Here are THE Tour de France predictions, which will all come true, definitely. They did last year.
Lets call them A Prophecy. I am available for kids parties and retirement dos.
Richie Porte, post TT. photo credit: BrakeThrough Media
Le Tour de France. Behemoth of cycling. Greatest spectator sport in the world. Source of drama, elation, horror and dullards in mankinis with motorbikes up their arses running alongside athletes in self-inflicted pain.
Here are THE Tour de France predictions, which will all come true, definitely. They did last year. It was a bit scary.
Lets call them A Prophecy. I am available for kids parties and retirement dos.
( I really hope my predictions DON’T come true! You’ll see why later. But lets just say they’re ‘different’.)
Cav swaps his newly (well) earned Stripey Jumper for the yellow one, as Le 100ieme Tour kicks off predictably. Meanwhile Griepel continues to do his impression of a cage fighter with piles and Bouhanni nearly kills everyone, again. Kittel learns and nobody has a clue if Orica Greenedge are in the race. Again.
Various members of Cav’s squad are hugged like mice in the coils of a tiny Manx boa constrictor. He loves his teammates. He couldn’t do it without them.
He bloody could.
GC 1,2,3: Cavendish, Griepel, Bouhanni.
With 60KM downhill after a tough but not insanely mountainous stage, its all playing into Sagan’s hands. He kills himself to get over the Col de Vizzavona in the lead group (behind a doomed breakaway) and has to kick again as Mikel Nieve attacks on the steep last nasty gradient of Cote du Salario. He is working so hard he often puts his front wheel on the ground, as wheelies prevent him from viewing the layyyydeeeez. A select group of 30 enter Ajaccio with the Boy Funster smashing it over the line. He takes yellow. Twitter explodes into shouting. Obviously, because that is it’s job.
The podium girl stands uneasily besides him as he receives his bouquet. Wise words from teammates mean he is still wearing his earpiece for advice on social strategy as he shakes hands with Bernard Hinault. Peter does not disrespect Bernie’s buns and the Badginator thus is saved the intense satisfaction of throwing him bodily into the audience.
Meanwhile our first GC casualty rolls in 1:30 down. Lovely Andy pulls the cord and his dire year trundles onwards towards cringe. To be fair, he does descend on the drops at points and we offer weak smiles of sympathy. Its hard to knock the wee man. Except it is. Because its Twitter.
Screamingly a stage for the nearly GC riders and lumpy stage seekers, this one is a bugger to predict. The GC teams don’t want a breakaway from Voeckler and gang to get too far, as they may be chasing his flapping facial apendage for the entire race. But then a nice break takes the pressure off and seats the Maillot Jaune with a journeyman who takes the onus off them for a good while. Sky want this. Froome wants this. If it involves a chap with a big tongue, we want this.
As it turns out, the script isn’t ripped up, entirely. A sizable group have gathered together on the Col De San Martino. Voeckler (natch), Chavanel (natch), Moser, Velits and Pineau, Hoogerland (natch), Voigt (natch), Albasini, Fedrigo, Talansky, Le Mevel, Tantink and Gavazzi work well together. BMC, Sky and Saxo are keeping their powder dry with full teams held back.
But the peloton are concerned.. There are way too many GC nearly men in this group and a chase steadily accelerates. On the Col de Marsalino, with 13 clicks to go, all are shed in the panic except Chavanel, Velits, Voeckler and Albasini. They are barely 20 seconds ahead of the chasing pack as they descend, with each man giving it all. Tommy goes off at one point, kicking up dust, but dives back on. They enter Calvi together and Albasini looks fresh against Chava, with Velits dragging them in. The GC riders loom in the long lens as Albasini outsprints Chava for, at last, a timely Orica Greenedge win.
Artist’s impression of Thomas Voeckler in action
Sylvain takes yellow and his sickly thin skin pulls against his knife-like (yet beautiful) cheekbones as he grins. A nation swoons. We swoon. Attacking verve. Lovely.
Team Time Trial day. Nobody cares except me and the riders. Got to love a bit of 40mph through and off, with carbon roaring on asphalt.
