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In hockey, one of the unofficial but more respected events is the Gordie Howe Hat Trick, consisting of a goal, an assist, and a fight in the same game. It is hard to find a parallel event in cycling (especially with Bouhanni out of the race), but WVA's mountain, TT and now sprint win are about as close as we can come.
So the Tour ended its final day without any real drama. WVA was probably co-favourite for the stage, and his win is no surprise. The Merckx record is safe for another year, and probably forever. Pogacar did not suffer a race ending mechanical or crash. Ineos did not succeed in splitting the ceremonial ride to Paris in a headwind. Covid-19 did not result in any team being excluded the morning of the last stage. (Could you imagine?) And only one athlete suggested the vaccine might be responsible for his mediocre performance.
We'll assume the Tour is over, and the Bahrain investigation comes to naught. Next year the Tour will be back bigger and badder than ever. The team rosters will have shuffled ever so slightly, but we can cross our fingers for the long anticipated Pogacar-Roglic-Bernal match-up. If things pan out, both Roglic (Vingegaard, Tommy D) and Bernal (most of his team) will have GT podium contenders or past winners around. And Pogacar will have his bad self, one year older and stronger, ready to defend.
Beyond the regular jersey winners, the nicest jersey goes to 69th place finisher Brandon McNulty.
@Struang Good luck! I have stood on the shore in Clevedon and been told Wales was just across the way, but I am an ignoramus and did not realize quite how big it was! This looks like a bucket list ride for me.
Mohoric is either very gifted or very stupid. (Actually, I know he is very gifted, but maybe he is also stupid.) His finish line gesture and interviews were beyond the pale. If the anti-doping guys aren't double checking Bahrain and any riders with Slovenian addresses after that, I would be shocked.
**Also, here is a video of how Darth Vader expected Luke to react when he revealed that he was his father:
Well, like Pogacar it looks like @KHilgendorf has it locked up again. Not sure if anyone else had a problem making a leader pick for today?
Bahrain had their hotel raided last night. Given their consistent mediocrity this Tour, I'm not sure if the prosecutor mixed up his Middle East dictatorships, or if the shade the French team managers have been throwing at Bahrain this year triggered the search. Anyway, nothing immediate came of it, and the team showed up today. We'll see if they find any pirated movies or music on their iPhones or some other reason to boot them out in the next day or so.
That was a pretty entertaining stage. Lots of attacking, a jersey change, and the beauty of Luz Ardiden. Pogacar was decidedly not feeling generous today, as he drove the splits, then stamped his authority on the Tour (again) with a stage win. This also netted him the polka dot jersey to go with his yellow and white. He's only 150 points behind in the Green jersey competition - maybe a goal for next year...
Movistar looks likely to leave the Tour without a win for the first time in, wow, a long time. In fact, it looks like Spain will be entirely shut out. Figure tomorrow will go to Cavs or Matthews, Friday to Pogacar or WVA, and Saturday to Cavs, and it's hard to imagine any Team that has not yet won taking a stage.
The French teams were very active today. Macron is not a strongman like Putin, but they obviously wanted to show the flag with their Supreme Leader in the lead car today. Alaphilippe and Gaudu both rode well in their breakaways, but the stage was so short and the pace so high that there was no chance to get a big lead.
So, top five aside (and the only real change that is likely to happen here before Paris is Kelderman overtaking O'Connor in the TT), Lutsenko impressed the hell out of me. He went to Astana as a WVA-type rider - good classics guy, maybe week-long races - but he has powered his way to a top 6 or 7 at the Tour.
Uran was Uran today, and decided it would be easier to hit the "Unfollow" button on GC and disappear into the groupetto than to try to claw his way back up the top 10. Sigh. At least EF had Higuita and Guerreiro to show the pink.
On to Paris
The next few stages are pretty much filler. Tomorrow is a pretty long stage, so maybe a break goes far, far away early, but the road to the finish is pretty much straight for the last kilometers, so you have to assume a sprint for Cavs (who just squeaked in under the time cut by my math).
The TT will be mildly interesting as the smaller places are decided between Carapaz/Vingegaard, and Kelderman/O'Connnor, and the victory between Pogacar/Bizarro Pogacar.
Then we're into the ceremonial procession through Paris, where the only real question is whether or not Greipel shows up to challenge Cavs. He has not drunk from the fountain of youth that Cavs found this year, but anything is possible.
Stage 17 - No Country for Old Men?
