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After the TTT: Where We Stand

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This was a big stage. I’ve had a few thoughts about it.

BMC podium TTT Tour de France 2018
BMC know where they stand — on the podium.
Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

In our Viewer’s Guide, Andrew and I identified this stage as one of the most important of the race. So it has proved, even if in a lot of cases individual misfortune means that no one can be said to have been given a huge head start by it. For example, without the crashes on Stage 1, Richie Porte may be in the yellow jersey with Chris Froome four seconds behind him and Romain Bardet more than a minute behind either of them, but the success of Sky and BMC today has been almost negated for their leaders. This could definitely be used as a metaphor for progressive taxation. Anyway, what has happened so far in the race cannot be changed, so let’s see where we stand in the General Classification.
2: Tejay van Garderen at 0”
3: Geraint Thomas at 3”
7: Tom Dumoulin at 11”
10: Rigoberto Urán at 35”
11: Rafał Majka at 50”
13: Jakob Fuglsang at 51”
14: Richie Porte at 51”
15: Ilnur Zakarin at 52”
16: Alejandro Valverde at 53”
17: Mikel Landa at 53”
18: Chris Froome at 55”
20: Adam Yates at 1’00”
22: Vincenzo Nibali at 1’06”
25: Romain Bardet at 1’15”
27: Primoz Roglic at 1’15”
30: Bauke Mollema at 1’16”
39: Daniel Martin at 1’38”
59: Nairo Quintana at 2’08”

That is, of course, all the GC contenders and their current deficit to yellow jersey Greg Van Avermaet. It’s a fairly long list, and when you look at it there are some fairly obvious winners and losers from the first three days of racing. The first one of these, of course, is Nairo Quintana. Now, I probably did expect a little better from Movistar on this stage, if only ten seconds or so, but that’s pretty irrelevant — Quintana is two minutes back on GC, essentially through no fault of his own. Does the minute and fifteen seconds held on him by Mikel Landa make the Basque rider into priority numero uno for the Spanish team? It’s a minute and fifteen seconds that will be hard won back, that’s for certain. Quintana is now a huge outsider for this race — I’d say he’s out of contention for yellow.

On the other end of the scale, Geraint Thomas must be feeling very happy right now. He’s had a trouble-free first three days and sits as close to the yellow jersey as makes no difference without his team having to control the race. Should he go into yellow in the early mountain stages, he should have given himself a chance to show that he deserves leadership, which is all he could really hope for in terms of a goal for the first week. With something to say about that will be Chris Froome, who has limited his losses as effectively as possible after his stage one crash and will fancy his chances to move up the GC in the coming days. He will not be willing to give Thomas any more rope whatsoever.

Mind you, Froome is not giving up too much time to many of his real GC rivals — the best-placed of those is Tom Dumoulin at only eleven seconds off the lead, but it’s not on the flats where Dumoulin will be tested the sternest. I am no more certain of his form now than I was last week. The real test will come in the Alps — till then, the jury’s out.
I’m slightly more optimistic about Rigoberto Urán, whose stock price will have risen hugely due to this performance. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who expected EF-Drapac to finish in the bottom third of the teams, but a truly out-of-nowhere performance means they give up almost nothing. Their time of thirty-nine minutes and twenty-one seconds was good for sixth place, and is amazingly less time than it takes to say their team name in full. Urán has come through one of his biggest obstacles unscathed.

EF Drapac Tour 2018 TTT Tim de Waele/Getty Images

I wonder how my pick for the Tour, Richie Porte is feeling right now. I think if you’d told him he’d be ahead of Froome at this stage, he’d have taken you up on your offer, but obviously that’s a complete fallacy. Froome’s had his worst first week of anything since he gave up Ventolin for Lent. Almost anyone in the list above would have taken their current position relative to Froome. It’s almost as though we have two general classifications. The current GC, which is reasonably spread out and let by Van Garderen, Thomas or Van Avermaet depending on how you’re interpreting it, and the Froome GC, which is and will always be led by Froome. That GC is very close, unless you’re Quintana.

All that is reasonable if, and only if, Dumoulin, Urán, Thomas and (sigh) Tejay falter. If they do, which is possible if not likely, this Tour is far more in the balance than I think anybody thought it would be at this point. The “nightmare” scenario, of course, would have been for Froome to have stayed in the bunch early on and for Sky to win this. If he’d done that, he’d essentially be at least a minute up on all his rivals, on the same time as Thomas and I’d have had a hard time generating interest in this race for the next three weeks. That, however, is not what has happened and everyone on that list above is still in contention for a podium place. The TTT has not decided the story of this race. Individual efforts will take precedence from here on out.