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TDF’17 ROADSIDE St.13: Barguil Storms The Bastille!

Tour’17 Roadside: The National day in France and the fans got what they wanted on their Grand Tour as Warren Barguil crossed the finish line in Foix first for a Bastille Day bonanza! Ed and Martin took in all the sights of a crazy day on the roads of the Tour de France in the Pyrenees.

The press room, Foix 18:30 hours, Friday July 14th after Stage 13 from Saint Girons to Foix.

If we were puzzled by Sky’s tactics this morning, we’re less so tonight – by allowing Basque Mikel Landa his freedom to finish fourth on the stage he moves up to fifth overall at 1:09 and Sky now have two cards to play with Britain’s Christopher Froome still second at six seconds from Fabio Aru (Astana & Italy).

A better day for Brailsford’s boys on short but savage stage over three first category climbs, won on Bastille Day by king of the mountains leader, Warren Barguil (Sunweb & France) with Italy’s Fabio Aru (Astana) retaining the maillot jaune from Froome with Warren Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale & France) @ 25 seconds and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac & Colombia) @ 35 seconds.

This morning however we were scratching our heads over the Sky master plan on Stage 12. . .

We’ve slept on it and still can’t really understand Sky’s Stage 12 tactics?

* Eliminate Bert and Quintana?

It’s plain to see that both are no longer real dangers for the victory so that doesn’t stack up for us.

* Froome wanted to win the stage to underscore that ‘he’s still the man’?

A rider like Froome knows himself inside out and in those final kilometers would have known that he didn’t have the legs.

So why not let Landa go for the stage or just leave it to the rest to ride?

* Sky are tactically inept?

With men like Portal in the car, that’s hard to believe. But if we’d been in the Sky car we’d have spoken to Dimension Data when Cummings was clear solo with two minutes advantage and said, ‘we stop riding now but you’re due us one whether Stevie stays away or not – okay?’

And this option would have been a favorable one, if as has been suggested:

* Froome was on a bad day and bluffing with his team’s display of strength.

As L’Equipe say today; ‘The British team imposed an extreme rhythm but Froome failed to profit.’

But it’s easy to be an armchair analyst.

Respect is certainly due to Bardet and Aru but if they’re serious about winning the GC then they’ll need to attack from more than 250 meters out.

We’re giving them both 9.5/10.

The rest?

Dan Martin on 8/10, the man expected to drop 30 minutes on the stage, he felt so bad at the start, still recovering from Sunday’s ‘chute’ with Porte.

George Bennett on 8.5/10; some say his finale ‘dig’ was ‘foolhardy’ – we say he honored his jersey and the race.

Rigoberto Uran and Simon Yates gets 7.5/10 for ‘being there.’

Louis Meintjes is on 6.5/10; it would have been 7.5 but his ‘bars are too wide and his elbows stick out.

Froome, for working his team to death and coming away with less than nothing, 5/10.

And Sky DS Nicolas Portal gets 4/10 for dressing Landa down in view of the cameras.

Speculation over, we get on with the run to the stage start but not before we pay our respects to Fabio Casartelli who died after a horror crash on the descent of the Portet d’Aspet in Le Tour on July 18th 1994. There’s a lovely memorial to the Italian in white marble at the spot where he fell, the 24 year-old won the 1992 Olympic Road Race in Barcelona and was on the cusp of a great pro career – rest in peace, Fabio.

Saint Girons is a nice town for a stage start, especially in the afternoon sun . . .

Astana team boss Vinokourov is holding court on his boy Fabio’s grabbing the maillot jaune, yesterday – but will he still be in yellow tonight, Alexandr?

Whilst old ‘Vino’ isn’t the most gregarious of men, Direct Energie’s ‘Chava’ (former French champion Sylvain Chavanel) certainly is; with those glistening teeth of his quick to show and a hand shake and a hug coming easily to him.

Things change so quickly in cycling; at the start of the season he was ‘just another rider’ but now he’s won the Tour of California and is 10th here he’s in demand with a queue of microphones waiting for LottoNl-Jumbo’s Kiwi George Bennett – we didn’t know that he’d have a bad day today and drop four minutes, he’s now 11th on GC.

Time to roll. . .

The first climb of the day is the Col de Latrape: 5.6K @ 7.3% cat. 1 with a lovely aspect at the top. Today is 101K but with three first cat. ascents it’s going to be a tough three hours and stragglers will have to be wary of the time cut. The second climb of the day, the Col d’Agnes : 10K @ 8.2% – ouch!

It’s a sore one with one saving grace; the top is the top with no false flats. The descent is long, narrow and technical – 100% concentration required every second. The third and final climb is the Mur de Peguere which sits atop the Col des Caougnous with grades of 16 and 18 percent but no vehicular access unless it’s race traffic so we parked as close we could to the top of the Caougnous.

We wait, quietly with the clergy. . .

It’s Landa with Alberto Contador first to show, different tactics from Portal’s men today, for sure – Christopher to bridge up? But it’s downhill for 26K off the top – and the Spaniards have two minutes.

Next there’s a group of Nairo Quintana (Movistar & Colombia), Warren Barguil and Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky & Poland); this will do Barguil’s king of the mountains chance no harm (by the end of this day he leads on 94 points to Mikel Landa’s 33).

Aru’s group is next with Froome keeping a watchful eye and for once under no pressure to defend.

Froome’s team mate, former World Time Trial Champion Vasil Kiryienka has nothing to worry about today; he’s being accompanied by a bishop who is blessing every one of his pedal revolutions.

And who says there’s no honor among thieves? As BMC give Movistar’s Andrey Amador a can of Coke – and a wee tow.

Green jersey Marcel Kittel isn’t too far back, he must have ridden that big descent PDQ – he’s a big man and the climbs are hard work, even for a man as fit as he is; he’d end the day in the gruppo @ 21:05.

Fortuneo’s British sprinter, Dan McLay is another who’s not crazy about the hills; he passed us in second last spot but rejoined Kittel’s big gruppo on the long drop off Peguere to Foix.

Last man on the road was Trek’s Fabio Felline, the little Italian had a good early season but it’s not happening today – he beat the time cut by just one minute. Contador’s exploit moves him to 10th on GC @ 05:22 with some honor restored whilst Quintana’s day in the sun makes him eighth @ 02:07.

Riders on the up then – Landa, Contador, Quintana; status quo for Froome, Bardet, Uran, Martin, Yates and Meintjes with Bennett the loser.

But the major kudos goes to Warren Barguil, this Bastille day belongs to him – the first Frenchman to triumph on this day of days since David Moncoutie in 2005.

And let’s forget that ‘watching paint dry’ stuff – this looks more like a race every day.

A demain.

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 1,500 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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