Tour de France 2020

Tour roundtable: Leadership questions, sprinter slaughter, and a fight

There is plenty of intrigue on the Tour de France's second rest day, before the race heads into the pivotal Pyrenean stages.

There is plenty of intrigue on the Tour de France‘s second rest day, before the race heads into the pivotal Pyrenean stages. For starters, this question of who is leading Team Sky is not going away. Froome hinted that he’d be cool if Thomas carried yellow to Paris, but that seems a bit questionable. Dumoulin also called out Sky’s double-leader tactics. And of course, there’s Gianni Moscon, cycling’s enfant terrible — what should Team Sky do with this brawling bad boy of the peloton? Let’s roundtable!

Froome said on Monday, “As long as there is a Team Sky rider on the top step in Paris, I’m happy.” How do you interpret this quote? Is he being genuine?

Spencer Powlison @spino_powerlegsThe stars are aligned right now for Froome to make history with the first Giro-Tour double in 20 years and a record-tying fifth yellow jersey. There’s no way he’d be happy on the second step of the podium. Froome’s politesse, cultivated over the years as an unflappable leader, is the perfect mask for this little trick. He inviting rivals to attack Thomas this week, and then he’ll follow the moves to win.

Chris Case @chrisjustincaseTo me, Chris Froome is like Two-Face, the fictional supervillain adversary of Batman. His British sensibilities will not allow him to say anything disparaging about anyone or anything when confronted by the media. On the other hand, on the bike, he is a savage — ruthless and cunning. You’re telling me that after the year of abuse he’s received for his adverse analytical finding for Salbutamol, that he’s just going to roll over and play gentleman to a teammate, when he’s on the cusp of tying the all-time record for Tour wins no less? I call bulls—t.

Dane Cash @danecash: Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas are friends, and Thomas has put in a lot of work for Froome over the years, so I assume Froome will be able to find some joy in his loyal teammate winning the Tour de France this year. Happy as that might make him, however, I’d bet he would be happier to be the one standing on the top step of the podium. Under the calm exterior, Froome is a diehard competitor.

Tom Dumoulin
Tom Dumoulin crossed the line on stage 14 alongside Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas. Photo: Justin Setterfield | Getty Images

Dumoulin pointed out how Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas neutralized each other on the stage 14 finish to Mende. What’s your assessment of Sky’s tactics — did they play the wrong cards?

Spencer: Fortunately there wasn’t enough time to be gained or lost on the short hill to Mende — about 10-20 seconds, worst-case scenario for the GC men. But I see Dumoulin’s point. Why waste the energy? It feels a little bit like Froome and Thomas are each testing the water to see if they can put to bed any questions about who is leading Team Sky.

Chris: It makes sense for Sky to keep other teams guessing as to its tactics as late into the race as possible. Maybe Thomas or Froome has a bad day after the rest day. Maybe Froome starts to fizzle from his Giro efforts in the third week. In any case, if they both ride like protected leaders and keep their rivals from fully grasping what they plan next, then they could ride one-two all the way to Paris while the others keep waiting for something to reveal itself.

Dane: I’m fine with Sky’s tactics. Better to have both yellow and second overall than to potentially have one rider with just a few more seconds over Dumoulin at the risk of another losing time via a failed attack.

Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford said he will deal with Gianni Moscon after the Tour is over. How should Sky handle the Italian, who was kicked out for punching another rider Sunday?

Spencer: Wow, Moscon really cannot get out of his own way, can he? This is one of many incidents. They all have something in common though — they are usually perpetrated against French riders or riders on French teams. Brailsford should punish Moscon by sending him off to race with French development team VC La Pomme for the rest of the summer. Give the Italian a taste of how it’s like to come up in the cutthroat amateur ranks in France. Failing that, he could just forbid Moscon from ever racing in France again.

Chris: At this point, it’s pretty clear that Moscon needs more than anger management classes. Four strikes you’re out? Five strikes you’re out? Clearly, Brailsford is unfamiliar with baseball rules. Furthermore, the greedy Brailsford can’t let go of the young, highly talented kid with huge potential because he’s good for the team — he’ll keep him around as long as he can, all the while doing that “oh, we’ll deal with him later” bit.

Dane: I’m a strong believer in second chances but I’m less interested in third or fourth chances. I’d have no complaints if Sky booted him from the roster.

Rick Zabel
Rick Zabel was gassed after stage 11, when he narrowly missed the time cut but got a reprieve from the jury. Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

The field of sprinters has been decimated at this Tour de France. The remaining flat stages and the race for the green jersey aren’t nearly as exciting as they should be. What can be done to avoid this anticlimax in future Tours?

Spencer: It is pretty simple, ASO just needs to be more generous with the time cuts on mountain stages. What’re an extra 10-20 minutes in the grand scheme of things? The cuts are arbitrary already, so just find a way to keep things exciting for the Champs-Élysées stage.

Chris: I’d rather see more rolling, tough intermediate stages where the contenders for the green jersey have to get creative to secure points, than languid sprint stages that last six hours and end with two minutes of excitement. What am I saying? Let the sprint stages wither on the vine, and let the best riders get creative with their tactics and form to try and challenge Peter Sagan.

Dane: If a reduced field of sprinters is the cost of tough mountain stages, so be it. The GC battle is what people are really tuning in to watch. That may weaken the list of compelling contenders for the remaining flat stages, but maybe the solution is just to go all in and cut some of those late flat stages out (with the exception of the sprint on the Champs-Élysées) for even more mountains!