However, they have not been their usual dominance in the preparation for the Tour, which begs the question of who will take the race to Jumbo-Visma after the Dutch side appear ready to win at will. Not in the overwhelming way Sky / Ineos has done in the past, but in a more subtle style, taking over when they need to keep their leaders safe and – as evidenced on opening day – deciding with the The other GC teams agreed that it was a good idea to slow down the race so that everyone could come back after the multiple crashes and incidents.
Until then, common sense seemed to have gone out the window, certainly for Astana, who was desperate enough to attack downhill. The inevitable crash for their leader Miguel Ángel López, nickname “Superman” or not, cutting off the head of a road sign was karma for the stupidity of their own making. All privileges are now exhausted among their professional colleagues.
The totally different circumstances of the following day have shown that this Tour will unfold more as a series of one-day races rather than a controlled and dictated procession. Of course, the route is conducive to this and there was the up front feeling that it was designed for Julian Alaphilippe after his extraordinary outing last year.
When entering the race, the Frenchman denied any interest in repeating these exploits, and until his victory on the Promenade des Anglais after a good sorting on stage 2, some believed him. Now no one knows what to think. Is he here for GC? Is he here for the steps?
Alaphilippe insists it’s always the last and an emotional victory showed he only lives for this moment, but things change once you’re yellow, and he has a sense of responsibility and understands this. what does it mean to be a Frenchman at the head of the Tour de France. .
Deceuninck-Quickstep also does not have the team to control the race in the same way as last year. In fact, they’re more prepared for sprints with Sam Bennett, but Alaphilippe exists on public feedback, the attention boosting his confidence and pushing him to the next level. He will try to keep his yellow jersey as long as possible.
Stage 4 towards Orcières-Merlette will be a test that he should pass; then he will try to keep the lead until at least the second weekend. If this happens, it is not known if or when it will crack. Last year he wasted too much energy leading but they have that experience at Deceuninck-QuickStep, and he has matured enough as a driver to keep his enthusiasm under better control, his stage victory allowing him to relax enough to see the race clearly. Not totally relaxed though – so we can expect an exuberant race leader rather than a defensive leader.
Roglič, Bernal and the question of Adam Yates
For the favorites of the GC, Roglič and Bernal, it suits them perfectly to let Alaphilippe bear most of the pressure and the responsibility of the race. So far at Jumbo-Visma they have shown themselves capable of getting their best riders in the best positions when they need to, and they show no signs of weakening.
After the Col d’Èze during stage 2, they too were reduced to Roglič and Dumoulin in the leading group but this is normal – the level of the Tour is higher than that of the Dauphiné, and it remained above all leaders and climbers.
At Ineos, things are a bit trickier. Bernal survived without major incident and all signs of back pain appear to be absent. However, this is not the dominance that we have seen in previous years. Instead, it’s far from it, so how team leader Dave Brailsford handles it remains to be seen.
If the opportunity to take time off Roglič and Dumoulin presents itself, then they will take it, but I don’t see them pushing to take the lead right away. They don’t have the resources to dictate or control the race through the Massif Central, so the smart option is to wait. However, there is a lot of posture and pride in the world of cycling at the highest level.
Letting Alaphilippe have his day will be OK for a while, but like last year it will start to bitch. The problem is, Jumbo-Visma won’t be surprised by everything Ineos does, and Deceuninck-QuickStep won’t be afraid of side attacks before medium mountains. It could be a frustrating split week for the reigning champions.
While all the buzz and breath is playing between the two great teams, Pinot needs to stay alert and not fall asleep at crucial moments. He hasn’t been great the previous first few days, but if these are his worst days and the injury he corrected, he’s in a great position – one where he follows, does very little, and then takes his chance when he can. . It’s similar for Tom Dumoulin, but Pinot is a better climber than the Dutchman, so at this point he’s doing well despite having David Gaudu on the injured list.
Someone who looks really scheming is Adam Yates, the frontman of Mitchelton-Scott. For a while it looked like he was going to be the leader of the race and he would have been if Alaphilippe hadn’t won the stage.
Yates clearly has the legs to be a part of the GC fight, so why isn’t he more ambitious? He went through a significant gap with Alaphilippe and Hirschi without too much difficulty, then rode with them like he was a GC candidate looking to take time.
The Briton always says he’s there for stage wins, but he won’t win much in a headwind with two top finishers on his wheel, so you can only assume he’s thinking of a first place in Paris. This may be his last chance – at Ineos he won’t be their first option for many stage races with the pool of talent they have to choose from.