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Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 18: Briançon – Izoard, 179.5km. Barguil conquers the Izoard

Izoard

As James Bond might say; ‘there musht be shom mishtake!’

Louis and Rigo doing a spell?

Steady boys!

In fairness to the UAE man from the RSA his pull didn’t last long.

And neither did the Cannondale Colombian’s - but the former National Time Trial Champion and Giro TT winner had real power in his spell to close Froome down on the Izoard.

The aforementioned duo along with Simon Yates (Orica & GB) are all in our, ‘Just Difficult to Drop’ file but Bardet must be worried about his second place on the final podium given all the watts he’s burned up and those which Rigo hasn’t – six seconds isn’t much.

Izoard

Warren Barguil is certainly honouring the polka dot jersey. Photo©Pierre Froger/ASO

However, Bardet has a team and Uran doesn’t, so the man in Martian green’s conservatism is perhaps no surprise.

And even Sky’s maillot jaune, Christopher Froome (GB) must be worried that if he’s on a bad day and the Colombian is on a very good one then 29 seconds isn’t much either – and if Froome should puncture...

If you’re DS Portal and rider Froome which tubulars do you run around the mean streets of Marseille?

The super light silks to give more speed and a psychological boost or do you play safe and go for more rubber and less likelihood of a deflation?

I’ll guess that Froome and Uran choose the latter but Bardet the former.

Izoard

Photo©Pierre Froger/ASO

But what of Izoard conqueror Barguil?

Brilliant; aggressive, confident, cool and looks great on the bike – like we said yesterday, he has to be a contender next year.

Being picky, we’d have liked a more butch voice but you can’t have it all.

And what’s all that tat round his neck?

ONCE boss Manolo Saiz once told Johan Bruyneel at the at start of a mountain time trial;

"I spend fortunes getting you the lightest machines that money can buy and you have all that gold junk round your neck, get rid of it!"

Izoard

Photo©Pierre Froger/ASO

And as VeloVeritas prophet and sage, Viktor said to me today; ‘if it wasn’t for Sunweb and AG2R what sort of race would this be?’

Good question.

He continued; ‘but like them or not, Sky have the best team, they’re near invincible in this race.’

That’s a hard point of view to argue with; Kwiatkowski literally rode himself to a standstill for Froome – how it should be.

And there’s Landa too, finally revealing what he’s capable of.

But on the subject of teams – Astana.

Izoard

Alexey Lutsenko. Photo©Pierre Froger/ASO

What the hell was Lutsenko doing?

He has the legs to be up the road for a huge chunk of the day but his team leader, Fabio Aru is isolated and fighting for the podium.

Peter Post or Johan Bruyneel would never allow such a thing – dreadful use of energies and further evidence, if it were needed of how disjointed and disorganised the squad is.

It’s hard to believe that this is the same outfit which so clinically disposed of Tom Dumoulin in the Vuelta, two years ago.

It’s arguable that Aru is running out of steam anyway but an experienced steady hand on the tiller to calm and assist the Sardinian would have done no harm.

Ireland’s Dan Martin lost a little time today but can be proud of the way he’s ridden in this race, the QuickStep man is certainly not in our; ‘Just Difficult to Drop’ file

And good to see Contador on the offensive again, Vik’s not a fan of Trek’s little Spaniard but conceded; ‘his legs are perhaps diminished but the man still has a big heart.’

For sure,’ as we say in Tour land and if you’re an Aussie or with Orica you have to begin all sentences with; ‘yeah,’ or for full effect; ‘look...’ with the correct intonation of; ‘yeah,’ being a little breathless – Martin and I have been practicing but he’s definitely better than me at it.

Izoard

Three of this Tour's main protagonists. Photo©Pierre Froger/ASO

On the subject of individual performances, Vik’s man of the Tour is Ben Gastauer, Luxembourgish AG2R stalwart who did a power of work for Bardet.

Gastauer had this to say after the Izoard stage;

"It was a very tough stage and we decided to take the race in hand over the Col de Vars and try everything we could to work for Romain.

"I did my bit on the Col d'Izoard. It was a great day for the AG2R La Mondiale team. It was a pleasure to be back at the front; it feels good even when it hurts."

We hope some of the Astana boys read that.

Izoard

Ben Gastauer. Photo©ASO

Stage 19 from Embrun (nice place, great pizzas) to Salon-De-Provence is a long one at 222.5 K but is unlikely to see any seismic GC shifts.

Despite there being three third category climbs the trend is predominantly downhill out of the Alps and gravity assisted to the coast, close to Marseille for Saturday’s final re-shuffle of the pack.

On paper a breakaway stage with some saying it’s too hard for the sprint teams – but desperation is a powerful motivator and with Demare and Kittel gone it’s much more open.

Ciao, ciao.



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