‘There is not a moment he can relax’: Ag2r La Mondiale promise to keep attacking Chris Froome

Ag2r La Mondiale were responsible for the ferocious pace that split the peloton and briefly distance Chris Froome who had an untimely puncture

Ag2r La Mondiale have promised that they will continue to try and “crack Team Sky” and distance Romain Bardet‘s general classification rivals.

The French team set a ferocious pace in the final 40 km of stage 15 into Le Puy-en-Velay, shredding the peloton, while yellow jersey incumbent Chris Froome (Team Sky) suffered an untimely puncture with 32km to go and had to fight to regain touch with the AG2R-led group.

>>> Chris Froome’s Tour de France lead put under serious pressure as Mollema wins chaotic stage

Bardet unsuccessfully attacked on his home region’s roads and Froome didn’t lose any time to his GC rivals, apart from to Dan Martin who gained 14 seconds and now sits 1-12 behind the Briton in fifth place.

But Ag2r, unlike Fabio Aru‘s Astana or Rigoberto Uran‘s Cannondale-Drapac, demonstrated that they are capable of potentially putting Froome in the red.

Mathias Frank, one of Bardet’s chief domestiques, told Cycling Weekly: “We split the peloton on the last climb and we were really close to getting rid of Froome and a lot of guys.

“That was actually our plan today. I think it was a great move that we did, we tried everything and we will keep trying.

“We will keep going, keep trying to crack Team Sky and try to put Romain up there to have a chance to really win this Tour.”

>>> ‘Maybe people forgot about Uran, but it’s at their cost that they underestimate him’

Frank, who finished eighth at the Tour in 2015 when riding for IAM Cycling, said that he hasn’t detected any flaws in Froome, but is optimistic that he and his team can put the Brit’s yellow jersey under threat.

“Froome is super,” Frank said. “He is a super-strong rider and he showed today that he is really in control.

“But, still, I think we put him in some trouble. We hurt the other guys a lot and we will keep on doing that.

“I didn’t see any weaknesses in Froome today. But, for sure, there is no moment he can relax. We always try and we have shown that in this Tour de France. We believe in creating something.

“Guys are tired and we have a super-strong team here and we have showed that today.”

After tomorrow’s rest day, the Tour moves into the Alps with two mountainous days, including the summit finish to the Col d’Izoard.

>>> The Col d’Izoard: A giant of the Tour de France

Then, on the penultimate stage, comes a 22.5km time trial in Marseille, where many predict Froome will post a time substantially better than his GC rivals.

“It will be hard [for Bardet to distance Froome] but the Alps are a different story,” Frank added.

“The climbs are much longer and all it takes in this Tour is a great day for Romain and not such a good day for Froome or all the other guys up there.

“We shouldn’t just talk about Froome; let’s not forget everybody else, there are a few guys within two minutes. It will be interesting next week.

“At the end of stage 20, your time trialling quality isn’t just on paper. How you do depends on how tired you are. But, sure, if Romain hasn’t got a decent advantage [to Froome before the time trial] it will be hard for him to keep Froome at a distance.”


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AG2R La Mondiale promise to keep on ‘hurting’ Romain Bardet’s GC rivals

AG2R La Mondiale were responsible for the ferocious pace that split the peloton and briefly distance Chris Froome who had an untimely puncture

AG2R La Mondiale have promised that they will continue to try and “crack Team Sky” and distance Romain Bardet‘s general classification rivals.

The French team set a ferocious pace in the final 40 km of stage 15 into Le Puy-en-Velay, shredding the peloton, while yellow jersey incumbent Chris Froome (Team Sky) suffered an untimely puncture with 32km to go and had to fight to regain touch with the AG2R-led group.

>>> Chris Froome’s Tour de France lead put under serious pressure as Mollema wins chaotic stage

Bardet unsuccessfully attacked on his home region’s roads and Froome was didn’t lose anytime to his GC rivals, aside from Dan Martin gained 14 seconds to now sit 1:12 behind the Briton.

But AG2R, unlike Fabio Aru‘s Astana or Rigoberto Gran’s Cannondale-Drapac, demonstrated that they are capable of potentially putting Froome in the red.

Mathias Frank, one of Bardet’s chief domestiques, told Cycling Weekly: “We split the peloton on the last climb and we were really close to getting rid of Froome and a lot of guys.

