Team Sky training methods might need tweaking
With Chris Froome and Richie Porte finishing first and second by such a margin on stage eight, many started preparing not-at-all-depressing black liveried floats for the procession to Paris. Stage nine was therefore exactly what the race needed. Sky were so far from invincible that Froome was left without team-mates for 130km of a 160km stage.
Maybe Sky’s riders aren’t superhuman. Maybe they take a while to recover after making huge efforts. Various Garmin-Sharp riders went hell for leather on the first climb and shed all the Sky team bar Froome and Porte. On the second climb, Porte disappeared, never to return. He lost 18 minutes in the end and later credited Valverde’s ‘swingers’ for the damage – a reference to an early attack from the Movistar rider.
Even worse for Sky, if Vasil Kiryienka truly is a machine then someone forgot to lubricate him or lubricated him with oxtail soup or something, because he finished outside the time limit and will play no further part in the race. Froome is down to seven support riders.
Why did it matter that Froome was left isolated?
He was left in a group where he was the one with most to lose. There were several people who he couldn’t let get away from him, which meant he had to respond whenever they attacked. A sudden surge in pace takes more out of you than riding at a steady speed, so a series of attacks will sap you disproportionately.
Well the other teams made a bit of a balls of it, to be perfectly honest. Movistar had done much of the damage with earlier attacks and had two riders who Froome would have had to have followed had they attacked again, but only Nairo Quintana made the effort. Had he alternated with Valverde, Froome would have had to have made twice as many accelerations. Had Contador joined in, it could have been three times as many.
But in the end, Quintana made about four surges and no-one else bothered. Maybe they didn’t have it in them, or maybe they were hoping someone else would step up and they could save their strength. Either way, Froome survived and didn’t lose a second to any serious contenders.
But he lost time to someone
Brummie Irishman, Dan Martin, was far enough back on the general classification that Froome didn’t feel the need to go after him when he attacked on the final climb. The same was true of the spankingly-named Jakob Fuglsang who teamed up with Martin so that the pair could stay away all the way to the finish in the town that the ITV team call ‘Bangers de Big Ears’. There the pair had a fairly bumbling sprint, which Martin won.
Martin won Liege-Bastogne-Liege this year as well, so he’s having a cracking season. He seems a cheery sort too, so good on him.
Rest day next
I might write summat, but I might not. It’s best not to make promises when you’re incurably lazy. If I keep expectations low, I’ve a chance of meeting or even exceeding them.