Reform: It's time to liven up the Grand Tours

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I've always been in favour of an increase of TT kilometers so the climber are forced to attack and even if they aren't going to succeed there is action, at least a 50+ kms TT in the second week should be mandatory as well as a short prologue and a medium lenght TT in the last day.
For the sprinters stages they could add some hills so the sprinters has to fight for their chances, one or two stages for one tricky pony like Cavendish and Kittel are enough.
I'm against hard mountains in the first half of a GT, hilly terrain, some muritos, cobbles, sterrato, windy like areas are enough to force action if stages are well designed.
Short stages are good but one per week is enough and not 65 kms jokes, and i would reduce the more possible big MTF, the more easier is the finale of a mountain stage the more riders have to attack from far.
Regarding bonus seconds i'm not against some on the biggest mountains and maybe a return to 20"-12"-8" at the finish to avoid breaks winning almost every non sprinter stage.

The things that should really be avoided are snooker table stages, unipuerto stages and the final parade. And obviusly the neutralizations of tricky finales, i would amend even the 3 kms rule and fake fair play, in the past they used to say "la corsa è corsa, pietà l'è morta", in 1949 Coppi en road to his first double attacked Bartali in both Giro and Tour when he punctured (in the second case while they were team mates for Italy, after Bartali that was in yellow jersey waited for Coppi the previous day and with the team car going away and abandoning him, imagine that happening nowadays...), at that time we had attack after crashes, at feeding zones, after natural breaks (ask Charly Gaul for that), everything was racing and everyone used to take advantage.
 
I actually like GT's that start with a short opening prolog type time trial. These aren't going to decide the race, but at least there are some small gaps. I do love watching a great TTT, but there are maybe 2-4 teams that can actually pull off a truly enjoyable TTT to watch. However, I'm not sure they really belong in races, unless again it's that short opening TT like la Vuelta does. Then have a second TT (in this case an ITT) placed somewhere in the 2nd or 3rd week of the GT. Next classic style stages are helpful. Mono climb stages can be just as boring as flat stages unless the mono climb is some sort of crazy climb to finish the race (either at the top or a decent finish).
 
About ten years ago the Spanish television showed a rerun of the 1988 Tour, won by Delgado. I noticed that I was more captivated by the Tour of 1988 than by the current one - in spite of knowing the outcome. In the past a mountain stage usually meant a selection of ten to fifteen riders would reach the final climb: the ten best climbers and a few helpers. On the final climb there were attacks and the race was really on.

Nowadays a bigger group with more helpers usually reaches the final climb. The Tour has become virtually unwatchable at times because of the domination of one team: first US Postal, then Team Sky. The difference in budget and preferential treatment for one team seem to be the biggest problem. I don't think a different approach to the course selection can change that. The Tour organizers have tried: they did cobblestones, an Ardennes stage, a mur in the first week. At best it gave us one exciting stage without much impact for the GC. Only Nibali took important time in a cobblestone stage, but then his opponents crashed out.

I don't buy the theory that longer time trials force the climbers to attack. Someone like M. A. López isn't going to take the minutes back that he loses in the first time trial, not against five helpers from a strong team. It simply puts him out of contention. I would like to see one long flat time trial and one climbing time trial. Mountain stages should be inspiring to attack. There should be tough MTFs and multiple mountain stages with a really tough penultimate climb. If a climber can't make the difference then, he'll never make it.

I think the problem is mostly with the Tour, but not so much because of the course. The final ten days of the Giro were quite exciting. Just put one or two tough Abruzzi stage in the first week and a finish on Kronplatz or something. Menghen was too far from the finish to lead to much. Of course the broadcasts are too long. In a flat stage you can't expect much to happen 120 km before the finish, but it's already on television.
 
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DanielSong39 said:
Well for me these things ruin the GT suspense:

- Peloton etiquette
- Fake neutralization of stages
- Final stage is a procession
- Inconsistent enforcement of time penalties
- Inconsistent enforcement of substance abuse bans

Usually the above are rigged so that Sky or US Postal or Banesto wins every time. Granted they're not going away any time soon but they makes the race less entertaining.

