At last, we got a taste of the climbing talent in the peloton at this Tour de France with the uphill finish on Mur de Bretagne in stage 6. While this is no Alpine col, it was enough to tease out a few hints of what to expect from the GC favorites. So who is going well? Who should we be worried about, especially with the cobbled stage 9 looming? And what the heck happened to Quick-Step on Thursday? Time to roundtable!
Quick-Step put a lot of effort into stage 6, chasing the break, splitting the field, and it didn’t get a result. What went wrong?
Fred Dreier, @freddreier: Alas, we may never know, as the TV cameras cut away at the worst possible time. Julian Alaphilippe was in perfect position at the base of the climb, and then Daniel Oss took a huge pull with Alaphilippe on his wheel. The TV cut away to show Dumoulin, and when it cut back, Alaphilippe was back in like eighth place. My guess is Oss’s monster pull simply drained the oomph from Alaphilippe’s legs too soon on the climb, so when Dan Martin attacked, Alaphilippe was gassed.
Spencer Powlison, @spino_powerlegs: I am baffled by this. How can such a tactically astute team take on so much of the work at the front of the peloton when you know BMC wants to work a little to keep yellow, and surely Bora-Hansgrohe would like a chance to deliver Peter Sagan to the finish — not to mention all the other opportunistic teams. I saw some quotes floating around that Quick-Step director Brian Holm might have told Martin he’d be able to tag along with the team in the race finale … Huh? The team has both Julian Alaphilippe and Philippe Gilbert ready to go. Commit to them for the win and don’t go around chin-wagging with the rivals.
Dane Cash, @danecash: Dan Martin’s attack from a more than a kilometer out meant this was going to be more of a climbers’ finish, and that wasn’t great news for Quick-Step. Julian Alaphilippe and Philippe Gilbert are both great puncheurs but a thousand meters at nearly seven percent is a long way to go when you’re trying to match up against climbing specialists like Martin, Pierre Latour, and Alejandro Valverde. Sometimes, your rivals are just better.
How do you view Romain Bardet’s GC chances after yet another misfire, this time on Mur de Bretagne?
Fred: It’s not the end of the world. Yes, he lost 31 seconds, and likely took a psychological blow. But those losses could be completely erased by a strong showing on l’Alpe d’Huez. If Bardet wins the stage and bumps up in the overall, his Tour will be considered a huge success.
Spencer: Romain Bardet is the most overrated GC contender. He needs all the help he can get, and losing 31 seconds puts him even farther down my list of favorites for yellow. He barely hung onto third last year — if he can make the podium a third year in a row this time, I’ll be surprised.
Dane: Picking up time on Chris Froome, Richie Porte, and Nairo Quintana in stage 1 and giving up less than two minutes in the stage 3 team time trial were both big wins for Bardet, so this just kind of evens things out. That said, I saw him as more of a second-tier contender before the race. That’s still how I see him now.
Was it worth the risk for Dumoulin to draft his team car to chase even though he was penalized 20 seconds?
Fred: Yes, and I actually don’t think the move constitutes foul play. Had he done a world-class sticky bottle, or received a Nibali-esque push, then I would definitely say that Dumoulin broke the rules, and should receive a harsh penalty. But drafting off of the car like that is a risk that many riders take to try and gain some valuable seconds. It’s part of the race. Sometimes the TV cameras and referees see it, sometimes they do not. My guess is Dumoulin would have lost more than 20 seconds had he simply pedaled along without the car. So to lose 20 additional seconds is, in my mind, worth the risk.
Spencer: Definitely not worth the risk. I mean look at how small that Mini is that the Sunweb guys have to drive. It’s like one of those old-timey clown cars! I bet Dumoulin gets a better draft off of little Domenico Pozzovivo (5′ 5″) than he does off the “Italian Job” cars.
Dane: I should say no because I’m no fan of rule-breaking, but considering how often it happens without a penalty, it’s hard to blame Dumoulin for trying.
Which team should be most worried for the stage 9 cobblestones after crosswinds split the field in stage 6?
Fred: Dutch teams are supposed to be good in the wind, right? So what the heck happened to LottoNL-Jumbo? I still can’t believe they were caught out in the crosswinds. As for which team should really be worried — I’m looking at Movistar.
Spencer: Oh Movistar. I think you picked the wrong Tour de France to stack your team with little GC climber guys. The Spanish team is lucky the split at 100km to go wasn’t worse for Nairo Quintana. At least Alejandro Valverde had his wits about him, but in general, anyone speaking Spanish should be worried about Sunday.
Dane: I’ll go with Richie Porte. He may have a big engine but bike handling has never been a strong suit for him. Can he really expect Greg Van Avermaet — one of the top favorites for the stage — to drop back and tow him back to safety if things go sideways?