The riders are in Berne, Switzerland, for the second and last blessed rest day of the 103rd Tour de France, going on little group rides, talking to reporters and trying to, well, rest. With five stages remaining, let’s take a look at the race situation.
— laurenstendam (@laurenstendam) July 19, 2016
First the top 10 on GC and the jerseys
1) Chris Froome (Great Britain/Sky) 72:40:38
2) Bauke Mollema (The Netherlands/Trek-Segafredo) +1:47
3) Adam Yates (Great Britain/Orica-BikeExchange) +2:45
4) Nairo Quintana (Colombia/Movistar) +2:59
5) Alejandro Valverde (Spain/Movistar) +3:17
6) Romain Bardet (France/AG2R) +4:04
7) Richie Porte (Australia/BMC) +4:27
8) Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) +4:47
9) Dan Martin (Ireland/Etixx-QuickStep) +5:03
10) Fabio Aru (Italy/Astana) +5:16
Yellow jersey: Froome
Green jersey: Peter Sagan (Slovakia/Tinkoff)
Polka dot jersey: Rafal Majka (Poland/Tinkoff)
White jersey: Yates
Froome in control: If there were any questions whether Froome was going to win his third title, they were dispelled on three consecutive stages: the late wind attack of Stage 11, the running man/bananas-fest on Ventoux in Stage 12 and the time trial of Stage 12. Froome and Sky are unmovable.
Mollema and Yates = Kruijswijk and Chaves: Although no one is going to pull a Nibali in this race, there’s a parallel between May’s Giro d’Italia and the Tour at least on the current podium. Like Steven Kruijswijk, Bauke Mollema is a 29-year-old Dutch stage racer who has had some Grand Tour top 10’s but is clearly having the Grand Tour of his life. His fifth place in the time trial proved that his form wasn’t just good in the climbs.
Adam Yates, like Esteban Chaves, is a young stage racer for Orica-GreenEdge. And while Yates doesn’t have the consistency of going from fifth in the Vuelta a España to runner up in his next Grand Tour, he fulfills the “young rider from Orica on the podium” role. Barring disaster he’s a lock for the white jersey.
— Le Tour de France UK (@letour_uk) July 19, 2016
Maybe it’s time Quintana tried something else: With a climbing-heavy final week, Quintana, somewhat mediocre so far, might feel his chances are good to make up the 1:12 to Mollema and grab his third Tour runner-up spot. But ultimately it doesn’t matter if he does. Nairo Quintana, though one of the greatest stage racers today, will never beat Chris Froome in the Brit’s prime. Quintana will be the Poulidor to Froome’s Anquetil, the Ullrich to Froome’s Armstrong. Mark my words: this Froome/Sky Tour dominance will go on and on until, like the latter part of the Anquetil, Merckx, Hinaut, Indurain and Armstrong eras, it is no longer engaging, just stifling and boring.
It might be time for Quintana to try something else, like the Vuelta a España. Perhaps next year Movistar should send Valverde to the Giro and reserve Quintana for the Vuelta, a race he led until crashing out in 2014. Movistar can send a team of stage hunters to the Tour and save the tussling with Sky to Lopez and Aru’s Astana or Mollema and Contador’s Trek.
The King of the Mountains Competition: Viewers should hope that Thomas De Gendt (Belgium/Lotto-Soudal) doesn’t look at his 37-point deficit to Rafal Majka in the KOM and decide not to fight for the polka dots in the final week. It has been a lively, tight competition with Pinot, De Gendt and Majka as its dynamos.
There are 12 categorized climbs left, including three HC’s, one of which is a summit finish.
Multiples: It’s been a great race for multiple winners: four scores for Mark “Not Finished At All” Cavendish, a hat trick for Peter “Ho Hum Another Green Jersey” Sagan and a brace for Tom “The Butterfly of Maastrict (real nickname)” Dumoulin.
Who to cheer for to take a single stage win in the last five days? The impressive Mollema, who has a stage win in the Vuelta? Poor old Quintana? How about Valverde, who has that crazed, “I smell podium” look and has been looking better than Quintana most days? For the Champs Élysées…Greipel?
The week ahead: Four consecutive days of climbing await the riders, with the nasty summit finish of Finhaut-Emosson Wednesday, the uphill time trial Thursday, the short but explosive day with a climax atop Mont Blanc Friday and the big GC conclusion with a one-two finish punch of a clamber up Joux-Plane and tricky descent into Morzine on Saturday.