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Tour de France

Analysis: How GC stars fared in the Tour de France’s first mountain stage

How did GC favorites like Adam Yates, Egan Bernal, Primož Roglič, and others fare during Saturday's Pyrénéan test of the Tour de France? We break down the good and bad news for the key players.

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Saturday’s eighth stage of the 2020 Tour de France produced an aggressive battle between the GC favorites on the high peaks of the Pyrénées.

Pre-race favorite Thibaut Pinot was the big GC loser, as he ceded 18 minutes and watched ambitions for the yellow jersey evaporate in the hot, sticky air. Tadej Pogačar was the big winner — the Slovenian youngster clawed back 39 seconds of the 1:21 he lost in the crosswinds on Friday.

So, how did the rest of the GC favorites fare? Let’s break it down:

Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers)

Bernal hung tough on stage 8. Photo: Stephane Mahe – Pool/Getty Images

The good news: Saturday’s stage should be considered a success for Bernal, as he finished in the main bunch of GC favorites alongside rival Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and race leader Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott). Bernal ceded no time, and now sits in fifth place on GC, 13 seconds down. Also, Bernal’s teammate Richard Carapaz was the strongest of the race’s second-tier GC/domestiques, and he he was able to help set the pace on the Col de Peyresourde while everyone else’s teammates were far behind.

The bad news: When GC riders threw haymakers at each other on the Peyresourde, Bernal did not have the ability to punch back. Rather, he rode conservatively and surfed wheels and made the wise calculation that the group would come back together. Is he bluffing? We don’t know, but he doesn’t appear to have the explosive accelerations to match Roglič, Tadej Pogačar, or Nairo Quintana at this point in the race.

Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma)

Roglič now sits in second place overall, while Dumoulin faded. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images,

The good news: Like Bernal, Roglič finished in the main group of contenders. He ceded no time on GC, and now sits in second place overall, just 3 seconds down. His Jumbo-Visma teammates controlled the front group through the two final climbs, and Wout van Aert again amazed everyone by morphing into a climbing domestique the day after winning a sprint. Roglič also appeared to be one of the strongest GC riders in the bunch. When the attacks started flying at the base of the Peyresourde, Roglič matched the accelerations of Pogačar and Quintana with ease, while Bernal and others had to claw their way back. Why didn’t he push on? I think he’s playing the long game.

The bad news: Roglič is Jumbo-Visma’s only real GC man now, as Tom Dumoulin lost 2:07 to the main group of favorites and now seems destined to be a super domestique. So, all of the team’s eggs are in his proverbial basket. Also, Roglič was isolated for most of the final climb, while Bernal had a teammate present in Carapaz. This fact shouldn’t be underestimated — Jumbo-Visma is the strongest squad at this year’s race, yet they were noticeably absent in the finale. This could be a detriment when the race hits the Alps.

Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic)

Nairo Quintana attacked on the final climb Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images.

The good news: Quintana finished in the main group of GC favorites and now sits in 6th place overall, 13 seconds down (the same time as Bernal, Miguel Ángel Lopez, and Rigoberto Urán). Also, Quintana was the GC aggressor on the Peyresourde, attacking twice on the long climb. His accelerations at the bottom and near the top dropped everyone but Roglič and Pogačar. It was as if Quintana stepped into a time machine and was magically transported back to 2013. The old attacking Nairo Quintana is back, baby!

The bad news: Um, I don’t think there is any bad news for Quintana. Saturday’s stage saw Quintana ride with a feisty zeal that we haven’t seen in years. It’s great to have the old Nairo Quintana back.

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ)

Pinot’s run at the yellow jersey ended on Saturday. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

The good news: Alas, there was no good news today for Thibaut Pinot. He was dropped on the Port de Balés and saw his GC hopes evaporate. He finished the stage, which is good. But otherwise, he’s now the punching bag of the French cycling press.

The bad news: Pinot was among the top favorites for this year’s Tour de France, due to the race’s hilly profile and lack of flat individual time trialing kilometers. Now, he’s gone out the back on the first real test in the mountains. This should be seen as a huge missed opportunity for him, due to the course construction and the apparent weakness of Ineos Grenadiers, the squad that has squashed him again and again in recent Tours de France. Now, Pinot is a stage-hunter, or pack-filler. It’s a major disappointment.

Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)

Adam Yates.
Adam Yates fought back to the front group after he was dropped early on the Peyresourde. Photo: Photo: Marco Bertorello-Pool/Getty Images

The good news: Adam Yates defended yellow! Yates followed the big GC contenders up and over the Peyresourde, and he still sits in the yellow jersey. And he did so despite getting dropped at the base of the climb. Yates had the mental and emotional confidence to calm down and ride his own race, and the decision kept him from blowing up entirely. Yates is now poised to make a gritty, heartwarming defense of yellow in the vein of Julian Alaphilippe (2019), Thomas Voeckler (2011), or François Simon (2011). But unlike those guys, he’s a real contender to win.

The bad news: Yates was isolated for the entire climb of the Peyresourde, and he also seemed to be a few watts shy when the race’s biggest guns began to fire. He made the front group, but he did so after cracking. He couldn’t match the accelerations of Pogačar or Roglič. Still, his steady and calm climbing helped him survive the day.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates)

Pogačar was the big winner of the day, clawing back 39 seconds on the favorites. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

The good news: Young Pogačar is full of beans, and he showed why he’s among the most exciting riders in the peloton on Saturday. Pogačar attacked his way back into the GC battle after being caught in Team Ineos Grenadiers’ crosswinds trap on stage 7. He gained back 39 seconds of the 1:21 he lost on Friday, and now sits in 9th place (up from 16th at the beginning of the day), only 0:48 seconds down. More importantly, Pogačar showed himself to be among the best climbers in the race. His accelerations on the Peyresourde dropped everyone except Roglič and Quintana. If he can keep up this aggression, he could be able to ride his way back to the podium.

The bad news: Ack, that 1:21 Pogačar lost on Friday now seems like such disaster. Had he stayed with the peloton that day, he would be on the shortest list for the yellow jersey.

Guillaume Martin (Cofidis Solutions Crédits)

Guillaume Martin. Critérium du Dauphiné. Photo: James Startt
Martin continued to play aggressor. Photo: James Startt.

The good news: Martin made the front group over the Peyresourde, and was strong enough to throw a few major punches of his own at the front group. For a moment there he even gapped the contenders and was the virtual leader of the race. Martin now sits in third place overall, 9 seconds down. But he no doubt gained a head full of confidence on Saturday by climbing with the top favorites, seemingly with ease. Now, he’s showing himself to be France’s best shot at the podium.

The bad news: There’s no bad news for Guillaume Martin. Great ride!

Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma)

Dumoulin showed his strength, but his GC ambitions seem to be over. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

The good news: Dumoulin’s efforts at the bottom of the Peyresourde absolutely shredded the front group of contenders, and his big watts cracked Adam Yates, Julian Alaphilippe, Sergio Higuita, and others. His huge pull set up teammate Roglič, who finished with the main bunch. It was a sign that Dumoulin has a lot of steam in his engine this year, and he is among the strongest riders in the race.

The bad news: Dumoulin’s efforts doomed his own chances at yellow, and his run at the Tour de France victory is over. After his mighty pull Dumoulin lacked the strength to follow the main group, and he finished in the third group of favorites, 2:07 down on the GC riders. So, barring some major change in tactic, Dumoulin is now squarely a worker bee for Roglič.

Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Buchmann was dropped on the Col de Peyresourde. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

The good news: Buchmann finished the stage, and his Bora-Hansgrohe team was strong enough to set the pace for much of the Port de Balés. He’s obviously not at full speed, due to the crash he suffered at the Critérium du Dauphiné. Buchmann finished in the second group of favorites, 1:13 behind the Bernal/Roglič group.

The bad news: Buchmann just didn’t have the legs to follow the main favorites on the Peyresourde. He was blown out the back when the attacks started flying, and his climbing pace just wasn’t fast enough to make it back to the front group. Alas, a repeat of his 4th place overall in 2019 does not seem to be in the cards this year. His finish was nicht so gut. 

Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck–Quick-Step)

Alaphilippe’s run at the yellow jersey is over. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

The good news: Not a ton of great news for Julian Alaphilippe today.

