Froome back in yellow, team support costs Aru, and Sunweb's dream season
Chris Froome back in yellow
Chris Froome doesn’t often give away race leaders, and when he does he usually gets them back pretty quickly, as was the case with stage 14’s uphill finish into Rodez.
Froome knew this finish from when it was last used in 2015, which is why we saw Team Sky in formation at the front of the peloton even while it might have been up to other teams to chase down the late attack from Maurits Lammertink, Damiano Caruso, Nikias Arndt, and Pierre-Luc Perichon.
The British team knew that positioning was important on the way on to the climb, a high-speed, downhill approach that had more than a hint of the descent towards the base of the Cauberg in Amstel Gold about it.
The final run into the climb was led by Quick-Step Floors and Dimension Data, but Froome was always well-positioned in the top 15 riders, Michal Kwiatkowski always at hand to make sure his team leader wasn’t caught out.
From there it was all up to Froome, who showed nothing of the lack of explosive power that cost him in Peyragudes, comfortably mixing it with the puncheurs to be the first of the GC men home in seventh place.
Lack of team support costs Aru
That might have meant that Aru didn’t realise quite how important being in the right place would be for the deceptively hard climb to the line, but the Italian’s lack of team-mates can’t have helped either.
While Froome had Kwiatkowski to guide him through the last kilometres, even swinging over to take a look at how far back Aru was before telling his team leader to go hard, Aru was almost isolated with only one team-mate for company in the front group.
In the long-term not having to defend yellow everyday may prove a blessing for the weak Astana team, but Aru must be seriously wondering how he managed to lose 24 seconds on a climb which lasted, for Michael Matthews at least, less than a minute
Team Sunweb continue their dream season
Team Sunweb might not be the biggest team in professional cycling, but they certainly know how to win the biggest races.
With Michael Matthews taken victory today, the team is up eight WorldTour wins so far in 2017, half of which have come in Grand Tours, plus the general classification at the Giro d’Italia just for good measure.
Watch: Tour de France stage 14 highlights
Matthews had already proved he was in good shape with his second place behind Peter Sagan on stage there to Longwy, and today showed that with Sagan out of the picture he is the best of the rest on these sort of finishes, leaving it later to power past Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet to take what turned out to be a comprehensive victory,.
As an added bonus, the result moved Matthews to just 99 points behind Marcel Kittel in the race for the green jersey, although the Australian will have to hope Kittel suffers a few bad days on the way to Paris if he’s to pull that one off too.
BMC still fighting to salvage their Tour
Two weeks ago the whole BMC Racing team sat down for their pre-race press conference in Düsseldorf, aiming to win the race overall with Richie Porte, and put Greg Van Avermaet in position to pick up a stage win or two along the way.
Unfortunately the first part of that plan fell by the wayside with Porte’s awful crash on the descent of Mont du Chat on stage nine, and the second part is also yet to be executed after Van Avermaet’s second place in Rodez.
The Belgian won there in 2015 as he out-sprinted Sagan, and looked primed for a repeat performance with his team working hard to control the break for most of the day.
With a slight headwind for the final 300m, Van Avermaet looked like the favourite as Gilbert went early and faded. However in the end Matthews was just too fast.
The good news for BMC is that Van Avermaet looks to be climbing well, staying with the GC contenders for much of Friday’s mountainous stage to Foix, so perhaps another opportunity could come as early as Sunday if Van Avermaet can make it over the first category climb with 31km to go to the finish in Le Puy-en-Velay.
Start-to-finish TV coverage not always a good thing
For the first time in history, every stage of this year’s Tour de France is being broadcast live from start to finish which, before the race started, we thought was a great idea.
However those two stages were exceptions to the rule, with days such as this a prime example that there are long stretches of most bike races that are as much endurance tests for commentators and fans as they are for the riders.