“That was actually our plan today. I think it was a great move that we did, we tried everything and we will keep trying.

“We will keep going, keep trying to crack Team Sky and try to put Romain up there to have a chance to really win this Tour.”

>>> ‘Maybe people forgot about Uran, but it’s at their cost that they underestimate him’

Frank, who finished eight at the Tour in 2015 when riding for IAM Cycling, said that he hasn’t detected any flaws in Froome, but is optimistic that he and his team can put him in danger of losing the maillot jaune.

“Froome is super,” Frank said. “He is a super-strong rider and he showed today that he is really in control.

“But, still, I think we put him in some troubles. We hurt the other guys a lot and we will keep on doing that.

“I didn’t see any weaknesses in Froome today. But, for sure, there is no moment he can relax. We always try and we have shown that in this Tour de France. We believe in creating something.

“Guys are tired and we have a super-strong team here and we have showed that today.”

After tomorrow’s rest day, the Tour moves into the Alps with two mountainous days, including the summit finish to the Col d’Izoard.

>>> The Col d’Izoard: A giant of the Tour de France

Then, on the penultimate stage, comes a 22.5km time trial in Marseille, where many predict Froome will post a time substantially better than his GC rivals.

“It will be hard [for Bardet to distance Froome] but the Alps are a different story,” Frank added.

“The climbs are much longer and all it takes in this Tour is a great day for Romain and not such a good day for Froome or all the other guys up there.

“We shouldn’t just talk about Froome; let’s not forget everybody else, there are a few guys within two minues. It will be interesting next week.

“At the end of stage 20, your time trialling quality isn’t just on paper. How you do depends on how tired you are. But, sure, if Romain hasn’t got a decent advantage [to Froome before the TT] it will be hard for him to keep Froome at a distance.”


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Chris Froome’s Tour de France lead put under serious pressure as Mollema wins chaotic stage

Untimely mechanical issue forces Tour de France leader Chris Froome to chase his rivals on a testing, hilly stage 15

Tour de France leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) came under pressure during stage 15 of the race on Sunday after losing contact with his rivals on a key climb.

Froome first lost contact with the front of the contenders group on the category one Col de Peyra Taillade with 32km to go before immediately suffering a puncture. A roadside wheel change saw him having to fight to regain contact with the group containing rivals Fabio Aru (Astana) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r).

>>> Tour de France 2017: Latest news, reports and race info

However, the British Sky leader made the junction with the help of team-mate Mikel Landa to retain his position at the top of the general classification ahead of Aru.

Meanwhile, the stage victory came from the day’s escape group, with Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) taking a solo win. Diego Ulissi (UAE) led home the chasers for second, with Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) in third.

Big group on the attack

The day kicked off with an escape group instigated by polka-dot jersey holder Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) in the hunt for mountains points with four classified climbs on offer.

Barguil’s group were joined by a further group headed up by team-mate Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb), to swell the break to 28 riders. Included were several representatives from squads who have so far come up empty-handed at the 2017 Tour – Katusha-Alpecin, Cofidis and Bahrain-Merida included.

Damiano Caruso (BMC) was the highest-placed overall of the riders in the break, starting the day at 11-26 behind Froome – so no immediate threat for the overall.

Tour de France 2017 stage 15 profile. Image: ASO

Barguil crested the first two classified climbs – Montée de Naves d’Aubrac and Côte de Vieurals – in pole position to scoop up the points, and Matthews was first over the intermediate sprint at the stage’s mid-way point at Sant-Alban-sur-Limagnole. He now closes the gap on green jersey Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors).

With 62km to go, world time trial champion Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) picked his moment to attack, launching a solo move in an attempt to time trial to the finish. By 50km to go, Martin had opened up quite a gap on his former escape companions and was nine minutes ahead of the bunch.

Moment of panic for Sky

The first set-back of the day for Froome came at 40km to go, as Ag2r hit the front of the peloton and opened up a gap. Froome and Sky were caught out and had to chase hard to regain contact. Then disaster struck again, when Froome had a mechanical and had to stop at the side of the road and swap rear wheels with Michal Kwiatkowski.

The Ag2r-led group forged on ahead, leaving Froome to be paced by Sergio Henao and Vasil Kiryienka in an attempt to try and catch up with the contenders group as they hit the slopes of the Col de Peyra Taillade. Nieve then dropped back to help Froome, but swung off to leave Froome to catch up on his own, accompanied by an unpleasant number of boos from roadside spectators.

