It’s all action, off the bikes. The race will return on Bastille Day with some big news to discuss. Grab a croissant and settle in.
5. Andre Greipel gets in some sprinter training.
First, some light entertainment.
Rest days are best days…. pic.twitter.com/x4t953EdFr
— Andre Greipel (@AndreGreipel) July 13, 2015
4. Paolini crosses a (white) line
Or perhaps he railed one. Luca Paolini, my favourite bearded rider, is out of the Tour after testing positive for cocaine.
If he did it, it would have to be one of the stupidest examples of self-sabotage in recorded cycling history. Yes, cocaine is a stimulant, but it’s more obviously useful as powdered wanker-fuel in boring nightclub conversations between overpaid middle-class types discussing house music than in actual, you know, sport.
If his B sample is also off its face, it’s a probable career-ender for the ageing Italian party monster. A two-year ban would push him over 40.
3. Porte announces his Skexit
Richie has put an end to the speculation about whether he’ll be riding for Team Death Star next year by announcing his imminent (OK, end-of-season) departure to greener pastures.
Richie wants more opportunities to be a team leader, particularly at Le Tour, as he enters the prime of his career. Fair enough.
He hasn’t said which colours he’ll be wearing next year. Speculation is on BMC or OGE. Whether he’d get Tour leadership at BMC ahead of Tejay van is an open question, but there’s no doubt BMC is building a very good programme under Allan Peiper, so I can see why Richie would want to be involved.
A move to OGE would at least give him clear leadership, with the likes of the Brothers Yates, Esteban Chavez and the OGE TTT Experience providing support. But does OGE have the budget for Porte? Probably not, unless the team can dig up a second naming-rights sponsor that isn’t Gerry Ryan.
2. Basso departs
Ivan Basso has left the Tour after a mid-race diagnosis of testicular cancer. Apparently his prognosis is good, and I wish him all the best for a swift recovery.
Basso is a rider with a past, for sure. At his peak he was an exciting climber, despite being relatively big at 182cm and 70kg. He was banned for two years for ‘attempted’ blood doping as part of Operacion Puerto (he denies actually blood doping, but admits he asked Dr Fuentes for advice on how to do it) and there will always be an asterisk next to his 2006 Giro win, and his Tour de France podiums in the Armstrong era.
He returned to win the 2010 Giro, perhaps his only major result we could consider ‘possibly clean’. Time out for treatment will probably end the 37 year-old Italian’s career. Not the ideal way to retire.
Good luck to him in his treatment.
1. Froome’s zombie Ventoux data
A really high-grade scandal has erupted over the leaking/hacking (depends who you ask) of Chris Froome’s alleged power data files, especially the Mont Ventoux stage of the 2013 Tour, during which Froome utterly wrecked his rivals with a series of high-cadence surges.
Analysis of the file allegedly shows that the real average numbers are extremely close to the estimates previously circulated, which used methodologies developed by ‘The evil’ Dr Ferrari (the mental capacity vacated by an absolute lack of moral scruples seems to have been colonised by an evil genius for exercise physiology). The numbers are, well, exhilarating.
On first blush, this vindicates the ‘Twitter experts’ that Sky had previously been so dismissive of.
It’s already reignited the debate about whether Froome’s performance was plausibly seulement de pain. I’ll leave that to the physiologists and coaches. What is interesting is that Sky management hasn’t really denied the power data is genuine. Rather, they’ve said it was stolen by ‘hacking’ and that interpreting it is just speculation and that Froome has big lungs.
Perhaps, but getting the lawyers involved and taking down YouTube videos overlaying the data on video of the stage? Bit of a PR own goal when you’re spinning a line about transparency.
Expect these scurrilous rumours and tales of skullduggery to keep rumbling as we enter the mountains. In the meantime, read this post from Ross Tucker.
UPDATE: Video is back up on DailyMotion:
Expect every Frenchman worth his beret to attack. It’s mostly flattish, until the final 23km when the race hits the first HC climb of the Tour, a summit finish to boot.
Expect Pierre Rolland, Thomas Voeckler, Romain Bardet or one of the other French climbers to have a major crack at getting into the breakaway and trying to hang on for a glorious Bastille Day victory.