The highs and lows of the Tour de France
Reflections on the first nine stages
After nine stressful stages, the rest day means it's time to take some time out and be as relaxed as possible. Last night we had our transfer after what I can only describe as one of the hardest stages I've ever done in my life.
The thing about a grand tour is that it only takes one day. One day early on can set you up for the next three weeks. One day at any time can ruin any chances you may have had. Looking back to Stage 8, most of the damage and most of the selection was made in the downhill which was ridiculously fast on the Col de Pailhères. Anyone that's ever ridden a bike, and let's face it it's the ones who haven't ridden a bike that have big issues, will know that when you have to descend like that your legs are rubbish. Then to have to be on the front… that's half the game.
Bike racing's funny. You have a great day and then the next you find yourself chasing all the GC guys from 40km in. Sunday's ninth stage was uncontrollable.
In the wash-up of Sunday, and the fact that Froomie was isolated the way that he was, no team can protect their leader the way we might have liked to. If the peloton wants to attack like that and have the GC guys play their cards so early, it's just too hard to control. From now on we just can't lose any more time to Valverde and Contador.
It hasn't really surprised me that those guys are breathing down our necks like that but if there has been a surprise, it's Bauke Mollema and Laurens Ten Dam. They were brilliant on Saturday and if you looked at Sunday, Belkin had numbers in that front group again. Belkin is here and it's good. I did say to Chris the other day that Andy Schleck was looking good. The old Andy isn't so far from being back and that's nice to see. He's one of the good guys in the peloton and he's had a rough time of it the last year-and-a-half.
Looking at the next week or so and keeping in mind what's happened before the rest day, you never really get a day off riding for GC. There will be a fair bit of wind these next few days and you've got a time trial in there as well. For us it would be great if Chris could take a little bit more time there and get a bit more breathing space. To be honest, I can't really see GC changing that much from here on in. The weekend gone was a pretty good indicator of the strong guys in the race but we all know that the one way to really shake it up is with a big cross-wind day or a time trial.
Personally, with GC done and dusted now I'd like to have a good time trial, just for the morale. I've got a new position on my time trial bike so I really want to test that out.
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Richie Porte is in the form of his burgeoning career, not an easy task considering the Australian shot into public consciousness in 2010 winning the Giro d'Italia's young rider classification and holding a place in the GC's top-10 for the duration of the grand tour - all as a neo pro.
Following his victory at Paris-Nice and runner-up overall placings at Critérium International and Vuelta al Pais Vasco, the Team Sky climber is about to take on the Ardennes for the very first time before building up to the Tour de France. Join Porte as he takes Cyclingnews along for the ride.