Team Sky's tactics, Barguil delivers for France, and the excitement of short, sharp stages - it was an great day of racing on stage 13 of the Tour de France
Team Sky’s tactical tale of two halves
For 75 per cent of the stage, Team Sky played an absolute blinder. They put Mikel Landa and Michal Kwiatkowski up the road to make other teams do the chasing, before Kwiatkowski dropped back to help Froome near the top of the Mur de Péguère.
However what happened next was slightly less of a textbook effort as Froome and Kwiatkowski made frequent appearances on the front of the chase group, pulling hard on the front while Landa was up the road.
With Landa in the front group with a lead of more than two minutes, Fabio Aru‘s yellow jersey was under serious threat, so surely Froome and Kwiatkowski should have sat back and let Aru, Romain Bardet, Rigoberto Uran, and Dan Martin do the chasing?
Froome’s attack near the top of the Mur de Péguère showed that he had good legs, so perhaps if he had sat back and let others do the chasing, then he could even have opened a gap with a big attack near the end and gained a few seconds for himself.
Shades of 2012 for Sky?
With summit finishes at Planche des Belle Filles and Peyragudes, and now a possible leadership battle within Team Sky, it’s not hard to see parallels between this year’s Tour and 2012.
Mikel Landa may not have ridden himself into the yellow jersey, but two consecutive fourth places have seen him move up to fifth in GC, 1-09 back from Fabio Aru and 1-03 behind apparent team leader Chris Froome, a gap that could have been smaller had Froome not worked on the front of the chase group.
For now Froome’s position at the top of the Team Sky hierarchy is secure, but if Landa decides to go on the attack again come the Alps, then things might not look quite so rosy for the Brit’s fourth Tour de France win.
If Froome can take solace in anything, it’s that he should be able to take significant time on Landa and Aru (who lost 56 seconds and 40 seconds respectively on stage one in Düsseldorf) on the penultimate day’s time trial in Marseille.
Watch: Tour de France 2017 stage 13 highlights
Warren Barguil delivers on Bastille Day
After missing out by centimetres to Rigoberto Uran on stage nine to Chambéry, Warren Barguil finally managed to get his Tour de France stage win, four years after showing his first glimpses of Grand Tour potential with two stage wins at the Vuelta a España.
What’s more, Barguil’s victory meant that the French fans were able to enjoy a home victory on Bastille Day for the first time since 2005, when David Moncoutié arrived solo in Digne-les-Bains.
Barguil’s performance also meant that he has opened a commanding lead of 61 points over Mikel Landa in the mountains classification (although with Landa presumably focussed on GC, Thomas De Gendt is likely to be Barguil’s main challenger, sitting just one point further back).
Vintage Contador shows why he’ll be missed
Alberto Contador didn’t come to the Tour de France looking to pick up most aggressive rider awards, and although that’s all he came away with at the end of stage 13, today at least showed that he’s still the same swashbuckling rider that we’ve enjoyed watching over the years.
Contador was the first big name to go on the attack on the Col de Latrape early in the day, dragging Landa along with him, and rode hard on the front all day, only being outgunned by Barguil and Quintana in the final sprint for the line.
With the Spaniard expected to be heading to the Giro d’Italia in 2018 in what should be his last season of racing, this was one of the last times we’ll get to see Contador on the attack at the Tour, and what a treat it was.
Short stages = fantastic racing
Once upon a time cycling fans looked forward to 200km+ days in the mountains but, as yesterday showed, those sort of stages don’t always deliver the sort of action we all hope for.
Over the years there have been many short road stages at the Tour de France, but the watershed moment for this sort of day was surely the 109.5km stage over the Galibier and up Alpe d’Huez where Contador attacked almost from the gun.
Today the climbs weren’t as long, which encouraged even more aggressive racing as non-GC riders such as Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Alessandro De Marchi (BMC Racing) went on the attack early in the race.
The temptation might be to make more and more stages like this, but perhaps today was so explosive because it was the only such stage in a race with only a few chances to gain time.