Team Sky win by 3 seconds, bien sur, with Omega retaining yellow after a spirited performance. Their stupid yellow TT helmets likely cost them the stage however, as the still undried yellow paint, applied by panicked mechanics late last night causes irregular laminar airflow. The UCI measured the paint thickness and thusly, since it was entirely irrelevant and of no harm to anyone, subsequently ban it. Our knights in shining blazers.
BMC take third, at 5 seconds. Tejay and Cadel pretend there is no leadership problem after both trying to outsprint each other to the line. There is a leadership problem.
A classically humdrum intermediate stage, as a group of five riders gain eight minutes on the lumps of South Eastern France. There will be some Frenchies, Flecha (it is a break, so this the law) and somebody from Lampre on one of those pig ugly Merida bikes, wishing the TV cameras would look away. Omega and Cannondale do the work to catch them with 5km to go. Cav suffers on the last rises, but guts it out for another win from Griepel and Sagan. A strong man’s day, many nurse wounds from a traditional roundabout pileup with 2km to go.
The debate about traffic measures is had for about 30 seconds, then we forget about it. Heh, its bike racing. Pain, suffering and gnarly clavicles. Hmm.
Positioning and concentration are key today. An ‘easy’ stage made hard by winds off the Med. Cav gets baulked as riders from lesser teams fight for a top 20 position and gets pushed into roundabout barriers with 12K to go. Griepel squeezes through along with teammates and Kittel hangs on alone with no help. An elite group of 30 sprinters, domestiques and GC riders come into Montpellier 43 seconds clear. Froome and gang are caught short, losing 30 seconds, as is Contador and the Spaniards. BMC drive the group and gain time as Griepel wins from a fast improving Kittel makes it a German 1-2.
A quiet stage gone large. Its boiling up nicely.
The classics guys are getting twitchy and an elite escape goes early.
Gilbert, Boom, Burghardt,, Taaramae, Fisher, Millar, Cameron Meyer, O’Grady and Hoogerland go early and gain time fast in the hills. Their lead is whittled down by Cannondale for Sagan and Katusha for Kristoff in the late downhill stages of the race. Riders get spat out leaving Gilbert, Millar and Meyer to duke it out on a fast closing pack.
With 40 seconds on the chasing peloton, Cameron Meyer comes in to beautiful Albi the winner, jumping his companions at 2KM to go and TTing to victory. Sagan leads in a tired main group with Cav down on time again. He takes green.
Like a slow-burning thriller with a shock ending, the tension on this stage becomes unbearable. Chavanel gets dropped on the Col de Pailheres and his impressive wearing of yellow is done. Sky control things as usual, with Kiryienka, Kennaugh and Thomas sharing the work until 5km from the summit of Ax 3 Domaines. Froome kicks after Porte ramps things up and splits it all up. He takes fifteen riders with him. But not Contador, who drifts back. His lack of true form is cruelly exposed.
The GC top 10 comes into sharp focus as the likely candidates are immediately revealed: Fuglsang, Mollema, Evans, Van Garderen, Rolland, Talansky, Dan Martin, Rodriguez, Moreno, Rui Costa, Kwiatkowski, Kloden, Rogers (given his head, as Bert implodes back through the field), Froome, Porte, De Gendt.
Dan Martin sees a line of pandas running alongside him, is inspired (who wouldn’t be inspired by pandas? Mmm?) and kicks at 2km as the favourites look at each other, gaining 22" and a rather enjoyable win. He gains yellow, just.
These pissed up Dan Martin fans need to get a grip and back on the roadside if they’re to see their hero
Evans takes second alongside Froome in an elite group. Five pandas storm the podium, mobbing Dan. An elated (inwardly) Bernard "Mixed Martial Arts" Hinault then takes immense pleasure in kicking the living crap out of each terrified bear.
Best. Stage. Ever.
GC top 3: Martin, Froome, Evans.
Phew. It’s all go! Loads more climbing today, with no respite and lots of saucy descending. In the wet. Its pouring.
Evans goes for it. He needs to take time out of Froome while he can, and descends like he has 2.2 inch knobblies on. Froome looks noticeably out of his depth, as Cuddles pushes harder down La Hourquette d’Ancizan. Mollema loses his front wheel on a greasy hairpin and slides into the verge, clipping the front wheel of King Mantis. Froome does down hard, putting his arm out as he goes.
Praying Mantis look cool, but the snap rings out. His wrist shatters and he sits on the same verge that Mollema has already long ridden away from. Tears.
