The pace had been kept high all day as Bora-Hansgrohe looked to set up Peter Sagan for a sprint victory and drop his green jersey rivals. While the tactic distanced points classification leader Sam Bennett, Sagan failed to fully capitalize, with the Slovakian star finishing fourth.
It was a quiet day in the GC as the yellow jersey contenders saved their bullets ahead of the mighty 17.4-kilometer summit finish atop the Col du Grand Colombier on Sunday.
With an exciting day of racing behind us and a pivotal day in the GC battle to come Sunday, there’s a lot to argue over, so lets roundtable!
Team Sunweb is seeing the rewards for its constant aggression. What is it that is working so well for them?
Dan Cavallari (@browntiedan): Boldness from so many different riders. Benoot, Hirschi, Bol, Andersen…they’ve all taken daring moves, and more importantly, they’ve done so at just the right time. It’s notable that on top of stage wins, Sunweb has snagged a couple second-place stage finishes too. It’s clear they’re looking to stay in the mix for stage wins regardless of terrain, and they have a diversity of talent to contend no matter where the road goes. It helps to not have strong GC ambitions; with no GC contender to support, Sunweb can pick and choose a strategy based on which rider is best suited to a stage.
Jim Cotton (@jim_c_1985): It seems to be a perfect cocktail of confidence, momentum, and a lack of pressure. Sunweb knows it’s a young underdog team, but went on the front foot early in the Tour, taking a podium finish as early as stage 2. From there on it continued trying wherever it could as, heck, what’s to lose? When Hirschi took his victory earlier this week it gave the team further belief in itself and boosted morale. I wouldn’t rule out a third win in the next week.
Fred Dreier (@freddreier): This is one of the rare occasions where a strong team that has targeted GC and sprints retools, becomes a team of chaos and breakaways, and actually nails it. I feel like we’ve seen the ‘we’re only going for stage wins’ pivot from big teams end in failure so many times. So, to see the squad succeed is a testament to the strength of its riders; the talent and smarts of its directors and management; and the faith in the vision by everyone involved. It’s gotta be so easy to lose faith when you’re targeting breakaways and chaos. So, to be able to pull off two stage wins (and counting) is a huge positive spot for the team.
How important is it for Sagan to take another green jersey?
Fred: I think it’s very important for him to win a green jersey, to repay the hard work of his teammates, and to salvage an otherwise forgettable Tour. Peter Sagan is going to leave this Tour de France without a stage win, and with the most notable moment of the race being his body check on Wout van Aert. Plus, Bora-Hansgrohe has had such a disappointing Tour up to this point, with a few close calls and the bad GC run of Emanuel Buchmann. Adding a green jersey to the team’s Tour would be a huge positive amongst a race of setbacks.
Dan: It’s certainly important for Sagan’s career, and for the team’s morale. But if Sagan doesn’t end up with the green jersey, there’s still a chance for redemption if he can snag a stage win. He only has two more chances at that, and one is in Paris. If Sagan walks away empty-handed from the Tour, he’ll have to put in a dynamite performance at the Giro and come back to next year’s Tour hungrier than ever.
Jim: A green jersey is becoming more important for Sagan and the team by the day. The more Bora-Hansgrohe tries to put Sagan into a race-winning position and the longer he fails, the more he needs to deliver. The frustrating thing for them all is he’s come so close on a number of occasions. An eighth green jersey would salvage a disappointing past 12 months for Sagan and rescue Bora-Hansgrohe’s Tour after Buchmann’s GC bid fizzled out.
You’re Ineos Grenadiers boss David Brailsford: What’s your strategy for the tough summit finish on stage 15?
Fred: I think the strategy includes setting a very hard tempo up the Monteé de la Selle de Fromentel, and then attacking on the Col de la Biche with Richard Carapaz and Egan Bernal to draw out and isolate Roglič. Then, it’s a battle to the end between Bernal and Roglič up the Grand Colombier. It’s a risky strategy that only works if Bernal has the legs to finish it off. Friday’s stage showed that he may not have the legs to do that.
Jim: If I was Brailsford, I’d try diverting away from the usual strength-in-numbers tempo-setting game. Get someone like Sivakov in the early break and leave him up there as long as possible – ideally until at least the middle of the Colombier. Then start throwing haymakers with Carapaz on the lower slopes of the final climb to force Jumbo-Visma to respond while Bernal sits on their wheels. Then Bernal can bridge across to Sivakov, and the pair goes one-two on the stage. And it’s strategies like that which make me a media guy and not a sports director….
Dan: Oof. Thank goodness I’m not David Brailsford. Bernal is sitting in third in the GC, just a minute behind race leader Primoz Roglic. It’s clear that Roglic and countryman Tadej Pogacar have the legs for the climbs upcoming, and the two Slovenians aren’t afraid to work together. Bernal needs support from his team to stick with the two top contenders to get to the final climb of the day, but if Bernal has the legs to stick with Roglic and Pogacar on that climb, expect fireworks. This seems like a make-or-break day for Ineos Grenadiers; if the team can’t support Bernal here, the defending Tour champ’s road to the podium gets a little longer.