Thursday, 24 July 2014
Stage 18: Pau to Hautacam 145.5km
Today's relatively short but tough stage with the climbs of the famous Tourmalet and to the finish atop Hautacam is the last mountain stage in this year's Tour. It would not be a surprise to see Nibali further cement his position as Tour leader by winning this stage. The real battle will be for the podium places with Valverde and Pinot keen to strengthen their positions before the time trial on Saturday and the threat from Jean-Christophe Peraud. Pinot's FDR probably made a mistake yesterday by going hard on the penultimate climb, leaving Pinot without a enough teammates for the final climb.
The Hautacam was the springboard for Lance Armstrong's doped up Tour victory in 2000.
Should be another exciting stage to watch.
Wednesday, 23 July 2014
As expected today's stage produced another exciting race with Rafal Majka taking his second stage win this Tour and consolidating his hold on the Climbers Jersey. He now has 149 points to Vinzenzo Nibali's 118. Its a healthy but not invincible lead. There was a further shake up of the Overall Classification with AG2R coming off best in the Podium Stakes, while Vincenzo Nibali further tightened his hold on the Yellow Jersey. He is now 5:26 ahead of Alejandro Valverde and is clearly a level above everyone else in the race.
Romain Bardet's successful attack on the last descent forced Thibaut Pinot to chase on the ascent of Pla d'Adet, which then allowed Jean-Christophe Peraud to follow Nibali's attack and Pinot lost some ground with Peraud only 8 seconds behind him. Valverde looked to be in trouble but recovered, caught and overtook Pinot and gained 5 seconds. Because of his time trialling ability Peraud is looking good for a podium place but there is still, of course, the last mountain stage to come tomorrow. Expect further changes!
Stage 17: Saint-Gaudens to Saint-Lary Pla d'Adet 124.5km
Although, with the exception of the sole time trial, this is the shortest stage (124.5km) it will also be one of the toughest. There are four categorised climbs crammed into the second half with little if any respite between them. The first three climbs are 1st Cat, while the Pla d'Adet is an HC. Being a short stage with a mountain top finish the racing is likely to be fast. I expect further shifts in the overall classification.
The impressive Thibaut Pinot (now wearing the White Jesey for best young rider) will be looking to put more time into those who can time trial better than he, in particular Jean-Christophe Peraud who is just over a minute behind. Pinot would also love to move into second above Alejandro Valverde, who is only 49 seconds ahead and who has looked uncomfortably at the top of the climbs. He was briefly dropped by Pinot yesterday but recovered on the final descent. Today there is no final descent, so any gaps made on the final climb will stick!
Equally Romain Bardet and Tejay Van Gardenen may well try to get back some of the time they lost yesterday – certainly not to lose anymore. I wouldn't be surprised to see Vincenzo Nibali take another stage win today. Should be as exciting as yesterday!
Tuesday, 22 July 2014
Anyone who had seen Michael Rogers' performance winning stages in the Giro d'Italia will not have been surprised at how he powered away from his breakaway companions on the final descent to notch up a fine solo victory. This was his first Tour stage win. See list of overall stage wins here.
Although the racing amongst the favourites only really started on the final climb – the Port de Balès – there was a considerable shake up in the overall classification. The fast pace set by first by Moviestar on behalf of Alexandre Valverde and then by FDJ for Thibault Pinot split the peloton into pieces. The big losers on the day were Romain Bardet, who dropped from 3rd place to 5th and Van Garderen who dropped from 5th to 6th. More significantly they lost a lot of time on both Valverde and Pinot, who did a particularly impressive ride today and moved into third place. Vincenzo Nibali is still very comfortably in charge.