Lee’s Tour Lowdown: Pyrenean Pondering!
The second week and the Pyrenees are nearly behind us, so Lee Rodgers has taken his microscope to the last few day’s of the Tour and the domination of Mr. Froome and his ‘super team’ of Sky men. Shocking, surprising and unbelievable are all words we have heard and used these last two days. Here is the lowdown.
“I’m a liiiiiittle surprised at how strong they were,” said Greg Lemond after Stage 10, and he wasn’t talking about the mojitos from the night previous.
No, Mr. Lemond was in fact marveling at the almighty performances just put in by three men in Team Sky kit on the day’s stage, the same performances that prompted Mr. Unshockable, aka Sean Kelly, to exclaim “I’m in shock!”
With Chris Froome spinning his poor cranks about at what was estimated to be 115 rpm at times in the closing kilometers and slaying all hope at this year’s Tour for anything even resembling a race, Richie Porte drilling it like a GC contender himself to drop Nairo Quintana, and Geraint Thomas similarly smoking a mean trail to take 6th on the stage, it was all just a little overwhelming even for these hard men who have seen it all and got the palmarès to prove it.
Twitter was on fire throughout the closing kilometers with all manner of kind and charitable things being tweeted about Sky’s dominance, or, well, rather the opposite really. It was nasty in there. So nasty in fact that even I felt sorry for the British team. Yes, it was that bad.
I’ll state again as I have before, I am not saying they are doping but their continued arrogance in the face of criticism, the employment of folk like ‘Dr.’ Leinders and the backtracking on their stated desire back at their foundation for transparency have won them no fans and left them open to the very questions they are now ignoring so adroitly.
The fact that Froome and his lads are dominating like a certain non-winner of seven Tours and his various teams is not helping matters, as is the continuing lack of tangible movement with regard to the fight against doping on behalf of the UCI.
This is an important factor in all this. The failure of the governing body to prove to fans and commentators on the sport that things are moving in the right direction with regard to the murky side of cycling must not be understated when we consider just why so much flak is being directed at these riders.
Put all this together with leaked power data, Antoine Vayer and allegations of lawyers scaring the original poster of the infamous Ventoux ’13 video to the extent that he even closed his Twitter account (a fate worse than death form most Tweeters) and well, you have a bundle of flaming joy that is threatening to derail the whole Tour de Farce – I mean, France. Yes, France.
In amidst all this there has actually been quite a big bike race going on, but don’t tell Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali about it. Their respective states of stupor appear near terminal. Contador revealed recently that he decided to go for the Giro-Tour double because his legacy is already locked in and a ‘simple’ Tour win would fail to embellish it any further. Wonder what he’s thinking now, as he stutters and sputters up the hills of the Pyrenees? He had a bit of a dig on Stage 12, but barely got 50 meters before Super G closed him down. He’s doing a very good impression of a guy who doesn’t know anyone at the party but is too embarrassed to leave. The Spaniard’s stock has fallen so sharply that he was only good for a 25-1 bet at the bookies at the start of Stage 12.
Then we have His Nibs, Vincenzo Nibali, the 2014 Tour winner. Let’s take that win as we should, a relatively opportunistic victory that was as well deserved on the day as it could be. As a result, we should cut him a bit of slack – more than his teammates are doing anyway. Two days ago one commented that Nibali’s head “isn’t right.” Yesterday it went further, as the phrase “He needs a mechanic for his head” leaked out. Ah, Astana. Not quite the oasis of brotherly love and support over there is it? I’m surprised Nibali can pedal for the knives cutting into his back at the moment.
One rider who might be disappointing legions of French gamblers (not quite as much though as Thibaut Pinot) is Jean Christophe Peraud. Last year Peraud was second to Nibali overall but he is one of many having a proper stinker this year, grinding to a halt on the climb up to Plateau de Beille.
Last time out I was a little harsh on Nairo Quintana, saying that he wasn’t delivering at the 2015 edition, but I admit I made a mistake there. He looks the only rider in the Tour this year to be capable of sticking even relatively close to Froome when things really heat up – apart from Froome’s own teammates of course.
Will he take second? No point talking about first, that race is effectively over. Tejay van Garderen is riding the race of his life so far and sitting in the now-coveted 2nd spot and is looking pretty good for it too, but I think that Quintana will get more time on him in the Alps. Stages 19 and 20 both look Quintana-friendly and with no more TTs in the mix, Tejay will have to ride out of his skin to fend off the Colombian for the 18secs he currently holds over him.
Froome though is now talking up Thomas for a podium spot. At only a minute and change behind the BMC man and riding like more like a Grand Tour contender than the Classics man he purportedly is, he could well manage it if he doesn’t have to do too much leg work later on for Froome.
The 2015 Tour de France continues to get stranger and simultaneously less engaging by the day.
Lee Rodgers is a former professional road racer on the UCI Asia Tour circuit now racing MTB professionally around the world. His day job combines freelance journalism, coaching cyclists, event organizing and consulting work. You can keep up with his daily scribblings over at www.crankpunk.com.