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La Planche des Belles Filles - France - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Julian Alaphilippe (France / Team Deceuninck - Quick Step) - Thibaut Pinot (France / Team Groupama FDJ) pictured during the 106th Tour de France (2.UWT) - stage 6 from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles (160.5KM) - photo Gregory van Gansen/Cor Vos © 2019

Ed’s Le TOUR’19: Rest Day Rant #2 in Nîmes!

Tour Rest Day No.2: Can it be a full week since the last rest day? So much has happened and Ed Hood has his finger on the pulse of the 2019 Tour de France. Sat in his virtual cafe in Nîmes, the PEZ ‘fount of all knowledge’ gives us his slant on the Pyrenean action and ‘what next?’

You can see Ed’s ‘First Rest Day Rant’ HERE.

Ed’s postcard from Nîmes

Stage 11:
‘Caleb’ in Hebrew means ‘Dog’ and the little Australian terrier certainly had his day, beating the fastest canine around – ‘Flying Dutchman,’ Dylan Groenewegen.

Close battle

It was a standard ‘sprinters stage’ with the last man standing from the doomed break only getting Hoovered up in the last few kilometres – those lead-out boys know their craft. But apart from those short but large diameter thighs of his, to what or who does the diminutive Antipodean owe his Stage 11 victory?

Thanks Roger

Simples. Big German, Roger Kluge. The World Madison Champion single handedly ‘pilot fished’ Ewan from nowhere to contention in the finale after teammate and lead-out, Jasper De Buyst – another who was formerly a six day man of note – hit the deck. Roger Kluge on a six day track is a sight to behold, big, strong and turbine smooth – when he rode with Big Bob Bartko, one could but stand and stare in awe as these two formidable men, whose robotic riding style was identical, went for a lap – wonderful to behold. Cav used to buy team mates flash watches for good service; let’s hope Little Caleb at least buys Big Rodge a beer for this one.

Final K

Stage 12:
If I’d been asked how this stage would pan out, I’d have called it this way – massive fight by ‘non-threateners’ to get in the break, they tackle the first climb, lose a few, split on the second climb, a few get away, stay clear on the descent and contest the finish. And so it came to pass.

Yates’ first Tour stage win

Simon Yates joins the still pretty exclusive club of those who have won stages in all of the Grand Tours. We just have to hope Adam doesn’t need those watts come the last week. Anything else? Nah, ‘The Bigs’ were all waiting for the chrono on the morrow.

Simon Yates – The sprinter!

Stage 13:
I posted on social media t’other day that Monsieur Alaphilippe could one day win Le Tour, this was dismissed as highly unlikely by some quarters. After today’s chrono, to use an ‘Ineosism’ the detractors may have to recalibrate. . .

Now a TT man

Sprinter, puncheur, climber and now chronoman – and great fun to boot. I was jealous of the spectators picnicking by the road as I watched the race on TV and what was a beautiful parcours – but with a sting if you didn’t treat it with respect; Van Aert and Schachmann both ending the day in hospital, with specialist Kung coming down too. And whilst there were a couple of sore drags it was a bad day for the climbers, I winced as Dan Martin spun his skinny legs on a tiny gear – there wasn’t much spinning being done by Thomas or Alaphilippe as they pumped the ‘big ones’ on a day which was about power and speed, not cadence. And Bauke Mollema – sit still laddie, please!

Bauke needs to sit still in a TT

Bardet and Quintana also both lost time they can ill afford, but a nice job from Pinot, riding with real commitment. And Kruijswijk back to his ‘pink race’ of a few years ago best – them Ketones are the real deal. And again, we see that if you ride the Giro for the podium then the Tour podium is but a pipe dream – ask Landa and Nibali if you don’t believe me.

Did not having disc brakes slow down Geraint?

On a tech note, no discs on the Ineos Bolides whilst Alaphilippe’s Specialized sported them; and what about them Mitchelton-Scott TT crash hats – they remind me of the ones guys rode on Honda 50 mopeds back in my youth.

So close for Thomas

‘Sympathy vote?’ Thomas De Gendt who spent all that time in the hot seat only to see the last two starters usurp him. . .

What could go wrong?

Can Julian couple up to the Ineos TGV to Tourmalet Bareges? A demain!

