As mountain biking evolves, so do the choices facing riders. One such choice – a pretty fundamental one – is the type of bike that best suits your riding.
If you’re a racing snake the choice is pretty simple: something ultra-light with aggressive geometry … the sort of thing that Nino Schurter races on the cross-country circuit or the top Cape Epic riders all use. Managing such bikes on technical sections requires some considerable skill, particularly when you opt for a hardtail, which may be super light but is not very forgiving in the tight and twisty stuff.
At the other end of the scale you are a wannabe Greg Minnaar (or even Greg Minnaar himself) and your weapon of choice will be a downhill bike with huge suspension and very relaxed geometry, so much so that the front wheel seems to be sitting impossibly far out front when you are in the saddle. These are perfect for descending, but are heavy as hell and a nightmare when the trail turns upwards.
Then there are the host of riders who want to have fun on the downhills but want to go uphill as well, if not at quite the same pace as the racing types. The evolution of trail and all-mountain bikes has reflected the increasing popularity of this style of riding (as has the advent of Enduro racing, where riders are timed over short downhill sections and ride at a chilled pace in-between them). Continue reading by clicking here...
Tour De France 2017 Stage 20: Marseille / Marseille 22.5 km
Maciej Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe) took the biggest victory of his career Saturday in Marseille, riding to victory on the 22km Stage 20 individual time trial at the Tour de France.
However the biggest winner on the day was yellow jersey Chris Froome (Team Sky), who defended his lead and rode to an impressive third on the day, five seconds behind teammate Michal Kwiatkowski, who finished just one second behind Bodnar.
Froome now leads the general classification by almost a minute over Rigoberto Uran of Cannondale-Drapac, with only the processional stage into Paris remaining.
Bodnar’s win marks Bora-Hansgrohe’s second of the 2017 Tour after Peter Sagan’s Stage 3 win in Longwy. Sagan’s subsequent disqualification left the German team looking for another stage win, and Bodnar delivered on the seaside course in Marseilles.
There would be a GC shakeup between second and third place, as Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) had a tough day on course in Marseilles, succumbing almost 90 seconds to third place Uran, who overtook the Frenchman to take second on the general classification. Bardet nearly lost his podium spot, maintaining third on the classification by just one second over Froome’s teammate Mikel Landa, who finished 15th on the stage, 51 seconds back.
Uran had a strong ride on Stage 20 despite a final corner mishap that saw him narrowly avoid a crash. The Colombian took eighth in the time trial, 31 seconds down on Bodnar.
Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) also had an impressive showing on Stage 20, his individual effort awarding him sixth on the stage, 21 seconds back from Bodnar. The Spaniard’s result moved him above mountains classification leader Warren Barguil (Sunweb) in the general classification, to ninth.
Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) finished 1:34 down on the stage, successfully defending his white best young rider jersey, leading Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates) by 2:06.
Tour De France 2017 Stage 19: Embrun / Salon-de-Provence 222.5 km
Edvald Boasson Hagen won the 19th stage of the Tour de France, attacking out of a breakaway to take the solo win. Second place went to Nikias Arndt (Sunweb), with third going to Jens Keukeleire (Orica-Scott). It was the first win for Dimension Data at this year’s Tour.
The peloton with race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) was more than 11 minutes back as the Norwegian crossed the finish line.
It was Boasson Hagen’s eighth win of the season and his first Tour stage win since winning two in 2011 with Team Sky. He launched his winning effort on a roundabout only 2.2km before the finish line. He and Arndt went right, whilst the others went left and the right side was noticeably shorter. The two shot out to a lead which they never surrendered, though Arndt could not hold the wheel of the Norwegian.
The first nine were part of a 20-man break group which formed early in the race and was allowed to build up to a 10-minute lead. The group split with less than 20km left after many attacks tore the group apart.
How it unfolded
Stage 19 was the longest of this year’s Tour – 222.5 km – but still the attacks started as soon as the flag was dropped. A group of eight formed early, but was unable to establish itself.
The first ranked climb of the day, the third category Col Lebraut, came after only 27km and Romain Sicard (Direct Energie), Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) and Elie Gesbert (Fortuneo-Oscaro) jumped clear over the summit. Rolland and Sicard dropped back, with Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) moving up.