Meanwhile, Tony Martin cracked on the climb, went backwards and was caught and passed by Barguil, continuing his hunt for mountains points at the top of the climb.

Landa – fifth overall at the start of the day – then dropped out of the contenders group with 34km to go to pace up Froome. The move meant that Sky were putting all of their eggs into one basket – but it worked, as Landa and Froome rejoined the contenders.

Ag2r kept up the pressure, with Alexis Vuillermoz leading team-mate Romain Bardet on his ‘home’ roads. On his wheel were Froome, Landa, Aru, Daniel Martin, Uran, Yates, Meintjes and Contador.

One rider who was absent, and again looking in bad shape, was Nairo Quintana (Movistar). The Colombian dropped off the pace of the front group relatively early on the Col de Peyra Taillade.

Over the top of the Peyra Taillade, Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) attacked from the reformed escape group on the descent and towards the day’s final classified climb of Côte de Saint-Vidal. The Dutchman powered on, opening up a significant gap with 15km to go. By this point, he was 50 seconds ahead of the chasers and over six and a half minutes ahead of the GC contenders group containing Froome, Bardet and Aru.

Having seen that they had not shaken off Froome, the Ag2r-led GC group eased off a little allowing the Sky leader to recoup some energy. It didn’t last long as Yates attacked on the Côte de Saint-Vidal, causing a frantic chase – and he was reeled in before the top.

Then it was Dan Martin who launched a move on the flat after the climb, with little reaction from the rest of the GC group.

Mollema continued on to take the stage victory, with Ulissi sprinting from a group of four chasers to take second.

By the finish, Dan Martin managed to open up a gap of 14 seconds to his rivals, to claw back some valuable time as Froome led in the rest of the GC favourites with a determined sprint – job done for another day.

Froome still leads Aru by 18 seconds overall, with Bardet in third at 23 seconds. Uran is fourth at 29 seconds – slim differences at the end of two weeks of racing.

Martin moves up to fifth overall at 1-12, moving Landa down to sixth. Yates keeps hold of the best young rider’s jersey in seventh spot. Quintana dropped out of the top 10 after his bad day, with Caruso moving up to 10th overall after his effort in the break.

The 2017 Tour de France takes its second rest day on Monday, when the riders will be able to recoup their energy after another bruising stage. Then it’s on to the Alps in a gruelling final week before the race concludes on Sunday, July 23, in Paris.

Results

Tour de France 2017, stage 15: Laissac Sévérac l’Église to Le Puy en Velay, 189.5km
1. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, in 4-41-47
2. Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 19 seconds
3. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Soudal
4. Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo, at same time
5. Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb, at 23 secs
6. Nicolas Roche (Irl) BMC Racing, at 1-00
7. Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie, at 1-04
8. Jan Bakelants (Bel) Ag2r
9. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ
10. Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data, at same time
Other
25. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floor, at 6-11
27. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 6-25
28. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 6-25
31. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, at 6-25
46. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 10-19

General classification after stage 15
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, in 64-40-21
2. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, at 18 secs
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 23 secs
4. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac, at 29 secs
5. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at 1-12
6. Mikel Landa (Esp) Team Sky, at 1-17
7. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 2-02
8. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates, at 5-09
9. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 5-37
10. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing, at 6-05


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‘Maybe people forgot about Uran, but it’s at their cost that they underestimate him’

Rigoberto Uran’s form is not a surprise to his Cannondale-Drapac team, and with him possessing a stronger time trial than most of his other GC rivals, he could be the rider most dangerous to Chris Froome.

Teams and GC riders will suffer the consequences of underestimating Rigoberto Uran, according to his Cannondale-Drapac teammate Andrew Talansky.

Uran has the been the surprise of the Tour so far, with him winning stage nine and being just 29 seconds adrift of race leader Chris Froome.

Second at the Giro d’Italia in 2013 when riding for Team Sky and second the year after in Omega-Pharma Quick-Step colours, the Colombian’s talent has never been in question, but he has been unable to replicate that form in Grand Tours since.

But Talansky, who finished fifth at the Vuelta a España last year, believes that the 30-year-old can indeed win the yellow jersey.

“It’s great that people are maybe paying more attention to someone like [Romain] Bardet and [Fabio] Aru, but it’s at their cost that they will underestimate Rigo.

