Regular readers of this website will remember that my preview of this years race was based around my memories of 1989. Something that hindsight has proved to be good punditry!
There was little sign of what happened on stage 20 coming to pass, even as the two main protagonists, Tadej Pogacar and yellow jersey Primoz Roglic warmed up ahead of the start of their time trials.
But Pogacar was gaining time from the start and at the first unofficial GPS tracking check was already 12 seconds closer to his Slovenian counterpart.
This fast start from his opponent seemed to freak Roglic out and he was starting to fold before our very eyes.
As they both started to climb the Planch des Belles Filles and swapped bikes there was very little to choose between them on GC time. This was pheomenal as Pogacar had had to go a minute quicker to that point to get back level.
Once the guy in 2nd had overhauled the erstwhile yellow jersey to take the race lead he kept that pace up and stretched out almost another minute which was enough to leave him a comfortable winner in GC.
Maybe it wasn’t as close as the 1989 finish as I led you to believe then!
The pictures of Roglic struggling up the 20% gradient to the finish line with his face all sunken in and his crash helmet wonky to the point of looking comical was sad to see.
He rolled alone over the finish line before Tom Dumoulin and Wout Van Aert tried to comfort him. Just along the road from this sad sight Pogacar also has his head in his hands, but in disbelief and joy.
I feel a mighty amount of sympathy for Roglic to lose in this way and for him to go to bed without his yellow jersey, but with a broken heart. It was wretched for him and I wonder where he goes from here.
It says a lot about him as a man though, that he congratulated the man who beat him so soundly and that he was front and centre riding into Paris on Sunday. A much lesser man would have hid.
The final stage was less about drinking booze on the run in to Paris, another feature of this Covid world. Sam Bennett was the winner proving that his green jersey was thoroughly deserved (as if we doubted him!) and that he was the fastest man of the race.
Sorry Caleb and Wout!
So that’s it for the 2020 Tour de France, thanks very much for sticking with my coverage of the race. I really hoped you enjoyed reading how I saw it, please tell your friends and buy a Beers of Belgium CC jersey (using the store password of “FENDRIEN” ahead of the classics !
Polish domestique deluxe Michal Kwiatkowski got due reward for his years in service of Tour de France winners when he took stage 18 after a long breakaway.
With team mate Richard Carapaz, they took flight from the days break along with serial escapee Marc Hirschi of Sunweb.,
The most active rider of the race was keen to add to his stage win last week but crashed on a descent leaving the Ineos pair alone at the head of affairs.
With the gap big enough and the favourites not interested in attacking they had the luxury of sorting out who was going to win on the run in to the finish. It was brillant to see a clearly emotional Kwiatkowski cross the line for a rare, but really popular win.
Stage 10 saw Soren Kragh Andersen win the stage after a day that was only brightly animated by Remi Cavagna in a long lone breakaway that was always doomed but was entertaining enough to avoid switching the TV off.
Late in the stage a breakaway did escape including a number of good classics riders. Luke Rowe , Nils Pollit, Tim DeClercq and the king of Flanders Greg Van Avermaet made the split.
However Andersen was able to repeat the feat as he did on the way into Lyon escaping to win his 2nd stage of the Tour.
All eyes now move to the final weekend of the race and its opening and only time trial.
It’s been a really decent Tour so far so let’s hope for an exciting final weekend of action.
After a quiet few days at the start of last week, the Tour de France has been really exciting at the start of this culminating in yesterdays stage finish at the top of a new purpose built cycleway in the sky.
The two alpine stages have been going over new ground and exploring, whilst retaining the tradition of scenary and toughness that makes them the best part of the race (for me at least).
The first of the most recent two stages saw Egan Bernal dropped again before abandoning and Jumbo taking the opportunity to let breakaways go.
In fact the Tour de France 2020 has become the year of the lone winner with the likes of Marc Hirschi, Soren Kragh Andersen, Lennard Kamna and now Miguel Angel Lopez.
Kamna was part of a stage 16 breakaway that included Richard Caparaz and Julian Alaphillippe before he gave the Ecuadorian a fake suffer face and then attacked him.
Villard de Lans will always be about 1989 and Laurent Fignon for me so it was a real trip down memory lane for the race to finish their again.
Kamna was a worthy winner to honour that history pulling away on downhill, flatlands and climbs to make sure he won.
Carapaz and Alaphillippe looked to get over the disappointment by being in the next days breakaway on stage 17 only to be caught by the GC battle.
Meribel put on its finest display for the race arriving and as the Bahrain led peloton sped through the town to get tot the new finish at Col de la Loze it felt like we had the real race back again. For a few minutes there were cheering fans and despite their masks it was a brief moment where covid wasn’t on my mind.
The new bike path looked amazing despite its fluctuating gradient and it had the desired effect on breaking up the GC leaders including Bahrains leader Mikel Landa meaning all their work was not rewarded.
