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Geraint Thomas is wearing the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. He has won back-to-back stages in the Alps. Thursday marked the second straight day that he padded his lead over Sky teammate and defending Tour champ Chris Froome.
At least for now, however, Thomas continues to toe the party line.
“Froomey is still our leader. He knows how to race three weeks,” Thomas said after his triumph in stage 12. “Who knows? Anything can happen to me. I could lose 10 minutes.”
Thomas stayed safe through a hectic first nine stages and benefited from an excellent team time trial to put himself in great shape in the GC before the Tour arrived in the Alps. Since then, however, he has confirmed his credentials with two brilliant rides high up in the mountains. He stormed into yellow with a stage 11 victory Wednesday and rode to a second win on Thursday atop one of cycling’s best-known climbs, the Alpe d’Huez.
The Welshman survived a brutal final few kilometers on the switchbacks and then turned on the afterburners in the last few hundred meters to win the day.
“Even as I crossed the line, it was, ‘Surely there is someone still up the road,'” he said. “Insane, like not even in my wildest dreams did I think I would win at Alpe d’Huez, and to do it in the yellow jersey …”Geraint Thomas led out the sprint and won atop Alpe d’Huez. Photo: Chris Graythen | Getty Images
Thomas now finds himself 1:39 ahead of Froome in the general classification, with third-placed Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) a further 11 seconds back. With the Alpine stages done, Thomas will — barring a crash — likely remain in yellow through the second rest day.
Sky started this Tour de France featuring Froome as the leader, with Thomas given wildcard status after years of putting in loyal domestique work. With Froome staring down a lingering anti-doping case and coming off a hard-earned win at the Giro d’Italia, it was logical for Sky to have a second option.
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Analysis: Craddock’s data reveals extreme demands of TourAmerican Lawson Craddock continues to churn away stage after stage through the Alps, despite a broken shoulder.
Few expected that second option would enjoy a commanding race lead after the midway point of the Tour de France. And he is showing no signs of slowing down.
Froome has described Sky as being in an “amazing position” with two riders so well-placed after stage 11.
Sky principal Dave Brailsford echoed that after Thomas doubled up on stage 12.
“It doesn’t change that much, it’s still a similar position as we were in yesterday. It’s still a nice position to be in,” he said.Thomas has publicly remained loyal to Froome in interviews. He seemed to back that up, if only briefly, on the road Thursday. When domestique Egan Bernal pulled off the front for Sky, it was Thomas who hit the front to pull back an attacking Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale). From there, he mostly followed wheels. Froome was the only one of the Sky duo to put in a sustained attack, one that was ultimately reeled in by Dumoulin.
That said, Thomas did go all in for his own stage victory aspirations in the finale, for the second day running — and for the second day running he pulled it off.
He says he’s just trying to make the best of his form for now, without knowing what the full three weeks will hold for him. After all, Thomas has never landed even a top 10 result in a grand tour. It remains to be seen whether he can keep this up into the Pyrenees.
“It would be nice [to win the Tour] but I’m tired, everyone is tired,” he said. “You don’t know what is going to happen. I am just going to try to enjoy tomorrow.”Fred Dreier contributed to this report from L’Alpe d’Huez, France.
Read the full article at Thomas gains time but stands behind Froome on

On a day when his EF Education First-Drapac team leader Rigoberto Urán abandoned the race, American Lawson Craddock continued to churn away stage after stage through the Alps, despite suffering a broken shoulder on stage 1.
Through Tour de France stage 11, Craddock had ridden for 49.5 hours, 1,156 miles, averaged 271 watts (normalized power), gained 70,900 feet in elevation, and averaged a heart rate of 137 beats per minute.
“Everyday has gotten a bit better for sure,” Craddock said after stage 12, which finished atop Alpe d’Huez. “Obviously the mountains are quite a bit different than the first nine stages. It’s just been a lot more torque on [the shoulder] than usual when I stand and get up. I was really happy just to make it through today’s stage. It was carnage out there.”Through stage 11, Craddock rode over 1,100 miles, nearly 71,000 feet, and averaged 271 Watts.
