Coaches' Blog

Coach Ainslie

Hard to believe the Tour is already over. This race has offered up plenty of action and its been fun to watch all the animators. Personally, I think this year was more entertaining than the last several years. Chris Froome raced with panache and his attacks came in unexpected places. 

I was out of town working again this weekend so I didn't get to Saturdays stage. It was another day of climbing and not so nice weather. For the GC men, it was again about watching each other. Ion Izaguerre with Movistar won the stage with a daring attack and then took a suicidal descent on his way to the win. Really fun to watch and nice to see someone other than one of the usual suspects take the win. I always enjoy when a lesser known rider has a break through. 

Today was the traditional "parade" into Paris. It is an unspoken rule that no actual racing will occur until the race reaches the circuits around the Champs Elysees. During the initial miles it is hijinks and shenanigans mixed with photo ops and celebrations. I enjoy this kind of thing since you know the riders have endured a lot along the way. Its only right that they should get to have a bit of fun with it.

Once the race reaches the circuits in the City of Light, the racing is on! Today was always one for the sprinters. The teams of the sprinters spend quite a bit of time trying to keep things together for their men so that they can set up the perfect lead out. Many men will try to escape on the cobbles of the finish circuit but when you have the teams executing organized chases its very hard to pry loose a breakaway.

In the end Andre Griepel with Lotto-Soudal time things to perfection passing Alexandre Kristoff with Katusha and holding off Peter Sagan with Tinkoff-Saxo. Had the race been another 2 meters and Sagan would have won. His acceleration in the end was absolutely stunning, he just got the timing wrong. Griepel got everything right and was able to take home "the sprinters world championship." 

The riders will only get a brief rest though. Many of the riders will go directly to the post Tour criteriums. These are lucrative races for the riders where they get paid to show up to a race. Additionally the Olympics are just around the corner. Many riders will continue to add the final polish to their fitness so that they can show up to Rio in peak condition. 

I for one, can't wait! Thanks for reading folks. Feel free to shoot me a note with your thoughts! coaches@geminitrainingsystems.com 

Coach Ainslie

Phew! Busy last couple of days at the Tour. Yesterdays time trial was a 17km affair that was primarily uphhill. It was business as usual for the GC favorites with Chris Froome taking the win and Tom Dumoulin having to settle for 2nd. Dumoulin sat in the hot seat for the better part of the day and had to wait til all the riders save yellow jersey Froome were in. His time stood up to some very good riders and only Chris Froome could unseat him.

Today was a 146km stage with 13,000 feet of climbing with the final climb being a particular bit of nastiness. With atrocious weather the roads were absolutely treacherous and lots of riders found themselves on the ground, including race leader Chris Froome. On a rapid descent Froome crossed the white center line and lost the front wheel. After looking at his bike he realized it was unrideable and he was forced to mount Geraint Tomas bike. Its no accident that Geraint was near Froome. A rider of similar size will be required to stay near the leader for just such an incident. Froome managed to make it all the way to the finish on this bike with the help of his teammate Pouwels.

The attacks came thick and fast from all corners and the Sky riders earned their salaries today containing the race. In the end, Romain Bardet with AG2R soloed in for the win. Bauke Mollema crashed and never made it back into the race. Adam Yates was penalized 10sec for a hand  sling from another rider and Quintana lost a few seconds in the final 2km. Bardet vaults into 2nd on the GC, Mollema falls outside the top 10 on GC and Quintana now lies in 3rd. It was a shuffling of the deck that reshaped the podium. There is only one more day for Porte, Yates and Quintana to try and move themselves back onto the podium.

Tomorrorow (Saturday) brings another day of ridiculous climbing. 146.5km with 4 major climbs will test everyone in the race. Froome and his Sky men will have their hands full as the rest of the field will try and shuffle the standings in their last opportunity. You can be sure that there will be some hail mary's from Astana, Movistar, BMC and Trek. I think we can look to a rider like Rodriguez with Katusha or one of the AG2R riders to win the stage. Froome will only be interested in monitoring the riders that could threaten his yellow jersey. This will provide and opportunity for other riders to go for the stage win. 

PS. Too bad about Tom Dumoulin having to abandon the Tour with a fractured wrist. This is concerning because he is the favorite at the Olympics Time Trial. Lets hope he can recover in time. 

Coach Ainslie

Pozdravlenia! That is how you say congratulations in Russian. Ilnur Zakarin won a tough stage today after dispatching the Columbian rider Panano and polka do jersey wearer Rafael Maijka. The gradients in the final 2km of todays race were absolutely brutal and Zakarin found the legs to unload two very capable athletes.

BBehind in the yellow jersey group the Astana boys set a furious pace trying to put Chriis Froome into difficulty. As ever, Froomes loyal lieutenants kept hiim in the thick of the action. Froome had a view moments of appearing to be on the ropes but in the end he managed to make the final acceleration with Richie Porte with BMC and distance Fabio Aru, Nairo Quintana and Bauke Mollema.

Adam Yates with Orica/Bike Exchange managed to stay in the 2nd group after Mollemna had been dropped and he will go back into 2nd place on the GC. Quintana and Tejay Vangarderen were dropped and both lost time to Chris Froome.

