I don’t know how many Tours de France I’ve watched, enough that I should be a sharper analyst of what goes on. But I’m near the bottom in the TdF fantasy league I’m part of, and I am near the bottom every season. Does that stop me pontificating and prognosticating? No.
On Wednesday, a friend asked me what I thought would happen with this year’s GC. Did I think anyone could stop Froome?
My answer, though delivered in a way that would suggest I have watched more than one Tour, turned out to be wrong, almost immediately. What I said was something like: Aru, Bardet and Uran have no shot. Sky knows how to mark them out of the race, how to raise the pace, when necessary, to preempt attacks. The likelihood, I asserted, was that it would take someone really talented down the standings, like Quintana or Contador to make a crazy, uphill attack to put Sky into disarray and create an opening for one of the nearly rans to usurp Froome.
Of course, now we know that the minute the road turned skyward, Bardent, Aru and Uran absolutely had their way with Froome and his Sky train. It didn’t help that Mikel Landa dropped his leader like a guy who knows his next contract doesn’t come with a fancy pants team bus or a shiny Pinarello. That was Wednesday.
Then, actually, Contador and Quintana did exactly what I expected, though it didn’t dramatically alter the podium picture.
Sure, there’s still a time trial in front of us. None of the whippet climbers at the top of the GC now, including Aru, have enough time to make up for Froome’s better speed against the clock. But the race is on now. It is NOT predictable. The back-from-the-dead attack from Contador is still possible. Stone-faced Nairo Quintana must have ONE day of good legs in front of him yet.
This week’s Group Ride doesn’t even dare mention Nacer Bouhanni. Instead it asks, how is thing going to end? Who will wear yellow in Paris? Is this still Froome’s race to lose?