We first took a look at Craddock’s Whoop data after stage 4. As a reminder, it’s helpful to understand how the Whoop strap works. The “strain” score is a summary of cardiovascular load, or how hard the heart is working. It measures this by analyzing heart rates relative to your heart rate zones. The more time you spend in the upper reaches, the higher your strain score gets, on a scale from 0 to 21. It is a logarithmic metric, rather than linear, meaning the higher you get on the scale, the more difficult it is to build strain.
The “recovery” score is, simply, an athlete’s capacity to take on strain. In the morning, an athlete generates a recovery score (on a scale from 0 to 100; scores closer to 100 indicate an athlete has more capacity, both physically and mentally, to deal with strain). The metrics which comprise recovery are heart rate, heart rate variability, and sleep performance.
Let’s take another look at the Texan’s Whoop data to better understand the extreme physical demands of the Tour de France. Through stage 11, Craddock averaged a recovery score of 46 percent, a strain score of 19.6, and average sleep of seven hours and eight minutes, or 72 percent of what he needed.Craddock’s Whoop “strain” scores for the past two weeks. CLICK TO ENLARGE
Since the Tour began, Craddock has accumulated a string of incredibly high strain scores. He posted his highest, 20.7 (out of a possible 21), on stage 12 to Alpe d’Huez. His lowest score, 18.3, came during the team time trial, when he was able to sit up during the last portion of the stage after dropping behind his teammates. It’s worth reminding that Craddock has been posting such scores just to make the time cut, and is obviously not competing at the front of the race. While we can’t compare his figures to those of the GC contenders, it’s fair to say that everyone at the Tour is pushing himself to the limit day after day. In Craddock’s case, that has meant altering his riding technique in order to complete the stages.
“I’m definitely riding a lot differently,” he said. “It’s not ideal. You spend seven months riding in one position and then at the Tour you have to switch it around a bit. My body has been adjusting.
I’m having to pull up with the pedals a lot more, instead of using a fluid pedal motion. I’m using my hamstrings a lot more than I usually do. And I’m feeling it a bit. I’m still here, today was one of my better days.”Craddock’s Whoop “recovery” scores for the past two weeks. CLICK TO ENLARGE
If we look at Craddock’s recovery scores during the past two weeks, we notice that he’s actually improving from the place he was at coming into the Tour. Ironically, Craddock noted how the few days prior to the Tour are not ideal preparation for one of the most demanding athletic competitions in the world.
“The few days running into the start of the Tour de France are unlike any other,” Craddock said. “The stress surrounding the race is almost worse than the actual stress during the race.”
In the past week, Craddock has posted two good (green) recovery scores. The first followed the flat stage 8 into Amiens. Following a much-needed rest day on Monday, Craddock awoke with a 70 percent recovery.
“While I’ve made improvements in my recovery, I’m still quite sore from the Roubaix stage,” he said. “Today was a rough day for me. I felt better than expected on the first climb, but that feeling was short lived. I suffered over the second mountain pass, but once we hit Col de Romme I was cooked. I struggled mightily to maintain contact with the gruppetto, and forced myself to only look at the next kilometer.”
Despite the strenuous ride in stage 11 on July 18, Craddock still managed a yellow recovery, after getting nearly eight hours of sleep.
“Stage 11 was a nasty day,” his coach Jim Miller said. “The stage had 11,000 feet of climbing, over which Lawson posted a 261 TSS and a 308 Watts normalized power for 4 hours and 10 minutes. And with all that, he still finished 26 minutes behind the stage winner. It is hard to convey just how good these guys are.”
His sleep data reveals that over the past two weeks he’s averaging almost nine hours in bed per night, and sleeping more than the average athlete in Whoop’s database during this same time period. He’ll need to continue to rest and recover as hard as he rides to combat the high strains he’s posting.
“The last three days that have been extremely difficult,” Craddock said. “Straight out of the rest day they threw everything at us. A lot of the peloton was in pure survival mode today so yeah, I’m really happy just to make it through another day at the Tour.”
