Here we had a chat with Stuey on the action from the Alps and his Pyrenees predictions for the final week heading into Paris.
What went down in the Alps.
The Alps were just generally incredibly tough with brutal shorter stages and a lot more aggressive racing. On the first mountain stage most GC riders want to stamp authority – it’s kind’ve like a bit of a tradition and even though Stage 10 wasn’t a mountain top finish, we saw the race super aggressive. Movistar went all in with their three best guys, but then the strength of the likes of Dumoulin and Team Sky overpowered and Movistar came in the big losers of the day. Sky again showed their strengths and what would likely be a pretty dominating Tour de France.
I guess the real favourites have shown their strengths. We saw Dumoulin is probably looking the strongest out of the rest so it should be really interesting to see him up against Thomas and Froome and what pans out.
It’s definitely debatable what might happen with Team Sky – is it really team cohesion or Is there a bit of ‘I’m going to attack first to make Froome ride defensively’ OR is this just a big theatre production that they’ve set up – Thomas take yellow and the pressure off Froome, taking him out of the limelight and pressure off for week one. Does Team Sky just not want Froome in yellow as he’s had a lot of aggression from the public and they’re trying to deter all that by keeping Thomas in yellow for now? Who knows!
It has actually been very shocking to see the hate towards Team Sky out there – not even just the team on the roads, but the booing and whistling at team cars and support. Everyone loves to have a super hero and a villain and France have kind’ve just decided that Sky are their villains. Cycling has always been a pretty happy non-aggressive sport and I can’t ever remember feeling so tense in my career.
As far as other favourites go – I guess Bardet showed form, but he’s also had some bad luck. The French are obviously dying for a bit of home glory and they’re rolling on the shoulders of Bardet which appears to be a bit heavy at the moment.
Yatesy is another one and now 30mins down which is very disappointing for Adam and the team. They came in with big objectives, not bringing Caleb Ewan along and now they’re scrambling around a little for a stage win. It just shows how brutal and relentless this Tour de France has been. It’s certainly one of the hardest I’ve seen. I remember In context having some easier transition days and now it seems to be a bit like a big bash game of cricket – people want full gas entertainment and soon as they’re rolling along and it gets boring, everyone seems to have a bit of an opinion on how the race should be ridden which can sometimes be a bit harsh!
To add to that, you can always tell how tough a tour is by the survival of the sprinters. This year, already at halfway into the race, many of the top sprinters were sent home and this just defines how hard the 2018 route is. Even on a transition day (like today – Stage 15 there are brutal winds and certainly no kicking back in the bunch taking it easy.
Final week showdown – thoughts and predictions for the Pyrenees?
The Pyrenees are kind’ve bookended with two epic mountain stages. The first being the super short, fast stage where the the start and finish will be within 2 hours – it will be madness and has never been done before, so again it’s going to be really hard. A few teams will play poker and go all in to try and beat sky and isolate Thomas – in doing that they also expose themselves and risk losing everything, but I think most of the teams would prefer to risk it as at the moment they’re not really challenging Team Sky.
Stage 19 will also be hardcore. Especially after 2.5 weeks of racing and a 200km incredibly hard day on the cards – there’s not 100m of flat in the entire stage, so it’s going to be a real power of attrition to try to defend and try to win and for a lot of guys it will be about just getting into survival mode. They are all absolutely shattered by this stage. They will be knackered, without an ounce of freshness. Even the top ten guys are hurting – it’s just a nightmare for everyone to try and get through and to Paris!
The guys are kind’ve just dreaming of the Champs Elysées at this point, but know they’ll have one more almighty stage to get through and no one wants to not finish this close to the end.
The penultimate Stage 31km Time Trial will also be tough – again, there’s not a metre of flat. Everything is brutal…I remember when the profiles came out and I was just like ‘f**k that’s hard!!
Thanks Stu for the words – we now look forward to catching all the action with our Pinnacle of Pyrenees guests this week. Bring it on!