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Rest Day Open Thread

Quick Thoughts... like, at the speed of synapses.

Lionel Bonaventure, AFP/Getty

GAP -- What? No, I'm not in Gap. But everyone who matters is. The Tour de France is sitting around doing nothing today, and we're going to talk about it.

What is the role of eating on rest day? There was a statement in Clean Spirit (one of a block of TdF documentaries Mrs. PdC and I watched last week) where one of the (now) Giant-Shimano guys says you have to eat all day long just to replace half the calories you burn that day, and by week three riders feel like they are wasting away. So on a rest day, when riders will go for a spin to stay loose but otherwise lie down a lot, do they also take the extra time to chow down everything in sight and try to claw back some of their calorie deficit? My guess is no, the body generally doesn't like big swings in conditions as much as gradual ones. But if anyone knows, please feel free to enlighten...

As we hit the Alps, this should be more of a two-man race, in terms of the headliners. Points won't be terribly interesting. The raging battle for third will rage, but probably seconds or minutes behind the battle for first. Polka dots is in the hands of the GC leader, which will probably remain the case, even if he's not trying to win it. Really, it's Chris vs. Nairo.

You'd think I am all for the "Chris" guy but of course you'd be wrong. I have a ton of respect and no dislike of Chris Froome; my only objection is that Team Sky are the dominant force so it'd be more interesting for someone to take them on, or down. I'm not buying into any of the conspiracy nonsense, and frankly I don't even dislike Sky, apart from the Murdoch connection. How can you dislike any team responsible for Geraint Thomas? I vow to include him in our Rider of the Year polling, if partly as a surrogate for great teamwork. Sure, he'd do well to stay on his bike more (I'm referring to the spring classics), but for a trackie he's not half bad at that either.

Anyway, Movistar are launching a credible challenge, led by Nairo Quintana, but most definitely including Alejandro Valverde doing more than his critics would have expected -- performance-wise and in terms of being a faithful servant. I'm more in the camp of "he's paid for his crime, let's see what he's got now," and the answer is, a lot. He'll never escape some level of distrust, but assuming he's doing things the right way, he's just a great all-around cyclist, the type I would have appreciated from the get-go if EPO (et al) had never existed. Anyway, he's Quintana's ace in the hole, sitting close enough on GC to make Sky nervous. I've always wondered why people get so excited to see a top guy have a teammate who's a great climber but is 12 minutes down. Nobody's going to burn themselves out chasing him. I understand there are still some tactical advantages, and it's always better than having nobody, but Valverde is fourth at 4.02. That's what Quintana needs -- a credible threat.

And legs. A number of commentators have said that Quintana looks relaxed, he doesn't look tired, he looks like he's getting better, etc. What does all of this look like? Is it skin tone, e.g. rosy cheeks? Quintana has a slightly dark complexion, and just looks healthy anyway. Less hollow cheek bones? Does he smile a lot? Can you see his exhaustion levels (or lack thereof) in his eyes? I don't know. I hope they are right and am pinning all of my anticipation on these observations. If there are three minutes to be had from Froome in the coming days, it'll require Peak Form Quintana, at a minimum. And if we do see that, it will lead to some interesting discussions about peaking. Sky seem to disdain the peak -- Wiggins popularized the notion of always peaking. Quintana seems to be going old school, starting slow in week 1 and coming on as the Tour progresses. New thinking has been mopping the floor with the old school for a while, but old school ain't done...

What's your favorite thing about this Tour so far? I can't say it's been very full of positives. It's been fine, and the (relative) lack of really awful moments has been refreshing. Seeing the Big Four Five all more or less intact is what we were rooting for all winter. But if I had to pick a feel-good moment, it would be the victory of MTN-Qhubeka's Steve Cummings on Mandela Day, the birthday of the late South African leader. If only the Specials were available for the post-stage ceremony...