Read the full article at Analysis: Craddock’s data reveals extreme demands of Tour on

For a brief moment, three kilometers from the top of Alpe d’Huez, a chink appeared in Chris Froome‘s armor, and Tom Dumoulin saw it.
Sky’s defending champion had spun up the road in his familiar style, head down, elbows out. It looked like he was on his way to his first Tour de France victory on the famous climb in stage 12. But with a churning tempo behind, Dumoulin chased Froome down, nevermind the fact that he was marked all the way by Sky’s Geraint Thomas, wearing yellow.
Now, he and his Sunweb team director Luke Roberts say they think they’ve cracked the code to beat Team Sky.
“Yeah, I learned they try to keep both in GC and don’t ride behind each other, and Froome had the chance to attack and G [Thomas] didn’t. So, that’s good to know for the future,” Dumoulin said.
Dumoulin is perhaps the only rider with a legitimate chance of challenging either Thomas and Froome in the overall. He is third overall after stage 12, 1:50 behind. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) is fourth, 2:37 behind, but his future is unclear following a crash that sent him to the hospital after Thursday’s stage.
After that duo of former grand tour winners, the field thins out. Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) is fifth, 2:46 back but completely unproven as a GC leader in three-week races. Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) is next, 3:07 behind in sixth but his weakness as a time trial rider could spoil his Tour on stage 20‘s ITT. Plus he has only four teammates left in the race. Movistar’s Nairo Quintana is the only other proven grand tour winner in the top 10, ninth and 4:13 behind after faltering on Alpe d’Huez.The group of GC favorites approached the Alpe d’Huez summit finish. Photo: Tim de Waele | Getty Images
So it is up to Dumoulin to challenge Sky. Roberts says that, based on what he saw in the Alps, the possibility to take yellow remains.
“In the last two days they’ve shown their weakness,” said Roberts. “They have a high level with five-six riders. They can ride a hard tempo, but they can’t make Geraint go much faster. Bernal was there and had a good day today. But then Thomas himself was put on the front to pull relatively early. Should they start to feel the effects of the Alps in the Pyrenees, they could show weaknesses.”
Plus, Roberts and the Sunweb team should be encouraged by Dumoulin’s fighting spirit and confidence. After stage 12, the Dutchman fumed.
“I wanted to win today,” Dumoulin said. “I let myself down and made a mistake with shifting in the finale and it was my fault. It was lost before the sprint started. I think I had a chance. Thomas was slightly stronger, but if I played it smart I would have had a start and now it was lost.”Dumoulin chased down Froome with Thomas right on his wheel. Photo: Tim de Waele | Getty Images
Dumoulin went on to say he felt he was stronger than Froome on the day and that Thomas sat on his wheel when the wind picked up. “That is the advantage of having two guys in the GC,” he added.
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After a flat stage 13 and two medium-mountain stages through the weekend, the Tour reaches the Pyrenees Tuesday. That is where Dumoulin and his Sunweb team will need to determine the best tactic to unseat Team Sky.
“We’ll have to assess after Monday as we head into the Pyrenees,” Roberts added. “Is Thomas still a contender or is he showing weakness into the last week? Do we need to keep the gap close to Froome and then go toward the final TT or do we need to bring some time back on Thomas? We’ll have to see how it pans out.”
Team tactics and missed shifts aside, Dumoulin should be able to count on one thing in the Tour’s second half. Stage 20’s 31-kilometer time trial through French Basque Country will be an ideal day for the world time trial champion to challenge whichever Sky rider is wearing yellow.Fred Dreier contributed to this report from L’Alpe d’Huez, France.
Read the full article at Dumoulin, Sunweb say they’ve found Team Sky’s weakness on

ALPE D’HUEZ, France (VN) — Everyone in the Tour de France peloton seems to be on their knees after three days across the Alps. Except Team Sky.Sprinters are abandoning, pre-race favorites are fading, yet Team Sky looks as strong as ever with Geraint Thomas in yellow and Chris Froome tucked in at second.
