Lets pause briefly to check in on the stocks of the GC men in the race after the first big mountains. The timegaps are mostly minor after a fairly calm few days in the Pyrenees despite hard courses. Chances are the price to be paid for it comes later in the race for many.
So how are the riders chances looking compared to what we thougt before the race?
UNCHANGED: On the plus side a surprising and applauded little timegain on a descent. On the negative side a less comforting timegain overall to Quintana than this time last year. I think Froome sits pretty happy all in all anyway. We went in thinking he would be extremely hard to beat, he still looks extremely hard to beat and he hasn’t shown any chink in his armor.
UP, with a bullet. I think I finally figured it out. Adam is the Yates brother for GC, Simon is the one for......... something else. If anyone had predicted Yates in a podium position after the Pyrenees then they would be very clever. Top 10 yes, but this is not what anyone expected, in fact I think the odds on him getting hit on the head with the Flamme Rouge were lower than on him being in the top 3. Sure it’s tight GC so far but Yates has still hung in there with the very best in a convincing way. He’s probably been at his very limit a few times but he’s still there.
The kid will likely have to give up some time when things heat up a bit, probably already on Ventoux and likely he’ll lose a bit of time in the flat timetrial but so far it’s looking like a breakthrough ride.
UP. The dream lives. Crediting less gluten and more longer climbing after moving base to Andorra this year, Martin looks to be a more serious GC contender this year. We’ll see if it lasts over three weeks which has been an issue in the past but at the moment the Irishman looks like a genuine contender. He is probably the one who along with J-Rod will suffer most from the timetrial and a lot will depend on how much time he forfeits there but for now he is probably just enjoying the fact that he has raised his level. By the end of this week we should know if is contending the podium or the top 10.
UNCHANGED: Quintana is looking mighty stealthy. Look at the long analysis here for the in depth story. I’ll just say that Q has managed to get past the first week in a great position. First problem avoided. Ventoux will tell us who the main favorite to win the TdF is.
UP: The Spaniard has been looking like a trainwreck all season but has clearly found form for this Tour which apparently will be his last. It’s hard to take his challenge seriously at this point, especially with a 37 km TT, but at least he has peaked exactly right and he is up there again.
UNCHANGED: As the other French contenders have fallen away left and right, Bardet is still looking solid. For France’s sake I hope he still does after Friday’s TT. He’s been looking attentive without impressing like Martin and Yates. Hard to judge how good he really is so far. That is the downside to relatively tranquil opening mountainstages, we’re craving answers but we only get the most obvious ones.
UP: Mollema is slightly less stealthy than normal, he’s actually in the picture in the front groups so far. But then again we haven’t really seen the floodgates open up yet and that’s usually when he slides gently out the back. I actually think he can match his previous best (6th) in the Tour this time.
UP: After a troubled spring Henao has emerged as the premiere helper for Froome so far. His GC placing is likely to go up in smoke later as he is called upon to do more work but he’s been impressive so far. Not really interesting in this ranking unless Froome disappears for whatever reason though.
UP: This is exactly the next step everyone was hoping for from Meintjes. He’s doing it anonymously so far but he is making all the right selections even if it is at the back of the groups. He’s going to lose a couple of minutes in the TT but a top 10 still looks a quite reasonable target for him at this point . Could be one of the more interesting stories in week 3.
DOWN: I don’t know if it is fair to mark someone down for showing signs of team loyalty but there you go. The man actually looks to be trying to help Nairo which will mean a lower GC placing in the end. Clearly the form is still ok if not Tour-winning.
Tejay van Garderen
DOWN: The leading part of the BMC duo looked to be having a bit of a heavy start in the Pyrenees, not quite keeping up the fastest guys. If that trend continues then BMC might have an unresolved leadership issue after Ventoux and the TT. Probably the best that can happen for them is that one of their guys massively underperforms on those two days. Otherwise the questions will keep coming. Tejay dropping off was a little odd I thought as Andorra looked like his kind of day really. Not the best of signs.
UP: With Contador gone, Kreuziger still sits fairly strong in the GC, thanks of course to the choice not to sacrifice time to help his team captain. It might not have looked pretty at the time but looks fairly smart now. On the other hand it’s doubtful how much it will help him. He already lost time in Andorra and he looks a few pegs below the company he is in, big motor aside. Looking good today but a prime candidate to drop further down as we go along. Should probably be stagehunting but..........
DOWN: Benevenuto al Tour de France Fabio! It’s tougher than you think. Actually Aru’s early time loss was a bit surprising to me. He looked to be riding strong and smart in the first week but in the end he had to give Nibali a bit of stink-eye to get him to help him limit losses. Still I wouldn’t worry too much. Aru’s preferred stages are still to come and he is less than a minute and a half behind. The TdF may still prove a size too large still for Aru but there is also every chance that he shines in the Alps. Key thing for his moral might be not to lose too much time in the TT. We know he’s improving at timetrialing and if he lives up to his own expectations there he could end up being very dangerous. Top 5 is still very much a possibility.
DOWN: How much would he lose by riding solid rubber rings instead of inflatable tires? Stupid timeloss, maybe/maybe not due to poor team support-strategy aside, Porte still looked to be climbing on the level of Froome and Quintana so there’s that. Where he will find the two minutes he lost is anther matter. Certainly he will take back plenty on many of those now in the top 10 in the TT because lets face it, some of those timetrial like limp potatoes historically. But the aim to come close to/on the podium took a bad hit as he waited for that wheelchange.
DOWN: How is it possible that a hyped French hope disappoints in the Tour de France, that never happens!? Barguil had a great Tour-debut last year so this dip was almost entirely predictable especially since his season got off to a rocky start. Perhaps the more interesting and telling story will be how he handles this difficult start. If he can rescue some result or in case the form doesn’t allow too much he can at least finish the Tour in a positive way that gives him something to build on. And in a best case scenario he can actually still do a very respectable since he is only about 3 min down. Realistically though he hasn’t been looking like someone who will suddenly be resurrected, his dropping off has come at fairly regular intervals. Seems more likely he will continue a slow leak if he stays GC focused.
DOWN: Last year’s TdF promised more but clearly his Tour-preparation train went off the rails somewhere along the way, most likely some time in the leadup to the Tour de Suisse. That means we can stop thinking about him in GC terms (something I know a fair number of people did before the season even started). Bad news for Thomas, bad news for Quintana.
UNCHANGED: It was all looking so promising until he hit a wall. Literally. Disappointing for Rolland who looked like he had finally escaped a first week without his usual huge avoidable timeloss. But then suddenly Froome of all people force the GC guys to ride like crazies downhill which leads to Rolland coming a cropper. I mean Froome? Rolland (and Cannondale) just can’t catch a break can they? On the bright side Rolland looks promising to salvage something in the Alps if he just heals up.
UP: Well, we weren’t really expecting anything resultswise at all were we as he would be in the service of Pinot.
DOWN: Another crash victim. His crash when the glue of his tubulars melted off on a descent didn’t look too bad but speed was high and it set him back clearly. Probably the most predictable of all first week events. What LottoNL-Jumbo hopeful doesn’t this happen to? I think the last one was Michael Boogerd sometime in the late 90s. Still it was a disappointing way to end an intriguing challenge.
And that’s all I have to say about that.
DOWN: An almost equally big blow to the race as Pinot. Once again Contador crashed out of a Tour he came well prepared to. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the cycling gods were trying to tell him something. It just hasn’t been meant to be for Contador at the TdF in recent years. But, he will be back next year again to take his drubbing no doubt. I wonder what misfortune will befall him then? I’m going to go to the bookie and put 10€ down on “gout” Seems as good a bet as any.