Tour cycling is both an individual and team sport. The ‘domestiques’ (literally ‘servants’) have to support the team leader. Famously on this very stage of Pau to Peyragudes, Chris Froome once had to sacrifice victory for Bradley Wiggins and yesterday Landa did the same for Froome. But Froome’s powerful legs for once failed to respond and the young French rider Romain Bardet took the stage and Fabio Aru the yellow jersey by a slender lead of 6 seconds. It will not go down to the procession in Paris but the stage before, a time trial in Marseilles, will be key.
We all expected Aru and Bardet to attack but not in the final 500 metres of this stage. It made for captivating viewing like a sprint finish on the flatter terrain of the earlier stages. One feels the baton has passed to the younger generation but the SKY team, even without Geraint Thomas, is redoubtable in its organisation. Aru has no such team support he will be in there with the SKY jerseys. Bardet has the whole of France rooting for him, how they would love a French winner.
It was odd that, on the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Tommy Simpson, Mont Ventoux was not included with its lunar landscape at the summit and the memory of Simpson, his body full of stimulants, remounting his bike only to collapse and die. There is a plaque to him but on the fiftieth anniversary the Tour, normally so aware of its traditions, should have included it.
Today, Bastille day, the riders face 3 category one climbs which will favour Bardet so strong in descent. As the sporting cliche goes “There is everything to play for.”