Lance Armstrong Takes on the Tour de France
Cycling’s most infamous legend talks us through the twists and turns of the Tour with his daily podcast and exclusive updates on 'Outside'
Lance Armstrong descended on Santa Fe, New Mexico, on July 5 to kick off his popular THEMOVE podcast, teaming up with Outside again to provide daily coverage of the Tour de France. Back are the bold predictions, ultimate insider analysis, and perhaps the only truly independent look at cycling’s premier stage race. As you might imagine with Lance being the sport’s persona non grata, he’s beholden to no one.
The Move PodcastLance Armstrong shares his perspective on the 2018 TdF
In the race preview, he weighs in on the route (rowdy), Chris Froome’s drama (dysfunctional), and, after some teeth pulling from his co-host JB Hager, eventually picks a winner (tune in for that). Beginning July 6 and ending with the final stage in Paris on July 29, we’ll be hosting THEMOVE and providing a daily overview of each episode’s highlights.
Stage 21: King Thomas, Wage Stagnation, and the Belgian that Almost Stole the Day. Plus, What Will the Tour Look Like in 25 years?
[For the final episode of The Move, Lance and JB descended on a fan’s home in Albuquerque, NM (where they also visited Walter White’s house from Breaking Bad) before catching up on the Tour that was.]
A Belgian Nearly Steals the Show: Today we almost saw the impossible on the Champs. This Belgium champion Yves Lampaert from Quick Step. He snuck away with another rider and he looked back and hit the gas with a kilometer to go. From the helicopter angle it looked like he was all alone. And then the heli pulled back and the peloton just consumed him. The other thing that breakaway highlights is how fast these sprint trains are going. It would have been amazing if he had stayed away. Not unprecedented, but amazing.
Tip of the Hat to Alexander Kristoff: I need to give a big shout out to the stage winner Alexander Kristoff for spending three frustrating weeks before finally getting his victory on the Champs d'elysees. George Hincapie picked it yesterday. For that, Kristoff is my Patron of the Day, and I texted with George earlier and he agreed. To hang in there and keep fighting for this last chance, clearly he’s our Patron of the Day.
Geraint Thomas to Rob Banks: Peter Sagan finishes in green, and there’s no reason to think he won’t earn many more. Julian Alaphilippe finishes in the climber’s jersey and I like that kid. He has character. But Geraint Thomas was the strongest climber in the Tour, he got fourth in the King of the Mountains competition. Thomas’s world has changed. He was in the Tour with me in 2009. Not cocky like me. He was a normal kid. He was a track rider and big and heavy, now he’s lighter and leaner and much stronger. I didn't realize this, but Thomas spent all of last winter in Malibu training. All those amazing canyons and climbs on the Pacific Crest Highway. Nobody could argue that he wasn't the best rider in the race, he was. And right now he’s wrapped in the Welsh flag. When he goes back home he could just start robbing banks. Walk in and say give me all your money. Does Wales have a king? Because it does now. His name is King Geraint Thomas. The question becomes what happens to him in 2019. He hasn’t signed a contract, but what team other than Sky can afford him?
Stagnant Wages for Cyclists: JB: Nobody talks about it much, but there is prize money to win the Tour.
Lance: Nobody talks about for good reason. That’s because that prize money hasn't changed. The winner essentially gets $500,000 to win the tour. When I won my first tour in 1999 it was $500,000. It hasn’t changed. Riders and teams don’t share in ASO’s global revenues. Historically the winner won’t take any of that money. Geraint Thomas and I’d guess Chris Froome won’t take a piece of that. They spread it out among the team and the staff.
Lance’s 5 Takeaways: 1: My main takeaway is the unbelievable dominance of Team Sky and Geraint Thomas. They were so far beyond everyone else.
2: Lawson Craddock. You break a scapula on day one—200 guys walk away. But to turn it into a charity and to finish in Paris, to double down with a non-profit. I didn’t see him getting over the cobbles or through the team time trial. We all need to recognize what a superhuman effort that was.
3: Tom Dumoulin will win the Tour de France at some point. I don’t know when. He’s the youngest guy that is playing in that elite sandbox right now. He’s smart. He regulates his effort. He just needs somebody with him. When there were 10 guys left in the selection, he was all alone. But that’s easy to fix. Even a team like Lotto Jumbo had two guys in the final selection. Sun Web could poach a guy like Steven Kruijswijk from Lotto.
4: The Cobbles. They were completely uneventful. I’m not saying I didn’t like the stage, but I thought it would blow apart the race and I was wrong. I was wrong about everything in this race.
5: I’ve never seen so many top level sprinters get shelled. It’s shocking. I don’t think they should change the rules or the routes to keep them in the race. But it’s a different race without them. Today was a different day without them.
The Tour in 25 Years: I was asked that question this morning. What will the Tour look like in 25 years. I don’t know the answer, but it has to change. It has to be different. I like what they've been doing and I think they’ll continue to make it evolve.
Stage 20: Hard Man Thomas, Back-to-Back Grand Tours with a Stage Win for Dumoulin, and Tomorrow’s Champagne Dreams
[After a time trial that saw a shake up of the podium, Lance and co-host JB Hager are joined by George “the Poncherello to Lance’s John, the Tom to his Jerry, the Cheech to his Chong” Hincapie.]
Bobby Brings Some Knowledge: [Retired elite racer and current pro-tour level head coach, Bobby Julich, joins the conversation to talk time trialing—his former specialty.]
Lance: I thought it was interesting that the top five finishers today were on two teams. Sun Web and Sky.
Bobby: You guys used to do that pretty often. The time trial at the end of a three-week tour boils down to who has anything left. All those top guys are well coached. Sun Web and Sky know what they’re doing. All of Sky’s guys were in the top 25 on the day.
Lance: The warm-up times have really come down for time trials. Could you explain what's going on?
Bobby: We overdid it with the warmups back in the day. Ironically, when I was racing, I had good time trials in the Tour de France—unless I crashed, which I did twice. For those time trials, I always said ‘I have what I have, I’m not going to do a big warm up.’ Those were my best time trials. When I moved over to Team Sky as a coach, they exposed me to the 25 minute warm up. In that short amount of time, you’re just running through the gears and hitting all the zones. You finish eating three-and-a-half hours before your start. We shortened the warm ups so you keep your glycogen reserves throughout the race.
George: What’s up with the 3D custom printed bars on Sky TT bikes?
Bobby: It’s just that, they’re custom. They’re taking into account the rider and the bike. A lot of the copy and paste setups most teams have are adjusted with bridges and spacers. These Sky guys are spending time in the wind tunnel, then they print out exactly what they need. Now the armrests are custom fit to the rider. They’re locked in.
George: I know from earlier conversations with you that Froome’s numbers were pretty amazing when he came to Sky and you were still coaching there. Did they have the same expectations for Geraint Thomas?
Bobby: We knew from day one that Geraint had the talent, but he was more focused on single-day races. But yeah when I was with Sky we knew what we had. Geraint came up through the system. He’s a hard worker. He’s one of the hardest men in the peloton. The one drawback, the one reason he wasn’t favored, was he always seemed to have a bad crash. Which can happen to anyone, look at Sagan barely finishing. But this was Geraint’s perfect race. With a perfect team. What’s that, six out of the last seven Tour de France’s Sky has won?
Don’t Hate on Sky: George: Will these guys be on the same team next year? Geraint Thomas, Chris Froome, and now Egan Bernal.
Bobby: Sky is the best organized team out there. If any team can handle the egos, they can. Bernal is looking to sign a five-year contract. Man that’s going to be a tough trio to beat. [Sky boss] Brailsford was the best GM I ever worked with. [Audible groaning from Lance.] I was there 2011 and 2012. We were just getting our feet wet winning the Tour de France with Bradley [Wiggins]. We kept a folder of projects that we wanted to do, but we didn’t have the budget or the manpower for most of them. They think of everything. And now they’re rolling them out, everything that was in that journal. The team kitchen, the washing machines, the 3D-printed bars, the skin suits. Everyone wants to hate on Sky, but when you do your job right you succeed. Their riders are the best, the staff are the best. You have to respect the work.
Patron of the Day: Lance: First I need to point out the exceptional performance today by Tom Dumoulin for winning by one second; basically a tie. But I’m going to give my Patron of the Day to Chris Froome [who finished second]. He’s won a lot of Grand Tours. I wouldn’t have thought getting third overall would have meant anything to him, but clearly it did. He absolutely flew today and showed what a champion he is. Damn near won the time trial and got back on the podium.
George: My Patron has to be Tom Dumoulin, the stage winner. He’s done two grand tours back-to-back. And he caps of the Tour with a stage win by one second. And he chased down Roglic all day yesterday. Last year he won the Giro and this year he’s finished second in the Giro and the Tour. He has to come away with a lot of confidence that he can win the Tour next year.
Next Year Should Be Dynamite: George: I think the way this Tour ended makes for a super exciting race next year. Roglic is up and coming. Froome will be rested. Geraint Thomas will want to win another. And Tom Dumoulin will be a factor. Remember, he lost a minute and 20 seconds from a puncture and a penalty.
Lance: Tom Dumoulin, without the flat tire and the penalty, he loses the Tour by 31 seconds. Which is insanely tight. And Geraint Thomas we should also note, he was absolutely flying at the first time check today. In one corner, he came in hot and had the back wheel off the ground. After that he backed off and said you know what, I can’t crash.
George: He sat up. Changed his hand positioning. He could have won the stage today.
Lance: He came across the finish line posting up with his hands in the air. On a time-trial bike. I would never do that. A TT bike is sketchy.
Tomorrow’s Parade: George: You drink champagne. Usually there’s not a breakaway on the Champs, but with the sprinter’s teams so decimated there's a possibility it could happen. But my pick is Kristoff tomorrow in a field sprint.
Lance: Don’t forget everybody has to finish. It’s not all that easy. It’s not pavé [cobbles] but it’s not paved, its brick. If it even sprinkles rain it’s like ice. The thing I love about the sprint into the Champs is the camera in the middle of the road. It’s like you’re in the middle of the sprint. Watch for that tomorrow.
Stage 19: Roglic’s Cojones; Tomorrow’s World Championship Time Trial; and Bobke Bites the Cherry.
[After a gutsy day of racing in the high Pyrenees, Lance and co-host JB Hager are joined in the studio by George “The juke to Lance’s jive, the freak to his flow, the Doctor to his Pepper, the Tarzan to his Jane” Hincapie]
Patron of the Day—Primoz Roglic: [Roglic, a former ski jumper, moved into third position in the overall after accelerating over the final climb and gapping the race leaders on a blistering downhill finish.]
Lance: I’m going to start off with Primoz Roglic, he’s my Patron of the Day. We talked about his ski jumping career earlier. Another fact you might not know about him is that he didn’t start cycling at all until 2012.
George: That’s an incredible fact, not only because he was able to develop the effort a Tour de France rider needs, but the bike handling, too. He’s one of the best.
Lance: If you saw him going down hill today putting time into all his rivals, maybe that’s easy compared to ski jumping.
George: Definitely my Patron of the Day; not only Primoz but the entire Lotto-Jumbo team. They had four guys in that group of 15. Robert Gesink did a great job on the bottom slopes. Closed down the gap to Landa. That team has won three stages in the Tour de France. You can’t count out what Lotto has done in this Tour.
Johan Bruyneel Picks Roglic for Second Overall: [Lance and George’s former director sportif calls in from Europe with a bold prediction.]
Johan: Today was very exciting. I think we saw something that cycling has needed. A highly contended mountain stage late in the Tour—and a guy like Roglic. He was impressive on the climb and the downhill. He’s my pick for the second step of the podium in Paris. He’s a great time trialist. He’s on the rise. And now he’s coming off a win, only 15 seconds down on Dumoulin. In theory Dumoulin is a better time trialist, but Roglic was second behind him at the world championships. If you assume that Geraint Thomas takes yellow, the remaining two spots on the podium are going to be contested by Dumoulin, Roglic, and Froome. Those guys went 1, 2, and 3 at the World Championships in the time trial.
Lance Proposes a Four Week TDF: Johan: You can clearly see that Roglic is very strong at the third week.
Lance: If there was a fourth week he’d win the tour.
Johan: Yes, but we all know that there's no fourth week.
Lance: Thank you.
