Who would have guessed that a simple sprint stage could mix up the Tour de France’s GC race more than a summit finish? Stage 1 was pandemonium as defending champ Chris Froome (Sky) crashed off the road in the final kilometers. GC hopefuls Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and Richie Porte (BMC) also lost valuable time. Should we reevaluate our predictions after only one weekend of racing? Who’s to blame for Froome’s crash? Let’s roundtable!
The GC race was surprisingly shuffled up in stage 1. How did the mess of crashes and mechanicals change your predictions for the overall favorites?
Fred Dreier, @freddreier: I had Nairo Quintana as my favorite rider to challenge Froome for the GC, and now I think his hopes are entirely lost unless he can pull some type of Formigal magic-out-of-thin-air move. Quintana will lose a minute or so to Froome, Dumoulin, and Porte in Monday’s TTT, so he’s looking at perhaps a two-minute deficit going into the mountains. Barring some type of catastrophic explosion for three of his rivals, Quintana is simply too far behind.
Andrew Hood @eurohoody: I think the losses for Froome, Yates, and Porte should be regained in the TTT. The crashes take away the built-in advantage that those riders have been banking on for the race against the clock. The biggest “loser” is Quintana, who will lose even more time against his key rivals in the TTT, and still be behind his teammates. These are all important time losses, but the TTT will help even the table going into next week.
Spencer Powlison @spino_powerlegs: I had two predictions for this Tour: My head prediction, Froome, and my heart prediction, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida). I don’t like how this crash unnecessarily set back Froome in the overall, and I fear the physical impact of it might weaken him for the stage 6 Mur de Bretagne finish. But overall, Sky will help him regain that time (and then some) in the team time trial. As for Nibali, stage 1 reinforced my opinion that he’s a sleeper favorite for this Tour. Being well-positioned in the bunch during a fast finish shows he has the form to make the right tactical moves.
Dane Cash, @danecash: I feel at least a little less likely to eat my the words in my pre-race piece about Chris Froome now! For me, the big winners are Mikel Landa and Tom Dumoulin. Both finished with the leaders in the eventful first stages and I expect both to do fine in the stage 3 TTT. Froome — and Richie Porte — will really need to put in strong rides in stage 3 to right the ship.
Pretend you’re Movistar’s team director. How much additional time would Nairo Quintana need to lose in the overall for you to switch GC leadership to Mikel Landa and why?
Fred: My guess is Landa’s “co-leadership” role has become full leadership, at least behind closed doors. I agree with Hood that management will need to wait until after the Roubaix stage to see who loses the most amount of time. But if the current GC situation heads into the mountains, there’s no way Movistar will burn Landa’s matches for Nairo at this point.
Andrew: Nothing will be decided for Movistar’s leadership until after the Roubaix stage. Movistar will continue protecting all three and then see how things shake out after the cobbles. You don’t just abandon your go-to guy because he lost some seconds in the opening stage.
Spencer: This is a perfect opportunity to play that Machiavellian game of pitting teammates against each other so that the strongest man will win out. The media loves these storylines and it gives the guys some extra motivation! But joking aside, protect them both so that Nairo can play some wildcard attacks in the mountains while Landa marks his old pal Froome.
Dane: I’m giving Quintana a long leash. In peak form, Quintana should be the very best climber in a race with plenty of climbs. Even if he loses a minute in the cobbled stage, I still give him free reign to ride his own race. Still, I’m shifting team resources to Landa if Quintana loses any more time.
Who is to blame for Chris Froome’s crazy late-race crash?
Fred: GC riders need to be at the front, and Froome was making a risk-heavy move to get to the front. Sure, there was bad luck, but I do think that part of the blame should fall on his shoulders or the shoulders of his team. Was he taking a risk by going up the outside? Yes. Was Sky in a position where they needed to get him to the front? Yes. Again, bad luck happens, and there’s a higher percentage of bad luck happening when you’re in a bad position.
Andrew: Lady Luck. There is no one to blame for what happened other than perhaps a question of positioning. Crashes are inevitable in the first week and everyone knows it’s important to be up in the front of the peloton. Froome was very lucky to avoid serious injury after narrowing missing the fencing and a pole.
Spencer: The UCI is to blame! If they hadn’t trimmed Tour teams by one rider, Froome could have had a big draft horse like Vasil Kiryienka to guide him through the peloton. Instead, they have a bunch of wimpy climbers. No … wait, the UCI is to blame because the teams are still too big, and the peloton is too large for these narrow roads … Bah! I don’t know, but when in doubt, blame the UCI.
Dane: Eh, crashes happen, and they can really happen anywhere in the peloton. It didn’t seem like anyone deserved to be called out for that one.
Between his time gains in stage 1 and strong prospects for the TTT, have we been underestimating Tom Dumoulin?
Fred: No. I still think Dumoulin’s legs are going to feel those racing miles from the Giro d’Italia once the race heads into the Pyrenees. Dumoulin is still young, and the Giro-Tour double favors only the most hardened and experienced GC riders. Chapeau to Dumoulin for his current position, but I do not see it lasting.
Andrew: Dumoulin is certainly a sleeper in this Tour. No one will really know how good anyone is going until we hit Alpe d’Huez in week two. Until then, it’s about staying near the front and staying out of trouble.
Spencer: Nah, this will never be Dumoulin’s Tour. This Tour will be won by a pure climber that’s bold enough to make big attacks in the Pyrenees.
Dane: I’ll say this much: Don’t be surprised to see him in yellow in a few days. Dumoulin has had a really nice first two stages without really doing much at all, and he should do well in the TTT too.