The riders and the whole Tour de France entourage have now crossed the Alps, and made their way to the fortified town of Carcassonne, in the Languedoc-Roussillon Region. Team mechanics and soigneurs are busy preparing for another battle in the mountains, the Pyrenées this time, while the riders can enjoy a day free of stress, noise and pressure.
In the absence of Froome and Contador, Nibali has dominated the Alpine stages, building up a quite substantial margin down to his remaining rivals for the overall honours in Paris. We have witnessed Team Sky’s Plan B, Richie Porte, collapse – loosing more than 13 minutes on the general classification after lying second overall, and being in the mix for a podium spot. Where is Wiggo, by the way?
Much more interesting for cycling supporters and media in France, has been the uprise of a whole new generation of French riders, with Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot as the two most prolific through the Alpine stages – occupying third and fourth place on general classification going into the second rest day. Not only are they fighting for a final podium spot, but the Best Young Rider’s jersey, too!
No wonder good, old Richard Virenque is getting excited on French television! Virenque is France’s most recent Tour de France podium finisher (with a questionable past, mind you), with a second place on GC as far back as 1997. «France is beginning to wake up to the fact that they’ve got a lot of good cyclists. I think we’ll see a big increase in support for the French riders in the Pyrenées», according to Virenque.
So: Allez, allez! Nibali might be too far ahead, but maybe the French riders can shake up things a little bit more in the mountain stages ahead of us!