Tour de France rest-day roundup
Team by team run down of how things stand and who's still standing after a tough first nine stages of the Tour
It's been a hard week of racing for all the teams at the Tour de France, and today's rest day will be a chance to lick the wounds and take stock of who's left standing as the race moves into a mixed week of flat and rolling terrain, with an individual time trial and the huge shadow of the mighty Ventoux lurking on the horizon.
Half the teams have lost at least one rider - Astana have managed to lose 3, with the notable exceptions of Orica, Belkin and OPQS those teams that remain at full strength with 9 riders seem mainly to have done so by keeping away from the pointy end of each day's racing… or maybe I'm being cruel. It's a cruel race though and it's taken it's toll as our team by team rundown of how things stand after the first nine stages shows.
Team Sky - 8 riders
If the rest day had been a day earlier then it would have been all smiles at Team Sky. As it is, Sunday's attritional stage through the Pyrenees has taken its toll. Richie Porte, who worked tirelessly at the beginning of the stage to keep his team leader in contact with some dangerous attacks, suffered towards the end and lost over 17 minutes - althoug a chunk of that will have been him saving his legs once he'd lost contact. Either way, that's Sky's plan B out of the window if Chris Froome ends up in a ditch, or found out on a climb, any time in the next two weeks. Worse than that, however, was the elimination of Vasil Kiryenka, the only rider to be outside the time limit on stage 9. That long shift up the Port de Pailheres the day before must have knocked the stuffing out of him.
Chris Froome leads Contador on stage 9 (Team Sky Website)
Froome will be looking to Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard to tow him across much of the flat towards the next GC stages. Both took a tumble early on and G's continuing participation in the race looked seriously in doubt on Corsica as he attempted to ride with the pain of fractured pelvis. He's on the mend, although whether he's mended enough to be really useful we'll have to wait and see. The positive that Sky can take from yesterday is Froome's ride, which was composed and confident even when the race was splintering.
Movistar Team - 8 riders
Sky's weekend is in sharp contrast to that of Movistar. With Froome putting a minute into Alejandro Valverde on the first summit finish of the race morale must have been fairly low at the Movistar camp on Saturday night, even with Nairo Quintana's move into the white jersey; a minute is a lot of time to claw back, especially since Valverde's not as good against the clock as some of his opposition, Froome included.
Movistar on Stage 9 (Movistar website)
The mood will have been much brighter last night though. Movistar were on the front foot all day; unlike Sky the spearhead of the their team – Valverde, Quintana and Rui Costa – stayed together all day and put the hurt on, with Ruben Plaza, Imanol Erviti and Jonathan Castroviejo all putting in another big shift too, though they fell off nearer the end. Quintana has the freedom to attack Froome knowing that he has to mark Valverde; expect plenty of that once the mountains resurface. Jose Gutierrez climbed off yesterday, but that's not a major loss.
Saxo Tinkoff - 8 riders
Alberto Contador of Saxo-Tinkoff looked a shadow of his former self on the climb to Ax 3 Domaines, losing the best part of two minutes to Froome. Is that the end of Bertie's yellow jersey ambitions? It's too early to discount him. Contador said himself that he was coming in to the Tour below par and hoped to ride himself into form, and he's come back before: remember last year's Vuelta when he rode off the front on a flat stage 17 to regain the race lead?
Saxo-Tinkoff on stage 4 time trial (© Tim de Waele, Saxo-Tinkoff website)
Whether Contador really has a chance of the overall win should be fairly clear after the individual time trial to Mont St Michel. If he can match the pace of Froome then he can stay in contention, and the second time trial, which features two technical descents, suits the Spaniard much better. Froome won't have anyone to follow down the hills on that stage, and he's not the best descender.
Benjamin Noval climbed off on stage 9 yesterday, but that's not a major concern to Sax-Tinkoff and they still have Roman Kreuziger in reserve who's no worse off in the overall than Contador; in fact he's one place above him fifth, albeit on the same time.
BMC - 8 riders
Cadel Evans, stage 9 (© Sirotti, BMC website)
If there's one team that really did have a bad day in the office on the way to Ax 3 Domaines, it was BMC. Last year's white jersey winner Tejay Van Garderen was miles off the pace, finishing a quarter of an hour down. He's been in the wars in the first week and suffered in the heat too. Cadel Evans didn't have it on the final climb either; the Aussie described Saturday as his "worst day ever" in the Tour and lost over four minutes in the final 8km. Given that his time trialling hasn't really been on par this year either, he's now out of contention and has said as much. That leaves BMC a bit rudderless; expect them to look for a stage win with Phillipe Gilbert on either stage 14 or stage 16; the first of the two looks especially well suited to the world champion. BMC lost Michael Schär yesterday so they're down to eight.
