They couldn’t stop Sky, they can’t stop Ineos

Summary - Stage 16 to Stage 21 - Tour de France 2019

what will they do next?

When Sky announced the end of their support for the cycle team how many of the other teams thought this was it, their chance because Sky was gone and the Tour de France was there for everyone?

It was going to be the end of Dave Brailsford. The end of the Sky domination. The end of a Sky rider stood atop the podium come Paris. Then the richest man in Britain stepped in. Followed by a couple of crashes.

And then a Team Ineos rider is stood on the top step of the podium on the Champs-Elysees waring the yellow jersey… with another Ineos rider stood next to him in second place.

Egan Bernal on the top spot. Being just 22 it meant the white jersey went with him as well and quite frankly he was robbed of a third jersey as the polka dot King of the Mountains (KoM) should have been his as well.

As said in the last post the race organisers made the course for their chosen home rider, Roman Bardet. They cut the time trialling – which he’s inept at and unlike others has never got better, does he bother trying? – they put a climb in the TT to even it out for him. They put in big mountains. They put in a finish in his home town. And he was gone almost before it stared. In the end he went after the KoM but was nowhere as the penultimate stage in the Alps was playing out. Bernal would have walked that stage picking up enough mountain points to take the polka-dot jersey.

Brailsford was asked after that curtailed stage if he didn’t mind winning due to stopping of the stage. The look on his face said it all. A look of disgust, contempt and the boredom of having to deal with the usual Sky haters. I didn’t hear what he fully had to say but the start said enough. Bernal was off. He was gone. There was no coming back.

Yes Julian Alaphilippe had lit up the Tour. His riding was phenomenal and his descending on the l’Iseran was going to something special but he wasn’t going to catch Bernal. The time differences showed that while he was gaining on the group of GC contenders he wasn’t catching Bernal and Yates, further up the road. If he’d caught that other group they would have left him to do the work. It wouldn’t be in their interest to drag him up the final climb. And as he’d been left behind on the l’Iseran and then was left behind on the one mountain the following day, chances are he would have lost far more time on the the climb to Tignes than the gap over the top of the l’Iseran, which was used for the stage result. The gap that put Bernal in yellow, after all the confusion.

Some people say this was an anticlimax after what had been such an engrossing Tour and yes I suppose we didn’t see a race up that final climb on stage 19 and stage 20 was dramatically shortened and flattened out for a chunk but would the result have been any different? As said Alaphilippe couldn’t last on the one mountain of stage 20 how would he have fared with two climbs coming before it? And as for the placings behind Thomas, well if Kruijswijk and Buchmann had had anything then Bernal and Thomas wouldn’t have come over the line at Val Thorens arm in arm, with the third and fourth place riders not in sight.

Well the organisers got one wish, there was no Ineos train at the front of the peloton, riding everyone into the dirt. In fact the team was pretty poor really. Rowe was thrown off for his altercation with Tony Martin which no one seemed to think was a red card offence except the judges who looked at the two teams sitting between the Frenchman in yellow and the Frenchman in fourth spot losing a man each. But the rest, apart from van Baarle, did a disappearing act this Tour, in a manner never seen before as Sky. Castroviejo did some decent work, Moscon and Kwiatkowski were dropped very early most days a complete turn around to their performances last year, while you never knew what Poels was going to turn up. Mostly it was one that didn’t. Be interesting to hear what went wrong.

But without that lead train and without any massive help in the mountains Ineos have the top two riders in GC. Yes they’ve broken the stranglehold Britain has had on the race victory over the last few years but what will they have to do to take it off Bernal?

He’s just 22 years old, as he and many others have pointed out since he first took the yellow jersey. He probably shouldn’t have even been at this race but for a training crash that put him out of the Giro added with Froome’s crash that put him out of this race. And here he is the first Colombian to win the biggest race. This was meant to be Quintana wasn’t it? The great Colombian hope. It’s funny Movistar won the team prize – something only they seem that bothered about, Trek put in a bit of a effort when Porte again cracked and dashed any GC hope but it’s a target for the Spanish team – yet they seem to be less of a team than any of them. In the first two weeks they rode away from Quintana and then when he had his one last stand, allowed in the breakaway – which shows how little was thought of his chances – his team powered at the front of the GC group to close him down, effectively removing him from the podium in the process. And when interviewed the likes of Landa weren’t exactly glowing in the praise of “their” Colombian.

Compare and contrast with Geraint Thomas as he lost his title to his team-mate Egan Bernal. G couldn’t be more happy for the kid and he knows it’s gonna be hard to get it back. 22 and with a sensible head on his shoulders, injury permitting he could dominate this race like no one else. Though next year for Ineos who will be team leader, the reigning champion, the previous champion or the four time champion?

It was a hell of a race. It had everything. A great advert for the sport in Julian Alaphilippe who added that dash of panache, the possibility of the first home rider to triumph in 34 years, to crazy moments with a hail storm stopping a stage when the riders had been worried about extreme heat… but in the end Dave Brailsford’s rider was stood on the top step of the podium, in Paris, wearing the yellow jersey… the French just can’t win, can they…

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