbed two of the toughest stages of the race. They can’t be unhappy with that.
Nice win for ‘The shark’
Despite ‘popping’ today, Bardet hung on to the KoM – too many dots on that helmet, dude! – to save le Tour for AG2R-La Mondiale. Bernal came second in that competition to make it two out of the four jerseys – white and yellow – and second in another.
The best bits of Sagan
Sagan cannot now be beaten for green with 309 points – and probably more tomorrow – to Viviani’s 224 points. ‘Respect’ to Elia for doing his bit for Julian on the cols, today he lasted longer than Van Baarle and Kwiatkowski before the inevitable happened. Perhaps we expected a Kruijswijk attack to shoot for second on GC after his team mate and ‘man of the match’ Laurens De Plus burned those watts like there was no tomorrow to make the final selection on Val Thorens; a climb of some 20 miles which doesn’t bear thinking about if you’re as heavy as I am. But what one forgets is that everyone is on their knees and just to keep pace in the lead group at the top of a climb like that they’re all teetering on ‘rouge’.
Alaphilippe going into the red
Some gossip to close: Dumoulin to Jumbo-Visma?
Dumoulin, Kruijswijk and Roglic v. Bernal, Carapaz, Froome and Thomas in 2020 ?
But don’t forget Sivakov and Sosa for Ineos. . .
‘Money makes the world go round,’ and on that very subject: Who’s happier than Egan Bernal? That would be Gianni Savio, ‘Jack The Lad’ manager of Androni Giocattoli Sidermec who spotted Bernal a year or two ago, signed him for his team and then when the Colombian’s talent caught the eye of the WorldTour teams allowed him to transfer to Team Sky. For a fee, of course.
A clause which directs a tidy sum to Gianni if young Bernal subsequently wins the Tour de France – that’ll be today, then?
Egan has come a long way since his MTB days
They didn’t always promenade the last stage, you know? Pedro Delgado mugged Robert Millar for second place in the King of the Mountains on the last stage, back in the 80’s.
Champagne all round
Personally, I can’t be bothered with all the ‘champagne antics’ until the Champs – but then I’ve never ridden the Tour de France. . .
I have however ridden the finishing circuit – a few years back, Martin and I borrowed nice Felts and rode a couple of laps before the city was locked down for Stage 21. The Champs is steeper than it looks, the Place de la Concorde is enormous – 21 acres to be exact and those cobbles are much bumpier than they look on TV. It was a great experience with the sun peeping up, the night clubs chucking out, drunks stumbling home and cops everywhere – but with the faithful already defending their spots by the finish straight barriers.
Dave and I reckoned Sagan or Kristoff today; we reckoned Ewan was too light for all those bumpy cobbles – wrong again. We knew it wouldn’t be Viviani, he’s done way to much work in the mountains these last few days, compromising his sprint no doubt but gaining huge respect.
The final K
Steel yourself; Monday is gonna be tough – ‘Cold turkey’ is never fun. Still, the Tour de Wallonie runs ‘til Wednesday and it’s not that long ‘til the Vuelta. . .
The Best of 2019
Congratulations to Egan Bernal, Peter Sagan, Roman Bardet and everyone who finished a brutal Grande Boucle; but CHAPEAU! to Messrs. Julian Alaphilippe and Thibaut Pinot – it was nice to dream. . .
The jersey winners
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,700 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.