I found it to be an extraordinary spectacle yesterday, when the top three on the General Classification, after almost three-weeks of racing culminating in a mountain-top finish, fought out the stage bonifications like they were Kittel and Greipel going for Green. The fact that young Bardet, whose AG2R La Mondial team showed no complexes in their attempt to weaken Sky, were able to withstand the power of Froome and finish the final climb on equal terms with the British champion is a massive victory in its own for the Frenchman. He’s still young don’t forget, and that performance yesterday has ignited the hopes of his countrymen for the future. It was also a huge blow to Froome’s aura of invincibility – they’re catching up now.
The old fox Uran, a target of complaints by the French for his calculating racing style, tipped the fair racing scales back to equal balance when he made The Move, the one where he saved Bardet by bringing him back to Froome after the Brit’s big attack. Uran is incredibly strong as you could see with his stage win where he was able to get a 53×11 rolling, accelerating from 20 to 60 kph. Those of you who’ve raced understand the sheer physical strength it takes to bring such a heavy gear up to speed and that for me was a telling sign of the Colombian’s power. Uran has used his speed to gather 22-seconds of bonuses this Tour and although the logic says that he’ll finish behind Froome in Marseille, no one, least of all the Sky, is completely certain of that outcome.
In terms of a beautiful, fluid racer, you won’t find much better than Wawa Barguil. That was poetry in motion yesterday, riding at a 100 rpm cadence up the climb at a record speed with absolute efficiency. And if Bardet is enjoying a deep sense of accomplishment for his having held Froome to even, imagine how Barguil feels having blown the entire Sky team away the way he did and at that point in the Tour that required the greatest set of reserves and depth. Greg LeMond has been tipping Barguil as a future Tour winner and after that royal performance no one is doubting it.
Last chance for romance today – if you are a Baroudeur that is – someone with no team leader duties, who has been given the freedom to hunt for a stage win. It’s a long stage, tough after all they ‘ve been through already, and whomever has the remaining strength to make it into the break today is deserving of deep respect.
John Eustice, is the organizer of the Thompson Bucks County Classic in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and a long-time cycling analyst who has contributed to ESPN, ABC Sports, Time Magazine, and CNN among others. The Bucks County native resides in New York City. He was a pioneer on the European racing circuit and is a two-time United States Professional Champion.