Who have been the winners and losers of this Tour de France so far, and who can jump forward in the coming stages? Well, we're diving into that here. We, you ask? Yes, we. I'm pleased to introduce, as a special guest...
Yes! It's Zombie Maurice Garin!
ZMG: Ehrgh? Raargh! Whereggg am I?
Podium Café! You're here to give your thoughts about the Tour!
ZMG: Urgh! Which one are you? Were you...grr... complaining about stage lengths...argh! earlier?
On with the show!
Winner No. 1: Team Dimension Data, Starring Mark Cavendish and Steve Cummings!
What did they aim for? Mark Cavendish to relive glories unseen since 2011, Steve Cummings to win another big stage, and maybe Serge Pauwels to climb well.
What did they do? Mark Cavendish relived glories unseen since 2011 and Steve Cummings won another big stage. Serge Pauwels had a go on Ventoux, but let De Gendt, the better sprinter get up to him and nab the stage win. Daniel Teklehaimanot has been everywhere, in breaks, on the front, protecting Cavendish. They now have five stage wins out of sixteen, and have arguably been the most successful team of the Tour, and one of the most exciting.
What can they do next? Cavendish can
do what he does, and win on the Champs-Élysées. go home, apparently. Other than that, they can stick Teklehaimanot and Pauwels in more breaks to see what they can do, but I don't expect anything there.
ZMG (translated): A sprinter, eh? I preferred them when they dressed up as referees and got in breakaways. I do like that Cummings fellow though.
Loser No. 1: Movistar (Quintana)
What did they aim for? Nairo Quintana to make good on all that potential he's been showing, Valverde to be a good little domestique, and the rest of the team to challenge Sky on the front.
What did they do? Well, Valverde's been a good domestique, but the guy he's being a good domestique for hasn't shown anything. He followed wheels in the Pyrenees, which was fine with everyone, but on Mont Ventoux, after an attack that would give halfhearted a bad name, he was dropped when Froome accelerated. One grab of a motorbike later, and getting dropped again, this time by the chasing group led by Adam Yates, he came home demoralised, losing more than two minutes to Froome in the next day's time trial. This allowed Sky to keep him nearly three minutes back on GC, and he's now racing for second.
What can they do next? Race for second. It's what Bauke Mollema seems to be doing, and nothing Quintana has done in the race so far has convinced me he can get close to the menace he was in 2015, or even 2013. Hell, Valverde nearly looks more dangerous in the mountains, and he's just come off a Giro. Movistar have been so poor so far that I'd think it was a bluff and they were going to go crazy on stage nineteen if Quintana wasn't three minutes down.
ZMG: My escargots? Where are they? I was told they were the best escargots in France, and they just haven't turned up.
Winner No. 2: Team Sky, Starring Chris Froome and a Whole Load of Excellent Domestiques!
What did they aim for? Chris Froome to dominate the Tour, come into the time trial with a couple of minutes advantage and put the race out of sight there. No domestique would falter, and there would be no crashes whatsoever.
What did they do? They sort of got halfway into all those objectives, but are going strong nonetheless. Chris Froome has been exciting, and had a good if not great, or indeed risk-free Tour, but it's not totally sewn up, and he had quite a scare there on Mont Ventoux. However, his downhill attack, and his crosswind attack made him more likable, to me at least, and he's been more interesting than Quintana.
What can they do next? The aforementioned excellent domestiques will come into play, and Sky will get accused of killing cycling at least a dozen times. The Alpine stages near the end of the race are where Froome has struggled in the past, but he's got less opposition here.
ZMG: Two minutes lead after sixteen stages? Pah! How many train carriages do you have to miss?
Loser No. 2: FDJ (Pinot)
What did they aim for? Pinot to repeat his 2014 performance. They were so focussed on this that they banked on it totally, not bringing Arnaud Démare or any real alternative for success in the race.
What did they do? Nothing. There hasn't been a French stage winner yet (but then again, there hasn't been an Italian or Spanish one), and Thibaut Pinot got shelled out the back at the first glimpse of a mountain thanks to illness. Yes, he held polkadots for a day thanks to suffering through breakaways, but an abandon before the time trial put an end to a disappointing Tour for FDJ.
What can they do next? Stick Sébastien Reichenbach into as many breakaways as physically possible and hope for the best.
ZMG: No French stage wins! L'horreur! This is a disgrace!
Winner No. 3: Peter Sagan, Starring Peter Sagan!
What did they aim for? Total domination of everything in sight, including the green jersey and a couple of stages, all the while maintaining his "I'm cooler than you" persona, and without any leadout.
What did they do? Everything there, only better. He won stage two in a sprint to take the yellow jersey for the first time in his career, and then won stage eleven in a frankly ridiculous attack in the crosswinds with thirteen kilometres to go, narrowly beating Froome in the sprint. It looked for a moment like he was trying to give it to Bodnar, but Froome's quest for bonus seconds put paid to that. It was that stage that really sewed up the green jersey for Sagan, taking fifty points to Cavendish's zero. That gets Sagan to his fifth Maillot Vert, and there's nothing to stop him breaking Zabel's record. Another stage, in Switzerland followed in the Slovakian's most successful Tour de France.
What can they do next? Nothing, really. The green jersey's sewn up, all the mountain stages are too hard, and he's not going to win the sprint in Paris. But after all that attacking, he deserves a bit of a victory tour.
ZMG: Sagan is finally racing with brains. Mmm, brains...
