It's been a pretty good race too. Though once again Team Sky is just invincible thus far. I still find it hard to believe that all the other 'contenders' who have teams built around them giving them their best shot at winning The Tour have just fallen away, leaving MAYBE one guy with their leader, while Sky just drives the pace with 3 or 4 guys protecting Froome. How is it that NO OTHER TEAM can find guys to match Sky's guys? And this has been going on year after year. Does Sky have some magic scouting / recruiting scheme, able to let ONLY THEM find those guys who will still be at the front on the final climb of the day? I sure wish I knew how they do it, as I would guess all the other teams would like to know that secret too.
There's a few guys who are standout to me...I'd say that chief among them is the young Etix Quick-Step Julian Anaphillipe. That guy is really something! Today (stage 15) he was out in the lead group, had some unknown problem and fell back, then just blazed ahead of everybody almost all the way to the front (he didn't catch the 4 front-runners he was with, but he passed up everybody who passed him). And then at the finish he was blazing away. THAT kid is really going places. Another is Adam Yates...though he faltered today and wasn't able to challenge...he was just hanging on. And then how about that Columbian kid Pantano who WON today? Where on earth did HE come from? It's his first year as a pro, and his first Tour, and WOW! I was rooting for Majka after all his work, but on that final descent he was amazing! (and they say that Majka is a great descender). Even after Majka stopped working near the end and made Pantano do the work keeping them from getting caught by the chasing 2 riders, he STILL out-stprinted Majka for the stage win...MOST impressive!
And how about Richie Porte! He has been hanging with Froome day after day, while TJ falters day after day. If he hadn't had that ill-timed-flat on Stage 1 (or was it 2?), he'd be in 3rd place right now! As it is he is now ahead of TJ. Of course, we don't know how he will do in the Alps, but he's looking pretty good thus far. His TT lost him some more time, but even so he's getting close to a podium finish. Also there's Bauke Mollema to keep an eye on...he has come out of nowhere and is now sitting in 2nd, just ahead of Adam Yates (who is wearing the white jersey)! Quintana is still there, but unless he's really holding back, he just doesn't seem to have it this year. He's staying with Froome but totally unable to DO anything else. And speaking of doing anything else, you have to hand it to Astana today...THEY weren't afraid to challenge Sky! And even Valverde went out on an attack, which was fairly quickly reeled back in...but at least he went. He's sitting quite pretty right behind Quintana...much like last year when they finished 2/3 on the podium. This year we have new contenders for them to contend with...as it just seems NOBODY is going to dethrone Froome....at least not this year. Barring disaster (which could happen in an instant), he is looking pretty good.
Another contender I would have never placed high up is Romain Bardet....he's sitting just behind Valverde and has been looking pretty good. And both Dan Martin and Fabio Aru are both in the top-10 but have faltered when the going got tough. Will they be able to hold their top-10 positions thru the Alps? We will know soon enough. Time is running out for anybody to challenge Sky and Froome...but there is time to be had if they have the form....watching Astana challenge today took them down to just one guy with Froome briefly, but then their attack fizzled and Sky was able to regroup and soon enough there were a BUNCH of them, back in front and driving the pace.
One thing that's been unusual this year is the crashes. For WHATEVER reason, I'd say the crashes have been SUBSTANTIALLY less than in recent years. Yes there are some, but we haven't been witnessing the total carnage and abandons that had seemingly become the new norm. I think as of today the peleton is only down 14 riders, which is pretty impressive really!
Watching Cav win his FOURTH stage yesterday in Stage 14 was something....he soundly passed Kittel who then complained that he was hindered...but quite honestly, Kittel didn't have a chance. Cav pretty much SWOOPED by and then pulled in front...the judges have never been shy about relegating Cav in the past...and they didn't think anything of it....but Kittel wasn't happy. And poor Griepel...he's been totally skunked this year.
Team Tinkoff now has the Green AND Polka-Dot jerseys as of today, when Majka took the KOM's by being out front all day, winning nearly every mountain. Can he hold that thru the Alps tho...THAT is the big question.
The TT on stage 13 was a ho-hum affair (the only way a TT is exciting is in person...where you see every single rider go by...THAT is quite fun!) Watching a TT on TV is less than exciting tho...but I do enjoy the Team TT's... sadly no TTT this year. But we do have one more ITT...it's a mountain TT..which should be quite interesting. We will see who still has gas in their tank. Any TT is a diabolical race for most of the peleton, but a mountain TT is just plain cruel (to about 95% of the peleton). TO those 5% of the elite mountain-goats, it's a real chance to gain time on all non-goats. I'd think the true sprinters must HATE the mountain TT's. But it should prove interesting.
Anyway...that's my observations of the last few days...we still one more rest-day coming...and by next Sunday it will all be in the history books once again, and we will be left with the annual Post Tour Depression. I'm already getting sad...the final week is always so bitter-sweet.
But it's not over YET!!!
Update...thought I'd add this picture I saw on Velo News, photo taken by