It was a long day for VeloVeritas, yesterday. But it was a cracker – positioned 800 metres from the line on Mont Ventoux, we were there from when Froome spun past like a madman on rollers until Jonathan Hivert ground past us, oh so painfully, some 50 minutes later.
We’ll spare you the waxing lyrical about Provence, lavender fields, cicadas and also the stats about the mountain and who’s won there in the past and give you our thoughts on some of the men of the day.
Christopher Froome: was first up and with the highest of cadences and the skinniest of arms he’s an unlikely strong man – but he’s been our favourite from the start.
The fact is that there’s no one in this race who wants to win to win it more than he does.
I think that there’s little doubt that he will win – and he’ll be aided by the fact that Belkin will now be in defensive mode, trying desperately to hang on to their second spot and combining with Froome against Contador.
Nairo Quintana: is a one of the few real climbers in the peloton – it’s one thing to be up there in a mountain stage by getting in the early break and hanging on but quite another to attack the maillot jaune group on the Ventoux.
He has grinta, ambition and a great team around him – the podium is possible.
Joaquim Rodriguez: can never win the Tour – the Giro, yes; the Vuelta, yes; but never the Tour.
To list him among the favourites is just not realistic – and I don’t know if he has a stage win in him, either.
But anyone who’s in the big ring with 800 metres to go on the Ventoux demands respect.
Michael Rogers: when Rogers renaissance 2012 with Sky seemed to have stalled when he went to Saxo we were a tad suspicious – and why did he leave in the first place?
He was one of Wiggo’s key players in 2012 – and it was a surprise to see him let go.
The man himself says it was because he received a better offer from Denmark – but there could be other reasons…
Whatever the case, he’s back to form and doing a job for Alberto; it was he who prompted the ambush on Friday where Froome lost a minute.
He looked good on the Ventoux and he’s probably huddled with Contador and Riis as I write this, planning ‘Ambush 11.’
Alejandro Valverde: isn’t universally popular with us self righteous Anglos – to be a proper ‘good doper’ you have to confess your sins then become a disciple of Saint Jonathan of Garmilee.
(And then you can write a training book – like Tom Danielson).
But the fact is that the Spaniard was caught on the same hamster wheel as all the rest – we look at it that he’s done his time, the UCi will be watching him like a hawk and let’s move on.
It was ‘wrong time, wrong place’ for him on Friday but there’s a stage win in him, we think and he looked good on the Ventoux.
Richie Porte: is a quality rider and there’s much talk about him becoming a Grand Tour contender – but being the reliable, strong lieutenant is one thing; taking all of that pressure is another.
Time will tell, but he certainly ‘done a job for Froomey’ on Le Geant.
Dan Martin: didn’t have his best day on the Ventoux but with a stage win in the bag, whatever else happens it’s been a great race for the slim man from Birmingham.
But it’s been very sad to watch team mate and 2012 Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal trail in way down the fields.
Mikal Kwiatkowski: is quality, he’ll struggle to take the white jersey back from Quintana given all those saw tooth profiles in the race bible for this week – but he’s ridden a great race.
If I was QuickStep I’d be happy to nurture him along towards the podium of the Giro or Vuelta.
But in a world of instant gratification, the men who hold the pin codes to the big money transfers to the QuickStep accounts want Grand Tour results podium right now.
Uran is coming aboard – normally that would pee off Cav, diluting the team’s sprint commitment but with Renshaw and Ale Jet on the way, he’ll be happy.
But if Kwiatkowski has ambition then Uran’s arrival will disappoint the Pole – another for the ‘wait and see’ file.
Andy Schleck: I was never a fan of the Schleck’s – too much hype and my spies tell me that their approach to training has been less than committed in the past.
But it’s never good to see a young man lose the plot – especially when he’s as talented as ‘Awndee.’
So it was good to see him riding a decent if not brilliant Tour – but then we have his team manager telling us he can win on the Ventoux.
No he cannot, talk sense, man!
It would be much better not to put the rider under pressure and allow him to find real form, again.
Brice Feillu: It’s four years since he won that mountain stage in le Tour; backing it up with post Tour criterium wins – he does look every inch the crit king, after all.
Since then, nada.
It’s difficult to become the ‘next big thing in French cycling’ the weight of expectation is crushing – and when it doesn’t come to pass, the once adoring press pick on the bones.
He looks cool on the bike and is still very popular – but the best thing he could do would be get out of Sojasun, join a team where he perhaps can’t ride the Tour but can find true motivation again.
Tommy Voeckler: we had it down as Tommy or Froome’s day – it certainly wasn’t the Frenchman’s.
He had decent form coming in to the Tour and has spent a lot of time in the autobus.
It’s unthinkable that he’ll let this Tour finish without a flourish – let’s hope so, the race need a French stage winner.
Sylvain Chavanel: It’s been a great Tour for QuickStep with Cav, Martin and Trentin’s stage wins plus they’ve had a lot of publicity from near misses and crashes – ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ the marketing men will tell you.
Chava is always ‘in the mix,’ working for Cav and infiltrating the breaks – it would be great to see him win a stage.
And he smiles a lot – we like that.
Johnny Hoogerland: really suits that Netherlands Elite Champion’s jersey and it’s good to see him back from injury – but it’s not been the best season for Vacansoleil.
Let’s hope they can answer their sponsorship questions – a result in this Tour would do their chances no harm.
Arthur Vichot: is cool, for sure.
But like Feillu and Thibaud the grinta is lacking – it’s too easy to do the rounds of the French teams, pick up a decent salary and a few placings.
But where’s the burning desire to win?
We think that Bouhanni, Demare and Coquard are the future for French cycling – all young men who hate to be beaten.
Yukiya Arashiro: despite there being only one son of Nippon on the race, there’s no shortage of Japanese photogs and journos stotting about to record his every movement.
One of the female Japon journos is rather cute – press officers who pretend they’re not there seem to notice her, somehow.
Cedric Vasseur: no longer a racer and now a TV pundit, but still looking cool – and it’s a nice picture to end with.
It’s the rest day tomorrow; interviews, and the Vacansoleil ‘Mussel Party’ – the best bit of the whole Tour.
Talk to you tomorrow, tummy and hangover permitting.
Results - Le Tour de France 2013 – Stage 15: Givors > Mont Ventoux
2 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:29
3 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:01:23
4 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha
5 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:01:40
6 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
7 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:01:43
8 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:01:46
9 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:01:53
10 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:08
11 Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Belisol 0:02:12
12 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:02:26
13 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:02:32
14 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp 0:02:36
15 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:02:49
16 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha 0:03:06
17 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:03:11
18 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:03:14
19 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:03:15
20 Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack Leopard 0:03:31
21 Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:04:07
22 John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:04:56
23 Jan Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack Leopard 0:05:04
24 Jesus Hernandez Blazquez (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:06:13
25 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp 0:06:38
26 Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:06:44
27 Maxime Mederel (Fra) Sojasun
28 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:08:39
29 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:08:46
30 Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team
31 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
32 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard
33 Rudy Molard (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
34 Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
35 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
36 Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha 0:10:07
37 Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Belisol 0:10:29
38 Andreas Klöden (Ger)