I would enjoy the sport more if it was race on. The peloton wouldn't stop if Peter Sagan had a flat in Paris-Roubaix, but that's not what happens in a Grand Tour.
Applying the etiquette is confusing, but I don't think forgetting it would result anything but addition inconsistent enforcement of time penalties. About fake neutralization, it's usually because no one sees the stage worth an attempt, and thus the fault is in route desing. About final stage, I don't care whether the final GC stage is 20 or 21, it doesn't change much. The last 2 are problems in all sports.
 
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Pantani_lives said:
About ten years ago the Spanish television showed a rerun of the 1988 Tour, won by Delgado. I noticed that I was more captivated by the Tour of 1988 than by the current one - in spite of knowing the outcome. In the past a mountain stage usually meant a selection of ten to fifteen riders would reach the final climb: the ten best climbers and a few helpers. On the final climb there were attacks and the race was really on.

Nowadays a bigger group with more helpers usually reaches the final climb. The Tour has become virtually unwatchable at times because of the domination of one team: first US Postal, then Team Sky. The difference in budget and preferential treatment for one team seem to be the biggest problem. I don't think a different approach to the course selection can change that. The Tour organizers have tried: they did cobblestones, an Ardennes stage, a mur in the first week. At best it gave us one exciting stage without much impact for the GC. Only Nibali took important time in a cobblestone stage, but then his opponents crashed out.

I don't buy the theory that longer time trials force the climbers to attack. Someone like M. A. López isn't going to take the minutes back that he loses in the first time trial, not against five helpers from a strong team. It simply puts him out of contention. I would like to see one long flat time trial and one climbing time trial. Mountain stages should be inspiring to attack. There should be tough MTFs and multiple mountain stages with a really tough penultimate climb. If a climber can't make the difference then, he'll never make it.

I think the problem is mostly with the Tour, but not so much because of the course. The final ten days of the Giro were quite exciting. Just put one or two tough Abruzzi stage in the first week and a finish on Kronplatz or something. Menghen was too far from the finish to lead to much. Of course the broadcasts are too long. In a flat stage you can't expect much to happen 120 km before the finish, but it's already on television.
If someone like Miguel Ángel López can't take back the time they lost in the time trial, it is because they are not sufficiently all-round to merit being a Grand Tour winner; historically only the very very best pure climbers went on to be GT winners if they didn't have an all-round game. The Angel of the Mountains, Charly Gaul, managed to win some TTs, and Ocaña used his TT as one of his strengths back on home roads in Spain. There are very few riders who were climbers and climbers alone who have won GTs historically - people like José Manuel Fuente, Lucien van Impe and Lucho Herrera are about the only ones until recently. People who were all time legends of the mountains like Vicente Trueba, Julio Jiménez, José María Jiménez, Fabio Parra and José Luís Laguía? Never won a GT.

The problem is, the devaluation of the GPM has been two-pronged. Firstly, Virenque's pioneering the king of the breakaways method (previously, yes, a lot of points could be picked up in breakaways, but often these were breakaways exclusively with GC intent, as the pure climbers looked to use their playgrounds of the mountains to win time back), and secondly, the recognition of race organisers especially since TV coverage has gone through the roof as the number of TV viewing options have increased, that mountain stages are the most popular with the audience, and also the improvement in infrastructure of ski resorts etc. and the proliferation of mountaintop finishes (remember, the Vuelta's first genuine MTF didn't come until 1972) mean that nowadays, the rider whose skillset is for climbing and for climbing alone has no reason not to believe they are a genuine GC rider, and not target the GPM like they might have done in the past. People like Ezequiel Mosquera, Domenico Pozzovivo, Fränk Schleck, Joaquím Rodríguez, these are guys that should have won KOMs in the past. In fact, for decades in Spain, the GPM was considered the second most important thing in the entire race, second only to winning. It was better to finish 10th and win the mountains prize than to finish 2nd and not win it. Until Colombia came to the party in the 80s, when you thought of wispy, unreliable but incredibly exciting grimpeurs, you thought of Spain, and that in large part was the reason. With the majority of the national calendar built out of regions like País Vasco, Catalunya and Asturias, climbers were always the biggest stars in Spain. But while that has continued to a large extent to this day (save for a blip in the 90s and early 00s when, post-Indurain, a lot of TT engines came about and the Vuelta was designed with long TTs leading to the wins by the likes of Ángel Casero and Aitor González; even then, however, when Olano won in 1998 in the fratricidal battle with Chava, the fans - and later the team too - sided overwhelmingly with Jiménez, the wispy, unreliable but more romantic climber). But since Moncoutié retired, the GPM at the Vuelta has just sort of been 'there'. 2012's famous three-way battle between the three great Spanish climbers of the day - who won the GPM? Simon Clarke. 2016 with Quintana battling Froome and the famous Formigal raid - who won the GPM? Omar Fraile.

