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How to improve the first week of the Tour?

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How to improve the first week of the Tour?

14 Jul 2018 10:40

The stage today is farcical. It's Bastille Day but no-one wants to attack because the parcours are flat and tomorrow is the most important stage of the race (probably).

Yesterday we had 231 kilometres and three separate solo attacks with some very brief entertainment in between.

Last year, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck once got in a breakaway on his own and rode 200 kilometres by himself. The year before, the same happened to Armindo Fonseca until Thomas Voeckler took it upon himself to wake up the stage and join Fonseca halfway into the stage.

This is something new. It didn't happen with such frequency ten years ago and because they now broadcast every stage from start to finish it becomes extra obviously farcical.

I see a lot of critique on here against the route designers but what should they do instead? They did design an interesting stage 5 which still ended in a puncheur finish with no incentive to try anything beforehand. Nothing happened before the Mûr de Bretagne either, where everybody wanted to minimise energy loss and hope not to lose time on the final climb.

I think it's because almost every team has a captain who just wants the first week to be over or wants to win stages from bunch sprints. So apart from Direct Energie, Wanty and Fortuneo, no team wants to waste a helper in a futile breakaway attempt. Personally, I find this logic a little flawed. On stage 4, it was very close between the break and the peloton and if some of the stronger teams had sent riders in the break, they might have made it and ensured a little early success.

But we have to go nine years back to find the latest success from a breakaway in the first week of the Tour so nobody thinks it's possible to do it anymore and now that the team size has been reduced, it's even become less attractive to send riders out.

It probably wouldn't help to go back to 9 riders per team given that what we see this year is a continuation of a tendency of recent editions. But what else? They can't make every stage a climbers' or a cobbles stage. They can't control the wind and ensure crosswinds. If they reduce the length of the stages it might spur aggressiveness but many on here have some sort of phobia for shortening stages so that would not be a good solution either, I take it. A further reduction of team size is not realistic and it probably wouldn't work given that it would be even more important to conserve energy.

I don't have a solution but a lot of those who are lamenting the "horrendous parcours design" surely must have. So have at it.
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Re: How to improve the first week of the Tour?

14 Jul 2018 10:47

Maybe they should throw a medium and high mountain in between sprint stages instead of having most of them in the last 2 weeks. Mix it up a bit.
wheresmybrakes
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Re: How to improve the first week of the Tour?

14 Jul 2018 10:57

wheresmybrakes wrote:Maybe they should throw a medium and high mountain in between sprint stages instead of having most of them in the last 2 weeks. Mix it up a bit.


problem is, does France topography allow that?
If I'm not mistaken France does not have mountains at any latitude like Italy, so you have to basically plan the flat stages next to the Alps then
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14 Jul 2018 11:07

I think the obvious solution is the best one. Just have far fewer flat/sprint stages. If that means only spending a couple of days in vast swathes of the north or west of the country, then so be it. After all the Giro doesn't hang around the Po Valley for a whole week, and the Vuelta doesn't spend day after day ploughing through the meseta, even though both regions make up a fair proportion of the country.

Most of eastern and southern France are filled with medium and high mountains, so there is more than enough terrain to work with.

And also a lot of the best sprinters now are so versatile that they would have a chance on medium mountain stages anyway , but at least there would also be the potential for breakaways and GC action. Currently, the only GC action you get for the first week is due to mechanicals and crashes.
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Re: How to improve the first week of the Tour?

14 Jul 2018 11:08

wheresmybrakes wrote:Maybe they should throw a medium and high mountain in between sprint stages instead of having most of them in the last 2 weeks. Mix it up a bit.


Yup, came in to say the same. The tedious structure of "first week = flat / 3rd week = high mountains" has to go. Throw in two mountain stages in the first week, but so that sprinters can survive them. Maybe merely the finish uphill. More classics style stages throughout. I like the inclusion of the Roubaix stage, but why not more pavée throughout the 3 weeks, and not bundle all of it on one stage? Why are stages so formulaic? Sprinter stage, puncheur stage, climber stage... If sprinters want to win a stage, make them work for it, they should be able to survive a cat2 climb at 50 km from the line. Climbers should be able to survive a 1km pavée section 5 km before the final climb starts.

This would also finish the "in form for the third week" BS that GC contenders aim for.

