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What does it mean when one of the biggest Tour de France tuneup races is won by a rider who is likely to be a domestique come July? It means breaking Sky’s stranglehold on the Tour will be as difficult as ever. Plus, Peter Sagan just put his rivals for the green jersey on notice.
Story of the day: Sky’s strength ahead of the Tour
Team Sky took 38 seconds out of its nearest rival in the Criterium du Dauphiné’s 35km team time trial, a stage designed to closely mirror the TTT facing teams at the Tour de France. On Sunday, Geraint Thomas capped that performance with an overall victory in which he fended off riders who will be gunning for yellow in a month’s time. He finished ahead of Romain Bardet (3rd) and Adam Yates (2nd), plus Dan Martin (4th), Pierre Rolland (8th) and Ilnur Zakarin (10th).
All this from a rider who is likely to play second fiddle to Chris Froome at the Tour. It was proof, as if anyone needed it, that Team Sky will once again enter this year’s Tour de France as the strongest team. The victory also sets up Thomas as a legitimate second option for team Sky, opening up tactical opportunities for the British outfit.
“I think he’s taken a step forward this year and he’s a serious rival for the Tour de France,” Bardet said of Thomas after the final stage.
Thomas would have won even without Sky’s team time trial win. He’d have finished 4 seconds up on Yates and 7 seconds on Dan Martin. Granted, the race would have unfolded differently given smaller time gaps.
Yates took the final stage, a mountain-top finish atop Saint Gervais Mont Blanc. He caught Dani Navarro in the final kilometre and was able to put 19 seconds into Thomas, who double flatted on the stage.
No friends when the race is on
AG2R-La Mondiale is not afraid of the Sky juggernaut. It proved that again on Sunday when Thomas flatted on the descent of the Col des Saisies with some 40km remaining and AG2R continued pulling at the front. Thomas got a wheel from Gianni Moscon but it still took 15km for him to regain contact with the main bunch.
Thomas says that AG2R accelerated when they heard he’d flatted. Romain Bardet and AG2R manager Vincent Lavenu say the team had already been pulling for 10km and was under no obligation to stop.
“I’m not one to hold a grudge but I also certainly won’t forget it,” Thomas said in the winner’s press conference.
For what it’s worth, TV footage seems to fall on AG2R’s side. The team was already on the front, and pulling, before Thomas’ flat.
Let’s put the Dauphiné in perspective
Before we get too carried away about Sky’s TTT and overall victory, it is worth remembering that the Dauphine is a week farther away from the start of the Tour de France this year. This led to a slightly weaker field and a number of riders claiming they’re still off top form.
The Dauphiné has a mixed record of predicting Tour winners, but one consistent theme is that if a rider is horribly off-form in early June, he’s unlikely to factor in July. That’s a bad sign for Warren Barguil (19th, more than 15 minutes down) and not particularly inspiring for Vincenzo Nibali (24th, 21 minutes down).
Peter Sagan wins at Suisse
In a precursor to the green jersey battle that lies ahead at the Tour, Peter Sagan outkicked Quickstep’s Fernando Gaviria and Katusha’s Nathan Haas to win the second stage of the Tour de Suisse.
The peloton rode four laps of a 39km circuit, which included one category 3 climb halfway through.
It was a tricky, uncontrollable final 20km into Fraunfeld, largely without leadout trains. That opened the door for opportunists like Haas to try to take on traditional fast men like Gaviria and Sagan.
Stefan Kung retains the race’s overall lead.
A reduced sprint is expected at the Tour de Suisse on Monday. Much like stage 2, a hilly finish circuit and a late category 3 climb are likely to prevent a traditional sprint.
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On this day in… 1921
Future Tour de France winner Jean Robic was born. He won the Tour in 1947 and was nicknamed “Biquet,” kid goat, because he stood just 5’3 (161cm) tall.
Robic won his Tour in with a sneaky attack through halfway through the final stage to Paris, which was then, as it is now, generally considered something of a parade. Robic brought race leader Pierre Brambilla along with him, but Brambilla couldn’t hold on. Robic snagged the maillot jaune by Paris.