Cannondale - 8 riders
Cannondale on stage 8 (Cannondale website)
Cannondale have had a very solid first week, with Peter Sagan taking a hatful of points and a stage win. Barring an injury to the Slovak or some kind of miracle, the green jersey competition is now sewn up. That was Cannondale's primary aim, so job done for them. Losing Ted King on the team time trial – seven seconds outside the time limit – was a big blow for King, riding through the pain of a separated shoulder after a crash on stage 1, but not a major issue for the team as a whole. Although the team as a whole will be happy with their week, Moreno Moser probably won't be: he's been anonymous over the first nine stages and sits an hour down. Expect him to head off in the break in the second week.
Cannondale's main priority will be to keep getting Sagan to the front at intermediates and the end of sprint stages. He doesn't really have to win them, although obviously his team will want him to bag as many as he can; as long as he's there or thereabouts, the jersey will be his all the way to Paris. He's a much better climber than most sprinters and is unlikely to struggle too much in the hills.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step - Full team
Mark Cavendish on stage 6 (© Tim de Waele, OPQS website)
Mark Cavendish has a stage in the bag and he'll be expecting more in the second week with some very sprint-friendly parcours. Omega Pharma - Quickstep are targeting stage wins now that the green jersey looks to be out of reach. They have Cav and, amazingly, they still have Tony Martin. Martin, who was so battered after his stage 1 fall that he passed out in the team coach, has made a near-miraculous recovery. By stage 4 he was already able to power the OPQS team time trial train to second place, and he doesn't seem to be struggling to stay with pace; he's not been in the rear group in the two pyrenean stages. Would you bet against him on Wednesday's pan-flat time trial? We wouldn't.
Sylvain Chavanel has also been active in the first week, although that activity hasn't translated into any placings. He'll be targeting the same stages as Gilbert, assuming Cav doesn't make it over the hills of stage 14. Michal Kwiatkowski will be targeting a return to the white jersey in the individual time trial; he's 1'23" behind Quintana, but the Movistar rider isn't bad against the clock either.
Omega Pharma - Quickstep are still at full strength, and with Cav bossing the train and Gert Steegmans emerging as one of the best lead-out men there is, you'd expect them to grab at least a couple of stages. The Champs-Elysees will be the big target now. Cav's never lost there and he'll want to keep it that way.
Orica Greenedge - Full team
Daryl Impey in Yellow (Orica GreenEDGE website)
Orica-GreenEDGE were the surprise stars of week one: Simon Gerrans winning on Corsica, a team time trial victory over the world champions, Gerrans in yellow, Daryl Impey in yellow, the first African to wear the leader's jersey… It was never going to last once they reached the mountains though. Still at full strength, they'll still be hoping to get some airtime over the next two weeks. Matt Goss hasn't really been firing on all cyclinders so it's possible Impey will get the nod for the sprints, although neither of them are likely to beat the likes of Cavendish, Sagan and Greipel. Their best bet for a stage win is probably for either Michael Albasini or Gerrans to make a break for it; neither is a threat on the overall and both have the legs to make a proper go of staying out for the whole day. Simon Clarke still has a very outside chance of pulling on the polka-dot jersey.
That will be Europcar's aim now: the polka dot jersey, on the shoulders of Pierre Rolland, all the way to Paris. With Rolland now twelve minutes down there's no reason for the main players not to let him go, and it's hard to see anyone taking it off him. Thomas Voeckler looks a spent force this year; yesterday over the big stuff he was tenth from last, over 26 minutes down. They have serial escapologist David Veilleux too, who'll surely feature in at least one break before now and Paris. Europcar are still at full strength but they don't have anyone capable of really mixing it in the sprints.
Garmin Sharp - 7 riders
Garmin-Sharp's aim was to animate the race, and haven't they just done that very well indeed. Stage 9's multiple attacks, with Tom Danielson and Ryder Hesjedal heading up the road, forced the pace for the day and set up Dan Martin to win on a stage almost identical to the first one he ever watched, as a spectator by the side of the road, in 1999. David Millar was the width of a tyre away from taking the yellow jersey on stage 2, when Radioshak-Leopard's Jan Bakelants just managed to keep a second's gap between himself and the charging Sagan. They'll be looking to mix it up for the rest of the week; they're down to seven riders (Christian Vande Velde and Rohan Dennis are out) but they have real quality and it wouldn't be a surprise to see them take another stage.
Argos Shimano - full team
Marcel Kittel won the first stage and spent the day in yellow, so Argos-Shimano will be happy with that. Kittel's not been chasing the intermediates – he's probably the worst of the sprinters on the hills and won't trouble the green – but he's been right up there in the flat stages. He'll be hoping to win another stage at least. Tom Dumoulin has also been riding well, but John Degenkolb hasn't really stepped up on the hillier stages that don't suit Kittel.
Lotto Belisol - 8 riders
Lotto-Belisol lost Jurgen Van den Broeck on stage 6 after a tumble in the run-in left him unable to continue. He was their outside shot for the podium but with that gone all eyes are on Andre Greipel to bring home some more sprint stages. The big German is better on a slight uphill than Cavendish, so he'll be disappointed to see that the last few kilometres of most of the sprint stages next week are either flat or slightly downhill. The exception is Stage 13 from Tours to Saint-Amand-Montrond, so that'll be priority one. Don't be surprised to see Adam Hansen let off the leash at some point; the Australian took a spectacular lone win in the Giro earlier in the year and will be looking for another opportunity.
