Tour ’20 – Stages 12&13 – Hirschi makes his Marc

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.

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!!).

 

Why Bardet transfer could be the biggest this winter…

There are two other contracts that have been signed which influences the important of where Romain Bardet ends up in 2021 and beyond.

Firstly there is the commitment of Flemish classics start Oliver Naesen to stay with the Alpine based Ag2r team. It shows their faith in him to deliver a monument (despite a number of near misses including one with a spectators coat) and with some of the other names on that teams retained list there seems to be a bit more emphasis on the all round aspects of cycling than just whether Bardet can even win the Tour de France.

On the other side of the French team divide is Groupama/FDJ and their extension of Thibaut Pinot’s contract.

There is an argument to say that he is even more of a flaky GC contender than Bardet having succumbed to injury more times than Bardet has suffered stage fright. But his team see enough in him to make sure he is tied to a deal.

So with his main French rival under contract and settled in his environment and the main classics star on his own team already signed up (along with a number of other young French talents) does this leave Romain in the wilderness?

Well, he is 29 so if its going to happen in Le Tour he doesn’t have long left. However he doesn’t seem able to address that weakness in time trials and seemed happier to go to the Giro (as Pinot had done in previous years) to get away from the pressure of being one of the home country’s hopes to end their yellow jersey drought.

He clearly feels like a change may benefit him and Sunweb who were caught short (hahah) by Tom Dumoulin’s departure could see him as a good bet for a stage win and mountains jersey at least. After their rudderless performance in the Tour last year it would give them someone to get behind easing the pressure on Michael Matthews on the earlier flatter stages.

I do hope that wherever he ends up we see that sense of freedom back in his riding because when he attacks both uphill and down (remember that thrilling descent from the Dauphine a few years back?) he is box office to watch.

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