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Robert Hunter’s Stage 17 Diary post….”Something is wrong”

July 20, 2012

Stage 17 of the Tour de France, a final fling for the climbers in this year’s Tour with a 143.5 km trek from Bagnères-de-Luchon to Peyragudes.

The last mountain stage and also mountain top finish was promising to be an exciting stage with so many riders talking about attacking.
Vandenbroek; Nibali; Rolland; Roche; were all riders that were trying to creep up the General classification standings.
The stage started out in misty rainy conditions which was a huge difference from the day before where it was over 35 degrees.

A big break of 30 riders went away after just 20 odd kilometers and even the first climb of the day proved hard for Team Sky as so many riders were still trying to attack. Over the top of the climb there was a surge and a few riders went clear.

There was also a race within a race with the Polka dot Jersey still within reach of two riders. Kessiakoff and Voekler were only a few points apart. Voekler seemed to be the stronger of the two and settled the Jersey, with him winning every point sprint ahead of Kessiakoff.

Nibali took a few risks on the wet decent and found himself in amongst the break away, while Sky was now forced to chase. The break was also not so impressed that Nibali was there as it limited their chances of getting to the finish.

At one point Valverde had a go at Nibali and told him to go back to the group. This was a tricky situation. As him sitting up stops Sky from chasing and saves their riders for later in the day. But it also puts a lot of pressure on him and his team mates (Nibali) who would now have to ride all day to try to win the stage. These intentions were made known by the Liquigas team as Nibali had been the only rider to challenge the Sky duo in the mountains. So Nibali wanted a stage, but now with the break at over 2 km it was a long day for his team.

The Sky riders sat behind and let Liquigas ride all day.

Everybody was now waiting for the big acceleration from Nibali but it never came.

Valverde at this point was the sole leader and trying to get a stage win. The start of the final climb of 15kms he had 2 m 20 seconds.

Basso was setting tempo for Nibali alone but not fast enough to make any kind of difference as there was still a 20 man group and sky had 4 riders.
Finally it was Vandenbroek who accelerated and Nibali who had been promising fireworks all day found himself on the back foot for the first time this TDF.
Sky also noticed this- Wiggins and Froome tried to accelerate, showing that there was nobody close to try to challenge the Jersey.

Wiggins did a turn on the front and everybody thought finally this is the moment we have been waiting for. The leader of the race showing he has got the legs and is the strongest. It never lasted long and Froome was back on the front pulling again. Not only was he pulling but he had to wait a few times in the last 3 km’s for Wiggins.

This in itself can be interpreted in a few ways:
1. Froome was “told to wait” for Wiggens
2. Froome waited of his “own accord” as it was his job.

Froome leading Wiggins……..

The problem with either of these assumptions is that it makes Wiggins as well as Team Sky look bad.

The strongest Climber in the race never being able to show what he can do? If only he was let ride his own race, in the last 3 km’s he could have caught and beat Valverde for the stage.

So the question is what were the tactics? And why?

In my opinion Sky should have let Froome go alone. It would have given them the stage and also given the public something to be excited about because till now the race has been rather boring with the GC riders.
Not once was there any of the big attacks that we have come to expect of the best climbers in the race of years past.

(The other side of letting Froome go, is it also makes Wiggins look bad. So it was always going to be a situation of you damned if you do and you damned of you don’t.)

Froome

One thing I am certain of is that at the next grand tour you won’t have Froome racing for Wiggins.

Valverde took an emotional victory after his ban of 2 years. He has proven that he is back to his best.

Valverde as he crosses the line on stage 17, very emotional

Now we only have 2 stages before Paris and nothing can change the Yellow Jersey. The only thing is if in the TT a big mishap happens or crash and Froome gains over minutes.

There is also a slight chance we could have a group sprint today but again- it’s been a long 3 weeks and it’s 200 km stage. It will depend if the teams will rather wait and gamble on Paris or spend energy on today?

All I can say is that this year’s TDF sprints have proved more exciting than the mountain stages and normally that is not the case. Shows something is wrong.

Robbie

Make sure to follow me on @helivacAthletes for the rest of the Tour, include #Helivac in your retweets and replies and stand the chance of winning a signed Garmin Sharp Barracuda jersey on Sunday!

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Mac permalink
    July 20, 2012 8:21 am

    Scrum and look for what is bad and then throw the rocks at them…
    Post and opinions like this gets the media and fans swarming to look at what is bad or worse become haters of Sky/Wiggins.
    Opinions & assumptions are good, but if it won’t bring forth good things, best to keep it.

    • July 20, 2012 8:32 am

      You can’t keep everyone happy Mac unfortunately. This is a competition, and in competitions people will always have opinions (in every day life)- which they are allowed to voice. Part of having an insider’s point of view, is hearing what they are actually thinking. Robert has done that throughout, which has made this interesting.
      Thanks for giving us your thoughts.

  2. barry permalink
    July 20, 2012 8:35 am

    Great comments Robbie,I have become addicted to the tour over the pat few years or so and definately feel that this year has been the most boring one that i have watched.the tour really misses A Schleck and A Contador this year as they are comfortably the 2 best riders and seem to bring the best out in the peleton.
    I do feel that there is absolutely no way that Wiggin would have won this year if schleck and contador had been riding as only Froome would have possably been able to keep up with there attacks
    Has been fun watching the sprinters though.
    O’ well-looking forward to next year.
    Regards Barry

  3. Frans permalink
    July 20, 2012 9:48 am

    It’s normal for spectators to feel cheated when this happens, same when fx. Webber is told to wait for Vettel – just not good for the sport.

  4. Graham Paton permalink
    July 20, 2012 11:54 am

    What a load of garbage. All I hear is this is a team sport, so know a team looks like winning everybody wants a person to win. 12 years ago a plan was set in motion and what we are seeing now is a result of that plan. It is called strategy. I also would love to see Chris win, but that was not the plan. Unfortunately this is cold and calculating not swash buckling and stylish, but that is what you get when you want big salaries and have big sponsors. expect more of this in the future, it is called being a professional.

  5. Rory Harrop permalink
    July 20, 2012 1:23 pm

    True! the TDF 12 has been a disappointment with the top contenders kind of sliding down hill. Stage 16`s and the huge crash put pay to many a GC riders chances, Evans´s tummy bug put him in the drink, Schleck´s diuretic did him 0.
    So thank God for people like Tommy (Hollywood) Voeckler, for some entertainment, Robs blog and the Wiggo- Froomedog saga, that sir/madam is what keeps our interest in this years tour.

  6. July 20, 2012 7:23 pm

    Tx Robbie for the opinions that some might not agree with. Also to be accepted that there will be many different opinions regarding the Froomeservice supplied to Wiggins. I am very happy that he stuck to his job and secured the yellow for Sky.
    Most important now is whether anyone and this includes Cav,Farrar,Sagan and the rest of the sprinters are going to beat ME for the jersey with MY national flag on it!!!

  7. July 20, 2012 8:21 pm

    I totally agree with Robbie opinion.
    Froome and Wiggins are the strongest in this Tour. But SKY chose Wiggins over Froome. And I think it’s a bad thing for the 2012 Tour de France winner, the Tour de France race and the sport of cycling.
    Seeing Froome stop his effort and wait for Wiggins in La Toussuire and Peyragudes was painful: a real heartbreaker and a spectacle killer in an overall boring race.
    Unless Froome looses 3′ in tomorrow final time trial, I’ll always doubt the winner was the strongest… Tour de France deserves a real winner, not a “sponsor chosen” one.
    2012 is not a great year for Tour de France.

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