Coaches' Blog

Coach Ainslie

Another impressive day at the Tour de France! Tom Dumoulin with the Giant/Alpecin squad slayed all with a time trial that put the time to beat in the stratosphere. The only other rider to get close was the yellow jersey Chris Froome. All other riders lost minuted to Dumoulin. Of course, the GC contenders were only ever concerned with the positions of their close competitors. 

Froome, in the end, gained almost 2min on Nario Quintana and Adam Yates. His ride was superb and set the tone for the rest of the Tour. Yates and Quintana will now have to look for ways to take back time in the upcoming mountains. The Sky armada looks to be all but unbeatable. They've had control of this Tour since the start. 

Tomorrow brings a 208km stage that is rolling and likely to have more wind. As we've seen constintely throughout this Tour, an early break is likely. These men will do their very best to stay away all the way to the finish. The teams of the sprinters will do their part to pull things back together in the closing kilometers and set their men up for the final sprint. Look for 1 of two possible outcomes. A small breakaway containing men far down the GC will stay away to the end OR the race will come down to a group gallup out of the usual supsects.

PS. Did you see that photo of the Etixx/Quickstep man taking a flying crash during the TT today? 

Coach Ainslie

Wow! Just wow! Todays stage at the Tour was total chaos! With cross winds throughout the race and then completely out of control crowds todays race was unlike anything we've ever seen. 

The winds persisted again today. The last several days have been windy and it has been tough on the field. Today was no different. As per usual th early break went away. The men in the break were no threat to the overall GC so they were allowed to go free. Behind the echelons came together and the group was further split. 

Riders were spread out all over the parcours today. Lots of really good riders missed the boat and had to fight their way back into the race once they came to the approach to the famed Mont Ventoux. The breakaway further split with three men going clear. Out of this group would come the eventual winner Thomas de Gent. He also took enough mountains points to secure the polka dot climbers jersey.

Behind, the Movistar men Valverde and Quintana repeatedly attacked the team Sky train containing yellow jersey Chris Froome. They were unable to shake Froome and his teammates. As the finish grew nearer Froome attacked and took Richie Porte (BMC) and Bauke Mollema (Trek/Segafredo) with him. This move immediately dropped Nairo Quintana and he was left to chase with his teammate Alejandro Valverde.

Inside the last km, the unbelievable happened. The TV motorcycle had to come to a stop and Porte, Froome and Mollema plowed into it. All three got up and remounted their bikes. Froome realized his bike was broken and started RUNNING the final km. There were so many cars, motorcycles and spectators that his team car was hung up behind. MAVIC neutral support eventually gave him an ill fitting bike with the wrong pedals which he rode until his team car arrived with a bike. Froome finished not quite a minute behind the group he'd originally been in. You could see him shaking his head in disappointment. On paper, he'd lost the yellow jersey. 

The race jury later went back and "re-awarded" Froome the yellow jersey by taking the race time as the riders entered the final kilometer. This was the correct thing to do since the riders ran into trouble through no fault of their own. There will be debate for weeks to come about what the right thing to do was, however, this puts us into tomorrows time trial with the GC mostly unchanged. 

Tomorrows race is a time trial that takes in a challenging 37.5km. It begins with a mild 7km climb right out of the start, takes in a technical descent and then finishes with a 5km incline to the finish. It will not suit guys like Tony Martin or Cancellara. However, I think we can expect Tejay Vangarderen and Richie Porte to come to the fore. Froome, without a doubt, will ride well but looking at the parcours my feeling is someone other than him will win. 

PS. What do you think should be done about the out of control crowds? Too many motorcycles too?  Sound off in the comments section below. 

Coach Ainslie

Blahoželanie is how you say congratulations in Slovak! Peter Sagan went into the final sprint of todays stage of the Tour de France head to head with the yellow jersey Chris Froome. In a remarkable attack Sagan and his teammate Bodrogi, Froome and his teammate Gerraint Thomas went clear in the closing kilometers and managed to hold off the peloton. This was one of the most unbelievable moments in the Tour de France I've ever seen. Even Sagan himself was quoted as saying you can't "plan this."

Today was atypical with the yellow jersey taking back time on a flat stage against one of the best sprinters in a generation. There were 10sec for 1st, 6sec for 2nd and 4sec for 3rd at the finish today. Sagan was never contested and Froome arrived for 2nd at the finish. This was a truly shocking finish and really fun to watch. 

The crosswinds detonated the field and created utter chaos. The peloton was blown apart wiith multipe echelons and by all appearances it was a complete free for all. Froome and Quinitana managed to keep themselves in the mix. Vangarderen and Romain Bardet lost a few precious seconds getting hung up in the echelons occurring behind the group. Today was hard and it will influence the upcoming days. 

Tomorrows stage was supposed to finish at the top of Mt Ventoux, the "Giant of Provence." Because of winds in excess of 100kph tomorrrows stage has been shortened somewhat and will finish lower on the famed climbed. My prediction is that we will see a small breakaway arrive to the finish. I'd look for a secondary rider to win on the day.

My son Ben predicts Thibault Pinto with FDJ will win. His FDJ team has the firepower to deliver him to the final attack and because they are a french team, they are hungry for a victory.

PS. Did you see the endo by Rafael Mijka with Tinkoff/Saxo on the "Sleeping Policeman" in one of the small towns? Ouchie!

 

blahoželanie

Coach Ainslie

Ooooh so close! Peter Sagan and Michael Matthews went to the wire together today at the finish of todays stage of the #TourdeFrance. Matthews edged Sagan after repeated attacks from his Orica/Bike Exchange teammate Daryl Impey. This was text book bike racing 101. Great ride today out of the Orica/Bike Exchange riders!

