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Editors' Roundtable: Tour de France Edition

With just a day left until the Grand Depart of the Tour de France a brave band of editors have stormed the beaches of Normandie to bring you this latest roundtable edition. Today's edition features the usual suspects, plus Cafe member RC Speed.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

CONOR: Okay, you join us all at this roundtable with a sense of déja vú, as Jens is watching the presentation, I got bored so switched it off, we're talking about a sport a few members don't care about, and there's a Grand Tour about to start. So to get things started, I want to ask you all about the course. The first week is taken for granted as basically a doddle, I think, could that come back to bite some people, especially with winds headed towards Mont-Saint-Michel?

WILL: Echelons!

CHRIS: Yeah I hadn't thought much about it til someone mentioned the winds. Can Sky come in boiling hot on day 1?

RC SPEED: This will add to the chaos that is typical of the first few stages

JENS: I believe crosswinds when I see them. But yes that would be excellent. Otherwise it will be a Kittelfest.

RC SPEED: Though the first stage is set up for a big guy like Kittel I think someone else will take the day.

CONOR: Implying...a small guy?

CHRIS: It's tempting to re-imagine last year's second stage happening, but Dutch roads are messier than these ones, no? So maybe the positioning battle isn't as dicey, not to mention that Quintana has learned his lesson and EQS will crush everyone in the effort to keep things together.

CONOR: Yeah, even though Cavendish hasn't got a chance at yellow, he probably thinks he does.

RC SPEED: He does have some yellow on his jersey.

JENS: If there are crosswinds I think we can expect Etixx to try and blow it up, not keep it together really.

RC SPEED: There are going to be a lot of nerves out on the Tarmac and with everyone bringing their fast man it is going to be hard to spoon feed Kittel to the line.

CHRIS: Yeah, as long as you're in front of Kittel, you're in the race. Stage 2... now that could get truly interesting.

WILL: Stage 2 has uphill final 3 kms with a 14% stretch:  Puncher!

CHRIS: Punch or get punched.

JENS: Too bad Nacer is gone then.

CHRIS: Ha! Yes.

CONOR: Yeah, if only I was a massive fanboy of one of those punchers, and had a preview to write of that stage.

CHRIS: Corky being Corky

RC SPEED: Stage 2 is an Allaphillipe, Sagan, Valverde, Matthews kinda stage. Lumpy and ending with a punch.

RC SPEED: Also could be a day for a breakaway with the lumps coming in the second half.

CONOR: Yeah, that stage is getting underestimated, I think it'll be brilliant.

JENS: Fascinating that no one is talking about Matthews. He almost comes in as an outsider absurdly.

CONOR: Yeah, because there's someone better than him at everything.

RC SPEED: Its cause his Bling is too shiny...

CHRIS: Matthews has been touted before and done nothing. I think a lot of us are in show-me mode.

WILL: First mountains = stage 5.  Massif Central.  Puys/volcanos.

CHRIS: Does Sky have someone for the week 1 climbs? Seems like it'll be nice for Quintana to have Valverde chasing those very gettable stage wins.

CONOR: Thomas?

RC SPEED: Thomas who?

CONOR: Cook? Not too late to fly out...

CHRIS: Thomas for stage 2 and 5. I dunno do Sky operate that way?

RC SPEED: You mean the guy who thinks he is a GC Thomas? HA!

CONOR: It's not a lack of options that Sky have, it's a lack of imagination.

JENS: I sense a lack of Sky respect here.

CHRIS: Indeed

CHRIS: Will, stage 5, is that enough to tempt Les Bigs into early action? It's interesting, we often see something right away, just for fun, but this is pretty close to the Pyrenean stages.

WILL: No, I think the Bigs wait for Tourmalet or Andorra.  But they must pay attention stage 5.  More importantly, Geraint Thomas emailed me this morning asking for the best bar in the Massif Central so he can watch Wales in the EURO semis

RC SPEED: Well that's if they make it to stage 5. Do you forget the carnage that typically happens in the first 4 stages?