Is Froome Toast? Take Two: Johan: He’s not the same Froome we saw three or four years ago.
George: I think we’re still discounting his work at the Giro.
Johan: Yes, we see the same with Dumoulin. There was more time to rest this year because of the World Cup [which pushed back the Tour by a week], but it’s impressive that Froome and Dumoulin are even up there. But I personally think we saw the best of Froome three or four years ago. He rode away from Contador in his prime.
Lance: Good, Contador is a wanker.
Tomorrow’s TT: [Lance predicts that Dumoulin will take time on Geraint Thomas tomorrow. Johan is not so sure.]
Johan: If you see for example that Geraint Thomas was always on Dumoulin’s wheel all day today. Geraint Thomas is also a good time trialist. If Dumoulin was going to take time, on a very good day it would be 30 seconds. [He’d need more than two minutes.]
Lance: It’s also a technical time trial with a lot of corners that could favor Geraint Thomas. There’s a steep little hill that’s 1k long at 10% just before the finish. Yes, Geraint Thomas is going to win the tour, but he has to stay on his bike tomorrow to do it. Corners, mechanicals, he has to think about every shift. He can’t make a stupid mistake.
George: That’s for the overall, but who’s going to win the day tomorrow. Is there a time trialist in the grupetto that’s been laying in wait?
Lance: There’s nobody like that left. I think Roglic is going to win tomorrow.
Bob “Bobke” Roll Calls In: [The former Tour rider and NBC commentator chats with Lance and George.]
Bobke: It was a great stage, Landa tried from way out and built a three minute lead, so alarm bells started ringing with 100k to go to the finish. It ultimately wasn’t as decisive because things came together again. But it was a thrilling stage, and it’s hard to get people to race that hard in the mountains this late in the Tour.
Lance: Dumoulin was complaining that Roglic was getting help on the downhill from the moto on the final run in.
Bobke: He was on the moto all the way down the descent and at every corner he was getting a little advantage, which makes it very hard for the chasers.
Lance: Cyclists brake less going into corners than motos, so they catch back on and get the draft as the moto accelerates out of the turn. Roglic didn’t do anything wrong. That’s just what you do. That’s the advantage you get. We all would have done the same thing.
Bobke: Roglic can’t be faulted for that, but being on the moto was a big advantage today.
The New Look of the Tour: George: Bob, what do you think of this Tour in general?
Bobke: They’re trying to drag the Tour into the modern era by incorporating shorter stages. It’s been especially successful in the Vuelta. And we’ve had exciting stages throughout. The Tour doesn’t have to change because it’s successful and they have a template they like to stick to. But the innovative stages they did try [biggest cobble stage ever, uphill sprints, gravel, short mountain stages] were really successful and dynamic. I hope they continue to drive in a modern direction.
Lance: The Tour used to be 2,400 plus miles. You can’t have a 1,500 mile race across France. They can shorten some stages, but the fans have to know that there will be transition stages. That’s when I sleep in.
George: Bob, you mentioned on TV that today’s downhill wasn’t that technical, but Christian Vande Velde [Roll’s NBC co-host and former TDF racer] dropped you on the descent when you pre-rode it. Are you losing the Bobke descending skills that we all know and love you for?
Bobke: Yeah, I had a front flat the other day on a descent, so I was a little spooked today.
Lance: On the Aussie feed when the camera was following a racer with some high-speed wobbles the commentator said, “That took a few bites of the cherry to get through there.” Sounds like you were biting the cherry on that descent.
Stage 18: Sharks at a Pool Party; Sagan’s Sore Ass Muscle; and Third Place Sucks
[After a sprint finish in the the town of Pau at the base of the Pyrenees, Lance and co-host JB Hager are joined by George “The Bonnie to Lance’s Clyde, the Mork to his Mindy, the Beavis to his Butthead” Hincapie.]
No Dogs at Bike Races: Lance: I slept in this morning thinking that this would be a snooze of a stage and I was right. There’s not a lot to talk about today other than that George was right again. It was a sprint finish. Other than that, a dog ran out into the road and one of the guys nearly clipped it. We were listening to the Aussie feed, and commentator Matt Keenan said, “Dogs at bike races are not a good idea. A little bit like a shark at a pool party.”
Quintana Crashes: Lance: Quintana crashed pretty hard, which could affect tomorrow’s aggression from Movistar. He’s on the up in terms of form, too. For him to take a hard crash like that on an uneventful stage is not a good sign for the team.
George: And unfortunately he’s the one guy that would have been a candidate for an early attack tomorrow.
Did Demare Get Towed? [Yesterday on Twitter, Andre Greipel all but accused the french Sprinter Arnaud Demare of hitching a ride up the climbs and Lance and George seemed to agree. Overnight Greipel deleted the tweet and apologized—and Demare took today’s stage in a sprint finish.]
Lance: Greipel came out yesterday with both barrels blazing. Turns out Demare was more like 12 minutes back not nine, and Greipel took down the tweet and apologized for it. Greipel has a had a rough few days. His team basically divorced him over the internet and now this. I’m still skeptical of Demare though. I still think his right arm is a little longer than his left arm.
George: We have no proof. We have no visuals. If you were the first guy dropped and you only lost 29 minutes over three climbs, it’s suspicious. Sticky bottles could come into play. Getting water all day long on every climb.
Sagan’s Ass Muscle: [JB plays a clip of a post crash interview with Sagan just for cheap laughs.]
Sagan’s Money Line: “I went too fast for the turn. I hit already really hard my ass muscle.”
Froome Says F the Police: [After losing time yesterday and effectively losing the Tour de France, Froome quickly rode downhill to the bus—only to suffer greater ignominy when a police officer mistook him for a fan and wrestled him from his bike.]
Lance: Like everything in 2018, the entire incident is on social media. It’s pretty shocking.
George: We didn’t know that Froome was the first rider down yesterday. He probably grabbed a nondescript jacket and a bottle and turned right around.
Lance: Apparently he was warned to get off his bike, and then the cop said I’ll take none of this and went after him.
[JB shows a clip of Froome and the gendarme exchanging unpleasantries.]
Lance: You don’t know who Chris Froome is? Come on. Later, the head of the gendarme came to Sky and apologized to the entire team. Clearly yesterday was not the day that Froome imagined it would be.
Lance’s Day Without A Patron: Lance: I’m not naming a Patron of the Day today. Every day we name a patron, well almost every day. Today I got nothing.
George: Say what you will of what Demare did or did not do yesterday. He was highly criticized by his peers in the press. But he put that aside today and won the stage. It was a clear victory. The team worked for him the whole stage. He has to be my Patron of the Day.
Tomorrow—Fireworks or Fizzle? Lance: I feel like this race isn’t over. Somebody is going to have a bad day. But I’ve been wrong every day.
George: Froome said he would do everything possible it protect Geraint Thomas’ Yellow Jersey.
Lance: If Geraint Thomas had a bad day, a really bad day, like getting tossed on the Tourmalet, Froome would do everything he could do to win.
George: Barring that though, the tempo that Sky is putting in place, nobody can attack it. And Geraint Thomas hasn’t shown any weakness so far.
JB: Could there be a battle between Froome and Roglic for third?
Lance: Roglic isn’t going to take a flyer and risk his place, so he’ll have to wait for the time trial.
George: [To Lance] Why don’t you tell us all how it felt after winning seven Tours and then getting third place?
Lance: It fucking sucked. Especially with that wanker Contador on the top step. [To George] Why do you have to say shit like that? I never should have been there.
Next Year: Lance: This team Lotto Jumbo is legit. We’ve all seen the domination of Team Sky. But for Lotto Jumbo to have Roglic [currently fourth overall] and Steven Kruijswijk [currently sixth]…they’re a force to reckon with next year.
George: I’m excited to see the duel between Froome and Thomas. Froome did the Giro, won the Giro, and now he’s a bit off of his top form, but he’ll be back. I cannot imagine the two of them racing on the same team next year.
Lance: This is the beginning of the end for Chris Froome. Geraint Thomas is 32, he’ll be their guy.
George: I wouldn’t say Froome is done. Did you see what he did at the Giro last month? [Froome was down in the standings and attacked from 80k out on a mountain stage to secure the win.] And he’s only 33.
Stage 17: Froome’s Bad Day, Gilbert’s Elephantiasis, and Greipel’s Flaming Shit of a Tweet
[After a shakeup in the Pyrenees that saw Chris Froome lose time, Lance and JB are joined in the Airstream by George “The Starsky to Lance’s Hutch, the Gronk to his Brady, the Hall to his Oats” Hincapie.]
Froome Cracks: Lance: We were so excited about this 65k stage. Ahh, I don’t know. There was action. Maybe not the fireworks we expected, but Froome’s Tour took a drastic turn today. And to add insult to injury, my sources within Team Sky have confirmed that on the ride down the mountain after the stage he got crashed by a cop.
A bad day for Chris Froome. A local cop reportedly took him off the bike. He apparently assumed Froome was a spectator. What rock was this cop living under?
Lance Vindicated | Quintana Patron: Lance: My Patron of the Day has to be Nairo Quintana. And yes I was right that he’d have a good day today. Clearly Hincapie is getting some fatigue on the third week of the tour. He’s making bad decisions. And I’m getting it right. It also turned out that Philippe Gilbert was super tucked [that controversial aero position] just before his Tour-ending crash yesterday. And I wouldn’t be surprised, too, if Peter Sagan, who crashed today, was also super tucking.
George: I spoke with Gilbert. He was going for the stage win yesterday. He said he was only going at 80 percent on the penultimate climb and leaving everything in the tank for that last climb. The way he rode the Tour de France, he should have had two or three stage wins.
Lance: By the way, he was our Patron yesterday because he go up and finished, but he broke his kneecap in that crash and had to bow out after the race. What must that feel like?
George: His left leg is swollen up three times the size of his right leg.
Lance: That’s a tough mofo right there.
JB: But you were right, Lance, it was the super tuck leading in.
Lance: Yep he came in hot. But back to today, it’s hard to argue with Quintana as Patron of the Day. He was talking big before the stage and he stood up. He had help from his Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde. But he rode super strong. This was an interesting climb, the previous record was held by myself, Ivan Basso, and Jan Ulrich. George actually won the climb. Quintana broke our record up to the old finish and then kept on trucking.
Dan Martin Gets George's Praise: Lance: Special shout out to Dan Martin. This boy never gives up.
George: I would say he’s my Patron of the Day. He got passed by Quintana who took a 25 second lead, but he held him there to finish second. And he held off the GC group. You have to give him a triple A for effort.
Johan Weighs In | And Will It be “Sir” Geraint Thomas? [Former team director Johan Bruyneel calls in from Europe. George asks him if Sky will give Froome a free hand to attack now that he’s lost time.]
Johan: If it was me, there would be no way that I would let him attack. It can only bring bad things. An attack by Froome would be very stupid.
George: Johan, do you think Froome and Thomas will be on the same team next year?
Bruyneel: Sky will definitely make a big effort to keep Geraint Thomas. In my opinion they consider him a lot more British than Froome.
Lance: That’s a good point. I wonder if they’ll knight him if he wins. It’s interesting because Wiggins won the Tour and got knighted; Sky’s manager Brailsford get’s knighted, but Froome wins four tours and…nothing. They consider him an African. [Though his father is English, Froome was born in Kenya and went to high school in South Africa.]
George: Johan, how much do you think the Giro effort is affecting Froome right now? [Froome won the Giro d’Italia in May]
Bruyneel: It has affected him. Plus all the added stress he had to go through last month. Those things have an impact. I think he can maintain the basic condition, which is why he’s right there until the end, but he doesn’t have the punch that Thomas has. Froome and Dumoulin [second in the Giro] don’t have it right now. I’m impressed that they’re up there given that they went 100 percent in the Giro.
Greipel’s Tweet: [The sprinter Andre Greipel, who was disqualified from the Tour after missing a time cut last week, issued a sarcastic tweet ridiculing fellow sprinter Arnaud Demare’s “ride” over today’s monster climbs.]
Lance: Get a load of this Tweet, if this shit don’t have some flames on it I don’t know what does. Andre Greipel says: “Maybe somebody should tell Team FDJ and Arnaud Demare that there is GPS tracking in the Tour. Chapeau to Demare only losing 9 minutes in a 17k climb to Nairo Quintana. #notthefirsttime”
George: He only lost 29 minutes… and he was dropped on the first climb.
