Stage 12 – J-Rod does the job
I have two views of this stage. The second one is shorter and will be at the end. The hardest day in the Pyrenees, they said. I am not so sure it turned out that way. TV coverage meant we could watch from the very beginning of the race. I caught it from the intermediate sprint. I guess “the peloton” had pretty much decided to let the sprinters duke it out, and then “go for it”. So they ambled along for 15k, then had a kind of shortened sprint, lasting only maybe 5k, then the breakaway formed before our eyes. Watching that is always a pleasure, as usually the coverage does not start until after the live sprint. The only intermediate sprint is worth a lot of points this year. So all the serious green jersey guys went for it. Sagan has the jersey by two points.
Loads of guys in the breakaway, but pretty clear that Sky did not care a hoot if anyone in the break won the stage. So off they went. Nice countryside, very near to where I had a wee bike related break last month. Ace for cycling. Break and peloton kept cycling at roughly the same speed. This went on until the last climb, which I have driven up. Basically the attack that broke up the remains of the break left us with Fuglsang, Bardet, Rodriguez. Actually, NOT a surprise. Although I was really happy to see Bardet actually capable of being the the last three, in a fairly classy remains of the break. AND the break won. Rodriguez, you might say, of course. He had finished 44th yesterday, 15 minutes back. The old dog was resting! But he already had one stage and he is OLD (36). So I was very happy. One small observation, the fourth guy, who never quite made the final selection of the trio was Louis Meintjes. Yup, another spelling problem. He is South African, 23, first Tour, riding for the African team. I think he is actually meant to be a pretty good climber. Today showed he was. Not there yet though.
Another wonderful day when there were two races, and we could watch them unfold. I did take a nap in the middle, missing out entirely on Port de Lers climb. Sky was in front all day long, keeping the break at a distance they defined as “no big deal”. Right, that is it. That’s the day. Lest you think I am annoyed and a trifle bored, I did enjoy the countryside, which I am gradually getting to know a bit more in the last 5 years. That area is only 3 hours from my house. OK, toward the end Quintana, Valverde, Contador, Nibali all attacked in turn. The most frequent response from Sky was to ride calmly and just catch up to the arrogant attacker. Now and again Froome himself felt impelled to make a quick response to an attack by, say, Quintana. All in all, no one could drop Froome. Toward the end, Valverde got a second in the sprint. Otherwise, nada for the sports fan who wants surprises and uncertainty. There is the usual controversy around Sky, to do with power, drugs and money, the usual suspects.
Looking at the guys who won the intermediate mountains points, it was totally clear that no enthusiasts were scooping up points. So it looks very much like no one actually cares that much about the mountains jersey, except maybe Rodriguez. The top guys on the classification ARE the best climbers. There is not a “point gatherer” among them. So it is possible, for the first time in ages, that there could be a proper King of the Mountains. A guy who wins simply because he is the fastest guy to the top of the climbs that matter. Guess who?
I was also pleased about Jan Barta. He is on one of my fantasy teams, but I had hardly heard of him. I think I put him on the team as a placeholder, waiting for another revision of the team which never happened. Must learn a bit about him. When you do well in the Tour your name becomes known worldwide. Simple.
Froome gave some data, in an interview, to Gerard Holz. Says his resting heartbeat is 35 bpm or lower. He has a max of 170, which is in fact, low for a cyclist of his level. Thibaut Pinot for example has a max of 205 bpm. And the gear he had on his bike today, spinning away, was a 36-28. I find it relatively strange that there is a controversy about his pedalling. Any old person or cyclotourist knows the best way to get up the hill is to spin the pedals, “mouliner”. He happens to be able to do it really fast, so he goes fast AND easy.
Last comment is that I am finding Jalabert’s intuitive and deep dislike of Froome and Sky to be seriously annoying. Really. And I am not even a Sky Fan.
The second story I could tell is short. Nothing much happened.
There was a stage with a superb geography, and although there was a break and it won, nothing really happened. With the yellow jersey booked and paid for (everyone says), and the young one wrapped up too (same thing), maybe we are waiting in vain for something to happen. In fact, Froome and Quintana have even won those jerseys before. There are two more finishing sprints for the green jersey. Hope springs eternal there. My next major blind hope is that something wild will happen on the supposed “transition stages”.
I looked, and something did happen. Sorry. The green jersey almost went to Greipel, with Degenkolb and Cav are within striking distance, if only they could beat BOTH Sagan and Greipel. Interesting that. I think they are marketing Stage 15, Sunday, into Valence as a “sprinters’ stage”. Hope they tell everyone, because by then it will the last obvious chance for the rouleurs as well.
Just found this line in a forum report, “the GC battle failed to truly ignite behind”.
French related sadness. All this modified instantly by the way Barguil and Gallopin have ridden. In fact, even if he disappears, Gallopin has had an astounding Tour. Even Rolland has had flashes of something. Bardet did well to try and save his Tour today, he IS seventeenth, 17 minutes back. But Pinot and JC Peraud at 34 and 42 minutes! Somehow, after all the French hype (which I read avidly) … they were meant to be better. Sadness.
Bit long today. But I told TWO stories.