Notes From the France Desk

Doug Pensinger

With Spain on the Conference Line...

A few pearls of wisdom information to contemplate while Chris Froome lies in his bed, polishing his silver hammer...

  • Any time a sponsor recommits to a team, it's big news. So with that, I give you... two more years of Europcar! It's not clear whether they plan to apply for World Tour status, methinks no. But La Marca says they want to ride the Vuelta. [Note to Yurpcar: hire a Spaniard.]
  • Polemica! Since Froome has run away and hid from the main peloton, nearly all the action of this Tour is in Spanish, and focused on Alberto Contador and Movistar. Today, it was Contador's turn to get pissy (not literally) with Nairo Quintana, who he says accelerated after Contador slid out on the day's final descent. Contador enforcing the rules of etiquette when misfortune strikes a rival... that's rich. Personally I hope Quintana beats him by 39 seconds in Paris. Oh, and this comes on the heels of rumors that Contador was hoping to form an alliance with his countrymen against Froome. For all his tactical sense, Contador has a way of looking silly in the human relations department pretty often. Not that he's evil, just... can't hear himself or something?
  • Today was nothing compared to last Friday's tactical explosion which saw Movistar's Alejandro Valverde suffer a ten minute loss after a mechanical problem. Back in Spain the war of words got a tad warm over the weekend. Movistar's DS, Jose Luis Arrieta, complained that Belkin abused the situation -- a mechanical problem -- by hitting the gas when Valverde floundered. Whatever you think of the unwritten rules, Arrieta clearly felt like throwing a flag. Of course, one thing about unwritten rules is that they come with unwritten punishment, as Arrieta warned: "time to time, these things are returned." ES Ciclismo compared the incident to the Port de Bales matter, when Alberto Contador attacked Andy Schleck and the latter threw his chain off, resulting in a 39 second time loss for Schleck, who went on to lose the Tour by 39 seconds win the Tour. I suppose that's more civil than tossing urine on the Dutch squad, but the message is received. Mollema, for his part, said that Valverde should look in the mirror: "in the past he has not played fair." Contador, meanwhile, claimed that they didn't help until Valverde was too far gone, which is basically true... and awfully convenient.
  • Speaking of the Vuelta, Thibaut Pinot didn't start today's stage, marking one more low point in a dismal Tour for the hosts. The FDJ sensation has been ill for a while, according to L'Equipe, so of course they asked teammate Arnold Jeannesson about Pinot, and got a hint that maybe you'll see him at the Vuelta. Strange bit of reporting there, but Jeannesson has some wise words: he's young, let's just let him finish on a high note and not go too crazy about him experiencing misfortune at the Tour.
  • Speaking about going crazy, pretty much the entire world has anointed Nairo Quintana the next big thing by now. So can he do something to up his headline value? My suggestion: dating Shakira. Gerard Pique is old and uninteresting. Move in there young Nairo!
  • Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, people are watching. Or at least they should be. Today was a bit of a bummer, as likable Laurens ten Dam, he of many, many days of loyal service to the Rabobank brand, dropped a minute to his rivals and slipped from 5th to 6th overall. But with his beloved Alps to come, ten Dam is perhaps the most interesting character after Quintana in this year's race. Of course, Belkin have Bauke Mollema better placed -- second overall and looking to consolidate his position tomorrow, if not eat into his deficit to Froome. Both riders have been pleasant surprises this year, with ten Dam the real shocker.
  • Today's stage was a grim reminder of this. Those were the dark days, but still, nobody should have to go out like Joseba Beloki did.
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