Lance: We talked about this. This is total bullshit. To get dropped and then hold onto a car on the way up to make the time cut so you can get to Paris….
Bruyneel: I personally think he won’t win a stage because he’s in such bad shape. For him to be the first guy to get dropped, that’s not normal. Yesterday he was dropped early too and didn’t lose that much time.
Lance: You have to police the back of the field the same way you police the front. This is a joke. I don’t care if you’re the french champion sprinter or not.
Stage 16: Tear Gas, Phil’s Crash, and Tomorrow’s Gonna Smash
[The Tour returned to the Pyrenees today and Lance is joined by co-host JB Hager and George “the Robin to my Batman, the Thelma to my Louise, the Robert Earl Keen to my Lyle” Hincapie.]
The Tear Gas Incident: Lance: There’s a long history of protest incidents at the tour. Hell, they protested at the World Cup with Pussy Riot, too. Here the farmers blocked the road with a bunch of hay bales. There was some confusion over the tear gas. Initially they thought it was the farmers that deployed it, But it was the gendarme that sprayed the farmers and about 30 riders were affected. Taylor Phinney, Chris Froome—they had to get their eyes flushed out. That would affect you all day.
What’s Up With The Massive Breakaway? Lance: The breakaway looked like an entire peloton. There were 47 guys out front.
George: We would never let more than 10 guys go up the road. There would be too much risk that they’d work together and blow apart the race. Maybe that’s a testament to Sky’s confidence.
The Crash Reel Part One: [Philippe Gilbert and Adam Yates both crashed while taking risks at the front of the race today.]
Lance: The crashes are the two main storylines of the day. I’ve been telling you people that something is going to happen with this supertuck. [The extreme aero position that sees racers sit on their top tubes beneath the saddle.] It’s a bad idea. But Philippe Gilbert was going down the Aspet—which has a long history with the death of our teammate Fabio Casartelli—and he goes over a stone wall in almost exactly the same spot.
George: We don’t all agree that he was in the supertuck. At least 100 meters before the crash he wasn't in the supertuck. If you take a look, he took a super inside line and mishandled the corner. And you’re talking about one of the best bike handlers in the world.
Lance: George can make his point while I make mine. He was in the supertuck just before. If you’re going that much faster into a corner like that, then you overcook the corner.
George: Cycling is all about risk. The supertuck is not going away.
Lance: It’s not going away, but if he’s not all supertucked and going that much faster you ride it out. If anyone can ride out a corner it’s Gilbert.
JB: So Gilbert goes over that wall and it’s hard to tell how far he fell.
Lance: I’m not criticising Philippe Gilbert. It’s one of those ones that makes you think, “I hope this guy gets up. It could be 50 feet down.” But the way that he got up and sat there for a minute, collected himself, and gave the thumbs up to the camera—Patron of the Day. So many guys are tired at this point in the race and they’re looking for an excuse to get out. Not Philippe Gilbert.
George: He looked very aware of where he was and what he was doing after the crash. But it was a very ballsy move to get back on the bike. He’s my Patron of the Day, too. Not to mention he’s been in the break every day. He’s probably been in more breakaway miles than anyone in the race.
The Crash Reel Part Two: [Adam Yates had the race in hand but lost contact with his front wheel as he was battling to fend of a hard-charging Julian Alaphilippe, who would go on to win the day.]
Lance: He wasn’t supertucking. It was basically a downhill time trial between Yates and Alaphilippe. Alaphilippe is one of the best descenders in the world, and by all reports Yates is a fast descender too. As we were watching it live, George said Yates is away, and I said no he’s not. George, who is always right, was wrong. Make a note. He was like: “He’s hot, he’s hot!” and I was like “He’s too hot,” and then his front wheel just slipped out.The shady sections were very wet. I don’t think he did anything wrong, it's just that the front wheel slipped out. He would have won today. You’re mentally fucked if you’re trying to get back on a wheel like Alalphillipe’s after a crash. You hit the ground and you’re like, “Oh no, I don’t have this.”
George: I would suspect that if he didn’t take those risks he would have stayed away. He had 20 or 25 seconds. He overcooked the corner because of the extra pressure and tension. He’s about to win the stage. I believe it would have been the team’s first and he was supposed to be a contender. There was so much pressure.
Tomorrow Could Decide It: [Stage 17 has been much hyped, deservedly so. At only 65K, it’s the shortest stage in 30 years and climbs from the gun over three mountain passes. It represents the last chance for rivals to make significant time before the final time trial.]
Lance: I’ve been saying this all along, but I still can’t wait for stage 17. It’s projected to thunderstorm at the start and the finish. If Alpe d'Huez was the Queen stage, then this is the King stage. Short and intense with wet roads, and it’s the last opportunity to get back time.
George: Nothing happened with the overall rankings today. Clearly Sky is dominating the pace in the mountains. Nobody is even able to attack. Tomorrow they’ll go to the front and start time trialing. Their plan is simple: ride their own pace. It’s unclear if Bardet and Dumoulin will be able to attack. I would think that Geraint Thomas will be feeling the pressure. Tomorrow is going to be a hard, action packed day we hope.
Lance: If you’re Geraint Thomas and you get through the day tomorrow, man how could you not see Paris. Survive the day. Manage your efforts. Manage your losses if you have them. He’s an amazing time trialist. If he gets through tomorrow he wins the Tour de France.
George: I would have to agree with Lance. This is a 16K climb with a nine-percent average gradient. Which is very steep. Like Lance says, if he gets through tomorrow he goes to Paris. But Froome wants to win, and Bardet wants to win, there has to be action tomorrow. Dumoulin could maybe put 40 seconds into Thomas on the time trial. The Sky plan will be to let them attack and then let them come back on their own. They have one plan and that’s to ride the front at their pace.
Stage 15: Today’s Chess Match, Two-Faced Team Directors, and Sky Stops Rubbing Taints
[Lance is joined by co-host JB Hager and George “The Sonny to my Cher, the Jan to my Klodie, the chocolate to my peanut butter” Hincapie in the Airstream to talk about today’s breakaway.]
Astana Doubles Down [Cort Nielsen survives the breakaway to sprint for the win.]
Lance: It was a hard day on the bike. One-hundred and thirteen miles. But it was two victories in a row for Team Astana. It was also a huge day for a team that’s battling for the overall in the Team Classification.
George: When Fabio Aru left Astana in the off-season, people were saying they would be a non-factor in the Tour, and suddenly they have two wins.
How the Break Happened: George: To the casual fan, today’s state looked like an insignificant profile, but I can assure you the riders weren’t thinking that. It was up and down right from the gun today; as hard as it gets right from the start. And while the riders are getting in position, the team directors are yelling in everyone’s ear that, if you haven't won a stage, you better get in the breakaway. It’s stressful and it’s hard racing. That first 50k was brutal. Then it settles out with 29 guys in the break before it eventually whittles down to seven or eight, and then three guys peel off. It’s a total lottery to survive. Then you have to get lucky to time it right so that the move you’re in sticks. Those three guys that came to the line each had a teammate in the group of seven. So they weren’t going to do anything to reel the three riders back in. They worked hard to get in the break, but those last three guys got lucky too. It’s a chess game.
An Aside About the Fight for Team Classification: George: They had three Movistar guys in the break, so in my mind they’ve already given up on the GC. They’re going for stage wins, and they want to win the team classification.
Lance: The Team General Classification is a big deal. We don’t talk about it a lot. But for a team like Astana that doesn’t have a chance left for the yellow jersey, it’s incredibly important. Hell, it was important to us, too. If you have three guys in a group that’s 15 minutes up you’re getting points. There are a lot of different races going on.
Patron of the Day: Lance: Michael Valgren [Team Astana] is my Patron of the Day. He was in the break. It could have been his turn to to go for the win. But when his teammate magnus got away, he sat up and neutralized the chase group. That’s a patron move.
George: I agree. Valgren had the power to bridge across, but he would have brought people with him. So he took it for the team. Tip of the chapeau to him.
Rubbing Taints: [NBC’s Steve Porino reported from the Team Sky bus about how the team discovered that if each rider’s laundry was done individually they could eliminate saddle sores. Turns out that bacteria was commingling when the laundry was ganged up tightly in mesh bags in the same machine. Team Sky now has six washing machines in the bus. ]
Lance: Imagine the Tour as a traveling circus making its way around France for three weeks. A caravan of gypsies. In the old days, when George and I started, the riders would do their laundry themselves. You’d wash your kit in the sink, roll it up in a towel, step on the towel to get most of the water out, and then hang dry it. Later, the soigneurs started doing the laundry in one machine in the front of the mechanic’s truck. Sky has six separate washers. I respect the shit out of this. By never washing any riders clothing together they never got one saddle sore. Saddle sores were a big deal for us. We got them all the time. If you get a bad saddle sore on a hard day you had to sit differently on the saddle, then the lower back flares up. And George, I hate to say this, but judging from this report, there was taint-on-taint funk between us.
George: It’s an awkward topic.
The Two-Faced Sport: I talk about it every day; the two-faced nature of the sport. I’m not trying to put myself in the discussion. Just my opinion. In an article in CyclingNews, Marc Madiot the manager of Team FDJ, says cycling and the Tour de France has a credibility problem. Why doesn't Sky join the Movement for Credible Cycling, he asks, which is yet another bureaucratic organization. And this coming from a guy who during his career admitted to taking amphetamines and cortisone and no telling what else. As far as I’ve known him, he was a guy that would take everything but the kitchen sink. Guys, we have to stop. The last thing we need is another organization. How can Madiot say that with his history? Cycling has to stop chasing its tail.
A Nod to the Late Fabio Casartelli: [Tuesday’s stage 16 will descend the Col de Portet d'Aspet in the Pyrenees and pass beside a memorial to Lance and George’s late teammate Fabio Casartelli who died in a crash in the 1995 Tour.]
Lance: Long-time fans will recall that, tragically, our teammate Fabio Casartelli
lost his life on that descent of the d'Aspet. You may not know that Casartelli was George's alternative for that stage. Most years the family is there at the memorial. For me, and for George, too, it makes this stage very personal.
Stage 14: Nibali’s Squad Sues The Tour, Collateral Booing Knocks Thomas From The Podium, And Primoz Roglic=Badass
[After an exciting throwdown on the climb of the Mende, JB Hager and Lance are again joined in the studio by George Hincapie: “The ying to yang,” says Lance. “The ham to my egg. The shake to my bake.]
Lance’s Patron of the Day: I gotta go with Jasper Stuyven[a Trek rider that was soling to the line before being overtaken in the final kilometers]. This kid, although he didn't win, he had no choice but to go on his own because Gilbert and Alaphilippe were working together in that group. He had to go and get a big gap. Nearly everyone on TV and everyone here including me thought he had it, excerpt George who is always right. But this kid Omar Fraile that won the stage. That was an impressive move.
George’s Patron of the Day: I have to go with my good buddy Philippe Gilbert, ex world champion and winner of some of the biggest world tour races. This is a team sport and he put it all on the line for his teammate Alaphilippe. He texted me and said everyone was scared to work because Alaphilippe was in the mix, so he said ‘screw it I’ll do it myself.’ It almost worked. [Alaphilippe finished second on the stage.]
Three Races Today:You watched the stage victory and the overall battle, but there was a third battle today, to get into the breakaway. The breakaway group was huge today, 29 guys. We didn’t see how the group was formed because they don’t show it on TV, but that’s some of the hardest bike racing out there. I got a call from Bob Roll and he said that they were going 65kph to make the break. Everyone in that break was super strong.M
The Possible Nibali Lawsuit
Lance: I see this headline this morning that Nibali’s team, Bahrain-Merida, is considering legal action against the Tour for not protecting the riders. No, the answer to that is no. That is fucking stupid.
George: I agree I think it’s stupid. But I appreciate a team standing up for the riders and standing up against [Tour organizers]A.S.O. They have so much power and nobody stands up to them.
[JB makes a comparison to the musette bag that took down Lance in 2003]
Lance:That was my fault. It’s similar in that I caught an musette [feed]bag and he caught a camera strap. Look, it’s terribly unfortunate what happened to Nibali. But is is it worthy of a lawsuit, absolutely not.
JB: Sounds like a money grab.