Yet Movistar’s Mikel Landa sees a ray of light. The former Sky rider is sensing a few fractures in Sky’s Fortress Froome.
“We are seeing Sky strong, but maybe they’re not as strong as a unit as they have been before,” Landa said after Thursday’s stage 12. “That gives us a little bit of hope to be able to do something in the Pyrénées.”
Landa rode two seasons in Sky colors and was instrumental in helping Froome win last year’s Tour en route to his own fourth place overall.
From the outside, Sky might seem as strong as ever. Landa, however, sees hints of an opening to attack Sky’s flanks.
“These three days have been brutal in the Alps and we saw Sky a little bit more tired as well,” Landa continued. “If there’s an opening, we have to be ready to take it.”
Mikel Landa rolled up to the start of stage 10 bandaged from a fall on the cobblestones, but he had no trouble in the Tour’s first Alpine stage. Photo: Chris Graythen | Getty Images
Landa’s take might seem a little off-kilter considering how Thomas has won two stages in a row and holds a commanding lead over his teammate and defending Tour champ Froome.
But Landa is also seeing how Thomas and Froome might start to fray at the edges if the leadership issue isn’t resolved. Team Sky continues to say its first bet is on Froome.
“I don’t know how they will handle [leadership],” he said. “Sky is always strong, and Froome is always good in a grand tour, but the Tour is far from over. We have to keep fighting, be it the podium, a stage win, or whatever.”
Movistar has done its best to take it to Team Sky for two days in a row with mixed results. Alejandro Valverde attacked Wednesday and Thursday but lost time, while Nairo Quintana struggled to keep pace Thursday and on Alpe d’Huez lost 47 seconds to Thomas. Landa rode through back pain to fight for the stage 12 win, crossing the line fifth at seven seconds back. Landa, who crashed heavily on the cobblestone stage, leads the Movistar “blues” in seventh at 3:13 back.
“My back was hurting even worse today than it was yesterday. When I make a hard push, I can feel I am losing power,” Landa said. “I gave it a little run there at the end, they caught me, and I ended up even losing a little bit more.
“I am very satisfied, to tell the truth. On the first climb and descent, I was really suffering, and I had in mind to go home. That things turned around and I was able to be in the fight leaves me very satisfied.”
Landa vows to keep fighting and is emerging as Movistar’s best GC candidate after the team came to the Tour with three options.
“I have a problem; I know I should be there, but my crash at Roubaix is really impacting me,” Landa said. “The last week the heart and the head will count for even more.”
Read the full article at Landa: Maybe Sky isn’t as strong as before on

On a Tour de France stage that finished with a thrilling GC showdown on the Alpe d’Huez, early escapee Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) gave the day’s most stirring performance.
The Dutchman soloed out of the breakaway 72 kilometers from the line on Thursday’s stage 12. For a while, it seemed like he might take the stage and perhaps even the yellow jersey. Unfortunately for Kruijswijk, the final climb saw Egan Bernal (Sky) set a vicious tempo in the chase, and then a knockout battle among the GC riders.
Kruijswijk’s advantage evaporated and he was left with nothing but the day’s combativity award.
“It’s painful. This was one of the stages that was high on my list,” Kruijswijk said after the finish. “It’s a big disappointment for me, but I’ll keep on fighting.”
Even if he came up short, Kruijswijk’s impressive ride will have his team optimistic that the next mountain raid might succeed.
“A lot of respect for my roomie and what he did. He is riding really strong, really relaxed this Tour,” LottoNL’s Robert Gesink said. “I think he’s going to do some more impressive stuff in the day’s ahead.”
Kruijswijk started the day 2:40 down on race leader Geraint Thomas (Sky). That made it all the more interesting when he and Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde decided to have a go in the breakaway. The other escapees were none-too-pleased to have a pair of GC outsiders for company, but the peloton allowed the riders up the road to work up a decent advantage nonetheless.
