Our correspondent witnesses Rohan Dennis’s shambolic exit and watches in horror as his own dirty laundry is aired in public
We wake early on the banks of the Rhone watching huge barges slide south, before driving on wild roads across the plateau of the Haute-Loire, past the distant volcanoes of the Puy de Dôme, to Brioude, Romain Bardet’s home town. The press room goodie bag includes a perfume titled Operation Seduction in the Land of Romain Bardet, but even that can’t conceal the whiff of disappointment now enveloping the local hero.
• Geraint Thomas suffers on final climb and loses time to leader • Julian Alaphilippe second on Tourmalet stage finish
Geraint Thomas’s Tour de France title defence was hanging by a thread after the toughest mountain stage yet of the 2019 race saw him lose more time to the overall race leader Julian Alaphilippe.
Thomas was unable to follow the decisive accelerations in the final moments of a breathless stage that included well over 3,000 metres of climbing, as the peloton raced to the summit of the Col du Tourmalet. The 117.5km stage was abridged by several kilometres to allow police to clear the road of environmental protesters near Ossun.
Wout van Aert update: It was a very bad day indeed for the young Belgian, who won a sprint finish earlier this week. He suffered a sickening crash into a barrier after misjudging a turn and has been taken to hospital. “According to French TV, Van Aert has a deep cut on his leg but no fractures,” writes Matt Cast.
There was late heartbreak for Thomas De Gendt on a day when Julian Alaphilippe stoke the show. Geraint Thomas, Steven Kruijswijk, Enric Mas and Egan Bernal all had good days. For Dan Martin, Nairo Quintana and Jakob Fugslang, it was an afternoon of frustration.
Julian Alaphilippe increases his lead. On a day many thought Julian Philippe might lose the yellow jersey or at least a considerable chunk of his lead, he has increased his lead on General Classification ahead of tomorrow’s jaunt up the Tourmalet.
The Frenchman is roared home by the locals of Pau and wins the stage by a scarcely credible 14 seconds. What! A! Performance!
Geraint Thomas: The Welshman takes the lead, finishing the course 21 seconds quicker than Thomas De Gendt.
Egan Bernal: The Colombian Ineos rider finishes over a minute in arrears.
Julian Alaphilippe: The Frenchman in the yellow jersey is doing the garment proud on this, the day of it’s 100th anniversary. He’s five seconds quicker than Geraint Thomas at the third split.
Steven Kruijswijk: A fine ride from the Dutchman, who is nine seconds slower than our clubhouse leader. That could move him up to third on GC.
Geraint Thomas: The Welshman is quickest at the third split, the 21.9km mark, stopping the clock at 28min 40sec. That’s 21 seconds faster than TDG, who must be shifting nervously in his stage leader’s throne.
Enrique Mas: Alaphilippe’s team-mate puts in a good shift, finishing 22 seconds off the pace.
Adam Yates: The Mitchelton Scott team leader finishes the course, 1min 32sec down on the leader.
Nairo Quintana: The Movistar rider finishes the course 1min 15sec down on Thomas De Gendt.
Julian Alaphilippe: The maillot jaune hits the second split and it’s an incredible team from Julian Alaphilippe. He gets there six seconds quicker than Thomas. His time: 21min 48sec.
Geraint Thomas: The defending champion obliterates Kruijswijk’s time at the 15.5km mark, taking 13 seconds out of the Dutchman. He stops the clock at 21min 54sec.
Steven Kruijswijk: The Dutchman is quickest at the second split: 22min 07sec. That’s five seconds quicker than De Gendt.
Thibaut Pinot: The Frenchman, in 10th place on GC, hits the final ramp and is going to post a good time. The clock goes from green to red and Pinot finishes 13 seconds off the pace set by De Gendt. That’s a good effort.
Rigoberto Uran: Thomas De Gendt is seen grimacing nervously in the Big Chair, as Rigoberto Uran crosses the finish line. He’s not quite quick enough, but less than one third of a second slower than the stage leader.
Julian Alaphilippe: Taking adsvantage of the superpowers he appears to glean from the yellow jersey, Julian Alaphilippe is quickest past the first check point: 11min 17sec. Chapeau.
Steven Kruijswijk: The Jumbo-Visma rider clocks the fastest time at the first check point: 11min 22sec. Geraint Thomas takes a second longer to get there.
Nairo Quintana: At the same point, Nairo Quintana is 40 seconds down. Team Ineos rider Egan Bernal hits the 7.7km check point 12 seconds down on De Gendt.
Dan Martin is struggling. In ninth place on GC this morning, the UAE Team Emirates rider has lost over a minute at the 15.5km time check.
