Jul 12, 2014

Tour de France Stage 7-8 Review/Stage 9 Preview

Stage Reviews

Stage winners: Stage 7, Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)
Two years, two stage wins for Trentin who won a stage from a breakaway a year ago. Today was a different story as Trentin was thought to be too cold to contest the sprint with 25 km to go. After many of the top sprinters were shelled by the final two climbs, Trentin took advantage of a weakened Peter Sagan (Cannondale) to win in a photo finish.

Stage 8, Biel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale)
Kadri went in the morning break likely looking for the King of the Mountain points needed to take the Polka Dot Jersey. He got those easily and then some, attacking his breakmates on the first climb and then being the only one to stay away from the rampaging GC men, taking the stage win as well.

Yellow Jersey: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
Two largely incident free days for Nibali. Stage 7 of course ended in the reduced sprint, easy for Nibali to stay in contact. Stage 8 had a lot of climbing packed into the end of a long stage. Nibali, even with most of his Astana teammates off their best, had little problem. He did concede three seconds to Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), but that was in the final sprint.

Further behind, all manner of items were sorted out as all of the non-climbers high on GC are no longer high on GC after Stage 8. Among those who can climb, the big losers of the last two days were Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) who lost time in a crash on Stage 7 and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) who crashed in the sprint on Stage 7 (losing no time thanks to the 3 km rule) and then crashed on a late descent on stage 8. Both are outside the top 10 with a lot of work to do to recover.

Green Jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
Stage 7 went badly for Sagan as he couldn’t decide between attack and sprint. He chose attack and got no help from Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) who was with him and then went with the sprint but lost to Trentin because of the lost energy from his attack a few kilometers earlier. On stage 8, Sagan was dropped like the other sprinters when Tinkoff-Saxo upped the speed on the first climb of the day.

King of the Mountains: Biel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale)
Former leader Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis) held the jersey through stage 7, but he is no climber and Kadri finally took the jersey in the middle of his stage winning performance on stage 8. He now leads Lemoine and Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling) by 11 points.

White Jersey: Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)
With Sagan cracking on the climbs, the white jersey was finally up for grabs in something more than keeping it warm because the leader had a better jersey. Kwitakowski was the best positioned and inherited the jersey from Sagan on stage 8, but he lost time to Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Thiabult Pinot (FDJ). Given his struggles all season in the highest mountains, Kwiatkowski looks unlikely to keep this jersey all the way to Paris.

Tactical Masterclass: Astana
On stage 8, Astana pretty much begged someone else to take the yellow jersey off of Nibali. It didn’t happen, but Astana did little work on a day when nobody other than Nibali and Michele Scarponi had any decent legs at all. A much needed rest even without surrendering the jersey and Nibali lost no significant time.

Tactical Blunder: Cannondale
Why does Sagan never have any teammates at the end? After the final climbs it happened again and Sagan was left to deal with everything alone… again. It ended with predictable results… again. One day either Sagan is going to have a stronger team, or he is going to learn how to use his teammates better and he will kill everyone. One day. But that day doesn’t seem to be coming this season.

Special note for Tinkoff-Saxo on stage 8. They used everything they had and got three seconds back for team leader Alberto Contador. Either the team or Contador will have to be better or this is Nibali’s race to lose.

Stage 9 - Gerardmer - Mulhouse

Expectations entering the stage: If this isn’t a breakaway victory, something has gone horribly wrong. For those who might want to hunt the King of the Mountains, this is a good stage with a category one climb late in the stage and a category 2 climb to get away on immediately. Combine this with a major summit finish Monday and the last climb of the day being 43 km from the finish line and this is breakaway city.

Jersey’s in play
  • Yellow Jersey - Only here to note Nibali would to drop it, but there is nobody in range that couldn’t recover and become a threat later (see Oscar Pereiro in 2006 when he gained 30 minutes in the break and the yellow jersey and finished second only to inherit the win when Floyd Landis was caught doping).
  • Polka Dot Jersey - There are enough points available here that somebody with zero could take the jersey by winning all of the climbs if Kardi gets no points.
  • White Jersey - Another bad Kwiatkowski day could send the jersey elsewhere though I expect a slower pace that will help for another day.

GC items of note: With the last climb so far from the finish and a flat run in, the only things that can happen on GC in this stage are because of misfortune.

Stage Pick: Jeremy Roy (FDJ)

FDJ hasn’t been its usual active self in the breakaways. Mostly this is because they have had both a sprinter (Arnaud Demare) and a GC man (Thiabult Pinot) to protect. I don’t expect this to change, but this stage is so uniquely breakaway built that frequent breakaway Roy will be allowed to go for the first time in the race.

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