Lance: The statement leads with ‘they have insurance for these things’ so… But people are going to be on the roads. It’s the Tour de France. I’d start with the flares. They hurt visibility, the riders are choking on smoke. Let’s not have them. But people are going to be on the roads.
George: The French police are every five to 10 meetings, they’d be able to keep people behind the barricades.
Lance:When the CRS, the French equivalent of SWAT shows up, you sit your ass down. They don’t play.
Collateral Booing for Thomas: Lance: I read a number of articles about Geraint Thomas getting booed from the stage. We all know about what happened with Froome almost getting kicked off the Tour [from reports of a failed drug test for asthma meds]. Geraint Thomas wasn’t part of that, but he was booed off the podium yesterday. That’s stupid. But what did we expect? Look what the sport has done to itself over the last 10 years right up to the last few weeks when [Tour de France chief] Christian Prudhomme said Froome’s not welcome. And now he gets in front of the crowd on a mic and says ‘hey guys calm down’? Do you think they’re going to calm down after the last ten years? Let’s have [former French cycling stars and current commentators on French TV] Richard Virenque and Laurent Jalabert. Let’s have them say something. Tell the fans to show a little respect.
George: Geraint Thomas just won two of the biggest stages of his life. Let’s call out the U.S. fans to show some respect too.
Lance: Christian Prudhomme can’t have it both ways. He’s as negative as he possibly can be, and it feeds this roadside behavior.
Tension Between Froome and Thomas? [Teammates competing for the overall is rare in the Tour, but not unprecedented. It typically doesn’t end well.]
Lance: They’re saying all the right things. They were trading pulls at the end with Tom Dumoulin, I believe they’re friends and they like each other. This is not [former Sky teammate and TDF champ, Bradley] Wiggins and Froome.
George: They’re getting along, but they both really want to win. So we’ll see how it ends.
Predictions for Stage 15
Lance: This part of France is never flat and the roads are never smooth. A full day of French chip seal and your efficiency goes way down. And not that far from the finish there’s a Cat 1 climb.
George:And this is the area of France where the Mistral winds kick in. Coming off that descent of the Cat 1 there is always the potential for huge crosswind battles. With a breakaway up the road it could get interesting.
Lance: For those that have never experienced the Mistral winds, they’ll blow you off the bike.
Dumoulin Playing Possum
Lance: He knows what his diesel can and can’t do. He manages his pace and he always comes back. He has his gauge right there.
George:He’s getting stronger. The last week is going to be fireworks.
Lance:If this comes down to the time trial to decide the race then I quit. Because remember what I said in Santa Fe with our friends at Outside. I scoffed and said it will be long over by the the time trial. George can have the show. I’ll be dead wrong. But if it’s Thomas, Froome, and Dumoulin, you’ll have three guys that can TT their asses off.
And a Nod to Primoz Roglic
Lance: He was incredibly strong, Thomas, Dumoulin, and Froome finished behind him today.
Lance: He’s coming up. To come from a completely different sport [ski jumping]he’s a badass. I think I’d fight MMA before I ski jumped.
Stage 13: Lance’s Grumpiness, Nibali’s Panache, the Idiocy of Fans, and Sagan Clacks Some Dudes
[George Hincapie—who everyone likes—joins Lance in the trailer to talk about the sprint finish that he predicted—and that Lance did not.]
Lance Isn't Going to Take It Anymore: Lance: I am sick and tired of being wrong all the time, which is a problem, and George, being right. Yesterday I was 100 percent convinced I was right about today. I wasn’t even close. So I’m sick of that. And the other thing that I’m really sick of is the amount of feedback I’m getting about how everyone is so happy that George is on the show because he balances out my grumpiness.
Nibali Crashes Out: George: He broke his T-10 vertebrae. And to quote you from yesterday, Lance, it’s a one in a million chance that you’re going to get hurt going up the Alpe d’Huez at 10 miles per hour. [Yesterday Lance made some controversial remarks about not requiring helmet use on final climbs.]
Lance: Anyway, the Nibali story is big news on a few fronts. For him to get back up and charge and almost put himself in the position to win the stage…. That takes some panache. But it also raises the question of crowd control. [It appears that motorcycles pinched Nibali too close to a fan whose camera strap caught his handlebars.]
George: You hate to see an incident like that. He wasn't meeting our expectations, but he was still in fourth place overall. He wasn’t out. He still had a chance.
Lance: I can speak from experience. If anything grabs your bars you’re going down. I don’t care if you’re Peter Sagan or George Hincapie. These low speed crashes are more of a punch than slide. If you hit at eight miles per hour it’s going to be more of a punch. George, do you think a helmet would have helped his T-10? The helmet nazis came out after me yesterday, but I don’t care.
Johan Bruyneel Weighs in Via Email: Johan: [Lance reading.] I’m reading lots of opinions about Nibali’s crash. The main point is that they should respect the rider, not run with them, not touch them, not take selfies. Of course it’s impossible to control all the crowds for all the stages, but they can do better on Alpe d’Huez..
Lance: Johan goes on to ask for barriers all the way up Alpe d’Huez. I disagree. Nobody wants to be behind the barriers. You want to be on TV, great, but don’t punch anyone or spit on any one or throw urine on anyone. Fuck, have some respect. We need to find some balance between the love of the sport and the sport. Eddy Merckx was punched and forced out. There were news reports that Froome was punched yesterday and somebody was arrested. It was more of an aggressive push. But there’s no need for this.
Sagan’s timing: [Co-host JB Hager askes how Peter Sagan consistently emerges from poor positioning 10 or more riders back in a field sprint to contest for the podium. Lance and George respond.]
Lance: It’s not just timing. He’s clacking guys to get that position.
George: How many world championships has he won by that margin? Do you know how hard it is in the Tour de France to get on somebody’s wheel? Kristoff’s Wheel? There are 10 or 15 guys trying to get on that wheel. Sagan just takes it. It’s not like he can just get on it. He has to take it.
Lance: We lost a lot of Sagan’s competition yesterday. So now he’s sprinting against three guys instead of eight. He had a perfect sprint and a perfect bike throw. It was a slightly uphill finish. I thought it would be a breakaway today. But I’m always wrong.
George and Lance agree on a Patron of the Day [BMC veteran Michael “Mickey” Schär almost held off the field.]
George: Mickey Schär was my Patron of the Day. Trying to win a stage with a team that had new goals. He buried himself.
Lance: I agree with you.
Tomorrow Will be a Break Out Day: Lance: George, do you think a break goes aways and stays away?
George: I absolutely think a breakaway goes and stays aways. I think GIlbert and possibly Greg Van Avermaet will be in that break, a lot of the strong classics guys that can climb will try. That final 3K climb at 10 percent is super hard and super technical. It will be a fun stage to watch.
Lance: First a memory of this stage. Well, all stages are different, but this part of France always makes for similar conditions and this is a common finish. The only time I ever saw [five time Yellow Jersey winner] Miguel Indurain on the ropes and his team on the ropes was 1995 when he was so dominant. And team ONCE, another Spanish team, was trying to dethrone him. They threw everything at him. I’ve never seen him that stressed, that volatile. These stages are never flat and it’s hot. And then that finishing climb up Mende, 3k at 10.2 percent. I did it a few years ago on a cancer ride and I grabbed the car. We’ll also see two races tomorrow as the favorites come in and try to steal seconds.
Stage 12: Chamois Time, a Sprint Finish on the Alp, and Why Lance Thinks the Tour Should Dump Helmets
[George Hincapie and co-host JB Hager join Lance in the studio, where, inexplicably, Lance showed up wearing a cycling kit.]
George: Why in the world are you in a bike kit for a podcast? Isn’t there some protocol?
Lance: Chamois time is saddle time, George. You know that. I’m getting in more hours than you.
Alpe D'Huez—The Rose Bowl of Cycling: Lance: Alpe d'huez didn’t disappoint. Tons of people out, and the heat is having an effect. But this was a day that I didn't see coming. I didn’t expect to see Geraint Thomas repeat in yellow for two mountain stage victories in a row. I didn't expect to see Nairo Quintana get dropped.
George: Four contenders came to the line together. That was impressive. I was also very impressed with Tom Dumoulin today. In my opinion, he was the strongest guy in that break. He had a headwind so he couldn’t get away when he attacked, but he covered every move.
Lance: He’s a big guy so he can’t accelerate. He learned how to churn it out and not panic and bring them back. He was like Miguel Indurain today. I had to cover my eyes when they were four-stacked across the road. They nearly let Vincenzo Nibali back in as they eyeballed each other.
Nibali’s Grinta: Lance: Nibali was amazing today. He crashed and got back up and almost caught the leaders. He could have won the stage. From the early reports, he doesn't seem to know what happened in the crash. But with every high mountain finish the barricades start three kilometers from the line and it looked like he got hung up there. It might have been a fan. And the fans are getting crazier and crazier, by the way. Forget the Borat outfits, they’re out there with flares and smoke bombs. It’s a huge party.
George: It’s not the most comfortable thing, breathing that smoke.
Nairo Quintana Cracks: Quintana today…to attack and then get dropped is a rookie move. He should know that better than anyone; how he’s feeling compared to everyone else. If you’re in that group you should be able to gauge.
The Dumoulin Train: George: I thought that Froome would attack with 5K to go, but Dumoulin pulled him back. And then Bardet went, and Thomas, but Dumoulin controlled all the attacks until the end.
Lance: If you’re him, it’s better to sit there at your cruise speed which is fast enough to be a deterrent to attacks.
Froome’s Sign of Weakness? Lance: Froome went and I thought it was his trademark attack and he was going to be gone. But they brought him back, and that’s not normal for Chris Froome. That’s not a good sign. The Giro might be catching up to him. [Froome won the Giro d’Italia over Tom Dumoulin in May.]
Romain Bardet’s Show of Strength: George: He’s looking better all the time. He’s going to be tough in the Pyrenees.
Johan Bruyneel Weighs In: [The Former USPS Directeur Sportif comments via Skype.] Bruyneel: Geraint Thomas has been impressive, but I was surprised by Dumoulin, he’s on a high level right now. The other contenders aren’t done with him yet. Today could have gone even better for him. If he stayed on Geraint Thomas’ wheel he could have won the stage. But Thomas is the strongest guy for now.
[Lance asks Bruyneel to respond to Bernard Hinault’s latest quip]
Lance: He called the race leaders sissies.
Bruyneel: Did he watch today’s stage?
Lance: I don’t know, but the racing is different today, don’t you agree?
Bruyneel: The level of competition is more balanced. And the teams and riders are prepared to be prepared. They have budgets and staffs. They know how hard they can go up a climb. It’s not that they don’t want to attack when they’re all grouped up, it’s that they can’t attack. They control their effort and they know exactly what they’re doing. No big wins and fewer big losses. You don’t see as many contenders crack from fatigue.
Lance: Geraint Thomas’ time on the Alpe d'Huez didn’t even rank in the top 100 of all time. What can explain that?
Bruyneel: People were tired. It was a long stage. And the tactics. Sky was pulling all day. So they didn’t go very fast at the beginning of the climb.
George: How much time did they lose sitting four abreast and eyeballing each other?
Bruyneel: Well Landa [Movistar] came back and Nibali crashed and almost came back. They easily lost a minute.
Lance: What do you think about Quintana’s tactics today? Attacking and getting dropped.
Bruyneel: To me it sounded like he attacked because he was ordered to by the car. Not because he felt good. ‘Give it a try, give it a try.’ But the attack didn’t go anywhere. He didn’t want to but he had to.
Lance: Who’s your pick to win in Paris?
Bruyneel: I’m still going to go with Froome. But don’t underestimate the Pyrenees, they're quite hard. The only thing I see that’s not in his favor is he uses big gears like a rouleur [a style of cycling more typically associated with powering over rolling terrain]. That can hurt him on the steeps in the Pyrenees. But today I was surprised. I expected him to be a lot stronger. Maybe it’s the Giro catching up to him. But this is still Geraint Thomas’ race to lose. Landa and Quintana don’t have it. So it’s Nibali and Dumoulin, Froome and Thomas. Bardet was up there but his team didn’t race smart today. But at the moment I’m still going with Froome.
