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Tour de France

Active Pass roundtable: Is the Tour de France’s crowd control strategy working?

Is the Tour de France's crowd control strategy working? Also, which GC stars looked strongest in the Pyrenees?

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You have questions about the 2020 Tour de France, and we have answers and educated opinions. Our veteran reporters, Andrew Hood and James Startt, are fielding your biggest inquiries each day in this Active Pass roundtable column. Today, we have inquiries about the big crowds in the Pyrenees, and the big battle on the Col de Peyresourde.

OK, let’s get to your questions!

We saw on TV that the crowds were big on in the Pyrenees, but I thought the Tour de France was trying to limit the fans because of COVID-19. What happened?

Andrew Hood @eurohoody: What happened is that fans loved the Tour. Despite blocking traffic off from 10 miles away from the climbs, the lure of the Tour proved too strong. Fans hiked and biked to the climbs, certainly much more than expected. While most fans were wearing masks, no one liked the images of the big unruly crowds. So far, officials have not been counting or trying to limit the amount of fans on the climbs. That might change because what happened Saturday was not a good look for the race.

James Startt: Well, they did limit the crowds in that there were very few if any cars and campers on the climbs, but they have always said that they would allow people to hike or bike up the climbs and there were simply a lot of hikers and bikers. Tons! And it was to be expected, as stage 8 was the queen stage in the Pyrénées, and it was on a Saturday. Obviously, when they planned the route, there was no COVID-19, and a weekend in the Pyrénées seemed like a good idea. But things are different. That said, I was on the both the Port de Balès and the Col de Peyresourde, and the mood was comparatively mellow. There was not the mad hysteria because, well, people rode their bikes up and perhaps had lunch packed away, but that is a far cry from the those camping and drinking for days on end, as is often the case.

Of the big GC riders who do you think looked the strongest on Saturday and why?

Pogačar attacked again and again on the Col de Peyresourde. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Andy: Tadej Pogačar and Nairo Quintana. Roglič, too — Bernal was barely hanging on with the sharp accelerations. Pogačar’s attack blew up the GC bunch, leaving everyone scrambling. Roglič was all over his first surge, with Quintana also marking the move. Those three look the strongest right now. Bernal needs to keep staying in the game, limit any losses, and hope he finds his wings in the Alps.

James: Well, Jumbo dominated but the outsiders are only growing. Pogačar gained back over half the time he lost the day before in the winds. And you don’t give any time back to a rider of that caliber, especially since he is still such and unknown. He could still very much win this race. Pinot blew but Bardet is back! And while Bernal struggled, Quintana was tremendous.

Is Mitchelton-Scott going for stage wins or the jersey? Which one is more important?

Andy: The yellow jersey takes on more weight the longer one can defend it. Like last year with Alaphilippe, his two-week run in yellow far outshined any stage wins. Compare that to Kristoff, who wore yellow for one day. That was a nice bonus, but what was more important for him was the stage victory in Nice. If Yates can carry yellow into the Alps, that will become much more important to him and and his team than if he can manage to win a stage. Of course, they’d like to have both. At a certain point, defending yellow might work against his ability to win a stage, because no one is going to give him an inch right now.

James: I think that a long run in the jersey pips a stage win. People will forever Julian Alaphilippe’s two-week run in yellow last year and people will remember the long remember the Simon Yates’ long run in the pink jersey back in 2018, little matter if he faded in the final weekend. If it is just a day or two in the jersey that is one thing. But anything over a week is just huge and if Adam makes it through Sunday’s stage in the Pyrénées he should be able to hold it until the stage to the Puy Mary at least. And his Tour will be a huge success.

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