Chris Froome retires on the verge of greatness. He had looked great. But with thinness goescore muscle, control and natural suspension. If you go down, you don’t bounce, you break.
Evans, no mean GC sprinter, takes the stage. Porte, also in tears was ordered to continue rather than wait for his friend, thank god, and comes in to the second group at 45 seconds, He is still well within reach of Cadel.
The night’s TV is filled with images of Froome under a wet silver thermal blanket, utterly alone despite the photographers and motorbikes.
G.C top 3: Dan Martin, Evans, Van Garderen.
As the news of Froome’s retirement and Contador’s lack of form rumble on, a growing theme rises again. The BMC team leadership issue. Two riders essentially inseparable except for their need to win leadership status over the other.
The rain pours, the scowls hang and the BMC press conference is a pall of passive aggressive politick.
Meanwhile Porte is left to his own devices. A growing sense of responsibility and potential within him.
Strangely for Brittany, the sun is here, and the peloton thanks its lucky stars, Pyrenees over.
A good old ultra fast stage, with a large break of 12 going very early. Made up of wildcard teams and those with sick or injured leaders, it gains a perfunctory 4 minutes and is pulled back with 25km to go. The sprinters team are nervous about breaks getting away from them on the harder-than-you’d-expect rolling roads.
Omega, Argos and Lotto pull hard into Saint Malo and nobody escapes. Nothing can. We see blackness on our screens. Not even light can escape this arrowhead formation.
Cav gets caught behind some nonsense from Bouhanni and arrives at 200m late and behind, with Griepel charging. He does one of those instant accelerations round a group of lined out Muscle Marys and takes the Silverback at the line. He makes a gesture with his fingers. Maybe a little rabbit or a tree frog. People talk about his arrogance on twitter. Other people don’t. Life whirrs on, the sun is replaced by the moon…
The GC riders lie in wait.
Individual time trial time. Tony Martin wins over Porte and Van Garderen. Cadel loses 35 seconds to Tejay and a right royal ding dong about leadership boils over. Which is fair enough really. Two exceptionally talented chaps. One, on his way up, unproven, but damned good. The other, old, very proven, on form and hugely experienced, with a really prominent chin. And damned good. I would give the TJVG the nod. But I would cuddle Cuddles as I told him.
The Spaniards continue to stuff it up, as is their role in all this. Valverde and Rodriquez are ficking desperate for the Alps. Purito looks saucy, but Movistar look better served by Portuguese Rui Costa, their only man coming away with anything so far. A challenge from Quintana has not emerged. It may do.
Meanwhile Dan Martin has his jour sans, loses 55 seconds and the Maillot Jaune to Van Garderen. We applaud. Porte lurks ever closer. Talansky is also looming, with consistent high placings. He completes the top 5 with Fuglsang.
G.C, top 3: Van Garderen, Porte, Dan Martin.
More sprinting. More crashes. Some sunflower helicopter shots. Ooooo pretty! Churches. Chateaux. Running horses. Big hay bale bikes dressed in polka dot cloth. Phil Liggett, off his rocker, gabbing away while Paul Sherwin redefines grammar and meaning.
Cav misses out today, as he overcooks the last corner and loses that vital ground. Andre The Giant gets his win and we’re quite pleased, to be fair. The carpenters reinforce the stage and the podium girls are lifted in each hand like Ann Darrow in The Beast’s clutches.
Surely podium girls aren’t paid enough to put up with this crap?
More sprinting. Sagan continues to place in the top 8 but never troubles the flat specialists. He’s waiting for his uphill drag. It won’t come.
As it’s another sprint stage, this gives us fans an opportunity to explain YET AGAIN to passing family members and colleagues why Cavendish is not going to win the Tour de France, that the chap on the front of the big group is not winning and that aerodynamics are really important but have nothing to do with shaved legs. Its all very good for feeling a bit superior, though there is a moment of clarity when you realise it is in fact rather bizarre.
And that’s why it’s great.
Three and a half hours of boredom, a doomed break with a heavy French content and more sunflowers, followed by roundabout crash mayhem and another win for the Manx Missile, who has a good grasp of Green now.
