Tour ’20 – Stages 5&6 – The race takes a rest.

…and breathe.

After all of the drama and controversy in getting the 2020 Tour de France up and running, its been a case of the event and its entourage settling down over the last couple of stages.

Stage 5 saw no breakaway for the first time I can remember in a while and whilst the big teams with GC riders waited for a mistral to blow and create some echeleons, it was more of a headwind and nothing happened (apart from in the referees caravan).

Wout Van Aert added bunch sprinter to cyclo cross star, mountain domestique and classics winner to his CV with a well timed finish.

However despite crossing the line en masse the yellow jersey was awarded to Adam Yates following an illegal bottle for Julian Alaphillippe in the last 20kms.

The rules are clear about feeding inside the races final. It is there for safety reasons as it’s the part of the race that the bunch is moving most rapidly. So whilst its harsh that a mechanic parking on the wrong side of the banner can result in a 20 second penalty for the rider, I agree with the decision and the Frenchman just has to suck it up and use it as fuel for the coming stages.

Stage 6 was brilliant for fans of cycling novel “The Rider” by Tim Krabbe.

The Rider

The book is biographical and Krabbe charts his performance in a bike race describing in great detail the tactics, fatigue and pain of trying to win in the Cervennes mountains.

There was a high quality breakaway today and for a couple of hours I was really excited at the thought of Greg Van Avermaet getting another spell in the yellow jersey. But whilst the favourites never really got to attacking one another they did enough to get the break back to a reasonable distance. Shame!

Alexey Lutsenko was the most patient and strongest in the group attacking and going clear on one of the steps up to the finish at Mont Aigoual. The favourites were shadow boxing behind with only Alaphillippe sprinting clear for one second of advantage.

So a sleepy couple of days on the road in the main with give or take a few seconds, not too much to seperate the favourites.

 

 

Tour ’20 – Stages 1 & 2 – From high farce to sublime

After all of the issues with Covid-19 and the delay in starting the race, the last thing the fledgling Tour de France of 2020 needed was storms on the tricky descents on the opening stage.

It made the stage 1 a bit of a joke with the majority of GC teams not wanting to race. Conversely, a number of opportunists or medium mountain stage experts wanted to take one of the few opportunities to demonstrate their skill set in this years event.

You had the likes of Pavel Sivakov and George Bennett, key riders for their leader in the coming weeks, on the deck and injured. Miguel Angel Lopez, whose Astana team were one of the few who wanted to go for it in the rain, managed to face plant into a road sign and that was enough to see a general truce until the 20km to go marker.

There was still time for a crash under the 3km banner and that took down French star Thibault Pinot. His morale has always been classed as fragile in the media and it was sad to see him showing his frustration like a three year old in Toys-r-us.

One bright spot however was the win for Alexander Kristoff. Now classed as a veteran, the Norweigan produced a perfectly timed run for line, shutting out all of the madness unfolding behind him to get the yellow jersey.

The organisers will have been delighted to see the warm and sunny conditions for day 2 and they were rewarded with a much better stage as a result.

The main breakaway of the day duked it out for the King of the Mountains points splitting and reforming on the scenic terrain around Nice. Peter Sagan also made an appearance but still seems to be a little way short of his best. There was no smiling and waving when he got dropped. He just carried on waiting to get caught by the chasers.

The famous Col D’Eze was the place that the stage hunters has targetted as key to getting to the front on. It was a bit of a strange few KMs on the run in with Jumbo. who’d been on the front all day, almost seeming to want to keep the break clear to avoid chaos on the climb.

This tactic failed and the first attack that stuck was Julian Alaphillippe who shot out of the pack with Marc Hirshi of Sunweb sticking to his back wheel like glue.

When it became clear that this pair were going to get away, Adam Yates zoomed across from the peloton and the trio remained clear to contest the finish. They got to the final few hundred metres before the messing about started.

It was a good job they did wait until late on to open the sprint as they were almost closed down by a group behind hurtling towards the line.

Alaphillippe would have been thinking about his recent defeat to Wout Van Aert at Milan-San Remo on a similar finish and opened the sprint first this time holding off a late run from Hirschi.

After the farce of day 1, the emotion of the win and yellow jersey for the Frenchman was really important for the race. Having lost his Father during lockdown the first iconic image of this years Tour was Alaphillippe pointing skywards to his Dad and shouting “I did it Dad”.

Like many I am sure, I shed a tear.

Van Aert a class apart as season “commences”

Wout Van Aert has proved to be the main man in one day racing so far in this recommenced 2020 season.

The Dutchman dispatched the remnants of a classy group in Strade Bianche last weekend before playing the perfect game of chicken with Julian Alaphillippe on the way into San Remo to win the seasons first monument.

With all eyes on his major rival Mathieu Van der Poel, the Jumbo man kept his cool on two blisteringly hot Saturday afternoons in Italy and delivered two wins.

In Strade he used his natural cyclo cross skills to out pace his rivals on an down then up sector on the way back into Siena before holding on in the run in despite the chasers getting within 10 seconds of his back wheel at one point.

There was devastation on the white roads with many minutes separating the top 10.

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Last Saturday though it was all about the ability to keep cool in the final KM when the chasing bunch looked like getting back to Alaphillippe and Van Aert after the French rider stopped collaborating in the last 1.5km.

They gave the reduced bunch behind a real chance of catching them before the man from Deceuninck blinked first and went for the line and the chance of a back to back win.

Van Aert didn’t panic though and held on by just over half a wheel to win.

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There has been plenty of Jumbo/Visma domination elsewhere in the pre Tour de France stage racing and we will cover than in an upcoming post.

In the meantime enjoy the sun and the return of racing 🙂 .

James