Calmejane and Gesbert slowly built up a lead on the descent, and were soon joined by a larger group. Team Sky finally decided they was satisfied with how things were developing, and they let the large group go.
The group contained Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal), Jan Bakelants (AG2R), Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Romain Hardy (Fortuneo-Oscaro), Robert Kiserlovski (Katusha), Rudy Molard (FDJ), Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), Pierre Luc Perichon (Fortuneo-Oscaro), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Gianluca Brambilla (QuickStep Floors), Jens Keukeleire (Orica Scott), Romain Sicard (Direct Energie), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), Ben Swift (UAE Team Emirates), Elie Gesbert (Fortuneo Oscaro), Nikias Arndt (Sunweb), Michael Albasini (Orica-Scott), Daniele Bennati (Movistar).
The gap quickly grew out to five minutes as Hardy led the group over the day’s second climb, the Cote de Breziers. Team Sky were willing to let the gap move out as they were not interested in a potentially risky bunch sprint.
Next up was the Col de Pointu, another third category climb. Coming 45km before the finish, it offered a launch pad for anyone wanting to break from the group or peloton. The lead group was no longer as unified as it had been, and with 2.5km to the top, Kiserlovski, Gesbert and Sicard took off. Sicard led the way at the top.
Gallopin dangled at the end of the group, shot up to the front, and then fell back again, struggling to even stay in sight of the group. Mollema took off on the descent, as it changed from a unified group to every man for himself. He too was brought back, as the group started working together again on the flat.
Too many teams were still looking for a first stage win. Attack followed attack, and with 18km left the break split into two almost equally sized groups.
Bakelants, De Gendt, Bennati, Chavanel, Keukeleire, Boasson Hagen, Arndt, Gesbert and Albasini made the cut and slowly pulled away. At the 10km marker, they had 13 seconds on their chasers, and 10 minutes on the peloton.
With 8km to go the attacks started again. Still, the group somehow hung together. Arndt and Boasson Hagen took the right side of a roundabout with 2.2km to go and came out ahead of the rest who took the left side. The duo took off, but Arndt could no longer follow the Norwegian. Boasson Hagen took off and easily soloed it to take the win. Arndt saved second, for another top Sunweb placing, with Keukeleire third.
The second part of the group came in more than 1:30 down, with the peloton still making its way to the finish. There was no sprint, and Sky’s Christian Knees led the procession across the finish line 12:27 after Boasson Hagen.
Tour De France 2017 Stage 18: Briançon / Izoard 179.5 km
Thursday, 20 July 2017 – At 179.5 kilometers, stage 18 in the Tour de France leaves from Briançon to travel to a summit on the Izoard Pass. The last mountain stage in this year’s Grande Boucle is played out on rolling roads before two long and steep climbs kick in with 60 kilometers remaining.
It is the 34th appearance of the Col d’Izoard in the Tour de France, yet it is the first time the finish line lies at the top. No photo finish, that’s for sure – the riders will come stumbling across the line.The last mountain stage in the 2017 Tour de France starts leaves from Briançon, at an elevation of 1,170 metres the highest city in France. At kilometre 60 the riders crest Côte des Demoiselles Coiffées, a 3.9 kilometres climb at 5.2%, and until kilometre 110 there is really nothing to worry about.
The first slopes of the Col de Vars begin in Jausiers. That way, it’s a 21.5 kilometers climb which is getting steeper along the way. With sections between 2% and 3%, the first half is merely a false flat before the going gets tough(er) from kilometer 13 onward. The last 9.3 kilometers are the official climb and this section comes with an average slope of 7.5%, while getting steeper along the way. At 4 kilometer before the top the party really gets going with 2 kilometers at around 10%.
After the drop to Guillestre the last climb of the Tour de France appears. The road through the valley is a false flat of almost 20 kilometers that runs to the foot of the Col d’Izoard. Then, with the sign ‘start climb’, the gradients really kick in. The Izoard is a 14.1 kilometers climb that is averaging 7.3%. The last 10 kilometers go up at 9% and lead to the forbidding and barren slopes of Casse Déserte. A perfect and dramatic backdrop for the last summit finish in the 2017 Tour de France.
The first three riders on the line take time bonuses of 10, 6 and 4 seconds.
