Primoz Roglic shows why he’s the man to beat
Primož Roglič showed exactly why he has been so widely tipped to win the yellow jersey, with a commanding performance in the first summit finish to claim the third Tour de France stage victory of his career.
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In a performance that echoed his stage win at the Critérium du Dauphiné a few weeks ago, Roglič sat on the wheel of his Jumbo-Visma domestique Sepp Kuss as the American set a searing pace on the last few kilometres of the climb, before launching a deadly acceleration in the finishing sprint to pass Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) and claim the win.
The ride dispels any lingering fears that Roglic may still be suffering from the injuries that forced him to abandon that race, and reasserts his status as the clear favourite for overall victory.
Everything played out exactly as Jumbo-Visma could have hoped for. Wout van Aert thinned the bunch out to a select group with his tempo set on the first half of the climb, before Sepp Kuss isolated all the other GC candidates from their last remaining domestiques. Then when it came to the sprint, no-one got even close to defeating Roglič.
Sterner tests are to come, and a modest summit finish like this is nothing in comparison to what awaits the riders later in the race, but right now Roglič looks imperious.
Julian Alaphilippe holds on to yellow
Julian Alaphilippe finished comfortably towards the front of the group of favourites to successfully defend the yellow jersey for another day, and climbed well enough to suggest he may remain in yellow for some time yet.
No attack was forthcoming from the man best poised to take the jersey from him, Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), who either didn’t have the legs, or is biding his time to overturn his four-second deficit to Alaphilippe until the more difficult mountain stage to come later in the race.
Deceuninck-Quick-Step appeared to have their sights set on another stage victory, as well as defending the jersey. Their domestiques set a quick pace at the front of the peloton all day long, apparently resolved to not let the breakaway succeed in order to give Alaphilippe a chance to sprint for victory. Usually an uphill sprint would be the Frenchman’s bread and butter, but the 7km of climbing took its toll, and he only had the legs to sprint for fifth place.
Still, having overcome this test Alaphilippe should be able to hold on to the jersey until Saturday’s first Pyrenean stage, at the very least. With each day he remains in yellow, the French public can afford to dream with just a little bit more confidence.
Ineos Grenadiers concede ground to Jumbo-Visma as Carapaz is dropped
In round one of the much-hyped contest between Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma, the upstarts got the better of the old guard.
After Wout van Aert eventually swung off the font, each team was neck-and-neck with four riders remaining in the peloton: himself, Roglič, Tom Dumoulin and George Bennett for Jumbo-Visma, and Egan Bernal, Richard Carapaz, Michał Kwiatkowski and Jonathan Castroviejo for Ineos Grenadiers.
But Sepp Kuss’ increase in pace swung matters in favour of the Dutch team, not only setting up Roglič’s victory, but also dropping all of Bernal’s remaining team-mates — including, most significantly of all, Richard Carapaz.
Carapaz was drafted into the team’s line-up as a last-minute replacement for Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, with the team hoping he’d play a similar role as Thomas did last year, providing another feasible GC option. But the last-minute nature of his call-up means there are doubts about his form, and losing 28 seconds today suggests he’s not in the shape that saw him win the Giro d’Italia last year.
The killer blow for Jumbo-Visma came at the top when Bernal, despite digging deep with the strain visible on his face, lost Roglič’s wheel, and clambered his way to seventh place while his rival picked up 10 bonus seconds. With Roglič looking stronger than Bernal, and Dumoulin now in a better position on GC than Carapaz, Ineos Grenadiers for once look as though they’re not the strongest team at the Tour de France.
The race for overall victory begins to take shape
Carapaz was not the only GC candidate to lose ground today. With just 15 riders finishing on the same time as Roglič on the line, we’re getting a clearer picture of who will be challenging for the yellow jersey this year.
Safely in the lead group were Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), Miguel Ángel López (Astana) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren), while Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates) and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) were especially impressive in their respective second and third-place finishes.
Also present in this lead group was Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), indicating that the Frenchman isn’t feeling too many after-effects of his crash on the opening day of the race.
Other riders will be less happy with how their day went. The nine seconds lost by Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) might not sound like much, but his impressive fourth-place finish last year was based on always finishing among the favourites on stage like this, so being distanced suggests bigger time losses could be sustained in the future.
It was also a bad day for EF Pro Cycling, who’s young Colombian duo of Dani Martínez and Sergio Higuita arrived with Carapaz in the group 28 seconds adrift, and Movistar, whose co-leaders Enric Mas and Alejandro Valverde lost nine and 21 seconds respectively.
Is Sam Bennett about to follow in compatriot Sean Kelly’s footsteps?
Thirty-one years since Sean Kelly won his fourth points classification title, is Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) about to become the next Irishman to wear the green jersey?
Before the climbing at the end of the stage, Bennett outsprinted the other points classification candidates at the day’s intermediate sprint, moving himself up to level with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) on 83 points.
Sagan retains the jersey now as a consequence of being higher up on the GC, but Bennett has a chance to take it from the defending champion if he can finish ahead of him in tomorrow’s likely bunch finish.
Usually you’d expect the Irishman to have the advantage in a bunch sprint finish, but a draggy uphill finish might play into Sagan’s favour. We know Bennett is a quicker sprinter, but it’s on stages like this, which aren’t necessarily for the purer sprinters, that Sagan tends to accumulate the extra points that see him win the green jersey so regularly.
Therefore, if Bennett can come out on top tomorrow, it’ll not only be a triumphant moment for his career and Irish cycling, but also a real sign that he could challenge the previously unbeatable Sagan all the way to Paris.