CHRIS: Trying to

JENS: Isn't stage 5 that typical pre-fencing stage where guys like Gallopin and Vuillermoz take off and trick us into thinking they climb better than Froome and Nairo

CONOR: No, you're thinking of Dumoulin.

WILL: Every just-below-big is targeting stage 5

RC SPEED: Agreed on that. Stage 5 is for the secondary GC guys to make a mark and give the press something to chat about.

How hard is the course?

CHRIS: Here's my big course question. Let's say you're Octave Lapize riding in your 92nd Tour de France, having missed only the World War years and a few times your team sent you to the Giro so they could focus on Zombie Maurice Garin. Using 1909 as a baseline, how many "Assassins!" would you give this parcours?

CONOR: That is a very good question. How big are the assassins' guns, and how easy is it to get to Christian Prudhomme?

JENS: I would give it four "Assassins!" out of five. Not for any individual nasty stage but the accumulated effect of a lot of tough stages.

CHRIS: Yeah I was thinking of probably four good screaming points too.

WILL: Zombie Maurice Garin  grew up on 400+ kilometre stages and would finish the course in 6 days.  But relative to recent Tours .... 4/5 assassins!

RC SPEED: I would give this a 4...especially if we are including Stage 15 which looks like death to me.

JENS: Meh. Even I can climb Grand Colombiere

RC SPEED: Yah but do it at pro speed..not swinging by to milk cows on the way up.

WILL: Jens, indeed, bravo, sadly you still can't spell Grand Colombier .

JENS: Dang!

CHRIS: I'm excited. I don't know if we know what this course will do to any of the favorites. Froome has won with consistency based on a few big stages, but this will be a tougher version of consistency.

WILL: Exclude last year, most recent Tours have had 4 or 5 mountain stages.  This year has  a ton, but fewer mid-mountain stages.

CONOR: People are saying that this is an anti-Froome course, and it's not. If you think it is, tell me how unlikely this is. Froome, Quintana and the rest stay fairly close for the first mountain stages, which isn't unrealistic because this has happened before when Arcalis was the big day. Then, on Mont Ventoux, Froome takes off, wins by minutes, as he has done twice, and then delivers the sucker punch the next day to demoralized opponents, comes out with a four minute lead. ​_Then_​, and here's the fun part, where on the next stages does anyone take that out of Sky?

CHRIS: The counter would be that he hasn't raced team-leader Quintana on Ventoux yet.

JENS : Like with Lance, I just don't see how you make an anti-Froome course? We thought it was by including cobbles but look how that turned out....

RC SPEED: I think to beat SKY you have to break their rhythm and do something unpredictable. Its like fighting the system...playing the game their way you will always lose...until you make new rules about how the game should be played

You make a anti Froome course by adding more lumpy sprint stages

JENS: The pattern has been that Sky have targeted one day to crush the opponents early. I don't really see what day that would be here. Andorra? Ventoux is too late?

CONOR: Contador waited until Verbier...

CHRIS: OK, by now you (readers) have all noticed that our guest for this chat is RC Speed, from our FSA DS sponsor, FullSpeedAhead. We do this to rotate new voices into the chat, but also to get into new topics, and there's a BIG gear topic around the Tour.

RC SPEED: Is there?

WILL: Chris, hold on, opening a beer .

CHRIS: Well you see some new gear come out. Which makes me wonder, do riders like getting new gear in July or do they need (and get) a chance to get used to stuff?

RC SPEED: This is the big show and where manufacturers like to put new product out on riders bikes...

CONOR: The CX worlds come to mind...

RC SPEED: I think we will again see the industry push for disc brakes considering Shimano just released their Hydro DI2 version with a dual sensor power skip.

CHRIS: So can you put new stuff on bikes that get into the race, or just put stuff out there for people to see?

RC SPEED: A lot of what gets ridden has already been sussed out in the previous races or training...nothing goes on the bikes that are to be ridden that are true proto's...too much to lose if it goes wrong for both the rider and manufacturer.

JENS:  Corrupted by Will


RC SPEED: Uhmm..that looks tasty!

JENS: Is it still a bit of a gamble with new stuff? I'm thinking of dropped chains and stuff that can get you in the news in a bad way.

