The second week of the Tour has concluded and, as I stated in the previous post, I still believe we are facing the most spectacular edition of this race that I manage to remember. In some of the secondary classifications there are still no news: the green jersey will almost certainly be for Philipsen and the mountains jersey for one of the two riders who are competing for the GC, as I already anticipated a week ago. In the fight for the GC, an intriguing yet exciting duel continues, with time differences similar to those seen in the previous week’s conclusion, but with important events that have given us clues for this last week of the race.
In the fight for the general classification, after Hindley’s fall, both Rodríguez and Yates are running for third place, with, at least in my opinion, an advantage for the former: the time trial should allow him to get some margin over the Englishman, a gap that he will maintain if, as I believe, Yates ends up working for his leader at both Loze and Markstein.
The great interest of the race is focused on the pair that is trying to fight for first place in the general classification. Both Jonas and Tadej have maintained a very high level in the mountains during this second week, although the watts have moderated somewhat (except for the final kilometer and a half of the Puy de Dôme). We have no longer seen the crazy numbers of Marie Blanque or Tourmalet, despite the fact that the riders have continued to leave their skin on the road day in and day out. Fatigue is starting to take its toll, the same factor that I believe and hope will be the final judge of the race in the crucial days that remain.
As a summary of the week, we have seen two attacks from Pogačar in which he took time from Vingegaard, in both cases the situations were very similar: on Grand Colombier and the Puy de Dôme we witnessed a controlled race and with little previous fatigue, with a final ascent of great intensity and fireworks in the last meters. On the contrary, both on Saint Gervais and Joux Plane, after considerable fatigue the Slovenian was unable to drop the Dane. Regarding the Joux Plane stage, I have read a lot of criticism about the Jumbo-Visma strategy: they worked all day and their leader got only 1” ahead of his main rival. I think that the people who sentence the Dutch in this way are not aware that, without this previous wear and tear caused by the team, it is very likely that Tadej would have dropped Jonas on the Joux Plane, putting an end to the Dane’s aspirations for yellow.
Speaking precisely of Vingegaard’s team, at a tactical level they are achieving an almost perfect Tour. The only drawback so far has been the work they did for Pogi in the Luz Saint Sauver valley after being unable to drop him on the Tourmalet (the twenty seconds given to the Slovenian on that stage could be determinant). They have tried at all times to create the ideal conditions for their rider to repeat the situation in which he managed to beat the Slovenian in 2022. Unfortunately for them and luckily for the show, they have encountered circumstances that they probably did not expect:
-Jonas has come to this Tour stronger than last year, his power curve is objectively better both with and without previous fatigue.
-Despite the above, Tadej has improved much more than Jonas from July last year to this moment, especially under fatigue. Apparently, based on what we saw on Puy de Dôme, the heat does not seem to affect him as much anymore.
-UAE has put together a more compact and powerful team, which protects Tadej much better, with a spectacular Yates that contrasts with a much less powerful and decisive Van Aert than last year.
All of the above results in Jonas climbing better than at Hautacam or Granon last year and not only not being able to drop Pogačar but also having serious difficulties to keep up with him. No one who had studied last year’s numbers could foresee this scenario, a casuistry that, however, is very beneficial for the show and the three key stages that lie ahead:
-The time trial is hard but short in duration, in the present equality of conditions between the first and second overall it is difficult for me to see a gap of more than 30 seconds between the two in this time trial. Under no circumstances will the Tour come out of this stage decided except for some kind of disaster that nobody wants to witness.
-The Courchevel stage will be decisive. The last 6km of La Loze should be the final judge of the race. A mix of fatigue, altitude and steep slopes. The descent will normally only serve to maintain the gaps that are achieved at the top. Again, I do not expect big differences, although they should be conclusive. It is time for Vingegaard to try to drop Pogačar , since if he does not succeed, stage 20 could become a real ordeal for the Danish rider.
-The Vosges stage (Markstein) is a real skirmish. If Vingegaard arrives as the leader but with little time on Pogačar , it will be extremely difficult for Jumbo-Visma to control the race and keep the yellow jersey. If it’s Pogačar who leads here, it’s hard for me to envision Jonas taking the lead from him on a stage like this.
The synthesis is clear: either Vingegaard distances Pogi on the best day for it (Courchevel) or we are facing a Tour that will be decided by a matter of seconds (most likely bonuses) in favor of Pogačar . The answer, in the next few days.
Professor of Sports Sciences at the University of Zaragoza, Doctor in Sports Sciences, Master’s degree in high performance sports by the French Olympic Committee, National Cycling, Triathlon and Athletics coach and official coach for the American College of Sports Medicine.