Slightly different format this week.

Cavendish

The rest day couldn’t come soon enough for Cavendish, and the other sprinters, although it didn’t come soon enough for Demare or Merlier who were eliminated on the road to Tignes. My prediction was Cav would get to 33 and that would be that, eliminated on the Ventoux stage. I already talked about my hat eating recipe, with a sauce au poivre in my Ventoux report. But it was how he racked up stage win #3 for this tour and #33 in total. It was a blast from the HTC past the way Deceuninck-QuickStep rode that stage, perfectly controlled through the day, the breakaway never had a chance. Seeing the world champ pulling on the front is a wonderful sight. Although I remember 2012 and Cav doing the same for Wiggins. The lead out was text book, no one stood a chance. Michael Mørkøv delivered the Manx missile 150m from the line, Van Aert and Philipsen stuck their noses out into the wind, but it was all over by then and Cav’s arms were in the air.

I already ate my words on the Ventoux report, with Cav being encouraged up the double ascent of the Giant of Provence. I heard today there were photos of Bouhani holding onto the team car. I guess you can’t hide these days.

Cavendish’s 34th win was a less convincing win. In his interviews I get the impression he is on his hands and knees already. But after the sprint teams took a day off the previous day, the flatter stages were running out for Cavendish to equal Eddy Merkcx’s record, especially before 4 tough days in the Pyrenees, so Friday was his last chance, as who knows what might happen. It looked like it could be another Deceuninck-QuickStep controlled stage, but with a big crash taking out Time “The Tractor” Declercq the lost the big engine that would drag the breakaway back. So it was once again left to the rest of the team, and mainly the World Champ, Alaphilippe, to control the break and gradually bring them back. They seemed to have it under control but Cav lost the wheels on the chaotic run in to town. Within the final kilometer he managed to find Mørkøvs wheel and with the line approaching stuck his wheel out to come around Mørkøv. I think the Dane had to tickle the anchors a bit to let Cav take his 4th win and equal Eddy’s record of 34 stage victories in the Tour.

Can he now beat the record? I did some googling about how the time cut is calculated. Geez, it’s complicated. but last nights stage was not that hard in comparison to some to come, and the Grupetto had about 42 minutes after the winner to be safe. So that being said Cav might actually make it to Paris. Unless of course he really is totally buggered.

Break-aways

There had not been any breakaways that had succeeded yet in this Tour. Not unusual after week one, but you normally get one maybe after the rest day. However, after the Ventoux stage, I think everyone wanted another rest day, so all the sprint teams took a day off. a 13 man breakaway went at the beginning of the day, Peloton went “Giddy-up” slipped it into 2nd gear and let them go. It was one of cyclings nice guys Nils Politt who succeeded in taking his first tour victory. There were a few sprinters in the breakaway, trying to get a few points for the green jersey, so he attacked not once, but twice to get rid of them. He rode the last 12km solo to take a famous victory. It’s hard to believe that this is probably the only breakaway that will suceed this tour. There are mountain stages and sprint stages left, so suspect any more breaks with be futile.

The Mountains

I suppose Stage 14 on Saturday was a breakaway, but with three 2nd category climb, and two 3rd categories I count that as a mountain stage, albeit a small mountain. It was the hors d’oeuvre for what was about to come over the following 4 days, not including the rest day. The favourites all took it easy as did the sprinters who were even further back. But it still made for an exciting race as Frenchman Guillaume Martin had slipped into the break. He was 9th overall at the start of the day and by the end of it would vault himself into 2nd. Incidentally Guillaume is French for Liam, and my 2nd name is Martin. So I have a bit of affinity with the Frenchman, sharing a name. In the race however, Bauke Mollema was the strongest on the day, dropping the rest of his breakaway buddies on the 5th climb of the day, increasing his lead to about a minute as he went over the final climb, and they would never see him again as the final 17km were mainly downhill. A deserved win after a 3rd place on the Ventoux stage.

Last night was the first proper night in the Pyrenees with three 1st Cats and a 2nd cat. And it was a group of 2nd category climbers who got away from the Peloton to contest the stage win. One of the interesting competitions in this years tour seems to be the Polka-dot jersey. It has changed hands a few times and there are four riders in a few points of each other, Woods, Poels, Quintana and Van Aert. It was these four riders who were in the break and contesting the points. the day started off with Woods in the jersey, but would finish with Poels puting on the jersey he had held during the first week. I suspect it will change hands a few more times in the next 4 days… One rider not interested in the jersey was Sepp Kuss, the American from Colorado. It was in interesting fact I heard while watching, that the last American victory in the Tour was Tyler Farrar, 10 years ago, his only individual Tour de France stage win. Kuss, last year was Roglic’s key mountain domestique, and he announced himself as a great climber. But with Roglic crashing out, that opened the door for Kuss to have a crack himself, and that is exactly what he did while the other squabbled over polka dot points. He only had 20 seconds on Valverde going into the final descent, but Valverde had a couple of moments, so decided keeping skin was more important than a stage win.

What I found really interesting was the the silliness in the Yellow jersey group. On the final climb both Ben O’Conner and Jonas Vingegaard attacked the group. What on earth were they thinking? There was a 15km descent after the final climb, and Pogacar is a great descender. Even if they did drop him by a few seconds, he was always going to get back on. in the end it almost cost the exuberant O’Conner a place as his efforts caused him to get dropped just before the top of the climb. In the end he managed to get back on and finish in the group. The yo-yo, Guillaume Martin, who started the day in 2nd, got dropped on the descent before the last climb. That boy needs to eat a few more pies. The amount of extra energy he used trying to get back on on the descent cost him a podium, finishing the day in 9th place.

The last news I heard was that the 41 year old Valverde has signed a new 10 year contract with Movistar to take him to his 51st birthday. He said he would then consider his retirement, or whether he might continue for a few more years.