Ah, the Alps! Its ibexes, its chamois, its speckled nutcrackers, its black grouse. And, every summer in July, a kind of slightly wild animal that comes to rest on the side of the road, shouting and gesticulating as the Tour de France cyclists pass. From this Tuesday, the tranquility in the mountain range is over. Especially since another animal, far more formidable, will also be around.
Tadej Pogacar, the Cannibal of modern times, will surely want to increase his lead over his main opponents during this alpine triptych, after a first week mastered to perfection. Rain, wind, cobblestones, gravel, steep climbs, nothing helped. The big Slovenian favorite resists everything, and on the morning of the stage which leads the peloton to the very chic resort of Megève, this Tuesday, the leader of the UAE team has already pushed back all the competition beyond the minute, except Jonas Vingegaard, who clings to 39 seconds.
“He is a cut above”
Since the start of the Grande Boucle, Pogacar has seemed untouchable. Two stages won, a feeling of ease rarely seen, a galloping hunger… “He’s a cut above. He knows how to do everything, he sprints, he crosses the cobblestones, he is phenomenal, ”summed up Geraint Thomas on Monday, during the rest day. So what do we do ? Do we stop the Tour? Still not. At a press conference on Monday, Enric Mas gave us some hope:
As an opponent, I don’t consider him the best I’ve faced in my career. Maybe I would say so in a few years, but at the moment, no. »
Ok, but then, if he is not untouchable, how to undermine this insolent 23-year-old kid? The answer is both simple and so complex to implement: by attacking it. By harassing him, even. And the two stages on Wednesday and Thursday, with finishes at the top of the Col du Granon and Alpe d’Huez, represent a beautiful setting to reverse a scenario written in advance. Here are some avenues to explore to wrap up the remaining two weeks of racing.
>> Send Roglic to putty
He was to be Tadej Pogacar’s number one opponent this year, after his galleys in the last two editions. Primoz Roglic, on the strength of his victory over Paris-Nice, was to make his compatriot drool. And then, the cobblestone stage went through there, and the triple winner of the Vuelta shows a disbursement of almost three minutes on the yellow jersey. But, because there is always a “but”, it could on the contrary give him a freedom which he would not enjoy if he were glued-tight to Pogacar in general.
The plan is therefore as follows, Primoz: An attack in Le Télégraphe, Wednesday, a little over 70 km from the line. We send the watts, we make everyone fart and we see how it is organized behind. At worst if it fits, it will be Jonas Vingegaard’s turn to go. “We have a plan, but I will not reveal it live on television, smiled the Dane on Monday. You will see what will happen. But we will give everything. ” Enric Mas recognizes this: “The Jumbo-Visma has everything to try to isolate the yellow jersey, they have two leaders and a great force. »
Everything is possible for the Dutch formation, provided however that Wout Van Aert is only used as a teammate. We can think so. After winning two stages, wearing the yellow jersey and taking a very comfortable lead for the green jersey, the overpowered Belgian can now return to the service of his leaders, as during the cobblestone stage, where he saved the goals of Vingaard. And a Van Aert as a teammate in the tight bends of Alpe d’Huez, that can make a man win. And drop another one.
>> A union against Pogacar
In the same way as Nupes, but with an even more convincing result, an Ineos-Jumbo alliance could destabilize the UAE team. “We saw it during the stage of the Planche des Belles Filles, there can be small disagreements in his team, analyzed Geraint Thomas, one of the two leaders of Ineos with Adam Yates. And when you want to win the Tour, the team is key. »
“There should be a whole union against him, added the former winner of the Tour Bernard Thévenet to the Cyclism’Actu site. We have seen teams ride with UAE Team Emirates. I think everyone must remember that Pogacar is the strongest, like us in our time, when there was Eddy Merckx. But we must try not to favor it. In particular, you have to attack it as soon as there is a possibility to take the risk of losing second place to try to take first. »
We can already imagine Pogacar alone, after emptying the reservoirs of Majka and Bennett in the mountains, and being attacked in turn by Vingegaard, Thomas and Yates. “For the moment, we did not have to discover ourselves too much, tempers the last named. It would have been a mistake to attack from afar [dimanche]for example. There will be a time when it will make more sense, you have to be patient. But not too much, anyway, Adam.
>> Enjoy the mess
Favorites who attack at all costs, teams who wage war and outsiders who take the opportunity to make the trunk. The idea not only developed in our utopian brain, it is also present in the mind of Enric Mas, the leader of Movistar, yet not famous when it comes to discussing strategy: “ I have to enjoy the party [que serait la révolution mise par la Jumbo et Ineos]. “For the Spaniard, the difference will be in the Pyrenees, where he hopes to scratch a place on the podium, and more if you like.
Another candidate for the podium, David Gaudu arrives on his favorite playground, where he trains all the time. “I want to raise my arms, commented the Frenchman during the rest day. I think it’s possible, even by combining the general classification. I’ve already managed to win pedal races in front of big names in cycling. All riders are beatable. Just let it be your day. On Monday, Groupama-FDJ had not yet prepared the tactics for the next few days, to let the riders “decompress, given the physical and mental energy expended”.
But Marc Madiot, the manager of the tricolor team, prefers not to make plans on the comet: “We have to stay as we are. We don’t have the race data. It would be presumptuous to make battle plans to turn the tables. We’ll see where we stand in the next few days. At some point or another, we may have an opportunity. And we’ll be there to push your flock, Marc. And why not see the gifted Komenda being caught out for the first time.