The yellow jersey wins the TT

Stage 14:
It’s too early to say that the Ineos TGV has derailed, but there has definitely been a points failure; Thomas was supposed to win the time trial and take the jersey; then it was back to ‘clockwork soldier’ mode with the onus back on those that wanted their hands on the jersey having to best the infernal rhythm tapped out by Luke, Wout, Gianni & Co. But ‘Julian the chronoman’ scuppered that one.

The final uphill K

Then we expected ‘Plan B’ with Ineos setting aforementioned ‘infernal rhythm’ on the Tourmalet to rid themselves of that troublesome Alaphilippe character. But that wasn’t how it panned out with Alaphilippe actually extending his lead and Geraint Thomas hurting bad at the top of the Tourmalet. But it’s hard for Alaphilippe to ‘do the right thing’ – if he’d been dropped then he’d be French ‘flash in the pan,’ albeit a pretty pyrotechnical one. He didn’t get dropped and extended his lead so in this post-Lance landscape the chat turns to; “what’s he on?”

Deceuninck boys – Happy at their work

I like the Deceuninck team and the way it goes about it’s business, and for me it would be real disappointment if there was any monkey business afoot. But having lived through Festina, Telecom, Lance, Tyler and Floyd there’s little surprises me. That said, I think Alaphilippe is in the WVA, Van Der Poel, Sagan ‘special’ mould and I don’t have anything to worry about. And even if Alaphilippe does crack he’s served us up a beautiful race.

Cavalier, dashing and spectacular

Best not forget the second musketeer either, Pinot – by no means infallible, too emotional for his own good but cavalier, dashing and spectacular. It’s been a while since we could say that of one, let alone two Frenchmen. The third musketeer? Warren and Roman on sabbatical this year. . .

Not this year, Roman

Stage 15:
Two spectacular stages on the trot, what’s happening, we’re getting spoiled? My pre-Tour predictions look half right; I got it wrong with Fuglsang, he’s unable to be there when it matters – but my other tip, Bernal is still there.

Egan Bernal – Ed’s other tip still there

It’s hard to judge who’s going best between Thomas and Bernal but the little Colombian is still right in the frame. And if there is ‘leadership confusion’ at Skinieos that’s no bad thing for the French challengers.

Pinot on the attack on stage 15

‘Man of the day’ was again Pinot and with no more chronos and A LOT of montagnes to come – and perhaps most importantly, sky high morale – it’s highly possible we could get that elusive French winner. Cycling’s popularity in a nation really is ‘chicken and egg’ – in Belgium they’re not that fussed about the Grande Boucle. That is unless an Eddy Merckx or Lucien Van Impe comes along, then it becomes a pretty big deal.

Eddy Merckx the legend

When Robert Millar was in his prime and looking like he was going to win the 1985 Vuelta, the normally bike averse ‘Scottish working man’s newspaper,’ The Daily Record was running half pages on the race – I had never seen anything like it. And if Pinot can win Le Tour it will be a huge boost for the sport in France with thousands of youngsters seeking to emulate the man with the stubble.

Julian in trouble

If Alaphilippe wins then the effect will be even more dynamic – it’s hard not to love the little chap with the beard and big smile. Every ‘mamam’ in France would love to have a son like that. The ‘but’ is that there’s still those damn Alps to get over and Pinot, Ineos, Jumbo-Visma and the surprising Buchmann are all circling. I’ve left out Movistar because it’s apparent they have no idea about what they’re trying to do. Alaphilippe’s ‘ride until you drop’ style isn’t the best in the mountains but if he can be persuaded to dose his efforts in a more level fashion – and very importantly, Mas can recover on the rest day from whatever ailed him on Stage 15 then the dream can go on. He IS still ‘en jaune,’ don’t forget.

French yellow!

Meanwhile, Sagan autographs his memoire as he climbs a mountain – fun, crazy but could be setting a worrying precedent for the ‘run alongside’ idiots.

My biggest regret about not being on le Tour this year? Missing those mountain battles? The glorious scenery? Being part of the ‘greatest show on earth?’

None of the above.

Missing today’s Deceuninck pils, frites and mosselen party – DAMN!

Ed at the Tour rest day party

2019 Tour de France – Stages Still to Come:
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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