Week 3 – Sleepy final week to the Tour

The final week of the Tour was a total non-event in terms of the general classification leaving many to wonder if the course wasn’t quite balanced enough to promote attacking riding.

Although to be fair when there was a summit finish it was generally either won by Tadej Pogacar or he gained time on his increasingly hapless looking rivals.

If it hadn’t been for Ben O’Connor and Jonas Vingegaard emerging from the shadows and taking the race on we would have been subjected to less action.

Pogacar was so far ahead after the final mountains that he and his team were able to let the latter stages play out with chaos on the road and breakaways ruling the roost.

Ineos Grenadiers had such a disaster with the fading of Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte that Richard Carapaz was their only hope.

Despite a couple of attacks he never once looked like dropping the other favourites.

His team also reverted to type after promising enterprising and attacking riding. They formed a train on the climbs and as mentioned in last weeks post, pretty much armchaired the yellow jersey to within a few kms of the finish on key stages.

I have no idea why they chose to ride in that way. Defensive and stifling they should have left more riders from lower down the top 10 to challenge in the way that Guillaume Martin did.

But they knew that if he hung on Carapaz was likely to get on to the podium and for Ineos that looked enough.

Contrast that with Jumbo/Visma who lost Primoz Roglic at the same time as Thomas faltered. They made sure that Vingegaard became a loose cannon, especially on the Mont Ventoux stage. The second prong to their fork was Wout Van Aert who became a stage hunter in the Sean Kelly, Peter Sagan mould.

Their tour will be a success, Ineos a failure.

I am not sure that the management of Jumbo is such that they showed great agility in adapating their planning. I put it down to the riders being strong on the road and mentality tough.

Despite getting boxed in by the Eddy Merckx mafia of Belgians in Paris (!), Mark Cavendish and Quickstep will be looking at this Tour as a real successs. He equalled the record and if thats as far as it goes then I am sure he will still be happy.

Julian Alaphillippe got his stage win and Cav the green jersey. Job done.

The main blot of the week 3 landscape was the police raid of Bahrain Victorious. This was the culmination of rumours since Rod Ellingworth left the team suddenly and they started winning.

Gino Mader and Mark Padun came from nowhere to win important races before the Tour and during this race Matej Mohoric and Dylan Theuns got wins (although neither was too surprising).

Foul seemed to be being cried over the sudden emergence of Sonny Colbrelli as a mountain climber, which was a little uncomfortable to watch at times.

But until there are charges from the investigation, and that goes for all stage and classification winners, not just Colbrelli, we will take the race and its outcomes at face value.

The good news for those of us who are down in the dumps this week with the race over is that the Tour of Wallonia starts today !

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCIPntTime
11 POGAČAR TadejUAE-Team Emirates100050082:56:36
22 VINGEGAARD JonasTeam Jumbo-Visma8003805:20
33 CARAPAZ RichardINEOS Grenadiers6753407:03
44 O’CONNOR BenAG2R Citroën Team57530010:02
55 KELDERMAN WilcoBORA – hansgrohe47528010:13
66 MAS EnricMovistar Team40026011:43
77 LUTSENKO AlexeyAstana – Premier Tech32524012:23
88 MARTIN GuillaumeCofidis, Solutions Crédits27522015:33
99 BILBAO PelloBahrain – Victorious22521016:04
1010 URÁN RigobertoEF Education – Nippo17520018:34

2021 Giro Retrospective

With a couple of weeks and plenty of racing having passed under our wheels since the Giro, it seems trite to call this piece a review so I have altered the title to reflect this!

The context of the race and its thrilling final days have been put into more perspective over recent days with the news that winner Egan Bernal has posted a positive Covid-19 test.

Its not especially clear as to whether this diagnosis could explain some of his late race trevails but it was certainly a more exciting Giro as a result of him slowing down in the run up to the final weekend.

The Columbian too the race leaders pink jersey on stage 9 and was seemingly cruising through the race with quiet dominance and backed up by a strong Ineos team.

He rode with calmness and composure on what could have been a tricky stage 11 over the Strade Bianche to Montalcino, a stage where Dan Martin unravelled and Remco Evenepoel started to show he was human.

The first week and a half had gone entirely to Sir Dave Brailsfords plan.

But as we got into the back end of the race, Simon Yates started to pick up pace and managed to distance the race leader on a couple of stages.

There was talk of a bad back for Bernal and in Dani Martinez he had a rider nursing him through and keeping him close to the other contenders.

If Bernal was the ultimate winner of the race, Martinez was man of the match, 100%.

The final road stage of the race was a mountainous one but Yates couldn’t take advantage and actually lost time to Bernal who was carefully managing his efforts despite being behind 2nd placed Damiano Caruso who won the stage.

The time trial was a formality and Bernal was able to get home and win his second grand tour.

This was a different beast to his yellow jersey with a vulnerability and reliance on his team that will stand him in good stead going forward.

Aside from the battle for the pink leaders jersey Peter Sagan won the points despite a fine for intimidation in the transitional part of the race.

Geoffrey Bouchard of Ag2R was the mountains winner after featuring in a number of key breakaways across the whole race.

There were notable stage wins from Taco van der Hoorn in week one when he kept the collective might of the peloton at bay in the closing stages to take an unlikely victory by only a handful of seconds.

Stage 13 saw the end of one of cyclings longest streaks of finishing top 3 in grand tour stage without winning with a popular sprint win for Giacomo Nizzolo who left it late to come over the top Edoardo Affini before breaking down in tears in the finishing zone.