That's not to belittle the guys like Fraile and Clarke, but can anybody reasonably say that they were the best climber in those races? Assuredly not. Balancing the GPM to the way current cycling is is a challenge that the organizers have had for several years, to keep some intrigue in the competition but try to ensure that it goes to representative names.

The Giro for many years had the "arrival" category of mountain, which paid more points than a cat.1 regardless of difficulty, and a one-off Cima Coppi category which paid double the cat.1 points. This generally seemed to work, and the jersey only occasionally went to GC irrelevances in breakaways, and if it did it was because they worked their tails off to defend it, like Fabian Wegmann in 2004, being in 9 BOTD exploits. Otherwise the people winning it were people like Piepoli, and then it was being targeted by riders who were on the outer edges of GC contention, and often riding on the domestic wildcard teams. People like Julio Alberto Pérez Cuapio, late-career Stefano Garzelli and Emanuele Sella. That classification worked so well that the Vuelta, which had been giving a lot of points some way down the line allowing people who got into the jersey to often defend it just by picking up the leftovers once the break had rolled through, cloned it for 2010, although when they went MTF bonanza in 2012, they got rid of the "arrival" category entirely, replacing its points tally with the "ESP" category not existent in the Giro (which itself revamped by introducing cat.4 mountains in 2011). Since the revamp of the points classification, the Giro's GPM has been won by GC irrelevances more often, albeit typically by stronger climbers such as Mikel Nieve and Julián Arredondo. And after winning the queen stage and his performance yesterday, nobody would say Ciccone doesn't deserve the jersey he's worked for in the 2019 Giro.

The Tour, by contrast, had attempted to counter Virenque's method by offering double points to the final climb of the day if it was a cat.2 or higher. This idea seems eminently sensible, but was hamstrung by the simple fact that course design in the late 2000s was absolutely terrible, leading to double points being paid out for climbs that were inevitable breakaway fodder, like Tourmalet in the 2009 Tarbes stage or Aubisque in the 2010 Pau stage - both over 65km from the line. When Anthony Charteau won the polka dots in 2010, they decided they'd had enough and something had to change. I feel bad for Charteau that he got disrespected like that; there were two additional features that settled that GPM in his favour, neither of which were his fault.
- on stage 9, members of the breakaway were instructed by their teams not to interfere with Jérôme Pineau's points gathering on early summits, so that they could guarantee a Frenchman held the jersey into Bastille Day. Among the break that day were Sandy Casar, Christophe Moreau and Anthony Charteau, and Charteau rolled over a few of the uncontested summits behind Pineau (quite smartly), actually taking the jersey for one day after Pineau cracked on the final, double points-paying Col de la Madeleine, but this interfered with the sprint for points behind
- Moreau was interested in the KOM, with the Caisse d'Épargne team having no leader, and got himself into such a position to contend, but in week 3 Radioshack were killing every move that a Caisse rider got in, in order to defend their lead in the Teams Classification, so when Moreau didn't get into the break on stage 17, there was no chance to beat Charteau anymore.
One wonders whether, had Christophe Moreau won the GPM, a fading (38-year-old) former GC hopeful of France, there would have been the same outcry and revamping of the classification. However, the Tour has gone too far the other way, doubling the points for a summit finish only, and having a HC climb be worth 25 points to a cat.1's 10 - meaning that in last year's Tour, taking every single point available in the Le Grand Bornand stage - Bluffy, Croix-Fry, Plateau de Glières, Romme and Colombière - would have netted 56 points, but winning a unipuerto HC stage would net 50 points. Taking every single summit of the 2016 Culoz stage nets 54 points. At first it seemed to work, with people like Samuel Sánchez and Rafał Majka winning (although Majka only targeted it after becoming a GC irrelevance, so how that made it different to when Virenque or Pellizotti won it I don't know), but we've seen it won a couple of times by accident because of those Unipuerto stages - Froome in 2015 most notably.