Tomorrow brings an uphill time trial. The riders will tackle a 17km race that goes uphill right out of the start house. It ascends all the way to the final 2km and then is a downhill finish. The riders will most likely dispense with the time trial bikes and opt for road bikes with mini aero extensions and go with the lightest setup possible. 

My prediction is that Froome will win this race. Other riders we can look to for a good ride are Richie Porte, Adam Yates and potentially Bauke Mollema. 

PS. Hard to believe we're almost at the end of the 3 weeks.

Coach Ainslie

Ouchie! Yesterdays stage 15 had 13,000 feet of climbing in it! Thats a lot! The final climb the riders tackled twice! For the GC men the stage was, more or less, business as usual. Up the road however two riders managed to stay clear to the end. Rafael Maijka and the Columbian rider Pantano battled all the way to the end with Pantano taking the win after a harrowing descent where he took major risks to catch back on after being dropped the last time up the climb. 

Astana made repeated attempts to break things up but Froome and his lieutenant Serge Pouwels were alert and calmly went about containing things. Tejay Vangarderen lost more time and in the post race interview I got the feeling he's resigned to the fact that he's not on par with the big guns this year. 

Todays race was never one for the true sprinters. While not a climbing race, the parcours had enough bumps in it with a cobbled, uphill finish that it would prove too much for riders like Cavendish, Kittle, Griepel and Bryan Coquard. A valiant effort by Rui Costa was reeled in with around 5km to go. 4hrs 25min for 210km is moving right along!

In the end a select group split off the front containing Sagan, Degenkolb, Alexander Kristoff and even Froome. Kristoff and Sagan went to the line with Kristoff thinking he'd won. After reviewing the photo finish, Sagan came away with the win. I still marvel that after 4 or 5hrs it can come down to a matter of millimeters! Sagan has made all of his wins so far look easy. He is showing maturity and patience while still a young rider. Its exciting because he still has many years left in the sport.  

Tomorrow is the 2nd rest day at the Tour. After yesterdays stage the rider deserve it! The GC men will get together with their management and try and figure out how they're going to approach the last week of the race. 2nd place man Bauke Mollema will look at the upcoming days and assemble a strategy for trying to take time out of Froome. So far the team Sky leader seems pretty solid and has never looked like he's been in trouble. Quintana has quite a bit of work to do if he's going to threaten Chris Froome.

A rider I'm keeping my eye on is Adam Yates with the Orica/Bike Exchange squad. I think he's still got quite a bit of gas left in the tank. He has consistently been there with the leaders on the hard stages. If he can avoid mistakes and/or a bad day in the last week I think he has a great opportunity to finish on the podium in Paris. 

PS. Did you see some of the pulls that Tony Martin took today while in the breakaway with his teammate Julian Alaphillipe? Ooof!

Coach Ainslie

Today Mark Cavendish established himself as one of the most successful Tour sprinters of all time. He has now won enough stages that he only trails the legendary Eddy Merckx in Tour wins. This is an amazing accomplishment and one he can be proud of. Cav also has returned to prominence as one of the best sprinters of his time.

Today was a relatively flat stage of 208.5km. The wind was a straight up head wind for the better part of the day. The teams managed to hold things mostly all together with only 3 men going clear near the beginning. These men were reeled in with about 8km to go and the teams of the sprinters started to form up at the front. 

In the finale all the heavy hitters were present and accounted for. Kittel's lead out train went first and Cav managed to tag onto the wheel of Kittel and came around him in the last meters. Sagan, Kristoff with Katusha and Degenkolb with Giant all appeard also. 

Today was called by Christian Vandevelde with race commentary a transition stage. This means we are moving from one set of mountains to another. Tomorrow brings a stage of only 160km but contains some very nasty climbs. With 10 spikes in the race profile the climbers will almost certainly find their way to the fore and the sprinters and also rans will just have to tough it out to the finish. Look for one of the GC men or a pretender to win the stage. Tomorrow will be one of the toughest days of this Tour de France and I expect we'll see a big shakeup in the GC men lying outside the first 2. 

PS. Do you think Cav came across Kiittel in the sprint today? 

Photo is tomorrows stage (Sunday the 17th). I do not own this photo. (Cyclingnews.com)

Coach Ainslie

Another impressive day at the Tour de France! Tom Dumoulin with the Giant/Alpecin squad slayed all with a time trial that put the time to beat in the stratosphere. The only other rider to get close was the yellow jersey Chris Froome. All other riders lost minuted to Dumoulin. Of course, the GC contenders were only ever concerned with the positions of their close competitors. 

Froome, in the end, gained almost 2min on Nario Quintana and Adam Yates. His ride was superb and set the tone for the rest of the Tour. Yates and Quintana will now have to look for ways to take back time in the upcoming mountains. The Sky armada looks to be all but unbeatable. They've had control of this Tour since the start. 

Tomorrow brings a 208km stage that is rolling and likely to have more wind. As we've seen constintely throughout this Tour, an early break is likely. These men will do their very best to stay away all the way to the finish. The teams of the sprinters will do their part to pull things back together in the closing kilometers and set their men up for the final sprint. Look for 1 of two possible outcomes. A small breakaway containing men far down the GC will stay away to the end OR the race will come down to a group gallup out of the usual supsects.

PS. Did you see that photo of the Etixx/Quickstep man taking a flying crash during the TT today? 

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