Okay, can we first talk about Stage 14? I’ve never seen a relatively flat “sprint” stage turn into an all out tactical battle for the green jersey! Since Peter Sagan rode his first Tour back in 2012, the points competition has never been a contest. In fact, he’s won it every time he’s completed the race, for a total of seven wins.
While I love watching him dominate the fast dashes to the finish, I’ve gotta admit that it’s fun knowing that this year it’s up for grabs. Sam Bennett has held the jersey for a few days and seems poised to keep it a bit longer, depending on whether team Bora-Hansgrohe’s strategy pays off.
Saturday, Bora took charge of the race almost from the gun. Their mission? Maintain a breath-takingly fast pace over the few climbs along the way, leaving the sprinters – especially Sam Bennett – gasping for air. At one point the commentators announced that the expected finish time for the stage was 10 minutes earlier than the fastest projection. These guys were hauling ass, trying to set Sagan up for a stage win (and 50 points).
Was it successful? In part. Bennett and the other green jersey contenders were dropped, gaining no points. But Sagan had a few challengers for the stage win, ultimately coming in fourth (for 17 points.) So he cut into Bennett’s advantage but maybe not enough to warrant the exhaustion of all his guys. Time will tell whether it was genius or madness.
But can I say again how fun this is? In all my years as a fan, I’ve never seen an entire team unified around the strategy of taking the green jersey. Usually, the energy would go to support the GC contender but Bora lost theirs earlier in the race. They have nothing to lose by devoting all their energy to the sprint competition.
Whoever wins in the end, I’m going to savor every battle fought from now until we arrive in Paris. Wouldn’t it be dramatic if the jersey were decided by the final sprint on the Champs-Elysées?
What’s on Order for Stage 15
The peloton heads east from Lyon, to the Alps, where the riders will face the daunting HC ascent up the Grand Colombier – almost 5,000 feet of climbing. At the end of the race. After having climbed two category 1 mountains. It’s sure to be a day of pain, given the competitive pace of the last few “easy” stages, and the riders will most certainly be dreaming of the rest day on Monday.
The sprint points are on offer early, and there should be an all-out brawl to be at the front of the pack. It will be Bora-Hansgrohe vs Deceuninck going full gas, trying to place Sagan and Bennett in position to win. Expect other opportunists like Matteo Trentin, Caleb Ewan, and Elia Viviani to be in the mix.
As for the GC battle, this stage will expose whoever’s weak: any gaps at the finish could elevate an ambitious rider to a higher placement overall, or relegate someone who can’t respond to an attack. I’m looking forward to seeing who prevails at the end of the day.
Sad note for fans of Romain Bardet: he crashed on Friday but was able to finish the race. Unfortunately, he was later diagnosed with a concussion as a result of that fall, and withdrew from the Tour. He was the best hope for the French, in fourth place overall when he abandoned, and he’d have done well in the Alps. Best of luck, Romain. Maybe we’ll see you in the Vuelta?
Renardat-Fâche Cerdon du Bugey Méthode Ancestrale
As we are pedaling through the Savoie wine region, it’s only right that we sip a local wine from the Cerdon du Bugey AOC.
Elie and Christelle Renardat-Fâche represent the eighth generation to farm this small patch (12.5 hectares) in the foothills of the Alps. They make just one wine: Cerdon du Bugey, a sparkling rosé based on Gamay and the indigenous Poulsard, made according to the ancestral method, which results in a slightly fizzy, slightly sweet wine.
Vineyards have been certified organic since 2011, and the couple have introduced some biodynamic preparations and methods as well. Grapes are hand-harvested and undergo spontaneous fermentation over several weeks. Fermentation is arrested (via cold temperatures) when the wine has reached 7.5-8% alcohol by volume, and rests on its lees for at least two months. The wine is then emptied into tanks to remove the lees, and rebottled, always in the month of December.
The blend is 70% Gamay and 30% Poulsard, with bright berry aromas and a slightly sweet palate. It’s color is pale, bright pink and seems to suggest a celebration. I think we should toast to our favorite sprinters: they have a long road ahead of them on Sunday, but there will be glory for one of them at kilometer 58.
Enjoy our first foray into the Alps, and get ready for some drama. There are now two races happening in the peloton: one for yellow; the other for green. Should make for great watching!