Tour de France Rest Day Rant #2: Ed Hood looks back at the second week of the 2021 Tour de France in his unique style, combining his dissection of the action with his own Tour memories. The Tour from top to bottom – On to Paris.
# You can see Ed’s First Tour de France Rest Day Rant HERE. #
Tadej Pogačar looking good in Yellow – All the way to Paris?
Superlatives, we’re running out of them for Mark Cavendish and that team of Patrick Lefevere’s. Tim Declerq is indeed, a tractor – he seems to enjoy thundering along at the head of affairs for huge spells revelling in the havoc he’s causing behind him. Then to have the rainbow jersey of ‘Ala’ leading your train must be a huge boost for any sprinter but to a man like Cav who feeds on emotion, it’s meat and drink to his table.
World champ lead-out man
But when Asgreen took it up I thought; ‘too far out.’ Then I thought back to Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne last year when the Dane held off a rampaging peloton for kilometre after kilometre in the finale to win solo. Ballerini next, no mean sprinter in his own right with Het Nieuwsblad going his way, this year.
Mørkøv finishing the job on stage 10
And last but by no means least, Michael Mørkøv – one of the best track riders in the world, a Grand Tour stage winner in his own right, three times the elite national champion, a classic podium finisher and the best lead out man in the business. The Dane was carrying so much momentum after swinging off to let Cav through that he finished sixth on the stage.
Stage win No.33
Then the man himself, I’ve already said it but I thought he was finished, however when I saw him win that stage in the Tour of Belgium ahead of Merlier and Ackermann it rather made my eyes go wide – those are quick boys. And today off the back of a ‘text book lead out,’ he made it a hat trick of stages, a feat achieved by very few riders – and the number we mustn’t mention: XXXiV.
Stage 10 highlights:
It’s hard to believe it’s 34 years since I was first on the Ventoux, with Dave and Vik – yes, the same PEZ soothsayer who now dismisses the Tour as a ‘glamour race’ and ‘flim flam’.
Ventoux and Wout van Aert
We had to be up there the night before, the road was closed in the wee small hours; we started the night off sleeping in the tent but had to withdraw to the mini bus to avoid frostbite, the water in our plastic canisters froze solid but by noon it was an inferno, the sun splitting the sky and the heat radiating back up off the limestone surface.
Bernard in the 1987 Ventoux TT
Jean Francois Bernard won on the day and claimed the maillot jaune; he was no stylist, in and out of the saddle, poking at the pedals but it was brutally effective.
Roche on Ventoux
Roche was smooth and graceful and would wrest the jersey from ‘Jeff’ the next day as a prelude to his epic struggle with Pedro Delgado. The next time I was on the ‘Giant of Provence’ was with Martin in 2009 when Juan Manuel Garate took the stage, we drove up on the day and it was simply insane, thousands upon thousands of fans, many having had way too much to drink under another intense sun, the car doors had to be locked or they would jump in the back seat and refuse to budge. We were right at the summit and had a grandstand view of the top riders coming in before Martin chased the convoy off the summit to get us off the mountain in record time. But enough of an old man’s ramblings. . .
Win for Wout
Wout; anything MVdP can do, WVA can do better – except the ‘cross Worlds, you understand. Pogačar remains in control five minutes clear as O’Connor slipped and what looks like the second, third and fourth GC places firmed up – Uran, Vingegaard and Carapaz with just 15 seconds between them. A good day for Wout but not for his team as they lost stalwart Tony Martin to a crash.
Can Carapaz move up the podium?
And INEOS misery – the Ecuadorian section of the team apart – continues as their stalwart, Luke Rowe missed the time cut. But the boys in blue chaperoned their Manxman in green home some seven minutes inside the time cut – easy! Escape artist of the day was Dane Soren Kragh Andersen who escaped the axe by three seconds. And at the behest of my Swiss amigo, Andre Bohren can we spare a thought for BiG Rodge Kluge, lantern rouge currently @ 2:43 and with no Caleb to lead out – but all those kilometres will stand him and Theo Reinhardt in good stead come the Tokyo Olympic madison. Trouble is, that Mørkøv guy is doing just as many K’s. Sprint stage tomorrow? – XXXiV?
