Tour de France: Chris Froome crashes as Fernando Gaviria wins stage one

Chris Froome lifts his bike back on to the road after crashing on stage one

Froome returns to the race after crashing late on the opening stage

Britain’s Chris Froome crashed during the opening stage of the Tour de France as his quest to win a record-equalling fifth title began with a scare.

The defending champion careered off the road on a left-hand bend in the closing stages but was quickly back racing.

Froome is 61 seconds behind stage winner Fernando Gaviria and 51 seconds behind several rivals for the title but alongside fellow Briton Adam Yates.

“I’ve not been checked by the team doctor but I feel fine,” said Froome.

“I’m OK, we saw a lot of crashes out there but we knew the first few days were going to be tricky.

“We were at the front of the peloton so there was not much more the guys could’ve done – it was just chaotic with the sprinters up there.

“I’m just grateful I’m not injured in any way and there is plenty of racing left to Paris.”

A chaotic finish to a benign stage

Stage one had been going to script with three riders breaking clear as soon as the 201km race started in Noirmoutier-en-L’Ile, allowing the peloton to ease into the three-week race.

Jerome Cousin, Kevin Ledanois and Yoann Offredo built up a lead of around four minutes before they were gradually reeled back as the teams of the sprinters gathered at the front of the peloton, each knowing that whoever won the stage would claim the yellow jersey.

But that is where the script was ripped up.

A crash with just over 10km remaining splintered the peloton, with French hope for the stage win, Arnaud Demare, among those delayed.

Two of Froome’s rivals for the overall win, Richie Porte and Yates, were also caught up and looked set to lose time on the Team Sky rider.

But a couple of kilometres later Froome had nowhere to go but off the road as the peloton negotiated a left-hand bend.

Many spectators at the finish line, watching on a big screen, cheered when they saw the crash.

Froome had an anti-doping case, hanging over him after an adverse analytical finding from his use of legal asthma drug salbutamol, dropped by governing body the UCI last Monday; he had also been jeered at a team presentation event on Thursday.

He rejoined the race within seconds, a scuff mark on the right shoulder of his jersey and eventually crossed the finish line, with Yates and Porte among others, 51 seconds behind Gaviria, who also picked up 10 bonus seconds.

Gaviria’s fellow Colombian Nairo Quintana, another general classification rival of Froome’s, avoided the crashes but had a puncture with 3.5km remaining that saw him lose 24 seconds to the Briton.

Froome’s team-mate Geraint Thomas finished in the main bunch alongside Romain Bardet, Tom Dumoulin, Mikel Landa, Vincenzo Nibali and Rigoberto Uran as the overall contenders who take an early advantage over the four-time winner.

Gaviria makes stellar debut

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Gaviria is the first Colombian to win a sprint finish at the Tour de France

While carnage unfolded behind them, Quick-Step Floors controlled the front of the race masterfully to put Gaviria in a strong position entering the home straight.

The 23-year-old kicked with just over 250m to go, holding off world champion Peter Sagan and 14-time Tour de France stage winner Marcel Kittel.

It was a remarkably assured performance on his Tour debut, suggesting Gaviria will be tough to beat in bunch sprints this year.

He becomes just the second Colombian to wear the yellow jersey after Victor Hugo Pena in 2003 and, with two flat stages and a team time trial over the next three days, could hold on to it before the punchy climbs of stage five.

What happened to Cavendish?

Mark Cavendish was attempting to take the yellow jersey with victory on stage one for the second time, having done so in 2016.

However, the 33-year-old found himself out of position in the final stages after several of his Dimension Data team-mates were caught up in the crashes and could not contest the sprint.

He remains on 30 Tour de France stage wins, four behind the record of Eddy Merckx, but has a chance to add to his tally on stage two, with another bunch sprint finish expected.

In his stage-by-stage guide for BBC Sport, Cavendish said it “won’t be a pure bunch sprint” though due a 3% gradient rise in the final kilometre.

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Stage two runs 182.5km from Mouilleron-Saint-German to La Roche-sur-Yon

Stage one result

1. Fernando Gaviria (Col/Quick-Step Floors) 4hrs 23mins 32secs

2. Peter Sagan (Svk/Bora-Hansgrohe) same time

3. Marcel Kittel (Ger/Katusha-Alpecin)

4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor/UAE Team Emirates)

5. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis)

6. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned/LottoNL-Jumbo)

7. Michael Matthews (Aus/Team Sunweb)

8. John Degenkolb (Ger/Trek-Segafredo)

9. Jakob Fuglsang (Den/Astana)

10. Rafal Majka (Pol/Bora-Hansgrohe)

General classification after stage one

1. Fernando Gaviria (Col/Quick-Step Floors) 4hrs 23mins 32secs

2. Peter Sagan (Svk/Bora-Hansgrohe) +4secs

3. Marcel Kittel (Ger/Katusha-Alpecin) +6secs

4. Oliver Naesen (Bel/AG2R La Mondiale) +9secs

5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor/UAE Team Emirates) +10secs

6. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis) same time

7. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned/LottoNL-Jumbo)

8. Michael Matthews (Aus/Team Sunweb)

9. John Degenkolb (Ger/Trek-Segafredo)

10. Jakob Fuglsang (Den/Astana)

Selected:

14. Geraint Thomas (GB/Team Sky)

36. Mark Cavendish (GB/Team Dimension Data)

84. Adam Yates (GB/Mitchelton-Scott) +1min 1secs

91. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) same time

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/44751353

‘The hardest I’ve ever seen’ – Cavendish’s Tour de France stage-by

Mark Cavendish

Mark Cavendish is riding the Tour de France for Dimension Data for a third time

Mark Cavendish is “looking at getting closer to that record of Eddy Merckx” when the 105th Tour de France begins on Saturday.

The Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka rider has won 30 stages, four behind Belgian legend Merckx.

While fellow Briton Chris Froome goes into the race as favourite to join Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain as a record five-time winner, the sub-plot involving Cavendish is just as intriguing.

The 33-year-old, who is riding in his 12th Tour, has compiled BBC Sport’s stage-by-stage guide for this year’s race – a route he calls “the hardest I’ve seen in my career”.

The 21-stage race will take place almost entirely in France – with just 15km dipping into Spain when it hits the Pyrenees mountains. A total of 176 riders – 22 teams of eight – will set off on the 3,351km (2,082-mile) route, which starts in the Vendee region…

Stage 1: Saturday, 7 July – Noirmoutier-en-L’Ile – Fontenay-le-Comte, 201km

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Mark’s musings: It’s going to be a bunch sprint with the winner taking the coveted yellow jersey. It’s what the Tour de France organisers want. It’s not often sprinters get the opportunity to go for the yellow jersey but it’s one we all relish. Normally on the Atlantic Coast – this stage spends more than 100km by the sea – crosswinds can be a factor but the temperature looks great and the forecast looks fine so we might not get them.

That doesn’t mean it’s going to be an easy stage because everyone will be vying for position at the front. It will be a good test to see which teams are strong and we’ll be going for the win.

My Dimension Data team will be looking to control the riders who get in the break, although we have to look out for the time bonus sprint only 15km from the finish. That can upset teams trying to set up their lead-out trains. There is a right-hander with just over one kilometre to go but then a nice straight run to the finish.

Cav’s one to watch: Mark Cavendish (GB/Dimension Data) It will be an honour to go for the yellow jersey again, having won it on stage one in 2016.

Stage 2: Sunday, 8 July – Mouilleron-Saint-Germain – La Roche-sur-Yon, 182.5km

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Mark’s musings: We reconned stage two, which is basically a big circle around the Vendee region. It’s quite open at times in the countryside but, as on stage one, the weather should be good so I don’t know if crosswinds will play a factor.

Teams will be stressed again because it’s just the second day and guys who missed out on stage one will be looking to make amends. We have looked at the final – it’s a tricky run-in after a big, long, straight road for about 15km.

You come into a town and there are lots of lefts and rights and ups and downs. It’s a fast narrow run-in and with a couple of kilometres to go there is a 100 degree corner at a roundabout and then the road shoots up at a 3% gradient for the last kilometre so it’s not going to be an easy bunch sprint.

If you’re too far back in the last corner you’re going to find it hard to come back up. It’s going to be lined out in the last kilometre and won’t be a pure bunch sprint.

Cav’s one to watch: Arnaud Demare (Fra/Groupama-FDJ) - a sprinter who can grind a big gear up a slight rise is going to win. Demare is a two-time French national champion and won a stage on last year’s Tour.

Stage 3: Monday, 9 July – team time trial, Cholet, 35.5km

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Mark’s musings: I did a similar individual time trial circuit in my second Tour de France in 2008. It’s open roads and it’s relatively straightforward but that means horse power is needed. My Dimension Data team will be trying to save energy for upcoming stages. We know we’re not really in with a chance of winning but we’ll give it our best shot.

Cav’s one to watch: BMC Racing - The team time trial will show how strong teams are for the rest of the Tour .

Stage 4: Tuesday, 10 July – La Baule – Sarzeau, 195km

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Mark’s musings: It’s great to have three sprint opportunities in the first four days. This stage is just really about getting through the kilometres. There is nothing of great difficulty and there’s a nice fast run-in to the finish. It does drag slightly uphill in the last kilometre but with it being a straight road and not coming in off a corner it should mean a bunch sprint.

It will be important to try not to jump too early on a finish like this with a slight rise. Some guys will jump early and fade. There’s likely to be a headwind at the finish, so I’d look to try and come from behind and use the slipstream of others to come through and win

Cav’s one to watch: Fernando Gaviria (Col/Quick-Step Floors) – A world champion on the track, the 23-year-old is making his Tour de France debut but won three Tour of California stages earlier in the season.

Stage 5: Wednesday, 11 July – Lorient – Quimper, 204.5km

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Mark’s musings: Although we don’t go to high altitude, the actual climbing kilometres will add up quickly because it is up and down all day on small roads with loads of lefts and rights. The last half of the stage is peppered with small climbs, and the vast majority of them are not categorised. Even the bonus sprint is on a punchy uphill finish.

It will be important to stay near the front and keep your team around you. I don’t see a massive group coming in together in Quimper but it will be a group of one-day classics specialists and I expect to see something between Greg van Avermaet, Peter Sagan and Michael Matthews

Cav’s one to watch: Greg van Avermaet (Bel/BMC Racing) – He loves short, punchy climbs and both of his two previous Tour de France stage wins have come over similar terrain.