46&twoWheels wrote:
wheresmybrakes wrote:Maybe they should throw a medium and high mountain in between sprint stages instead of having most of them in the last 2 weeks. Mix it up a bit.


problem is, does France topography allow that?
If I'm not mistaken France does not have mountains at any latitude like Italy, so you have to basically plan the flat stages next to the Alps then

This is a fair concern, but not all climbs need to be high mountain climbs, do they?
Last edited by Logic-is-your-friend on 14 Jul 2018 11:12, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar Logic-is-your-friend
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Re:

14 Jul 2018 11:10

DFA123 wrote:I think the obvious solution is the best one. Just have far fewer flat/sprint stages. If that means only spending a couple of days in vast swathes of the north or west of the country, then so be it. After all the Giro doesn't hang around the Po Valley for a whole week, and the Vuelta doesn't spend day after day ploughing through the meseta, even though both regions make up a fair proportion of the country.

Most of eastern and southern France are filled with medium and high mountains, so there is more than enough terrain to work with.

And also a lot of the best sprinters now are so versatile that they would have a chance on medium mountain stages anyway , but at least there would also be the potential for breakaways and GC action. Currently, the only GC action you get for the first week is due to mechanicals and crashes.

Pretty much. I'd rather have them skip the cobbles this year as they are using two totally useless stages to get there in the first place.
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Re: How to improve the first week of the Tour?

14 Jul 2018 11:12

46&twoWheels wrote:
wheresmybrakes wrote:Maybe they should throw a medium and high mountain in between sprint stages instead of having most of them in the last 2 weeks. Mix it up a bit.


problem is, does France topography allow that?
If I'm not mistaken France does not have mountains at any latitude like Italy, so you have to basically plan the flat stages next to the Alps then

Of course France's topography allows it, but it depends what direction you're going. If you're starting in the Vendée and heading north for 9 stages, or starting in the Low Countries and heading towards Brétagne, then you won't have the opportunity to do that. If you head east from the Vendée you can use a bit of the Massif Central. After all, last year we had Planche des Belles Filles on stage 5, when we start in the very north, either in France or overseas in Britain or the Low Countries, the Vosges early on is always possible; the other thing is that the Tour does have a real tendency to avoid the selective roads because they're frightened of things being left to chance, which in turn actually makes things more likely to come down to chance, because the péloton hasn't been broken up on time and so everybody has something to protect.

All GTs should have something at around stage 3-5 that sets the status quo. a puncheur stage is the bare minimum really, we need to create some time gaps that will make people recognize who is a contender and who is a pretender. An ITT, like in 2008, is fine - 20-25km will work - if there aren't any mountains or cobbles to hand. Never a TTT.

The problem for France is twofold. One: all of its mountains are concentrated in specific areas so unlike the Giro and Vuelta it doesn't have the benefit of never being one stage away from a potential mountain stage. Two: the mountains themselves have become brands, and so all too often we get the same areas paying up year upon year, meaning repetitive mountain stages or mountain stages concentrated into a specific area, such as in the Pyrenées where the rectangle with its corners at Pau, Gourette, Luchon and Saint-Gaudens frequently hosts the entirety of the Tour's Pyrenean stages, so that an already restrictive geographical problem becomes even more restrictive.

There are a couple of things we could do though: firstly, not broadcast a 231km flat stage from start to finish and even more importantly not watch a 231km flat stage from start to finish. It's inevitably going to be boring and we know that. Secondly, be a bit more receptive of women's racing. Anna van der Breggen noted the lack of coverage of La Flèche Wallonne, but when she entered the winner's enclosure the TV was on showing the men's race: 89km from the finish. In a race where only the last 2km count. There was very mixed feelings about the women's race being broadcast for its final few kilometres during de Ronde, but it was over 100km from the finish of the men's race and the likelihood of missing anything of any great importance was next to nil. However, in a one-day classic, there is at least the possibility of not being able to catch up on something if something key does happen that far out. In a Grand Tour, that just isn't the case. During the stage 5 'phony war', while they were over 2 hours from the finish, rather than watching nothing happen 100+km from home, we could have watched the last hour of the Giro Rosa, a mountaintop finish on Gerola Alta. We could have watched that, maybe with a little in-screen of the Tour in case something happened, and actually got some racing action - while not missing anything of the Tour because we'd still be back in France in time for the last 90 minutes. People who don't want to watch the women don't miss anything, people who do want to watch the women are incentivized to tune in earlier, and people who don't care either way are given the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the women's bunch as well as watch some more decisive racing as while the Tour is still just warming up, the Giro Rosa hits its peak in the second half of the Tour's first week; once the Tour is into its more decisive stages, where watching far from the finish may actually provide some good racing, the Giro Rosa is over and nobody need complain about the overlap.

