Vuelta a España Vuelta a España 2020: Stage 6 (Biescas - Aramón Formigal, 146.6 km)

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I think it would be more true to say “Froome tended to wait until the first major mountain stage to take the lead.” The exception to that was 2017 when G won the “prologue.”

Teams who are set up to win the Tour are usually happy to have the leader’s jersey, but when they have it they’re expected to defend it, and that can be quite a workload for domestiques. It’s why Astana were happy to let Gallopin take yellow for a day in 2014. Lemond took yellow “too early” in 1991, (after the ITT on stage 8) and his team, who picked a lot of climbers for the mountain stages at the back end of the Tour, had to ride to control flat stages in Norther France early in the 2nd week, and by the time the mountains rolled around they were spent. Lemond was on his own from day 1 in the Pyrenees and his race was over.
I don't think the Lemond loss was due to taking the jersey too early.
 
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I don't think the Lemond loss was due to taking the jersey too early.
Lemond did not lose the 1991 Tour due to taking the jersey early.

Lemond was isolated on the 2 stages in the Pyrenees on the 1991 Tour in part due to his lightweight team having to do too much work on the flat roads of Normandy and Brittany. He couldn’t have won the Tour after that, even if he had the same legs as his opponents. Which he didn’t.

I used it more as an example of “why taking the jersey can be a bad thing,” rather than a definite example of a Tour being lost because of it.
 
I think it would be more true to say “Froome tended to wait until the first major mountain stage to take the lead.” The exception to that was 2017 when G won the “prologue.”

Teams who are set up to win the Tour are usually happy to have the leader’s jersey, but when they have it they’re expected to defend it, and that can be quite a workload for domestiques. It’s why Astana were happy to let Gallopin take yellow for a day in 2014. Lemond took yellow “too early” in 1991, (after the ITT on stage 8) and his team, who picked a lot of climbers for the mountain stages at the back end of the Tour, had to ride to control flat stages in Norther France early in the 2nd week, and by the time the mountains rolled around they were spent. Lemond was on his own from day 1 in the Pyrenees and his race was over.
Sorry to be pedantic, but your memory of that Tour seem a bit hazy, LeMond only had the jersey for 3 days before the mountains. Wasn't like they were defending it for a week or anything. You are right in that he was isolated on the first mountain stage, but he still finished with all the favourites. It was the following stage to Val Louron where he lost the Tour and had to be paced home by his team-mate Eric Boyer.

LeMond was flying at the start of that Tour, but faltered badly on that one stage. On his team, Robert Millar and Atle Kvalsvoll, two of his main mountain men were involved in crashes in the first week. Kvalsvoll abandoned and Millar was riding in a neck brace and was nowhere near his normal level because of it. Definitely more difficult when you lose 2 of your best mountain domestiques, but I think it was more down to LeMonds own decline than anything. He won in 89 with virtually no team.
 
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Sorry to be pedantic, but your memory of that Tour seem a bit hazy, LeMond only had the jersey for 3 days before the mountains. Wasn't like they were defending it for a week or anything. You are right in that he was isolated on the first mountain stage, but he still finished with all the favourites. It was the following stage to Val Louron where he lost the Tour and had to be paced home by his team-mate Eric Boyer.

LeMond was flying at the start of that Tour, but faltered badly on that one stage. On his team, Robert Millar and Atle Kvalsvoll, two of his main mountain men were involved in crashes in the first week. Kvalsvoll abandoned and Millar was riding in a neck brace and was nowhere near his normal level because of it. Definitely more difficult when you lose 2 of your best mountain domestiques, but I think it was more down to LeMonds own decline than anything. He won in 89 with virtually no team.
They only had it for 3 days, but they had days where they were the "de facto" leaders (the day after Sorensen's crash, when there was no MJ in the race). I think there was also a suggestion that Castorama didn't seem too enthusiastic about defending Thierry Marie's yellow.

Boyer caught up to Lemond on Val Louron after he had cracked badly, but he had been isolated for most of both stages until then. Cornillet would have been expected to be up there in the mountains, too. Millar and Kvalsvoll's injuries obviously hurt the team anyway, but Millar has said that having to ride at the front on those days was not ideal for him. They really only had Duclos for that job, and with the injuries, Duclos was then expected to work on the mountain stages too...

Lemond wasn't going to win that race anyway, but with no support on the mountains, and being a targeted rider as the 3-time winner, his chances of being competitive were pretty much zero.

Point being, "taking the jersey too early" isn't an empty notion or just a platitude. If you're the strongest team in the race, like Sky or Postal or Jumbo*, then yes, taking the jersey early, holding onto it, and controlling the whole race is a valid strategy. But if you don't have the strongest team, having to ride on the front all day can come back and bite you in the backside. And even the likes of Sky, Postal, or Banesto were usually happy to have a Tony Martin, a Voeckler, or a Pascal Lino get their few days of glory. When vanAvermaet took yellow in 2016, he had to go in the break himself the next day to keep it, because BMC's GC focus was on keeping Porte out of trouble.


*Leaving Jumbo in here to illustrate that even when you're the strongest team in the race, this tactic doesn't always work.
 
