It is remarkable looking at the general classification top six. There are a pair of Slovenians occupying the top two spots, with a quartet of Colombians right below. It’s like peering all the way back to the era when the Tour was contested by squads of riders from a particular country, not ‘trade teams’ sponsored by coffee machines, laminate flooring and, ironically, a couple of nations in desperate need of some good PR. The only thing missing, in fact, is a liberal sprinkling of Frenchmen.
The names making up that South American foursome are some of the most exciting in professional bike racing. Egan Bernal, the reigning Tour champ; Rigoberto Uran, the rockstar people’s favourite; Nairo Quintana, who is rolling back the years this season; and Miguel Angel Lopez, who aside from clouting the odd spectator, has been one of the most consistent GC performers of the last three seasons.
Starry as the roll call may be, these riders must do more than just ‘follow the leader’ tomorrow on the Col du Grand Colombier.
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Stage 14 ended up being a day off for Jumbo-Visma, with Bora-Hansgrohe making all the pace in pursuit of Peter Sagan’s green jersey ambitions. Stage 15 is the last before the second rest day.
The summit finish on the Grand Colombier, then, represents a final chance to take a pop at the leader before he spends a day regrouping and recuperating (in between press commitments) and if Roglic gets another armchair ride tomorrow, it seems unlikely those further down the table will have an opportunity to wear him down sufficiently to force a spectacular, race-ending crack.
The restorative effects of a rest day will be amplified for Jumbo-Visma because they have at least four support riders who can be protagonists in the mountains: Tom Dumoulin, who could just as easily be leading this race as working as a domestique deluxe; the fearsomely talented Sepp Kuss; the metronomic battler, George Bennett; and the frankly baffling talent of Wout van Aert.
Stage 14 Highlights: Barnstorming day with green jersey battle and fascinating finish
Having any one of these team mates fresh and ready to fight when the race resumes on Tuesday would be an asset, especially for the four men in third to sixth places, who have been largely left to fend for themselves in the serious parts of the climbing stages so far.
To see all four, plus Roglic, in fighting form, is an ominous prospect for anyone who is not currently wearing yellow lycra.
Let’s not forget that Roglic is the odds-on favourite for the penultimate stage, an uphill time trial to the Planche des Belles Filles. He will have that in the back of his mind as time ‘in the bank’ – and so the urgency to pressure him early and often before the race reaches the Vosges becomes ever stronger.
Soren Kragh Andersen takes win after 'full gas' Stage 14
The Paris stage, obviously, poses no threat to whomever carries the yellow into it, while stage 19 is more of a baroudeur’s affair than a pure climbing test. It’s unlikely that anyone will take the kind of time that Bernal and co. require to get ahead of Roglic. That leaves three monstrous days in the mountains, stages 16, 17 and 18 – days when survival is the most pressing concern and where the strength in numbers of Jumbo-Visma will most easily come to bear.
It may not be the way that modern Grand Tours are raced – and nobody wants a return of the era of endless, super-charged attacking and counter-attacking of the 1990s and early 2000s – but to win this bike race, the Colombian riders just off the podium must attack, attack and attack again tomorrow.
In the most open Tour we’ve seen in some years, the overall win is there for whoever has the cojones to take it.