Stage 6: Thursday, 12 July – Brest – Mur-de-Bretagne, 181km

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Mark’s musings: We’ve done this finish up Mur-de-Bretagne a couple of times before, but never two circuits of the final climb. It’s a hard climb. It doesn’t look much on paper but it really goes narrow and kicks up at the bottom and you just have to grit your teeth over the first kilometre-and-a-half. It then flattens out to the end. Cadel Evans won here on his way to overall victory in 2011 and climbers usually go well but I think it’s definitely a stage for Peter Sagan.

Cav’s one to watch: Peter Sagan (Svk/Bora-Hansgrohe) – He is going for a joint record sixth green points jersey this year, chiefly because he can sprint and he can get over hills like these.

Stage 7: Friday, 13 July – Fougeres – Chartres, 231km

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Mark’s musings: The Tour will probably be calming down a bit by now. But this is the longest stage of this year’s race and although it’s a very easy stage on paper, flat going through countryside, it’s easy to forget to look after your energy. If you go into the wind too much you’ll pay for that going into the final part.

It is made for a bunch sprint. The run to the finish drags up but not too much and it’s pretty straight. It does kick right with just a couple of hundred metres to go but there are nice big boulevards for the sprinters.

Cav’s one to watch: Mark Cavendish (GB/Dimension Data) – Bunch sprint finishes are hard to predict but expect me to be in the mix.

Stage 8: Saturday, 14 July – Dreux – Amiens, 181km

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Mark’s musings: Another bunch sprint, although this time it’s a bit more of a technical finish. It’s a straight run-in for 10km until we enter the city with about 6km to go and then it’s lefts and rights and roundabouts. It will be important to stay at the front from 10km to go and you’ll see the lead-out trains in full force to put riders in a good position for the last corner with 600m to go. It’s going to take power to get out of the corner be able to settle and then do your sprint.

It’s a difficult sprint to get right when you have a corner with 600m to go but it’s one I’ve done before and the sprinters will be looking forward to it before we have to take a back seat for a few stages.

Cav’s one to watch: Dylan Groenewegen (Ned/Lotto Jumbo NL) – He is one of the young sprinters coming through. He won the final stage in Paris last year and can accelerate out of corners.

Stage 9: Sunday, 15 July – Arras – Roubaix, 156.5km

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Mark’s musings: This is a stage for one of the one-day classics specialists in the peloton. Fifteen cobbled sections totalling 22km doesn’t sound much over a 160km stage but they definitely add up. It’s the accelerations you have to do into the cobbles and the constant fighting for position before each section that makes a big difference.

We don’t do any of the hardest five-star sectors that feature in the Paris-Roubaix one-day race but there are definitely some four-star sectors. They contain some big, big cobblestones and the hardest thing is fighting for position. Every one of the general classification (GC) favourites will be up there with their teams trying to not lose time.

This stage could have a shake-up to GC but it’s not hard enough to make Peter Sagan an obvious winner, like he was at this year’s Paris-Roubaix.

One to watch: Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor/Dimension Data) - I’d love to see my team-mate succeed after he missed out at Paris-Roubaix this year.

Rest day: Monday, 16 July – Annecy

Stage 10: Tuesday, 17 July – Annecy – Le Grand-Bornand, 158.5km

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Mark’s musings: A mountain stage is always difficult after a rest day. Your body goes into recovery mode, trying to store water. You can feel a bit flat and that’s not nice when you have five categorised climbs to contend with – three category one and one HC, which signifies the hardest of all ascents.

It’s going to be the first fight between the general classification guys but I don’t see it playing a big factor in the overall result at this stage of the race.

You won’t see fireworks until 121km into the stage at the start of the difficult climb of Col de Romme. Team Sky usually like to put down their marker on the first mountain stage of the Tour de France and if it’s not Chris Froome, it’s likely to be Geraint Thomas or Michal Kwiatkowski.

Cav’s one to watch: Geraint Thomas (GB/Team Sky) – The Briton has been told that he can race up to the first rest day. It will be interesting to see if he is riding for Froome.

Stage 11, Wednesday, 18 July – Albertville – La Rosiere, 108.5km

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Mark’s musings: Another mountain day and while it’s only 108km, about half of that is uphill. It’s the first mountain-top finish of this year’s Tour and it’s likely to be a grinding out on the final climb because it’s not steep enough to see people absolutely blowing. A group will get whittled down gradually.

It’s going to be difficult to stay within the time limit for the sprinters – all riders must finish within a certain percentage of the stage winner’s time or they are disqualified – but hopefully we’ve got a grupetto – riders that form a group at the back of the race – that just wants to reach Paris.

Opportunities for sprints are few and far between now so hopefully the grupetto can collaborate and we’ll just look at surviving this.

Cav’s one to watch: Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) - He will want to put a marker down on the first uphill finish.

Stage 12: Thursday, 19 July – Bourg-Saint-Maurice Les Arcs – Alpe d’Huez, 175.5km

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Mark’s musings: For me this is the hardest stage of this year’s Tour de France with 5,000m of altitude gain. It’s going to be savage. The Col de la Madeleine takes two hours to climb. It goes up, there’s a flat bit in the middle and then it just seems to go on forever. You start this knowing you’ve got two further HC climbs to come – it’s very daunting.