The talking point tonight is a Lampre rider testing posit
ve for being a dirty doping twuntsponge. He is ejected and the inevitable shouting match on forums and Twitter reaches a crescendo of defense, attack and unfollowing.
Everyone forgets how great fun it is to ride a bike and watch pro cycling. Until we have a nice sleep. Then its all fine again. Hurrah!
Screamingly a breakaway stage, and boy do we need it.
The following teams have been shouted at: Euskatel, FDJ, Radioshack, Sojasun, Vaconsoleil, Cofidis and Ag2r. Their managers draw straws and their victims are sent up the road as soon as the neutralised zone passes under their wheels.
But Europcar like to attack. We like Europcar to attack. And a little bit of history happens, as Yukiya Ashiro takes an unlikely win into a sweltering Lyon from a 4km long dig from the sun-fried break.
Right, can we have some mountains now please Uncle Prudhomme?
Mountains! Well, one. Ventoux. That IS a mountain.
What better way to enjoy a massive stage than drinking a well iced Pimms at a Vulpine Cycling Fete? *
A group of non-GC climbing specialists who are already well back go clear on the rather tiny Cote de Bordeaux. One of them is Alberto Contador, now 12 minutes back on GC and a free agent. He goes with Rolland, Igor Anton, Danielson, Cunego, Van den Broeck, Amador, Gesink, Westra and Gadret.
Team Sky do their thang. Siutsou and Stannard keep the break within shouting distance on the flat. Kennaugh, then Kiryienka, then Thomas wind it up for Richie Porte. The heat is choking. So is Evans, and he blows. Porte attacks with Van Garderen, Rogers, De Gendt, Rodriguez, Dan Martin, Talansky, Mollema, Fuglsang hanging on. Barely.
Porte goes clear again after only 1 click. Only Rodriguez and Martin hang on. Meanwhile Contador attacks a remarkably thin looking *cough* Rolland with 300m to go to take a beast of a stage. Gun cocked. "Moo" we comedically exclaim. A thousand jokes about having his steak last night ring across the interweb.
Richie Porte hits the line turned inside out. He puts 20 seconds into Tejay and takes yellow. Dan Martin is now second overall, barely, with TJVG third. This all feels very much like a TEAM SKY PLAN. Maybe they shot all the pandas along the route in advance? Has Tejay got a favourite endangered species? Do we actually know anything about Tejay Van Garderen? Do we care? We do now.
*This message was sponsored by Vulpine, who do indeed have a Tour-themed free cycling event in London this day!
Thank you for staying with us during that short commercial break
Now everyone wants to know what three quietly spoken young English speaking gents are doing occupying the podium of the Tour right now. Where in the hell did they come from? Suspicion reins. A few quiet people mention that they’ve been on an upward curve for years and have burst forth in a changing era for cycling, where there may be genuine fear from the old guard of getting caught doping.
Everyone just shouts and laughs at them.
The riders eat a lot of ice cream, attempt to shag their wives despite the road rash and fatigue, and avoid press junkets. Unsuccessfully.
Well hello downhill finish. How we’ve looked forward to you.
Who are the best climbing descenders in the world right now? Both the Sanchez boys and Nibali, lets say. But those three aren’t here.
Edvald Hoassen Boassen Hagen Smagen is. Ok, maybe not the climber per se, but that smiling teddy bear of wholesomeness is an absolute bastard on a descent.
No GC riders attack as Sky set a searing pace up a 2nd category Col de Manse. EBH attacks at the summit alone and comes in victorious. Sagan had hung on valiantly to try that very same, but blew at 1km to go. Impressive all the same.
Sagan fights back on the descent, bunny hopping over switchbacks. He takes 2nd from a depleted field of thirty.
Good fun. No changes overall, but Peter starts pushing Cav for Green. Its too late.
BIG stage. Not so much a mountain TT as a bloody difficult one.
This would have been Froome’s hunting ground. Who’s nearest to Froome on form and ability? Porte.
Richie Porte smashes the course and his rivals, distancing TJVG by 35 seconds and Dan Martin by 65, displaying tiredness. Garmin place three riders in the top 10, showing their strength in depth.
The surprise result is Michal Kwiatkowski splitting Porte and Tejay for second place. What a year for him. Such promise. Michael Rogers has been Mr.Consistency since Contador blew so early, and creeps into third. A great showing that keeps the podium English speaking…If that’s a good thing!?
