I watched the race this morning at a brunch with a bunch of other people, so no images from the race and only a short commentary today.
Really, actually, what can you say? Froome delivered a crushing ride. The only other rider to win Mont Ventoux while in yellow? A certain man from Belgium in 1970:
God, it’s steep at that last bit!
This is not to say that Froome is anywhere near Merckx’s class.
And while Froome didn’t open up a totally insurmountable lead in the GC — though somehow the contenders Mollema, Kreuziger, and Ten Dam remain kind of anonymous to me — we saw two things: Froome has the will to attack his rivals and his rivals seem unable to muster a counterattack. As things are shaping up, this could be the arc of the race this year. Froome has won two decisive stages and crushed the time trial, so there’s no denying he’s riding like a champion. Thankfully, favorites and forgone conclusions aside, we’ve been treated to some thrilling racing nevertheless. Bakelants, Belkin-Saxo, Quintana, Martin, Kittel, Simon — it’s been a great race in terms of single stages.
Carlton Kirby had the line of the day when, as Froome attacked at around 7 km to go and dropped Contador, he said ‘Froome is asking what legs have you got and Contador’s answer is, sadly only two.’ Indeed.
I missed the moment I was most hoping to see: Quintana’s break from the peloton. He rode with the same lack of expression as he did on Ax 3 Domaines, and it’s both thrilling and terrifying to watch him ride. He’s almost never up on the pedals, never seems to be straining. His posture and apparent effort are the same when he’s dropping Riblon and when he’s falling behind Froome. It’s an unearthly style that masks when he’s suffering, which I imagine is the idea (as far as it’s intentional, which it might not be). Wish he were better poised to threaten Froome.
Speaking of riding styles (and slow news days), here’s the cycling equivalent of Batting Stance Guy. The Voeckler is hilarious.
Chavanel won the most combative rider on the day and you have to think it should have been Froome (who not only kept the maillot jaune but also took over King of the Mountains) but for the fact that a Frenchman had to get something on Bastille Day. C’est la guerre.
Both Kirby and Kelly declared Andy Schleck done for the Tour. Actually what they said was he was ‘in the gutter.’ Ouch but I would agree.
There has since been a lot of speculation about the possibility of Froome’s dopage and so on and so forth, as is to be expected. But this was the saddest, most cynical thing I read on the subject (along with the article’s title: Is Chris Froome Just Too Good To Be True?):
‘That attack is not the smartest PR move,’ grumbled one scandal-weary scribe, ‘not if he doesn’t want to raise eyebrows.’
When race performance is viewed as a matter of public relations, it’s time to find another line of work. The whole article is dumb and trots out the usual insinuations with not much subtlety of thought. For my part, I’m more on the fence than ever, as these riders and this sport become more and more professionalized, more and more peak in every way (the bikes have fucking batteries on them), what does ’cheating’ even mean? It’s ceasing to be a matter of the pros doing things that citizens in their weekend 7 am neighborhood crit aren’t doing and becoming a matter simply of what the rules are. And the rules are clearly at the mercy of far stronger forces like public tolerance, profit, and ratings (all basically the same thing). Look at the Dream Team, the live baseball, the team car with extra bikes — all new rules at one time or other. The rules will change, as they always do, to reflect reality. I’m usually far more moralistic on questions like these, but fundamentally the unimaginative knee-jerk suspicions of Froome are pushing me to the pragmatic side of the issue.
Somehow this all reminds me of this ESPN clip of civilians running the 40 against NFL pros:
Let that sink in. Meanwhile Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell were reported today to be doping, which I have to say I read with little surprise. There’s not a lot of logic or consistency in my thinking here, granted.
Here’s a more interesting question: With three-quarters completed (alas!), who in past Tours was down 4+ minutes and came back to win?