RC SPEED: Agreed.

We had a issue in regards to our chains/cranks last year with a particular team...the speculation was that it was a product problem but in the end was a bad mechanic set up which was allowing the DI2 to trim too far to the outside=dropped chain.

WILL: My friend is considering kids because he knows a nanny that is also a good bike mechanic.  I made that up ..... but still ..... makes a lot of sense.

RC SPEED: So would that be called a "Manny"?

WILL: hehe

JENS: RC, we can always edit out stuff after that we don't want in the published version.

RC SPEED: No worries...I wont let too much out...considering I live in 2019

JENS: Ooooohhhhh, flying bicycles?!

WILL: driverless bicycles might defeat the point #fitness

JENS: Gets rid of all those obnoxious self righteous bikers I've been hearing so much about though.

CHRIS: I am totally for driverless bicycles.

RC SPEED: Isn't that Froome looking at his Stem?

RC SPEED: I am sure Sky has figured a way to help him steer down the descents

What would Zombie Maurice Garin do?

CHRIS: OK, here's another piece of grist for you guys. If we were to enact the Desgrange vision of a Tour that is so hard that only one rider would finish, who would that be in 2016?

JENS: Nibali. It wouldn't be pretty but he'd stick it out the longest.

WILL: So, start stages at 4 am, no team support, spare tires around the neck, etc.


CONOR: Adam Hansen. Can't he let his stupid record go already?

RC SPEED: would have to a be a super domestique...those guys know suffering like no other.

CHRIS: 'zactly

JENS: So Valverde then? I hear he's a domestique now.


CHRIS: My pick is Sagan. I just can't imagine a point where he doesn't seem to be enjoying himself.

RC SPEED: No GC favorite would make it...they are too used to being protected.

WILL: There is a race every year across Europe called the Transcontinental.  Check points, no help allowed, ride 24 hours a day if you want, etc.  One of these guys would win.

CHRIS: Oh, the randos. They're another breed. I guess we'd have to use time cutoffs to stop them from taking over.

And even that might not work

CONOR: Introduce pannier limits. Boom, gone.


CHRIS:  OK, stage of the Tour. Ventoux? seems like it should be, except it's still a bit early.

RC SPEED: Stage 12? Seems like a slow drag to their death.

JENS: What is the current vote in Will's Queen stage poll?

CONOR: Trusting things to a vote? Did you learn nothing from last week?

CHRIS: Bisanne & Bettex, but it's very close among several.

CONOR: Well, the one with most tension and competition should be Stage 18, the TT.

JENS: I have a hope that it turns out to be st 15 with Grand Colombier but......

RC SPEED: That will depend on who is hurting or not after stage 17 which I think will be the nail in the coffin for some.

Also stage 19 after the TT is not going to be a picnic because some will have time to make up and it is going to hurt...

JENS: I think one of the favorites will bonk on st 19 and then make a miraculous comeback to win on st 20 to Joux Plane.

CHRIS: For my money, I know Ventoux isn't a complicated stage, but I am picturing an incredible mano-a-mano battle there.

CONOR: The thing about that they tend to leave the loser in the dust.

RC SPEED: As Ricky Bobby said...

RC SPEED: I predict tired GC contender eats mad shit on the descent...tired bodies will accumulate to that point

WILL: The Queen stage vote is all over the place.  Because I think there are perhaps 5 decent candidates, or more.

WILL: I voted Stage 19 as Queen stage, or at least the toughest.  Brutally steep stretches all .....  day ... long.

CHRIS: OK before we get to our picks to win, RC, where is the best place in the Tour to see a pair of Vision Metron wheels in action?

CONOR: La Manche, at the minute I expect.

RC SPEED: The Metrons this year have been ridden by Direct Energie, Cofidis and considering who these teams are bringing to the show I would say the sprint-punchuer stages where the Pro-conti teams look for stage wins.

Chavanel on FSA Metrons SYLVAIN THOMAS/AFP/Getty Images

ed-- so purty!!

CHRIS: Mukilteo's finest export!