This was a brilliant Giro for a whole number of reasons. The less than spring like weather made the racing harder and ensured that even on a “easy” day, it wasnt an easy day.

We had multiple breakaway winners, a trend that has carried on into the post Giro racing. This is great and for the first time since radios for the riders and mathmatical formulas to decide when to start the chase, the advantage is with the brave riders striking out off the front early in the stage.

Chapeau!

So now we get into the build up races for the Tour de France, a race that will have to create some brilliant memories to be better than this one…

Over to you France!

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCIPntTime
11 BERNAL EganINEOS Grenadiers85040086:17:28
22 CARUSO DamianoBahrain – Victorious6802901:29
33 YATES SimonTeam BikeExchange5752404:15
44 VLASOV AleksandrAstana – Premier Tech4602206:40
56▲1 MARTÍNEZ Daniel FelipeINEOS Grenadiers3802007:24
68▲2 ALMEIDA JoãoDeceuninck – Quick Step320190,,
75▼2 BARDET RomainTeam DSM2601808:05
87▼1 CARTHY HughEF Education – Nippo2201708:56
99 FOSS TobiasTeam Jumbo-Visma18016011:44
1010 MARTIN DanIsrael Start-Up Nation14015018:35

2021 Procycling Stats game launched

Regular readers of the site will know that I was a keen player of this game across 2020.

The purpose being you buy and trade pro riders with their price going up and down based on performance. You get money by their share price going up and from prizes, but of course there is the risk your rider tanks and their value goes down.

#RiderPurchase priceCurrent rider priceDays on teamAnalyze
1 VAN AERT Wout€ 955.000,-€ 955.000,-0Analyze
2 ALAPHILIPPE Julian€ 940.000,-€ 940.000,-0Analyze
3 VAN DER POEL Mathieu€ 910.000,-€ 910.000,-0Analyze
4 SAGAN Peter€ 800.000,-€ 800.000,-0Analyze
5 HIRSCHI Marc€ 680.000,-€ 680.000,-0Analyze
6 BARDET Romain€ 464.000,-€ 464.000,-0Analyze
7 DE GENDT Thomas€ 208.000,-€ 208.000,-0Analyze

Here are my riders for the early week of the season based on my initial EUR 5m outlay.

With the early part of the season (should it happen to plan) being week long stage races and one day classics I am looking at riders who have those skills to bring me in some cash.

My strategy being that once the Giro comes around I will be able to sell a couple of these for a profit or add to my line up with their prize money gains.

Its incredible to say it but Peter Sagan looks my biggest gamble at EUR 800k. He needs to get a spring classic win to justify my outlay on him or do something in a race like Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico.

Right, that’s enough clues as to how I am going to make some money, you can create your own teams here… https://www.procyclinggame.com/home

Tour ’20 – Stages 10 & 11 – Sagan punished for avoiding fan?

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.

Tour ’20 – Stages 7,8 & 9 – Heartbreak for Hirschi as Roglic takes charge

After a sleepy middle to the first week, the Tour de France exploded in the cross winds on Friday with Bora driving the race forward to get Peter Sagan back into the green jersey.

Their plan worked so well however that they had to keep rolling and as more wind ripped into the reduced peloton late on Tadej Pogacar and Richie Porte were distanced from the front group.

It is exactly the sort of stage that every tour needs to make it a classic. There was racing from over 100km out which always makes the favourites nervous.

In the main they all dealt with it really well and despite missing out on the mid stage sprint and the finish, Sagan’s ambush took the green jersey back from Sam Bennett.

Wout van Aert continued to show that he has overtaken Mathieu van der Poel as the man from ‘cross most likely to dominate world cycling with his second stage win ahead of a monster weekend of domestique duties in the mountains.

Saturdays stage was riddled with drama and had a French winner. Something that is always welcome on a weekend mountain stage.

Nans Peters soloed away from the breakaway to prove his Giro stage win was no fluke. He really enjoyed his moment as he was riding up the finishing straight. But the drama was going on behind him.

Pogacar was clearly angry about losing time in the cross winds the previous day and set about getting it back with a series of brutal attacks. He managed to get his deficit back to under one minute and you have to say he looks a good bet to win the race.

Yesterday was even more dramatic with Marc Hirschi out front alone for most of the day before being caught in the last 2km. He still found the energy to open up the sprint and was only just pipped on the line by Pogacar and then Roglic.

It was heartbreaking to see the tears in his eyes as he stood on the podium as the days most agressive rider.

Behind Pogacar and Roglic there was devastation with Adam Yates losing the jersey and the touted French contenders, Julian Alaphillippe and Thibaut Pinot losing all hope.

Both of the home based riders lost big chunks of time both days.

But there remains hope for the host nation with Guillaume Martin of Cofidis still in the podium places and a resurgence for Romain Bardet who is quietly getting better day by day.

So Roglic is in yellow as we head into the rest day on the Atlantic coast, but Pogacar is closing fast and if he can avoid being in the wrong echelon is going to be the winner (there I said it!!).

 

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.

My bikeradar.com Tour de France predictions…

Overall victory: Richie Porte

Points victory: Peter Sagan

Breakaway points victory (see what I did there?): Thomas de Gendt

Best overall under 25: Romain Bardet

Team classification: Movistar

Rider with most number of stage wins: Marcel Kittel

Team with most number of stage wins: Quick Step Floors

Most unlikely stage winner: Albert Timmer

Most attacking rider: Thomas Voeckler

Biggest disappointment: Chris Froomes defence

First of the following riders to DNS or DNF: Fabio Aru