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They Must Take Advantage

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While I was previewing stage eleven, I realised I was getting bogged down in a certain aspect of it, and getting away from actually previewing the action. I realised how much pressure there is on Movistar to perform on the way to La Rosière.

Landa Quintana Movistar Suisse Tim de Waele/Getty Images

This is repeated in the stage preview, but here’s the profile of La Rosière.

I’m going to make a prediction that’s not bold at all: If by four and a half kilometres from the finish, the lead group has not split up, it will not split up. Even if (and it’s not a guarantee) the peloton comes to the climb of La Rosière in a condition to be recognised as a peloton, any and all moves to dislodge rivals have to - have to - be made between eight-and-a-half and five kilometres to go. Otherwise the gradient won’t be steep enough to make any kind of a difference. This is the stage’s version of a failsafe for attacking racing. If nothing else works, the last eight kilometres simply have to be full of attacking racing, by design. It’s almost like they foresaw the exact situation we’re in currently. The Tour’s in need of some exciting racing after the race situation made a complete hash of a promising stage ten. This is a stage they can’t fuck up. Surely. Surely.

I’m putting one team in charge of not-fucking-it-up-duties. Of course, that team is Movistar. Guys. Guys. Amigos. There are three of you. Well, there are seven. But three of you that are relevant (whatever happened to Marc Soler I don’t know. He wasn’t dropped on the Col de Romme today because of his stunning efforts on the front). You’re supposed to be a trident. You’re acting like a three-toothed comb. Now, I know Valverde probably doesn’t see the problem with such a comb, but its problems are fairly self-evident. It’s structurally sound, but entirely useless. That needs to change. I don’t even care if Movistar don’t attack till the last climb. If all they’ve done is gotten rid of Moscon, Rowe, Castroviejo and Kwiatkowski by the top of the Roseland, I’d be happy. Poels is clearly still getting into form as he does (don’t know why I ever thought he should lead a team, he can’t actually string together more than one great week by all appearances. But what a week). At least get them down to Bernal, Froome and Thomas by eight kilometres to go. I don’t care how you do it. I don’t know why I’m writing this in the second person. All I know is, if Kwiatkowski is in the peloton in Montvalezan I should turn off my television. My suggestion would literally be this simple — use Valverde. You know he won’t win the Tour, I know he won’t win the Tour, but I think he warrants a chase. Set him off at the top of the Col du Pré. He gets caught? Tell him to go again at the top of the Cormet de Roseland (Oh yeah, forgot to mention — someone is going to crash on the descent of the Cormet de Roseland. I don’t know who but it will happen). Even send Quintana off on that descent, if necessary. See how they chase you there. Landa is the sensible choice - currently - to keep in the peloton and wait till the final climb.

You may think I’m overreacting to one Sky-dominated stage. I will admit I have overreacted as such in the past. I will not admit to doing such now. Chances to beat Sky are few and far between. There are four more high mountain stages left. Two of them are perfect - perfect - for Sky. Having a strong team on stages twelve and nineteen is more valuable than having three leaders. That literally leaves Movistar with two chances to bury Froome if they can, to isolate him and to use the strengths they have to their full advantage. Stage seventeen...and stage eleven. It is absolutely imperative that they don’t waste this opportunity. If the attacking is done right, this stage will reward it more than conservative riding. Movistar must see that, and ride accordingly.