What makes it difficult for the gruppeto is we normally make some time back on descents and flat bits but there’s no flat and they are not the type of descents where we can make a lot of time back easily, so we’re going to be fighting all day. This is the hardest stage to make the time limit but it’s always a quality finish on Alpe d’Huez and hopefully we can get a boost from the fans.

It will be a fight between the climbers for sure – everybody wants to win on Alpe d’Huez and it would be nice to see a French winner.

Cav’s one to watch: Romain Bardet (Fra/Ag2r La Mondiale) – He is the home nation’s main hope for a first overall winner since Bernard Hinault won the last of his five in 1985.

Stage 13: Friday, 20 July – Bourg d’Oisans – Valence, 169.5km

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Mark’s musings: A bit of respite from the mountains and it will be a sprint day if we have managed to get through the day before. It’s a transition day and at 170km shouldn’t be too bad but sometimes down in that part of France the winds can pick up. We can get mistral winds and that can turn it from a recovery day into one of the hardest days of the Tour de France.

But if there is a bunch sprint, we’re into the town with about 5km to go. There are a lot of corners to the last kilometre and then a nice boulevard finish. We do have a roundabout with a few hundred metres to go but if you’re near the front you should get through that quite safely to start your sprint.

Cav’s one to watch: Fernando Gaviria (Col/Quick-Step Floors) – It’s a sprint that provides a long launchpad, so somebody who can go long, somebody who used to ride the track could win.

Stage 14: Saturday, 21 July – Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux – Mende, 188km

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Mark’s musings: This type of stage is normally gruelling. We’re going up and up and up into the Massif Central, rolling through the countryside. On the profile it doesn’t look like too many blips but it really does go up and down. There’s no let off for the last half of the stage and then a horrible steep climb up to Mende. I remember when Steve Cummings won from a breakaway in Mende on Nelson Mandela day in 2015.

And I think a breakaway will stay to the end this time too.

Cav’s one to watch: Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa/Astana) – This stage suits a rider who is good at getting in breaks and can climb. All of his four Tour de France stage wins have come on similar stages and from being involved in a break.

Stage 15: Sunday, 22 July – Millau – Carcassonne, 181.5km

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Mark’s musings: There are other ways we could have got to Carcassonne without going over the category one Pic de Nore near the finish, which will break things up for the run-in.

Hopefully the sprinters will be OK to get to that climb and then we can roll in because we won’t be looking to do anything but there’s definitely guys who can get over this category one climb and come to the finish. If Michael Matthews is on a good day surely he could do it.

Cav’s one to watch: Peter Sagan (Svk/Bora-Hansgrohe) – He hangs on with the climbers and then wins the run-in.

Rest day: Monday, 23 July – Carcassonne

Stage 16: Tuesday, 24 July – Carcassonne – Bagnères-de-Luchon, 218km

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Mark’s musings: Another long stage. We’re approaching the Pyrenees now and we hit the foothills at the end of today’s stage. You can call them foothills but there’s still two category one climbs. The breakaway could go the end again. Or Team Sky might want to get to grips and put their dominance in before the big showdowns in the Pyrenees, in which case they will control it and we’ll see an attack from Chris Froome at the end.

Cav’s one to watch: Lilian Calmejane (Fra/Direct Energie) – He won a similar stage last year after making a break.

Stage 17: Wednesday, 25 July – Bagneres-de-Luchon – Saint-Lary-Soulan, 65km

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Mark’s musings: A 65km road stage in the Tour de France is something that is unheard of and they are trying a novel idea with gridding the riders at the beginning because we start directly up the Col de Peyresourde.

I don’t think the gridding of the riders will have any affect on the race but we start with the Peyresourde from Bagneres-du-Luchon many times and it’s a gruelling climb. It’s horrible. And horrible to start your day off with. It will be full gas from start to finish, no matter who you are. Some guys just go faster than others. I think you have to know what you can sustain for those climbs and every single rider in the peloton will be looking at their power metres.

Cav’s one to watch: Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) – It needs a team that is able to go strong and knows exactly what they can do. Team Sky is top of that list and will set a tempo that keeps it together until the last climb up Col du Portet.

Stage 18: Thursday, 26 July – Trie-sur-Baise – Pau, 171km

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Mark’s musings: This provides perhaps another sprint opportunity into Pau unless the big breakaway goes. When we normally do stages around this region it can take a long, long time for the break to go, especially as this is the last opportunity without the big mountains where you see the rouleurs trying to go for it.

But I think the sprint teams will know as well it’s the only opportunity before Paris and will want to control the break and bring it back. It is up and down into the finale, which really saps your energy. The run-in to Pau is slightly uphill and its quite technical into the town. There’s a roundabout and a left hand turn in the last kilometre but a nice big sprint to finish outside the park.

Cav’s one to watch: Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor/Dimension Data) – You are looking at who survives the mountains in good nick, a sprinter who has been able to save energy. It would be nice to see him get in a break and win from that, like he did late on in last year’s race.

Stage 19: Friday, 27 July – Lourdes – Laruns, 200.5km

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Mark’s musings: The last big showdown in the mountains for the climbers. It’s going to be a long old day in the saddle and it’s going to be everyone leaving everything they have on the road. If the general classification is not too close you’re likely to see a group of riders fighting it out. The likes of Rigoberto Uran, Romain Bardet, Warren Barguil and Dan Martin. But if it is close, Team Sky are likely to throw one last firework.