The bad news: There will be no GC heroics for Alaphilippe this year. He finished more than 11 minutes behind the GC favorites, and his attempt to regain the yellow jersey went kapow. Also, he got dropped by the main group just moments after he attacked at the base of the climb — an embarrassing series of events for even the most seasoned swashbuckler. Still, Cat 3 riders everywhere should be proud of such a goofy own goal.

Riche Porte (Trek-Segafredo)

Richie Porte attacked on the Col de Peyresourde. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

The good news: Porte finished amongst the top GC favorites, and now sits in 13th place, 1:34 down. He was also amongst the strongest climbers on the Peyresourde, and attacked out of the main bunch alongside Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren) midway up the climb. This is a major step forward for Porte, who in years past has seen his Tour de France aspirations explode in the early mountain stages. As a bonus, his teammate Bauke Mollema was also near the front, giving Trek-Segafredo a strong 1-2 punch for GC.

The bad news: Porte still needs to overcome the 1:21 he lost in the Ineos Grenadiers crosswinds trap on stage 7. While he has the legs to shadow Roglič and Bernal, he needs to have strong enough legs to drop those guys on the biggest climbs. And that does not seem to be in the cards for Porte.

Rigoberto Urán (EF Pro Cycling)

Urán put in a short-lived attack in his first race since early February. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images.
Urán looked strong on the final climb of the day. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images.

The good news: Urán’s climbing legs emerged on Saturday and he was able to ride in the front group of GC favorites. He was briefly distanced by the first attack by Pogačar, and then dragged the other riders back up. He finished alongside Roglic and Bernal, and now sits in 8th place, tied on GC at 13 seconds down. This is a big step forward for Urán, who has spent much of the 2020 season recovering from a painful broken collarbone at the 2019 Vuelta a España. Much of the attention has gone to his teammates and compatriots Dani Martínez and Sergio Higuita. Saturday’s stage is confirmation that veteran Urán is still the man for the Tour de France.

The bad news: Urán is going to have to survive the highest mountains by himself, as Higuita and Martínez don’t appear strong enough to make the front group of climbers. It’s a position Urán knows well.

Miguel Ángel López (Team Astana)

López (center) is quietly having a very strong Tour de France. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

The good news: López made the front group, saved his energy, and finished alongside the other top GC favorites. He now sits in 7th place, tied at 13 seconds down. Considering his reputation for flashy, aggressive riding, López rode a conservative and measured race on the Peyresourde. He followed wheels and rarely, if ever, put his nose into the wind. And he never appeared to be in trouble. López is quietly positioning himself for a run at the podium.

The bad news: No real bad news here. Sure, Lopez didn’t follow Pogačar and Roglič, but I see that as a positive. In years past he may have fired his guns too early in this situation and blown up.

Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale)

Bardet clawed back two seconds on the other GC riders. Photo: Stephane Mahe – Pool/Getty Images

The good news: Bardet finished in the main group and now sits in 4th place overall, 11 seconds down. Also, his teammate Nans Peters won the stage, no doubt giving AG2R-La Mondiale a huge shot of confidence heading into the meat of this year’s Tour de France. Bardet couldn’t follow the early aggression on the Peyresourde, but he recovered and rode his way back into the main GC bunch midway up the climb. He even threw in a dig on the slight rise before the finish and crossed the line with a 2 second advantage on the other GC riders. This is a huge turnaround for Bardet from 2019, when he saw his ambitions explode early.

The bad news: Bardet couldn’t match the big guns in the early attacks on the Peyresourde. It’s not a huge setback, of course, but it could be a sign that he may not be able to follow the big accelerations on the climbs.

Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren)

Landa rode an aggressive race on the Peyresourde. Photo:  Tim de Waele/Getty Images

The good news: Landa made the front group of GC riders and now sits in 12th place, 1:34 down. He moved up seven positions after his disastrous crosswinds blunder on Friday’s stage 7. Plus, Landa was strong enough to attack alongside Porte up the Peyresourde. The attack was eventually brought back, but it was a sign that he’s strong enough to make a move. Plus, his teammate Damiano Caruso was right up there.

The bad news: Like Porte, Landa has a 1:21 hole to dig himself out of after being snagged by Team Ineos Grenadiers in the crosswinds trap. He’s got his work cut out for him. Never say never, of course, but barring some type of divine intervention, Mikel Landa just isn’t going to win the overall.