I mean, today, it's a Saturday. Prime viewing day. The men are doing 180km of absolute dreck in which precious little is likely to happen until very late on. The women, who set off earlier in the day to allow the highlights packages to be put together, and who finish around 2 hours before the men, are climbing Monte Zoncolan. Even if you don't care about women's cycling, surely you'd rather watch that for a bit and then tune in to the men once the stage gets somewhere closer to the finish?
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14 Jul 2018 11:25

There needs to be a decent incentive to ride in a breakaway. As I type I'm watching two guys plodding on into a headwind with a gap of 5 minutes when 25 minutes probably wouldn't be enough. If there is not even a 2% chance of the break succeeding then what is the point of being there ? (please don't say tv time - there are plenty of ways of getting on tv without riding in a break). I'd like to see more teams refusing to be week 1 breakaway fodder until the sprinter teams start giving them a proper headstart. I think going back some years breakaways got a lot more rope. Ultimately sprint teams need to be made to realise that if there is nobody watching then they are only hurting themselves
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Re: How to improve the first week of the Tour?

14 Jul 2018 11:26

Just start right away in the alps/pyrenees. Mountain TT/prologue + 2 hard mountain stages to begin with. That will instantly create a hierarchy and will stop the remaining GC riders riding for seconds and causing crashes. Those who are not "in form" from the get go will ride opportunistic at any chance, incl. medium range mountain stages. And not even Sky wants to control the race from day 1, so the leading team will allow breakaways to take the yellow until the mountains start again.

Of course I know that will never happen.
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Re:

14 Jul 2018 11:32

Eyeballs Out wrote:There needs to be a decent incentive to ride in a breakaway. As I type I'm watching two guys plodding on into a headwind with a gap of 5 minutes when 25 minutes probably wouldn't be enough. If there is not even a 2% chance of the break succeeding then what is the point of being there ? (please don't say tv time - there are plenty of ways of getting on tv without riding in a break). I'd like to see more teams refusing to be week 1 breakaway fodder until the sprinter teams start giving them a proper headstart. I think going back some years breakaways got a lot more rope. Ultimately sprint teams need to be made to realise that if there is nobody watching then they are only hurting themselves

You'd be going back quite a few years. Remember the HTC train? "Mario Aerts and Jérémy Roy have gained 90 seconds... better peg them back in case they get too dangerous to allow to escape!!!"

Maybe bring back the metas volantes, or have an actual way of classifying the combativity prize, similar to the Trofeo della Fuga or the old Intergiro.
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14 Jul 2018 11:33

I'm pretty sure sprint teams would rather they won boring stages than lose exciting ones.
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14 Jul 2018 11:37

Early 2000's I seem to remember every flat stage was contested by a good break with some great rouleurs. Does my memory fail e here or was it actually the case? The chase was exciting.

This year in particular, it seems every team has a GC-man and therefore won't go in these doomed breaks. 8 man teams doesn't help either has that 9 man maybe would have had a more free role to stagehunt/do whatever, think a type like Jakob Piil in the mid 2000s for CSC when they had Tyler and Basso.
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Re: How to improve the first week of the Tour?

14 Jul 2018 11:46

Libertine Seguros wrote:
46&twoWheels wrote:
wheresmybrakes wrote:Maybe they should throw a medium and high mountain in between sprint stages instead of having most of them in the last 2 weeks. Mix it up a bit.


problem is, does France topography allow that?
If I'm not mistaken France does not have mountains at any latitude like Italy, so you have to basically plan the flat stages next to the Alps then

Of course France's topography allows it, but it depends what direction you're going. If you're starting in the Vendée and heading north for 9 stages, or starting in the Low Countries and heading towards Brétagne, then you won't have the opportunity to do that. If you head east from the Vendée you can use a bit of the Massif Central. After all, last year we had Planche des Belles Filles on stage 5, when we start in the very north, either in France or overseas in Britain or the Low Countries, the Vosges early on is always possible; the other thing is that the Tour does have a real tendency to avoid the selective roads because they're frightened of things being left to chance, which in turn actually makes things more likely to come down to chance, because the péloton hasn't been broken up on time and so everybody has something to protect.

