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TdF #14 Unwilling or unable?

July 21, 2014

After a fast stage, I had hoped for some of the teams still with a thought of winning the tour to try to split the bunch and isolate Nibali. They are not going to win by letting Astana control the race and then attack near the end. Astana can ride at the front for hours and Nibali is the strongest near the end.

If they want to beat Nibali and win the race, they have to attack much earlier and get rid of his team mates. Think back to the stage last year when everyone ganged up on Sky and isolated Froome. Garmin was the main protagonist that day but Saxo and Movistar were also involved. Froome was strong enough to survive on his own, but it was a very tough day for him and Movistar could have done better that day. They did eliminate a team mate and Porte was forced out of contention for the podium.

So why did they not do that today? The pace was pedestrian up the long hard climbs of the Lautaret and Izoard. That was really disappointing as they are fabulous climbs in dramatic terrain. More significant was that played into Astana’s hands as they could work their way up the hills with their full team. If they attacked earlier then they would have got rid of a few of Nibali’s team mates and he might have tired later on.

So were they tired, or did they have other ideas? We did see AG2R and FDF at the front at different times of the stage. They attacked on the last descent and carried that on much of the final climb. They were too weak to make much of a difference and Nibali dispatched them later to take more time. It was even more frustrating to see his competitors more interested in looking at each other than chase down the Italian.

The young Frenchmen Bardet and Pinot are still doing well and were closest to Nibali. Peraud stayed with Nibali which was good for him, but probably selfish, as he could have helped team mate Bardet. Valverde looked tired and lost time, so the youngsters are catching him. Hopefully they will both overtake him and we will see the French celebrate for a change.

Another young and rising star, Majka, held on from the break and climbed superbly to take the win. It was obviously hard work, he could not even raise a hand at the finish line let alone zip up his jersey. Hopefully his eccentric Russian boss will not mind too much.

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