TDF Dropouts: [About half the name brand sprinters missed the time cut or dropped out in the past two days.] Lance: Today we lost an overall rider in Uran, and sprinters, Gaviria, Groenewegen, Greipel…. Is Chris Froome going to be sprinting in Paris? Sagan is going to make party. We’re just catching up to speed today on how the cutoffs work. In the rule book they have different coefficients for different stages. Part two of that equation is the average speed of the peloton. So that puts the time cut around 35 minutes. But the race is saying the time cut was 41 minutes. So that extra six minutes saved about 20 guys. According to the Tour de France app, we’re going to have 153 riders left. [Down from 218.] Romain Bardet lost two teammates
George: But the race has lost some of the biggest names in cycling, the star sprinters in the peloton.
JB: Should they change the cutoff rule?
Lance: If they miss the time cut they should go home.
Lance to Take the Reigns of the UCI. First Order of Business—No Helmets on Finishing Climbs: Lance: Folks, especially if you’re not even in the top 100 items on Alpe d'Huez, you’re going less than 10 miles an hour. It’s hot. Get rid of the helmets. To win the NYC marathon you need to run about 12mph. Do they wear helmets? There’s such a rich history of the Tour based on characters. When they show the old footage with the flowing hair and no helmets you see it. If Marco Pantani rode every climb with a helmet and glasses he wouldn’t be a character. Drop the helmets at the bottom of the climb. Nobody is going to get hurt, I promise you. When we started, you didn’t have to wear a helmet. And then they let us lose the helmet for the final climb. And then it was helmets all the time. It’s better for the sport if we see these riders.
George: I rode eight or nine Paris-Roubaixs and eight or nine Tours without a helmet on. I would never ride without a helmet again.
Lance: Sports live and die with characters and emotions. In the highly, highly, highly unlikely scenario that I’m the head of the UCI, I’m changing this rule.
Stage 11: Sky’s New Alpha Male, Cavendish Is Off the Back, Why Lance Hates Salary Caps, and Shut Up, Jens?
[George Hincapie again joins Lance and JB to discuss today’s thrilling mountain top finish on La Rosière.]
Lance Announces Wrongdoing—Again: I’m wrong every day, and I was wrong about today. The final climb wasn’t that difficult but we saw a lot of action. In the end it was anything but boring.
Sky’s Awkward Dinner [With Sky’s two team leaders now moving into 1st and 2nd place in the overall standings, Lance and company are wondering how the dynamic will play out among teammates turned rivals. Froome: Geraint, please pass the salt. Thomas: I don’t work for you anymore.]
Lance: What will be more interesting than today’s stage is the dinner conversation at Team Sky tonight where you have Chris Froome, trying to win his fifth tour, sitting across the table from Geraint Thomas, trying to win his first tour. They’re both team leaders.
JB: If Froome is truly the guy, would Geraint Thomas have gone up the road?
George: Thomas was testing the GC guys, not necessarily Froome.
Lance: As Chris Froome was coming back, he got close, and Thomas accelerated. And he put a lot of time in those boys in just one kilometer. That acceleration by G Thomas was a full on sprint.
Michal Kwiatkowski Gets it Done: Lance: I love this guy. But Team Sky is getting to the point where, if there’s tension in the team, and it’s only Kwiatkowski, Thomas, and Froome left in the yellow jersey group, then Kwiatkowski has to stay there as long as he can because Geraint Thomas isn’t going to work for Froome.
George: Now that you say that, that’s exactly why Thomas attacked. He knew Kwiatkowski was going to sit up, and he was not going to work for Froome.
Egan Bernal, Not So Much: [The young climbing phenom couldn’t take his turn at the front of the Team Sky train] Lance: It was not a great day for Bernal, he got dropped, but then he rode in with Landa a minute back. He should have sat up and saved something for another day.
George: When you sit up, I don’t care if you end up 20 minutes behind, you did the job. Forget the white jersey. Forget the best young rider contest.
Lance: Pierre Latour is five minutes ahead of Bernal in the white jersey competition, so why is Bernal even contesting?
The Time Cut Dispatched Sprinters Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel Today: The time cut was 31 minutes. It’s complicated, there’s coefficient 3 and 4, and probably one for today’s stage. Cavendish was an hour back, Kittel was over the limit too. So if they apply the rules they’ll take them out of the race. Two guys. I was getting all riled up because I misread the cut-off and for a minute I thought there was a chance that 100 guys would miss the time cut. George would say that they would let them all in the race. Sprinters used to come in and one arm would be six inches longer than the other from holding onto to team cars. The Giro was even worse. Cipo [Mario Cipollini] once got a top ten on a climbing stage from fans, his tifosi, pushing him.
Lance’s Move of the Day: I thought it was going to be Alejandro Valverde. With a teammate up the road when he attacked the yellow jersey group it looked like tactics 101. But then all the warning lights came on for old Alejandro on the final climb and he was going backward.
George Picks the Patron of the Day: It had to be Tom Dumoulin. This guy is not sitting back waiting for Sky to control the race. Obviously he had to time trial up the final climb and it didn’t pay off, but he took off on the downhill and put a minute on them. Ultimately it didn’t work, but what a bold move.
Nibali Falls From Lance’s Favor: Vincenzo Nibali was our pick for the overall, but he’s no longer my pick. I’m counting him out.
But the Italian Spurs a Conversation on Salary Caps: [Lance paraphrasing from an article.] ‘Cycling may seem boring,’ says Nibali, ‘but that’s modern cycling. Team sky has a huge budget, so they have the best riders, so they can control the race. If Bahrain-Merida had another 10 million dollars in its budget the race would be different. Sky has a budget of $45million.’ I can’t believe that’s true. Bahrain has a budget of $15 million. So Nibali is proposing a salary cap. I’m not a fan of that in any sport. No, if you want to buy a team and spend a bunch of money, go for it. George owns a team so he wants salary caps. It’s like this wanker Contador, he took as much money as he could as a rider, but now that he’s a team owner he says he wants a salary cap. What a genius.
Picking Tomorrow’s Winner: Lance: Somebody in the GC group will recover, the favorites didn’t look good today. One of them will come back. Landa, Quintana, Nibali.
George: I’m picking Froome, he just dropped those guys off his wheel and it wasn’t even steep.
Lance: I’m going with Geraint Thomas, just because of the acceleration in the last kilometer. That was amazing. He put another 10 seconds on those guys on the flats.
Shut Up Jens: How much is Jens Voigt paying NBC to be on TV? It’s unwatchable.
Stage 10: No Motor on Skujins, Today’s Snoozefest, Alaphilippe Can Walk on His Hands, and a Sneak Peek at Gravel Racing in the Tour
[George Hincapie and former USPS rider (and two time Paris-Roubaix competitor) Dylan Casey join Lance and JB in the trailer.]
Mea Culpa: Lance: I was dead wrong about the incident with Tom Skujins and the motors and the magnetic wheels. But I was right about today, it was a total snoozefest.
Skujins Is Not a Crook: Lance: George was right. It’s amazing how many cameras are in the peloton. One showed that he was just putting his chain back on like George said. To defend myself, I said that I don’t believe motorized doping is going on in the pro peloton, and I still don’t think it is. But the clip we had was really short and it looked suspect.
George: I know him well and he’s an amazing guy.
Casey: Anybody who has crashed knows the first thing you do is spin the wheel to get your chain back on.
Why the Snoozefest Today? George: You could tell the guys were not fully recovered. Nobody could test Sky’s tempo.
Lance: I agree with George that the first week was hard. And then, and I talk about this a lot, the rest day always worried us and I think it still worries guys today. The transition back into the race can screw you up. And I get it, Team Sky are the strongest guys in the race, and they were clearly setting a mean tempo, but it was zzzzzz. Maybe we were speculating too much that Nibali, an amazing downhiller, could make a go of it on the descent to the finish, but it didn’t happen. It wasn’t that technical of a descent. Although Julian Alaphilippe rode away from everybody on it.
George: I think they played it safe to save something for tomorrow. It takes a while to recover.
Casey: Rider’s make decisions about how to spend their capital. The team’s and the riders are a lot more calculating these days. You can see them scrolling through their power meters.
George: I can assure you that, for the guys in the yellow jersey group, it was not boring.
A Quick Call with Brian Holm, Sports Director of Quick-Step, Stage Winner Julian Alaphilippe’s Squad: Winning the first mountain stage is quite nice. It’s Quick-Step’s 50th win of the season. LuLu—Alaphilippe’s nickname—he plays drums, he can sing, he can walk on his hands, he just cannot sit still. Everybody is happy for LuLu. And he’s a hell of a good cyclist, coming from a cyclocross background. Yesterday he said he would do it, and we were like OK, and he did it. He’s not typical French, but I’m sitting in the middle of France and I have to be careful.
Gravel Teaser? [Today’s stage included a gravel climb and an upcoming stage includes a gravel finish. Lance thinks it could be a harbinger of things to come.] Lance: Today’s gravel didn’t have an effect on the race, but for a sport that’s trying to reinvent itself this might have been a little taste. It’s no secret that gravel riding and racing in events like Dirty Kanza is the hottest trend in the industry, so it’s natural that the race should try to support what’s happening.
George: And there’s a 5K finish in the Pyrenees on dirt.
Lance: I don’t think anything changed technically with gear selection or sturdier tires today, but it was just a little glimpse.
Three Patrons: Lance’s Pick: [Froome’s teammate] Michał Kwiatkowski. Johan Bruyneel spotted him. Nobody in the history of cycling can spot talent like Johan. When Kwiatkowski’s job is done he puts it in park and saves himself for the next day. None of this coming in a minute back. He sits up. For that type of sacrifice, he’s my Patron of the Day.
George: Greg Van Avermaet. The yellow jersey going to the front in a breakaway? I don’t think you’ve ever seen that before. He’s also a great guy. He was an elite soccer player as a youth. He stayed at my house before the World Championships a few years ago. He was playing soccer with my kids three days before worlds.
Lance: He can walk on his hands.
Tomorrow’s Predictions: Lance: I’m going to go out on the limb and say it’s uneventful.
George: I see the shit hitting the fan. The GC favorites cannot let Sky have another day like today.
Lance: Mark my words that nothing will happen. The Alpe d'Huez is the next day.
George: Geraint Thomas could take the yellow tomorrow. That could make things interesting on Team Sky.
And an Aside About Romain Bardet’s “Rest” Day: Bardet did 3,000 feet of climbing on a rest day. To me that’s what you’re supposed to do. I’m beginning to really like that guy. He was my Patron of the Day already.
Stage 9: Big George, Porte’s Cold Exit, the Taste of the Bit, and Say It Ain’t So, Trek-Segafredo, But Do We Have a Motorized-Doping Scandal?
George’s Backyard: [Famed domestique and classics rider, George Hincapie joined Lance and JB Hager in the trailer today.] The cobbles. This is Like George's backyard. Today’s route included the hardest sections ever in the Tour. For the average listener that rides centuries; for you people that want to break five hours or fours hours, these guys rode essentially a century in three hours and 22 minutes, into a headwind, on the cobbles. And they averaged 29 mph. All the guys that I gave zero chance to get through this day—Bardet, Froome, Quintana, were right there.
That’s Gonna Hurt: George: I’ll be interested to see how these guys recover tomorrow. Their bodies took a different type of pounding. The guys that crashed, their bodies will go into shock, and then they’ll need to recover on the rest day before the first big climbing stage. The nervous energy might have consumed as many calories as the output. It will have an effect.
How to Ride Dust: [Dry conditions and dust contributed to an untold number of crashes today. Lance and George try to make sense of it.] Lance: It was just a dust storm. It looked like smoke. These guys are going to be coughing for days.
George: I’m still trying to figure out what happened today. I don’t know if they had too much air pressure, but I’ve never seen that many crashes from dust.
Lance: They don’t know what they’re doing.
George: If you’re at the front already you should sit up. There’s no reason to go hard into the corners like Sky did. You can let the peloton build up behind you. That makes it safer for you and more stressful and dangerous for the rest of the group.
Porte Is Snubbed Out: Lance: They don’t show it on TV, but It looks like Richie Porte had a collision with a spectator. Out of the race for the second year in a row. He crashed out of Stage 9 two years in a row. That’s a bad stage for Porte. The first report said he broke his collarbone. And then we get a report that his collarbone is not broken. Of course we all know that he’s signed a multi-year deal with a new team at the end of the year. I just want to read a statement from team president Jim Ochowicz: “His collarbone is not broken. There are no broken bones. He’s been to the hospital and is now on his way to Annecy. His bag is waiting for him there.” That’s cold. Ice, ice baby.