G.C top 3: Porte now comfortable, TJVG, Michael Rogers.
SHOWTIME! Not the last chance, but a hugely iconic stage twice up l’Alpe d’Huez.
Team Sky control things from scratch, of course. Nothing goes. It’s a TTT and the muttering starts online.
The first round of l’Alpe is covered by Sky. But Evans attacks on the descent, taking TJVG, De Gendt and Kreuziger with him! The Sarenne is steep and frightening. This has Sky out of their depth. Potentially clever but hugely risky move by BMC. Evans pilots TJVG to the bottom of l’Alpe as panic reins behind.
It’s not until the climbs starts and Sky find their rythym and each other again that their team car pulls alongside to calm things down. The leading four have three minutes at the bottom with Evans ripping into it, his pride burning into his legsand our consciences.
Porte is now pushing the chase on his own. The other teams won’t do anything for him, except Garmin who have strength in numbers but look like their on the rivet. Porte’s quiet demeanor isn’t serving him well as a patron, and he can get no help. To be frank, nobody is capable of matching him anyway.
TJVG has to leave a spent Evans behind with 5 km to go and pulls ahead with De Gendt who sits in for the win. Porte is closing the gap fast, but looks under immense pressure. Tejay gains 45 seconds in the end and Porte joins him on the floor after the finish. Porte is in yellow by a 12 seconds and there’s all to play for. Meanwhile Rogers suffers and yo yos with Martin for third place. Neither can win this Tour now.
Immense. G.C. top 3: Porte, TJVG, Martin.
More descending to strike fear into Porte’s kindly heart, and there is great anticipation of what’s to come.
In the end Sky get a bit of luck, perhaps by design, allowing an elite group of climbers up the road early, including Talansky who represents a threat to Evan’s and Fuglsang’s top 10 placings. BMC and Astana chase and Sky sit back, staying fresh.
Caught on the slopes of the Col de la Croix, the break explodes and out of it Team Sky appear, in formation. They push hard, really hard, and Porte attacks. Only TJVG, Martin, Fuglsang, Rodriguez, Evans and De Gendt can stay with him and they hit the downhill barely able to breath. Thus there are no attacks on a controlled descent and Evans outsprints Rodriguez for a sentimental win.
Parity. Its all on tomorrow.
Everything is on this stage. TJVG must attack and Sky know it. Porte is the better rider, just. What can BMC do?
Things start well for Sky, ticking over the Col de Pres, but Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh are both dropped, knackered, on Mont Revard. Their work is telling upon them. Kiryienka is Porte’s lone support. BMC and Garmin wind it up on the windy flat between climbs, making life difficult for the two smaller riders of Sky.
Vasil Kiryienka blows only 2km into his pace-setting of the climb to Annecy. Porte pushes a pace to isolate himself from the nearly men and only TJVG, Martin and Fuglsang can stay with him. TJVG attacks 5km from the top and is promptly brought back. Martin now attacks and gets the gap. Porte is watching Tejay, the stage doesn’t matter right now.
Dan Martin wins again and is confirmed a star. Meanwhile a visibly rocking TJVG is attacked by Richie Porte with 1.5km to go and he blows big time. Porte nearly catches Martin and puts 40 seconds into Tejay to seal an extremely well earned victory.
There was attacking in this Tour. Good eh?
Cavendish is safely ensconced in the Green Jersey. Sagan never got into the top 5 regularly enough to trouble him and Cav’s flat-stage hit rate was too high. But Cav wants that Paris stage again!
As it turns out, a strong man had to spoil the party. And Alexander Kristoff takes advantage of a misfiring Omega leadout and confusion to snatch victory from Griepel and Kittel.
Tejay Van Garderen
Tejay Van Garderen (from Andrew Talansky)
This was the year that the upsets were big, the attacks were frequent and what seems like a very new generation is upon us: Young English speakers who hardly rode as pros amongst without the option of a dope-free team environment. The Italians and Spanish are humiliated as they try to reconstruct, still behind the zeitgeist., but changing slowly.
Meanwhile, in a capacious apartment in glitzy Monaco, a Kenyan-born Brit assesses his friendship with a friend and teammate. A whole new chapter of rivalry and problems for Sky beginning.