in the 2017 Tour de France?
The yellow jersey lost, the yellow jersey won, the yellow jersey lost, the yellow jersey won. Action and attacks, this ain’t no TdF procession.
Yes the first two stages (10 & 11) were flat, sprinters stages, breakaway not allowed much and Kittel winning, so a bit predictable.
But we were soon back into the mountains, though was it technically a mountain that did for Chris Froome, rather the last few hundred metres of a landing strip on stage 12. After controlling the day magnificently with his team, Froome cracked as the runway rose. Losing enough time in a few metres for him to lose the yellow jersey to Aru. From 18 seconds up to 6 seconds down.
All the talk of Froome having unfinished business after his schlep up to Peyragudes in support of Brad Wiggins in 2012. That day Froome could have won the stage but was called back, Wiggins crossed the line with a smirk on his face. A combination of knowing he’d pretty much won the Tour and maybe thinking of the frustration of his lieutenant. Froome’s face wasn’t quite so happy, he looked somewhat knackered. One of the first signs of cracking we’ve seen from Froome on the Tour since he came to prominence, in that ’12 edition. Once he’d got the yellow jersey, he never had it taken off him by a GC contender before.
Two of Froome’s main competitors got some help post race, as Bardet and Uran both took drinks when they shouldn’t, along with others. The others, including Uran, initially were penalised 20 seconds but then it was pointed out the stage winner and France’s great hope had done the same. So did they punish him… of course not, all of a sudden all penalty seconds were dropped.
In an ironic twist Froome’s last man standing, Landa, moved up the standings and started a load of talk about a leadership contest, just as ’12.
This was extended the following day (stage 13) as Landa got into the breakaway with Contador. He never quite got into the
virtual yellow jersey (© Ned Boulting*) but people were questioning the riding of Froome behind as he and team mate Kwiatkowski did a lot of the chasing in the following group. Well, you can’t let others get time on you, even if it is one of your own team and even if they’re as far back as Contador and Quintana, who joined the leading group, were at the time.
Stage 14 was a team masterclass from Sky. They knew the route, knew that last few kilometres, knew what it could do and they did it. With Aru in yellow and no team mates, he was isolated too far back for the final spurt, as the stage ended much like that to Peyragudes, that 6 second lead ending up as a 18 second deficit.
But things aren’t going so smoothly on this Tour. Another mass AG2R attack on stage 15 saw Froome in difficulty, this was quickly followed by a mechanical for the Sky rider, getting Kwiatkowski’s rear wheel, he was paced back by Kiryienka, Henao and Nieve to just off what remained of the peloton before Landa dropped back and brought him back into the fold. Surprisingly neither of the two closest rivals attacked him again. Had the attack cooked Bardet?
Funnily enough on the two occasions AG2R have gone for a mass attack in the mountains, Chris Froome has crossed the line before Bardet.
The first to sacrificed himself on the day was Kwiatkowski, how much work has Kwiatkowski done? When G went down someone had to stand up and Kwiatkowski did that and more. The one time World Champion has been a monster on the road. Invaluable. Rowe is the team captain but once he’s gone Kwiatkowski stands up and leads. From powering up mountains to screaming in the radio when he’s seen Aru struggling. It’s been a hell of a performance from the young Pole.
One thing is, on Stage 15 as Froome made his own way up the last climb he was booed by the French crowd. Compare and contrast that with the way Thomas Voeckler was cheered on by the British crowd when he won the Tour de Yorkshire last year.
One week to go, will it match these last two…
* see Ned Boulting’s commentary on ITV4 getting great praise, well all those I know watching are screaming at him to STFU and praying for his mic to go out or the other commentary team back in Britain. From the latter Michael Hutchinson and Philippa York (once Robert Millar) have been excellent additions.
David Millar has been his usual brilliant self, that’s when he can get a word in edgeways. Boulting either interrupting him or not being able to come to a stop when he hears Millar starting to comment. He doesn’t need to fill every second of every stage with jibber jabber. Virtual jerseys are irrelevant.