Kruijswijk had Gesink in the break as it forged up the day’s first climb, the Col de la Madeleine.
“On the bottom of Madeleine, it was quite hectic. Everyone wanted to be in the break it seemed, and also some of GC riders went,” Gesink said. “Stevie [Kruijswijk] was there and we made the best of it together.”Kruijswijk was one of the surprise riders in stage 12’s breakaway given his standing in the overall. Photo: Justin Setterfield | Getty Images
After the hors categorie Col de la Madeleine and the category 2 Lacets de Montvernier, Kruijswijk, Valverde, and Pierre Rolland (EF Education First-Drapac) found themselves in the lead on the lower slopes of the day’s penultimate climb, the Croix de Fer. That’s when Kruijswijk threw his Hail Mary, powering away solo on the 29-kilometer climb, with an ascent of the Alpe d’Huez still to climb.
Incredibly, he went up and over the Croix de Fer summit with a six-minute advantage, giving Dutch fans reason to believe in his chances of the stage win at the very least. A Sky-led pack of chasers, however, cut his gap significantly on the ensuing descent and the flat run-in to the Alpe d’Huez.
“Sky came together as a team and did a lot of pulling in the valley. It was quite quick towards Alpe d’Huez,” Gesink said. “Solo, it takes a lot of energy out of you.”
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He started the final climb with a gap of a little over four minutes. The tireless efforts of Egan Bernal ate into that advantage and soon the yellow jersey was out of reach. Then the stage win came into question. Kruijswijk’s advantage was down to one minute with five kilometers left to race — and finally, Bernal pulled off the front and left the GC favorites to battle it out.
The back-and-forth of attacks spelled the end for Kruijswijk. Chris Froome (Sky) surged past 3.5 kilometers from the summit, followed by a selection of other overall contenders. From that point on, it was a matter of limiting the time losses in the general classification for Kruijswijk.
On the bright side for LottoNL-Jumbo, Primoz Roglic managed to hang with the GC favorites most of the way up the final climb, finishing just 13 seconds down on stage winner Thomas. Kruijswijk came home inside of a minute on Thomas. Fellow early escapee Valverde, by comparison, ultimately gave up over four minutes on the day.
As the Tour leaves the Alps, Roglic sits fifth overall, with Kruijswijk eighth on GC. Considering the brutal Alpine terrain the Tour has now traversed and the immense strength Sky has shown so far in the race, LottoNL should be pleased to still have a pair of riders inside the top-10 overall.
Kruijswijk will have a chance to recover Friday as the Tour takes on a mostly flat stage 13. Before long, however, the race will reach the Pyrenees. Don’t be surprised to see the Dutchman giving it another go when the road tilts upward again.Andrew Hood and Fred Dreier contributed to this report from L’Alpe d’Huez, France.
Read the full article at Kruijswijk resolute after stage 12 heartbreak on

A win atop Alpe d’Huez is a crowning achievement for any cyclist, especially a GC favorite in the Tour de France. Yet in his four times racing up the 21 hairpin bends, Chris Froome has never come home first.
Thursday’s stage 12 will likely go down as a particularly sour vintage of Alpe d’Huez for the Brit.
Throughout the 13.8-kilometer summit finish, he was harangued by the public lining the roadway with boos and jeers. His teammate Geraint Thomas sprinted to win the stage, wearing the yellow jersey. He is the first yellow jersey-wearer since Lance Armstrong to win on the Alpe.
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Thomas was not perturbed by the verbal abuse.
“People have their opinions, and that’s fine,” said Thomas. “As long as they don’t affect the race that’s the main thing.”
Froome did not speak to media after the finish of stage 12. After the three-day gauntlet of Alpine stages, he is 1:39 behind Thomas.
Thomas was also booed when he took the podium following his victory.
However, on his way to finishing fourth, some reports indicated that Froome endured more than just jeers, that one fan spat on him.
“Yeah, I didn’t see that but if people don’t like Sky and want to boo that is fine, do all you like but let us race, don’t affect the race, don’t touch the riders don’t spit at us,” Thomas added. “Have a bit of decency. Voice your opinion all you want but let us to the racing.”
