Saturday’s 14th stage of the Tour de France saw the stars of the Tour de France battle each other on the Col du Tourmalet. Thibaut Pinto surged to the stage win, Julian Alaphilippe consolidated his lead, and defending champion Geraint Thomas lost ground.
Did Saturday’s stage live up to its pre-race hype?
Andy Hood @eurohoody: Course design only goes so far in determining what happens in a race. It’s always up to the riders and how they race it. We saw earlier in this Tour how stages that on paper seemed inconsequential can prove decisive, and just like Thursday’s first foray into the Pyrenees with an interesting profile can be disappointing from a viewing perspective. There is no doubt it was full-gas all day, but with the way the stage was designed, it was still a long way from the Souler to the Tourmalet, so it was unlikely any of the “bigs” were going to move too soon. The first big mountaintop finale was a race of attrition, just as they usually are.
Fred Dreier @freddreier: I give it four out of five stars. I was hoping for a bit more of a slugfest on the final ascent of the Tourmalet, but it seemed like everyone was sufficiently pinned from the high pace, and Thibaut Pinot and Steven Kruijswijk still had teammates for anyone GC rider to truly go for a long-ish bomb. Kudos to Warren Barguil for acting as the early carrot. That said, the final battle at 2km to go was sufficiently enjoyable.
Jim Cotton @jim_c_1985: It was certainly a short, explosive stage with a fierce pace throughout, and that was what led to Romain Bardet being dropped before the real GC action even began. However, all the GC riders except Frenchman came to the bottom of the Tourmalet together, which I suspect would have happened whether the stage was 217km or 117km. I’d definitely rather watch a 117km stage than a 200km+ slog though.
Which GC rider suffered the biggest setback today?
Andy: Movistar — today was a day for Quintana to move, and he ended up losing three minutes. Valverde also got popped and Landa didn’t have the legs to try to win the stage. An all-around disaster for the Spanish team. Richie Porte, Jakob Fuglsang and Adam Yates also saw their GC hopes tank.
Fred: I really thought Adam Yates was going to put it together at this year’s Tour de France and land back inside the top-five. Yates hasn’t crashed or been caught out in crosswinds or suffered any major setbacks up to this point, so to see him dropped on the Col du Souler was a huge disappointment. He was in a great place and he just tanked. Luckily Mitchelton-Scott already has those two stage wins!
Jim: Romain Bardet was a major casualty, though I’d say he was written off before the stage truly started. Of the true ‘threats’ I’d say Nairo Quintana was the biggest loser. The way his team did all the work in the first three-quarters of the stage only to drop him seemed a bit of a shambles.
Which GC rider took the biggest step forward?
Andy: Behind Alaphilippe, who again rode impressively, Kruijswijk is the big winner today. His Jumbo-Visma team had two engines at the front to really turn the screws, largely dismantling Ineos and leaving Thomas and Bernal exposed. If Alaphilippe does eventually crack, it could be the ever steady Kruisjwijk who could be poised to fill the vacuum.
Fred: Alaphilippe took the biggest step forward, because I think all of us were waiting to see if he was going to pop off the back inside those final 5km on the Tourmalet. He was wagging his tongue and rocking back and forth—the telltale sign of fatigue—and yet he hung tough. He could always suffer the fate of Simon Yates at the 2018 Giro and blow up in the third week, of course. But after today, Alaphilippe is in perfect position to win.
Jim: That has to be the stage winner, Thibaut Pinot. Though he only pulled back 6 seconds on Alaphilippe, it shows a return to confidence after he lost out in stage 10’s crosswinds. He put in a great time trial on Friday, and with this, he’s got momentum and confidence as the race hits his favored ground.
Which GC rider should be worried?
Andy: Ineos will be drawing their wagons tonight. Alaphilippe continues to ride beyond expectations, but don’t expect the team to panic just yet. It’s still second and fourth on GC, and has the experience and depth to handle the final week. Of course, the final week also comes down to who has legs. There are certainly some chinks in Thomas’s and Bernal’s respective armors. Thomas got popped and Bernal didn’t have the zip in his legs to go on the attack. There are still plenty of climbs to come, but right now, Ineos doesn’t appear to be firing at full cylinders.
Fred: As much as I’m cheering for Thibaut Pinot to claw his way back into contention, I think the time is running out. It’s too bad he lost 1:40 in the crosswinds on stage 10, because right now that is the big gap he has to make up. And while he’s climbing extremely well, I just don’t see too many opportunities for him to take back that much time.
Jim: Geraint Thomas. Just as Pinot is gathering confidence and swagger, the Welshman isn’t looking his usual self. He said he didn’t feel his best in the time trial on stage 13, and losing a further 30 seconds on Alaphilippe suggests that may not change soon. That will certainly not be helped by the fact that the Ineos fortress looked a little fragile today, with Thomas and Bernal left to fend for themselves much of the way up the Tourmalet.