Find out why Breakaway Digital think this year we could see the first French win at the Tour de France since Bernard Hinault in 1985.
“You can bet that the French public are licking their lips in hope of a French winner even if it means they will miss out on their favourite past time, heckling Froome.”
I said this two weeks ago in The Double Espresso. Slightly in jest as I scoffed at the idea the the French could come up with the goods at their home race, I certainly didn’t think I’d be writing this recap with only one thought in my mind. Can Pinot or Alaphillippe really do it?
Before we get sucked into that particular pressing topic first a recap of what has happened at the front of the race in the last 5 stages.
After a hot rest day in Albi stage 11 saw a famous win for Caleb Ewan as he clinched his maiden victory at the Tour and with it secured successes in all three grand tours. The break of the day featured Albi native Lilian Calmejane (Total Direct Energie) and Toulousain rider Anthony Perez (Cofidis), so no particular surprise to see their faces attack at km zero.
Their maximum gap came to a measly 2.55 and was recorded atop the côte de Castelnau-de-Montmiral (km 77). Fated from the off the break would never stay away and most combative rider Calmejane was reeled in with 4.5 km’s to go.
The next day saw riders link the two spa towns of Bagnères-de-Luchon and Bagnères-de-Bigorre. Both roughly translated as baths of Luchon and the baths of Bigorre, containing waters known to have healing properties. In the Tour this year however it was Simon Yates, the man from Bury, who rose to the top and triumphed, bringing Mitchelton-Scott their second win of this year’s race. Outsprinting Mühlberger and Bilbao to become the third rider of the race to complete their Grand Tour trilogy of wins after Ewan and Viviani.
Now for Alaphillippe. What a rider. No-one was particularly surprised by his win into Èpernay to take his first maillot jaune. Everyone was surprised that he suffered with more success than Geraint Thomas in the time trial on stage 13. Not only did he have the better of Geraint on Friday but he also put an additional 14 seconds into him!
It was the start of yet another stunning couple of stages for the French as Thibaut Pinot licked his lips at the prospect of a third Tour de France stage win. When it came down to it he gritted his teeth and made the move stick. Before mayhem was to unfold atop the Tourmalet another very important race was being had in the breakaway for the polka dot jersey. An attack from Nibali in the closing km’s of the category 1 col du Soulor was covered and ultimately foiled by current leader in the mountains classification Tim Wellens, who now extends his lead to 22 points over second place Pinot.
Last but not least yesterday’s stage that saw the riders tackle 185 kms from Limoux to Prat d’Albis. Once again in this year’s race the winner came from the breakaway. A large group went up the road early on in the stage, the 36 riders included Nibali (again), Bardet, Sagan and Simon Yates.
Simon Yates, clearly riding the wave of his win into Bagneres-de-Bigorre, attacked with 8.8km’s to go and held off a charging Pinot who also seems to have found an extra gear following his rampant charge on the Tourmalet on stage 14. With Yates’ second stage win the woes of Adam Yates performance on the Tourmalet must be diluted as Mitchelton-Scott continue their fine form.
So what does this reshuffle on stage 15 mean for the final 6 stages of the race?
Let’s start with the GC. Alaphillippe still leads, but for how long given his falter on the slopes of the Prat d’Albis? It is hard to tell. We haven’t seen him try for a three week GC title before and although he remained consistent at last years tour to pick up the climbers jersey that required a lot less consistency and could also allow for a bad day or two. If he wants to win I think he is going to have to be very careful about when and where he fires his remaining bullets.
It is certainly not out of the question but I can’t help but feel he might be doing a ‘Simon Yates in the 2018 Giro’. I hope to be proved wrong but one thing is for sure. He won’t go down without a fight.
What else remains to be said about the fight for yellow? Well, 2 minutes and 2 seconds separates the top 5 and considerably less between 2 and 5. It is going to be an exciting week that is for certain.
The climbers classification looks equally open with Simon Yates on a late charge that will be very hard to stop. The same cannot be said for the points jersey or indeed the young riders classification where Sagan and Bernal have comfortable leads respectively.
All eyes will be on Southern France and the Alps over the next five stages as we find out who is the best of the rest at July’s famous race.
Breakaway Digital will be watching as we hope will you. Stay tuned for next week’s Double Espresso where we pick apart the eventual winner and also discuss the super-combative award for the most attacking rider of the race.