Now, how to offer a solution to this problem, I simply don't know. But the fact of the matter is, the GPM should be the prize that the pure climbers go for. They should be able to win it while still competing for the GC - but they shouldn't be able to WIN the GC unless they are either an absolute special, one-in-a-million climber like Fuente or Herrera were, or the favourites make errors in dealing with them, like with Rasmussen in 2007. They ought to be able to win the GPM with their attempts to make up the time lost, like people like Fuente used to do and like we have seen from the likes of Chiapucci, Rasmussen, or Jiménez, or as a means to salvage a race which has gone awry, like Landa in 2017 or Majka. But without those deficits, there is never a reason for a specialist climber to be allowed up the road, because they're too dangerous to allow to do that. It's why most of those super stages we've seen where the unexpected happens and the big guns attack from far always happen well into week 3, because they're throwing hail marys. Quintana over Croix de Fer to Alpe d'Huez, Contador on Collado de la Hoz, Quintana and Contador on the Alto de Petralba, Roberto Heras on La Colladiella, Schleck on Agnello, Froome on Finestre. These are climbers pulling off often GPM-worthy exploits reminiscent of the great climbers of the past, reminding us of Fuente to Tre Cime in '74 or Chiapucci to Sestrières in '92, but they are late-race one-offs. The increased control of races has meant time gaps are smaller these days, and while that in many respects is better, it's also in other respects worse as it means the leash people are kept on is tighter, and there isn't room for more than the occasional exploit of that nature.
 
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If you have the best team with (near) best climber, it's really hard to make big gaps in the mountains. But at the moment especially Tour doesn't even try to do anything to help that. Instead they make mountain stages to be 'time trials' up the final climb and then cut the actual TT mileage.
 
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Red Rick said:
With the current mountain trains, exluding most climbers by adding TT mileage will take the suspense out of almost every GC.
The trains work because there are junior lenght mountain stages in which one team is enough to control the race and with limited gaps due to lack of TT mileage no one attacks but try to control from the start a stage like this and see how long the train lasts with the climbers in need to take minutes and minutes back after a 60/70 kms ITT.

 
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Nirvana said:
Red Rick said:
With the current mountain trains, exluding most climbers by adding TT mileage will take the suspense out of almost every GC.
The trains work because there are junior lenght mountain stages in which one team is enough to control the race and with limited gaps due to lack of TT mileage no one attacks but try to control from the start a stage like this and see how long the train lasts with the climbers in need to take minutes and minutes back after a 60/70 kms ITT.

Yeah 60/70km of ITT seems about the practical max you can get to still get a lot of suspension. The weird thing is in the Tour it seems much harder.

I have been trying to think about the right way to disrupt the trains and I really think long climbs are better than steep ones. Basically the absolute monster climbs are where guys like Kwiatkowski and Castroviejo stop being really great at controlling a break. The problem then becomes that the Tour always used the same 3 super massive climbs, and never in a really good way. Croix de Fer is also just really terrible.

Col de Portet kinda showed what happens when they get to a really hard 16km climb and they only have one great domestique left. They will 100% ride a negative split and a guy like Quintana is allowed to attack early and get free reign as long as they're no threat.

Ideally you create a situation where the top climbing domestique is forced to work in a valley or on a climb that's not actually that steep.

Another thing that keeps happening is that the dominant team will not get punished for doing most of the early parts of a hard stage with their flat domestique, because after a hard start the right break gets away and then everyone agrees to wait, either because the terrain that's too come is still too hard or because the hard start was on a climb that wasn't too hard so nobody is dropped by minutes at the start.

Also, while I am big on long mountain stages, the extra flat that comes with extra climbs can really ruin the potential of early attacks and GC breakaways. And GC breaks are absolutely essential because without them Ineos will just chase with their worst climber, give the breakaway days and arrive extra fresh to the essential parts of the climb.
 