“If you look at Rigo’s history, you don’t arrive second at the Giro through breakaways, you arrive there because you are a world class rider and a Grand Tour podium contender.

“Maybe people forgot about him, as they do in this sport because he had a few years when he wasn’t up there, but now he’s back and he’s doing it on the biggest stage.

“If his form is unexpected to somebody, then they haven’t been paying attention to Rigo. “The last time I spent time with Rigo, it was before he was getting ready for the Giro last year and we were on a training camp in Tenerife. Seeing how he was riding then, and the training he was doing, you could see he was capable of riding the way he is doing now.”

There are likely just eight riders remaining who could win in Paris, and Uran is most probably the best time triallist in that select group, aside from Froome.

The consensus is that if any riders wishes to prevent Froome from winning a fourth Tour, they will need an advantage of at least a minute to the Briton going into the 22.5km time trial in Marseille on the penultimate day.

Despite Uran’s ability against the clock, though, his teammates say that even he would need to be ahead of Froome in the standings ahead of stage 20.

“Chris is a really good time triallist and I don’t know if he can beat him in the time trial. Rigo can’t take 29 seconds on him in the time trial,” Dylan van Baarle said.

“But it’s a three week race so it’s different. We have seen in the last few days, apart from yesterday, that Chris has showed some weaknesses, so maybe Rigo can drop him on a climb and take extra time on him.

“He is riding on feel, he is looking strong and he is certainly capable of getting a podium. He looks really good and he is really confident.”

“The more time you are able to take before the time trial, the better, because Froome is on a different level to everyone else in a time trial, and especially at the end of a Grand Tour,” Talanksy added.

“The Tour is a tough race, we’re coming into the third week where it’s mind over matter, people tire, people make mistakes, and Rigo is calm, relaxed, so we’ll see what he can do.”


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Nairo Quintana’s Giro/Tour double was ‘a team decision’ despite his father’s protest

Nairo Quintana’s father protests that the Movistar team are ‘burning up’ his son in attempting to win both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France this season

Team Movistar says that staff and Nairo Quintana jointly decided to race for the Giro d’Italia/Tour de France double this 2017 season despite his father criticising the decision.

The Colombian, who placed second overall in the Giro d’Italia, is suffering in the Tour de France. He sits eighth overall at 2-22 minutes behind leader Chris Froome (Team Sky). He said in earlier interviews that part of the reason is due to a schedule that spread him thin.

“Colombians are protesting because they are burning up Nairo,” Quintana’s father Luis Quintana told Colombian radio station Noticias Caracol.

Nairo Quintana on stage 12 of the 2017 Tour de France. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

“He should not have raced the Giro if he was going to race the Tour. It’s due to a lack of organisation in team Movistar. It seems that they’re learning that this is not the way to race a Tour.”

>>> Tour de France 2017: Latest news, reports and race info

“There’s truly nothing to say,” Movistar team boss Eusebio Unzué told Cycling Weekly. “I’m not going to say anything. I don’t need to, it’s not the case.

“I didn’t even hear [his dad on the radio] to tell you the truth. And in the end, a mum or dad, with all respect to them, will say these things when they are wrapped up in emotions and far removed from the reality.”


Watch: Tour de France 2017 stage 14 highlights


No rider has won the Giro/Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998, but even then he had the advantage of the Festina Affair reducing the Tour peloton.

Alberto Contador tried in 2015. He won the Giro and placed fifth in the Tour behind Froome. He said afterwards, “I came out of the Giro tired. I was fresh mentally, very motivated, but my body was still tired.”

“We all put our thoughts into the decision,” said Unzué. “Paris is still far off. We saw a different Nairo already in stage 13.

“The truth is that he has raced eight Grand Tours, won two of them, three times second, a third place, a fourth place, and another were he had to pull out due to a crash. So, that means that he’s always there battling for the win.”

Quintana won the 2014 Giro d’Italia and upset Froome to win the 2016 Vuelta a España.

Nairo Quintana on the attack during stage 13 of the 2017 Tour de France. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

“Sometimes people expected more from him, but he’s 27 years old, like Bardet, Aru, Pinot, like many. He’s been up there already for many years,” added Unzué.

“It’s good, but the reality is he went to the Giro and nearly won. He had the bad luck of going into the last time trial against Tom Dumoulin, a true time trial star.”

Unzué said, “Why not?” when asked about attempting the double again in 2018.

