WITH their top riders placed first and second, Team Sky seem to have placed a stranglehold on the Tour as Sportshounds cycling expert JOHN TREVORROW reports from France:
THE BIG guns came out to play on Stage 11 of the Tour and there is no doubt that the Sky is the limit. By that I mean that Team Sky have set the standard so high that the others are struggling to even hold the wheel.
Only the big Dutchman Tom Dumoulin and the ever-aggressive Irishman Dan Martin were able to fire a shot.
Geraint Thomas showed that he is much more than a support act to race favourite Chris Froome as the Sky team flexed their muscles and put the rest of the tour field in defence mode.
Thomas not only crossed the line first, but also took the general classification lead.
The Welshman made a late surge to the lead and held on to win the 108.5km stage from Albertville to La Rosiere, finishing 20 seconds ahead of teammate and defending champion, Chris Froome, and Sunweb’s Dumoulin.
With two Sky riders now able to win the race, the challenge has got even more difficult for the opposition.
“Sky have a strong hold on the race, everyone is asphyxiated,” said one rival manager.
Frenchman Romain Bardet finished 59 seconds behind Thomas along with Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana.
Bardet, however, is now 2:58 off the pace ahead of the 12th stage ending up the iconic Alpe d’Huez.
For Aussie team Mitchelton Scott it was a day of heartbreak. They went from chocolates to boiled lollies.
Just as team leader Adam Yates cracked at the beginning of the final climb to La Rosiere, his main support rider, Spaniard Mikel Nieve, broke clear of the breakaway and looked set for victory. But tragically in the final 400 metres a rampant Thomas stormed past his former teammate for a brilliant win.
At this point Nieve’s wheels seemed to almost fall off and he was swallowed up in the final 10 metres, finishing fifth. Yates meanwhile lost more than four minutes along with any realistic chance of a podium in Paris.
Stage 11 from Albertville to Rosiere was one of the most majestic stages I have seen with breathtaking scenery at every corner. But with four major climbs including two HC monsters it was breathtaking for riders in the truest sense.
When this race started Sky said there was only one leader but now they have two riders who are both in dominating form. It does take me back to 2012 when Brad Wiggins had to fight off a rampant Sky teammate in Chris Froome and the fallout from that is still felt in the British team.
Mark Cavendish’s hopes of winning a Tour stage this year vanished for good when the Briton was disqualified from the race after failing to make the time cut on the 11th stage.
Cavendish crossed the line one hour five minutes and 33 seconds after Geraint Thomas, well beyond the time limit that had been set at 31:27.
Sprint specialist Cavendish, who has 30 Tour stage wins to his name, had appeared out of form on this year’s edition, failing to fight for victory in the flat stages.
Also out of the race are his Australian team-mate Mark Renshaw and German Marcel Kittel, winner of 14 Tour stages.
- Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) 3 hrs 29 mins 36 secs
2. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) + 20 secs
3. Chris Froome (Team Sky) same time
4. Damiano Caruso (BMC Racing) + 22 secs
5. Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-Scott) same time
6. Daniel Martin (UAE Emirates) + 27 secs
7. Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) + 57 secs
8. Romain Bardet (AG2R) + 59 secs
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) same time
10. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) same time
- Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) + 44 hrs 6 mins 16 secs
2. Chris Froome (Team Sky) +1 min 25 secs
3. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) + 1 min 44 secs
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) + 2 mins 14 secs
5. Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) + 2 mins 23 secs
6. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) + 2 mins 40 secs
7. Mikel Landa (Movistar) + 2 mins 56 secs
8. Romain Bardet (AG2R) + 2 mins 58 secs
9. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) + 3 mins 16 secs
10. Daniel Martin (UAE Emirates) same time
Author: John Trevorrow
JOHN TREVORROW is a multiple Australian champion road racer and Olympian who has been doing media commentary at the Tour de France for more than 20 years.