Any given week, there are oodles of cycling stories flying around in the news. So here’s a quick-hit summary of this week’s happenings, plus my own garbage opinions on each. Much like my gambling advice, these takes are for entertainment purposes only!
Rigoberto Uràn won Tour de France stage 9, an instant classic in the annals of Tour stages. As if that wasn’t enough, he did so on a bike with an inoperable rear derailleur. He just told the mechanics to put ‘er in the 11-tooth. Since he was so successful against his still-shifting rivals, maybe this opens up new opportunities for the Colombian. Red Hook Crits have been immensely popular. How about, instead of the traditional post-Tour criteriums, Uràn plans a schedule of fixie crits? If Cannondale comes out with a special Mick Jagger-themed one-speed, you can bet he’ll be lining up in Brooklyn next season.
At the top of stage 9’s Mont du Chat, polemics brewed when Fabio Aru attacked. Why? Because Chris Froome had put his arm up to request a new bike due to mechanical. There’s been a lot of talk about whether rivals should wait if the yellow jersey is in trouble. Let me be very clear on this. When I am someday wearing the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, I do not want the others to wait if I flat or have to take a poop. I want to win this thing fair-and-square, so no waiting. Chris Froome, I challenge you to take such a brave, bold stand on the waiting controversy.
It’s about time we heard from Nacer Bouhanni — he’s been surprisingly quiet so far in July. On stage 11, he gave Jack Bauer a nice smack in the final 10 kilometers, but the UCI jury only gave him a slap on the wrist. It would be easy to chalk this up to French favoritism in the home race. I think there’s a deeper reason. With Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish, and Arnaud Démare out of the race, the sprints have gotten really boring. (Okay, maybe Démare is a distant third to Sagan and Cav.) So the UCI is doing its level best to keep us excited about the flat stages. Pre-sprint fisticuffs are a great way to fill air time. Maybe the race will find other ways to spice up those snoozy days. If we start seeing more parasols floating into the peloton, you can bet the UCI is prioritizing entertainment.
Mikel Landa rode across the stage 12 finish without Chris Froome in tow. The Spaniard was supposed to be a domestique in this Tour de France. It didn’t look that way Thursday. Is there trouble in paradise? Maybe there is, but I think the mini-rivalry might actually be a boon to Team Sky. Think of the past few Tours — has Froome ever really had a challenger? So, to give the Brit a little nudge, Sky sends Landa up the road, you know, to make things interesting. This reminds me of the great inter-team quarterback rivalries in the NFL, like Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady, or Aaron Rogers and Brett Favre. Froome should be fine for now, but if Landa stops making him pre-race espressos in the Alps, then look out!
And we’re back to the UCI jury. The rule-keepers docked Uràn and George Bennett 20 seconds in the overall on Thursday. Then, officials changed their tune Friday morning — no one gets a time penalty. All’s well that ends well, right? Maybe, but the jury needs to rule the race with an iron fist. To me, this looks like a sign of weakness. First they cut Bouhanni some slack, now riders can drink water any time they like. What if Aru grabs a water bottle in the final five kilometers and starts a water fight with Froome? Will the jury sanction Michael Matthews if he sneaks into Quick-Step’s bus and swaps green jersey rival Marcel Kittel’s hair gel and chamois creme? If this Tour devolves into an all-out brawl like the one portrayed in “Tour de Pharmacy,” we’ll know the UCI jury has lost control.