>>> Nairo Quintana: ‘We’ll have to be daring to win the Tour’

“It’s something that can be done. I’m sure that in the next years, someone’s going to try again. Look at Alejandro Valverde, he could’ve won the Giro and then came to the Tour and placed sixth working for Nairo. If you manage you recovery well between the races, you can do it. It’s harder mentally than it is physically.”

Quintana, however, said after stage nine in the Tour, “I’m starting to lack strength having already put in a huge effort this year [in the Giro].”

In another interview after the Peyragudes stage, he said, the double turned out to be a “losing bet. Another year we’ll do it better. We’ll prepare for the Tour like on other occasions, and we will arrive in better condition.”


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Dave Brailsford: ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if Fabio Aru lost the yellow jersey on purpose’

Team Sky boss delighted to have yellow

In the aftermath of the frantic finale of the stage into Rodez, which saw Chris Froome retake the yellow jersey from Fabio Aru, the atmosphere around the Team Sky bus was a mixture of delight at seeing a tactical plan work to perfection and disbelief at the amount of time the Italian ceded – a substantial 24 seconds, giving Froome the lead by 18.

Sky boss Dave Brailsford acknowledged that both the Rodez stage and the previous one into Foix had gone perfectly for the team, but also admitted that their plans may have been assisted by Aru.

>>> Chris Froome: ‘I never dreamt I’d take 24 seconds out of Aru’

“It wouldn’t surprise me if he had let the yellow jersey go to take the pressure off himself and his team,” Brailsford told reporters in Rodez.

“But, having said that, I don’t suppose he wanted to lose the amount of time he did.”


Watch: Tour de France stage 14 highlights


Speaking to NBC Sports directly after the finish, his Astana teammate Michael Valgren explained that he had tried to lead Aru up through the bunch before it reached the tricky uphill finale. Valgren added that the Italian kept losing his wheel.

>>> Fabio Aru on losing Tour de France lead: ‘I paid for being in a bad position’

Valgren then asked the reporter if Aru had lost the lead. When told he had, the Dane said “good” and smiled broadly. However writing on Twitter after the race, Valgren clarified his comments after some took them as a slight at team leader Aru.

Aru and members of the Astana management team dodged questions of whether they had pulled off a tactical coup of their own. The Italian admitted he had been poorly positioned but stressed that there are still plenty of opportunities for him to strike back.

With the pressure now back on Froome and Sky to do control the race, Aru can now focus on following their wheels and biding his time until an opportunity to gain significant time on the British race leader emerges.


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Sunday Trading: Major discounts on the Garmin Edge 820 and Dura-Ace wheels plus much more

Revamp your wardrobe and give your bike some love with some of these wicked deals from the likes of Wiggle, Chain Reaction Cycles, Evans Cycles and many more

Well, it’s all go at the Tour de France isn’t it? With all the excitement we hope you were able to get out on the bike yourself this weekend.

If so congrats, you’ve (probably) earned yourself a new jazzy piece of kit or two!

Shimano Dura-Ace wheelset £1499 £1,079

Upgrade your wheelset this summer to the excellent, and brand new, Shimano Dura-Ace 9100 models. They’re carbon so they’re light and stiff, and their 35mm depth will add a new degree of speed to your riding this summer.

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Garmin Edge 820 £370 £295

Garmin’s latest cycling computer just got dropped in price. It’s a bonafide performance pusher, able to measure power output, cadence, speed, distance, time and a whole bunch of scientific stuff (think FTP tests). All of this stuffed into a compact, touchscreen computer.

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Giro Empire SLX road shoes £274 £199

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Schwalbe One folding road tyre £52.99 £25.99

The Schwalbe One tyres are some great summer rubber for when you want to be skipping along dry roads. They’re also pretty grippy, too, making them a firm favourite of lots of riders. Throw in the V Guard puncture protection and you’ve got a great set of tyres for the warmer months

Buy now: Schwalbe One tyres at Wiggle for £29.98

More tidy deals:

Santini La Vuelta Asturias £99£79

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Shimano Dura-Ace 9100 crankset £499 – £337.99

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Specialized women’s Pro SL bib short £139.99 – £111.99

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Continental Grand Prix folding tyre – £34.95 – £18.98

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Mavic Cosmic Pro carbon wheelset – £875 – £787.50

Castelli Imprevisto Nano water-repellant jersey – £80 – £55.99

Giro women’s rain jacket – £169.99 – £42.99

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That’s all for this week folks, check back next week for more mega deals!


