Tour de France Question

The Sunday ride into Paris is called ceremonial, and the Saturday time trial is seen as the last day someone can win or lose the race. What if the race was close and someone wanted to make a move on Sunday? Is this “just not done” or is it a case that the Sunday ride is short and flat so there is no way to breakaway, or …

Hopefully one of the experts will be along soon to give a good answer. The best I can do is say that I think I remember hearing of it happening before. I can’t give any specific tours or years. I’m even wondering if someone (Ullrich?) might have launched a small attack on Lance one year.

If I may tack on another question, didn’t there used to be team time trials?

Trust me, if the race for GC is close enough come Sunday, it will be contested. The big question is, what counts as “close enough”?

It hasn’t been done in the past* because by this point in the game, the separation between riders has ALWAYS been too large for any sort of contest to possibly succeed. On a flat stage like the last stage there is simply no way to gain any more than a few seconds, and it has never been close enough that a few seconds would matter. If we go into Sunday with several riders within a few seconds (maybe even up to a minute) of one another, you’ll see it contested. But if the separation is more than a minute, I think it’ll play out as “ceremonially” as it usually does.

  • Now there is one famous exception to what I said above, and that’s the famous contest between LeMond and Fignon in 1989. But that’s an odd exception because that year they made that final stage a time trial stage. The only time that’s been done, AFAIK. Time trials are different critters from normal flat stages and minutes can be made or lost, as happened in 1989, and as people expect to happen tomorrow (Saturday).

For some strange reason, the Tour organizers don’t always put one in. About once every three or four years they just decide “meh, let’s not do one this year”. Doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it, and it somewhat annoys me. I mean, if it’s a part of “Le Tour”, then it should always be part of it, something teams should always have to take into account.

Of course, I probably shouldn’t complain too loudly, because if there had been a TTT this year, it would certainly have been to the detriment of my man, Floyd. :slight_smile:

WTF is up with Floyd’s team mates? They didn’t seem to be any help on Thursday.

Ha ha! I could really go off on this one, but I won’t.

Simply put, they just aren’t that good. I guess because Phonak is a relatively new team they haven’t been able to develop and/or recruit the talent to be all that good.

Still they do what they can. They weren’t totally useless Thursday, as they gave every last ounce of energy they had on Thursday to lead out the peloton at a fairly quick pace until they simply couldn’t keep it up on that first climb. When they fell back, it allowed Floyd to attack while his main GC rivals were perhaps a bit tired and not ready for it.

That was a climbing stage. It’s more individual. When he decides to go climb like a madman by himself, there’s nothing his team can do. He’s maxed out and he’s the best rider on the team.

As to the OP – the thing is, let’s say some dude, Joe, is 30 seconds behind Landis and wants to try to make it up on a flat stage. . .there’s really no way he can gain that if Phonak doesn’t want him to.

If Joe gets in a break-away, then Phonak will ride as a team to bring the breakaway back – that’s if they let it get away in the first place, which they probably won’t.

Every time Joe tries to accelerate, Phonak will just chase him.

If he tries to get in a breakaway with his team, Phonak will just stay right on their wheels. You can’t underestimate how big drafting is. There’s no team that just can ride-away from another team if the team doesn’t want them to.

So, basically, what you said. Even if it was 8 seconds. . .that’s tough to make up. If the guy isn’t one of the better sprinters, he’s not going to win the stage and that’s the only way to make up the time really.

The Lemond time trial must have been the serious one that I was remembering.

I’m still thinking that someone might have attacked Lance one year (or maybe it was just someone going for a breakaway stage win or something). I just seem to remember the champagne being interrupted or delayed.

Axel Merckx did serve Floyd well a few days ago and then the day that followed, the day Floyd bonked (Axel stuck it out to try to help FL and his own time suffered very badly as a result-- I think he’d been in 16th at the start of that day).

In addition to the overall lead, there is a competition for the sprinter’s jersey. There have been times in the past when the sprinting competition was so close that the points available on the last day mattered. The riders weren’t attacking Lance (since as it’s been pointed out, his team wouldn’t let a serious threat get away) but they were competing against each other for those points. It won’t happen this year because Oscar Freire dropped out of the race today. He was the only man who was close enough in points to challenge Robbie McEwen for the sprinter’s jersey on Sunday.

However, this year there have also been time bonuses during the stages. If the results of the time trial are close and if there are time bonuses in Sundays stage that can make up that time gap, it will be interesting. I have no idea if there will be time bonuses or not on Sunday.

The closest Armstrong tour was 2003, when Ullrich finished 61 seconds down. I don’t recall any serious effort was made by Ullrich or his team that day, and it surely would have been a fool’s errand to even try to get that many seconds on a flat stage.

Last year’s final day was interesting because 6th place Alexander Vinokourov attacked and won giving him a time bonus that moved him into 5th overall displacing Levi Leipheimer. Apparently a communication problem or general confusion led to Leipheimer and his team not reacting to Vino’s very ballsy move.

As to what the magic number to put the Tour into play on the final stage, I’d say 30 seconds or less. If Sastre has a good time trial on Saturday, we may see what that looks like (unless something weird happened in the stage today…no spoilers please! ;))

Can somebody explain to me how a couple of guys from another team can stop a rider from making a breakaway? Its not as if they can ride in front of him and hit the brakes.

Right, you can’t stop slow him down, but you can go just as fast as he does so that he doesn’t get away from the peloton. Or, if he does get a jump and a gap ahead of the group, you can react and chase him down before he gets a large gap.

Sticking yourself out off the front in a break is a lot of work, and the peloton has a lot of power since there are so many riders in it. A big group of riders has quite an aerodynamic advantage over a solo rider (or a small group). This advantage holds on fairly flat groud up to modest climbs, but on steeper climb it is reduced to almost zero. That’s because the speeds are slower and climbing is so hard that many riders cannot keep up and the peloton splits up. At that point, what you are thinking about is true, a rider can just ride away if he is strong enough.

The real power of the peloton is demonstrated early in the race on the flat stages. Many riders did try to get in a break in these early stages, but the sprinter’s teams were motivated to chase them all down. Later in the race when things are sorted out a bit, the peloton may let a group of riders get away if there is no one in the break that threatens the overall standings. Looking at the results of today’s stage, it looks like that happened (I don’t know the details of the stage, I only saw the results).

They reel him in by working together as a team. A lone rider is at a big disadvantage to a large group, who can draft and trade off the lead. If they want to go after him, and still have enough juice, he won’t get away.