The Tour de France took a dramatic turn on Sunday’s 15th stage as defending champion Egan Bernal crumbled on the final climb of the day’s multi-mountain test, his yellow jersey defense now in tatters after losing over seven minutes.
Meanwhile, up the road, Primoz Roglič and Tadej Pogačar again proved the men to beat, taking a one-two on the stage. With Bernal dropping out of the GC, yet another solid and consistent ride by Rigoberto Urán saw the Colombian move into third overall.
It was a pivotal day in the 2020 T0ur de France, so let’s break it down – time to roundtable!
What caused Ineos Grenadiers to crumble today?
Andrew Hood (@eurohoody): Well, do we have a limit on word count? There are many factors that add up to what happened on the Grand Colombier. Jumbo-Visma was already strong last year, but it took its A-team to the Giro and Vuelta with Roglic. So this year they’ve brought everyone under one tent. The arrival of Dumoulin and a healthy van Aert (that guy!) simply puts them over the top. Up to now, Ineos hasn’t been giving much away about what’s been happening behind the curtains. Bernal was flying when he came back from Colombia, but something was off Sunday. That wasn’t just a bad day. Let’s see if more details are forthcoming. Brailsford left Thomas and Froome at home, and bet the house on Bernal. Carapaz and Sivakov crashed in Nice in stage 1. There won’t be a yellow jersey for Ineos in 2020, that’s for sure.
Fred Dreier (@freddreier): We may never know. The easy answer is to say that Bernal simply didn’t have it this year. I think it likely comes down to preparation and strength. Bernal may be a guy who requires a lot of racing to get to 100 percent, and he simply didn’t have the opportunity to race a lot this year due to the shutdown. Roglič and Pogačar, meanwhile, are hungry and young and have been highly motivated to shine at the Tour. So, maybe they were simply able to replace racing miles with training ones. That’s the great and frustrating thing about cycling — we will never know. And at the end of this season, everything will reset and we’ll be asking the same questions again next year.
Ben Delaney: Without engaging in conspiracy theories, I think it’s just the simple fact that Jumbo-Visma and Roglič are better than Ineos Grenadiers and Egan Bernal. Sure, you can point to crashes through the Tour hurting the collective strength of Ineos. There’s no denying that hitting the deck affects riders’ ability to recover and perform in stage races. But at the same time, we’ve seen Jumbo riders like George Bennett sliding across the tarmac, and Bennett was still up front today for a while. And perhaps the lack of racing this year negatively affected both the individual training preparation — there’s no better training than racing — and the team cohesion. Jumbo-Visma and Ineos are a study in contrasts in this Tour.
Jim Cotton (@jim_c_1985): While Bernal has looked a fraction off Roglič and Pogačar since the season restarted, something was very wrong today, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ineos Grenadiers come out to reveal he’s either still got a bad back or was maybe sick. That said, it was a pretty poor performance from Ineos all round, with only Kwiatkowski and Castroviejo lasting to the final climb. Amador is a top climber, and van Baarle can hold his own, but they both vanished early on Sunday. I think after weeks of clinging to Jumbo-Visma’s heels, the elastic finally snapped and the fatigue set in throughout a team that has been battered day-in-day-out.
Can Pogačar take the yellow jersey from Roglič?
Jim: Yes, but he’ll have to be lucky. Jumbo-Visma will be marking his every move from now on, and I can only see Pogačar snatching handfuls of seconds here and there on Roglič, if he’s lucky. Pogačar would need to take every scrap of time he can, even if just a few seconds, at every available opportunity. He’s just as good in a TT and so could swing it on the penultimate stage of the race, but Roglič is so strong right now I just can’t see there being major differences. A key question is whether Pogačar starts racing to hold on to second rather than his current method of relentlessly attacking and risking it all.
Andrew: Heck yes. Will he? Probably not. Pogačar has no team, so he’s freewheeling through the bunch. I can see Jumbo-Visma trying to attack him directly to drop him on the road to Col de la Loze on Wednesday. Of course, Roglič could run out of gas. He faltered during the 2019 Giro, but powered through the Vuelta unhindered. He looks confident so far, and he’s revealing no chinks. Pogačar is a one-off, and could just keep attacking until he blows up or snags yellow. If it’s this tight in the final TT, who knows what will happen. Remember, Pogačar beat Roglič in the Slovenian national TT race this summer.
Fred: I don’t think so. Pogačar is very strong, but he’s attacking for bonus seconds and tiny gaps at this point, and there simply aren’t enough moments to get big gaps left in this year’s Tour. If he can somehow detonate Roglič on the Col de la Loze then he has a shot at winning. At this point, it doesn’t seem like that is going to happen.
Ben: I believe he can, yes. Will he? Only if Roglič has a bad day. Pogačar has been able to claw out a few seconds here and there, but he’s 44 seconds down and has four chances left. Stage 16 has a fair amount of climbing, but Jumbo-Visma will keep Roglič safe until the end. Stage 17 will be the true test: the HC Col de la Madeleine precedes the summit finish atop the Méribel Col de la Loze — 22k at 8%! Stage 18 has four hard climbs but like stage 16 is not a summit finish, so Jumbo-Visma’s team strength is a problem for Pogačar. And then his final chance will be the stage 20 time trial, which, interestingly, features an uphill finish.
Can Urán hold out to take a podium slot in Paris?
Fred: I sure hope so. I’d love to see Rigoberto Urán come back from his broken collarbone last year to score a podium place at this Tour de France. I think it would be an extremely special ride for Urán, and a feel-good story for Colombia now that Bernal is out of the GC picture. I think Urán can do it. While he lost some time in the push to the line today, he seems to have the climbing tempo to survive in the big mountains, and that will help him on stage 17 to Col de la Loze. He’s also a strong TT rider, so that final podium place is really his to lose.
Ben: The assumption here is that the Tour is now a two-Slovenian race between Roglič and Pogačar – and I think that assumption is absolutely correct! Third through seventh are only separated by less than a minute, and with Richie Porte and Miguel Ángel López both outclimbing Urán today — and with Adam Yates showing both the willingness and the ability to attack the Jumbo train — Urán’s podium spot is far, far from a sure thing.
Andrew: With Rogo and Pogo sitting 1-2, the fight for third podium spot is going to be a doozy. I see Astana’s Lopez climbing a bit better than Urán, but Urán has the experience to go deep into a third week. Yates, Landa, Porte are also looking strong, so it’s simply going to be a question of who has the legs. I see all those guys similar on the time trial for the penultimate stage, with Porte perhaps a slight advantage against the clock. I also don’t expect things to be as tight as they are right now for third place. Expect bigger differences Wednesday and Thursday.
Jim: Why not? He’s got the experience to handle the Tour and has the solid legs to see him keep plugging away with top-10 results every mountain stage. Rigo has only an 11-second buffer on countryman Lopez, but I see Porte as Urán’s major threat. The Aussie seems willing to attack and is racing as though he has nothing to lose, while Urán is quite conservative. Porte is currently 39 seconds off Urán and this is his last season as a team leader before leaving Trek-Segafredo. I see him giving it everything to haul himself to the podium.