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Brussels sprouts a new winner? Tour de France 2019

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    Brussels sprouts a new winner? Tour de France 2019

    So here we go with the big loop once again. The defending champion will start the Tour with the strongest squad dedicated to getting him safely round until he can launch his attacks, and surely that can only mean that Chris Froome and Team Sky will once again take the overall victory in .... er, pardon?

    Oh yes, that's right. Froome didn't win it last year, Geraint Thomas did. And Team Sky don't exist any more either.

    So this feel a bit weird, doesn't it? The goings on at Team INEOS (new name and kit - the energy/fracking company has taken over the sponsorship of what was Team Sky) have been dominating the build-up to this year's race. Initially, despite Thomas being the stronger rider at last year's race and winning the Tour, he was unlikely to be the outright leader this time - that's what they pay Chris Froome for. But Froome's horror crash that nearly killed him (he was 'lucky' to get away with multiple injuries) has meant that the team are going with 'joint leaders' in the experienced defending champion and the young Colombian star, Egan Bernal.

    This has probably made more difference for Bernal than it has for Thomas. Thomas would have been a protected rider even if Froome was riding, and would have been the last one to pull on the front on the mountain stages. Bernal, on the other hand, would have been a match to burn. One of those very long matches that burns nicely for ages, but a match nonetheless. It's not unknown for the second rider in the team to win a Grand Tour. Heck, that's how Thomas did it last year, and we saw the trick repeat in May as Richard Carapaz proved stronger than Mikel Landa and went on to win the Giro d'Italia. But the third guy would never have that chance. Froome's injury has promoted Bernal from a probable yellow flame to a potential yellow jersey.

    And we'd been expecting to see dominance of the time trial giants - Roglic and, especially, Dumoulin. Roglic went for the Giro and finished a creditable third. Dumoulin went for it and retired through injury. He came back in the Dauphiné, aiming for the Tour, but his knee is still not right and he misses this race.

    So where does that leave us?

    Well, we've got a couple of former winners - the only two, other than Froome, who are still riding - in Geraint Thomas and Vincenzo Nibali. The last time Froome failed to finish the Tour, Nibali won it handsomely. But this time he's got a Giro in his legs.

    We've got loads of experienced riders who have never managed to topple Sky and Froome here: like Valverde, Quintana, Fuglsang, Porte, Bardet, Dan Martin, Pinot, Landa, Uran, Zakarin, Mollema, Kruijswijk and van Garderen. Apologies for any I missed!

    Then we've got the Yateses. Both of them. Adam is the one who came fourth here a few years ago. Simon is the one who won La Vuelta last year. Runner up to him was Enric Mas, a young Spaniard of Deceuninck - Quick-Step, He's coming too.

    So it's quite hard to call. But one thing we know is that INEOS will be strong and dedicated to the cause, which is going to make Thomas - at least initially - the man to beat.
    Last edited by Kevin S; 01-07-2019, 13:36.

    Excellent route summary, as always, on The Inner Ring:

    We're starting in Brussels, with a sprint stage on Saturday and a team time trial on Sunday. There's only one ITT, on the Friday (to please ad hoc) at the end of week two. The route doesn't have successions of flat stages, with a lot of bumps and some serious mountains to generate the differences.


      A few new names to look out for:

      Wout van Aert (Jumbo Visma). A multi-world champion in CX who, it turns out, is ridiculously powerful. Having taken on the road he has now won two stages at World Tour level this year and is the new Dutch national time trial champion. Could be a threat to Peter Sagan.

      Pello Bilbao (Astana). A very experienced rider who has been to several GTs but never France. Strong on mountainous stages and will look to pick up wins on these days.

      Maximilian Schachmann (BORA - hansgröhe). German national champion making his TdF debut. A proper old-school all-rounder who has picked up some excellent results in the Classics this year.

      Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal). He's been talked about for years - one of the new generation of sprinters - but this will be the quick little man's first Tour de France. You'll know it's him because he gets down really low over his bars when sprinting.

      Jasper Philipsen (UAE - Emirates). Only 21 years old - the youngest in the race by a clear year - so worth keeping an eye on for that alone, but he's been sniffing around the top ten of a lot of races this year.


        I loved the Atomium. Looking forward to seeing it on the Tour.


          My not so outsider pick is Jacob Fuglsang of Astana, who are having a remarkable season.


            Can't claim to be terribly excited about the Tour at the moment, partly as it's been a fairly lacklustre season in general, partly because I'm really enjoying the Cricket World Cup, partly because I find the route rather underwhelming. All well and good backloading the route and it can be brilliant when it works, but more often than not it doesn't and it all just...happens without anyone noticing. The recent Giro was an excellent case study.