George: That's a harsh statement. If it is a separated shoulder and not a broken collarbone, that hurts worse.
Lance: As we predicted, and despite carrying the yellow jersey into the alps, BMC is a disaster. [Tejay Van Garderen also lost six minutes on the day.]
Lance’s Patron of the Day: Romain Bardet. Even after the slowest wheel change I’ve ever seen he fought back on. As an aside, if you’re a professional bike racer or want to be one, learn how to change your own wheel. It took 45 seconds. Change your own wheel.
George’s Patron of the Day: George: [Stage winner] John Degenkolb. This is a guy who won [the spring classic] Paris Roubaix in the past. He was super confidant.
Lance: If you don’t know the backstory, this was a few years ago. They’re out on a group training ride with the team and a British lady is on vacation and forgets that she’s in Spain and is driving on the wrong side of the road. The fact that nobody was killed is a miracle. Degenkolb lost the use of his hand for a while, his pointer finger is still damaged.
George: Then he lost an important person in his life. He called him his second father.
Lance: His post race interview was yellow jersey material. As he came into the line the Australian feed said ‘He’s got the bit in the teeth and he likes the taste.’ Today’s stage was one of the monuments of the Tour.
Trek and the Next Motorized Doping Conspiracy? Lance: This just appeared on Twitter, like everything bad in the world happens on Twitter. Coming off a crash, this young kid Tom Skujins, in the polka dot jersey on the Trek team, he spins his bike around, and the rear wheel all of a sudden is spinning really fast. I’ve been adamant that this is not happening in the pro peloton. The UCI is saying they they cracked down. But right now, the world is Lucy, and the world is saying, ‘You have some splaining to do.'
George: I’m saying he just crashed and clicked the bike into gear and spun the rear wheel. But it’s a weird video.
Lance: Super weird. Is it the motor in the seat tube or that magnetic system we’re hearing about? They said I had a motor in the bike, too. There was a lot of other stuff going on, but I promise you that their was not a motor in the bike. Anyway, the UCI will be taking that bike. We’ll know more soon.
Upcoming stages: Lance: As everyone knows that listened to the show last year, I don’t like rest days. To go Roubaix, rest day, and straight into the mountains is going to be rough. But I don’t think the mountain stages are that bad.
George: Are you not reading these percentages? We’ve got a category 4 climb from the start and an 11k climb at an 11 percent grade, then another climb at 11 percent. The peloton will be going full gas as the first real breakaways of the Tour start. Plenty hard.
Lance: We disagree. And that’s a good thing. And then we get to Alp D’Huez. It’s like winning today. One of the monuments of the Tour.
Stage 8: Head Butting Magilla, the Fall of Irish Cycling, and New Breakfast Cobbles
More Egg on the Face: [Courtesy of Dylan Groenewegen, winner of Stages 7 and 8, who Lance discounted heavily earlier in the series] Yesterday I had egg on the left side of the face, today I had it on the right. Congrats to Dylan Groenewegen.
Today’s Relegated Drama: Groenewegen was clearly the fastest. But the action was on the left side of the sprint between Andre Greipel and Fernando Gaviria. I had to almost close my eyes. It’s so intense. There was a bunch of discussion in the aftermath about whether Gaviria is going to get disqualified. You know what I saw? Gaviria defending himself. When you’re young like these guys, you don’t hit the brakes like Cavendish does now. So the commissars disqualified both guys. I agree with that decision; so for that, we’re going to make the commissars the Patron of the Day. I never thought I’d say that.
Heading Butting the Gorilla: That move that Gaviria was making…he was all over the bike. How he kept it upright I have no idea. While you’re banging your head on Greipel. But this is a guy who won World Championships in 2016 and 2015 in the omnium. He’s a multi-time world champion track cyclist. He can do those things with his eyes closed. He grew up on the track. On the velodrome.
How Come They Weren’t Disqualified Like Peter Sagan Was Last Year? Last year was different. I didn’t agree with it, but it was different. Cavendish was on the ground with a broken body. It’s different.
Too Boring? I’ve seen some stats that the TV ratings are down fairly significantly. I’ve also seen a lot of articles about how boring yesterday’s stage was. Too long, too flat. Not every day can be like tomorrow.
Froome the Scapegoat? The sport is trying to find itself. VeloNews did an interview with Quick-Step honcho Patrick Lefevere. He recounts how he’s out looking for sponsors and it’s not a good look. Lance reading from the story:
‘I go looking for sponsors, and people ask me, what is this? Four-time winner of the Tour, suspect? The other guy, Wiggins, there is a lot of mystery around it. And the American guy? Seven times gone! You can close your book…. Everybody who ‘blames’ [Froome] in this case too early should be ashamed,” he said. “Whoever leaked this should be up on a cross.” Lance: That’s not a unified sport. How do we net out here?
The Fall of Irish Royalty: [Dan Martin crashed and his United Arab Emirates team had to pull him back but he still lost 1:16.] You could see on his face he was not feeling good. When he got going again with three riders around him, he was having a hard time sitting on the wheel in front of him. They brought back 30 seconds, but once the peloton really gets going for a field sprint, there's nothing you can do. This was a guy that many thought had an outside chance to win the overall, but now he’s got a body that hit the deck pretty hard.
Cobbles for Breakfast: Tomorrow’s stage has a record amount of cobbles for the Tour. Fifteen sectors, the first section is with 109 kilometers to go in a 159-kilometer stage. They will be stressed, they will be sprinting. They will be lined up for that first section. From the minute Christian Prudhomme drops the flag, it’s on. It’s going to be an action packed day. I get it that people don’t like it but I sit here as a fan, and I can’t wait to get up tomorrow to watch. Roubaix is in France. It’s the Tour de France. I like it. If somebody gets hurt then their fans will be upset. If Chris Froome crashes out then people will say the race lost. I can see that too, but I fall on the side of getting super excited.
What’s Up with the Sectors? The sectors are anywhere from 1k to 2.5K each. And each one is ranked from 1 to 5 stars. A normal person can’t ride their bike on a 5-star sector. Tomorrow there are four 4-star sectors. That’s rough as shit. And there are a lot of really rough cobbles just before the finish. Pay attention to the starred sections. There’s a three star section five miles before the finish. You won’t see GC guys with 20 minute losses unless you have a major problem, but multiple people will lose 1 or 2 minutes.
Who Should Thrive? Dumoulin, Nibali… Greg Van Avermaet will keep the Yellow Jersey tomorrow if he can stay upright. Another track rider, Geraint Thomas. It suits him. Nibali has to have a great day tomorrow because they sucked so bad in the TTT. And Dumoulin has to get time back.
Who Will Struggle? All the lightweight climbing waifs.
Stage 7: The Finish in Shart, Pancake and Wanker Riders, Cav Is Toast, and Do Tour Riders Make Intercourse?
The Finish in Shart: Anyway, we’re talking about this stage and I’m going to butcher all the names; it’s beginning to be funny. But Phil Ligget was calling the finish town “shart.” [Chartres] And I don’t think I have to tell our listeners what a shart is.
Tom Dumoulin Dinged: As you saw, he was penalized 20 seconds after flatting with 5K to go yesterday. He used a team car to pace back in. I don’t agree with this one. No part of me when I watched that yesterday said, ‘He’s got to get a penalty.’ To throw on a 20-second penalty sounds pretty arbitrary. So he basically lost 1:20. If it surprises you that the sport is inconsistent, I have news for you. What surprises me is that there’s a Mini Cooper team car in the Tour de France. Mini-coopers should not be in the tour. Judges can now use video to apply penalties; that’s new. But if he didn’t have that car he would of lost more time than 20 seconds. And drafting is easier, he would have hurt himself for the upcoming days. I cannot explain or justify decisions made at the Tour. It’s like throwing darts. That will continue to happen.
Pancake and Wanker Riders: Guys in back draft behind the team cars all the time, but they’re not on TV.
142 Boring Miles. One Exciting One: One-hundred-forty-three miles. I had a sense that it would be boring so I set my alarm even later and I got up and they still had 50 miles to ride. They were 20 minutes behind the slowest projected time, which clearly indicates that they were chillin’. And no breakaway.
Back to Eating Crow: I got a little egg on my face because we were asked earlier about Dylan Groenewegen, and I flat out said it ain’t gonna happen. When he crossed the finish line he was giving the “shh shh” sign. I took it that he was directing it at me. You know what, Green Path [the translation of Dylan’s surname]? I’m going to shut the hell up. I stand corrected. I discounted Groenewegen’s chances. You got me there. It’s not like he got lucky. He took it.
Cavendish Is Spooked: He’s is one of the greatest field sprinters of all time. Perhaps the best. But I think his time has come and gone. He doesn’t have the head or the mentality for it. Sagan starts to come by him, you can pull it up on Youtube, and Cav flinched. He could have been top five. He had no reason to flinch. They weren’t even close. Mark Cavendish seven years ago would have said screw this I’m flying through a brick wall. He’s spooked.
Tomorrow Is la Fête Nationale: It’s Bastille day, so watch every French guy in the race get in the break. They’ll have their handlebar tape done up in red, white, and bleu. And the breakaway won’t work. The French guys are going to be all amped up. And they have their soccer team in the World Cup finals. Oh Man.
Co-host JB: Did you ride harder on the 4th of July?
One Sketchy Corner: The final turn tomorrow is at 600 meters. You have to be in the top five to have a chance for the win. Today, with 600 meters to go they were five guys wide. Tomorrow it’s going to be single file.
Social Media Presence: I’m not a fan of those things that Taylor Phinney produces. But if I were him, I’d only give them to NBC through my social media channels. That’s his content.
More on Lawson Craddock: I asked him, ‘Do you see yourself as a tour contender?’ And his answer was yes. So far be it from us to discourage that. We will support that. He’s had an awful lot of bad luck, not just Stage 1 here, but what I saw him go through last year with an ill advised training program by this fucking bonehead Jonathan Vaughters. It was mind boggling. And it ruined his season. Now he feels good, obviously he’s dealing with his injuries, but he feels good. But that lost season could account for ten percent of your chances in a career.
Do Tour Riders Make Intercourses? [Co-host JB dumbstruck Lance with a question from a European fan of the show.]
JB: Did your wives or companions travel with you? Are the ‘intercourses’ good for riders?
Lance: That’s amazing I can’t even believe you read that out loud. ‘Intercourses.’ Do riders have intercourses during the tour? Taylor Phinney might. No, the answer is no. At least in my day, there’s enough people in this traveling circus [40 or 50 per team] that they aren’t throwing in eight other wives or girlfriends. No they aren’t getting laid during the Tour de France. Mario Cipollini maybe. There was once a man named Mario Cipollini. If you’re Cipollini yes. Anybody else, no. If you’re Cipollini you can do anything you want. 'Hey honey, good to see you, how about we makes make some intercourses. We can make party like Peter Sagan.' I’m fucking glad you read that one.
Stage 6: Triumphant Irish Cycling Royalty, Chris Froome—Super Domestique, and Taylor Phinney’s Cringy Videos
Quick-Step: It’s was the perfect day for them to control the race. A Classics-style stage. I didn’t anticipate a windy day but it clearly got windy. They were on the front 68 percent of the time. They felt like Sagan had too easy of a ride yesterday. So they meant to animate it, to take a bit out of his legs. Maybe it worked. He didn’t win but he was in the front group and beat all three guys that won last year.
More Sagan: JB (co-host): He’s won 10 stages. He has 30 second places. Lance: You gotta get second a lot if you want to win. If he converted half of those second places, he’d be at 25, Eddy Merckx’s record is 34.
Dumoulin’s Flat: Aside from Dan Martin’s impressive ride-slash-drag-race up the Mur de Bretagne—and by the way “mur” means “wall,” so Wall of Brittany—the real headline is the shakeup with the favorites. Four of the favorites lost time. Tom Dumoulin—it took forever for him to get that wheel changed and get going again. You’re never going to make that up. He lost 50 seconds to his competitors. Bardet, 28 seconds. Froome loses five. Tejay loses three.