Thibaut Pinot is rocking and rolling. At the second time check, he clocks 22min 25sec. De Gendt got there 13 seconds quicker.
Thomas De Gendt leads the stage. Richie Porte has just muscled his way into second position, while Kasper Asgreen is in third. The time to beat is 35min 36sec.
A sterling effort from Richie Porte: The Trek Segafredo rider finishes nine seconds down on Thomas De Gendt, moments before Team Ineos rider Geraint Thomas rolls down the ramp of the starter’s hut.
Thomas De Gendt: The Belgian has been quickest at every checkpoint and remains the stage leader with a time of 35min 36sec.
Just four riders left to go: Steven Kruijswijk, Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas and Julian Alaphilippe are locked and loaded.
Here’s a slightly less grisly overhead view of the crash that did for the unfortunate Wout, for those who are interested in seeing it. It look like he might have caught his handlebars in a slightly flappy bit of branding hanging from the barrier.
153 riders have started. Romain Bardet has just started. There are 13 riders left warming up behind the starter’s hut, while Thomas De Gendt is happy in Big Chair, having posted a time of 35min 36sec, that is going to take some beating.
For sure reasoning as to why noone was there’s a debate that’s too long to tweet, but this genuinely makes me sad & embarrassed about where my sport is at. @marianne_vos is, in my opinion, the greatest currently active rider & one of cyclings GOATs. Thanks for highlighting, Peter https://t.co/NZJGoRBp7r
This was what Marianne Vos looked out at in her La Course press conference just now. Me and a lot of empty seats. Embarrassing that one of the sport’s greatest ever riders gets ignored like this #TDF2019#LaCoursepic.twitter.com/gm6Sy6UM8f
Another crash: The camera cuts to Bora Hansgrohe rider Max Schachman who is looking very sorry for himself indeed as he approaches the finish line. He’s clearly come down at some point and has blood on one knee and his holing his left arm very gingerly indeed. He grimaces with agony as he makes his way up the final climb and can barely hold the handlebars. I have a feeling his Tour may be over – I’m no doctor, but that looks like a broken collarbone – or possibly wrist – to me, to go with his badly cut right knee. Shaking his head and clearly in great pain, he rolls over the line.
More on the state of British cycling: “Britain’s club format is all about Time Trials as stage races are far harder to organise,” writes Vic Lanser. “Closing roads is less easily tolerated than in France or Belgium, where the sport is much bigger. TTs take place early in the morning, when traffic is lighter (but maybe not much safer: accidents do happen).”
FYI: The riders are now going out at two-minute intervals. Astana rider Alexey Lutsenko, time trial and road champion of Kazakhstan, has just left the starter’s hut.
Just 24 riders left to start: The main GC contenders will be out soon.
Wout van Aert update: “ Belgian TV talked to Van Aert’s girlfriend,” writes Franky Vlaeminck. “Apparently no broken bones but a deep cut in the upper thigh is the worry.”
Peter Sagan pulls a wheelie: Ever the entertainer, the Jolly Green Giant cycles up the final climb and over the line on just his back wheel. He’s 2min 57sec off the fastest time so far.
More musings on GB riders: “In response to Aidan Grant’s question,” writes Rob Betts. These stats from Procycling.com may help. GB is 7th on the list of active riders, fewer than Spain, Germany and Netherlands, but on a par with USA and Colombia. I think there’s a sense that continental European nations represent the core of pro cycling, while GB, USA, Colombia and Australia represent the ‘new world’ which is still establishing itself at a pro level. That said we’re only nine riders behind Spain as a traditional cycling nation.
“It could also be that the main ‘British’ team Ineos, has shifted it’s focus away from bringing through British riders and is more focused on recruiting the best of the best. In previous years we’ve seen Stannard, Swift, Kennaugh etc. on domestique duty.”
We have a new clubhouse leader: Lotto Soudal rider Thomas De Gendt is currently sitting in Big Chair, having posted a time of 35min 36sec, finishing the course a full 16 seconds quicker than previous leader Kasper Asgreen.
In more important news, Wout van Aert has been stabilised on the roadside after his crash and is about to be taken to a local hospital. His injuries are, as yet, unspecified.
Book recommendations: Having taken time out of his day to compile a list of the cycling books recommended on this blog last Friday, Robert Horne is now being subjected to a deluge of abuse from assorted readers for not including various books that weren’t recommended; books they would like to have recommended to them even though they have already read them. Please direct your rage elsewhere, ideally somewhere more worthy than my email inbox!