Tour De France 2017 Stage 17: La Mure to Serre Chavelier 183 km
The penultimate mountain stage of the 2017 Tour de France was always going to be a tetchy affair, with so much still to play for and so it would turn out to be. Many tried and failed to get into the breakaway early on and the movement in the bunch on the approach to the first climb of the day the Col d’Ornon took out not one but two jersey wearers.
Mountains classification leader Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) came through it with little damage but green jersey wearer, Marcel Kittel was not so lucky. He looked in pain as he endured a lengthy wait for a replacement bike and a damaged cleat meant he had to change his shoe. Eventually, he was able to ride on, but an ice pack on his shoulder was evidence of a serious underlying issue.
While Kittel was being attended to by the medical car behind the pack, a break began to form at the front. Adding insult to injury, Kittel’s biggest rival for the green jersey competition, Matthews was one of many riders to make it clear. The Sunweb rider was joined by 29 other riders, including Roglic, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Laurens ten Dam (Sunweb), Mathias Frank and Cyril Gautier (AG2R La Mondiale), Bauke Mollema and Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo) and Daniel Navarro (Cofidis).
The top of the Col d’Ornon in sight, Matthews and De Gendt pushed on. De Gendt was looking to mop up a few mountains points but Matthews, playing the team game, had other ideas and sprinted around him to crest the second category climb first. The peloton would follow them over already five minutes behind.
Alexander Kristof (Katusha-Alpecin) came down hard on the descent of the Col d’Ornon. The Norwegian looked like he’d been in a bar brawl when he got back on the bike with a bloody cut under his eye and a jersey ripped to shreds.
Meanwhile, Matthews and De Gendt were still riding off the front with Matthews taking the points at the intermediate sprint too.
The main GC battle was not going to take place until the riders hit the Galibier but Contador decided to go early on the slopes of the Col de la Croix de Fer. Having struggled through much of the Tour de France, it was really great to see Contador on the attack. He initially too Nairo Quintana (Movistar) with him but the Colombian did not have the legs to hold onto a determined Contador.
Quintana had already tried to go away before Contador had launched his move. His day would get even worse later on when he was well and truly dropped by the favourites.
Contador was forced to bridge much of the gap alone until he got close enough to the leaders for his teammate Michael Gogl to drop back and keep him company. By the time Contador had them in his sights; the breakaway was dropping in numbers.
Matthews and De Gendt were still ahead, but it wouldn’t be for long with Contador on a mission. With 89 kilometres still to run, they were brought back and the real battle for the stage win would begin. Meanwhile, news came through that Kittel had called it a day, leaving the Tour de France with an injured shoulder and five stage victories.
Contador was no threat to their race lead but that didn’t stop Team Sky’s Vasil Kiryienka setting a blistering pace that would see the break’s advantage diminish very quickly. By the Telegraphe, the lead was down to 3:20 and there were just 10 riders left out front. A bike change left Contador on the side of the road for some time but he was quickly back with his breakaway companions. They were not going to leave him behind just yet.
The gap would go out again ahead of the Galibier but as the leaders tried to shake each other off, the decreasing peloton worked their way ever closer. After several failed attempts, Roglic finally broke free with 35 kilometres remaining as Contador paid for his efforts earlier in the day.
Behind, Dan Martin was the first of the GC riders to attack but his lead would not grow to much more than 10 seconds. As had been expected, Bardet launched a flurry of moves towards the top of the Galibier. While unable to break free of the yellow jersey, he did distance one of his main rivals, Aru. The Italian champion had been labouring and after chasing back on a number of times, he finally cracked and was never to see the group of favourites again.
As Roglic glided his way down the long descent towards the finish, the yellow jersey group would continue to fracture. Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) suffered badly, while his white jersey rival Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates) joined forces with Aru.
Bardet, Uran, Barguil and Landa stayed with the yellow jersey Froome right up to the line, with Uran winning the sprint for second place over a minute behind Roglic.
Tour De France 2017 Stage 16: Le Puy-en-Velay to Romans-Sur-Isere 165km
174 riders started stage 16 in Le Puy-en-Velay. Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) was a non-starter due to illness. Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Thomas Degand (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) were the most active riders in the first hour of racing. At the côte de Boussoulet (km 20.5) they were in the lead with South African Daryl Impey (Orica-Scott) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis). All skirmishes made the race too hard for Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) as well as many other riders, so Sunweb put the hammer down. Chavanel was the last breakaway rider to be brought back at km 44.5 km mark.