The race was slightly close at the start of the Peyresourde, but Pogacar was not in a gifting mood. As the elite trio of Carapaz, Pogacar and Vingegaard put away the podium on the Col du Portet, Pogacar feinted a few times, ignored the gamesmanship of Carapaz, then buried them with about 120m to go.
It seems strange to think of Carapaz as an old guy. He's 28 (but looks 35), but he is fully five years older than Vingegaard and 6 years older than Pogacar. 4th place (Gaudu) is 24, and 5th place (O'Connor) is 25. This bodes well for the next few years of GCs. I mean, Pogacar will have to get run over by a bus or an on-form Bernal to lose, but he can't race all of the Grand Tours, so we should see some great sniping at the other events.
The French did what they could on Bastille Day. Perez was out front with Godon for a good chunk of the race, but it was inevitable that he would be caught. Gaudu had a bit of a redeeming ride for them, with a brave ride into fourth by himself.
The big loser today is obviously Uran. He has a much better TT than everyone ahead of him bar Pogacar, but if tomorrow plays out like today, he will have a 2-plus minute gap to close, which is tough after three weeks of racing. Chaves would be the second loser, since he was in a great position before flatting and having the slooooowwwest wheel change ever at the bottom of Portet. Why doesn't neutral service have electric socket wrenches to change disc-brake wheels faster? It's either ridiculous, or an Ineos conspiracy. Van Aert is arguably the third loser, as Kruisjwijk left the Tour today due to illness. That means Vingegaard is down to three teammates (although their names are Kuss, Teunissen and Van Aert, so don't feel too badly for him), which means Van Aert will probably have his wings clipped.
In the green jersey battle, Matthews gained another point on Cavs today. I don't think he has any choice but to go for the win in the Intermediate tomorrow, which means it will be a tough run-in to the Tourmalet/Luz Ardiden combo. It's also a short stage at 130km, so it's going to be on from the gun. With this in mind, I'm expecting that Pogacar will grab his second win (and possible the polka dot jersey to go with yellow and white), unless he ends up 1-2 with Vingegaard and is feeling generous. That said, he and his team could stop for beer and croque monsieurs along the way with his 5 minute lead. It's really up to the other teams to do the work for the small places.
Big harmless break, another national champion wins. Konrad has been active for days, so glad he finally broke through, and that attack was impressive. He had some big guns chasing him, too.
The polka dot guys took it easy today. Lots of points in the next couple of days, including 20 points on the Tourmalet on Thursday, and I believe the Portet tomorrow.
The green jersey race tightened up a lot. Matthews is a win away from Cavs. Tomorrow is basically a flat run to the Intermediate sprint at the 113km mark, then you are immediately on a Cat 1. You have to think any team would be suicidal to hold the race together for that long, so I would expect a large break to be let go to mop up the points. It's going to be a brutal start though, as lots of breaks will be policed by all of the teams holding jerseys. Colbrelli and Matthews will be working hard to get in a break, DQS working hard to discourage them. Woods, Poels, Quintana and Van Aert working hard, their respective teams working to make sure they get in. UAE making sure none of Uran, Carapaz, Connors, Martin, etc gets away. The intermediate on Thursday is right after a cat 4, so it's sort of made for Matthews. Again, would require a lot of work to hold the race together that long.
The yellow jersey gang called a truce today. Pogacar basically went to the front early, laughed off a couple of digs, then they guys all shared pictures of their significant others with each other and rode it in. Van Aert and Vingegaard sort of rolled over the top of the last climb faster than the others, but it would be a stretch to call it an attack.
Big mountaintop finish = opportunity for fireworks. If the race is even slightly close (yellow jersey group within 15 minutes of the breakaway at the start of the Peyresourde), Pogacar wins this stage, or rides in on a wheel and gifts it to someone. If someone on GC realizes that no one remembers who finished 2nd or 3rd at the Tour, maybe we'll see a solid attack.
If a bigger break is away, it could go to someone like Chaves, or possibly Quintana.
Well, what was referred to as the Queen Stage this year (although how that award does not go to Double Ventoux, I am not clear), turned out to be a bit of a drag. Another win for a Slovenian(-American), as Sepp Kuss rode a very smart race for the stage win. The only guy in the same area code on the last climb was Valverde, which tells you how steep it was. I like Kuss. Not sure he's the next great American GT guy like that some are hoping for, but he's a grade 'A' lieutenant on a super team like Jumbo, and capable of winning hard stages when let off the leash. He's only 26 and has stage wins in two GTs.
Quintana put his nose in the wind for just enough time to take the Souvenir Henri-Desgrange prize and the 5,000 euros that go with it. This probably doubled the team's prize money. I should also note that I may have been premature in handing the Least FInishers award to Lotto, as Arkea-Samsic is down to three with the departure of Bouhanni today.
