The yellow jersey battle
Well here we are deep into the Tour with one week to go and it looks like a battle between four riders - Chris Froome, Fabio Aru, Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Urán.
It is the closest I have seen a general classification battle this late into a Tour, and the racing has been anything but boring, with the top four separated by a mere 30 seconds. That is nothing!
However, there are only two days in the Alps and one individual time trial left for those top four to make magic happen. And from watching AG2R race tactically, it is safe to say we are in for a good last week of the Tour.
The danger man in top four group is Urán. He has flown under the radar and if he loses no more time, or makes up some time over the next week, going into the individual time trial he has a real shot at taking the Yellow jersey. He is the rider the other three should be most worried about.
The green jersey competition and sprint stage has really been the Kittel show with five wins (to date) at this Tour. His closest challenger is Michael Matthews who is 79 points down, but the two are different in terms of ability. Kittel’s biggest problem comes when the road tilts upward. While he has been climbing incredibly well over this Tour (to haul 80kg in European summer heat over the mountains is rough) but Kittel has missed out on some intermediate sprint points to Matthews who climbs a lot better.
79 points is a fair chunk to make up. Sprint stage wins offer 50, 30, and 20 points for the top three. I don’t see Kittel scoring 0 points on any of those stages, but I do see Matthews trying to make up on the intermediate sprints where available.
The King of the Mountains
The jersey competition I love the most in the Tour is the Polka Dot jersey. There is something about pure climbers and how they apply their trade that is mythical and magical.
In modern times, there has not really been “that” type of rider in the Tour, not since Rasmussen and Virenque. To watch Warren Barguil really focus on it this Tour has been thrilling, over and above his incredible Tour position sitting in 13th place. I remember watching highlights of Tour de l’Avenir where he was really giving it stick and thinking then what a great race charisma he carried.
He carries a 78 point lead over Primoz Roglic of Lotto-Jumbo. With 116 points still on offer in the Polka Dot competition anything can happen: but somehow I doubt Barguil will let it go anyway but his.