Crosswinds forecast for today …
While today’s stage is expected to finish in a sprint, crosswinds of up to 70km per hour have been forecast for today. Should they materialise, they could have a big impact on GC. As ever, our friends from the Global Cycling Network are on hand to explain (a) why and (b) how professional bike racers can use to them to their advantage when it comes to putting the hurt on their rivals.
Philippe Gilbert drops out
Quick-Step Floors has announced that their Belgian rider will not start today’s stage due to illness. Gilbert has been suffering from viral gastroenteritis. It’s a bad start to a day Quick-Step will be hoping ends in star sprinter Marcel Kittel’s sixth stage win of this year’s Tour. Gilbert becomes to 24th rider to leave or be asked to leave this year’s Tour, reducing the field to 174 of the 198 starters.
Speaking of Johan Bruyneel …
His old buddy Lance Armstrong, a man with whose work some readers may be familiar, has been doing a daily Tour de France podcast called Stages with Austin radio personality JB Hager. Considering Armstrong’s “previous” as a liar, bully and the mother of all drug cheats who conned his way to seven Tour de France wins, which have since been stripped from his palmares, pleasures probably don’t get much guiltier, but I think it’s very entertaining and packed full of expert insight.
Curiously, Armstrong seems to share my view that Chris Froome should be very wary of Mike Landa. “If I’m Chris Froome, I don’t trust him as far as I throw him,” says Lance. “I’m not saying he’s a bad guy, good guy … but I am saying what I sad the other day: he’s leaving the team. So, when that happens you have different interests.”
An eventful rest day for David Brailsford
For the second successive rest day, the international written media were not granted access to Chris Froome, despite his status as race leader. While some of them were invited to listen in on his broadcast interviews, in which he was asked only about the race, one journalist did feel the lash of Sir David Brailsford’s tongue.
Brailsford launched a bizarre attack on Barry Ryan of Cycling News, telling the Irishman he was not welcome at yesterday’s Sky media event. “You’re not invited,” said Brailsford. “We have invited the people we we want to speak to. You’ve been writing shit about me.”
The “shit” to which Brailsford is believed to have taken exception was an an article written by Ryan, entitled Strong and Stable? Dave Brailsford’s Year of Saying Nothing, which was published near the end of June. When Ryan asked Brailsford what parts of the piece he considered inaccurate, the Sky chief said “I’m not getting into that. It was opinion, you write shit. We make ourselves available and you write this shit.”
When Ryan pointed out that the only team boss to have behaved in this way with the media on the Tour was Johan Bruyneel, in 2009, Brailsford asked “Are you accusing me of running a doping programme as well.”
Ryan said “Well, UK Anti-Doping are investigating that,” at which point Brailsford said: “You can stick it up your arse” and walked off. If today’s stage is even half as entertaining, we’re in for a fun day’s racing.
Stage 16: Le Puy-en-Velay to Romans-sur-Isère (165km)
After yesterday’s rest day, the riders resume battle with a trip towards the Alps from the medieval mountain city of Le Puy-en-Valey, which hosts the Tour for the sixth time. Just 29 seconds separates the top four riders as the race enters its final week, while Dan Martin is fifth on GC, just another 43 seconds off the pace despite the injuries he sustained in the Stage 9 crash that ended Richie Porte’s Tour. Indeed, you could throw a blanket over the first seven on GC, with Mikel Landa and Simon Yates in sixth and seventh, at 1min 17sec and 2min 02sec respectively.
Anyway, here’s Will Fotheringham’s take on today’s track, from our stage-by-stage guide to this year’s Tour. He’s expecting a sprint finish once the riders descend from the clouds.
A similar stage to this in 2015 went to Greipel but not without a certain amount of pain as the early move was reeled in. It will go to a sprinter but one who can survive the opening hills, going up to 1200m-plus. Greipel, Arnaud Démare and Sagan are the likely names, or maybe the Briton Ben Swift.
Cycling News helped make the headlines on yesterday’s rest day (more of which anon), but in the meantime here’s their preview of talk/fly-through of today’s terrain. The riders are due to begin racing at 12.40pm BST.