Who’s in Charge? Romain Bardet had a mechanical leading into the Mur. The TV didn’t catch it. But to lose 28 seconds on the Mur to your rivals is rough. So Bardet finishes 28 seconds off, then, lo and behold, his teammate Pierre Latour gets second. Same thing happens with Froome and Geraint Thomas. His teammate beats him. We talked so much about Movistar having three leaders, but we didn’t even talk about Team Sky. Before the race, they designated Froome and Thomas as the two leaders—co-leaders. But if somebody proposed that to me, I would have been like, ‘No way in hell.’ And could Pierre Latour have a better name? Pierre Latour is straight out of Tour de Pharmacy.
Froome the Domestique: [Question from JB: If Froome loses a lot of time, will he be working for Thomas?] Let’s not speculate too much. Froome has proven that he can have bad days and then have days where he’s exceptional. But let’s speculate a little and say that he lost time and he goes into a role as a super domestique for Thomas, he’d do it, he’s a good teammate, but that changes everything about how he’s perceived as a rider and a man.
Dan Martin, Prince of Ireland, Patron of the Day: Dan Martin is our Patron of the Day. When he went, man. The interesting thing about the climb of the Mur is that it’s straight. No switchbacks or curves. You can see everything in front of you. So when he went, I thought he went way too early. Super impressive. He’s riding away and four of the favorites are off the back and they can’t close. A lot of people don’t know it, but Dan Martin comes from Irish cycling royalty. He’s the nephew of Stephen Roche—Tour de France winner, Tour of Italy winner, world champion—and therefore the cousin of Nicolas Roche of Team BMC. Irish cycling royalty.
Really Taylor? I’m getting tired of a lot of things, including Taylor Phinney’s homemade videos. I got up early and flipped on the TV. I don’t want to say much because I love Taylor Phinney, but I don’t understand these videos. What do the listeners think? Maybe I’m old. I don’t get it. I love him, and I’m not saying he’s an asshole, but I don’t get it. [JB plays a clip from Phinney’s last video in which Phinney speaks in what one could describe as millennial festivas sotto voce.] Phinney: ‘On Wednesdays we wear pink. Brutal stage today, I’m tired. We’re doing it for glory. For America, for education.’ Lance: I don’t know. It’s like Burning Man or Coachella. It’s the Tour de France, man!’
Stage 5: Eating Shit, A Shiv in the Ribs from the USPS, and the Badger Is a Grumpy Old Bastard
Patron of the Day: It was a beautiful day in Brittany. I was expecting more action or fireworks. Maybe I shouldn’t say this but I was expecting more crashes. Carnage. It didn’t happen. I said earlier that I didn’t think Peter Sagan looked good, but I was completely proven wrong. He was dominant. He’s our Patron of the Day. And he keeps his green jersey. In his post race interview he looked wrecked. It looked like an 18-wheeler rolled over him. He said he actually liked that course.
That Extended Sprint: Everyone of those 38 guys that came to the line together—they could taste the lactate. The grupetto was almost 21 minutes down.
Michael Matthews Drops Out: If he was healthy, he would have contended for the stage today. For Tom Dumoulin this is a huge loss; this is a teammate he could have used. Either it’s a chest cold or flu or it’s a stomach bug. Think about the close confines of a team bus or a European hotel room. Each rider has a roommate. What are the chances that it doesn’t travel around the dining table?
Germ Warfare? You can get sinister about this stuff. In no other sports do fans have the ability to touch an athlete and put something on them. If you’re Chris Froome and some guy comes up and rubs on your arm, I’d be stressed about that, what’s he rubbing on your arm?
Separated at Birth: Bretons and…Texans? When you watched the stage today, 99 percent of the flags where black and white, the flag of Brittany. They aren’t extreme like the Basques or the Catalans, it’s more like Texans. They’ll fly their flag first. The Bretons have their own dialect and flag.
Beast or Bastard? [Famed rider Bernard Hinault’s recent call for Tour riders to strike if Froome, suspected of doping with asthma meds until he was summarily cleared last week, showed up at the start, has him front of mind with Lance, who says he is no Froome “fanboy.”] Brittany is where Hinault was born and raised. Worked for the tour for many years. He would handle all the celebs. Unfortunately, Mr. Hinault has turned into one of the crankiest old bastards alive. He’s cranky about everything. He was a beast of a bike racer. As we talked about the other day, he planted his fist in a guy’s face. He was the original Patron. But god, he’s just gotten to be a curmudgeon. You can only be a curmudgeon if your day of cycling was lily white. Please, no. Get in the bus and shut up.
Do Not Sit on the Top Tube: [Elie Gesbert crashed after trying to ride a top tube tuck around a corner and getting hung up.] This ill advised idea; this terrible thing of going downhill while sitting on your top tube… Low and behold, one of the kids [in the breakaway] got stuck down there. If you saw the footage, he was about to really crash. But he kept it upright and ended up off the side of the road tumbling away. Do not do this. I don’t care what Sagan or Froome does. Somebody, mark my words, somebody significant is going to yardsale, crash, eat shit, in that position. If you see anybody on your local group ride doing that, just kick them out of the group. I’m very passionate about this. I’m more passionate about it than the fact that Hinault is a grumpy old bastard.
USPS: Hypocrites or a Shiv? This shit takes the cake. I’m watching the Tour on NBC this morning. Guess who advertises today? The United States Postal Service. I don’t even. Ugh. I can’t find the words. They were so damaged by pro cycling [dripping sarcasm]. Guess who bought the ad? This ad brought to you by Lance Armstrong.
How Technology Makes the Tour Faster, Take Two: What’s even more advantageous is Google Earth and Google Maps. Zoom in if you’re concerned about the last 5K. You can see the traffic posts. You can see how wide the road is. It makes these races that much faster. We talked about fitness and equipment, but knowing that level of detail about the roads means you’re not hitting the brakes.
Tomorrow’s Stage 6: Similar to today, but not as lumpy early on. The finishing climb is two kilometers at seven percent. That’s all the way up to the finish. A straightaway. You’ll be able to see everyone in front of you.
And a Question from 10-year-old Fan Tory: What are you thinking about when you ride a bike? Because I’m not sure these guys are thinking. They’re covered in bandaids.
Lance: It’s just hard, Tory, all of them want to be in one place at one time.
Stage 4: The F of the Day, a Nod to the Giro Rosa, Meet Dumb and Dumber, and Tomorrow's Carnage
What Happened to Sagan Yesterday: He’s a character and he knows it, so he gave an explanation on his Instagram and blamed his legs. But NBC did a good job of going back and finding some footage. More than half the team lost their aero bottles on a bump. If I’m on an island and I get to choose between aerodynamics and water, guess what I’m choosing. Whatever you’re doing, aero bottles do not stay in. The savings are not worth it. That was not your normal Peter Sagan, he was in the hurt locker. He would not sit up and abandon his team.
Speed of Today’s Stage: Fast. Before they started getting fired up for the finale it was 42 kilometers per hour. That’s 27 mph for 120 miles. That’s motoring. It’s not an easy day in the heat.
Patron of the Day: Fernando Gaviria. The way he won that sprint he has to be our Patron of the Day. He’s leading, and then he’s getting passed by Greipel and he managed to find another gear.
The F of the Day: When the crash happened outside of the 3K banner everybody does quick inventory. Where’s our GC guy? And here’s Katusha Alpecin with a young GC favorite [Ilnur Zakarin]. He’s behind the accident. And he’s got one guy with him. He lost a minute. So I think, maybe they left the team up the road so they can lead out Marcel Kittel for the sprint. But Kittel has nobody with him either. The dumb tactics goe to Katusha. They get an F for the day.
A Nod to the Giro Rosa: I’ve been busy watching the guys duke it out in France, but two Americans came in first and second in the women’s Giro today. Ruth Winder and Taylor Wiles. The momentum behind women’s cycling is building. It’s not as if the men do harder climbs. These are real bike racers. These are tough, tough athletes. And three out of the top five racers in the Giro Rosa are American. They deserve our respect and attention.
The Spat Heard Round the World: [Sky and the UCI have been battling verbally and Lance has been paying attention.] Dave Brailsford, who is dumb and getting dumber, is the GM of Team Sky; the other player is David Lappartient, president of UCI and the mayor of Sarzeau, the town the Tour finished in today. Five days before the start of the Tour the UCI says Froome is completely cleared with no explanation. If I’m Brailsford I’m like 'Holy Hell, Christmas came early, I’m not saying anything.' But what does he do? He comes out and says Lappartient has a local French mayor mentality. Did [Brailsford] get roofied? And then Lappartient shoots back: I don’t really want to answer him, but you’re insulting me and 35,000 other French mayors and the French people. Dave Brailsford: Shut your mouth.
Up Next, Carnage: As a fan you love to watch these stages [5 and 6 in the cobblestoned north]. Tomorrow’s is 204 kilometers. It looks like somebody made a mistake drawing the map. Those roads are tight and they turn a lot. The stage is never flat. It’s up and down. There will be carnage tomorrow. And it looks like they designed the finish for people to hit the deck. Three turns in the last 1k, and it’s uphill. The GC guys will all get over it unless they crash. But there’s a section at the end that’s 600 meters at a six percent. Everything I just said has Peter Sagan written all over it, but I’m not picking him. For tomorrow, if you’re Team Quick Step [which dominated the Spring Classics this year], if I’m them, I say we’re racing for Philippe Gilbert. They could win tomorrow with Gilbert and the next day with Julian Alaphilippe. Sagan doesn’t look like himself. The next two days, cancel what you’re doing. Fireworks. Sit down and watch.
Stage 3: The TTT, Discerning “Booooo” from “Froooome,” and Peter Sagan Makes Party
That Was BMC’s Highlight: There were no surprises at the front of the race. And even though BMC took the win today, I’m sticking with my predictions about them having a rough Tour because of their ownership issues. They pulled it together to win the TTT, but outside of that, the only thing that mattered was how the day affected the GC.
Bummer for Tejay: [There was some discussion about why the Yellow Jersey went to Greg Van Avermaet instead of Tejay van Garderen since they had the same time over the first three stages. The answer, says Lance, is complicated.] They finished together yesterday in the front group, and obviously again today. So maybe they should arm wrestle. Or play rock paper scissors. Or run a 100-yard dash. But no, the way they go about that is they take their places—not their times—add them up and divide them and the lower score gets the jersey. But as warm and fuzzy as that is, there’s a part of Tejay that must be going, ‘Damn. I could have had yellow.’ He could have worn yellow for first—and perhaps only—time in his life. GVA had it before. Maybe you should be able to gift it. That would make a nice gimmick: “Tejay, I love you buddy, here’s the jersey.”
Sorry, Phil: Froome was taking 45-second pulls. At max effort that’s a long time to be sitting on the front. And as he’s leading the Sky train you can hear audible boos on the feed. ‘Listen to the applause,’ says my friend Phil Liggett. But it was a sea of boos. Turn up your hearing aid Phil.
Nibali’s Gamble: [The Bahrain Merida team, through strategy or shear desperation, rode the last four kilometers with only three teammates around Vincenzo Nibali, one of Lance’s picks for GC contenders in his Tour preview.] I’m not changing that pick. And I don’t know if they met internal expectations or not, but their performance was terrible. Nibali is now behind Chris Froome. To ride the last four kilometers with only four guys was a huge risk, if anything happens to any of these guys, they have to stop. A crash, a mechanical, they have to stop. They can’t continue until a rider catches back on. It’s so risky to be put into that position. The clock keeps ticking. They lost 1:06 to BMC.
Tom “Home Skillet” Dumoulin: Dumoulin must have heard that they were 14 seconds down and Home Skillet just went to the front and drilled it to limit the damage. They beat other teams [fourth place]. If you’re an eight man team and you can’t beat essentially one guy [Dumoulin] then you don’t belong in the Tour de France.
Peter “Make Party” Sagan: Peter Sagan doesn’t get dropped from his team in a TTT. What was going on? Maybe he “make party” the night before. Or he was sick. He didn’t look good. But whatever, he’ll wear the green tomorrow.
Lawson Craddock, Two-Time Patron: It’s hard to pick a patron of the day in a TTT, but I gave Lawson very little chance of even finishing today. Which makes Lawson Craddock the Patron of the Day for the second time in three days. He was smart and sat on and then he started rotating with the team. They finished well. He fell off with 5K to go. But the grit to stay in there was impressive. When I told him he was our Patron of the Day two days ago he was like, ‘Do I get some free tequila?’