One to watch: Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) – If he needs to, Froome can make one big attack to the finish.

Stage 20: Saturday, 28 July – individual time trial, Saint-Pee-sur-Nivelle – Espelette, 31km

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Mark’s musings: A 31km test against the clock with a mixture of ups and down on technical roads. It’s not going to be someone who can only mash a big gear who is going to win this. It’s going to be someone that can make a plan and stick to that. A lot of guys will go off hard and with a little kick in the last 3km are likely to lose a lot of time even though its less than a kilometre long.

Cav’s one to watch: Geraint Thomas (GB/Team Sky) – He won British national time trial title in late June and took the yellow jersey after winning the Tour’s opening, albeit shorter, time trial last year.

Stage 21: Sunday, 29 July – Houilles – Paris, 116km

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Mark’s musings: This is easy, easy, easy. It’s time for photographs and celebrations before we hit the Champs-Elysees where you get the best sensations ever in cycling when you roll on to the Place de la Concorde and up the Champs-Elysees for the first time. The crowds are incredible. I get goosebumps, not just because it’s an opportunity for a sprint finish but also because everybody who reaches Paris is finishing the Tour de France.

This year’s route seems to be the hardest I’ve seen in my career but it will all be worth it if I get to Paris.

The Champs-Elysees is the hardest sprint to get right. It’s slightly uphill, it’s on cobbles and the finish line comes at a distance from the final corner that if you go from the corner you’re going too far out. If you leave it too long, someone will get the jump on you. Time it right and pick the right spot on the road – because it’s peppered with potholes – and you’ll win the holy grail of sprints.

Cav’s one to watch: Mark Cavendish (GB/Dimension Data) – If I make it to Paris I’ll be chasing my fifth win on the Champs-Elysees.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/44576490

Can Froome win a fifth Tour de France? All you need to know

Team Sky rider Chris Froome

Team Sky leader Chris Froome is targeting a fifth Tour de France title in six years

The build-up to this year’s Tour de France has been a bit like the hokey-cokey for defending champion Chris Froome.

The Briton has been in, out and back in the race again, depending on which reports you’ve been following this week.

But the four-time winner will be on the start line for the 105th edition of the Grande Boucle, which begins on Saturday in north-western France, after his anti-doping case was dropped by cycling’s governing body, the UCI.

“Everyone wanted this to be resolved before the Tour so this is a huge weight off my shoulders,” the Team Sky rider told BBC Sport.

“The last nine months have been really difficult for me and my family and my colleagues. It’s great for everyone involved and great for the sport that we can put those answers to bed now and get on with the bike racing.”

Will Froome make it a fantastic five?

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Eddy Merckx won his fifth and final Tour in the Vincennes velodrome in 1974 in the days before the race ended on the Champs-Elysees

If plain old ‘Froomey’ joins the quartet of quintuple Tour winners, will he get a nickname upgrade?

The first to win five Tours, Frenchman Jacques Anquetil in 1964, was called ‘Monsieur Chrono’ because of his time-trialling ability. Belgian Eddy Merckx, who won his titles between 1969 and 1974, was given the moniker ‘The Cannibal’ because he chewed up his rivals.

Known as ‘The Badger’ because of his tenacity on and off the bike, Bernard Hinault was the last Frenchman to win the Tour, in 1985. And Spain’s ‘Big Mig’ – Miguel Indurain – is the only man to have won his five in succession, from 1991 to 1995.

Froome, 33, is chasing a fourth win on the trot, and fifth in six years, which would match Merckx – an achievement Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford says “would put him right up there as one of the most legendary riders this sport has ever seen”.

He is also looking to equal Merckx’s record of four consecutive Grand Tour victories – set in 1972-73 – having followed last year’s Tour win by becoming the first Briton to win the Vuelta a Espana and Giro d’Italia.

The latter victory, in May, came off the back of a meticulously planned sensational solo breakaway on stage 19, and Team Sky revealed how they pulled off that remarkable feat by sending Froome’s nutritional and power data to BBC Sport.

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Octopus curry and lots of rice – what does Chris Froome eat?

Who can stop Froome?

Tour organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) reportedly tried their best to stop him this week but were forced into a U-turn when the World Anti-Doping Agency advised the UCI to close the anti-doping case against Froome.

So that just leaves the other riders.

Fellow Team Sky rider Geraint Thomas has said he wants to challenge Froome and he will be allowed to do so, up to a point. He will become Team Sky’s leader should Froome drop out of the race.

Adam Yates is the big hope of the Mitchelton-Scott squad. The 25-year-old Briton proved his Tour pedigree in 2016, finishing fourth to become the first Briton to win the best young rider prize. Like twin brother Simon, who led for much of the Giro, Adam is at home in the high mountains but his time-trialling may cost him.

“Simon did a really good race at the Giro – not just him but the whole team,” said Adam.

“We sent a full team of climbers to a Grand Tour for the first time and focused solely on the GC. They held the lead for pretty much two weeks and were winning stages left, right and centre, so why can’t we take that confidence and replicate it at the Tour?”