Wout van Aert: I’d have to question the wisdom of the Tour broadcasters showing two or three replays of that Wout van Aert crash, as I’ve a fairly strong constitution and the sight of it has made me feel queasy. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but he was tight against a roadside barrier covered in branding as he took a fairly tight right turn on a narrow stretch of road. He seems to have snagged on something – a cable-tie, perhaps? – that gouged his right thigh and violently brought him to ground.
It was a hideous crash and he hit the deck very, very hard. An ambulance has been summoned to come to his aid. Without wanting to sound callous, I’m not sure whether or not its presence will affect those coming behind Van Aert, or require a delay in the start times of those yet to begin the course until that particular section of it has been cleared.
Wout van Aert crashes: Oh no! Wout van Aert has just suffered a sickening crash, going into a barrier while taking a right turn. He looks very badly hurt and in urgent need of medical attention. Fingers crossed for the young Belgian – his Tour is over. That was an awful crash.
More book chat: “Why no mention of Nicole Cooke’s ‘The Breakaway’ in the list of recommended cycling books?” asks Barry Norris. The answer? Because nobody recommended it … until now. “Nicole Cooke was world and Olympic champion in the same year (2008) – has any male rider done that yet? – and one of the greatest female cyclists that GB has ever produced,” adds Barry. “The Breakaway is an insightful, opinionated, at times caustic read that holds nothing back. Wouldn’t it be good to have at least one female rider’s book in the current all-male list of recommended books?”
Meanwhile back at the Tour de France, Kasper Asgreen’s time of 35min 52sec is still the one to beat with 123 riders either finished or still out on the course.
Book chat: “With respect to that list, the best book about cycling by far is The Death of Marco Pantani by Matt Rendell,” writes David Singerman. “It’s a great biography, period, showing how the individual genius at its center was shaped by the social, political, and cultural context of Italy. I picked it up by chance in a Heathrow bookstore and am still glad I succumbed to the impulse.”
An email: “In response to Aidan Grant I’d note that there is only one ‘British’ World Tour team while there are several French and Belgium teams,” writes C. “And Ineos of course just buy whoever’s best with no regard to nationality. Perhaps British riders are reluctant to join teams abroad?”
But here comes Thomas de Gendt: The Lotto-Soudal breakaway specialist obliterates Van Aert’s time, knocking 16 seconds off it. Thomas De Gendt stops the clock at the second checkpoint in 22min 12sec.
Wout van Aert hits the second time check: And he’s the quickest so far after 15.5km. He posts a time of 22min 28sec.
An email: “In my young naïve state (up until 48 years old), I always used to think that every rider went full gas on a TT, thinking that as they were professional sportsmen, they must be trying to win,” writes Simon Thomas. |It gradually dawned on me that only probably 20% of the field are actually trying today – the rest are having a bit of a useful workout. You can’t go too slow though. Hiroki Nishimura, a Japanese development rider, actually suffered the indignity of missing the time cut on the 8km prologue at this year’s Giro. Imagine that happening to Sagan today!” Sagan has just rolled down the ramp from the starting hut – I suspect he won’t miss the cut.
More on the tactics of Ineos v the tactics of Mitchelton Scott. “Just on Simon Yates, I think there’s a balance to be had between saving yourself and stretching the legs into some good form,” writes Conor Lundy. “Yates (Simon) had a disappointing Giro and just didn’t seem to have the form.
“Yesterday would have been a good boost for him and the team to know he has good legs. It would have been of no use to Adam Yates if Simon had waited until a critical stage before finding out he wouldn’t be able to help. That’s one possibility. The other is that he just likes racing bikes and his team likes their racers to race. Anyone But Ineos!”
Robert Horne is having a productive day at work: “I appreciated all the cycling book recommendations from last Friday’s MBM but failed at the time to take any notes so spent the 20 minutes before my lunch break today going through it and compiling a list of them for other readers who also failed to take note,” he says. “I also very much enjoyed Phil Gaimon’s Draft Animals. Probably not quite as well written as some of the other recommended reading but I thought it was an interesting and humble insight from someone who nearly made it. The Waterstones on Deansgate in Manchester had most of these too when I went at lunch time
An email: And it’s an epic, from Aidan Grant. “Browsing through the start times for today’s time trial I was reminded of a question that I’ve never really got a satisfactory answer to … why are there still so few British riders in the Tour?
“Despite three different Brits having won six of the last seventh (and a 4th winning the Vuelta as three different Brits won all the Grand Tours last year) plus the greatest sprinter of his generation (and arguably all-time), and countless medals on the track, the places only seem to go to Brits right at the top end. Where are the domestiques and plucky challengers for stage wins that other nations seem to supply by the bucket load?