Stage 11 highlights:
One of the six days over the winter of 2015/16 – to my shame I can’t remember which one, they all rather run in to one and other – and the rider cabin gossip is; ‘how did that guy Politt get a WorldTour ride? Sure, he won the German u23 road race title but that’s no big deal?’
Within a few weeks he’d silenced the doubters with a top five ride in the Memorial Samyn and had been a prime animator in races like The Three Days of West Flanders and Three Days of De Panne. Season 2017 saw progress but no stand out results, however in 2018 he took a promising seventh in Paris-Roubaix and won his first and – until today – only UCi win in a stage of the Deutschland Tour albeit he’s won criteriums in Germany.
Second in Roubaix
Season 2019 saw him in fine form for the cobbled classics, sixth in the E3, fifth in de Ronde and – in what is the ride he’s best known for until today – second to Philippe Gilbert in Paris-Roubaix. Last season wasn’t great for anyone but I did watch him win the Bremen Six Day with Kenny De Ketele. This season has been solid with top 10 placings in the Omloop, Kuurne and Bredene Koksijde – until today that is, when it went MEGA.
Tour stage win for the big German
Not that he needs to worry about a contract, he’s with BORA until 2023 – and with Sagan gone will have a lot more freedom.I always have a peek at the lower reaches of the day’s stage results – Carlos Verona of Movistar was last home @ 17:30 with ‘Big Rodge’ Kluge – no surprises there then, less than three minutes inside the 20:13 time cut. But just above them @ 16:26 – Geraint Thomas, changed days indeed. . . XXXiV tomorrow?
Stage 12 highlights:
When ‘Super Mario’ Cipollini took his 41st Giro stage victory, a journalist asked how it felt to be the equal of Campionissimo Alfredo Binda. ‘Cipo’ – never a man to suffer from self-esteem issues – replied; ‘let’s not compare the sacred to the profane.’ Or as my amigo Colin said; ‘Great! Just six more Primaveras, 12 other Monuments, 11 Grand Tours and two world titles to go to equal Baron Edouard Louis Joseph overall then?’
Stage win No.34
The above said, Cav’s is a fabulous achievement and a joy to watch. But there’s little doubt in my mind – a fact endorsed by the Manxman himself – that Cav couldn’t have achieved what he has with any other team. Their morale, positioning, timing, work ethic, commitment and sheer race instinct are extraordinary – Bouhanni is looking just as quick as Cav, BUT he doesn’t have the well-oiled Deceuninck machine to bring him home. Chapeau! Mark Cavendish.
Mørkøv was second
But let’s talk too about the man who was second, Michael Mørkøv and go to a six day cabin somewhere in the recent past. One of the established stars of the ‘races to nowhere’ is telling the ensemble to general agreement that taking a sleeping pill and having a few beers after the racing finishes in the small hours is just fine.
Track star and No.1 lead-out man – Michael Mørkøv
But it’s not to Michael Mørkøv; ‘we’re professional bike riders, we shouldn’t be taking pills or drinking beer, it’s just not professional.’ The cabin falls silent, everyone knows he’s right. Michael Morkov, the pro’s pro and a shining example of his trade, I’m honoured to call him a friend.
Stage 13 highlights:
The Bauke Mollema ‘fan song’ is easy to learn; ‘Bau-K – Moll-E-Ma’ repeated endlessly until you need another glug of Amstel/Grolsch/Heineken. You can’t accuse the big likeable guy of being a stylist but he’s what we call in Scotland, ‘Gallus!’
Mollema – Gallus!
It means ‘bold/daring/reckless’ and a 42.7 kilometre solo epic over a tough parcours certainly means he’s ‘Gallus’. And what do you know, a Frenchman on the ‘virtual’ podium, Guillaume Martin moves up to second on GC. The commentators reckon he’s going to, ‘do an O’Connor’ which is to produce a good ride on a stage then squander the time gained within days to slide down the ladder of the huge game of snakes and ladders that is le Tour. But maybe not, he was a Wanty man for four years, that most old school Belgian of teams; not a bad move for a Frenchman with the French Media desperate to ‘big up’ then chart the decline of the next Tommy V/Tricky Dicky/Badger/Maitre Jacques, Wanty kept him out of their full glare.
