8 thoughts on the race to win the Tour de France heading into the final week

Posted by On 9:19 AM

8 thoughts on the race to win the Tour de France heading into the final week

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I like to think of the weeks of the Tour de France in terms of the phases of owning a couch. That first week is like taking the couch home, when everything is nice and springy, and you look forward to all the time you’ll be spending together. Then that second week is an awkward wearing in phase, when things don’t quite feel broken in yet, and yet no longer new.

That third week of the Tour is the sweet spot. We know what this Tour is, everything that’s good and bad about it. And all that’s left is to wear it out until it’s time to toss it to the curb.

There are six stages left in the 2018 Tour de France, and entering Stage 16 on Tuesday we have a good idea that one of three men â€" Geraint Thomas, Chris Froome, and Tom Dumoulin â€" will wear the yellow jersey. I have no idea how it’s going to finish, and that’s truly exciting. I do have some thoughts, however.

1. I’m taking Thomas to win. And hell no I don’t feel good about that. Thomas has faded in third weeks of Grand Tours before. He also has been a faithful friend and domestique to Froome for every single one of his four (and counting?) yellow jerseys. I don’t like that he has never finished higher than 15th in a Grand Tour, nor do I like that he won’t quite give up the pretense that he’s riding for Froome.

But he’s in first place by more than a minute and a half with a decent enough time trial. You have to trust the head over the heart sometimes.

2. But I don’t know what to make of Sky. And man, am I really going to bet against Froome? He and Thomas are playing sickeningly nice to each other, with Froome saying he’d sacrifice a fifth yellow jersey to help Thomas win. They seem earnest enough that one has to believe them at this point, but the Pyrenees loom, and Froome always thrives in third weeks, and ... man, am I really going to bet against Froome?

Both riders can say they’re going to help each other, but as some point the gloves have to come off, right?

3. I really want Dumoulin to win. And I think he can, too. He has looked the equal of Thomas and Froome so far, and he is a notch above as a time trialist. There are two big questions though:

  1. Does the fact that he raced the Giro d’Italia matter? (We ought to be asking the same of Froome, but we’ve long accepted he’s superhuman.) And,
  2. Are we necessarily confident he’ll be that much better a time trialist on Stage 20 of a three-week Grand Tour? Fro ome has tended to dominate late time trials for good reason. He’s not a brilliant time trialist, but he is under these circumstances.

Dumoulin has shown he is out for revenge. His sprint to nip Froome at the line of Stage 11 felt reminiscent of Froome’s sprint to nip him on Stage 20 of the Giro after Froome had already sewn up the Maglia Rosa. Not only would a Dumoulin Maillot Jaune derail the Sky train, it would set up a must-see rematch with Froome in 2019. I just hope Dumoulin has six more days of racing in his legs.

4. I really wanted Romain Bardet to win, and now I don’t know whether he ever will. Granted I’m partial to Frenchmen, but I love Bardet as a rider, too. In the six years he has been riding the Tour, he has never hesitated to animate the race, even when it’s foolhardy to do so. And when those animations work, they can be breathtaking. I’ll never forget his solo effort to win a stage in Saint-G ervais Mont Blanc in 2016. He may have only taken back 30-some seconds on Froome, who had a lead of more than four minutes at the time, but that move, then, made me hope he might win the yellow jersey for France someday.

At his best, Bardet is one of the best climbers in the world. Unfortunately, his margin for error in Grand Tours is zero without a respectable time trial, and when he finished more than 30 seconds back on the race leaders on Stage 11, his hopes of winning the Tour were virtually dashed. Bardet can beat anyone on any mountain stage, but if Have Nothing Go Wrong is a crucial part of your game plan, then winning the Tour may never be feasible.

At 27 years old, and with Froome and Dumoulin having ridden the Giro d’Italia in May, this ought to have been Bardet’s year. This is not his year, and now it’s more clear that this may never be his race. But bless him for trying all the same.

5. But also my god, what if Primož Roglic wins. We’re not talking nearly enough about how a guy with a damn good time trial is less than a minute back from Froome. Let’s just keep it that way. Maybe Sky’s forgotten about him, too.

6. While I’m here, let’s pour one out for Dan Martin and Vincenzo Nibali, too. The Tour de France needs animators, and those two did their damndest.

We’re talking about Martin in the past tense because a string of crashes, punctures, and other assorted bugaboos have put him nearly seven minutes back in the general classification. He entered the Tour claiming he was going to treat it like “21 one-day races” and has rode like it, winning on the Mûr de Bretagne and attempting a 50-kilometer solo attack on Stage 15 because “I was bored.” Martin’s biggest problem has always been staying on his bike. If he can ever do that for three weeks, I think he could compete for the yellow jersey.

Nibali’s biggest skill, meanwhile, has often been ho w hard it is to knock him off his bike. And if not for severe flare smoke and an idiot who forgot to remove his camera strap, he might have had a win on Alpe d’Huez. Nibali is perhaps one of the greatest Tour animators of all time, especially in the era of power meters and teams riding for booby prizes because they’ve given up on yellow too easily.

7. [turns head, glares at Movistar]

8. In all seriousness, I’m enjoying this Tour de France as much as any of recent memory. I’ve seen some debate about whether this a strong field or a weak field, simply because Froome and Dumoulin should have tired legs and Thomas is in contention when he has never been before.

That discussion is academic. This is a race, one with three legitimate contenders for yellow (and perhaps a sneaky fourth) heading into the last week of racing. That doesn’t happen often. We have had a full week of infernal Alpine climbs. We got to watch that Stage 12, where the best riders in the world threw haymakers at each other up Alpe d’Huez and yet finished at a standstill. Now we get to enjoy the end of this race for more than the scenery.

If Dumoulin wins, I’ll be ecstatic. If Thomas wins, I’ll be happy it’s not Froome. And if Froome wins, I’ll suck it up and admit that he is brilliant fun to watch even if his gills are seeping salbutamol.

I quite like the groove I’ve worn into this Tour, and it’s going to be really, really difficult to just toss it out when the end does come.

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This Article has a component height of 23. The sidebar size is long.Source: Google News France | Netizen 24 France

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