What will Ineos' team be at this Tour? Froome, Thomas, Bernal, Poels, Kwiatkowski, Moscon, Rowe; plus another climbing domestique? Anyway, that looks very strong, going to be hard to do much against it, unless of course Ineos' strongest rider is significantly weaker than another rider in the race.
 
I wonder to which extent Tour mountain stages are affected by how incredibly flat first weeks tend to be, as the better rouleurs tend to deal with the transition better, which the majority of Ineos riders are.
 
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Red Rick said:
I wonder to which extent Tour mountain stages are affected by how incredibly flat first weeks tend to be, as the better rouleurs tend to deal with the transition better, which the majority of Ineos riders are.
Not sure, the Tour in recent years has had better first weeks than ten to twenty years ago imo. And this year we have medium mountains on stages 5 & 6.

But I have too much mental fatigue from late nights watching the giro to ponder this properly right now :D
 
DanielSong39 said:
Breh said:
DanielSong39 said:
Ironically the best time trials in terms of upsetting race balance are the pan flat 30km time trials since the specialists will gain more time relative to climbers. A single 30km flat time trial near the end of the race and perhaps a shorter 10-15km flat time trial earlier in the race is plenty.

Still nothing we suggest will stop teams from braking for the yellow jersey or the racing jury/UCI from rigging the race for the yellow jersey so I'm afraid there isn't much we can do about the root issues.
But what if the best ITT'ers are also the best climbers?
Well then they deserve to win the race.
 
The thing with the best time-trialers being also the best climbers and dominating a race with long ITTs is that we still get a better race because everybody else has to work at least for the podium or to not be completely irrelevant. With the current setup, we only get the illusion of a close race, but that illusion is cancerous and it's what kills the spectacle.
 
This years Giro has been a bit of a let down.

For me, a GT should be an all round test of a cyclist; the best should (in theory) win. Someone who can climb, Time trial, bike handling, etc
So you want a bit of everything.
An early short TTT so there are no race defining gaps. A sensible amount of ITT, 50-70KM, a good mix of stage distances; long flat 200+km to short mountainous 100-120km stages, every so often a cobbled/ gravel surface stage. I'd like to see the first week less flat & sprint friendly, as it seems to produce nervousness, and the obligatory crashes.

Designing a GT route isn't easy, but sometimes you feel it's a bit all too formulaic. I don't like to see organisers designing a route to favour a rider/team, nor trying to stop a rider/team winning. It's all a bit WWE. Design a route and let them get on with it.
And finally, I'm not a fan of backloading all the mountain action into the last week.
 
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Axel Hangleck said:
This years Giro has been a bit of a let down.

For me, a GT should be an all round test of a cyclist; the best should (in theory) win. Someone who can climb, Time trial, bike handling, etc
So you want a bit of everything.
An early short TTT so there are no race defining gaps. A sensible amount of ITT, 50-70KM, a good mix of stage distances; long flat 200+km to short mountainous 100-120km stages, every so often a cobbled/ gravel surface stage. I'd like to see the first week less flat & sprint friendly, as it seems to produce nervousness, and the obligatory crashes.

Designing a GT route isn't easy, but sometimes you feel it's a bit all too formulaic. I don't like to see organisers designing a route to favour a rider/team, nor trying to stop a rider/team winning. It's all a bit WWE. Design a route and let them get on with it.
And finally, I'm not a fan of backloading all the mountain action into the last week.
Problem these days with strong teams, you can take time on one stage and then defend. There’s not a lot of success in riding the way Yates did last year. Even more boring if a GT rider is a strong TT’er like Froome. No course will compensate for defensive Sky like tactics. The only way would be for a time bonuses mid stage in the 30 second range.
 
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Libertine Seguros said:
The problem is, the devaluation of the GPM has been two-pronged.
Agreed. Like i said earlier:

I would also like to see a classification for "best climber" based on total climbing time, and not who passes the top first.
Maybe the only way for double points should be by passing the top first as well as having the fastest climb, if there are still points for both reaching the top first as well as climbing time. It could still give attackers from the break a chance, but pure climbers would always be in the advantage. Or they can do away with points on top of the climb completely.
 