At one point, a fan lunged at Froome on the final climb. Fortunately, he did not interfere with the race.

Some idiot having a go at Froome #TDF2018
— Trevor Ward #FBPE (@willwrite4cake) July 19, 2018
Former Tour de France stage winner and three-time green jersey winner Robbie McEwan, who now does TV commentary on the Tour, posted a photo of a fan being arrested. Although he said this fan was the one who punched Froome, the man looks to be wearing different clothing.

The “fan” who punched Froome during the climb of Alp d’Huez. Cuffed & processed
— Robbie McEwen (@mcewenrobbie) July 19, 2018
Andrew Hood and Fred Dreier contributed to this report from L’Alpe d’Huez, France. 
Read the full article at Froome endures abuse on Alpe d’Huez on

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) took his second consecutive victory at the Tour de France and also made history by winning atop the iconic Alpe d'Huez while wearing the race leader's yellow jersey. The Welshman reached the finish of the legendary 13.8km climb with a select group of four others, and opened his sprint with 300 metres to go after the decisive left turn, crossing the line ahead of Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), while his Team Sky teammate Chris Froome was fourth and Mikel Landa (Movistar) fifth. Thanks a two-second gap and a ten-second time bonus, Thomas increased his lead in the overall classification to 1:39 ahead of four-time overall champion Froome and 1:50 ahead of Dumoulin.ADVERTISEMENT It was an all-out battle through the 21 hairpins of Alpe d'Huez, and in the end it came down to five remaining contenders as Thomas and Froome each responded to the inevitable and searing attacks that came from both Bardet and Dumoulin, while Landa spent much of that time just trying to hang on, yo-yoing off the back of his rivals' high speeds. A chasing Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), who was accidentally taken down by a police motorbike squeeze with around four kilometres to go, managed to climb back on his bike and continue to pursue the five leaders with Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) on his wheel. They were not able to make contact before the finish line, and Roglic crossed the line in sixth and Nibali seventh, both 13 seconds after Thomas. "Honestly, I'm speechless," Thomas said while shaking his head in disbelief in the post-race interview. "I don't know what to say. There is not a chance in hell that I thought I was going to win today. A fight to the finish   How it unfolded The battle on the Croix-de-Fer
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ALPE D’HUEZ, France (VN) — This year’s Tour de France is proving too punishing for the peloton’s top sprinters.
A day after Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) were time-cut, several more marquee sprinters abandoned the Tour en route to Alpe d’Huez on Thursday.
André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and two-time Tour stage-winners this year Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step) abandoned stage 12.
All three pulled off as a dangerous breakaway chugged clear on the brutal three-climb stage across the Alps. With some GC threats in the breakaway group, including Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) who started the stage sixth overall, the main pack led by Team Sky set a menacing pace. The peloton fractured early and several top names pulled the plug on their respective 2018 Tour.
The high-profile abandons have immediate implications.
First, Gaviria’s exit all but assures Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) a record-tying sixth green jersey if he makes it to Paris. Gaviria was the only rider challenging Sagan up to now.
Second, the departures mean more chances for the sprinters still in the race for the three sprint-likely stages remaining in the Tour.
Other riders to abandon include Tony Gallopin, a key helper to Romain Bardet, who only has four Ag2r La Mondiale teammates left in the race.
EF-Drapac’s Rigoberto Urán, second overall last year, also did not start in the wake of heavy injuries from his crash in stage 9 on the cobblestones.
Greipel’s Lotto-Soudal teammate Marcel Sieberg is also out, as is another lead-out man, Katusha-Alpecin’s Rick Zabel, who was granted clemency by the race jury on Wednesday after finishing mere seconds after the day’s time cut.
Read the full article at Sprinters keep suffering in Alps as Gaviria, Groenewegen abandon on

BOURG-SAINT-MAURICE, France (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali and his Bahrain-Merida team are making a plan to overthrow Team Sky for the Tour de France victory.
