Week 2 belongs to Cav and Van Aert

The second week of the Tour de France offered only glipmses of a batte for the yellow jersey but was made famous for the wins of Mark Cavendish.

His two stage wins in Valence and Carcassonne book ended the week and gave us something to remember this race for.

His first stage win in 2008 was a “remember where you were moment“. I was in the car going to Skegness listening to Simon Brotherton on 5 live.

Friday I had it on in the background whilst working and from 2km to go to the finish was a nervous wreck.

He is level with the record now and its thoroughly deserved after his efforts in this race over the years.

At the other end of his Tour career is Wout Van Aert who was the other star of the week after winning the stage with a double ascent of the fearsome Mont Ventoux.

He was part of the breakaway for much of the stage before going clear with Kenny Elissonde and leaving him behind as Julian Alaphillippe tried to get across to them.

Behind Wout there was the merest hint of a battle for the GC with Jonas Vingegaard becoming the first person to drop Tadej Pogacar only to be pulled back on the descent thanks to some negative riding from Richard Carapaz and Rigo Uran.

Why those two didnt want to put the yellow jersey under pressure and leave him to chase Vingegaard on his own was beyond me.

It was a clear indication that they were only interested in riding for 2nd place. Which is poor.

In fact the whole Ineos tactical masterplan this week has been poor.

Short of giving Pogacar an armchair and slippers they have done very little other than keep Carapaz in with a shout of the podium.

What happened to last years pledge to go from long? be disruptive and shake up the race?

They have ridden the perfect mountain train for the race leader who isn’t in their team. Bonkers.

The second third weekend of the race took us into Andorra and saw some spectacular climbing and a deserved stage win for Sepp Kuss who continued the Jumbo/Visma comeback after the loss of leader Roglic.

Whilst I don’t see much changing in the top 10 this week, save Carapaz moving up to second or third, I will be keeping focus on Cav getting through the mountains within the time limit.

Fingers crossed he can make it to Paris.

NK.RIDERTEAMTIME
1 POGAČAR TadejUAE-Team Emirates62:07:18
2 URÁN RigobertoEF Education – Nippo5:18
3 VINGEGAARD JonasTeam Jumbo-Visma5:32
4 CARAPAZ RichardINEOS Grenadiers5:33
5 O’CONNOR BenAG2R Citroën Team5:58
6 KELDERMAN WilcoBORA – hansgrohe6:16
7 LUTSENKO AlexeyAstana – Premier Tech7:01
8 MAS EnricMovistar Team7:11
9 MARTIN GuillaumeCofidis, Solutions Crédits7:58
10 BILBAO PelloBahrain – Victorious10:59

Tour ’20 – Stages 16&17 – Kamna fulfills the promise whilst Superman flies

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.

Tour ’20 – Stages 14&15 – Is Pogacar the man most likely?

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.

Pic from Procyclingstats.

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 wonder…