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Ed’s Le TOUR’19: Rest Day Rant #1 in Albi!

Tour Rest Day No.1: Ten days down and it’s the 2019 Tour de France first rest day. Ed is in a ‘virtual’ cafe in the historical town of Albi with a café au lait avec brandy and this morning’s copy of L’Equipe. Time to look back over what has been a very good first week in the ‘Grande Boucle’. Ten different stage winners and four wearers of the yellow jersey, Julian Alaphilippe twice. A very good Tour so far.

Ed’s postcard from Albi

Stage One:
I’m a prologue guy, I love big gear boulevard blasts for the specialists; but the Belgies aren’t crazy about chronos – despite the fact that Merckx was one of the greatest time testers in history – and Stage One was a road stage.

No ‘Cav’ at the Tour

But before the race even began, we had the ‘missing missile’ controversy; purely on results there’s no way Mark Cavendish should have been riding – third on a stage of the Tour of Turkey back in April is hardly a ringing endorsement – but Rolf Aldag – who knows a wee bit about bike racing – reckoned Cav had good legs and should have started. And I guess that even if he didn’t win he’d still set shutters clicking bringing much needed publicity to a team which badly needs it. Still, it gave guys like me something to talk about. . .

Teunissen started the Tour well for Jumbo-Visma

Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma and The Netherlands) is another of these X guys causing problems for the ‘roadies’, Wout Van Aert, Mathieu Van Der Poel and now this guy – World u23 ‘cross champion in Louisville in 2013. And a year later he won both the u23 Paris-Roubaix and Paris-Tours; quality lad. And as we said in the preview; ‘every stage is potentially key,’ ask Dylan Groenewegen, left sitting on the tar as the moment he dreamed of for months approached then vanished in a second.

Not so for Groenewegen

Bad news too for me and my Danish amigo, Jakob as Tour Pez Fave, Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang hit the tar too – a novice’s mistake, riding too far back in the peloton when he should have been at the head of affairs. Take a look at where Geraint Thomas positions himself. . .

Bad start for Ed Tour pick – Jakob Fuglsang

Stage Two:
Loved by big strong ‘bears’ and hated by bird-like climbers. A deceptive course, more technical than it looked but definitely one for the strong men. Those Jumbo boys wanted to keep that jersey so bad – 20 seconds is a yawning gap at this level where the Worlds TTT can be won by a tick or two of the second hand. The fact that 21 seconds covered the next nine teams says much about the quality of the ride, with German ‘chrono animal’ Tony Martin and super talent WVA backing a ‘jaune inspired’ Teunissen – this was a beautiful ride. And a final word, on gearing – ‘when I were a lad’ a BIG gear for a chrono was 56 x 13; today the serious guys were all on 58 x 11.

Stage Three:
Teunissen’s monster spells in the Brussels TTT meant that when he needed to go deep on the climbs late on Monday’s stage, the fuel warning light came on. The climbs one encounters in the Four Days of Dunkerque and ZLM Tour – both of which Teunissen won – don’t compare to the succession of jaggie mini-montagnes around Reims – pronounced by the locals as Rhuuumm! – and it was that tiny tornado Julian Alaphilippe who zipped off to take the stage and the sport’s most famous maillot. Deceuninck are making hay while the sun shine, the team isn’t designed for the ‘long game’ into that horrible last week but one does wonder that if Alaphilippe was to be less profligate with his efforts, how far could he go in the GC?

Julian Alaphilippe – Looking good

Stage Four:
Elia Viviani is 30 years-old; after his move to Cofidis for 2020 he has perhaps one more lucrative transfer after that before he hangs up his wheels. And the ‘rest of your life’ is a long time when you don’t have a big bucks contract. Michael Mørkøv and Max Richeze dropped their man off to perfection to take this one – but Max goes to UAE and Michael stays with Patrick Lefevere. Who’s going to drop Elia off at Cofidis, next year?

Only one 2019 Tour stage win for Elia so far

Viviani wanted to stay at Deceuninck but also wanted to defend his Rio gold medal; however, Patrick Lefevere isn’t interested in Olympic Omnium medals – neither are the Belgian Media and six weeks of track preparation doesn’t make any headlines for the team sponsors. And besides, Monsieur Lefevere has Jakobsen, Hodeg and Bennett to win sprints for him in 2020. . .

Stage Five:
Second, fifth, fourth and today, FIRST. Peter Sagan’s stats for the first four road stages – ‘nuff said. Sagan is so omnipresent that perhaps we take him for granted but this was his twelfth Tour de France stage; he’s won 17 stages in both the Tours of California and Switzerland, seven stages in Tirreno-Adriatico, four stages in the Vuelta, three World Championships, three Gent-Wevelgems, a Tour of Flanders and a Paris-Roubaix – the man still hasn’t turned 30 years-of-age.

The green giant is back

For any other rider a Tour Down Under stage, fourth on the Via Roma, 11e in de Ronde, fifth on the Roubaix velodrome, a stage in California and a stage in Suisse would constitute a marvellous 2019 spring campaign. But for Peter; “he’s on the way down”, and “he’s made too much money, lost his ambition,” or “his mind’s messed up with separating from his wife”, have all been doing the rounds. The fact is that the man is brilliant and when he eventually calls time on a career which will leave behind a string of titles, starting with the Slovak Junior National Cyclo Cross Championship in 2007, this will be a much, much poorer sport.

Stage Six:
Word is that you can see the finish line in Paris from the top of La Planche de Belles Filles with the three man who have won here since 2012 all going on to win the overall title on the Champs Elysees. With the greatest of respect to Dylan Teuns I don’t see that sequence continuing. You saw Bardet ‘popping’ as well as I did and all of the Faves being more or less where one would expect over that gravel finish, so let’s look at how the climb got it’s name. . .

