The Roar
The Roar


Rest day ramblings: The good, the bad and the ugly of the 2016 Tour de France

Chris Froome is the favourite to take a stage win today. (Tour de Yorkshire)
11th July, 2016

Here is the summary of everything good, bad and ugly about the 2016 Tour de France.

Adam Yates
Can Adam Yates do an ‘Esteban Chaves’ and grab Orica-BikeExchange its second Grand Tour podium of the year?

I don’t see why not.

The young Englishman has not fumbled a pedal stroke so far this Tour and his ascending throughout the Pyrenees has looked controlled and comfortable. On Stage 9’s mountain-top finish at Andorre Arcalis, he was the only one of the General Classification contenders to finish alongside pre-race favourites Chris Froome (Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), gaining time on Richie Porte (BMC), Dan Martin (Etixx-QuickStep), Romain Bardet (AG2R La Modiale), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) and Fabio Aru (Astana).

His second place on GC, just 16 seconds behind race leader Froome, is reflective of his strong form. There is a long way to go of course, with the daunting Mont Ventoux and a week of racing through the Alps still to come, but if Yates keeps on doing what he is doing, then a place on the final podium is a realistic possibility.

With Froome and Quintana most likely to battle it out for the top two positions, third place is up for grabs. Provided he can stay out of trouble, Yates can make it his own.

Mark Cavendish
It seems that rumours of Mark Cavendish’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Love him or hate him, you can’t help but admire him. The tenacious little Manxman has lost none of his explosive power despite slimming down noticeably this year. Three stage wins in the first week of the Tour moves him to second on the all time list of stage victories behind the indomitable Eddie Merckx.


Merckx has 34 wins, 16 of which were gained in time trials. Cavendish has 29 wins, all of which were won in sprints, giving him the record for mass-start wins. If he is not the Tour’s greatest ever sprinter, then I don’t know who is.

The sprints
While the Giro d’Italia’s sprints were an exhibition of power by German tyros Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal), the Tour’s sprints have been as hotly and closely contested as any in recent memory.

Cavendish may have won three of them, but none have been by clear cut margins. Photo finishes between Cavendish and Greipel on Stage 3 and Kittel and Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) on Stage 4 kept fans guessing until the official announcements were made.

The buffeting sprint between Kittel and the fast finishing Coquard was especially thrilling, a real David and Goliath battle between the German giant and the petite Frenchman.

Peter Sagan, an under performer in the stage victory stakes despite dominating the green jersey competition in recent years, also returned to the winner’s list with a stirring victory on day two. It was just reward for a rider who has provided us with so much entertainment throughout his career.

It was also pleasing to see both Cavendish and Sagan spend time in the yellow leaders jersey. Despite their history of Tour success it was a first for both of them.

Froome’s follies
Team Sky are often accused of being boring and strangling races to death with clinical precision. If panache is a quality that cycling fans crave the world over, then Sky are anti-panache. It stands to reason then that the Team Sky leader should be the embodiment of anti-panache, except in this instance, he isn’t.


Chris Froome is flighty and unpredictable. Half the time he doesn’t know what he is going to do let alone his team. This was exemplified towards the end of Stage 8 when, after cresting the final climb of the day, the peloton rightly expected that the group would more-or-less coast the final 15 kilometres to the finish line and rest up for the following day’s challenge.

So sure were the main contenders of this scenario playing out that Quintana decided it was an opportune moment to take on some refreshment. Imagine his surprise when, peering over his upraised water bottle, he saw Froomey stamp on the pedals and disappear down the descent at break-neck speed!

The Team Sky skipper was around the first bend and out of sight before Quintana could even discard his bottle.

Not content with just making a statement and then dropping back to the chasing pack, Froome embarked on a hair-raising adventure of bombing corners, pedalling furiously while sitting on his top tube, and pushing his bike and himself beyond the boundaries of what would generally be considered safe descending.

When asked about his death defying ride later on he simply smiled and said that it was ‘fun’!

Oh, and he got a yellow jersey for his trouble. Chapeau Froomey!

No abandonments
For the first time in years the Tour de France has not been marred by serious crashes during its opening week. As a result the first abandonment didn’t come until Stage 8, when Katusha’s Michael Morkov unclipped after deciding the mountains didn’t agree with him.


That’s not to say that crashes haven’t played a part. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) crashed on the two opening days and his performances suffered as a result. He has now left the Tour because of a fever, no doubt exasperated by his body trying to repair itself and climb mountains at the same time.

The French connection
At the start of this Tour I was hoping that the French GC riders would stand up and really challenge Froome and Quintana for the overall. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) remains in contention, in sixth place and just 44 seconds down, but Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) have already slipped out of the conversation.

Pinot in particular has been disappointing. One bad day can end a rider’s dreams and Pinot suffered that on Stage 7’s ascent of the Col d’Aspin, losing almost three minutes to Froome.

He has since readjusted his sights and now aims at the King of the Mountain competition and is locked in an intriguing battle with Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), but it is little consolation to a rider who offers so much.

As a future GC contender at Grand Tours, he must be considered as fragile at best.

Team unity
Orica-BikeExchange will deny that it has a problem, but watching Simon Gerrans and Michael Matthews attack a stage finish from opposite sides of the road would suggest otherwise.

We all know they are similar types of riders and as a result will target the same stages, but surely the team’s leadership must dictate a common goal. One must work for the other. This situation has to be fixed.


Also Astana leader Fabio Aru shouldn’t expect too much help from multiple grand tour winner and team mate Vincenzo Nibali. Despite making overtures pre-race that his one and only goal was to play super-domestique to Aru, Nibali has been dropped, mounted ill-fated attacks and has done everything but settle into a sustainable rhythm that Aru can follow up the mountain passes.

Nice work Vincenzo! Not.

Outside influences

In a race that spends three weeks traversing open roads, outside influences are bound to play their part at some point. We saw this illustrated graphically just one kilometre from the finish of Stage 7 when the Flamme Rouge inflatable archway rapidly deflated, spectacularly snaring Adam Yates and the chasing peloton in its rubbery clutches.

Thankfully the incident was proven to be just an accident and not something with malicious intent. That is no consolation to Yates of course, who now sports half a dozen or so stitches holding his chin together.

Should it have happened? No. But how can race organisers plan for every contingency? As long as they put processes in place for the remainder of the Tour to prevent something like this happening again everyone should be satisfied.

Completely unsatisfactory though is the UCI’s reaction to Chris Froome dealing with an unruly spectator on Stage 8. The spectator, draped in a flapping flag, was running dangerously close to the peloton as it climbed up the Peyresourde. Froome lashed out, ejecting the fan from the picture with a sharp elbow to the side of the head.

With the recent spate of spectator related accidents you can’t blame Froome for taking the action he did, but according to the UCI he was out of line and as a result they fined him 200 Swiss francs.

I reckon they should have given him a time bonus!


What do you think?