Stage 17 – Simon who?
This was a very fine stage. I was a little bit disappointed at first, and then I managed to embrace it all. Geschke was not a climber, was not competing for any jersey. Personally I had no real feeling for him at all. He was in a huge break that none of the big hitters cared about, with a gap of ten or more minutes. Quite unknown, although not really without a victory in his life and a perfectly respectable rider. Then I realised (I did know this before) that it was the finest day of his cycling life, he said so. Good impression on TV. He was so happy. The rest of his career is assured. He did make the attack from the break at about the right time. Good descent, way better than Pinot who was pursuing him to try to win the stage. He kept going up a not terribly hard last climb. He actually deserved to win. Even a close pursuit by Talansky, also desperate to do something notable, failed to dent the wonderful win for this guy who not a single living soul would have picked for the stage. One of the many things the Tour (and life) is all about.
But of course there were minor tragedies. Tejay retiring in tears. Kwiatkowski the same. They had replays on the “after show”. I mean, it actually is really sad. They are just lads who can ride bikes well. Very upsetting. Imagine getting on the bike after a rest day, and then … no legs. Tejay in third as well.
Of course Thibaut crashing, fairly predictable. My wife knew there was danger when she saw him take the corners so badly, compared to Geschke, much less the others descending like Froome following Nibali, Contador and Valverde easily and comfortably. I think Pinot has to restrict himself to stage victories where it is a summit finish. He can climb like a dream. But a mental and physical tragedy in the making over the next years, if he tries to win the Tour. He even spent time learning to time trial and “descend”. It is just not in him, he has a flawed character for a champion.
Staying on the same topic, the French climbers Bardet and Barguil are showing some flashes that one day will turn into some dramatic climbing victories over the next decade. Maybe tomorrow. They are very good. They have the character too. Good interview with Barguil on the descent to the busses after the finish, From the motorcycle with a hand held mic pointed toward him. He was lovely and smooth, riding next to the moto, had a bike handling style and an attitude that was very attractive. He will go somewhere for sure. Smart, good smile. We already know Bardet. Another serious rider. Aiming high.
Gallopin is another one I like. He has, as everyone thought he would, faded a bit in recent days. But he shows some incredible talent, getting better all the time. Capable of wining any race on a given day. And he interviews very well. They asked him about Froome’s data. He was very straightforward, supporting Froome directly. He said they have data exactly like that all the time, there is nothing unusual about it, it is just normal data generated by a very good professional cyclist. Until I hear otherwise, I am going to believe him.
Then there is Sagan. I am pretty sure he will come out of the Tour with the highest popularity rating of any rider. That goes for the peloton, and for the fans and writers. No one seems to think he is doping, no one says a word. They just think he is a terribly good bike rider with a strong personality and some multilingual skills that are improving fast. He got in the break, as usual. NO break could form so quickly that he could not bridge the gap. Then he climbed a couple of hills with pretty much everyone else. All this, I suppose, to sweep up some points at the intermediate sprint which was way into the stage. Then at the sprint he finished third. Picked up a few points, but I guess he was just not greedy. None of his green jersey opponents would pick up a point, they can’t ride the first half or more of a mountain stage with the leading break. So he just rolled through. Weird. Most riders would have won the sprint and gobbled points. Sagan has a strange mixture of class and bad boy. More interesting than most.
Notes from interviews with Rolland. He took four sentences to say he just could not keep up on the last hill. He really is not the brightest cyclist in the peloton. He talked as if he was in awe of the great champions, which he obviously thought he would never be. He was not at all like Gallopin, Bardet, Barguil, Vuillermoz, even Pinot. I think what Pierre has to do is give up any GC ambitions and simply try to catch a lucky break on every mountain stage. A perpetually possible stage winner, maybe three or four more in his career. Which is still pretty impressive.
They put on a bit of a little show for the 40th anniversary when Thevenet rode away from Merckx, caught Gimondi and won the stage. And the Tour. Showed the footage. Pretty dramatic. The only equivalent this year would be if someone dropped Froome and he never did well in another Tour. But even then, Froome is not at the end of his career during which he won 5 Tours and was the greatest cyclist in human history. But it was the last Tour Merckx ever rode, when Thevenet dropped him. They do that kind of thing tastefully, the French TV people. Thevenet almost looked like he was tearing up watching the video. Saw Felice Gimondi, whom I have seldom actually watched. That guy had class and style.
Note the team competition, without me explaining exactly how they calculate it. Bloody second place is MTN Qhubeka, the African first timers. I mean! Incredible that. I never pay attention to the team standings normally. But normally an invited team is never in second place. Well, I don’t remember it anyway. Chapeau!
They do a thing on TV where they find two “original” characters on the route of the Tour. Like the guy who owned the field where Lance went cross country. Today is was a paddle champion from the area. She had fine muscle definition, massive strong legs, and talked sagely about her sport. The other guy was the mayor of somewhere nearby. He was on the podium with Merckx and Thevenet that year. One of the guys they shake hands with. Voila. That’s it. I watch that sort of thing when I can.
As far as the standings, Tejay’s exit left third place open, so there are two Movistar riders running a few minutes behind Froome. They better do something or I am going to think they are wusses. But sadly, I guess if I were realistic, they will both consolidate their position in the next days and then be happy to be on the podium. The optimistic happy side of me wants one of them to attack. I doubt that Nibali can, I just don’t think he has it this year. Contador might try to win a stage now, but he is no threat at all after his crash, and bike change with Sagan. Sagan is 1.82 and Contador is 1.76. Must have been a bit tricky those last few k. Thomas and Contador are more than two minutes behind Quintana and Valverde. Today at the end, there were the top three plus Nibali riding up the last bit together. Attacks aplenty, Froome brings them back. This scenario might be repeated more than once during the next days. Be nice if one attack succeeded. Or else at a propitious moment, Froome just rides away from them all, except maybe Quintana.
I say nothing about all the controversy about data collection and interpretation. I have no interest of as serious sort. I am a former empirical social scientist. Data is always difficult to define, to collect, and to interpret. Clearly this is the case with bike data too, but I really don’t care. Glad Barguil is in the top ten. I think he is ready to make a move. A stage and top ten is really really good for a first time Tour rider. He has class, that boy. The French are ready for the next three days!
Bravo Uran. He is on one of my teams and has done diddly so far. Speaking of which Kruisjwik also earned the first points on another team. So I think it was an unusually good day for me on the Fantasy Front, I will check later. The two Eritrean climbers were 14th and 16th today. Would it be cool if they did something? They like getting in breaks. Anyone think Uran might do something?
Near as I can tell, the spotted jersey is still up for grabs. The last two stages have the most points. So far, I would say it is obvious that no one wants to ride for it. Froome is the best climber, he has the most points. Likely to win a few more too. Rodriguez won two stages, so he has some big points. But these are “incidental” points. None of them were gained by wanting to win the jersey itself. So if not tomorrow, we will soon see if anyone wants to win it, or just leave it to whoever wins the last two stages. The mountains jersey is the only one which is not already won (unless something unexpected and bad happens).
Last note. The mayor of Digne was on TV and the thing she talked most about was a Tibetan wise woman who lived her town. She was quite proud of Alexandra David-Neel.