Stage 13

Short stages always promise fireworks, and stage 13 didn’t disappoint, with a frenetic pace and lots of attacks. The most interesting story for me, was Landa going on the attack with Contador and pulling back significant time on Froome. I wonder how loyal he will be if he feels he is stronger that Froome in the final week. Landa has to regret 2015, when he helped Aru when he was much stronger, and surrendered a potential Giro win to Contador. I’d hope Sky would let him take his chance if Froome clearly can’t keep up with him. 

The second major story was the resurgence of Quintana. After being dropped early on stage 12, he bridged across to Contador and Landa comfortably and kept pace to the finish, pulling back big time on the leaders to bring him back within stricking distance. There are now eight riders with a reasonable shot at yellow. 

Finally, Froome tried several times to get away from Aru, who handled the attacks fairly easily. 

We now have two flatter stages, which should take the pressure off the GC guys until the rest day on Monday.

Stage 12

After a few (frankly) boring flat stages, where the peloton refused to let a break go, and Kittel was untouchable in the sprints, the return to the mountains brought much more excitement.

An early break by the rivals for the Green saw Mathews finally pip Kittel in a sprint, and then we had the final climb.

Both Aru and Bardet saw off a Froome challenge and rode away from him. Interestingly, so did Landa, who is probably more focused on next season than serving Froome. Froome losing the yellow will embolden these two to go on with it, and they will need to. Neither are as strong in the time trail as Froome, but they both have a real chance of wining if they can keep chipping time off him on each mountain stage.

As for the pre-race favourites, Contador continues to have terrible luck, with more crashes, although he’s still a solid chance of a top ten finish.

Quintana will be regretting the lost opportunity. With Froome looking weaker this year, what could have been had he not ridden the Giro. His bid to complete the grand tour set will have to wait till next year.

Stage 9

Well, stage 9 certainly didn’t disappoint, we got the sorting of the GC that was promised, although, not in the most satisfying way.

Both Thomas and Porte crashing out is a bitter pill and the race will suffer for it. Having both second place on GC, and the pre-race favourite (who’d survived the difficult part of the stage in contact with Froome) crash out is sure to make the race less exciting going into the final week. Froome will miss the support of Thomas, and BMC are now rudderless, having built their entire campaign around Porte.

As for the other favorites, Quintana failed to fire, dropping time, but managing to limit his losses. It looks like carrying a Giro in his legs is taking it’s toll.

Contador had a shocking ride, after setting up the stage for a long range attack, he cracked early and lost significant time, effectively putting him out of contention. You can never write him off completely though.  He’ shown in the past that he only needs a single good day to obliterate the field in the mountains, but I think age is catching up with him.

So we are left with Aru, Bardet and Uran, as the main obstacles to a fourth tour win for Froome. All three will need to make up further time on Froome if they want to wear the yellow in Paris, as Froome can safely expect to pull back a minute or more on each of them in the final time trial.

Aru looks to be the strongest of them. He has rode incredibly well in the mountains so far, and has youth on his side to aid in recovery. I’d really like to see Bardet fulfilled his potential though. It’s been a long time since a Frenchman has one their home tour, and Bardet is in a good position this year, with form and a strong team to support him.

Movistar and Trek both have strong climbers in the breakaway. Looks like a set up for an attack on the Colombier by Quintana or Contador to bridge across and have support along the valley floor. 

The Tour is really heating up now. With the pace of yesterday’s stage, and the toughness of today’s, I suspect we will see some serious sorting of the GC contenders by the end of stage 9. I’m looking  forward to the attacks on the final climb of the Mont Du Chat, and the excitement of the difficult descent as riders try and defend, or make back any gaps they’ve gained on the climb.

After watching the video a few times, I think the initial punishment for Sagan was more appropriate. Sagan clearly moved off his line to squeeze Cavandish. Sticking the elbow out looks more like trying to keep his balance than an attack.