Guillaume Martin second overall – Today
He was 21st in the 2018 Tour, 12th in the 2019 Tour and he just missed out on the top 10 last year – 11th but with Cofidis. Last year also saw him king of the mountains in the Vuelta; I’m looking forward to seeing how he goes in the next four days of Pyrenean Pain – but then, I’ve always had a soft spot for Wanty Boys.
‘Big Rodge’ Kluge out
And before I finish this bottle of St. Pierre blonde and head for my favourite Italian restaurant, let’s have a peek at the lower reaches of the GC. Sadly, that rock of a man, ‘Big Rodge’ Kluge has crashed out so ‘lanterne rouge’ is now Norway’s, Amund Grøndahl Jansen @ 3 hours 16 minutes, that’s practically a full stage.
Chris Froome – Still in the Tour
But what’s this? Just some 12 places above the Norseman in 137th spot @ two hours 38 minutes, Christopher Froome [Israel Start-Up Nation & GB]. One season too many for sure; but you have to respect the man, as a millionaire he doesn’t have to do this. Pyrenees tomorrow – wish we were there, Dave and Martin.
Stage 14 highlights:
Ironic that another of the toughest mountain stages should go to a team from the Flatlands of The Netherlands; Kuss adds WVA’s Ventoux epic to the Jumbo Visma roll of honour, their 22nd UCi win of the year in a bitter/sweet Tour for them; Primoz and Tone crash out but two epic stage wins and young Vingegaard looking en route a podium. Pogačar?
Sepp Kuss was formidable
‘Teflon Tadej’, despite having no team mates for the final climb never looked troubled and took charge near the top to put an end to all that irksome jumping around by Vingegaard and – unusually, by Rigo. Steady Rigo, not like you to be up to that kind of stuff.
Steady there Rigo!
The lower two podium steps still look as they have for a long time, to be shared by Carapaz, Vingegaard and Uran. And the commentators were right and I was wrong as Martin, does indeed ‘do an O’Connor’ and finds a ladder to slip down in the GC – he’s now ninth but still best Frenchman.
147th overall: Amund Grøndahl Jansen (BikeExchange) at 3:46:14, still hanging on
Down at the lower reaches of the GC, Cav was last man home @ 34:57, but comfortably inside the 43:32 cut; not so for Norway’s Edvald Boasson-Hagen who was OTL @ 1 hr.09:05 but has to be respected for honouring the race and finishing. The Norwegian was billed as, ‘the new Merckx’ a few years back but never lived up to that billing despite some nice results including wins in Gent-Wevelgem, GP Plouay and Tour stages.
Cav still has two chances of stage wins, but he has to get there through the Pyrenees
Nacer Bouhanni had no problem climbing off though, his frustration in the sprints apparent for all to see, as ultimately quick as Cav but without the Manxman’s ‘Blue Machine’, to set him up. After Monday’s ‘jour de repos’ there are three straight high Pyrenean mountain days and with some riders reacting badly post-rest day it’ll be interesting for sure, in a Tour which even PEZ soothsayer, Vik says has been a good one. Talk to you post Paris, and oh yeah, best not forget; ‘Forza Azzurri!’
Stage 15 highlights:
Tour de France Overall After Stage 15:
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates in 62:07:18
2. Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education-Nippo at 5:18
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma at 5:32
4. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) INEOS Grenadiers at 5:33
5. Ben O’Connor (Aus) AG2R Citroën at 5:58
6. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) BORA-hansgrohe at 6:16
7. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech at 7:01
8. Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar at 7:11
9. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis at 7:58
10. Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious at 10:59
11. Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 14:45
12. Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroën at 21:15
13. Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) BikeExchange at 22:51
14. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ at 27:15
15. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux at 29:16
16. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma at 31:43
17. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain Victorious at 35:49
18. Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Qhubeka-NextHash at 36:48
19. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious at 43:14
20. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Education-Nippo at 44:01
21. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 47:17
22. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 50:15
23. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 55:12
24. Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) INEOS Grenadiers at 55:28
25. Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-up Nation at 56:43.
# Stay PEZ for all the Tour de France news. #