Italian Vincenzo Nibali may not appear to have had the best preparation – he finished 24th in the Tour warm-up race the Criterium du Dauphine – but it’s hard to ignore the 33-year-old Bahrain-Merida rider.

He is good in the mountains and against the clock and will also enjoy the punchier climbs early in the race.

Of all the favourites, he will see the cobbles on stage nine as a chance to pick up time, having gained two minutes over his rivals on a similar route on his way to Tour victory in 2014.

After two runners-up finishes and a third place in recent years, 28-year-old Nairo Quintana will be hoping to add the Tour to his Giro and Vuelta successes.

The Colombian comes into the race more rested than last year, when he attempted the Giro-Tour double. After finishing second in Italy he faded in France to finish 12th. An explosive climber, he needs to gain time in the mountains because his time-trialling is weaker.

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Nairo Quintana (left) and Vincenzo Nibali (right) are expected to be threats to Froome

Quintana is sharing team leader duties at Movistar with Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde. Spaniard Landa, 28, helped Froome win the 2016 and 2017 titles, but left Team Sky saying the squad had a “rigid mentality”. He finished fourth last year.

At the age of 38, Valverde’s Grand Tour-winning days are surely behind him, but he will be a threat on the punchier climbs and, having competed in 22 three-week races, his experience on the road will be valuable for Movistar.

French hopes again rest with Romain Bardet. The 27-year-old has won a stage in each of the past three editions of the race but his time-trialling has always let him down and there is nothing to suggest he has improved enough for that not to be an issue. He was second in 2016 and third last year.

One man who does not struggle against the clock is world time trial champion Tom Dumoulin, but will the Dutchman be able to cope in the mountains?

He did when he won the 2017 Giro and he pushed Froome close when finishing runner-up in Italy this year. However, he has tackled two Grand Tours in a year only twice and his best Tour finish was 33rd in 2014.

Of the other contenders, Rigoberto Uran, 31, was second last year and Jonathan Vaughters, his team director at Education First, claims this route “is more suited” to the Colombian than last year.

Australian Richie Porte is having his eighth crack at the race but is yet to win a stage and has a best finish of fifth in 2016. The BMC Racing leader also tends to have one bad day in a Grand Tour.

The outsider may be former ski jumper Primoz Roglic. The 28-year-old switched to cycling six years ago and possesses the necessary time-trialling and climbing attributes to suggest he could be a threat.

Where does the race go?

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This year’s race starts in western France and follows a predominantly clockwise direction around the country

This year’s three-week, 21-stage race will take place almost entirely in France, with just 15km dipping into Spain when it hits the Pyrenees mountains.

A total of 176 riders – 22 teams of eight riders – will set off on the 3,351km (2,082-mile) route, which starts in the Vendee region.

The race stays in the north-west corner of France for most of the first week before a tricky stage nine in northern France sees the return of the cobbles, with 21.7km of them to negotiate, split across 15 sectors.

The Alps dominate the second week, with a return to the legendary Alpe d’Huez and its 21 hairpins, leading up to the summit finish.

The final week is largely in the Pyrenees, where the riders will tackle a new climb, the Col du Portet, the highest pass in the French Pyrenees at 2,215m and the highest point of the race.

A lumpy, bumpy 31km individual time trial on the penultimate stage could shake up the overall standings before the race heads for its traditional sprint finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

Will Cav catch the Cannibal?

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Will Marcel Kittel (right) stop Mark Cavendish (left) edging closer to Merckx’s Tour de France stage wins record?

A British rider with a great nickname. Mark Cavendish – the Manx Missile – has won 30 Tour stages in a sensational career. He is only four behind Merckx’s record.

Cavendish, 33, did not add to his haul last year because his Tour was prematurely ended when he broke a shoulder following a collision with Peter Sagan on stage four.

World champion Sagan was disqualified, ending his hopes of winning a record-equalling sixth green points jersey, but the Slovak is back and again favourite to win that classification.

Stage one is tailor-made for the sprinters, and Cavendish says Merckx’s mark is “really the only target” he has left.

“It seems so close yet it is a big distance away,” he said. “If it’s not this year so be it, but I’ll try to get it before the end of my career, that’s for sure.”

Marcel Kittel, 30, won five stages last year to take his personal tally to 14, while fellow German Andre Greipel, 35, heads into his eighth Tour with 11 stage wins, although last year was his first without a victory.

Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen, who won the final stage in Paris last year, will also be in the mix, while Norwegian Alexander Kristoff and two-time French national champion Arnaud Demare cannot be ruled out.

Any other Britons in the race?

Only one. Luke Rowe is part of Team Sky’s eight-strong squad and, while you may not see his name much over the next three weeks, his role as a domestique – he will sacrifice himself to help keep Froome away from crashes and well-positioned in the peloton on flatter stages – will be critical.

Lowe finished last year’s Tour in 167th place to pick up the unofficial tag of ‘lanterne rouge’ as the last rider to finish the race. The term means ‘red lantern’ and refers to the light on the back of a train.

Rowe is the third British rider to finish last, following Tony Hoar in 1955 and John Clarey in 1968.

Last August the 28-year-old Welshman broke his leg while whitewater rafting on his brother’s stag party in Prague.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/44701953

Chris Froome: Team Sky’s unprecedented release of data reveals how British rider won Giro d’Italia

Part of Chris Froome's nutritional plan for the Giro d'Italia

Team Sky have taken the unprecedented step of releasing a cache of data to BBC Sport detailing Chris Froome’s diet, power output and heart-rate from the Briton’s victory in May’s Giro d’Italia.

