TDF Stage 20: Marseille Time Trial

Today’s 14-mile stage pits the individual riders against the clock. Green and polka-dot jerseys just need to finish safely. The riders that specialize in the time trial will go for a win today, if they have any energy left. In the GC race, Uran and Froome, both great time trialers, will hope to take time out of each other. Froome has the advantage because he rides last and can see how Uran is doing and ride to match him. There’s also an opportunity for AG2R to take the team race today – they just need their best three riders to ride faster than Sky’s best three riders, by about five minutes. Unless the second place rider in the white jersey race has a miraculous time trial – or Yates crashes out – the white jersey race is also pretty much decided but if Yates has a great time trial – or some of the top contenders have a rotten trial – Yates could move up in the GC standings.

Weather should not affect the race: hot and sunny, breezy, but not windy. The race is mostly flat, racing through the city streets, with one steep hill towards the end. The staggered start times mean that the sun will be in different places throughout the day, which could be advantageous or a problem for the riders.

A reporter is saying that Sky has asked Luc Rowe, who starts first today because he is placed last overall in the GC, to take some of the more dangerous corners dangerously fast, as a test for Chris Froome, to see what happens. The earlier riders start with one-minute gaps; the later riders with two-minute gaps.

Taylor Phinney just started and they said that he’s a time trialer – interesting, since he has grown a beard and usually time trialers try for as aerodynamic profile, which a hairy face is not. Despite that, he’s setting a pretty good time. He’s one of the first riders to launch – he’s so far down the standings – so we’ll have to see if his time stands once the more-experienced riders go. He passed the rider that started just in front of him, having made up the gap, and rode down the two in front of that one. They say that once you see the man in front of you, you have an advantage because it gives you a target to aim for (although you have to be careful that he doesn’t draft off you after you pass them, which is forbidden, but happens anyway). If Phinney takes the time trial – unlikely – it would be the best glory for America this year. The three American riders – all on Cannondale – are finishing miserably low in the standings and haven’t had a stage win yet, although Phinney and Brown each wore the polka-dot jersey for a day during the first week before the big mountain stages started.

I tried painting a mental target on the back of someone in front of me a couple of years ago when I was walking in a race and it did help. I used it one day while I was walking on Madison, I was powering along behind two women who were laughing and chatting and sipping their lattes. I’m not a fast walker – I like to tell myself that I’m built for distance, not speed – and it was helpful to have them set a pace for me. But at some point they noticed me and politely moved aside. Darn!

Cummings just passed the sprinter, Bouhanni. Sprinters are great over short distances but the same muscles that give them that burst of speed makes them suffer over longer distances… and hills… They’re making Phinney sit in the kiss-and-cry until someone arrives with a faster time than him. Phinney’s lead just fell to Bodnar by 1:06 and Phinney’s out of the kiss-and-cry.

They are pointing out that the four jersey-riders must wear “jersey” skin-suits provided by the Tour de France. This could be a disadvantage for Froome: his suit on the opening time trial was so aerodynamic that one of the other teams filed a protest, and he can’t expect the suit provided for him to have that advantage. They showed him having it tailored to fit him perfectly, but the fabric doesn’t have the “dimples” that his other suit had. Uran, on the other hand, will wear his own kit, which could give him an advantage.

They just spoke about the importance of measurements over time. Sky measures everything Froome does throughout the race and tailors his tactics for the day based on those measurements. The commentators compared this to a younger rider who has never finished a three-week Tour before – so they have measurements but don’t know what to compare them to. This is true in business, too. You can’t adjust your tactics or measure how you’re performing to strategy unless you measure you’re performance.

The Finish

The top 10 contenders are queued up to go now. Simon Yates just left, and now Dan Martin. It’s interesting to see how much better their form is than the guys lower down (with the exception of the men who specialize in the time trial). Landa starts, Aru, then Uran. Bardet leaves the start blocks and the French crowd goes wild. Now Froome ascends the block… and he’s off!

They say Froome wants a stage win today because he hasn’t had one yet this Tour. His specialty is the time trial; so he’s expected to do well. Contador finishes, Barguil. Aru is losing time, Bardet is, too, and takes risks on the corners to stay above Landa in the standings.

Bardet keeps losing time. Uran is riding better than Bardet but not well enough to take on Froome – he almost smashes into a barrier! He’s in – the race is Froome’s to lose. Bardet rides to keep a podium place, but Froome – who started two minutes behind Bardet – gains on him.

Bardet slides across the finish line just in front of Froome.

The Results

Froome comes in third in the stage, but keeps yellow. Uran is in second behind Froome by 54 seconds and ahead of Bardet by over a minute. Bardet is in third, just one second ahead of Froome’s teammate, Landa. If there’s a time split on the Champs Elysee tomorrow, Landa could end up on the podium after all.

Today’s winner is Bodnar, who finished one second ahead of the second placed rider and six seconds in front of Froome.

Green, Polka-Dot, and White jerseys stay where they are. With three riders finishing in the top 15 today, Sky gained time on AG2R in the team race; AG2R will need to gain almost 7.5 minutes to beat Sky tomorrow.

It’s all over, except for the final sprint tomorrow.

Note: My apologies for any typos above – a pipe burst next door and my apartment flooded in the middle of this stage; and I don’t have time to edit as closely as I usually do. Also, I took the photo off my TV because I thought it captured a unique side of this stage; thank you, NBCSN.

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