Friday Group Ride #369

Friday Group Ride #369

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?

Image: Filip Bossuyt

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  1. Fausto

    Maybe yesterday was Froomes one bad day and he could not transition onto the 20% well. Hell it even happens to me! Aru has no team help which does not bode well long term. Then again, Uran is handicapped too, no Talanski help, same with Martin. Sky is still in control and will try to go into the ITT with a minute plus lead in case of a mechanical/crash. Just a nice change of pace to see the variation in course and the players shuffle. Anyone notice NO Disc Brakes on these downhills? Riders have spoken! Good on the Frenchmen today, Bastille and all, no photo finish this time. Lastly, giving credit to Kittel, even if Sagan was still in the race I think Kittel is top of his game this year, seems to have that extra gear. Maybe Sagan would have taken one or two against him, but the Green jersey would have been in play till the end.

  2. Hoshie99

    Although tight now, the competitors will need 1 minute plus on Froome prior to the TT to realistically win and with a twin attack of Landa & Froome plus a talented like Kwiatkowski, so it still looks like Froome’s to lose.

    That can all change obviously with one incident and clearly Aru and Bardet are right there. I don’t think Uran would slot in, but a podium for him or Martin is possible.

    Kudos to Martin as he easily could be sitting in a podium slot if he didn’t get taken out. Absolutely amazing given the force of that crash.

    My final guess given race dynamics and team strength:

    1) Froome
    2) Bardet
    3) Aru


  3. TomInAlbany

    What Hoshie said but, I think Froome will put almost two minutes into Aru and Bardet. Uran is having a helluva ride. He typically has a bad day in each Grand tour. We’ll see. There’s only two real big climbing stages left with only one mountain top finish. Aru, Bardet, et al will need to go after Froome hard if they want the top step. however, it could cost them any podium step if it doesn’t go well.

    I really enjoyed Landa these last couple of days and watching him descend like a stone thrown off a cliff is a joy.

    Sky has the best team of those remaining and that’s why Froome will win.

  4. SBC

    To draw a bigger circle, the big tours, with the opportunity for an upset ever present via crashes, weather, un jour sans, &c, are a bit too predictable in tactics for sure, and outcome almost so sure. All indications are that Froome will win.. And that’s why we needed Sagan in the race…

  5. David Arnold

    I hope Dan Martin can podium, its a wonder he can even walk after his crash, and remember, NO ONE waited for him.

  6. Jeff Dieffenbach

    On the stage when Aru LOST the yellow jersey, he had two teammates in the bunch but couldn’t stick to their wheels. I haven’t heard an explanation yet.

    I understand how teammates help in that situation (“muscle” to help you stay near the front), on flat sections (the drafting benefit), and on descents (trusted wheel to follow, trusted protection behind). What I DON’T understand, though, is the benefit of teammates when the road turns up. Is there any draft gain? I watch somone like Aru and Uran stay with Sky/AG2R on the climbs–clearly, they don’t need teammates to do that. So, what’s the big deal?

    Given Froome’s strength, Sky’s strength, and the TT, I agree that it’s Froome’s Tour to win. But if I had money riding on it, I’d be nervous …

  7. Geoffrey Knobl

    It is Froome’s to loose. Or at least Sky’s. Of the next four people within one minute, only has put in historically good TT performances and that is Uran. But this year nor last he has not done so. We have ONE big day where any one of those guys can distance Froome on a climb before the TT. There’s some possibility that they can also attack as a group – which is what it should take – on the previous day one the last climb but they have to continue that and hope Froome can’t quite stay with them on the next downhill 30 K run. It’s dubious either of these situations will garner the minute plus they’ll need over Froome before the ITT. Given that, this means Froome is still the one to beat with these next three plus Dan Martin, fighting it out for 2nd through 5th place. The only other possibility I see is Landa going for a flyer and allowed to escape to get enough time to win the Tour as was done years ago by CSC and Carlos Sastre with everyone marking Froome but NOT Landa.

    So, my pick of scenarios is
    1) Froome wins with 2nd – 5th being the same people they are now but not necessarily in the same order
    2) The also-rans cooperating wholly or in part to distance Sky and Froome enough to get too much time for him to gain back in the ITT – possible but not as likely. This could be done just maybe by Bardet’s squad alone as they are best remaining squad outside of Sky.
    3) Everyone marks Froome but Landa escapes to gain too much time to be brought back in the ITT and he wins.

    1. Jeff Dieffenbach

      @Geoffrey, agreed. I wonder, though, if there’s anything that 2-5 can do as a group that Sky can’t counter. Sky’s top 4 are arguably of equal talent to 2-5. Perhaps 2-5 can enlist Contador and/or a somehow reinvigorated Quintana?

      I appreciate that Sky might like to get Landa into the top 2 (first OR second) as a hedge against Froome having a physical or mechanical problem. But, would they let him get a significant time advantage over Froome? Or would they ask him to slow up? If they asked him to slow up, would he?

      And, what if it comes down to the TT between Froome and Landa? Would they ask Landa to hold up in the same way that they asked Froome to hold up when he was a lieutenant for Wiggins? Does that consideration differ in a TT vs. a mountain stage (which is where Froome was throttled back)? And if asked, would Landa throttle back?

  8. Geoffrey Knobl

    Yes, as a group, I feel 2-5 can do something vs. Froome, Landa & Sky, that is, if they don’t wait until the mountain gets steep. You have the remainder of those four squads available, even though not as good as Sky, they outnumber them collectively. This can be used to their advantage. But it takes coordination. It’s not likely though as possibility 1) – Froome winning.

    Would Sky let Landa gain enough time on Froome? It depends on management’s and Froome’s and Landa’s egos. I don’t know enough about that. But this HAS been done before with CSC and Sastre. So, I mentioned this. At this point, they will likely ask Landa to slow for Froome if the latter has a moment of crisis. This has been their history. The loose end is Landa who may be out of contract, as I think you know.

    In a TT, Froome wins. No amount of asking any rider to slow up will make a difference at this point as this is the traditional last day to attack the yellow jersey. (Only Aru may be *rude* enough to attack on the Paris stage.) And I think Sky management knows this as well and would say go for it to Landa if he thought he could beat Froome. The only place he’s likely to gain time on Froome in my mind is the uphill climb. I think Froome is his equal downhill or better and is definitely better on the rollers and flats. So, Froome still gains time in Marseilles.

    1. Jeff Dieffenbach

      My Q re the TT was assuming that Landa entered it with a lead large enough that he could defend. For instance, let’s say that Froome is “naturally” 1 minute faster than Landa and that Landa has a 1:10 lead. Then, both go all out and Landa wins. Or Sky holds Landa up.

      Regarding the Paris stage, is there any time differential that would void the “gentlemen’s agreement?” What if the lead of one racer over the other was 10 seconds? 5 seconds? 1 second?

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