A decisive battle? No. A day of attrition? Absolutely. The ‘Royal’ group at the head of affairs at Serre-Chevalier behind winning LottoNL ski jumper turned cyclist, Slovenian Primož Roglič speaks for itself.
Christopher Froome (Sky & GB) is back in his usual position, at the front with a hugely strong team to back him and a time trial ‘buffer’ if he needs it; Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale & Colombia) has won a stage in the race, shadowed all the moves that matter and seems set for a podium finish in Paris, the man has won a Giro TT in the past and is back to that sort of level.
Romain Bardet (AG2R & France) is strong, determined and his team is good but he’s not yet at the level of Froome – and finally, Warren Barguil (Sunweb & France) who for all his denials looks like a future Tour podium contender to us.
Losers on the day were: Green Jersey, Marcel Kittel (QuickStep & Germany) whose retiral may have been as much a mental as a physical problem – with all those climbs on the day and the next it was just too much for him to cope with; especially with his opponent Michael Matthews (Sunweb & Australia) soaring on the early climbs and Hoovering up intermediate points.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar & Colombia) cracked again after trying to salvage some sort of honour in attempting to get away with Alberto Contador (Trek & Spain) – of whom, more in a moment – but simply didn’t have the legs.
Can this be the same man who’s won the Giro and Vuelta and seemed entirely plausible when speaking of a Giro/Tour ‘double’ earlier this year?
Dumoulin scotched his Giro ambitions and it’s unlikely he’ll make the top 10 in this race.
Fabio Aru (Astana & Italy) faltered and that was enough to put Froome, Uran and Bardet on the offensive.
In these days when the strongest thing that should be in the chill boxes is isotonic drink then his chances of recovery on the Izoard stage are slim and he’s no ‘chronoman’ so he’ll drop more time around the streets of Marseille on Saturday.
Romain Bardet (AG2R & France) despite finishing with the ‘Heads’ and riding an aggressive race, he made no impact on the GC and losing that time bonus on the line may well prove costly in a race this tight.
Simon Yates (Orica & GB) lost time and surrendered some of his lead in the young rider competition to Louis Mentjies (UAE & RSA), who fortunately for Yates, also stumbled.
Their battle on the Izoard should be an interesting one.
Dan Martin (QuickStep & Ireland) lost time too, unable to stay with the Heads; such a pity he came down with Porte all those stages ago.
In the ‘Full Marks For Trying’ file goes Bardet but we wonder if his efforts of Thursday would have been better saved for a an ‘all or nothing’ bid on the final mountain stage?
Joining him is Dan Martin who couldn’t hold the ‘Royal Group’ but enlivened the stage, again.