As a long downhill was following the col de Rouvey with 100km to go, Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) didn’t give up. He decided to attack from the green jersey group to bridge a gap of two minutes to the yellow jersey group led by Sunweb. He firstly did it in the wheel of his team-mate Julien Simon. He was later drafted successively by Nicolas Edet and Cyril Lemoine who waited for him. He was always accompanied by Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin) who had no interest to help him come across to the peloton other than to become one more rival to Alexander Kristoff. It took Bouhanni 50 minutes of chasing to make it back to the pack with 56km to go.
Crosswinds caused some tension in the peloton in the run-in to Romans-sur-Isère in the Rhône valley. GC riders started jostling for positions with 20km to go. It reduced the front group to 28 riders. Among the top ranked riders overall, Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors), Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates) were missing. With 2km to go, Daniele Bennati (Movistar) tried to anticipate the sprint but he had to surrender 600 meters before the line. In a tight finish, Michael Matthews (Sunweb) outsprinted John Degenkolb and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) who missed out for the second time by very little. Chris Froome (Sky) retains the lead while Martin dropped from fifth to seventh overall after losing a minute to the lead group.
Stage 16 result:
Michael Matthews (Aus/Sunweb) 3hrs 38mins 15secs
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor/Dimension Data) Same time
John Degenkolb (Ger/Trek-Segafredo)
Greg van Avermaet (Bel/BMC)
Christophe Laporte (Fra/Cofidis)
General classification after stage 16:
Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) 68hrs 18mins 36secs
Fabio Aru (Ita/Astana) +18secs
Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R) +23secs
Rigoberto Uran (Col/Cannondale-Drapac) +29secs
Mikel Landa (Spa/Team Sky) +1min 17secs
Simon Yates (GB/Orica) +2mins 02secs
Dan Martin (Ire/Quick-Step) +2mins 03secs
Louis Meintjes (RSA/Team UAE Emirates) +6mins 00secs
Tour De France 2017 Stage 15: Laissac-Sévérac L’Eglise to LePuy-en-Velay
176 riders started stage 15 in Laissac-Sévérac L’Eglise as Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) called it a day on this year’s Tour as he was suffering from severe allergies.
Ten riders made the first breakaway: Warren Barguil (Sunweb), Dylan Van Baarle (Cannondale-Drapac), Robert Kiserlovski and Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin), Tsgabu Grmay (Bahrain-Merida), Giampaolo Caruso (BMC), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), Marcus Burghardt (Boar-Hansgrohe), Marcel Sieberg (Lotto-Soudal) and Angel Luis Maté (Cofidis).
Barguil led all the way up the first category 1 climb of the day to score ten more points in the King of the Mountains competition.
After 60km of racing while the main peloton was cruising through the scenic Aubrac plateau, the 10 initial break away riders were joined by a further 18 to form a lead group of 28: Jan Bakelants (AG2R-La Mondiale), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Damiano Caruso, Alessandro De Marchi, Amaël Moinard, Nicolas Roche (BMC), Kristjian Durasek, Diego Ulissi (UAE), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), Tony Martin, Robert Kiserlovski, Maurits Lammertink (Katusha), Tiejs Benoot, Thomas De Gendt, Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal), Michael Matthews, Warren Barguil, Simon Geschke (Sunweb), Luis Angel Maté, Dani Navarro (Cofidis), Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), Lilian Calmejane, Romain Sicard (Direct Energie), Dylan Van Baarle (Cannondale-Drapac), Tsgabu Grmay (Bahrain-Merida), Romain Hardy and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fortuneo-Oscaro). Team Sky led the peloton mostly with a controlled deficit of five minutes.
The 28 leaders had a maximum advantage of 7m15 over the main peloton but the powerful Tony Martin would try his luck in a solo move 66km away from the finish on the ascent of the col de Peyra Taillade.
Chris Froome had a mechanical as Team AG2R were on the attack but had his most trusted lieutenant, Michal Kwiatkowski on hand to give him his back wheel. The race leader eventually made it back across to the Aru-Bardet group led by AG2R-La Mondiale but after a very demanding effort. Meanwhile, 3km before the summit, Barguil brought Martin back and continued to claim ten more KOM points at the top.