Oliveira slows down. Despite a farily heroic effort, Nelson isn’t quite quick enough and finishes 10 seconds down on the Danish champion, Kasper Asgreen, who remains the stage leader.
Stefan Kung finishes: The Groupama-FDJ rider finishes fourth provisionally, despite crashing out on the course. Also out on the road,Movistar rider Nelson Oliveira has been quickest so far at the first two checkpoints. Riding his first tour de France, Belgian cyclocross sensation Wout van Aert has just rolled down the ramp. With a stage win under his belt already, the Jumbo-Visma rider could have a big say in the outcome of today’s stage. He’s the reigning Belgian national time trial champion, don’t you know?
An email: “I guess I can see both sides to the argument with Simon Yates,” writes Guy Hornsby. “He’s not a GC contender, and so he’ll take it very easy today, like Tony Martin (however odd that feels). So it feels a bit more understandable.
“And obviously, it’s the DS’s call. Ineos locking down the peloton yesterday, as Thomas Atkins points out, probably made it more likely, too. Stages aren’t fixed plans, so it’ll evolve on the road. Plus Ineos must win the GC, but surely Michelton Scott have a few irons in the fire. It all makes for great racing, though.”
Asgreen still leads. With 30 riders already back in the clubhouse, the 24-year-old Dane’s time of 35min 52sec remains the one to beat.
Martin finishes: The German pedalling machine hasn’t been trying today and finishes 5min 53sec off the pace set by Asgreen.
Kasper Asgreen leads: 161st on GC this morning, Kasper Asgreen finishes the course in 35min 52sec before Chad can plant his backside in the chair traditionally occupied by the clubhouse leader. Asgreen, by contrast, mnight be sitting in it for a while – that’s a good time. Both Haga and Asgreen started after Tony Martin, who is still out on the course.
Yoann Offredo finishes the course: The lanterne rouge finishes the course in a time of 40min 10sec, but his time is quickly obliterated by Chad Haga of Team Sunweb, who completes the circuit in 36min 22sec.
An email: “I do wonder whether Team Ineos do a lot of work on behalf of the peloton, which enables other teams to be able to spread their resources a bit better,” writes Thomas Atkins. |There only needs to be one team controlling the tempo, policing which breaks are allowed to go, and setting the speed of the peloton during the boring bits of the race. Michelton Scott probably don’t need eight riders focusing solely on the GC race most of the time, which frees up the likes of Simon Yates to do their thing.”
A fair point, well made. It did not go unnoticed that Ineos had all eight of their riders at the front of the yellow jersey group in the closing stages yesterday.
Mikel Landa is 20th on GC and is due to go out at 4.03pm, followed by the rest of the GC big hitters. While I’m always grateful for the company, I won’t be in the least bit offended if you decided to abandon me and come back then!
In the meantime, Kasper Asgreen has been quickest through the first checkpoint so far, posting a time of 11min 50sec at 7.7km. The Deceuninck- Quick Step rider was also fastest through the second checkpoint in 22min 42sec.
“Once you start piecing those all together like a jigsaw you’ll end up with the finished product.” @SirWiggo has 3️⃣ key bits of advice for those seeking the perfect time trial ♂️ pic.twitter.com/F0Hj0vYJ7N
Tony Martin is caught by his minute-man: And now he’s been caught by the guy who started two minutes after him. He’s clearly not trying a leg today and has probably decided to take the day off in order to recover from all his exertions at the front of the bunch on this Tour.
An email: “I’m a little baffled about the Mitchelton Scott tactics yesterday,” writes Matt Emerson. “As a Vuelta winner Simon Yates is just about the best domestique you could have, so why let him waste energy on a stage win – he finished nine and a half minutes ahead of the GC riders, which must have been a big effort – when the Tourmalet is coming up in two days’ time? I’m pretty sure Ineos wouldn’t have let him do that. Any ideas?”
I’m pretty sure Ineos wouldn’t have let him do it either, but then not all teams are as stupendously dull as The Artists Formerly Known As Sky. It seems very harsh to describe a stage win as a waste of energy, when winning stages brings so much prestige and is a very difficult thing to do. Unlike Ineos, Mitchelton Scott seem happy to give their leader’s lieutenants the opportunity to win stages while simultaneously focussing on the GC standing of Adam Yates. It is a tactic that may not yield the ultimate dividend, but it’s heartwarming to see and they’ve done very well out of it so far.
We have four checkpoints today: The first is at Ceriset at the 7.7km mark, the second is at Cote D’Esquillot (15.5km), the third is at Juancon (21.9km) and the fourth and all important one is at the finish in Pau (27.2km). There are eight riders out on the road already.
