Søren Kragh Andersen’s victory on stage 14 of the Tour de France was not only another display of tactical excellence for Team Sunweb in this year’s race, but it reinforced that whatever else happens in the remaining seven days, whether or not they do anything else remarkable, the German squad will go home happy. Their Tour has been a success, and a big success at that.
With the end of the second week of the Tour approaching, Sunweb are now the fourth team in the race sitting pretty on two stage wins. Alongside them are UAE-Emirates (Alexander Kristoff, stage 1 and Tadej Pogačar, stage 9); Deceuninck-Quick Step (Julian Alaphilippe, stage 2 and Sam Bennett, stage 10) and Lotto Soudal (Caleb Ewan, stages 3 and 11). Jumbo-Visma lead the way with three wins (Primoz Roglic, stage 4 and Wout Van Aert, stages 5 and 7), while Ag2r La Mondiale, Astana and EF Pro Cycling all have one apiece.
But, this is the Tour, a race where multiple races within races happen every day. Crossing the line first on a stage isn’t the only marker of success.
Ineos Grenadiers and Aréka-Samsic haven’t won any stages yet, but both have different aims, with their riders sat high on the general classification with Egan Bernal in third - having also had a stint in the white jersey - and Nairo Quintana in fourth. Likewise, Mitchelton-Scott spent four days with the yellow jersey thanks to Adam Yates, during week one, with Yates still positioned in seventh on the GC.
Ag2r lead the mountains classification, thanks to Benôit Cosnefroy, and although Bora-Hansgrohe have yet to win a stage, Peter Sagan has not yet given up on retaining the green jersey currently sat on Sam Bennett’s shoulders. Even Movistar, largely absent except a recent spate of attacks from Marc Soler, are a narrow second behind EF in the team classification prize - a title that’s seemed to satisfy them for four of the last five years.
The final week of the Tour is built around the climax of the GC battle. Here is where the yellow jersey will be won or lost. But the final week is also the last chance saloon for any teams who have yet to get anything of note out of the Tour. Week three is kitchen sink time - throw everything you’ve got at it.
There’s cold hard maths behind it all. There are seven stages left, and 14 teams still without a stage win. Somebody’s going to go home empty handed.
CCC Team came to the Tour hunting stage wins, but while they’ve been visible in multiple major breakaways so far - Van Avermaet on stage 6, Schär on stages 1 and 10. Zakarin on stage 9. Geschke on stage 13, it’s yet to turn into anything tangible. On stage 14, they spent much of the latter half of the day driving the front of the peloton with Bora, in a bid to set up their leaders Matteo Trentin or Greg Van Avermaet for the punchy finale. But despite having the numbers early on, when the attacks started in the final 10km, the team was unable to do anything about it. Trentin finished their best placed rider, in seventh. Their best result so far remains Olympic champion Van Avermaet’s third place on Mont Aigoual.
NTT Pro Cycling, similarly, are another team looking lost. With no GC rider either, they came close to a stage win through Edvald Boasson Hagen in the sprint on stage 7, but their victory drought at the race now stretches back to 2016 when Mark Cavendish and Steve Cummings brought home a haul. The years since have been fallow and while they have proven winners Boasson Hagen and Michael Valgren, tellingly their main hope for a win was largely shot when sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo abandoned on stage 8.
For debutants Israel Start-Up Nation, the 2020 Tour feels like something they are just trying to get through before they can come back better prepared in 2021. Six top 10s plus a single combativity prize for Krists Nielands on stage 4 is their best takeaway of what has been a quiet race, and while their mass of signings for next season - including four-times winner Chris Froome - show their intent, you get the impression the team we’ll see back next year will be completely different from this one.
How will Bahrain-McLaren view their Tour if Mikel Landa can’t advance further on his eighth place on GC? Winning the yellow jersey was their main aim, and though the Spaniard sits 1:55 back in eighth he needs to do something spectacular in the high mountains and upcoming Alpine stages to realistically change that. Tellingly, the team is one of just three to not yet send a rider into the main breakaway, with Jumbo and Mitchelton being the other two.
Still, what was perhaps most notable on stage 14 was the lack of ambition from teams to even go in a breakaway. With so many squads not even contesting the general classification this year - and even those such as Groupama-FDJ, Ag2r La Mondiale and Cofidis who started with that aim having changed tack now Thibaut Pinot, Guillaume Martin, and Romain Bardet are out of contention (or the race) - stages such as this should have been prime territory for an ambush. But Groupama-FDJ’s Stefan Küng and Trek-Segafredo’s Edward Theuns were the only two to try their luck out front. Küng even lamented the lack of ambition from some squads. “There were very few who wanted to try anything today," he said.
Stages 15, 16 and 17 will no doubt be dominated by the yellow jersey battle, which realistically leaves just days 18 and 19 for everyone else. Some of the 2020 Tour teams are fast running out of road.
Sophie Hurcom is Procycling’s deputy editor.
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