Friday Group Ride #176

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If I had been cynical/skeptical/jaded about this Tour de France over the first two weeks, yesterday’s stage with its double ascent of Alpe d’Huez cured me. With riders leaping off the front and dropping off the back, there was so much going on, so much chaos, that I found myself riveted. I have always been a fan of the epic climbing stages, and this one delivered enough thrills to qualify for the four-ticket bounty at the state fair.

And though Chris Froome and his Sky minions have controlled the race with well-calculated and muscular performances whenever and wherever it’s been necessary, so too have his rivals taken ample opportunity to attack. The race has been anything but a stately promenade to Paris.

I was wrong in my initial belief that the green jersey competition would be more interesting than the GC. Peter Sagan is riding away with the points competition, despite not dominating either in the intermediate or finishing sprints. On the other hand, once you look past Froome, the next four GC riders are within 47 seconds of each other. With one last mountain stage to ride, podium spots are anything but assured.

The preeminence of Team Sky in three-week races seems confirmed now, though Bradley Wiggins failed to impress (or finish) the Giro. Still, the short reign of Alberto Contador is clearly over, and it remains to be seen whether racers like Vincenzo Nibali and Joaquim Rodriguez can translate Giro and Vuelta performances into French success.

Sagan has stolen Mark Cavendish’s thunder, and even Andre Greipel is finding ways to win stages. The lack of real dominance is good for the sport, both from a fan’s perspective and from a credibility standpoint. It says something powerful that Froome’s ride in France has drawn so many questions, while the seeming parity of his rivals speaks volumes about the possible cleanliness of the top tier competitors. Maybe, just maybe, this has been a good Tour de France for cycling.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what have you enjoyed about this 100th Tour de France? Did it live up to your expectations? What were the surprises? And what does it say about the current state of Grand Tour racing?

Image: Fotoreporter Sirotti

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22 comments

  1. Patrick O'Brien

    I watched stage 18 with friends. We watch one stage together most every year, and most years it is the stage with the climb of Alpe d Huez. I am still losing interest in the grand tours, and watching yesterday didn’t change that. If it wasn’t for a DVR so we could skip commercials, I would have given up after 2 hours.

  2. SusanJane

    My strategy is working for me so far. I’d say I’ve watched half the Tour with captions so far. Especially on the mountains. I actually see more without the hype and crowd noise. My absolute favorite bit was a split screen with the faces of Froome and Contrador side by side — they were clearly wrecked and nearly identical in their suffering. I wanted to see people earn their places and I have by in large seen that. Sky hasn’t crushed with super-human anything. Sky has been smart and gutsy. Froome is a strong rider but the teams had had to fight for it. The podium is _still_ in question. The green and white jerseys are sewed up pending a crash. But polka dot is still in question and they are fighting for it. And as always I root for the non-favorites who win stages against odds. All that said, I’ve taken advantage of my DVR and fast forwarded at times. But I did catch the guy on the Alp in some wild costume running along brandishing a huge potato! I swear it was clearly a potato. Someone made it all the way up specifically to threaten the peleton with a potato. Is there some European obscenity that I don’t know about?

  3. oldschoolzeus

    Guess I’ve got my head in the sand. I have watched most stages on DVR. I really enjoy it and marvel at the power those guys have to go the speeds they do. So sick of the doping accusations I just turn all that crap off!! Viva Le Tour.

  4. Eto

    I have enjoyed the gutsiness (sp?) of the rivals and the stage winners. Even if I do not fully believe in Froome and his team, it does not diminish the fight going on behind him and all the beautiful scenery.

    Until next year.

  5. LD

    I agree with Drago. I don’t believe it any more. In fact even though I am a huge fan of cycling and the romance/ history of the sport, the current state of affairs is pushing me away. No longer do I sneak downstairs before anybody else is up to get the first hand account on tv and I rarely watch the primetime shows. Don’t even get me started on those two bumbling buffoons. I’m not an idiot and I’m pissed that the industry takes me for one. The bullshit changes in technology “that make the bikes faster” or the 15 watts that a kamm tailed helmet will give me is utter crap. It is painfully obvious to see who doesn’t dope any longer, who still does and who’s on the next generation of stuff. To listen to broadcasters, industry insiders and the UCI who play dumb with whats truly going on is just a plain insult to me. I would never, ever teach or ever tolerate the values that these guys live by to my children. If the sport ultimately implodes they have only themselves to blame………. I’m going for a ride.

  6. garuda

    I like the tactics, subplots, gambles, attacks, blowups, recoveries, failures to live up to expectations, surprises. moral, ethical and legal implications of doping are a negligible fraction of my protour interest. And bikeporn?? They’re just ads, just like all of the weight loss products and the super knives shown on tv.

  7. Jon2020

    My favourite stage was stage 13. The unexpected happening, the requirement for the teams to adapt to the conditions and those that could ultimately benefited

  8. scaredskinnydog

    I’ve enjoyed:
    Lauren Ten Dam- I know he’s been getting shelled in the final week but his ‘never surrender’ riding style is still awesome to watch.
    Dan Martin- An Irishman wins a stage!! I still haven’t sobered up!
    Tejay- I haven’t sat on the edge of my seat and yelled at the t.v. in a long time.
    Quintana- welcome to the New World climbing order.
    Jens- The old dog still brings the wood!