On Monday, an anti-doping case against Froome was dropped by the UCI, cycling’s world governing body, following an investigation after more than the allowed level of legal asthma drug salbutamol was found in his urine during his Vuelta a Espana triumph in September 2017.

“I’m happy to share data to back up some of the performances we have done out on the roads,” four-time Tour de France champion Froome told BBC Sport.

Team Sky told the BBC that Froome used salbutamol during the Giro to manage his asthma. He neither applied for nor used any therapeutic use exemptions (TUE). Salbutamol, used through an inhaler, does not require a TUE.

The British-based outfit have gone through two years in which their reputation has been repeatedly questioned, with the Sir Bradley Wiggins TUE revelations and the ‘jiffy bag’ scandal part of it, but they accepted mistakes have been made and say they want to be more transparent.

Now the BBC can shine further light on Froome’s latest Grand Tour victory, which was based on a spectacular solo break on stage 19.

We assembled three experts to examine this data, given to the BBC in June.

Former professional rider Rob Hayles says he does not think other teams are being this “precise”. Cycling author Michael Hutchinson suggests what Team Sky were trying to achieve was “a very fine balance”. And cycling journalist Jeremy Whittle says the release “would not make any difference to the doubters”.

There is also a link to each document in full, so you can examine each yourself, listen to the accompanying podcast, and draw your own conclusions.

The plan

What is it?

Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford’s hand-drawn training plan and a more precise version covering the last two weeks of the Giro, revealing they wanted Froome to lose weight.

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What does it show?

Michael Hutchinson: They’re trying to make Froome a kilo or two lighter for those key mountain stages. This is an extension of Sky’s training camps – combining hard training with weight loss. It’s a difficult thing to balance. Sky are trying to run a specific calorific deficit each day, like dieting, but combining it with riding 200km races. It’s a fine balance.

What does it mean?

Rob Hayles: Is it normal to deliberately lose weight across a Grand Tour? No. Are you able to do it clean? Yes. It would have to be done to a stringent protocol, because if you don’t eat enough under the duress of a three-week stage race it would be easy to tip the balance – to under fuel – which is what I think [long-time leader of the race] Simon Yates did. Get it wrong and it goes pear-shaped quickly. You can lose power and energy, and it’s a long way to get that back.

Michael Hutchinson: It shouldn’t be hard to lose weight, looking at energy expenditure, but the difficult thing is to keep recovering and managing the fuelling issue. The later you can get to race weight the better. If you can hit it just before the crucial mountain stage then that’s ideal. But it feels scary to be balancing it on the last two weeks of the Giro.

Jeremy Whittle: Weight loss to the point when you’re on a razor’s edge between ill-health and sustainable health for a Grand Tour has been going on for a long time. When Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France in 2012 he described it as like screwing a screw into a tile. One turn too many and the whole thing shatters.

The fuel

What is it?

Froome’s daily nutritional analysis for stages 11 and 19, revealing what and when he ate and drank, with its nutritional value. The BBC has been shown the details for each of the 21 stages. These two stages have been selected because stage 19 was the decisive one and 11 provides comparison from a less punishing day.

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What does it show?

Michael Hutchinson: What’s interesting is the contrast between dinner for stage 11, which adds up to 445 calories, and dinner on stage 19, which is almost 1,000 calories. By stage 18, rather than running a deficit, Froome is eating what he expends. He’s not looking to lose weight any more. He’s taking on massive amounts of carbohydrate. On stage 19 he ate 1.3kg of carbs – enough calories for four men to get through an ordinary day. Even his recovery snack contains 2,500 calories, which is enough for a man for one day – and eaten in 20 minutes after the stage has finished.

Rob Hayles: It’s not Come Dine With Me. It’s fuel for a specific job. We know Sky have made shocking mistakes in some areas. But this is so precise. I knew how big my meal was and I made sure I had carbs and protein in there, but never had a clue of the detailed make-up.

What does it mean?

Jeremy Whittle: This illustrates the depth of personnel and resources Sky have compared to other teams. They have a significant enough budget that they can have a full-time nutritionist and a chef. Most teams have a chef, but Sky physically have more people on the ground who can do more of the detailed stuff.

The plot

What is it?

Froome and his coach Tim Kerrison exchange messages before stage 19.

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Froome’s coach Tim Kerrison was at a Sky training camp on Tenerife during the Giro. Kerrison messaged Froome late on the evening before stage 19 telling him “there is still much more of this race to play out” and “nothing is impossible”.

Froome replied on the morning of stage, saying he’d “like to try to make Finestre as selective as possible and even try get away from that GC (General Classification) group”.

The stats

What is it?

Team Sky’s energy expenditure and fuelling plan for Froome, written before stage 19.

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What does it show?

Michael Hutchinson: They have broken the stage into sections and worked out the average power they expect to see from Chris, and how much energy they expect him to burn. They can then work out the total carbohydrate reserve they expect Froome to start each section with, and the amount of extra carbohydrate he can take on. They are balancing energy in and energy out. They’ve done the maths with the aim of getting Froome to the top of the final climb perfectly exhausted. It’s another classic Sky spreadsheet: they’ve worked out how you cover the last 80km of this stage as fast and efficiently as possible.

