Tour de France 2020

Tour de Hoody: Hoping for the ‘Hail Mary’

If it wasn't for the UAE-Emirates rider, the GC would be pretty much a snoozer. Jumbo-Visma is so dominant, and Primož Roglič is so strong that no one's been able to attack.

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VILLARD-DE-LANS, France (VN) — We can thank Tadej Pogačar and his youthful exuberance for keeping this Tour de France interesting.

If it wasn’t for the UAE-Emirates rider, the GC would be pretty much a snoozer. Jumbo-Visma is so dominant, and Primož Roglič is so strong that no one’s been able to attack. When a team is this strong in the Tour, just holding the wheel in the high mountains is all most riders can manage.

It’s hardly exciting racing, but it can be effective. Richie Porte and Rigoberto Urán are having great Tours, but they haven’t put their nose in the wind yet.

Pogačar is the only rider who’s dared to take it to Jumbo-Visma, and the results have been spectacular. And he’s proving to be a smart rider, too. On Sunday, it didn’t make sense to attack from afar, and he saved his legs to win the stage.

If he wants to win the Tour, Pogačar will have to attack Wednesday. I still think Roglič will have the upper hand in the time trial in the Vosges — or at least be on even terms — so Pogačar needs to erase that deficit on the very steep Col de la Loze.

The climb is a paved-over ski run high in Les 3 Vallées ski area. In fact, I skied down that mountain a few years ago, and the setting is absolutely spectacular.

I’m hoping to see even more than Pogačar attack tomorrow. What about a “Hail Mary?” I’d love to see someone completely turn the race upside down with a long-distance attack.

And long-distance on this steep finale would be from 5km out, that’s how steep it is.

Pogacar wins stage 15. Photo: Christophe Petit Tesson / Getty

There are a few riders who could do it. I don’t see Porte or Urán having the jets to pull it off. They’re too smart to risk it, and know if they can stay close to the Slovenians, they’ll be right in line for the podium.

How about Mikel Landa? He’s been keeping a relatively low profile during the Tour, and has been pretty close to the best climbers in every stage. He also lost time in the crosswinds in the first week. Landa could have the day of his life and drop everyone.

The Landismo would be powerful if he could pull that one off.

And Adam Yates? He’s been actually riding into better shape as the Tour unfolds. He’s already been fourth in the Tour before, so maybe he will jump. Or Miguel Ángel López? Riders in the bunch say he’s pedaling smoothly on the climbs, and he jumped away Tuesday with a little flare at the end.

It’s so hard tomorrow that most will just be riding to hang on. If someone has a spectacular day, they could win the Tour in the final 5km of the climb.

Egan Bernal is nursing a sore back. Photo: Marco Bertorello – Pool/Getty Images

Bernal in crisis

I still can’t get over the Ineos Grenadiers implosion Sunday.

This is the first time since 2012 that Sky/Ineos isn’t riding into a late-Tour mountain stage without having options for overall victory. Even in the year Chris Froome crashed out in 2014, Richie Porte was in pole position to win until Vincenzo Nibali emerged victorious.

The Colombian was riding in the gruppetto Tuesday, and mentioned his sore back was causing knee pain because he was over-compensating in his pedal stroke. If that lingers, the team will yank him out of the race to prevent a more serious injury.

Bernal seemed off-balance since the Tour started, and was telling his teammates Sunday he was not feeling good on the first of the day’s three climbs. Jumbo-Visma clearly picked up on that, and just hammered it up Grand Colombier to eliminate the defending champion.

The team delivered on its promise to try to win a stage, with Richard Carapaz finishing second to Lennard Kamna. They will continue to ride into breakaways, but how the mighty have fallen.