A group of nine riders was formed with 30km to go but without cohesion, Mollema would take a chance to ride away solo. He would be chased by Ulissi, Barguil, Gallopin and Roglic but managed to stay nineteen seconds clear of them all to win at the finish in Le Puy-en-Velay.
The race remained eventful till the end in the group of the favorites, as Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) and Louis Meintjes (UAE) attacked each other for the white jersey and Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) took advantage of the impossibility for Froome to ride after everyone. The main loser of the day among the big names was Nairo Quintana (Movistar) who completed the stage several minutes adrift after blowing up to col de Peyra Taillade that certainly added to the great spectacle of stage 16 ahead of a well deserved rest day
Tour De France 2017 Stage 14: Blagnac to Rodez 181.5km
177 riders started stage 14 in Blagnac. Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) attacked from the gun. He was quickly joined by Timo Roosen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Maxime Bouet (Fortuneo-Oscaro) while Reto Hollenstein (Katusha-Alpecin) jumped across on his own and reinforced the leading group at km 14 mark.
Their maximum advantage was three minutes at km 25 as teams BMC and Sunweb of hot favourites Greg Van Avermaet and Michael Matthews prepared for an uphill finish from very far out. With the help of Jani Brajkovic (Bahrain-Merida), they maintained the time difference for two minutes for most of the stage. De Gendt won the intermediate sprint and crested the two categorized climbs in first position ahead of Voeckler.
The leading quintet split in the côte de Contrès with Bouet cracking 1st at the 38km to go. De Gendt and Voeckler forged on while their former breakaway companions were brought back by the peloton. With 32km to go, De Gendt rode Voeckler off. The Lotto-Soudal rider stayed one minute ahead with 20km to go. He was reeled in with 12km to go after 170km in the lead.
Maurits Lammertink (Katusha-Alpecin) counter attacked straight away along with, Damiano Caruso (BMC), Nikias Arndt (Sunweb) and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fortuneo-Oscaro) who accompanied the Dutchman off the front but it was all together once again with 4km to go.
After Belgian champion Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale) disturbed the lead out trains, Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) launched the uphill sprint in Rodez from far out but it was a duel at the top of the climb between the two riders everyone expected. Matthews proved to be a bit stronger than Van Avermaet. The Australian claimed his second stage win at the Tour de France one year after he did it in Revel. Splits in the peloton put Chris Froome back in the leaders yellow jersey with an advantage of 19 seconds over Fabio Aru and 23 over Romain Bardet.
Tour De France 2017 Stage 13: Saint Girons to Foix – 101km
Today was Bastille Day and despite the short distance the day would turn out to be one of the most exciting with the Frenchman Warren Barguil at the front joined his fellow country man Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) on the attack as soon as the flag dropped at kilometer 0. They were soon brought back amid a flurry of early attacks ahead of the category 1 Col de Latrape. Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) forged ahead shortly afterwards, first in the company of Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step) and Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), and then alone as the road began to climb.
De Marchi was still in front come the summit of the Latrape but his adventure would be washed away shortly afterwards, as the day’s pivotal move took shape behind him. When Contador accelerated two kilometers from the top, he was joined by Mikel Landa and Warren Barguil and they proceeded to lead the race onto the day’s second ascent, the Col d’Agnes with a lead of 20 seconds over an already thinned out yellow jersey group.
Only Landa could match Contador’s pace on the lower slopes of the Agnes, and the Spanish duo quickly stretched their lead over Fabio Aru, Chris Froome, Dan Martin, Louis Meintjies and Simon Yates. Barguil, meanwhile, found a rather interesting chasing companion when Quintana, sensing the lack of cohesion in the yellow jersey group, opted to launch an attack of his own. They would be joined by Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski, though the former world champion was under strict instructions to sit on the wheels rather than collaborate. By the summit, Contador and Landa were 30 seconds clear of the chasers and 2:30 ahead of the Aru group.
Just when Landa was on the point of becoming virtual race leader, Aru found a most unexpected ally of circumstance in the shape of Team UAE-Emirates, who set a tempo at the base of the Péguère, ostensibly in support of Louis Meintjes, which helped to keep the escapees’ lead under control.