            Anyway, the sport feels rather in a state of flux at the moment, there's a load of old riders declining, a load of exciting young riders and in the middle, well, there's a lot missing. There's a lot of riders who were born around 1990 who all should be in the prime of their career but for various reasons seem not to be and are just drifting - Dumoulin, Quintana, Bardet, Kittel, even Sagan. So it does feel unusually open this year. Doesn't necessarily mean it'll be a festival of positive riding though, it might just all stalemate every day with everyone being really scared of losing the race. Alternatively someone will ride away on the Planche des Belles Filles, take a lead and defend it all the way.

            Thomas hasn't won a race since last July and I'm guessing that INEOS don't rate his form - making Bernal joint leader from the outset is hardly a vote of confidence in the defending champion. Bernal is my pick but he did the Tour de Suisse and not many Tour winners go there, he might ride himself out of form. He might also show his inexperience and attack too early.

            Thibaut Pinot has had a good season but he'll ship time in the time trials and he's prone to a silly time loss in the opening week, could see him podiuming though. L'Equipe had a front page last week headlined "Now Or Never" for him and Bardet. No pressure there, fellas!

            Adam Yates is being talked up though I have my perennial concerns that he can't do the third week of Grand Tours. Simon Yates is coming as well, not entirely sure why given that he did the Giro but there's an unusual number of riders returning who went to Italy - Nibali, Landa, Mollema, Zakarin. Nibs is ostensibly only going for stages and KoM. Landa will be participating in whatever baffling tactics Movistar decide to present us with.

            Fuglsang is being talked up a lot but I don't fancy him at all, winning one week stage races is a different beast from three weeks. He's only once ever finished in the top ten of a Grand Tour (6th in the 2013 Tour) and he's 34, older than even Froome. The Dauphine victory means less than that race usually does, it was a rubbish race over not very high mountains, and this year's Tour does have a lot of big climbs in it.

            Five Brits confirmed in the race - Thomas and Luke Rowe for INEOS, Yates x 2 at Mitchelton and Alex Dowsett had a surprise call up for Katusha. Dimension Data haven't announced their team yet but given their lack of stars I expect they'll take Cavendish, he'll get them a bit of telly time if nothing else. He's well past his best now, he probably won't finish and the only way he'll win a stage is if he gets a crashtastic day where he's last sprinter standing. Steve Cummings is also in decline and unlikely to be selected.


              Great analysis longeared. The last time there was flux like this was probably 2011, when the Tour was won by a veteran Australian who looked like he was never going to get there but in the end put together the Tour of his life.

              ​​​​​​Can't see Richie Porte doing that, mind.


                French edition of the roadbook can be downloaded here.


                  Has a Colombian ever won? At the actual time, I mean, not one of the ones they handed to third place after retrospectively disqualifying Armstrong and Ullrich? I always remember when Channel 4 first started showing this in the 80s one of the most exotic things about the race was the fact that the Colombians were making an impact, especially on the king of the mountains.


                    Not the Tour, no. Herrera won the Vuelta, and Quintana has a Giro and Vuelta to his name but that's it.


                      Dimension Data have confirmed their team. Cummings is in ... but there's no Cavendish. Blimey.


                        The team press release also quotes Cummings saying "I was pleasantly surprised about the Tour selection. I wasn't expecting that." Said release also confirms the team will be rebranding as NTT for next season.


                          Originally posted by longeared View Post
                          Dimension Data have confirmed their team. Cummings is in ... but there's no Cavendish. Blimey.
                          It's brutal. and I hate to say it, but ... Nizzolo is the correct pick right now.

                          Cummings - interesting. A solid third place at 50 km/h in the nationals time trial last week suggests he's got some of that old power back in his legs perhaps but there's a lot of new names in the peloton looking for stage wins now. I can't see him pulling off the tricks he managed in 2015 and 2016 now.


                            A couple of changes to note:

                            • ASO have knocked a year off the white jersey classification from before, meaning it is now for riders not born before 1 January 1994, i.e. those who were under 25 at the start of the year. It used to be 26. So this year there are 28 eligible riders. Egan Bernal would appear to be a shoe-in, with Enric Mas likely to be the runner-up. LIkely that Caleb Ewan will be the first to wear the white jersey but then if INEOS win the team time trial he'll only get it for Sunday before it goes to Moscon or Bernal. But with some lumpier stages we might see Schachmann or Van Aert take it back in the first week.
                            PHILIPSEN Jasper UAE-Team Emirates
                            BERNAL Egan Team INEOS
                            GAUDU David Groupama - FDJ
                            KÄMNA Lennard Team Sunweb
                            GARCÍA CORTINA Iván Bahrain Merida
                            COSNEFROY Benoît AG2R La Mondiale
                            DE PLUS Laurens Team Jumbo-Visma
                            BOL Cees Team Sunweb
                            GESBERT Élie Team Arkéa Samsic
                            ASGREEN Kasper Deceuninck - Quick Step
                            MAS Enric Deceuninck - Quick Step
                            EIKING Odd Christian Wanty - Gobert Cycling Team
                            CICCONE Giulio Trek - Segafredo
                            GRELLIER Fabien Team Total Direct Energie
                            MOHORIČ Matej Bahrain Merida
                            VAN AERT Wout Team Jumbo-Visma
                            KRAGH ANDERSEN Søren Team Sunweb
                            EWAN Caleb Lotto Soudal
                            DE GENDT Aimé Wanty - Gobert Cycling Team
                            TURGIS Anthony Team Total Direct Energie
                            MOSCON Gianni Team INEOS
                            OURSELIN Paul Team Total Direct Energie
                            MÜHLBERGER Gregor BORA - hansgrohe
                            WÜRTZ SCHMIDT Mads Team Katusha Alpecin
                            BENOOT Tiesj Lotto Soudal
                            POLITT Nils Team Katusha Alpecin
                            JANSEN Amund Grøndahl Team Jumbo-Visma
                            SCHACHMANN Maximilian BORA - hansgrohe


                              The other change is that there are bonus seconds of time available on some climbs, marked with a B on the profiles. I don't think they'll make much difference.

                              As to the yellow and polka-dot jerseys, the course suggests to me that we will see the same two riders claim them as last year - Sagan and Alaphilippe.

                              The green points look like they are going to need work to get them and none of the other sprinters can do that. If someone else is to win the green it'll come about either through Sagan leaving the race or one of the youngsters/debutants above going toe to toe with him.

                              As to the KOM, could be interesting if Nibali decides to go for it, but I imagine he is going to see how his legs are doing before he gives up on the GC first of all. Actually, maybe Landa will be given licence to go for it. There are enough riders from the Giro in May who could feasibly pull off the KOMs. So perhaps not Alaphilippe then.


                                OTF fantasy Tour league is running as usual should anyone like to join:


                                League ID: 75488


                                  Their complete embrace of the heel role is impressive in its own way.

                                  I half expect Brailsford to turn up as a mega-villain in the next Bond film.



                                    And to cleanse the palate



                                      Here's some rider jerseys.

                                      Sagan in a restyled Bora kit

                                      Barguil's French champion jersey

                                      Trek have gone white again to minimise the effect of the heat. Porte practising his disappointed look here.




                                          Time for the predictions. This is such a hard one to call.

                                          01. Uran Uran
                                          02. Thomas
                                          03. Quintana
                                          04. Bernal
                                          05. Nibali
                                          06. Mas
                                          07. Kruijswijk
                                          08. Bardet
                                          09. Fuglsang
                                          10. Dan Martin

                                          In a time of flux, the experienced nearly-man can triumph. While I half-joked earlier about Porte repeating Cadel Evans' trick from 2011, Porte has never shown the three-week, solid-if-unspectacular form that Cadel did in the years leading up to his win. But Uran certainly has. He's done the hard yards as a Sky domestique, just like Porte, but unlike the Australian Uran always looks ready for a fight between the big guns. He won't fear anyone in this peloton. And his team have backed him with a really strong supporting cast for the harder days: Tanel Kangert, Tejay vG and Michael Woods are all top-20 standard riders in their own right.

                                          So, perhaps not why Uran, but why not Uran?

                                          White: Bernal but let's hope Mas makes him work for it

                                          Green: Sagan, but let's hope anyone can make him work for it

                                          Polka dot: Alaphilippe

                                          Most stage wins: Caleb Ewan.


                                            1. Bernal
                                            2. Pinot
                                            3. A Yates
                                            4. D Martin
                                            5. Bardet
                                            6. Quintana
                                            7. Uran
                                            8. Kruijswijk
                                            9. Buchmann
                                            10. Caruso

                                            Green: Sagan
                                            KoM; D Martin (the change to scoring system will make it much harder for Alaphilippe to win by getting in breakaways)
                                            White: Bernal (he'll still eligible for the white jersey in 2022 so suspect ASO might start looking at revising the qualifying criteria for this)


                                              Originally posted by Kevin S View Post
                                              Not the Tour, no. Herrera won the Vuelta, and Quintana has a GiIro and Vuelta to his name but that's it.
                                              I was at the final stage in Madrid when Quintana won the Vuelta. Colombians make a lot of noise.


                                                Excellent work on here by Kevin S.

                                                On a semi-related point the new edition of 'Rouleur' is a thing of great beauty even by its own high standards.


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