JENS: So what you're saying is you hope Coquard steals the day on Saturday?

CONOR: Bennett Jens, Bennett.

RC SPEED: Hell no..he is on my co-worker's DS team...and that guy doesn't need more points!

CHRIS: And there, we get to what really matters.

RC Speed: HA!

JENS: Valuing FSA DS grudges over professional achievement..... Respect.

RC SPEED: Oh...the DS is a daily shit-talking storm here.

CHRIS: That was definitely one of my main goals.

OK! To bring this to a close, picks to win yellow in Paris??

CONOR: With a heavy heart...Froome. And not in a very tight contest. Course suits him, best team, experience, everything.

WILL: No doubt Froome, Quintana, Contador, Aru, Nibali, etc.  are favourites.  But for me, it's exciting to have a third straight year where a French rider, at least arguably, has a chance.   Pinot has shown the ability to win big stages on the very steepest climbs.  And this is the steepest Tour in years.   So why not?  Or Bardet, why not?

CHRIS: Yes, I think there's a good chance for a somewhat open race with lots of interesting people truly involved.

JENS: I think Froome will look the strongest on the road but Sky are due some bad luck again so something goes pear shaped along the way. Opening the door for Nairo Quintana who wins without any dominant efforts.

RC SPEED: I am rooting for Quintana. If he can use Valverde as bait up the road to burn some Sky matches and then come in and make up time he could see himself in Yellow.

WILL: I received an email from Valverde this morning.  He said he would use Quintana as bait.

RC SPEED: Well Quintana is smaller...

CONOR: That's for after the Tour, when they go on a herring fishing trip with Jens.

CHRIS: My pick is Quintana. Because I always go with who I am rooting for instead of a more sensible answer. But also, I really thought he was the strongest rider last year, once he got his shit together.

WILL: Podiumcafe super fan SARover would like to point out that Contador will win.

JENS: What I really hope for is avoiding the type of killer blow like the Pierre Saint Martin that lays a heavy blanket over the whole race. The dream is one of those Tours where the Yellow jersey changes hands back and forth  from one mountain stage to the next.

RC SPEED: Second question is who do you think will get the white jersey?

CHRIS: Bardet!

CONOR: Bardet!


RC SPEED: Isn't Aru too old?

JENS: Stop jinxing Bardet!

CHRIS: Right! His birthday is Sunday

RC SPEED: I take that back...Aru is 25 so he is still in the mix

CONOR: 26 during the Tour. Also, we jinxed Bardet so badly, we made him too old.

RC SPEED: Speaking of which...not one of us thinks that Aru has a chance for the podium?

CONOR: Nope!

JENS: Not unless 8 people fall over.

RC SPEED: HA!...dont mess with the Italians in talking about people falling over.

WILL: At rider presentation today Nibali dead-panned that he was riding for Aru.

RC SPEED: They do call him the shark for a reason

JENS: That one always brings the laughter. A classic Italian joke.

RC SPEED: What? that Aru was going to make the podium?

CHRIS: Somewhere in the Veneto, Gilberto Simoni pops another Zoloft.

Anyway Aru isn't Italian, he's Sardinian. When I was in Sicily I mistakenly asked a guy if he was Italian.

WILL: True and Nibali isn't Italian either, Sicilian.

CHRIS:  +1

WILL: On same vein Jérôme Coppel isn't French.  Vive La Savoie Libre (my home).

RC SPEED: jesus... that is like saying I am not from the U.S. but live cascadia

CHRIS: Well...?

WILL: No, real history here ..... Vive La Savoie Libre !!!

CHRIS: Also they have a few more centuries of... making that point

RC SPEED: Any more tech info you guys need from my end?

WILL: Thanks for joining us Ron!

RC SPEED: OK well then...I will warm up the time machine and get back to 2019

CHRIS: Actually we could invite people to ask tech questions in comments at the end of the post? I'm sure they'll be some.

CHRIS: Ciao yall!

CONOR: Au revoir.

RC SPEED: Allright guys...I am out...back to the proto later!

CHRIS: Later!

JENS: Ciao!