  9. Spiff

    It has been a great race. Funny how Contador is the challenger, but there are a lot of challengers. And I’m sorry for you guys thst only have the TV brodcast to see the race. The live feed from Eurosport has been fun, really fun! I like Sean Kelly’s comentary, and the other guy Kirby cracks me up.
    These guys are racing, try doing their training rides.

  10. Vince

    BMC backed the wrong horse. Seniority over talent is not smart.

    Movistar may have picked the wrong horse also and it’a fantastic to see Quintana carrying the team now.

    The first week was one of the best in recent history…loved it.

  11. Robot

    Things I didn’t mention, but have loved:

    Quintana’s stone face – That dude is in the red, over the line, and he just sits there, just sits there, just sits there. I love it.

    Rolland – A French climber. Who doesn’t love a French climber.

    The polka dot jersey – See previous re: climbing. Froome’s lead in polka dots takes the shine off the would-be winner, but Quintana can take it from him today…maybe.

  12. michael

    NAIRO QUINTAAAAAAANNNAAAAAAA!

    Garmin’s swashbuckling clusterfuck of a raid in the Pyrenees to net Dan Martin that stage win.

    Alpe d’Huez stadium riding.

    Talansky top-10.

    NAIRO QUINTAAAAAAANNNAAAAAAA !

    vive le tour, what a great 3 weeks!

  13. SusanJane

    I was shocked and sickened that Froome and Contador had to field questions about doping during the rest day but Quintana didn’t suffer a single one. Forgive me but he is from Colombia one of the world’s largest cocaine producers. Not that I want any of them to be doping. But my point is we put the underdog and Cinderella story on a pedestal because we love the ideal of racing really well and clean. No one’s safe. I want the man to win big. But get him off the pedestal _and_ stop this crazy paparazzi harassment of everyone else.

  14. michael

    On this rare occurrence here in the RKP comments section, I feel a duty to call out just how assinine your comment is SusanJane.

    Instead of making blanket statements about a country how about you dig out your passport and visit it instead of painting with a wide brush stroke?

    As an aside, if Columbia is one of the world’s largest coca producers that is because the USA is the world’s largest consumer. By using your logic that would make every single US athlete (and citizen) a potential drug user.

    I am just going to say – wtf.

    now on to a more entertaining comment – from now on, I think that every single time NAIRO QUINNNNNNNNTAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNNAAAAAAA! is introduced at rider sign-in, we need to have Michael Buffer on the microphone to do it.

  15. Spiff

    Thank you Michael, SusanJane’s comment was uncalled for. The passion for cycling in Columbia is very unique. Read “Kings of the Mountains”.

  16. Nelson

    Double d’Huez hands down best day of the last 4 tours.

    As for Frooms “cleanliness”, I think other riders are speaking for him. I have read a couple articles where riders, not team mates, are saying “ofcourse he’s clean”. Their opinions speak volumes.

  17. Steve O

    Watch Kittel over on Vimeo at How The Race Was Won. I missed it on the NBC feed, but somehow, on top of just being fast, he also showed some nifty handling skills and heads-up riding dodging lead-out guys. He races like a seasoned pro. Well, sprints, at least.

  18. Steve O

    Watch Kittel over on Vimeo at How The Race Was Won. I missed it on the NBC feed, but somehow, on top of just being fast, he also showed some nifty handling skills and heads-up riding dodging lead-out guys. He races like a seasoned pro. Well, sprints, at least.

    Some sponsor will nab Tejay and Telansky, which totally sounds like a ’70s buddy cop TV show. Picture them riffing The Beastie Boys’ Sabotage on bikes.

  19. mck414

    Sagan pulling a wheelie as a salute to the cameraman and local crowd. Dude has fun on a bike, you can’t deny that.

  20. PMAC

    …..”Forgive me but he is from Colombia one of the world’s largest cocaine producers….” –Well it’s clear that other countries are of the world’s largest idiot propducers.

    I’ve been to Colombia recently, and my survey says AWESOME! the people are awesome, the food is awesome, and the exotic diversity of the region is awesome. The majority of pro cyclists come from a region/state that has absolutely nothing to do with coca production.

    As for the rest of it, I was entertained in a way that only le Tour is capable, what little I got to watch.

  21. Roadscrape

    Look how many teams were so close together in their level of talent and competition, Sky excepted. As a cycling fan, there was a lot to be grateful for this year (I always watch the Giro and the Vuelta, too). Maybe next year, Nibali will shoot for the TdF and make it really interesting.

    As for negative remarks about Columbia, SusanJane is a few years behind on current news regarding cocaine production, which was off topic to begin with. The Giro and TdF show that Columbia has a number of competitive riders in the fold over the next few years, which will make all of the grand tours even more entertaining.

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