Froome and Aru play pass the yellow jersey | Second Rest Day Wrap
The Rest Day Wrap is an attempt to give an overview of where things stand in the Tour de France. It focuses on the general classification – which is the overall race – rather than stage wins.
As the first week of the Tour de France takes in two weekends, the second and third weeks are shorter. They tend to make up for that with a greater proportion of yellow jersey racing.
Chris Froome was left shaken after his rivals stirred on the steep slopes of the Peyragudes Airport runway, which finally returned to prominence after its previous high profile outing in the opening sequence of Tomorrow Never Dies.
Fabio Aru gained time on the Team Sky man for the second time in the race, but it was Romain Bardet who was quickest. The stage was also notable for Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana being unable to finish with the favourites and in so doing tearing that very label from themselves and instead applying ones identifying them as also-rans.
A short skitter over three mountains saw Froome’s team-mate Mikel Landa gain meaningful time and come into contention, while Nairo Quintana finished in the same front group and returned himself to a position of respectability. Everyone else attacked each other relentlessly on the final descent to no real effect.
Bit of a sly dog appearance from stage 14, which tried to pass itself off as a green jersey day up until the last few hundred metres. The uphill run to the line saw Fabio Aru riding at the wrong end of a peloton which then split multiple times.
Somehow Froome gained more time than he’d lost on a hard mountain stage two days before and clambered back into yellow.
“Chris is the only guy who could come back from that,” was Dan Martin’s take on what happened to Froome on this stage.
Romain Bardet’s AG2R team were absolutely drilling it on the big climb near the end. The main group stretched out and then a gap opened. That gap was immediately in front of the yellow jersey.
It’s easier to ride behind someone else. When a gap opens, it’s a tipping point. It’s when ‘hard’ becomes ‘impossible’. It is not something you allow to happen if you can do anything at all to avoid it. Was Chris Froome at his limit?
Yes, he was. But it turns out that this was because he had a broken spoke. There was therefore an obvious solution. Thing was, the fully spoked wheel may have allowed him to keep up with AG2R but its insertion had left him needing to do rather more than that.
The gap was about 45 seconds and Bardet still had his team pushing on. Impressively, Froome managed to haul his way back (with more than a little help from Mikel Landa).
You kind of expected AG2R to wait until the very second he regained contact before upping the pace again, but theirs was apparently a pace that could not be upped and the end result was that the only significant change in the general classification on this stage was Dan Martin gaining a few seconds with a late surge that no-one bothered to follow.
Afterwards, some literalist mathematician put it to Martin that he’d be in the yellow jersey if he hadn’t lost 1m15s when he was clattered by a tumbling Richie Porte.
Wise old sage that he is, the Irishman answered: “It’s all ‘what if’, you know? I might have been in yellow and then lost five minutes because everyone attacks the hell out of me.”
The stage was won by Basque hat owner, Bauke Mollema and everyone seemed to be quite happy with that because apparently everyone likes Bauke Mollema.
Here’s the general classification as we hit the second rest day.
What’s left then? The Alps, mainly.
Stage 17, on Wednesday, has some of the BIG Alpine climbs 20-odd kilometres at a stretch.
Stage 18, on Thursday, is the final summit finish atop the 14.1km 7.3% Col d’Izoard.
Stage 20, on Saturday, is a 22.5km time trial in which Chris Froome will be confident of gaining about a minute on everyone else in the top ten. This is something worth bearing in mind when watching all that precedes it.
Next up, on Tuesday, is this one…
Should be a breakaway win or a sprint finish.