TOUR’18: Ed’s Second Rest Day Round Up!
Tour Rest Day No.2: Week two of the 2018 Tour de France is done and dusted with Geraint Thomas holding the overall lead from his Sky team ‘leader’ Chris Froome second and Tom Dumoulin in third. Ed Hood rounds up the action and takes a look at Geraint’s history and the final countdown to Paris.
Dutch corner was well controlled – Further on, not so much
“The best ones are all a little crazy; take Jungels, he doesn’t need to race, his family has money; Gaviria, he’s loco, he hardly trusts anyone – and Alaphilippe, his family are gypsies, he’s crazy too!” The words of a man who knows his Quick-Steps. . .
Alaphilippe – Class act
But crazy or nae, Alaphilippe has class – and perhaps more importantly, panache; 30K alone over two mountains. Quality. After displaying huge precocious potential he’s confirmed this year with stage wins in Colombia, the Basque Country, the Dauphine and his first Classic – the Flèche Wallone. Let’s hope the upward curve continues. King Peter of Slovakia needs a prince in waiting. . .
Geraint’s first big day out – we first interviewed him as the youngest rider in the Tour, back in 2007, he was already displaying huge potential; World Junior Scratch Champion on the track in 2004, winner of u23 six days in Bremen and Dortmund, overall winner of the prestigious Flèche du Sud stage race in Luxembourg.
No flash in the pan
And it got better with European, World and Olympic team pursuit gold medals. British Elite Road Race Champion, GC winner in the Bayern Rundfahrt, top 10 rides in the spring classics, including a win in the GP E3, Commonwealth Games Road Race Champion, GC winner in the Algarve, Trentino, Paris-Nice and this year, the Dauphine. The way he floated round the British Elite Time Trial Championship course, last month demonstrated that his post-Dauphine form was hot. In other words, he’s class, no flash in the pan.
British TT championships
The ‘but’ is that ‘a la Richie Porte’ the fates always seem to conspire against him in Grand Tours with crashes and ‘jour sans’ – his best finishes are two 15th places in the Tour in 2015 and 2016. But of course there’s the aspect that he was always ‘in the service of’ Christopher Froome which meant personal ambition was very much a secondary consideration.
Froome working for Thomas?
This year, it’s different, that wily old fox, Cyrille Guimard summarizes it nicely: “I imagine that Dave Brailsford (Sky boss) had Thomas ready to replace Froome when his salbutamol case came to light across the winter, not knowing whether Froome would be suspended. So when Thomas won the Critérium du Dauphiné in such a convincing manner, beating many of his rivals for the Tour, he couldn’t then very well arrive at the start of the race in Noirmoutier and say, ‘I’ll give my wheel to Chris if he needs one on the cobbles.’ From what we saw at La Rosière and at l’Alpe d’Huez – both stages won by Thomas – there’s no ‘understanding’ between the two of them, and there won’t be. When you’ve won four Tours de France like Froome has, you don’t just give up on the opportunity to win a fifth.” Quite.
No 6th Tour win for Hinault
Remember how Hinault tried his damnedest to ‘flick’ Lemond for that sixth win that would have put him top of the Tour winner’s league table?
Geraint’s second ‘big day out’ and this one saw him become legend, his name will be forever posted on one of those famous 21 hair pins – albeit he’ll have to share it with another winner now that we’ve had more than 21 winners. Winning in yellow on l’Alpe? Special.
Geraint Thomas – On Top Of The World by Greig Leach
It’s hard to know what else to say about Peter Sagan; he can win Classics, get over the ‘medium mountains’ to win and here he is out-dragging fast finishers Kristoff and Démare – remarkable.
Astana’s GC hopes are slim, a top 10 for Fuglsang the best they can expect but breakaway specialist, Fraile saved their Tour with his win over the top of that savage ‘snap’ up to Mende airstrip, adding to his Basque Country and Romandie victory adventures. Great for Astana but it wasn’t a good day for the TV viewers, bar the finale – big break goes – and goes. . .
Tired legs from some of the GC guys though – with Bardet, Quintana and Landa all slipping on the last ascent. And Roglic again quietly demonstrating that he has the potential to win a race such as this, one day.
Omar Fraile – Astana stage win No.1
More of the same with the men in Baby Blue from one of the world’s most futuristic cities; break goes, doesn’t come back, splinters with Magnus Cort Nielsen way fastest of the survivors. Plenty of champagne this night – two stage wins and a rest day to recover. And Cort just needs a Giro stage win now to confirm his membership of that exclusive club of men who have stage wins in all three Grand Tours.
Magnus Cort Nielsen – Astana stage win No.2
And as we go into the second rest day, to summarize:
Geraint Thomas: yellow then a stage win on L’Alpe with the maillot jaune on his back. . . it doesn’t get much better. Albeit riding down the Champs Elysees ‘en jaune’ would be even better.
Geraint Thomas – The first yellow jersey win on the Alpe
Peter Sagan: An explosion in a paint factory in a grey peloton. Julian Alaphilippe: Panache – and he’s French, even better. . .
The leaders going into the final week
Cav, Gaviria, Greipel, Groenewegen: formerly fast men in this race, a shame – unless your name is ‘Sagan’ that is. Rigo: bitten hard by the Roubaix pave. Sky’s clockwork soldiers: you’d have to be an admirer of the ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ not to draw comparisons.
Greipel, Gaviria and Groenewegen – Gone!
‘Ciao’ Vincenzo: decked by an idiot fan. Flares on L’Alpe: there’s some just don’t know where to draw the line. Gianni Moscon: Classy, strong, a great time trial rider and capable of top five in Roubaix and a podium in Lombardy – just a pity about his racist and violent side. . .
PEZ soothsayer and contender for ‘Nostradamus lives, 2018’ reckons that Grand Tours are too long at three weeks; ‘too long, the sport has changed, chop a week out the middle, folks get bored. . . Perhaps he’s right; since the end of the farce that was the ‘Armstrong Era’ this Tour is the one which has raised the least enthusiasm about how it’s being played out by the guys I know and talk to regularly. Chop a week out? Or perhaps Sky pulling their sponsorship at the end of the season; that would be a big help. . .
Froome and Thomas happy on the second rest day
Team Sky – Over dominating
The final week profile:
# Keep it PEZ for everything Tour…#
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 1,600 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.