Bardet is the boss
The first Pyrenean stage from Pau to Peyragudes was two things: inordinately dull and then, moments from conclusion, wildly explosive.
Romain “bad-ass” Barbet continues to impress with his aggressive riding and the final lung-busting sprint he and Fabio Aru did uphill to the finish line was probably better than watching Marcel Kittel decimate the field whenever the road is flat. Bardet gets his stage win and he’s sniffing yellow.
In that final 300 meters, maillot jaune Chris Froome of Sky lost himself about 22 seconds, finished in seventh place and raised plenty of questions. The big one was, why the hell didn’t anyone attack him sooner on the climb up the Col de Peyresourde?
Until the last possible moment this stage was like taking a Tylenol PM and getting sleepier by the moment. It was the usual Sky train with four or five guys shepherding Froome through the mountains. Post-stage, a few people said maybe it was a bluff to cover the fact that Froome didn’t have the legs.
Who knows? Apparently, not the rest of the guys in the top ten of the GC. It was left to poor, old and soon-to-be retired Alberto Contador to throw out a little attack just to see what would happen. Then it was up to Curious George Bennett — eh oui, le revelation du Tour!!! — to show everybody that Froome wasn’t invincible and had a wattage problem.
As per the Sky script, the two Mikels — Land and Nieve — pegged Bennett back but that finally inspired others to try their luck. Oh, guess what — Froome’s actually kinda tired.
Until Bennett made his move, Fabio Aru seemed surprisingly content with his second place on GC, as he sat on Froome’s wheel for the entire climb, never turning a pedal in anger or great interest. Was that the daring tactical plan in the Astana bus this morning? Aru finally launched his attack, one quickly countered by Bardet who crossed the line in first.
Why the extreme caution from Aru and Bardet, who both waited and waited until the possible time gains had practically run out? Say this for Froome, he clearly had everyone fooled and nobody tried to ascertain his condition until the line was in sight.
That doesn’t in any way undervalue Bardet’s victory. He looks like a 16 year old school boy who should be doing his homework but instead is scaring the hell out of the Skybots and David Brailsford’s well-oiled, well-funded machine.
That last 300 meters up to Peyragudes gave the rest of Froome’s rivals an unexpected taste: blood. All of a sudden, they’re recalibrating Froome’s strength and making new plans for destruction. The buzz on twitter was loud and insistent: we have a race on our hands.
Chapeau again to Bennett who just seems to be having a hell of a good time in France. He’s gunslinger-loose. He was bold and aggressive in winning the Tour of California. His plan for Le Grand Shindig seem to be more of the same opportunistic riding and keep-it-fun attitude. After today, he doesn’t just seem “curious” how far he can climb on GC, he believes he’s got a serious shot at the podium.
Hold moly, Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) is riding out of his mind. We thought his career highlight was a few years back when he managed second overall in the Giro d’Italia — the one Nairo Quintana stole from his fellow Colombian in that fake news — fake neutralized stage on the Stelvio. Uran has that big diesel engine and there’s no reason to think he won’t keep motoring along at this point.
Nairo Quintana has now officially realized the colossal folly of his Giro-Tour suenos. I’m actually mad at the little guy for ignoring all the recent, high profile fails on this double insanity. Ask Alberto Contador.
Everybody in the entire cycling world told Nairo it was a bad idea but he and Movistar boss Eusebio Unzué insisted they had hard data that proved he gets better on the second grand tour. Here’s your hard data — Quintana dropped, sliding back over a minute and riding all by lonesome. He has no high-end and we’ll be surprised it he cracks the top ten in Paris. The only upside is that he will never, ever, make this clueless mistake again.
“It’s the first time we’ve tried to do this, and clearly it’s not worked out well. “It could have been the Giro took too much out of me. It was a very hard race and we used up a lot of energy there. It’s the first time I’ve ridden the Giro and the Tour. We hoped to get it right, but we didn’t.”
Did you wave goodbye to Alberto Contador as he labored up the Col de Peyresourde? Are there any retirement homes in the vicinity? Because he could have simply pedaled right over, taken a seat in a wheelchair on the terrace and watched the race pass him by.
We were hoping Contador had one last gasp left but he’s done now. The man can barely manage to stay upright on his bike let alone challenge Froome, Bardet and Aru. Sad to see but he should have retired when he said he was retiring. He’s over 7 minutes behind and struggling up the mountains. Too long at the party.
Fabio Aru is sure happy he’s riding the Tour now, instead of the Giro. Sadly he lost the other half go the Astana one-two punch when Jakob Fuglsang has a jour sans and vanished from the GC picture. The kid looks feisty and frisky and he and Bardet make a beautiful couple. Together, they have a shot at smacking Froome around. (Just saying — beware the Froome mechanical or fake nature break routine if he gets dropped.)
Dan Martin. You have to be impressed with Martin, who continues to be strong and steady. Dan, the weight loss really does work!! You’re lighter, you’re faster, you’re top five if you keep this up. No desserts at dinner, okay? Lean and mean. Let’s see if you can nab a stage win somewhere.