Belkin Pro Cycling - full team
Belkin Pro Cycling have quietly put two riders into the top four of the GC, almost without anyone noticing. Bauke Mollema is in third, a minute and 44 seconds down on Froome, with Laurens Ten Dam a further six seconds back. A podium for Belkin in their first race under the new sponsor – Belkin is, of course, the former Rabobank team that has been competing as Blanco Pro Cycling while the hunt for a sponsor was underway – would be a major coup. Mollema's not bad against the clock either, so he's in with a shout if he stays out of trouble. Robert Gesink hasn't really been at the races, but that's been true all year.
Katusha - full team
Katusha will be hoping that Alexander Kristoff can turn one of his decent shows in the sprints into a stage win. It's a big ask for the Norwegian, as he doesn't have a train of any kind and has to piggyback on the end of the big sprint squads, but it's not out of the question. Joaquim Rodriguez looks like he's out of the GC fight; already two and a half minutes down, J-Rod won't be relishing the individual time trial this week where he'll drop a bunch more time to Froome. There's every chance he'll nab a stage though, once we're back in the mountains.
Astana - 6 riders
Astana have mostly had a week to forget. They're down to six, with top riders Janez Brajkovic and Fredrik Kessiakoff already departed, along with Andrey Kasechkin. The chance of a stage win for Jakob Fuglsang yesterday evaporated with Dan Martin's superior sprint, and now their best chance of getting anything from the race looks like a break effort from Enrico Gasparotto.
Radioshack-Leopard - full team
Radioshack - Leopard won stage 2 thanks to Jan Bakelants' dig for home, and spent two days in yellow, so that'll probably be seen as a week's work well done. They have some quality against the clock (Maxime Monfort, Andreas Kloden and the reinvented Jens Voigt) but they're unlikely to podium. Andy Schleck lost a hatful of time on the climb to Ax 3 Domaines but looked more comfortable yesterday – well, when the road was pointing up – so he might be around to mix it up on some of the later hilly stages. Assuming it doesn't rain.
FDJ.fr - 8 riders
FDJ – sorry, FDJ.fr – lost Nacer Bouhanni on stage 6 and Thibault Pinot, their podium hope, lost contact on the descent to Ax-les-Thermes before the final climb on stage 8 even started; he finished six minutes down and is out of the GC, so FDJ will be pinning their hopes on a stage win. Given it's Bastille day, probably the Ventoux is the one they'd like, although given that's an almost entirely flat run-in for over 200km, it's likely to be a win from the break followed by a straight fight between the GC boys.
Eukaltel-Euskadi - full team
Euskaltel-Euskadi haven't had a bad first week: Juan Jose Lobato has been mixing it up in the sprints and Mikel Nieve looks like he has the legs to be there or thereabouts on the steep stuff. It wouldn't be a massive surprise to see him nick a stage, but he's likely to plummet in the GC come the time trial.
Ag2r - 8 riders
Ag2r La Mondiale have had Blel Kadri in the spots for a couple of stages, but that's been the highlight of a fairly average week for them. Jean-Christophe Peraud is currently 14th in the GC, three and a half minutes down, and he'd hope to improve on that come the individual time trial; certainly he's a much better TT than some of the names above him. Romain Bardet has been working hard too, and Samuel Dumoulin has contested some of the fast finishes, but they need to do more in week two.
Lampre Merida - 7 riders
Lampre, similarly, haven't been that visible. Przemyslaw Niemiec, who has such a good Giro – finishing sixth overall – is suffering for those exertions earlier in the season. He may recover to contest some of the later climbs, or he may continue to decline. He's 20 minutes down and Damiano Cunego is a further two mintes back. Roberto Ferrari hasn't really managed to get up the front for the sprints either; he'll be looking to do better in the succession of flat stages across the middle of France this week.
Vacansoleil-DCM - full team
Vacansoleil have done okay. A team looking for a new sponsor needs to be active, and they've had Johnny Hoogerland, Thomas De Gendt, Juan Antonio Flecha and Wout Poels visible for the sponsors and the TV camerase at the front of the race through the first week, with Danny Van Poppel, the youngest rider in the tour, snatching third on day one. They'll be looking to have more air time in week two. De Gendt might aim to snatch some more mountains points, but he's not going to overhaul Rolland.
Sojasun - fulll team
Sojasun have been mostly anonymous. Julien Simon and Cyril Lemoine have picked up some top 20 finishes though, with Simon's sixth place on stage 2 the pick. They're unlikely to get any better as the race goes on, unless they manage to find themselves with a man in one of the breaks that does stick.
Cofidis - 8 riders
Lastly, Cofidis. Their race is summed up by Luis Angel Mate's doomed break on stage 5: he went out alone, ran out of puff and was reeled back in just before the live TV started. Rein Taaramae is the best part of an hour down, Daniel Navarro faring better in 25th at ten and a half minutes back. Improvement needed, though.