His masseur Michele Pallini works his muscles and coach Paolo Slongo looks over the Tour’s road book. Slongo checks Nibali has everything he needs before the Alpe d’Huez and steps off the bus.
“Vincenzo is not racing only for the podium or a placing in Paris, he has a winner’s mentality. He is, and he believes, that he’s a champion,” Slongo said.
“For him to attack from far out is not a scary thought. Sooner or later, he’s going to do something to try to win this Tour.”
Nibali sits fourth overall, 2:14 minutes from leader Geraint Thomas. Thomas and his Sky teammate Chris Froome seem to have a firm grip on this Tour de France only half way into the race.
In the Bahrain team, they are saying that Team Sky is on another planet. And budget-wise, the British team is.Nibali said the other day that maybe budget caps would solve the problem. Sky races with around $42 million a year. Bahrain-Merida’s budget is more or less $15 million.Vincenzo Nibali led teh GC gorup down the final descent of the day in stage 10. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images
The Sicilian, 33, won the Tour de France in 2014. He counts two overall winner trophies from the Giro d’Italia. And the third grand tour, the Vuelta a España, he won in 2010.
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As Slongo said, he is not aiming for a podium spot, and certainly not one like 2012 when he finished third behind Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. He wants to win with what the Italians call “grinta” — the same showmanship/strength mix that saw him ride free on the Poggio and win the Milano-Sanremo this March.
“Sky is unbelievable, really strong,” Nibali said. “But come on, there are still some stages left for us.”
“If Sky remains like this for the rest of the Tour, and above all in the third week, it’s going to be impossible to break them,” said Slongo.
“Thomas and Froome, the team, gave a show of force on La Rosière. Thomas looks stronger, and if I was him, I’d name myself as the leader.
“What we are looking over in the book is the many difficulties to come. Maybe someone will crack, especially those that came off the Giro d’Italia. Froome raced it, Vincenzo didn’t. Based on how he’s feeling, maybe in the third week, we can come up with something.”
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ANNECY, France (VN) — For cycling fans who are bored by this year’s Tour de France, a more exciting viewing experience may lie within the women’s peloton, says South African rider Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio. The 32-year-old believes women’s racing can gain attention through exciting, aggressive racing, because fans may be tired of the formulaic dynamics at the Tour.
“Men’s cycling is getting criticism for being boring and monotonous and repetitive,” Moolman-Pasio said. “Right now we have an opportunity to take advantage and show that we’re more exciting to watch.”
Moolman-Pasio spoke to VeloNews just hours before Tuesday’s La Course by Le Tour de France race from Annecy to Le Grand-Bornand. The women’s event was held alongside the 10th stage of the Tour de France.
Indeed, the two races featured a contrasting style of racing. The Tour stage saw no change to the general classification, as the group of contenders crested the final climb together and then descended to the line.
By contrast, La Course saw a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat finale. Dutch riders Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) and Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) battled over the Col du Colombiere and roared down the finish within seconds of each other. Van Vleuten mounted a charge in the final 50 meters to overtake her countrywoman and take the win.
That’s the type of excitement that Moolman-Pasio believes can win fans over to women’s racing.
“I feel that women’s cycling is somehow different than men’s cycling,” she said. “We need people who really believe in women’s cycling to begin pushing it forward.”
Perhaps Moolman-Pasio is such a person. Throughout 2018 she has raced with aggression on the various climbs featured in the UCI Women’s WorldTour. During La Course, Moolman-Pasio rode on the slopes of the Col du Colombiere alongside van Vleuten and van der Breggen and eventually finished third, 1:22 behind van Vleuten. At April’s La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, Moolman-Pasio launched the decisive attack in the waning meters — her surge drew out van der Breggen, who won, while she coasted across the line in second.
During the recent Giro Rosa, Moolman-Pasio attacked relentlessly on multiple stages and rode herself to second overall, 4:23 behind van Vleuten. She may not have won the races, but her attacks injected excitement and action.