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Tour de France: You'll pay for a bad day in the Massif Central – Preview

When the route for the 2017 Tour de France was unveiled last October, one of the biggest selling points was the fact that, for the first time since 1992, the race would visit each of France’s five mountain ranges. After the Vosges, the Jura, and the Pyrenees, today it’s the turn of the Massif Central, a region that may lack the lustre and immediate decisiveness of its high-altitude counterparts but that nevertheless poses more than a few pitfalls for the overall contenders

The 189.5km stage, which starts out from Laissac-Sévérac l’Église and tracks north east through the hills to le Puy-en-Velay, has a curious profile. There are two first-category climbs, almost bookending the race, and the rolling roads rarely let up in between.

It should provide fertile ground for a breakaway, but make no mistake, this is a GC day, too. As the cliché goes, it may not be a stage where the Tour de France can be won, but certainly one where it can be lost.

“It’s a dangerous stage,” Julien Jurdie, directeur sportif for local lad Romain Bardet at AG2R La Mondiale, told Cyclingnews on Saturday. “Any of the favourites who are in a delicate state tomorrow could pay heavily.”

The riders will start climbing after just 20km, with the first-category Montée de Naves d’Aubrac set to be decisive in the formation of the breakaway, and while the overall contenders aren’t likely to take the race on from that far out, we could see many of them place teammates up the road to be called upon later.

Read more on this article

The race stays above 1000m of altitude for much of the day as the roads rise and dip all the way to the final 40km, which represents the endgame. The first-category Col de Peyra Taillade is a serious climb, 8.3km long with an average gradient of 7.4 per cent, with stretches in the double digits, and narrow roads to boot. Topping out with 31km to go, it gives way to a largely downhill run to Puy, though the road does kick up on a couple of occasions. If there are any differences between the favourites over the top of the climb the race will be on all the way to the line.

“The start of the stage is difficult and the end of the stage is really difficult,” said Jurdie.

“You have to be at 100 per cent tomorrow. If all of the favourites are at 100 per cent, there won’t, in principal, be any gaps, or only very small ones. But if one of the favourites tomorrow is a little off colour, the gaps could be significant.”

More controlled with Froome in yellow

Friday’s short stage in the Jura saw some of the most open and tactical racing we’re likely to see at this year’s Tour, with key players heading up the road and a disorganised yellow jersey group having to make it up as they went along.

This stage might have been ripe for more of the same, but the handover of the maillot jaune from Fabio Aru to Chris Froome on the uphill sprint in Rodez has once again changed the tactical complexion of the race. Team Sky are back in their familiar role of defending yellow, and Jurdie, more than happy with the development from the point of view of his team, predicts a more controlled day of racing.

“Astana would have had trouble controlling the race tomorrow. We could have had some bizarre situations, with important groups getting away, containing guys not that far down on GC,” he said.

“Now, I think a big group could go up the road, but with riders way down on GC. It’ll be an intense start with that early first-category climb, but I think Sky are going to filter it well.”

Bardet, third overall at 23 seconds, is as good as on home turf as the race dips into the Auvergne, and by all accounts he wants to put on a show.

“He’s arriving at home, he knows the stage perfectly, and he has lots of ideas in his head – if you listen to him, it’s like it’s going to be the great Bardet tomorrow. Our job is to focus him, calm him down, keep his cool,” said Jurdie.

“Romain mustn’t put in several random attacks. He needs to do one attack and do the damage with it. We know it will be difficult to put time into Froome on a stage like tomorrow but every second taken on the main favourites will be important.”

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Michael Matthews: ‘It’s harder to win when you’re the stage favourite’

Planning pays off perfectly for Australian rider

Australian Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb), winner of stage 14 of the Tour de France to Rodez on Saturday, says that his victory was made harder by being touted as the favourite coming into the stage.

Matthews blasted ahead of Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) to win the violent 500-metre uphill kick.

>>> Chris Froome sensationally retakes Tour de France race lead as Matthews wins stage 14

“I think with being clear favourite it makes it difficult because everyone has probably been talking about you leading to the stage because everyone’s eyes are on you,” Matthews said.

“Not that they follow in the final, but try and get in front of you and make it harder for you to win. Luckily, I had some legs left to zip around to the front and get back in third wheel and do my sprint properly.”