Contador began to betray signs of suffering by the time the leaders reached the steepest section of the Mur de Péguère but Landa’s pedalling still seemed almost effortless as he took up the pace-making. Quintana and Barguil who had now dropped Kwiatkowski, finally made contact near the top, while behind, Dan Martin’s and Froome’s subsequent accelerations brought the eight-man yellow jersey group to within 1:43 as they began the descent to Foix with 27 kilometers remaining.
While the leading quartet collaborated well on the drop to the finish line, there was far less cohesion amongst the chasers, with Froome, Bardet and Uran all attempting to go clear. In the closing kilometers, Martin and Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) did manage to break the deadlock, and they would gain nine seconds on Aru by the finish.
Barguil held his nerve well in the four-up sprint and responded decisively when Contador opened his effort from a distance. He became the 1st Frenchman to win on Bastille Day at the Tour since David Moncoutié’s solo triumph in Digne-les-Bains in 2005.
Tour De France 2017 Stage 12: Pau to Peyragudes 214 km
It was something of a stage of two halves, for while there were six categorized climbs on the menu, the day’s principal difficulties were all placed in the final 80 kilometers. Shortly after leaving the start in Pau with spitting rain and fog patches, the day’s early break broke clear once again almost immediately from KM 0, featuring Steve Cummings (Dimension Data), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Jack Bauer, Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors), Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), Koen de Kort (Trek-Segafredo), Michael Matthews (Sunweb), Stefan Kung (BMC Racing), Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin), Cyril Gautier (AG2R La Mondiale), Imanol Erviti (Movistar) and Julien Simon (Cofidis).
As they built a lead in excess of six minutes, the chief entertainment came from the duel for the green point’s jersey classification between Marcel Kittel and his chief rival Michael Matthews. Although Matthews won the intermediate sprint in Loures-Barousse, he had a net gain of just two points to show for his efforts as Kittel came past the line just behind him.
Kittel eventually dropped back on the category 1 Col de Menté where things just got a little too hard for the big German sprinter. The break managed to stay together until the day’s fourth climb, the hors categorie (Out of Category) Port de Balès, which signaled the beginning of real hostilities, both in the leading group and in the main peloton.
Up ahead, De Gendt went on the offensive five kilometers from the mist-shrouded summit, before he was joined and then dropped by Cummings, who was, like Bardet, targeting a third stage victory in as many Tours. The British champion crested the top with a lead of two minutes over a yellow jersey group where Team Sky, as per habit, had begun to impose its rhythm.
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), who suffered a fractured wrist in a crash on Wednesday, was among those distanced as Sky turned the screw, and their pace-making was such that a tentative acceleration from Contador was washed away in seconds. Only Warren Barguil (Sunweb), who was chasing king of the mountains points, managed to slip away, but he was reeled in over the other side along with everyone else bar Steve Cummings.
On the approach to the foot of the Peyresourde, only 20 riders remained in the yellow jersey group. Sky with four riders was the only team present in numbers. Indeed, Froome’s rivals have become so conditioned to Sky’s dictating of the terms of the engagement that they simply slackened the pace and waited for the men in white to resume their duties on the front when the race leader briefly went off the road on a sharp right hander he overshot.
In my opinion, it was not right for the others to have waited, it was a clear mistake and it needed to have been taken advantage of. To prove my point, even when Michal Kwiatkowski, Mikel Nieve, Landa and Froome slowed to empty their food musettes (Food Bags), nobody dared to attack…
The day’s final selection came on the Peyresourde, as Kwiatkowski’s fierce pace-making burnt off Nairo Quintana (Movistar) some six kilometres from the summit. Cummings was caught soon after Nieve took over and the front group was down to only the main contenders by the time it reached the summit, where Contador finally yielded and lost contact.
After a short descent, Landa controlled affairs with apparent ease on the 2.4km climb to Peyragudes, smothering Bennett’s late attack for good measure. It seemed to be business as usual for the Sky machine, only for a rare malfunction in the closing metres where, Froome cracked with 300m to go giving up the Leader’s yellow jersey to rival Fabio Aru (Astana).
Aru, Bardet, Landa and Rigoberto Uran broke clear in the final meters and went for the stage win. Bardet was best of the rest and won the stage.
Bardets’ win also snatched back a few precious seconds for him claiming the 10 second stage win bonus.
Yesterday’s stage may have just given Chris Froome’s rivals the opportunity to begin to dare to dream…