Stage 13 was a memorable victory for the French, while the race for the yellow jersey got closer than ever. – By Joe Lindsey
It’s been a good Tour de France so far for the French. They got the first stage win from a sprinter in 11 years (Arnaud Démare’s Stage 4 victory), a stage win from a promising young talent in his first Tour (Lilian Calmejane’s Stage 8 breakaway, with its riveting cramps-and-all conclusion), and Romain Bardet is in third overall, within easy striking distance of yellow after yesterday’s stage win.
The perfect cap would of course be Bardet in yellow in Paris. But today’s stage was a pretty good appetiser: a French rider winning a stage, on Bastille Day, in the polka-dot jersey.
Warren Barguil, who narrowly missed out on the Stage 9 victory, got one today on the short, hard stage to Foix. This hadn’t been a banner year for Barguil so far, but the Tour is proving to be an excellent remedy for that. In addition to the stage win, he’s got a comfortable lead in the KOM competition with all the points he soaked up today.
And it makes for a happy Bastille Day as well: it’s France’s fourth stage win this Tour, and they have one jersey competition all but sewn up, a number of promising young riders, and the emergence of Bardet, who himself is just 26, as a possible Tour winner, riding on a French-sponsored, France-registered team that is one of the strongest in the race. Sure, it’s been 32 years now since they last won their home Tour. But after a long stretch without much to get excited about, it’s a good time to be a fan of French racing.
Race Jury (Sorta) Comes to Its Senses
The controversy over the 20-second time bonuses handed out yesterday to three riders—including fourth-placed Rigoberto Uran—for taking bottles from roadside fans inside the final 10km blew up when video emerged showing Bardet also taking a bottle, even though he was not penalised.
Hit with criticism from all sides, the race jury this morning rescinded the penalties. But no mention was made of the disparity. The UCI statement said that the commissaires had decided to annul the penalties “in light of the inability of teams to resupply their riders before the last climb…due to specific circumstances of the race which had blocked vehicles.” While it’s a welcome decision, we do question the studious avoidance of the fairness complaint. The race jury has inserted itself in the Tour this year like an NBA ref determined to call every foul in the final minutes of a close game. We hope that they A) reconsider whether to jump on even minor infractions and B) use better judgement when they do.
What a rollercoaster Tour for Astana. They have Fabio Aru winning a stage and in the yellow jersey, but a single senseless feed-zone crash on Stage 11 might have robbed them of the ability to keep it.
In that crash two Astana riders went down. Dario Cataldo dropped out immediately, and Jakob Fuglsang broke two bones in his left arm but tried to carry on. Fuglsang was fifth overall, riding great and offering the promise of a 1-2 punch for the Astana team in the mountains.
— Astana Pro Team (@AstanaTeam) July 14, 2017
But the pain was too much. On Stage 12, he had pain on descents and bumpy roads, and lost almost half an hour. On Stage 13, with a relentless pace, he was dropped early and eventually quit the race.
That leaves Astana with just seven riders, and without its two best climber support riders for Aru, who was isolated early on Stage 13. Andrey Grivko, Alexey Lutsenko and Michael Valgren will have a ton of work to do in the coming days in the mountains, while Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev is in just his second Grand Tour ever. With hard stages coming up, it’s not an enviable spot to be in.
— Fabio Aru (@FabioAru1) July 14, 2017
Porte Questions Mont du Chat Inclusion
In an interview with CyclingNews and CyclingTips, BMC’s Richie Porte questioned whether including the climb and descent in the race was a good idea. Porte crashed, taking down Dan Martin with him. “Would (a race director) send their son or their daughter down a descent like that and feel happy? I’m not sure,” he said.
Crashing is never a good thing. But bike racing is full of them, and as Fuglsang found, any random moment can take you out of the race. There’s no way to make it entirely safe. Porte had done the descent multiple times in recon and at full race speed in June’s Criterium du Dauphine—as had every rider in the first six finishers except stage winner Uran. Our feeling: descents are part of racing, and racers make the decision to push the pace or not (at the moment Porte crashed, Froome and Bardet were leading). Mont du Chat was a hard descent, but not inherently risky and deserved its place in the race. Still, we wish Porte a speedy recovery.