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Tour de France

Pyrenean Roundtable: Punchy Froome, Quiet Quintana, adios Contador

How did VeloNews editors respond to Chris Froome's attack on the Col du Peyresourde, and to Nairo Quintana's poker face on Andorra Arcalis?

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The Tour de France just served up three memorable days in the Pyrenees. We saw Chris Froome ride his top tube into the maillot jaune after attacking over the Col du Peyresourde. We saw Froome slug an unruly fan running along the peloton. Finally, we saw an epic summit finish at Andorra Arcalis that featured hailstones, driving rain, and a flurry of attacks. What are our takeaways from the Tour’s first foray into the mountains? Let’s roundtable!

When Chris Froome first attacked on the descent of the Peyresourde, how did you see it playing out? Be honest.

Caley Fretz @caleyfretz:I laughed a bit, said ‘what is he doing?’ out loud to Hoody, then watched the reaction (or lack thereof) from Movistar and BMC and realized he was probably gone.

Fred Dreier @freddreier: I was like ‘What a spazz!’ because Froome looked even weirder than normal while pedaling in the tuck position. And then he just took off like a rocket. I assumed they would bring him back, and he totally proved me wrong.

Andrew Hood @eurohoody: It was a brilliant move, and shows that Froome can snatch away seconds every chance he gets. Was it planned? Not specifically, but with three downhill finales in this Tour, Froome said he practiced his descending attacking skills, just to be ready if and when the opportunity presented itself. I didn’t think it would stick, but neither did anyone else in the bunch, and that’s precisely why it worked. The perfectly executed coup.

Spencer Powlison @spino_powerlegs: I expected they would catch him within a kilometer or two — I suppose I just don’t think as creatively as Froome-dog. It surprised me that there was not much organization in the chase. For much of the descent, it was just Valverde and Quintana pulling. Guys: You can’t start racing for podium positions yet!

Froome punching that spectator: Is it a good or a bad look for him, and why?

Caley: It was a good look, but he shouldn’t do it again. It makes him seem human, and a bit volatile. We like that from our sportspeople.

Fred: Kind of a bad look. The Tour champ should be unflappable in stressful situations like those. That said, I probably would have punched the guy, ridden him into a ditch, and then emptied my gel flask onto his face.

Andy: Using the words of the great philosopher Peter Sagan, “was like was.” Good or bad? Who knows. It was an impulse decision made in the heat of battle. Could he have shoved the guy instead? Sure. Could he have crashed if the fans’ flag got wrapped up in his wheel. Maybe. Froome had the class to later apologize to the fan.

Spencer: I’ll confess that this made me laugh while I was watching on Saturday, but the more I think about it, the more I don’t like it. This wasn’t like Sunday’s incident with George Bennett, where the Kiwi had two choices: Either knock down the spectator or crash himself. Froome could have just pushed him away, and I think that would have been a better approach. Smacking the fan in the face just seems a little vicious to me.

Why do you think Nairo Quintana didn’t attack on the climb to Andorra Arcalis?

Caley: He’s waiting for Froome to fade in the third week. They’ll duel on Ventoux, but Quintana is really looking to those final alpine stages. His tiny deficit right now is a victory in Movistar’s eyes — why risk it with an attack? Froome is (historically) easier to take time out of later in the race. He may rue the lost opportunity if Froome never fades, of course.

Fred: Movistar doesn’t want the jersey this early in the race. It’s best to let Sky pull the peloton around for another week before trying to dislodge Froome. I’m not sure Movistar has the personnel to defend the jersey for two weeks.

Andy: Maybe he couldn’t. Maybe he’s saving his matches for the second half. Conditions were horrendous by any measure, and Movistar is quietly pleased to be within less than half a minute to the yellow jersey at this stage of the race. Bottom line is that he lost a chance to take back some of those seconds he lost to Froome. Two small mistakes — not following Froome at the Peyresourde and not attacking at Arcalis — could prove decisive.

Spencer: NairoMan was riding smart. It was a nasty, wet, cold finish, so you’re really rolling the dice if you attack. Look at Bauke Mollema — he tried to attack, and went out the back of the GC group. Dan Martin delivered a flurry of attacks, and he was nearly gapped at the finish. I think the little Colombian has a plan, and he’s being very patient and disciplined.

Alberto Contador abandoned. How does this impact the rest of the race?

Caley: It makes life easier for Froome, who now only has to deal with one punchy climber — Quintana.

Fred: Healthy Contador would have helped soften Froome on those final climbs, so there’s one fewer guy to throw punches at Froome. Now we only have Dan Martin, Richie Porte, and Quintana.

Andy: Not much. This Tour was always going to be a matchup between Froome and Quintana from the beginning. Contador’s aggression could have opened up the race, potentially derailed the Sky-Movistar lock on the GC battle, but now that he’s gone, the plot line should remain uninterrupted.

Spencer: This is a huge disappointment. Again, we have a Tour that’s marked by the absence of a major contender. It’s impossible to know if Contador would have been on Froome or Quintana’s level, but you can be sure that he’d attack the race. That alone would be enough to shake up the dynamics. As it stands, everyone is still riding pretty cagey.