2014 Tour de France- Stage 20; Martin… duh
Well, as expected by virtually everybody on the planet, Tony Martin scorched the TT today. Martin, who is a fairly modest fella, admitted after the race that he would’ve been very hard to beat by anybody today- he felt that good from the beginning. He’s had an exceptional race, and his dominating performance today simply proved what we already knew- he’s the best TT rider in the world. Fabian Cancellara was once as dominant, and he’s hoping to retake the TT title at Worlds later this year, but it’s hard to see anybody taking those stripes away from Tony Martin.
The “race within the race” for the podium was a heated and emotional battle. Barring the unforeseen, the Tour is over and the final podium is set for Paris.
Beginning the day in 2nd, Thibaut Pinot fell to third, but managed a significantly better TT than nearly anybody thought possible. Finishing the day in 12th, Pinot showed remarkable determination.
Jean-Christophe Peraud had an exceptional TT, as expected, and moved u into the 2nd overall by finishing 7th on the stage. Peraud, 37yrs old, broke into tears of joy after Pinot finished far enough back to put Peraud into 2nd. He rode a smart Tour and saved his energy for the final week. And it worked.
Alejandro Valverde began the TT in 4th and ended there with a 28th on the day. He rode the first half a bit shakily and it was looking like he would slide backwards on the GC, but he recovered slightly in the second half of the TT on the rolling terrain. Valverde, notoriously unlucky in Tour TTs, limited his losses, though certainly wanted to have a better ride.
Tejay van Garderen had a great TT today, but it wasn’t quite “great” enough to put him on the podium. He did manage to leapfrog over Romain Bardet, who had an ill-timed rear puncture like his teammate Peraud, but was unable to make up the four minutes needed to move up to 3rd. Van Garderen rode a very good race today, showing his resolve and maturity, finishing 6th on the stage and now 5th on GC- matching his previous best.
Romain Bardet had a less than perfect day, finishing 26th with the help of that rear puncture. Given the fact he’d never raced a TT longer than 30km, he did no worse than expected and managed to still finish better than Valverde. The young Frenchman is clearly a potential contender for the podium in the future, and will only improve as he gets older and gains experience.
Vincenzo Nibali rode a superb TT for him, finished 4th on the stage and adding more time on all of his GC rivals. He further stamped his authority on the race and pretty effectively silenced his critics- or at least those who aren’t utterly batshit crazy.
Hats off to NetApp and their riders Jan Barta and Leopold Konig, who finished 3rd and 5th on the stage, with Konig moving into the top ten on GC (7th). Hats off to my friends at Fuji as well, as the bike sponsor for NetApp. NetApp might not have gotten the stage win they tried so hard for, but they rode aggressively for three weeks and have placed a rider in the top ten. They paid for their Wild Card invite, and then some.
Sunday is The Day® for the sprinters left in the race. The finish on Champs-Élysées is the unofficial Sprinter’s World Championship©, so it’s one of the most important races of the year for the top sprinters in the world. Marcel Kittel has been quietly saving his energy, unless he’s truly cooked. His backup, John Degenkolb, has been riding very well too. Alexander Kristoff has two win now and would love a third. Andre Greipel needs another win and would be more than happy to take the stage on Sunday. French riders Demare and Coquard would love to announce their arrival on the world’s biggest stage, during a Tour that has seen the greatest French successes of the past 40 years. And let’s not forget that though Peter Sagan has lead the points competition since stage 2, he still has not won a stage. And you can bet he’s willing to take a few risks on Sunday to make it happen.
It’s gonna be a great stage… AND… the men will be preceded by the very first women’s event to ever be held on the same day, on the same course, as the men. La Course is the first step by ASO to give women’s cycling the spotlight that is long overdue. The best women in the world will be racing to victory on the Champs-Élysées ahead of the men’s peloton. This historic moment is long, LONG overdue and is hopefully just the first step in further growth and promotion of women’s cycling by ASO and the UCI. With the GC for the men’s race already decided, La Course will provide more pure excitement than the men’s finale. I’m pretty stoked about that.