‘Superman’ Lopez got away and behind him the likes of Richie Porte and Rigoberto Uran started to fade.
Then it was the leaders turn with Primoz Roglic putting some daylight between him and Tadej Pogacar as the road got over 20% in steepness.
However Pogacar wasn’t gone for good and he battled back to limit his losses to 15 seconds meaning he is 57 down now against the yellow jersey.
This race is most definitely not done and I am enjoying every minute of it. Let’s see what today brings.
With defending champion Egan Bernal definitively falling away from contention, Tadej Pogacar looks like the only man who can deny Primoz Roglic Slovenia’s first Tour de France win.
A twist or irony being that in doing so, he would also become the first Slovenian to take home the yellow jersey.
The best of the rest are currently Rigoberto Uran and Richie Porte and whilst both are talented and Tour proven, they are approaching veteran stage and wont get enough time back to get ahead of the two riders topping GC.
Sunday saw a flat stage into Lyon that had plenty of excitement and it was Sunweb who again challenged existing tactical norms by almost attacking as a team near the end. In footballing language, Marc Hirschi threw a dummy before the real attack came from Soren Kragh Andersen.
He held on to win in the ‘grand manner’ crossing the line alone before being mobbed by team mates. There is growing interest in their British coach Matt Winston and with the poor showing of our “national” team at this Tour de France it seems only a matter of time before the Ineos cheque book gets waved at him.
I am all for innovative and exciting, open racing so long may he continue in that style whichever team car he is sat in.
Sunday saw an unusual stage in that it climbed the Grand Colombier three times from different routes up.
To be fair they could have found another two or three routes up and many of the favourites would have been struggling.
First Nairo Qunitana slowly dropped off the back before Bernal popped out of the line of riders following the Jumbo train before losing contact and ground rapidly.
The way that Wout Van Aert rode for kilometer after kilometer on the front was spectacular and as the spring opened up they had pinned the other riders to the gutter so hard that they still had one rider left.
Chris Froome told ITV that their display reminded him of Sky in their prime.
But they are due a bad day and Roglic does have previous of making what looks like a simple run in more complex by having a crash or mechanical or getting caught in the wind.
You would think that despite not having a strong team Pogacar will be much more alert to any splits that might occur. At the moment the two of them are inseperable and it will be down to the final time trial on Saturday in the Vosges.
But will Jumbo be confident enough in their leader not to have to put Pogacar further behind if they can?
I do love a good cliche. Sadly todays headline isn’t one! but we will go with it anyway.
Marc Hirschi has been one of the heroes of the tour so far with his stage 2 breakaway followed up by heartbreak 1.5km from home on the 2nd mountain stage.
But he kept his levels of self belief high and on a cat 2 climb used his Sunweb team to get him placed off the front before he put down the power and rode away from a group of hilly route specialists including Max Schachmann and Julian Alaphillippe.
With his recent 2nd and 3rd placed finishes no doubt playing on his mind, Hirschi didn’t let off the gas until well inside the barrired area at the finish and this time there were tears of joy as he landed his first (of no doubt many) professional wins.
Yesterday saw an Ardennes type stage with the race continuing across the belt of France. Surprisingly, the stats gurus were saying that despite no massive major mountain passes this one had the most VAM of the whole Tour.
There was a decent sized breakaway with good quality riders away for most of the day and this time it was Schachmann who was caught late on in the stage. His team mate Leonard Kamna being dragged across to him by Dauphine champion Dani Martinez.
Despite Bora have two riders in this break, Martinez bided his time before unleashing a great sprint to take the win.
Further down the climb Tadej Pogacar and yellow jersey Primoz Roglic escaped the remaining favourites with Egan Bernal off the pace.
Two great riders of Tours de France past left the race after a crash. Bauke Mollema and Romain Bardet. I wish both a speedy recovery.
It’s been a pretty sedate couple of days for the Tour as it recommenced on the Atlantic coast around La Rochelle.
No hope breakaways or no breakaway at all have been the order of the day and sprinters Sam Bennett and Caleb Ewan took advantage to win their first and second stage of the race respectively.
For Bennett it was the first of his career having played second fiddle to Peter Sagan for his time at Bora/Hansgrohe so it will have been a sweet moment to beat his old team mate and take the green jersey from him.
Sagan’s struggles continued into yesterday where he managed to get relegated from his final position to last on the stage for an alleged head butt on Wout Van Aert.
I say alleged because the pictures are pretty clear cut and there is no doubt that he did collide with him but overnight footage has emerged showing that Sagan may well have been ducking to avoid a selfie stick and fool hanging over the barriers.
If that is the case I would like to think that the jury would reinstate him and give him the points back.
Off the bikes and the rest day covid tests have put a number of teams including Ineos and Ag2R on one of their two strikes.
Although with Tour race director Christian Prudhomme holed up in isolation for another 11 days its unclear who would actually have the authority to make that call!
Here is a link to the current GC from procyclingstats.