How Do you Recover From That? [A question came in about how to recover from a time trial versus a regular mountain stage.] That’s a good question, I wouldn’t have thought to ask it. But these guys spend 90-plus percent of the time they ride on a classic road bike, and then they shift to a TT bike which is much different in fit. Even in the TTT, where you get breaks, they’ll have massive soreness in the glutes and lower back. The only way to resolve that is massage and chiropractic. They will know tomorrow that they rode the max effort on their TT bikes.
Don’t Get in the Sprinter’s Kitchen: Philippe Gilbert has been vocal about GC guys staying out of the sprint and I agree with him—the sprinters don’t get in the way of the climbs. It’s important to stay up front, but you don’t have to be in their business. All day long the GC guys should be in the top 10 or 20 and then drop back to the top 50 when they cross that three kilometer mark.
Stage 4 Runway: It’s a straightforward run in. If they fall down tomorrow then we have problems. After tomorrow, the Tour gets really exciting again.
Stage 2: Shit Teams, TTT Geek Fest, and Projectile Sweating
Patron (Boss) of the Day: Sylvain Chavanel, in his 18th Tour, has to be our Patron of the Day. For 100 miles he was off the front either with younger guys or by himself. Of course, after 18 tours he has enough experience to know that he has very little chance. But he got four hours on TV. And he won the day’s most combative award. It’s good for him and his sponsors. For those who watched my career closely, you’ll know that Chavanel and I did five tours together. In 2003, you might recall the incident where I unclipped and took the top tube in the cojone. That was him that I caught and patted on the shoulder later. He was a kid then, but he was a great guy.
An Aside About Tour Patrons: Back in the day, there wasn’t much unity in the peloton among riders. The only thing I remember them protesting was drug testing, if you can believe that. Imagine if they did that today. But the early Patrons would occasionally speak for the peloton. If you know your Tour history you might know that groups used to draw attention to their causes by blocking the roads along the Tour. One day a bunch of shipyard workers blocked the road in a protest. Bernard Hinault came flying through the stopped pack with a head of steam and popped a guy on the chin to end it. I don’t much care for Hinault, but I liked that.
Lawson Craddock Update: His goal yesterday was to get through the night and try to start the day. He did that, but I got to imagine it doesn’t feel good, and he certainly didn’t look good—riding like a crab. He was smart to sit up at the end. He can’t hit the deck again. When they asked him how he was doing, he was like, ‘I took some ibuprofen.’ As a cyclist that’s all you can do. And that’s bulshit. The sport is chasing its tail so much that you can’t take anything more powerful than Advil. You might remember Vaughters and the bee sting incident where he couldn’t take a steroid to reduce the swelling around his eyes. Guys, stop. It’s the Tour de France, the hardest sporting event in the world. But for the athletes it’s the doormat of international sports. Tomorrow in the TTT, any bump in the road is going to go straight up Lawson’s triceps and into his broken scapula.
The Heat Is Hot: It was in the 90s today. I think that the guys take for granted that the stages will be cooler when they move farther north. You don’t expect it in the 90s. But you have to be prepared. You can’t get behind on the hydration because you can’t get caught back up. Hydration and heat are the biggest factors on performance. You saw Sagan at the finish today. He was projectile sweating.
The Move of the Day: Goes to Peter Sagan. I expected that. Looking at the course and expecting crashes I knew it favored him. There was a slight kickup. That’s advantage Sagan because he has more power and less speed compared to the pure sprinters. It makes him suited for uphill sprint finishes. He also always puts himself in the right place. Greipel missed the jump. Sagan doesn’t make those mistakes, and today he avoid a crash that very few cyclists could of. He will not be in the yellow jersey tomorrow night, but the Move of the Day was staying out of trouble.
TTT Geeking for Tomorrow's Stage 3: I love the team time trial because if you’re a GC guy you have to take it seriously and you have to become a leader. You have to talk to the guys on your team. You have to get them into the event. They hate it, the suffering is unreal. The first time I did it I was on a four man team. Torturous. But even with eight guys it’s painful. There’s an artistry to it. You’ve been in pacelines with your buddies so you have a vague idea of what it’s like. Now throw in rear disk wheels and aero bars. But it’s tactical, too, you can’t have all eight guys on aero bars, they wouldn’t be able to brake quickly enough and the group would crash. So the guys in back have to be on the drops to be prepared. Even recreational racers don’t know that the point is not to get to the front and accelerate. You never accelerate. The weakest guy is going to crack if you do. If you gap your weakest guy with three guys behind him, then it’s all over. If you feel good, the point is to go to the front and stay there without accelerating. Tomorrow Tom Dumoulin is just going to sit on the front and pull like the Big Mig [Miguel Indurain]) did back in the day. But at the end, the groups splits apart by design. Somebody—some bodies—will get dropped. If you finish with a full team you had a bad TTT. The weaker guys need to give one last pull and still make the cut off. It’s a race of truth for the team.
Fewer Riders Per Team or Fewer Teams Per Tour? [A comment from the gallery said fewer riders per team was a good idea. Lance takes issue with that.] If you want a two-day stage race you can do it with four-man teams, but for a three-week race you need eight or nine riders. I agree that we need fewer riders, though. In light of how they build roads, and in light of how fast the gear is, there should be fewer teams, but not fewer riders per team. They have to get rid of the shit teams. Take three shit teams out and the problem is solved.
Stage 1: Crashes, Nerves, Guts, Grinta, and the Patron of the Day
Why So Skittish? There’s usually a prologue time trial. Riders get nervous about that. But they’re out there by themselves and it gets some of the nervousness out of the way. With no prologue you have the nerves of 200 fresh guys—the best cyclists in the world—competing for positioning on every turn. I knew this first week was going to be tumultuous and dramatic.
Froome’s Icy Reception: If you happened to watch the team presentations you probably noticed the chilly reception Froome got. The media did too. All the articles I read were about the hostile reception. It wasn’t surprising to me. I said that was going to happen. But the long story short is that there are other riders in the peloton that failed multiple tests and sat out entire seasons and nobody pays any attention to them. The tallest trees get all the wind.
No Drifting Back to Talk to a Buddy: A crash with 10K to go split the field. Sixty-three riders in the front. Everybody else lost. We see these crashes every year where the group has to sit up or stop. You have to stay up front. I would tell my guys: ‘We’re in the tour, you keep your ass in the front and we’re going to stay out of trouble. They’d say, ‘Yeah but I have some buddies back there.’ ‘Look,’ I’d tell them, ‘for the next three weeks, I’m your buddy.’
Crashes Getting More Common: My first tour was in ’93 as a 21-year-old. One difference is the crowds, there are more fans now. The other difference is the speeds. Our bikes weighed 23 pounds [now under 17 pounds]. Today, with deep dish carbon wheels and skinsuits, they’re literally going 50 percent faster than we were. Add in the fans and the dogs and the road furniture and the narrowing of roads all over the country, and when 15 people wide suddenly has to become seven you get crashes.
When the Field Splits: It takes about a minute for everyone to take inventory and see who’s here and who’s not. If you’re Peter Sagan, you know who’s in the back. If you’re a GC guy, you know Froome is behind. If you get that word on the radio, you go full gas.
Winners and Losers on the Day: Of the 63 guys in the front. Dumoulin, Nibali, Thomas, Bardet, Valverde, Uran, Martin, TJ, and Landa were the winners. Froome and Porte lost 51 seconds; Quintana more than a minute [1:15]. And I thought it was going to be boring today.
Grinta and the Patron of the Day: As soon as I tuned in this morning, I saw [Texan] Lawson Craddock leaning into the medical car—a big blow to the side of his head from a crash in a feed zone. For him to hang in there the rest of the day just kind of slumped over his bike and yo-yoing off the back…. And consider that he had a terrible season last year thanks to a horrible training program and this was his long-awaited return. I know what he’s thinking. ‘I have to finish.’ Grinta in Italian means… just fucking guts. How can he not be our Patron of the Day? [Craddock finished eight minutes back but made the cutoff. With a fractured shoulder blade and stitches to his brow, he’ll decide tomorrow if he can continue.]
Shouldn’t They Just Let Injured Riders Back in the Race? I don’t want to spend three weeks talking about how dysfunctional cycling is, but it’s the most dysfunctional of all sports. The UCI has some rules but ASO [tour organizers] has others and they can just decide to reinstate somebody. But who knows how they make those decisions? There’s not much compassion. Meanwhile, if the grupetto is 50 guys strong and they miss the time cut in the mountains, they’ll put them back in the race. And that’s bullshit.
More Cobble Talk: Are cobbles a bad idea? We get that question a lot. But Bernard Hinault said it was the Tour de “France.” And you have cobbles in northern France. Nibali and Dumoulin think it’s a good idea. Sometimes you’re the hammer and sometimes you’re nail.
Next up, Stage 2: This peloton is still fresh. They’ll be fast and nervy. It’s a board flat stage. But I look at the finish and it looks like we’re tying a knot.
Santa Fe Kickoff: Prologue to the Prologue
On the Podcast: We had no idea how popular this podcast would be when we started it last year, but there clearly was a void that needed filling. We’ve heard from people that it let them re-engage with the sport. Lots of folks had stopped watching. They tell us that we made it interesting to watch and learn again. That’s incredibly rewarding.
The Route: When they announced this route I was super excited. None of that has changed. Except maybe I’m even more excited now. This race will shake up in the first week with the Team Time Trial and the cobblestones. The TTT will put minutes, minutes, into Romain Bardet and AG2R. And the Stage 9 (Arras-Roubaix) cobbles—the biggest section of cobbles the Tour has ever taken on—will be crucial. The last section of cobbles is only three miles from the finish. If you don’t hit those sections in the top 10, you’re in trouble. The peloton just shit its pants. You have to race to the cobbles with the team. Accidents and mechanicals are going to happen. Multiple contenders will crash out. All we need is rain. I’m hoping it rains on these poor dudes.
Lighting It Up with Short Stages: The sport of cycling is trying to change the dynamic and the viewing experience by shortening stages. That might sound counterintuitive, but as a GC rider, the worst thing you can imagine is a short mountain stage. When I was racing a short stage was 90 miles, but stages 10 and 17 are 67 miles and 40 miles. If you don’t watch anything else, you have to watch these stages. This is legit racing, not a gimmick. The run in to the finish of stage 17 is 16 kilometers at nine percent. A GC guy feeling good could blow up the race on that.
Lance’s List of Contenders
Froome: He won the Giro d’Italia five weeks ago. That’s very hard for people to come back from. But I’m not picking Froome because I don’t think the cobble sections help him.
Nibali: He’s won all three grand tours. And he’s a proven Classics rider who has been in the front group of Flanders. He can ride cobbles. This season he’s looked terrible, but these guys play possum. He knows what he’s doing.
Dumoulin: He’s my my wild card pick. And if I was only cheering for one rider it would be him. He’s obviously been riding well with a second place at the Giro. And he gets through the rough stages in the north (cobbles) better than any other favorites. He could be spent from the Giro, though.
Bardet: I don’t know. I don’t think so. He shouldn’t have made his team let alone my list. I’m kidding. He a great rider. But I don’t see him as a winner on this route with the TTT and the cobbles.
Porte: He has the skills to win. I don’t think he won the Swiss tour (June, 2018) because he looked good, but instead because he managed the race well. The problem is he’s on a team that’s going away. All the riders are thinking about themselves. I’ve been in these situations and it’s a shit-show. Porte is gone, he’s already signed with Trek-Segafredo. It’s a toxic situation for everyone else. Millions of dollars gone. Poof.
No to Superteams: Landa and Quintana and Valverde…three GC contenders in the same Movistar lineup. It’s not good. This is not the Golden State warriors. But one of them is going to make a mistake and be out of contention pretty quickly. That person will become a non factor.
On Again, Off Again Chris Froome Drama: The Froome situation with the adverse analytical finding (the charge was abuse of asthma meds) reveals how broken the anti-doping systems are. For nine months, we don’t hear anything, and then last weekend it seemed like the race organizers would ban him, and then five days before the Tour its, “we just dropped it.” The system is a mess. Things need to be adjudicated more quickly. As for the argument that Team Sky’s deep pockets bought their way out of the doping charge, I had more money and lawyers than they did and it didn’t help me. The movie I saw didn’t end that way.