What does it mean?

Rob Hayles: I don’t think other teams are doing this. The next most important racer to Froome that day was the leader, Tom Dumoulin. His team Sunweb didn’t do this. On the start line, Froome knew exactly what he and his team were going to do. You still have to deliver it. The other teams were all put on the back foot.

The detail

What is it?

A plan showing how many feed stations Team Sky had on the 19th stage, where exactly each one was and what they had with them – including a drink called ‘Rocket Fuel’.

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What does it show?

Rob Hayles: They had people all over the route.

Michael Hutchinson: Every two kilometres up the Finestre they had a helper. They had six on that climb, all with bottles, gels and wheels.

What does it mean?

Jeremy Whittle: This is not just about Froome’s physical capacity. It is about his mental capacity and resilience. He has to understand this detail to allow him to achieve that objective. You could put that in front of other riders who aren’t as versed in sports science, and they might not understand the detail. I’ve been critical of Sky and Froome but whatever else you think, it’s a good marriage of intelligence and athletic ambition.

Team Sky nutritionist James Morton: The real name for Rocket Fuel is Beta Fuel. It’s multiple-source carbohydrate drink. It contains a mixture of maltodextrin and fructose. That science has been around for a long time. What makes it different is the quantity of carbohydrate. Most sports drinks contain roughly 20-40g of carbohydrate. This contains 80g.

Michael Hutchinson: The way they put this stage together depends entirely on how much fuel they can get in their athlete. Because there’s a limited amount of carbs you can get in, you have to get it in as fast as possible.

Jeremy Whittle: There may be other teams using these drinks. I don’t doubt the meticulous nature of what Sky are doing. How radical it is compared to other WorldTour teams with similar budgets, I’m not sure.

The analysis

What is it?

This data was requested by the BBC and collated by Froome’s coach Kerrison. It shows power, heart-rate, cadence and other data for Froome across the whole of stage 19, including where time was made up on race leader Tom Dumoulin. All other documents are internal Sky communications.

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What does it show?

Michael Hutchinson: There is nothing that would make you suspicious. It matches reasonably closely the plan they made. For an aerobic athlete like Froome, 603 watts on Finestre is a hard effort – if he was going for one final sprint at the end of the stage he could perhaps go up to 800. It’s a measured effort, designed to work off energy consumption they had given him. As headline numbers, you’re not thinking: ‘How does any human do that?’

Tim Kerrison: His maximum heart-rate was on the final climb – 159. His resting heart-rate that morning was 32, or one beat every two seconds. He has a remarkably low heart-rate but it’s the same for a lot of elite athletes.

What does it mean?

Michael Hutchinson: The problem with this kind of data is that while it is very nice and we assume it’s accurate, it needs context to make sense of it. It makes perfect internal sense. You need external data. If we knew the power output of every rider in that lead group over the hills towards the end of this stage, if there was anything that didn’t match we’d spot it.

Jeremy Whittle: I don’t think this will make a difference to the doubters. The problem is Sky are having to release this because of the failure of anti-doping. We, as the public, no longer believe anti-doping measures are effective enough, that we can trust them – and that’s not just in cycling.

This doesn’t prove anything in terms of propriety or implausibility either. It contributes to our wealth of knowledge. People who believe in Froome will seize it as evidence that he’s completely credible. People who disbelieve in Froome will point to the information we don’t have.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/44694122

Chris Froome to lead Team Sky at Tour de France after anti-doping case dropped

Chris Froome

Chris Froome has won the last three Tours

Chris Froome will aim for a record-equalling fifth Tour de France win, after his anti-doping case was dropped.

The Briton will lead Team Sky, with Welsh duo Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe among the support riders.

Froome, 33, was under investigation by cycling’s world governing body but they closed proceedings on Monday.

Tour organisers had said Froome taking part could “damage” the race but now say the UCI’s decision means there is no reason to prevent his participation.

Thomas, who won the Criterium du Dauphine in June and the British time trial last week, is competing in his ninth Tour.

He will be a protected rider within the team as the back-up plan if Froome should falter.

“The last 12 months have been the hardest but also the most incredible of my career,” said Froome, who won May’s Giro d’Italia to hold all three Grand Tour titles at the same time.

Froome is bidding to move level with Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Jacques Anquetil and Miguel Indurain as the only five-time winners of the Tour.

Having also won last year’s Vuelta a Espana, just a month after his fourth Tour success, Froome could also equal the record for a fourth Grand Tour win in a row.

Froome says he wants to make “history” by achieving both feats, adding: “I am under no illusion about the challenge, but I am feeling ready and I couldn’t ask for a better team to support me.

“I’ve never started the Tour de France after riding the Giro d’Italia and it has meant a completely different approach to my season.”

Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford added: “Chris is already one of the greats of the sport. This is a chance for him to cement that reputation even further.”

Rowe is included less than a year after he broke his leg in multiple places while whitewater rafting on his brother’s stag party last August.

Team Sky Tour de France squad: Chris Froome, Egan Bernal, Jonathan Castroviejo, Michal Kwiatkowski, Gianni Moscon, Wout Poels, Luke Rowe, Geraint Thomas.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/44697287

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