I tweeted earlier this week that one of the great ironies of the Tour de France is that you actually get very little cycling done yourself. That's OK though, I love watching the race, and suffering through my work days in an exhausted state is all part of the 'labour of love'...
So today, after the 2nd rest day, here is a few brief notes on the winners & losers so far, along with who is poised to do something special in Week 3 of the great race.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) is obviously the first person to mention here. He has lived up to his pre-race favouritism, and absolutely dominated in the mountains and the individual time trial. There are cynics out there, but I am a believer in a new age of clean cycling - that might make me naive, but I don't care. For now, I am just enjoying watching Froome's ungainly style as he launches himself off Richie Porte's wheel and up the hills to victory.
Bauke Mollema and Laurens Ten Dam (Team Belkin) have been fantastic this year. I wondered before the race who their team leader would be, expecting Robert Gesink to be part of their strategy. Mollema, in particular, is showing himself as a possible Grand Tour winner of the future. As always, the proof will be if he can back up in the years to come.
Orica-Greenedge, as a team, have no pressure leading into the 3rd week. Arriving at the Tour this year having never won a stage, they have racked up two stage wins (thanks to Simon Gerrans and the Team Time Trial), plus have held the yellow jersey for a few days. Its all upside for this team!
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is also having a great race. The relative newcomer is leading the white jersey classification, and has been the only one to seriously challenge Froome in the mountains. Even if he struggles into the third week, he has gained mountains of experience (pardon the pun) which will have him well-prepared for future Grand Tours.
Peter Sagan (Cannondale) has locked up the green sprinters jersey race, winning points when most other sprinters have been dropped on some of the hilly stages. He is a class act on the bike.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was bitten by karma when puncturing at a very inopportune time, and fell away as an overall contender. He was looking great, but is now out of calculations as his team shifts its support to youngster Quintana.
Team BMC has had its overall strategy go completely pear-shaped. Both Cadel Evans and Tejay Van Garderen have come up short, and Phillipe Gilbert hasn't featured as a possible stage winner. They need something good to happen in this last week.
Who To Watch
There are a few riders who have an opportunity to do something exciting in the 3rd week. I'll be keeping a close eye on the following to see if they can snatch a stage win in the mountains:
- Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil)
- Andy Schleck (Radioshack)
- Pierre Rolland (Europcar)
- Thibaut Pinot (FdJ)
- Jakob Fuglsang (Astana)
- Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff)
- Michel Kwiatkowski (OmegaPharma-Quickstep)
- Andrew Talansky & Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp)
A fantastic race so far, with so much more to come in the final week. A tricky individual time trial over two big hills, plus the unbelievable double-ascent of the fabled Alpe d'Huez, will be just two of many highlights throughout the week.
I have no idea what's going to happen, but am looking forward to a few more nights on the couch, wrapped in a woollen blanket and sipping a hot mug of tea, and watching these amazing athletes fight their way to the finish in Paris.