LS covered just about every base. A few points were made that I'd like to expand on:

Classic-like stages: why make them shorter than the original? Distance softens a peloton, makes it more difficult to control the race, is more likely to produce gaps. Placed before a rest day, a short ITT or TTT, or, say, as stage 20, why not? Oh yes, the '14 TdF: so what?

To link different items about the TdF: starts in the Benelux, UK, often lead to many flat stages through the plains in the North and West of France. That's when long stages should come into play, like the Nantes-Bordeaux won by Raas in '83 or '84: better have one boring 338 km flat stage rather than two. And coming from the north, the Vosges and Jura have historically been underused or poorly used. And still poorly used: to LS' point, riders know the PDBF like the back of their hand. Extending it won't do the trick.

There are many areas besides the Vosges and Jura offering untapped opportunities for hilly stages, trap stages, in the Forez, Gorges du Tarn, et caetera.

And yes, definitely, the same old, same old climbs no longer possess any element of surprise: how about Mont Lozere? The Puy de Dome is narrower than it used to be with the tracks on the left side of the road, but no doubt ASO can pressure the authorities and do it once. The whole Arnosteguy/St. Jean PDP area has some of the nastiests climbs in France...et caetera.

Polka-dot jersey: should be, as it used to be, only second to the yellow jersey. What the three jerseys represent may have been lost. Wasn't green for the most consistent rider, not for the best sprinter? The yellow for the best all-around rider? By trying to give climbers a chance to win the overall, the KOM has become more difficult for the best climber to win, vs. a good climber not perceived at a GC threat. Designs need to make that formula work.
 
Tonton said:
Classic-like stages: why make them shorter than the original? Distance softens a peloton, makes it more difficult to control the race, is more likely to produce gaps.
Because there is a difference between riding the RVV on a sunday with an entire week prior and after where you get to rest up, and placing it in the middle of a hectic and hard 3 weeks. Guys like Bernal could lose 10 minutes on guys like Nibali in a 265km RVV stage alone. Maybe that's a bit much?

Tonton said:
Polka-dot jersey: should be, as it used to be, only second to the yellow jersey. What the three jerseys represent may have been lost. Wasn't green for the most consistent rider, not for the best sprinter? The yellow for the best all-around rider? By trying to give climbers a chance to win the overall, the KOM has become more difficult for the best climber to win, vs. a good climber not perceived at a GC threat. Designs need to make that formula work.
Green was just a different classification, alternative to yellow. Just like you get points in Formula one. But because the abundance of sprint stages, the sprinters always took a lead in this classification that allround/GC riders could not overtake. There are things to say about that as well (why do you lose your points if you can't finish the race? If a F1 car crashes and the rider gets injured, can't ride the final two races, he doesn't get robbed of his points).
 
Logic-is-your-friend said:
Tonton said:
Classic-like stages: why make them shorter than the original? Distance softens a peloton, makes it more difficult to control the race, is more likely to produce gaps.
Guys like Bernal could lose 10 minutes on guys like Nibali in a 265km RVV stage alone. Maybe that's a bit much?

Tonton said:
Polka-dot jersey: should be, as it used to be, only second to the yellow jersey. What the three jerseys represent may have been lost. Wasn't green for the most consistent rider, not for the best sprinter? The yellow for the best all-around rider? By trying to give climbers a chance to win the overall, the KOM has become more difficult for the best climber to win, vs. a good climber not perceived at a GC threat. Designs need to make that formula work.
Green was just a different classification, alternative to yellow. Just like you get points in Formula one. But because the abundance of sprint stages, the sprinters always took a lead in this classification that allround/GC riders could not overtake.
To the first point: Ahead of the Tour, Bernal's team would be wise to choose a line-up that can help on that stage. After that if he loses ten minutes, so what? And that may mean less mountain help, which now makes a train less possible. I only see benefits here.

To the second point, the point system over the years has evolved in favor of flat stages. That plus ten flat stages, and here we are. Why not change it, make it the same for every stage, and here you have the most consistent rider: Peter Sagan.
 
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Bye Bye Bicycle said:
Flat stages are part of the DNA of GTs and - just have a look on the map - a geographic necessity. If they bore you, don’t watch them.
A flat stage here and there, as a transition, is one thing. Five, six, seven in a row, or six out of eight to start a GT, that's a little excessive, no?
 

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