There's always a collective sigh of relief from the survivors of any Tour de France once the last mountain is climbed and this year has been no exception. There are a lot of tired bodies out there who are just hanging on, hoping to see the Eiffel Tower and though the riders might not have been able to see Paris from the top of Pla d'Adet, it would certainly have felt like it once they crossed the finishing line on the last day of the Pyrenees.
However whilst there's a certain happiness amongst the guys doing the pedalling to see the end of the big climbs, in the team cars there are many principals who will have been taking stock of their situation and then reaching for the worry beads. The time trial would just have confirmed what they didn't want to admit before they had to.
The miserable are …......
BMC might seem to be involved in the GC battle with Tejay van Garderen and he might be up to 5th after luck went his way in the time trial but when riders say they are dreaming of a top five placing before the Tour starts what they are really thinking is they are good enough for a podium. That scenario never looked like happening for the American. Too often he's seen the front of the race leave him behind when it was crunch time. Some stages he was strong enough to be in the chase of Nibali once the sort out had happened but when you come to the Tour secretly expecting a podium in Paris that's not good enough. You have to be with the number one guy at least a couple of times even if it's only to be dropped in the final push, at least you will have showed some sparkle. TVG has been missing the cut, then limiting his losses and that sums it up. Limited.
Europcar were actively seeking something, anything from this year’s race. Brian Coquard started well in the first week, mixing it with the big boys in the sprints but then it all went pear shaped. Tommy Voeckler made the breaks with regularity, as did his sidekick Cyril Gautier, but their companions of the days were consistently better, smarter or fresher. They probably smelt the desperation. Their GC hope, Pierre Rolland, is worn out after doing the Giro and can barely get out the saddle.
Sky are sixth in the team classification and I was surprised by that, I thought they were worse. Much worse. They've been shocking considering this is the outfit which dominated the last two editions of the Tour. With Froome gone, Richie Porte tried to step into the main man's shoes but that lasted one big day and then it was over. Since then we've seen a lack of flexibility. It's as if the domestiques, even the delux ones, that were going to be on the front all day towing Froome along have lost the ability to race for themselves and are stuck at one speed unable to go with an acceleration or make the difference.
Nieve and Kiryenka don't seem to have all the zip trained out of them just yet but they chose the wrong days to try their luck. It would be all too easy to say there was no plan B, even though they were warned in advance of this eventuality but the most disappointing thing has been the realisation that they have no-one who can go in the break and be expected to win from that situation. Wiggins might have been sidelined by the ambitions of Froome but Sky have missed guys like Kennaugh and Boassen Hagen in their line-up.
Trek, otherwise known as Team Schleck, and as soon as Andy went home all hope left them. Actually that's not true, as they had to know he was a gamble waiting to go wrong but as one brother can't be without the other what choice did they have. Harsh it may be but once Fabian Cancellera didn't win the cobbled stage all hope left them. They haven't troubled the GC fight once or the stage victories for that matter and though they have been in a few escapes, if Jensie hadn't worn the climbers jersey for a day, then from podium visits no-one have noticed their presence. Zubeldia is 8th apparently.
Lampre came to the Tour with Rui Costa as their leader but leave the race with little reward. Chris Horner attacked once and then said he was aiming for the Vuelta. So its that it? The Tour is training for the Italian squad because I've always thought they got sent to France as punishment for not doing well at home. Although Rui Costa was likely to make the top ten (just) until the curse of the rainbow jersey put paid to that idea, from their showing this time around I've yet to see anything that changes my perception that the Tour holds no pleasure for them at all.
IAM Cycling might just as well be named 'I AM doing the best I can but it's not enough'. Swiss Champion Martin Elmiger is excused as he's been seen a number of times at the front of the race flying the flag but the other riders have been invisible. Haussler briefly showed his face in Nîmes but Sylvain Chavanel has been a shadow of the rider who wore the yellow jersey during 2010.
Cofidis almost always had a man in the escape and yet nothing to show for it at the end of the day. For a credit company, that's a disappointing return on investment. Rein Taarmäe hasn't really put one foot in front of the other and though they often had riders survive the first selection down to 40 souls, the next acceleration saw the men in red left to their own devices. With no interests in GC and no interest in stage wins there has to be a monetary pun in there somewhere.
Garmin had to re-route after losing Andrew Talansky and if it wasn't for the epic close call of Jack Bauer at Nîmes and the face saving solo from Ramunas Navardauskas on stage 19, they would be deep in the brown stuff. For the peloton Dandies who like their blues, it's not been a great show. When you look at the results they are behind Bretagne in the team standings so though it could have been worse it's not by much.
Are Orica GreenEdge really the team that had such a fabulous start to the Giro? Other than wiping out Mark Cavendish on the first day, there hasn't been one headline moment. Young Simon Yates was the only beacon of light in an otherwise dismal showing from the Aussies, and Gerrans never bounced back from his misfortunes and no-one else stepped up.