Loser No. 3: The Rest of Tinkoff (Contador)
What did they aim for? A Tour win with Contador, it to be 2009 again, and Sky to mysteriously disappear in the mountains.
What did they do? Did anyone really expect Contador to win the Tour? He spent his entire season previous to the race fighting off Sky domestiques, and not even very successfully, and when faced with Froome at the Dauphiné, didn't challenge much when Froome attacked. Hey, maybe I'm wrong and he would have dominated, but we'll unfortunately never find out, since two crashes on the opening two stages put him out of contention. Majka's salvaging another KOM win for the team, but, to paraphrase Mark Cavendish, can you tell me the last five KOM winners? And Roman Kreuziger is trying so hard to be a good GC contender, but that never works out well, does it Roman? He's sitting eleventh, with very little prospect of moving up any more than one or two places higher. He got dropped on Ventoux, and hasn't ever looked likely to attack.
What can they do next? Majka can prance around in polkadots, Tinkov can embarrass himself publicly and the rest of the team can get dropped.
ZMG: You know what this team needs? Hippolyte Aucouturier. Not as good as me, but he could manage after getting sick.
Winner No. 4: Trek-Segafredo, Starring Bauke Mollema!
What did they aim for? Cancellara to enjoy his farewell lap of France, and Mollema to do a mostly anonymous ride to fifth.
What did they do? I couldn't guess how Cancellara is doing, but Mollema must be enjoying this race. He stuck close to the favourites in the Pyrenees, perhaps going slightly too deep on Arcalis and falling back. But a fantastic time-trial, and a good ride on Ventoux put him high up on GC going into the Alps. I said in the roundtable that he's no better than 2013, and okay, maybe he's stepped up, but not that much. He's not so much sticking with Froome when he attacks, but weathering the storm and riding up to him. I will say though, that time-trial was brilliant. He cracked, and cracked badly on Alpe d'Huez in 2013, so we'll see if he can manage the final week.
What can they do next? Try his best to manage in the final week. Will he be happy with second place, or risk falling down the standings with a full-scale assault on Froome? If it was 2007, he'd have an incredibly strong team to help him, but Zubeldia and Fränk Schleck aren't exactly what they used to be. I don't think he'll be as good as Porte or Quintana, but he could be close enough to them to hold onto his second place. That said, I don't think he'll hold on to Quintana in the final stages of the race. Third is my prediction.
ZMG: Haimar Zubeldia is still riding? He was 11th in 1904, if I remember.
Loser No. 4: Cannondale-Drapac (Rolland, General Anonymity)
What did they aim for? Vaughters not to be eating his words after he said that Rolland had a training programme from the seventies by Rolland getting worse. And they obviously had great plans for Kristijan Koren.
What did they do? Rolland looked comfy enough in the Massif Central, but once the Pyrenees came he went back to his favourite location — nowhere. After getting dropped on the Peyresourde, he went sideways into a concrete wall and since has been riding with a broken hand. Probably, he's not getting it checked. Oh well, I'm sure he's going to deliver on his potential any day now. You're telling me he'll be thirty by the end of the year? In fairness, he did get Cannondale's first top ten of the race. Only problem is, it was on stage 15. The rest of the team has been totally anonymous, unless you count Alex Howes who got in the two most doomed breaks of the race. Drapac must be regretting sponsoring them —they could have sent their real team and not done any worse.
What can they do next? Maybe get some more seventh places from breakaways. But probably not.
ZMG: The cannons are...how you say...not firing, oui?
Winner No. 5: Orica-BikeExchange, Starring Adam Yates, Michael Matthews and Daryl Impey!
What did they aim for? Their usual dominance of the first week, I expect. I don't know if Yates is exceeding their expectations, or they've known all along that he’s a threat for GC.
What did they do? Nothing in the first week, but Yates has been one of the strongest climbers in the race. An attack on the descent of the Aspin followed by a meeting with the flamme rouge netted him the white jersey, which he hasn't relinquished since. Yates has hung around the back of the peloton, but that doesn't mean he's close to getting dropped, he was very strong on Mont Ventoux, driving the chase group. His time-trial was unexpectedly strong, leaving him in third overall. Michael Matthews got Orica's first stage of the race on stage ten, due to a great move over the Port d'Envalira. Impey was vital to that win, and he has been in breaks in the mountains.
What can they do next? I don't think Yates can hold onto his podium position. He's only twenty-three, and there are a lot of mountains to come. I hope I'm wrong though, and he hasn't been gapped by anyone he's racing for the podium yet.
ZMG: I'm not the best qualified to comment on youth...
Loser No. 5: Astana (Aru)
What did they aim for? The Tour to be as easy to win as the Vuelta, Vincenzo Nibali to be a proper superdomestique. They actually had a lot of potential superdomestiques.
What did they do? Those superdomestiques have been very quiet. We saw Rosa on the frontline during stage 15, but most of Astana have been nowhere, and that includes Aru. Anyone who climbs that badly on Arcalis can't expect anything from a Tour de France, and he's hanging around in tenth after an atrocious time trial. He quite simply hasn't turned up. Now, Astana do have that thing where they mount a surprise full scale assault with unrecognizable strength in the final week, but usually they have the decency to be somewhere close to the front first.
What can they do next? Attempt a surprise full scale assault? On past form, Aru will be one of the strongest as the race goes on, but what can he realistically expect, seventh? He would have really wanted more going into this race.
ZMG: Who needs domestiques? I expect a big solo attack Friday at the latest.