Active Pass roundtable: Will the Tour de France bring back long individual time trials?
Should the Tour de France bring back prologues and longer individual time trials? And who will win the UCI road world championships?
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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, one reader asks whether the Tour de France will bring back individual time trials, while another has a question about Jumbo-Visma’s strategy toward Tadej Pogačar.
OK, let’s get to your questions!
Isn’t it unusual to have only one individual time trial and no team time trial in a Tour de France, which, by the way, had NO prologue?
Andrew Hood @eurohoody: Yes, it’s been many years without a prologue. Christian Prudhomme seems not to like them. He prefers to have a “real time” for the yellow jersey. I personally like a prologue. I think it sets up a nice battle between the sprinters for the yellow jersey, who must chase time bonuses in the first week. The rumor is that they will have a longer time trial earlier in the race in next year’s tour. There have been two or three routes in a row that have favored the climbers, and one can guess that with Froome trying for a record fifth on a new team, they might give a course that could set him up for that record win.
James Startt: Yes, but this has been the evolution of the Tour in the last few years. They came to feel that time trials killed the suspense. A guy dominates a time trial, like Miguel Indurain or Bradley Wiggins or Chris Froome, and the rest of the race would be defensive. So, they thought that by shortening time trials and just having a final time trial, the race won’t play into the hands of the time trial specialists. Now, they want to push for an open race with climbs that aren’t so high, climbs that are 1,500 meters on average. It’s supposed to make for unpredictable racing. Has that been the case? Somewhat. We don’t have a Julian Alaphilippe like we did last year blowing the race open. You can play with the racecourse, but you still need the riders to make it exciting. If you have a team like Jumbo-Visma that was so dominant in the tradition of Ineos and Sky, even the course can’t make it predictable.
Will Jumbo Visma continue to allow Tadej Pogačar to surf their wheels to Paris and the podium? He has no support from his team.
Andy: There’s not much they can do about that. It’s true that Pogačar doesn’t have much of a team, but if he is strong enough to stay on the Jumbo-Visma train, then Jumbo just has to live with it. The only thing that matters for Jumbo-Visma is that Pogačar is behind them. If he’s second if he’s third or if he’s fourth it doesn’t matter to them so long as Roglič is first.
James: Well, I don’t think they have much choice. All Pogačar to do is follow Roglič. At this point, they’re not going to send Tom Dumoulin off the front to blow the race up. They have a guy who is going to win the race, and yesterday he was stronger than Pogačar. They don’t care who finishes second, so he can surf the wheel all he wants, and he’s done a tremendous job of that. The advantage of having a dominant team is it allows other riders to play off of it. Some guys will go on the attack. But when you have a dominant team, it’s a race of attrition and tempo and high pace.
I know. I know. It’s the third week of the Tour but I want to know who’s going to win the world championships!
Andy: Yes, it’s going to be a very interesting situation with the world championships right after the Tour de France, and even more so in this kind of strange year. On paper, it favors a puncheur/climber with 5,000 vertical meters of racing. Having said that, on a circuit course those kilometers have a different impact and feel than they would if it’s a stage race because it’s more up and down up and down at tempo, as opposed to a long sustain climb of say 20 kilometers. I was surprised to see Mathieu van der Poel decide not to race. I believe Wout van Aert could do very well. It’s just a question of how tired he will be after the Tour de France. Any riders of that style of Jakob Fuglsang, Julian Alaphilippe, Michal Kwiatkowski. All of the guys who have won Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Amstel Gold Race should be right in there for the stripes.
James: This year’s worlds is hard to get your head around, but we will be there in 10 days. It’s on a new course in Italy, and it is going to be really grueling. The climb is longer in Imola than was planned for Martigny, with pitches of 1km at 10 percent. It’s brutal. But it’s not a mountain either. I think it will play into the hands of the big puncheurs, like worlds often do. The guys who come out of the Tour de France fresh and strong could have a good chance. Julian Alaphilippe — maybe this could be his year. Maybe he will have some time to finally pop it. But then you have a guy like Tadej Pogačar, and the way he can get up those climbs and have a good kick, makes him a favorite too. Then, there’s also Alejandro Valverde. It’s going to be a crazy one.
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