Matthews, 26, won a stage of last year’s race while at Orica-BikeExchange, before switching to to Sunweb this winter. He had some pressure taken off him with team-mate Warren Barguil’s win in Foix 24 hours ago, but was still a marked man.


Watch: Tour de France stage 14 highlights


He and Greg Van Avermaet were two stand out favourites for the uphill finish, similar to the former Amstel Gold Race Cauberg conclusion. They both knew the arrival, with Van Avermaet having won ahead of Peter Sagan on the same finish in 2015.

“We discussed with BMC that we both had the same goal. In the end, we just decided to work together,” he added. “We said to each other we would stick together in the final and hopefully work together and stick to the front.”

“No one else were going to help me and Van Avermaet because were he favourites today”

>>> Chris Froome: ‘I never dreamt I’d take 24 seconds out of Aru’

They brought back the escape in the last five kilometres. The speeds and pressure grew with the classification men like Chris Froome, who regained the yellow jersey today, near the front with their team.

“We knew we had a good chance today. We put all the eggs in the basket today,” he said.

“It was getting a little hectic there but I had Nikias Arndt to support me. Impressive to have a guy to support me in that final, no one else had team-mate.”

>>> Five talking points from stgae 14 of the Tour de France

Matthews rode the stage in 2015, but at that point he did not figure due to rib fractures and could only manage 17th.

“Using that knowledge I had from 2015. I wasn’t able to test it properly with four broken ribs, but it was nice to do for ‘recon’ for this year.”


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2015 finish into Rodez helped Team Sky and Chris Froome to regain yellow jersey

Team Sky analysed the finish of stage 13 of the 2015 Tour de France to set them up to take back the yellow jersey in Rodez today.

Team Sky‘s masterplan in regaining control of the Tour de France in Rodez today was largely thanks to analysing the finale of a replica of this stage two years ago.

Chris Froome finished seventh in the Aveyron city, 25 seconds ahead of Fabio Aru (Astana) who lost his lead in the race and now sits 19 seconds adrift of the Briton.

Froome and Sky didn’t expect to regain the yellow jersey today, but knew that there was an opportunity to, given the stage’s steep climb at the end.

>>> Chris Froome: ‘I never dreamt I’d take 24 seconds out of Aru’

In 2015, stage 13 finished on exactly the same stretch of road with Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) – who was second today behind Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) – winning ahead of Peter Sagan.

But further back, the general classification riders remained as one, though there was huge splits among the rest of the peloton.

The team watched the closing kilometres of that stage repeatedly this morning, knowing that time gaps in the overall standings were possible. That assumption was proved correct, because as well as Aru’s losses, Romain Bardet and Simon Yates conceded four seconds each and Nairo Quintana 22.

“We knew that from two years ago this finish was pretty tricky,” Nico Portal, Sky’s sports director, said. “We knew it was a fast run in and there was splits then [in 2015].

>>> Fabio Aru on losing Tour de France lead: ‘I paid for being in a bad position’

“Six seconds to Aru was a lot. When you looked at yesterday’s stage, it was so hard and technical. We had a good plan with Landa but didn’t really gain time on the guys close [to Froome] so we said today if we stay calm and everything is in control we can really focus it on the finish and why not take it on, and be just behind the sprinters or the guys who will win the race.

“It worked out perfectly. It’s a big up. We got more time and Chris has gained more than 20 seconds on a 700m finish. “We knew [taking] two, three or four seconds [from Aru] would be possible, but 25? That’s amazing.”

Aru’s poor position in the stage’s final kilometres was relayed to Portal by Vasil Kiryienka who dropped back through the peloton after doing his work for the day. Portal then informed the rest of the team that Froome had a chance to put time into Aru.

>>> Five talking points from stage 14 of the Tour de France

“Kiri was doing a good job, pulling to make sure the guys were in a good position with five kilometres to go,” Portal regaled. “A lot of guys dropped on the last climb, the long drag, and he said said to me in Spanish that Aru was quite far down.

“I repeated that in English to the guys and said ‘guys, keep doing a good job, this is perfect.’ The plan was to lead Froomey out in the best possible position.

“We said we didn’t need to be first as it will be hard with the punchy teams. We had to make sure that Froome could climb as best as possible and finish the work off. We couldn’t imagine we could take 25 seconds out of Aru and get the yellow jersey by 19 seconds.”


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