The polka dot changed hands, and maybe has a new contender. Wout Poels took it back but was slugging it out with Wout van Aert most of the day. Woods picked up the small placings but it wasn't enough, and Quintana picked up 10 but was out of it for the rest of the day.
The GC battle was not really a battle. Uran made a searing attack, or maybe he just pushed extra hard for two pedal strokes while grabbing a bottle. The Danish kid from Jumbo made one push, was neutralized by Pogacar, then a group of 7 or eight cruised in together.
Martin was the big loser. (Guillaume, of course.)
Rest day tomorrow. Stage 16 on Tuesday should go to a break, two Cat 2s, a Cat 1 mid-stage and punchy Cat 4 just 7 km from the finish to decide it. If Valverde has recovered it's a good look for him, but Superman Lopez, Chaves, Woods, or basically anyone you would see at Amstel Gold or Fleche Wallonne has a good shot.
Well, that was a fun one, as expected. Mollema is all class, and rode a great race. He benefited from a bit of luck as Woods came off his bike for the second time this Tour, but as they say, to win, you need to keep two wheels on the ground.
Consolation prize for Woods is that he takes home a maillot de pois, the (edit, with apologies to Alex Stieda) second Canadian to do so. Quintana sat out today's break, so I expect he'll take the jersey back tomorrow as there are a lot more points available.
Guillaume Martin of Cofidis snuck into the break today, and as they were given a lot of rope, he moves into second on GC. I expect he is simply keeping the seat warm for Uran or Carapaz, but those five or so minutes should ensure him a top 10 to go with his 11th and 12th in previous Tours. Interesting to see Cattaneo of DQS move into the top 10. He's a Joao Almeida-type guy, excellent in the TT, competent climber. Maybe not quite the top-end of Almeida, but another arrow in the DQS quiver with Almeida leaving next season.
Andorra. Tax haven. Ski haven. Regular Tour stage host.
Gesink of Jumbo has a good overview of the last climb here: If you don't have the two minutes to watch it, the gist is that it is a hard climb. The descent videos I have been able to find are not too technical, so I would assume anyone with 15 seconds at the top is going to win the stage, unless the guy in second is a super-descender like Nibali.
I expect a large, harmless break and a large, desperate grupetto to form around the intermediate sprint at the 66k mark. Quintana, maybe Poels and Woods for the polka dots, then a few stage hunters. This stage had Yates' name all over it until he crashed out, so maybe it's a Dan Martin stage now. Maybe Froomey and Dan can get in the break and limit Quintana picking up too many polka dots.
The pointy-end of the race should largely come together on the last climb. It's long and miserable, and will be hella hot. Nutrition will be important (so you can write off Gaudu), and so will your team (Pogacar praying Majka is ok, since often the effects of a crash are worse on crash day plus two...). My picks for the win are Kruijswijk (assuming his Danish teammate is not on a spectacular day) or Kelderman, or one of the Movistar guys. Fraile looked pretty good today.
Well, it wouldn't be a meaningless day at the Tour without a few people riding into a ravine.
After a small breakaway was left to get up the road, nothing happened until the 150 k mark when there was a crash. Probable stage winner in the Pyrenees Simon Yates (I think it was Simon? Adam? Anyway, the one that doesn't ride for Ineos. And my wife is an identical twin so you would think I would be more sensitive to this kind of thing...), and traditional peloton backmarker Roger Kluge* were shown the door after the crash. Pogacar water-bottle carrier (and one-time Vuelta podium) Rafal Majka and snakebitten Geraint Thomas also hit the deck but were able to continue.
Then nothing happened until two Qhubeka guys crashed about 40k later.
Then nothing happened other than BB Hotels getting some screen time thanks to a solo break until the inevitable sprint. It looked like maybe DQS was trying to sneak Morkov the victory, but alas, he faded and Cavs had no choice but to blast past he and Philipsen for the win. So he has tied the Merckx record. Merckx is saying he doesn't care, but there is a french-fry-dipped-in-mayo's chance of surviving a Friday night drinking binge in Brussels that he doesn't say something idiotic about this before the Tour is through.
We're heading to the Pyrenees. Very hilly transition stage tomorrow, followed by ride to Andorra on Sunday. A lot of teams are without a stage win, so I expect tomorrow will go to large break, possibly with Woods, Poels and Quintana renewing their polka dot rivalry. Sunday will require a slightly different class of rider, despite another downhill finish.