All GTs should have something at around stage 3-5 that sets the status quo. a puncheur stage is the bare minimum really, we need to create some time gaps that will make people recognize who is a contender and who is a pretender. An ITT, like in 2008, is fine - 20-25km will work - if there aren't any mountains or cobbles to hand. Never a TTT.

The problem for France is twofold. One: all of its mountains are concentrated in specific areas so unlike the Giro and Vuelta it doesn't have the benefit of never being one stage away from a potential mountain stage. Two: the mountains themselves have become brands, and so all too often we get the same areas paying up year upon year, meaning repetitive mountain stages or mountain stages concentrated into a specific area, such as in the Pyrenées where the rectangle with its corners at Pau, Gourette, Luchon and Saint-Gaudens frequently hosts the entirety of the Tour's Pyrenean stages, so that an already restrictive geographical problem becomes even more restrictive.

There are a couple of things we could do though: firstly, not broadcast a 231km flat stage from start to finish and even more importantly not watch a 231km flat stage from start to finish. It's inevitably going to be boring and we know that. Secondly, be a bit more receptive of women's racing. Anna van der Breggen noted the lack of coverage of La Flèche Wallonne, but when she entered the winner's enclosure the TV was on showing the men's race: 89km from the finish. In a race where only the last 2km count. There was very mixed feelings about the women's race being broadcast for its final few kilometres during de Ronde, but it was over 100km from the finish of the men's race and the likelihood of missing anything of any great importance was next to nil. However, in a one-day classic, there is at least the possibility of not being able to catch up on something if something key does happen that far out. In a Grand Tour, that just isn't the case. During the stage 5 'phony war', while they were over 2 hours from the finish, rather than watching nothing happen 100+km from home, we could have watched the last hour of the Giro Rosa, a mountaintop finish on Gerola Alta. We could have watched that, maybe with a little in-screen of the Tour in case something happened, and actually got some racing action - while not missing anything of the Tour because we'd still be back in France in time for the last 90 minutes. People who don't want to watch the women don't miss anything, people who do want to watch the women are incentivized to tune in earlier, and people who don't care either way are given the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the women's bunch as well as watch some more decisive racing as while the Tour is still just warming up, the Giro Rosa hits its peak in the second half of the Tour's first week; once the Tour is into its more decisive stages, where watching far from the finish may actually provide some good racing, the Giro Rosa is over and nobody need complain about the overlap.

I mean, today, it's a Saturday. Prime viewing day. The men are doing 180km of absolute dreck in which precious little is likely to happen until very late on. The women, who set off earlier in the day to allow the highlights packages to be put together, and who finish around 2 hours before the men, are climbing Monte Zoncolan. Even if you don't care about women's cycling, surely you'd rather watch that for a bit and then tune in to the men once the stage gets somewhere closer to the finish?


nice overview of the problem!
simply avoiding a complete "Tour de Bretagne" would be a start, with all due respect to the beautiful region. Even if it requires one more day or "relocation". They should definitely consult with you. ;)
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14 Jul 2018 11:50

I think the Tour is becoming more and more of a sprint Tour, I wouldn't be surprised if in the future there will be 2 flat weeks. And they don't dare put in even minor mountains in these stages for fear one of the sprinters might not show.
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14 Jul 2018 12:00

Those that are in the bottom 50 of GC should be cut going into Week 2.
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Re:

14 Jul 2018 12:17

Brullnux wrote:I'm pretty sure sprint teams would rather they won boring stages than lose exciting ones.

That's fine as long as these non-events continue to be staged and showed on tv. Maybe they will, I don't know if non-events generate significantly less money than entertaining stages
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14 Jul 2018 12:26

I haven't watched many stages but it is my understanding that virtually no break has been fought over. The riders aren't competing until the final kilometers, but they're still talking about how they need to take days off and how stressful it is and that long stages are too much and yadda yadda.