Moolman-Pasio’s runner-up result at the Giro is, in her eyes, the best result of her professional career. Yet she said the result failed to generate the level of media response she expected in her home nation. Moolman-Pasio became the first South African rider to finish on the podium at the Giro Rosa. The 10-day race is the longest in the Women’s WorldTour and holds grand tour status within the women’s peloton.
“This is the first grand tour podium for a South African — the first grand tour podium for a rider from Africa,” Moolman-Pasio said. “There’s been a lot of talk of [men’s team Dimension Data] and their plan of finishing on a podium at a grand tour in 2020. There’s a lot of focus on the men and the Tour de France. I’m pretty proud that I’ve been on the podium as a woman, and shown to South Africa what is possible for cyclists.”
Moolman-Pasio has used the Giro as her personal measuring stick since she first entered the sport’s top leagues in 2010. She finished 17th overall that first year, and in subsequent years she notched two top-10 finishes. The next step in her progression is to dethrone her two Dutch rivals, van der Breggen and van Vleuten, who still hold a slight edge over her in the major races.
Moolman-Pasio is unsure whether she will someday match the Dutchwomen, however. After all, they came up in a cycling system rich with history, talented coaches, and tradition. Moolman-Pasio, by contrast, said she has had to learn the lessons of cycling often on her own. South Africa has a growing tradition in men’s cycling, while the country’s collection of female pros is small.
Whether or not Moolman-Pasio ever beats the Dutch duo, she will continue to attack.
“I’m trying to close the gap to them,” she said. “For me it’s still important to make the race exciting, even if that means I finish second or third.”
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ALPE d’HUEZ, France (VN) — Alejandro Valverde went all-in during Wednesday’s Tour de France stage and went bust.
The Movistar veteran did what everyone was hoping someone would try in the Alps — he attacked Sky. Valverde bolted from the peloton near the summit of the hors categorie Col du Pré with 54 kilometers remaining and surged down the descent. A short while later he linked up with teammate Marc Soler, who was in the day’s early breakaway.
The duo powered away from the group on the descent from the Cormet de Roselend and built a sizable gap. Valverde even rode into the virtual yellow jersey at one point. More Tour de France newsUran withdraws from Tour de France after Roubaix crash
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The gap, however, was not meant to be. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) attacked out of the group on the descent from the Cormet de Roselend climb and caught Valverde. The move forced Sky to place its domestiques onto the front of the group and churn out a speedy tempo. On the lower slopes of the final climb, Valverde was gobbled up by Sky and the collective force of the peloton. He tumbled out of pole position for the yellow jersey to 11th at 4:28 back.
“We were the team that tried the most, but you have to congratulate Sky,” Valverde said at the finish line. “They were on top and now it’s up to us to keep trying.”
On a day when Movistar’s three-pronged attack tried to derail Team Sky, the team got pummeled on the push to the finish line. Sky’s punishing tempo shed Mikel Landa. Then when Geraint Thomas attacked, Nairo Quintana did not follow the Englishman, deciding instead to shadow Froome.
Froome eventually surged away from Quintana in the final kilometers, and Movistar’s captain was left to pedal in alongside Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Romain Bardet (Ag2r LaMondiale), and Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo).
Movistar is now in worse position going into Thursday’s stage to Alpe d’Huez, which closes out three stages in the Alps.
Was Valverde’s move worth it? Valverde said yes.
“We did what we planned to do,” Valverde said.
Indeed, other riders agreed. Frenchman Pierre LaTour said the Spaniard’s attack forced Sky to up the pace to keep him in check.
“Valverde attacked from far out,” LaTour said. “That’s what threw them into a panic. It was always flat out after that.”
Thus far, Valverde’s move marks the most serious challenge to Sky’s domination of the race.
“We gave everything, and that’s the most important. There is still a lot of Tour,” Valverde said. “We’ll give everything to continue to be protagonists.”
Valverde and Movistar didn’t wait long. Valverde snuck into an early move on the Col de la Madeleine with Andrey Amador in Thursday’s decisive stage to Alpe d’Huez.
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