The climb of La Planche des Belles Filles

According to the locals, the story goes back to the Thirty Year War (1618-1648) when the lower part of the mountain was occupied by a band of Swedish mercenaries. Their leader fell in love with one of the local girls and to avoid being raped she and other young women took refuge up on the mountain. But the leader of the mercenaries was unable to control his troops and when the worst came to the worst a group of young ladies committed suicide in the lake rather than lose their honour.

Statue to the belles filles

They killed themselves by jumping into the lake from a ‘planche’ (plank) on the banks.
In this version the mercenary commander was overcome with grief. In the depth of his despair he carved the names of the girls concerned into a plank and placed it beside the lake as a memorial plaque. You chose. . .

Dylan Teuns probably won’t win the 2019 Tour de France

Stage Seven:
He’s back. His encounter with the tar on Stage One out of his system, Groenewegen duly set the record straight about who’s the fastest Dude on the block. Albeit Viviani had a slow puncture out of the last bend. . .

At last – The win for Groenewegen – Another for Jumbo-Visma

Sagan’s record is now: 2nd:5th:4th:1st:3rd today, on the stages where a group finished; he’s now on 171 points to Colbrelli’s 121 and Viviani’s 117. It was a ‘Sprinter stage’, not much else to say; but seven climbs tomorrow – not the day for a ‘jour sans.’.

Stage Eight:
You’ll be well aware by now of the poker playing skills and tenacity of Thomas De Gendt; and also the sheer brilliance and demonic descending of Julian Alaphilippe so let’s give them both a quick ‘CHAPEAU!’ – et tu, Monsieur Pinot.

Here come the ‘buts’ – if EF Education First are serious about a podium for ‘Rigo’ what was today about? Many, many matches were ignited for zero reward; I was puzzled the other day when I saw Simon Clark ‘up the road’ in the break and today I watched as the team went deep to try to set things up for Mike Woods – and came away with zilch. As Sky DS, Dario Cioni was fond of telling me; ‘a Grand Tour is won in the last week’.

At the Tour with Rigo

I fear Rigo’s last week match box will contain only those used ones that some idiot always puts back in the box letting you think there are more good ones in there than there actually are.
Astana, I’ve just mailed my Danish amigo and hard core Fuglsang Fan, Jakob to ask him about the Kazakh team’s tactics. If you want to win the Tour your team rides for ONE leader, ask Miguel Indurain, Christopher Froome and yes, Lance Armstrong. Were they riding for Fuglsang or Lutsenko and what was the objective behind all those watts burned?

Are Ineos saving their strength?

Now, let’s talk Ineos, the pitfalls of riding tight team formation were revealed when Mike Woods fell on a right hander taking down Geraint Thomas and two of his team mates. Here’s the second ‘but’ have you seen an Ineos rider on the front, apart from the TTT? Me neither. It’s a long way to Paris. . .


Stage Nine:
If you want ‘death racing’ every day best dig out those ‘Lance’s Seven Tours’ from the loft and watch them. The reality in these days of fridges full of water and electrolyte drinks is that after a day like yesterday, it was always going to play out in the way it did; a break of ‘non-danger men’ gets clear, ‘The Bigs’ let it go and apart from the galley slaves up the road it’s an easy day all round. No Ineos in the break – naturally – but no Astana either, maybe they’re figuring this ‘how to win le Tour’ thing out?

A win for South Africa

Simon Clark there though, if EF are serious about ‘Rigo’ those wasted Aussie watts will be mourned in the last week. Daryl Impey; now there’s a man who’s paid his dues – via races in Tunisia, Egypt, Qinghai Lakes and Mauritius – progressing to be a major part of the Mitchelton-Scott and making a great season, where he’s won the Tour down Under and his nation’s road and time trial national championships, even better. Chapeau!

And tomorrow I get the day off, with it being a rest day and all. . . What’s that, ‘the rest day is Tuesday?’ Ah!

Marcel Kittel meets up with some old chums on the rest day – No, that’s tomorrow

Stage 10:
Like we keep saying, just about any stage can be ‘pivotal’ depending on how it’s ridden, on paper this looked like a sprinters’ stage or maybe one for the baroudeurs? In the event it did end up a sprinters’ stage but with that man WVA making us journos risk running out of superlatives as he beat two of the fastest men on the planet – Caleb Ewan and Elia Viviani to give the Dutch team their fourth success of the race. And today, we DID see Ineos, when it mattered.

As was always the way with the strong teams – Raleigh, ONCE, Rabobank, HTC they know exactly how to spread fear and alarm when them cross winds blow. Just as Thibaut Pinot, Jakob Fuglsang, Rigo Uran and Richie Porte. An excellent first half of la Grand Boucle, let’s hope the second half is as good. . .

Mike Teunissen – Yet another cross rider

2019 Tour de France – Stages Still to Come:
Stage 11: Wednesday, July 17 Albi – Toulouse 167km
Stage 12: Thursday, July 18 Toulouse – Bagnères-de-Bigorre 202km
Stage 13: Friday, July 19 Pau – Pau 27km (ITT)
Stage 14: Saturday, July 20 Tarbes – Tourmalet 117km
Stage 15: Sunday, July 21 Limoux – Foix 185km
Rest Day: Monday, July 22 Nîmes
Stage 16: Tuesday, July 23 Nîmes – Nîmes 177km
Stage 17: Wednesday, July 24 Pont du Gard – Gap 206km
Stage 18: Thursday, July 25 Embrun – Valloire 207km
Stage 19: Friday, July 26 Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne – Tignes 123km
Stage 20: Saturday, July 27 Albertville – Val Thorens 131km
Stage 21: Sunday, July 28 Rambouillet – Paris (Champs-Élysées) 127km.

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.

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