Our first four riders are away: Tony Martin has just set off and as a former world champion, will certainly be one to watch. He may not be as good as he used to be, but he’ll fancy his chances to day and will almost certainly set a time to beat. In the early stages, however, he doesn’t look like he’s going at full gas.
166 riders left: Rohan Dennis and Giacomo Nizzolo quite the Tour yesterday, one on the back of a hissy-fit and the other due to injuries sustained in a crash the previous day. Jasper Philipsen was also withdrawn by UAE Team Emirates, his employers having decided that half a Tour was enough for the 21-year-old Belgian.
Currently in last place on GC, Yoann Offredo will be the first man down the ramp today and will set off in approximately five minutes. It’s difficult to imagine he’ll be too fussed about he gets on. Once he’s set off, riders will go off at one-minute intervals.
It was another good day for the Australian team, who won their second stage of this year’s Tour, when Simon Yates completed his set of Grand Tour stage wins. Matteo Trentin also took the combativity award and the team can now focus on trying to get Yates’s twin brother Adam as high as possible up the General Classification. He is currently in 7th place, 1min 47sec behind Julian Alaphilippe.
While passing through the feed zone yesterday, Rohan Dennis decided to dismount his bicycle and quit this year’s Tour. Almost 24 hours later, mystery continues to surround the Australian’s decision. The world ITT champion, Dennis was among the favourites for today’s stage, but abandoned the Tour despite not being ill or injured. Although he was spotted near his team bus at the end of the stage, he refused to speak to reporters and his team were vague when asked about what happened too.
With the ladies finished, it’s time to return our focus to the gentlemen, who have their Race of Truth this afternoon. Marianne Vos and chums did five laps of the circuit they’ll have to complete this afternoon. While this is ostensibly a day off for the majority of riders, it should go some way towards sorting out the men among the GC contenders from the boys. But first, a recap on stage three, which was won by Mitchelton Scott rider Simon Yates yesterday. Jeremy Whittle was there for the Guardian …
V for Victory (and Vos): Marianne Vos takes her second La Course, having won her first five years ago on different terrain. “I feel really good, I came with good motivation from the Giro Rosa,” she says, having won four stages in the Italian race.
Heartbreak for Amanda Spratt as Marianne Vos sweeps past her on the final climb with just 300 metres to go, pulls away from her and wins at her leisure to CCC Live.
500m to go: Spratt hits the ramp near the finish, but is passed by Marianne Vos.
1km to go: Spratt gets out of the saddle again, while Trek Segafredo go to the front of the bunch.
2.0km to go: Spratt ploughs on, her face a mask of pain. The peloton can see her …
2.5km to go: Spratt leads by 12 seconds. At the front of the bunch, CCC Liv and Team Sunweb finally appear to have got their act together and are hunting her down.
6km to go: Hats off to Annemiek van Vleuten, Spratt’s team-mate, who is successfully disrupting any efforts the bunch are making to get themselves organised. At the moment, Riejanne Markus of CCC-Liv is trying to tow them along to get her team-mate Vos into contention.
7km to go: The gap from Amanda Spratt to the chasing posse goes back out to 33 seconds, then back into 19. Can she hang on?
7.5km to go: Spratt is out of the saddle, her legs pumping . The gap is back out to 20 seconds in the wake of the aforementioned indecision and disorganisation in the pack, where the riders are squabbling over how best to organise their chase.
10km to go: Some indecision in the peloton, where Van Vleuten is policing the bunch on behalf her Aussie teammate up the road.
11km to go: The peloton has Spratt in their sights, her lead now down to just nine seconds.
12km to go: It’s worth noting that Spratt’s Dutch team-mate, Annemiek van Vleuten is trying to win her third consecutive La Course title. She is currently chasing down Lucinda Brand and Marianne Vos, who are trying to bridge the gap from the peloton to Spratt. The gap is dissolving, however.
16km to go: Marianne Vos and her CCC Liv domestiques are towing the bunch along as Spratt, who was previously in a five-woman breakaway before dropping her travelling companions and striking for home on her own.
La Course: You join us with 17 kilometres left of this year’s La Course, a race in which Annemiek van Vleuten, Anna van der Breggen, Marianne Vos and Lizzie Deignan are among the field of big-name cyclists riding five laps of the Individual Time Trial course their male counterparts will tackle in the Individual Time Trial later this afternoon. Described today by the Dame Sarah Storey as “a token gesture” even if “it’s better to have any race than no race”, this year’s La Course is currently being led by Mitchelton Scott rider Amanda Spratt, who has a lead of 28 seconds over the chasing pack.
William Fotheringham: “At least one or two of the favourites who are weaker time triallists should be effectively put out of the reckoning.