After a rest day Monday 22nd July 2019, the Tour de France promises suspense of all times until the arrival on the Champs-Elysees in six days.
A Tour as exciting as indecisive: six days before the finish, a great match is emerging between Thibaut Pinot, for a French victory that would be historic, and the Ineos team, used to win, but it’s another Frenchman, Julian Alaphilippe, who wears the yellow jersey before the Alps.
“Six riders can still win”
This tour, which challenges logic, packs spectators and organizers alike. “These two weeks have filled us,” admits its director Christian Prudhomme who draws a realistic chart of forces while the peloton tried to recover during the second day of rest, in the furnace of Nîmes:
“Six riders can still win.”
Six riders? The top six overall after 2504 kilometres. Sign of the balance of power that took shape in the Pyrenees, the Tour director begins with Thibaut Pinot (4th to 1 min 50 sec): “It is constant, we have seen behind all the others. Julian Alaphilippe defended his shirt magnificently Geraint Thomas (2nd 1 min 35 sec) appeared to repeat in the final Prat Albis. ”
The others are far from being out of play. Especially Egan Bernal, the Colombian prodigy who seems to be lacking in freshness but is in an ideal waiting position (5th at 2:02), with the advantage of entering a high altitude area to its measurements. The Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk, the tip of the better armed Jumbo team may collectively mountain, even the young German Emmanuel Buchmann (3rd du Dauphiné) are still in the game.
Risk of overheating for Pinot
In two stages Pyrenean, the French has erased the consequences of his only serious mistake of the Tour, the border on the road to Albi. All or almost succeeds in the Franc-Comtois, powerfully assisted by David Gaudu who fully justifies, at 22 years only, the hopes placed in him.
— Équipe Cycliste Groupama-FDJ (@GroupamaFDJ) 21 July 2019
Returned to a handful of seconds from his direct rivals (Thomas, Kruijswijk), Pinot has the cards in hand and a team to his devotion. In the three mountain stages to come, from Thursday to Saturday, he must take the advantage if the hierarchy of the Pyrenees is confirmed.
Remains the fragility of this natural runner, authentic, exciting, ready to sign the first French success 34 years after Bernard Hinault. The risk of a cold snap or a big heat stroke. However, weather forecasts predict a hot weather in the coming days. But, one recalls in the Groupama-FDJ team, “it was 36 degrees when Thibaut won the time trial of the championships of France in 2016”.
Duty of invention for the Ineos team
This is perhaps the big novelty of this crazy Tour, crazy, crazy. Accustomed to exerting an undivided dominance since 2012, except the exception 2014 (falls and abandonment of Froome), the most powerful team of the pack reveals unexpected weaknesses. Following the example of the usual lieutenants (Kwiatkowski, Moscon) who died long before the end of the mountain stages.
Philippe Mauduit, the sports director of Pinot, reports:
“They got runners early, they were in management. For me, saving up so early in the Tour was a sign.”
The British team, the only one with two top-ranking cards (Thomas, Bernal), has a real advantage. To her, under duress, to get out of her usual tactics, to be tactically inventive.
His opponents continue to be suspicious. The memory of the 2018 Giro, the unexpected reversal of the situation managed by Chris Froome, is still in the memories. “The third week is going to be terrible. Maybe they have everything bet on this third week, “wonders Philippe Mauduit.
Read also: Tour de France: Pinot wins the Tourmalet, Alaphilippe shines his yellow jersey in the Pyrenees
Danger of exhaustion for Alaphilippus
“What hurts me is the last two weeks,” summed up Sunday night the wearer of the yellow jersey. If he managed to keep his pace in the Foix stage, his marked face, his features drawn by fatigue, attest to his prodigality in the efforts made, the generosity with which he honoured his rank vis-à-vis the public and the media.
— Julian Alaphilippe Officiel (@alafpolak1) 21 July 2019
Can he recover from here in the Alps for the big stage of Valloire, Thursday, by Vars, Izoard and Galibier? The danger lies in its isolation within a team Deceuninck built for other terrains that the mountain, the repetition of high altitude passages and especially its exhaustion.
“You can not be everywhere,” agrees the world number one author of an exceptional season. At least he is sure to have managed his Tour regardless of the final result. To quote one of his favourite phrases, “now is a bonus”.