First observation: What an amazing Tour de France so far. Experts who have followed Le Tour for ages say it’s the best since 1989. That’s thirty years, mes amis. We have something wild and unpredictable that could very well go down to the final day in the Alps. Wowza.
There is something seriously wrong with Movistar team management or Nairo Quintana or Mikel Landa or all three. There was the bizarre lack of communication between Quintana and his team during the Tourmalet stage where Movistar rode flat out for Quintana only to be surprised that he had informed nobody he out of gas.
Then today we witnessed a symbolic and deeply revealing moment when Landa caught Quintana, who had been in the early break, and went past him without even a look sideways, a word of encouragement, a pat on the back, anything. Check this quote from Landa after the stage: “It was a pity Quintana couldn’t do anything else. A couple of kilometers of relief wouldn’t have done me any harm.” That is the sound of team disfunction. It’s no surprise Quintana is leaving — he’s so desperate to get out of the Mvositar madhouse that he’s signing with an undermanned French team, Arkea-Samsic. Landa and Carapaz are also reportedly out the door and Valverde will soon be forty. What a mess.
Thibaut Pinot is being called the strongest climber in the Tour. Up until now that’s indisputable fact but we haven’t hit the three days in the Alps and the Frenchman has been going full gas since La Planche des Belles Filles. We are absolutely pulling for Pinot but like his compatriot Julian Alaphilippe, has he done too much? This smells like Simon Yates in the 2018 Giro d’Italia — so strong for two weeks and then lights out completely. We are praying Monday’s rest day does him a world of good.
While Geraint Thomas says he is starting to feel like his old 2018 Tour winning self, we can’t help but think the real Ineos leader will be Egan Bernal. The Colombian has out-climbed Thomas in both Pyrenean stages and it only gets harder with three killer days in the Alps. He may be coming around but as he has admitted, the tactics are getting complicated — both in and outside Ineos.
Bernal has been utterly obedient to team orders and respected Thomas as team captain but the Welshman already told him on Prat d’Albis to ride his own race. It also appears Bernal is riding well within himself and has the reserves to go deeper if given the green light. Something tells us that green light is coming fast — like day one in the Alps.
Speaking of contenders who are carefully measuring their efforts, Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) has been riding a smart, deliberate race, while relying on his two strong mountain domestiques Lauren De Plus and George Bennett. Kruijswijk feels like he’ll continue to get better once the race hits the Alps. He’s now third overall and should have the reserves to attack. We’re waiting for one well-timed, brutal acceleration that scares the hell out of Ineos.
And what of the astounding Julian Alaphilippe? He fought like a junkyard dog on Prat d’Albis to keep his yellow jersey. While he coughed up 27 seconds to Thomas, he showed his resilience and mental strength. He still leads the race by 1:35 but as much as we’ve enjoyed the magic show, it defies probability that he makes it all the way to Paris, given the horrors that await in the Alps. Then again, it’s been a crazy Tour and you simply can’t rule him out.
Last but not least, the kid, Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe). Honestly, we don’t know a damn thing about him but he’s sixth, riding out of his mind and only 2:14 off yellow. This is one of those situations where he’s so young and fresh, he doesn’t even fully understand he’s in with a shot to win the Tour de France. He’s in that “happy to be here” state of mind. Boss man and teammate Peter Sagan should be in his ear: “Dude, you can freakin’ win the Tour.” We don’t think so but we’re in strange and unpredictable territory.
After that, it’s a big time drop to the unpredictable Mikel Landa. He’s almost five minutes behind on GC and we’re actually hoping he doesn’t get any closer. We’ve read many times what a class guy Nairo Quintana is and how involved he is in his community back home in Colombia. We’ve yet to read anything positive about Landa — he appears to be self-centered and a poor teammate.
And finally, a shout out to the ageless Alejandro Valverde of Movistar. When Greg Lemond saw how much weight the Spaniard had lost for this Tour, he said Valverde could win it all. Well, that’s a bit grandiose but at 39 years of age he’s 8th on GC and maybe he could crawl his way over Landa and Buchmann to finish 6th. That would be a helluva achievement.
It’s a good thing there’s a rest day Monday. Lot of crazy going on in Le Tour.