The pure sprinters were taken out of the picture due to the climb that loomed immediately out of the start. To no ones surprise Peter Sagan made the initial breakaway which contained 3 Orica/Bike Exchange riders, Edwald Boassen-Hagen with Dimension Data, Greg Vanavermaet with BMC and an AG2R rider as well as several others. A big acceleration from Sagan in the final hour whittled the breakaway down and made a more manageable group.

The Orica boys executed a text book race in the end and were able take the win with "Bling" Matthews taking the "W". Sagan had to settle for 2nd.....again.

There was no notable change in the over-all standings. Things remain the same as they did after the finish in Andorra on Sunday eve. The GC is unchanged going into tomorrows stage. The GC favorites will take this as a chance to save the legs a big and let the teams of the sprinters do the work. 

Tomorrow brings a virtually flat stage of 264km. With only a few bumps to speak of it'll be a fast stage. As Robby McEwan says, its "pinned between 2 sets of mountains" and most riders are "f***ed." The parcours is not selective enough to weed out the sprinters and I think its a reasonable expectation that it'll be a straight up drag race amongst the sprinters teams again. 

Look for Kittel, Griepel, Cavendish, Sagan and Coquard to contest the sprint. Cav has shown he's back to his winning ways and I expect whatever the outcome, we can expect some fireworks. 

PS. I love seeing Greg Vanavermaet continuing to duke it out day after day. Similar to Peter Sagan, I think he's an incredibly talented and versatile rider. 

 

(Photo is Cyclingnews.com. I do not own this photo)

Coach Ainslie

Hah! I missed the call totally on todays stage! I had predicted that the race favorites would arrive first to the finish. Instead, a breakaway, or it could even be considered a split in the group, went away relatively early in the proceedings. The big favorites missed the initial move that  contained riders who were far down on the GC already. In the "main field" were Froome, Quintana and, eventually Contador. The breakaway was highly motivated and with the composition the was it was, the group had minimal concerns about giving them their head. 

Contador would eventually abandon the Tour after waking with a fever this morning and repeatedly trips back to the car during the stage. Once you're injured or sick, it becomes very hard to get any level of recovery and he was just to over-extended. 

The finale of todays race saw Tom Dumulin with the Giant/Alpecin squad attack at the base of the final climb. This was a bold move by a man who is widely regarded to be a time trial specialist. However, once he got a look at open road he  was gone! After this the race completely detonated. The breakaway totally fell apart and riders finished in one's and two's. Froome was repeatedly attacked and attacked repeatedly himself. While this stage was pretty animated, things stayed more or less together for the GC men and there was no significant movement in the first 10 positions on the GC. Froome kept his yellow jersey, Yates remains in 2nd AND in the best young rider jersey. 

Tomorrow is our first rest day. UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) rules dictate that a rest day is required every 10 days. The riders will take this day to get a degree of recovery, take on board some much needed calories and decide on their strategy for the next week of racing. The team directors will be huddled trying to assemble the strategy that will take their riders to victory and the team mechanics will take this day to get all the equipment polished and in good repair. 

Tuesday will bring a 197km stage with a big climb right out of the gate. The riders will be challenged immediately so they must arrive to the start well prepared however, there is more than enough time/km's to get back into contention if they get dropped too early. 

I predict either a breakaway comprised of also ran, lesser known riders OR the sprinters will take the victory. I think this day is not hard enough for the GC men to take the day. 

PS. Did you see George Bennet totally tackle the spectator on the final climb? Ouchie!

Photo is from Cyclingnews.com. I do not own this photo. 

Coach Ainslie

Today provided the first shake down of the GC at the 2016 Tour de France. With 4 climbs culminating with the Col de Peyresourde, the climbers asserted themselves for the first time. 

Team Sky controlled the action from the get go. They kept things mostly together untl the final climb of the day where we saw Chris Froome attack over the top. Frome was able to open a gap on the descent and hold off the chase from the team Movistar boys. He crossed the line with an enthusiastic punch in the air and a 10 second time bonus. The propels Froome into yellow. Froome has indicated that he has no fear of trying to hold the all the way to Paris. He certainly has the team for it. 

All the primary favorites managed to hold on in the group despite repeated accelerations from the Sky and Movistar teams. One by one we saw very good riders getting ejected out the back. The most notable of which was Alberto Contador. He now lies 3min 12sec adrift and we're still in the first week. 

Quintana showed he was prepared for whatever came his way today. He is, more and more, looking like a Tour contender. In addition, Romain Bardet, Joaquim Rodriguez and Dan Martin managed to stay in the first group all the way to the finish too. These are riders we'll have to pay attention to as they could spoil the party for Froome or Quintana.

Tomorrow brings another day of climbing with a stage of 184km. It is a bumpy parcours that finishes with a hilltop arrival. 5 significant climbs will once again shake up the race. Froome and his Sky men will be obligated to control the race and, I have no doubt, they are up to the task. We can expect Movistar to try and animate things. Quintana and Valverde are a nasty 1-2 punch and make a formidable team. I'm also very curious to see what Adam Yates with the Orica team does in the coming days. 

Once again I think a name rider will take the win. Froome will certainly be alert and the team will do their best to provide the best escort possible. It would not surprise me in the least to see Froome win two days in a row. In social media he has said that he is feeling great and is excited for the race.

On another note, did you read that the cause of the downed banner with 1km to go yesterday was due to a spectator getting too close the the generator that inflated the banner? Geez!

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