The Tour has its own heritage and legends not only in the riders of the peloton but also in the stages themselves. The HC – haut category – climbs are essentially marked as ‘beyond classification’ and are largely where the Tour de France is won or lost. The Col du Tourmalet is one of these famous HC climbs, at 19km long with an average of 7.4% – the last 3kms having gradients of 10.9%, 7.2%, and 9.8%.
As creatives we have these legends of HC’s in our field of creativity. There is the history and the stories which we learn, and fear or embrace, and against which we inevitably must test ourselves.
On The Cycling Podcast, Francois Thomazeau made the point that team Ineos appeared to be losing their control over the race and they were now not the emphatic force that they have been in the past. He further surmised that other key Tour teams have suffered a similar fate around seven years into their dominance, e.g. Banesto with Pedro Delgado and Miguel Indurain, United Postal with Lance Armstrong, and now Team Ineos with Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas.
Interestingly, these observations come after the general pundit predictions of Thomas winning the time trial stage and Alaphilippe most likely to drop off the pace on the Tourmalet. Okay, Thomas came second in the time trial and faded in the last kilometre on the Tourmalet, but also add into this that Chris Froome isn’t there – if he was here and in form then it would be difficult not to see him comfortably be in Yellow and with a decent lead. Suddenly Team Ineos wouldn’t seem so passé.
117.5km – Tarbes to Tourmalet Bareges.
Julian Alaphilippe has now got riders and pundits changing their opinions of him after today’s stage. Thibaut Pinot suddenly shot out of obscurity in this year’s Tour to justify his pre-race status as a possible podium placing. The maillot jaune came in 2nd and took further time out of Geraint Thomas. A shorter stage for this Tour but plenty of fireworks from the peloton, perhaps countering the organiser’s thinking that the longer stages were needed to make the racing more interesting. Short and punchy, making everyone go earlier, seems to have created much more of a spectacle. Chapeau to Alaphilippe for the defence of his leader’s jersey.