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Tour de France

Active Pass roundtable: Has this been an exciting or boring Tour de France?

In today's Active Pass roundtable, a rider wants to know if we will see a French super team emerge. And, has this Tour de France been thrilling or boring?

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You have questions about the 2020 Tour de France, and we have answers and educated opinions. Our veteran reporters, Andrew Hood and James Startt, are fielding your biggest inquiries each day in this Active Pass roundtable column. Today, one reader wonders whether ASO will reintroduce individual time trials in the future to hamper the pure climbers. Another reader wonders if this has been an exciting or a boring Tour de France.

OK, let’s get to your questions!

Historically, only a few pure climbers have won the Tour, even fewer have been multiple tour winners. Many of the climbers tend to run hot and cold. If the Tour de France route pendulum swings back to a more traditional parcours, with a traditional time trial, a rider like Bernal could be in difficulty. Has Ineos put too many eggs in the climbers basket?

Chris Froome 2013 Tour de France

Andrew Hood @eurohoody: Good question. My hunch is that ASO will roll out a more traditional Tour route in 2021, with a longer ITT earlier in the race. Some argue an ITT sucks the life out of a race, especially if there is an all-rounder who can defend in the mountains. With so many climbers in GC now, I think ASO will be tempted to deliver a course that could favor riders like Tom Dumoulin or Chris Froome. That would set the stage for some bigger attacks from the climbers, who would need to recover time.

James Startt: Well, first the pendulum has to swing back. This Tour was custom made for several French riders: Thibaut Pinot, Julian Alaphilippe, and Romain Bardet, who are all punchy climbers. But that doesn’t mean that the Tour will start adding longer time trials. The main reason they have reduced them is to enhance suspense and open racing. There was nothing more boring the Tours of the 1990s when Miguel Indurain stomped everyone on the opening TT and it was pretty much game over from that point on. But open racing depends on the riders taking initiative. Last year Alaphilippe did that perfectly. But no one is really capable of doing it so far this year.

Do you ever see someone trying to create a French super team with the goal of winning the tour with a French rider? Or is there just too much competition between the French teams? Or too many competing interests in French cycling overall?

It's now two years of heartache at the Tour for Pinot.
It’s now two years of heartache at the Tour for Pinot. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Andy: Groupama-FDJ has come as close to that anyone lately. Of course, the hard part is you need a rider capable of winning the Tour. Pinot seems to be that rider, but always something seems to happen to him. Bardet was a similar role at AG2R-La Mondiale, but that team is a little more international. It certainly is an intriguing idea. A very wealthy French backer would have to step up. Most of the French teams now are at the middle of the pack in terms of budget in the WorldTour. And building a Tour-level teams takes several seasons as well. But I’d love to see it happen. Because then journalists could stop asking Hinault when the next French winner will happen.

James: Hmm, good question. I think there are too many teams. The French have a lot of well-organized, well-funded teams, with, in certain cases, sponsors that have been faithful for over a decade. In addition, while the salaries are often not as high as certain teams, they pay the French social charges and retirement. This is one reason why the French teams struggle to lure foreign riders, because the salaries are lower. But if you are a French rider it is significant because a rider is paying into the system and after they retire has already accumulated a lot of benefits and retirement. But the team budgets are not huge, and there is no room for Alaphilippe, Pinot and Bardet all on the same team.

Has this an exciting or boring Tour?

Pogačar has livened up the Tour. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Andy: I think it’s been pretty good. Most of the real differences have been made with time bonuses and crosswinds. It’s actually been very tight at the top of the GC. Is that more exciting? Well, at least there’s still some drama of who might win. Having one rider clear and away in yellow isn’t that exciting. The level is high now in the Tour it will be interesting to see if another multiple winner can emerge. Roglic looks poised to win several Tours, but didn’t everyone say that after Bernal won last year?

James: For me, in terms of the GC, it has been relatively boring because of the dominance of Jumbo Visma, although I am happy to see another team dominate after years of British rule! I prefer the years where there is no clear leader. I really liked 2011 with Thomas Voeckler and Cadel Evans and I loved last year’s Tour with Alaphilippe turning the tables on everyone until the final weekend in the Alps. But personally I often find the race for the yellow jersey to be the least interesting story in the Tour. Fortunately, there are so many other stories to tell on the Tour.

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