As for my solution: cleansing fire.
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14 Jul 2018 12:37

Giant fans so they'll actually have cross-wind on the stages planned for cross-wind.
Aka The Ginger One.
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Re:

14 Jul 2018 12:42

RedheadDane wrote:Giant fans so they'll actually have cross-wind on the stages planned for cross-wind.


Now you're just plagiarising my solution to a completely analogous thread from last year that I didn't remember!

viewtopic.php?f=6&t=31085&p=2143656&hilit=fans#p2143656
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Re: How to improve the first week of the Tour?

14 Jul 2018 12:43

Libertine Seguros wrote:
46&twoWheels wrote:
wheresmybrakes wrote:Maybe they should throw a medium and high mountain in between sprint stages instead of having most of them in the last 2 weeks. Mix it up a bit.


problem is, does France topography allow that?
If I'm not mistaken France does not have mountains at any latitude like Italy, so you have to basically plan the flat stages next to the Alps then

Of course France's topography allows it, but it depends what direction you're going. If you're starting in the Vendée and heading north for 9 stages, or starting in the Low Countries and heading towards Brétagne, then you won't have the opportunity to do that. If you head east from the Vendée you can use a bit of the Massif Central. After all, last year we had Planche des Belles Filles on stage 5, when we start in the very north, either in France or overseas in Britain or the Low Countries, the Vosges early on is always possible; the other thing is that the Tour does have a real tendency to avoid the selective roads because they're frightened of things being left to chance, which in turn actually makes things more likely to come down to chance, because the péloton hasn't been broken up on time and so everybody has something to protect.

All GTs should have something at around stage 3-5 that sets the status quo. a puncheur stage is the bare minimum really, we need to create some time gaps that will make people recognize who is a contender and who is a pretender. An ITT, like in 2008, is fine - 20-25km will work - if there aren't any mountains or cobbles to hand. Never a TTT.

The problem for France is twofold. One: all of its mountains are concentrated in specific areas so unlike the Giro and Vuelta it doesn't have the benefit of never being one stage away from a potential mountain stage. Two: the mountains themselves have become brands, and so all too often we get the same areas paying up year upon year, meaning repetitive mountain stages or mountain stages concentrated into a specific area, such as in the Pyrenées where the rectangle with its corners at Pau, Gourette, Luchon and Saint-Gaudens frequently hosts the entirety of the Tour's Pyrenean stages, so that an already restrictive geographical problem becomes even more restrictive.

There are a couple of things we could do though: firstly, not broadcast a 231km flat stage from start to finish and even more importantly not watch a 231km flat stage from start to finish. It's inevitably going to be boring and we know that. Secondly, be a bit more receptive of women's racing. Anna van der Breggen noted the lack of coverage of La Flèche Wallonne, but when she entered the winner's enclosure the TV was on showing the men's race: 89km from the finish. In a race where only the last 2km count. There was very mixed feelings about the women's race being broadcast for its final few kilometres during de Ronde, but it was over 100km from the finish of the men's race and the likelihood of missing anything of any great importance was next to nil. However, in a one-day classic, there is at least the possibility of not being able to catch up on something if something key does happen that far out. In a Grand Tour, that just isn't the case. During the stage 5 'phony war', while they were over 2 hours from the finish, rather than watching nothing happen 100+km from home, we could have watched the last hour of the Giro Rosa, a mountaintop finish on Gerola Alta. We could have watched that, maybe with a little in-screen of the Tour in case something happened, and actually got some racing action - while not missing anything of the Tour because we'd still be back in France in time for the last 90 minutes. People who don't want to watch the women don't miss anything, people who do want to watch the women are incentivized to tune in earlier, and people who don't care either way are given the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the women's bunch as well as watch some more decisive racing as while the Tour is still just warming up, the Giro Rosa hits its peak in the second half of the Tour's first week; once the Tour is into its more decisive stages, where watching far from the finish may actually provide some good racing, the Giro Rosa is over and nobody need complain about the overlap.

I mean, today, it's a Saturday. Prime viewing day. The men are doing 180km of absolute dreck in which precious little is likely to happen until very late on. The women, who set off earlier in the day to allow the highlights packages to be put together, and who finish around 2 hours before the men, are climbing Monte Zoncolan. Even if you don't care about women's cycling, surely you'd rather watch that for a bit and then tune in to the men once the stage gets somewhere closer to the finish?

I absolutely agree
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