We are through 15 excellent stages of the greatest race in cycling, and as we enjoy a well earned rest day, I think it is time for a Jersey Round up. If you haven’t had the chance to check out Rest Day 1s entrance, then feel free to click here however we might as well get straight into it.
The Yellow Jersey
Even at the absolute peak of his powers, I am not sure Chris Froome was ever this dominant, but without any kind of real competitor Tadej Pogacar enters the rest day in Yellow. His Closest rival, Rigoberto Uran, behind him by over 5 minutes, and with no one looking like they can get close to taking time out of him. Well, all but one person. On the 2nd stage following the rest, the incomparable Mont Ventoux was the flavour of the day, and once we had confirmed the break had won the day, all eyes turned to the GC battle.
It was here, it seemed, that Jonas Vingegaard had not been reading the script and on the 2nd accent of the historic mountain, we saw the first real weakness from the impossibly strong Pogacar. Vingegaard went, and The champ couldn’t go with him. He opened up a small lead and it looked like he would ride himself back into contention and cement his place on the podium. However this *youthful exuberance* could only get him so far. The experience of the previous tour served Pogacar well as he allowed Richard Carapaz and Rigoberto Uran to reattach to his wheel. On the decent the three chasers slowly reeled in the attack from the Danish rider and neutralised any advantage he had gained to finish as a bunch on the line.
*Pogacar is actually two years younger than Vingegaard*.
The Green Jersey
The Manx Missile is making this all look very easy, with the 36 year old Mark Cavendish turning back whatever clock was ticking and reminding the world that he is the man to beat. Taking Green from teammate Alaphilippe on stage 4 following his first victory in 3 years, Cavendish has since won 3 more stages and all but guaranteed Green in Paris should he make it there. Oh, and also there is the small matter of the fact that since we last spoke, he has also tied the unstoppable Eddy Merckx over stage victory record with 34 wins. Where the Green Jersey is concerned, Cav has stated since his first day in Green that he wants stage wins, and if that brings the Jersey then so be it.
His only real competition it seems at this stage is Michael Matthews, who enters the rest day in 2nd place in the standings. Although he is 2nd place, he is still 72 points behind Cavendish with no one else within 100 points of the current classification leader. The only strategy it seems that will work to pry the Jersey off Cav is through him finishing outside the time limit, which through shear will and determination, and a huge from his team, Cavendish is making comfortably every day. Matthews is also himself attempting to gain as many points as possible in the intermediate sprints, which would normally be a great tactic, however the stage win is bigger points and the exertion it takes to win the intermediates means he is no match for the Brit in the final sprints.
The Polka Dot Jersey
You want a competition? Okay, have I got something for you! Earlier in the tour I commended Ide Schelling for showing up ready to chase the mountains points, something you can check out here. Now while he was pure entertainment, any serious challenge for the goods has eluded him. As the race entered the real mountainous stages, Schelling was gone, but the entertainment has remained. Nairo Quintana took the jersey into the rest day and announced his ambitions to target the Jersey for the rest of the race. Problem is though, he seems to have awoken the Peloton. To say this race has a different feel than previous years is an understatement, as everyday is ridden like a one day all in classic.
Quintana did manage to hold the Polka Dots from stage 9 through to stage 12, however three of those stages ended on the flat. Since the start of stage 13 however this race has been pure carnage. Entering stage 14, a stage won by Bauke Mollema, Michael Woods adorned the Jersey. Mollema sits 5th in the competition and on 41 points is a significant outsider. The other 4 competitors above him have been the leader on the road at least once since Woods took the jersey. Wout Van Aert and Quintana both sit in joint 3rd on 64 points, Woods is 2nd with 66 points and Wout Poels currently leads the Jersey with 74 points. This race with go to the wire, with significant points over the next three days available, the Jersey has not been this exciting in a long time.
The White Jersey
This competition is over before it begins whenever we start a Grand Tour it seems at the moment. Many of the team leaders of the main GC contenders are under the age of 26 meaning if they win overall they take White too. I have some ideas on how to change that, but for now it remains the same. The Tour de France this year is no different. Tadej Pogacar is leading the GC and he is 22 years old, for the second years running he looks destined for the White Jersey too, an award he could have wrapped up for the next 5 years. Do you know how many people will remember he won both? None!
In second place we have Jonas Vingegaard who is still a legitimate threat on GC, but currently sits over 5 minutes behind. The rest of the top 10 sit somewhere 20 minutes to 2 hours behind, therefore as you can see, the focus on winning this varies. Vingegaard in my opinion should be leading this competition, as once Pogacar claimed Yellow, his time should no longer register for this competition, but as it stands, the Slovenian rider will be taking home both again.
21 day races
I referenced above that the Tour de France this year feels like a collection of individual races all wrapped up in a Grand Tour and it really does. Everyday the breakaway goes, and most days, especially in the mountains, the GC contenders let it. Are the days of the General Classification winning all the hard stages gone? Maybe, but this Tour has a different feel for a very important reason. The time gap.
With a 5 minute time gap, the Tour feels all but won, and so all of the GC contenders are fighting for the podium. This has a knock on effect, where no team wants to chase down the break, because that will give their opponents a chance to counter and try to chase down the podium. Instead the race is a nervy intense affair with Pogacar smiling as he rides to a nice leisurely victory.
The early crashes involving Geraint Thomas and Primoz Roglic did nothing to help the race either. The former still soldiers on, but at about 30% power, the latter abandoning the race altogether. This has meant the Tour is much less competitive for the top spot overall, and therefore it really has turned into 3 weeks of Classics.
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