Robert Millar on Ventoux and this week's awards
A split-second decision by Michael Rogers led to Saxo-Tinkoff blowing the lead group apart in the final hour of stage 13
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You have to hand it to ASO, having the 14th of July stage finish on top of Mont Ventoux is tempting history to be made. Conveniently for this tale there are number of parallels to be drawn between the storming of the hated Parisian institution and Chris Froome's tentative control of the Centenary Tour.
The Bastille had eight towers just like the Sky leader had eight teammates and the initial fighting in the capital began two days earlier on the 12th just like the Saxo attack to Saint Amand. Also, the fortress held only two days’ supplies which was hardly enough for a long siege against the revolutionary forces just like the fatigue of the Sky team has them looking very shaky for the battles they'll face next week. Even better, some of discontented were formerly loyal to the King, that'll be Michael Rogers then.
Add in to the mix the rising sentiment in the ordinary peloton that something needs to be done against the Sky dominance of all things stage races and the organisers have the perfect setting for another revolution, this time with a cycling theme. On top of the one of France's best known mountains, on the fourteenth day of the seventh month and all they would need to make it perfect would be a French winner. Tommy (Voeckler) where are you Tommy?
Sadly for the lovers of history that's the only part of the tale that might well happen, if a French rider gets in the inevitable escape that's allowed to take ten minutes and he survives the struggle then it could be a bit of a celebration for the home crowd. It might be Bastille Day and the destruction of the prison might have become the symbol of the Revolution but Chris Froome doesn't look like he'll be playing the murdered de Launay character just yet.
Certainly not on Mont Ventoux quite the contrary in fact, I expect he'll take another minute and a bit out of his rivals on this particular finish if the others let him ride unperturbed to the foot of the climb.
The Ventoux experience from the Bedoin side is unrelenting because there are no switchbacks or corners to recover on, it's steep at the bottom, steep in the middle and steep plus windy at the top and that's why it's ideal for the yellow jersey wearer. If Froome is allowed to settle into his usual strong rhythm then it's only a matter of when, and not if, Contador and Quintana have to let go. There's a slim chance of a team attack from Movistar seeking revenge for the Valverde's exit from the GC but I suspect they 'll save that up option for some time next week when Richie Porte and Co are even more frazzled.
The second, so-called transitional, week hasn't been very traditional at all; it's reminded me more of a Vuelta than a TdF. Big crashes in the sprints, echelons affecting GC and surprise attacks are usually a race long feature of the Spanish race but the Tour has normally got over that kind of nervousness after ten days of racing and settled down. It shows just how desperate things get when two decent teams, Vacansoleil and Europcar, are chasing sponsorship for next year and how that can affect everyone else's race. Whereas before the smaller wild-card teams were the candidates for a day of publicity now you have excellent riders getting in breaks and anyone chasing them down is going to hurt. That sees the speeds go up, the team workers using more energy protecting their leaders and more risks been taken to stay near the front. More marginal pains than gains and once you start hurting badly there's no way back.
It was good to see Andrew Talansky haul himself back into the white jersey fight after a bit of a blip, three contestants have to be better than two - just look at the good times Sagan, Cavendish and Griepel are having over in the Points Classification. Friends from the first weeks Cyril Gautier and Jan Bakelants have also returned to the action and they had the added bonus that they got to study the master of the escape Jens Voigt up close and personal on the road to Lyon. Wasn't to be their day though and yet another Omega Pharma rider kept Patrick Lefevre happy. So far the Belgians, the Germans and even the Italians are happy that just leaves the French to sort themselves out and win on Bastille Day.
This Week's Awards:
The Jens Voigt Award for attacking goes to Juan Antonio Flecha, though he only gets a certificate as he doesn't have the full style.
The Bubblegum Award for presentation goes to FDJ and their Centenary kit so much better than their usual drab.
The Joker Award for cheeriness in the face of adversity is for Chris Froome and his comments on P-gate.
The Invisible Man Award sees Thibaut Pinot win a prize, might be his only one too. Ouch.
And finally, The Queen (Don't Stop Me Now) musical tribute is for Alejandro Valverde, no translation needed.
- Robert Millar
Robert Millar was one of the last pure climbers of the Tour de France, winning several stages in the mountain stages and finishing fourth overall in 1984. He is also the only English speaker to have ever won the prestigious polka-dot jersey climber's competition jersey.
Millar retired in 1995 but has continued to follow the sport closely. He was often critical of the media and quickly cuts through the excuses and spin to understand why and how riders win and lose.
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