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Tour de France Gallery: Part II

After a week that saw the yellow jersey lost and regained, narrow time gaps on the climbs and gaping chasms in the crosswinds, our latest photo essay tells the tale of a tumultuous week at the Tour.

18 July 2019

Stage 05

SAINT-DIÉ-DES-VOSGES – Colmar

As the race entered the Vosges mountains, there were still plenty of vines for photographers to hide behind.
We’ve heard the odd older racing fan comment on the lack of interest among younger generations in France but, as this image shows, there are always fans of all ages at the roadside for the Tour.
The pressure-cooker atmosphere at the Tour is no myth but there is the occasional moment of relative peace. After a raft of categorised climbs on the run-in split the bunch, some riders took the chance to catch up as they rode back towards Colmar.
While Simon Clarke caught up with Bora-Hansgrohe’s Lukas Pöstlberger, Seb Langeveld compared notes on a tough day with teammate Tom Scully.
With the pure sprinters out of the equation, it was a battle of the strong men. Michael Matthews was well supported and perfectly positioned while Wout van Aert showed signs of future success but it was Sagan who took his eleventh Tour stage win.

Stage 06

MULHOUSE – LA PLANCHE DES BELLES FILLES

The toughest test of the Tour yet, Sagan was certain not to follow up his victory from the day before as the route took in several climbs including a summit finish atop la Planche des Belles Filles.
On the 24% slopes towards the top of the extended ascent of ‘Super Planche’ even the strongest would strain. Here Rigoberto Uran grinds his way up the final straight, whose very loose surface made the task harder still.
In a finale that seemed to suit him, Mike Woods couldn’t take the win but stayed strong to finish the group of favourites. Crossing the line with Uran, his first words were simply, “Phwoar, that was tough.”
After losing contact with the group of favourites on the penultimate climb, Tejay van Garderen worked hard to make up ground on the descent but paid for his efforts on la Planche, shipping just under eight minutes.
So steep was the finish that soigneurs were positioned just metres beyond the finish line to help exhausted riders to a safe stop. The pain was clear to see on the face of Uran.
Woods too was exhausted by his effort but quickly regained his sense of humour. After receiving a whistle to help him descend safely to the team bus, he was soon striking up a tune.

Stage 07

BELFORT – CHALON-SUR-SAÔNE

On the longest stage of the Tour, there’s plenty of time to drop back to the team car and talk tactics. Alberto Bettiol is notoriously particular about his bike set up and may well have been looking for a mechanic’s attention here.
It was particularly long for Van Garderen, who took a nasty tumble after just five kilometres, coming away with deep abrasions to his face. Teammates Tom Scully and Seb Langeveld would take turns keeping the American company at the back of the pack for the rest of the day.
Tejay battled bravely to finish the stage with broken bones in his hand, but would abandon the next morning. No stranger to rotten luck on the Tour, he was philosophical as he made his exit: “That’s bike racing, it’s gritty, it’s not always pretty.”

Stage 08

MÂCON – SAINT-ÉTIENNE

With intentions of making the breakaway for the second time, Simon Clarke pulls on his Aero Jersey. He wouldn’t make the break as four riders escaped early but did a huge amount of work to set Uran and Woods up for the final.
Meanwhile, Uran himself was focused ahead of an undulating day that had the potential to cause time gaps.
Spirits on the EF team bus were high, we think?
Always obliging, Tom Scully takes the time to sign some autographs at the start. Now in his third year with the team, Scud, as he’s known to teammates, has become a trusted worker and is often one of the first names on the team sheet.
The foothills of the Massif Central might not be mountains but they provided testing terrain that suited the climbers. A GC shakedown was not predicted but Julian Alaphilippe’s desire to regain the yellow jersey would bring a French hopeful for the overall out to play.
The thrilling finale saw Thomas De Gendt take a remarkable win, from Alaphilippe, who regained yellow, and Thibaut Pinot who gained a handy advantage over his rivals. A reduced bunch of favourites sprinted in twenty seconds down on the French duo.

Stage 09

SAINT-ÉTIENNE – BRIOUDE

Bastille Day. Would the race’s French protagonists rise to the occasion?
Bastille Day, a celebration of the overthrow of the political status quo. Could the breakaway turn the tables on the peloton for the second day in a row? There were plenty of polka-dotted publique at the roadsides to find out.
Simon Clarke again represented EF Education First in the breakaway group. The Australian has won stages at the Vuelta before but counts an individual Tour stage win as one of his main ambitions.
Here he is following Bahrain-Merida’s Ivan Cortina.
Behind, the peloton was strung out at times but rolled in fifteen minutes behind the day’s winner, South African Daryl Impey.
Clarke couldn’t make it count in the finale but was impressive riding all day in the break. Chapeau.

Stage 10

SAINT-FLOUR – ALBI

Today’s stage took in some rolling terrain again but, on paper at least, did not seem set to cause an upset. In the end, it was anything but plain sailing.
The mood was light on the team bus but a detailed plan was in motion to guard against time loss in the crosswinds that were due to affect the latter stages. Experts in the echelons, Scully, Langeveld and Clarke would have vital roles to play.
The race would take a while to heat up but those who waited were in for a gripping last hour of action.
As the wind speed increased, teams jostled for position at the front.
After the stage, Tom Scully revealed that the team had identified the 175km mark as the moment to hit the front. At this point, the crosswinds would be strongest and it would be crucial to be well positioned.
Riding alongside the Deceuninck-Quickstep team, Simon Clarke pulled a huge turn that began to cause some damage in the bunch behind. Unfortunately, Rigo Uran was on the wrong side of the split.
The sense of frustration at the 100 second time loss Uran eventually incurred was palpable at the finish. Riders went straight onto the team bus to join their directors for a post-stage debrief. The salt stains on Scully’s jersey showed the efforts of the day.
The team had worked well, it was just a case of unfortunate timing, as Uran explained to reporters post-stage.

After an arduously long ten-day block of racing, the Tour now enters the mountains. With two Pyrenean stages and a time trial coming up, time gaps are a certainty and all is still to play for. The race has only just begun. Stay tuned.

Stage 11

Albi – Toulouse

On paper, the eleventh stage was a simple sprint set piece but the same was said about the tenth. Uran was well marshalled by super domestique Tom Scully who can be seen riding behind the Colombian for hours, perfectly placed to cover ill-timed incidents.
EF Education First were determined to stick together after the splits on stage 10. Simon Clarke, as road captain, acts on information passed to riders from sports directors in the cars behind.
Sebastian Langeveld is a another key man for the team on flat stages. Unfortunately the Dutchman was taken down in the fight for position towards the end of the stage.

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