Point being, "taking the jersey too early" isn't an empty notion or just a platitude. If you're the strongest team in the race, like Sky or Postal or Jumbo*, then yes, taking the jersey early, holding onto it, and controlling the whole race is a valid strategy. But if you don't have the strongest team, having to ride on the front all day can come back and bite you in the backside. And even the likes of Sky, Postal, or Banesto were usually happy to have a Tony Martin, a Voeckler, or a Pascal Lino get their few days of glory. When vanAvermaet took yellow in 2016, he had to go in the break himself the next day to keep it, because BMC's GC focus was on keeping Porte out of trouble.


*Leaving Jumbo in here to illustrate that even when you're the strongest team in the race, this tactic doesn't always work.
Racing changed a lot since 1990. Nowadays it is enough to put a Tony Martin or Davide Ballerini in the front and the job is done 95% of the time. Sometimes there is still anarchy, but then, as a team of a favorite, you have to work anyway, regardless who wears the leaders jersey. Just look at the Giro. Deceuninck Quick Step had to "defend" the leaders jersey since stage four. At the last mountains stage to Sestriere their domestiques reached the positions 10-14-20-25. They obviously did not get tired. The same guys get the positions 16-22-65-70 at Etna on stage 3.
 
Point being, "taking the jersey too early" isn't an empty notion or just a platitude. If you're the strongest team in the race, like Sky or Postal or Jumbo*, then yes, taking the jersey early, holding onto it, and controlling the whole race is a valid strategy. But if you don't have the strongest team, having to ride on the front all day can come back and bite you in the backside. And even the likes of Sky, Postal, or Banesto were usually happy to have a Tony Martin, a Voeckler, or a Pascal Lino get their few days of glory. When vanAvermaet took yellow in 2016, he had to go in the break himself the next day to keep it, because BMC's GC focus was on keeping Porte out of trouble.


*Leaving Jumbo in here to illustrate that even when you're the strongest team in the race, this tactic doesn't always work.
I don't really understand why the big teams are so scared of shopping the jersey to a break these days. You're not really right on Sky, though, they would invariably tend to take the jersey in the first major mountain stage (or the first long TT if applicable) and carry it throughout. Martin wasn't 'shopping the jersey' as much as not being so intent on chasing him, he went just 3km from the line and was very close to the maillot jaune regardless. Aru, of course, took the jersey on merit whilst competing for it. Elsewise, Team Sky have always sought to defend the jersey from the moment they get it, and work from a position of strength using their main (and for many years only) tactic, a further development of that of the teams you mention. I think the 2010 Giro and 2011 Tour might be the races that put letting the break take the jersey out of vogue for a while, because the former was an error by the bunch in failing to control who got into the break such that its advantage became unmanageable, while the latter was a comparatively small time gap but with few really strong teams, the big guys really underestimated Voeckler, and so riders who would previously have been major candidates for shopping the jersey were suddenly seen as more threatening after Arroyo nearly won the Giro and Voeckler took nearly two weeks to dethrone. You'd have thought Óscar Pereiro would be the catalyst for change, but clearly not. However, it might be a bit more crucial again now that GTs are done in teams of 8 rather than 9 as they were before.

Back in the era between Postal and Sky, with only occasionally a superpowered team, it happened with some regularity - Marco Pinotti in the 2007 Giro, Gianni Visconti in the 2008 Giro, Romain Feillu in the 2008 Tour, Sylvain Chavanel in the 2008 Vuelta, Egoí Martínez in the 2008 Vuelta, Rinaldo Nocentini in the 2009 Tour, Thomas Voeckler in the 2011 Tour. It seems to be that some teams are still comfortable with it as a concept - Astana shipped the jersey to Gallopin in the 2014 Tour and Nicolas Edet in the 2019 Vuelta; Movistar shipped it to David de la Cruz in the 2016 Vuelta - but Jumbo seem like they're not really comfortable with it.

Looking at the GC of the Vuelta at the moment, however, there would be some prime candidates to shop the jersey to if Ineos, or whoever, wanted to preserve some of their domestiques. With a climb like Anglirú, any of the ATVs who are inside 20-30 minutes would be good candidates to let have some time. If somebody like Gorka Izagirre (12th @ +3'19") got into a break, he doesn't even need that big a gap and he's in red. Others like Luís León Sánchez (24th @ +10'21") could be possibilities - Vlasov isn't really close enough to be banked on as a GC podium aim, so another stage win and a stint in red might be a good thing for Astana. Guillaume Martin (21st @ +7'45") and José Herrada (27th @ +14'26") are also candidates - Cofidis have had a poor year but are sponsors of this race so could do with something to take from it, and for Herrada it could be a nice present in his late career after his brother got a similar gift from Mitchelton-Scott two years ago. Teams might be a bit more wary of Gino Mäder as he's only 4 minutes down, but Kobe Goossens (25th @ +13'43"), Georg Zimmermann (26th @ +14'01") and Will Barta (28th @ +15'13") are all far enough down that the big guns won't fear them upsetting the GC apple cart, close enough that they can be allowed to gain that time without the stage being a complete farce, and their teams don't have a hand in the GC race (which is why I omit people like Nieve, Ivan Sosa and Veronoa) and would likely see the race as a success if they got even just one or two days in red.

And hey, if the other big teams want to keep you in the lead, then they've got to do the pacing themselves, which is as good as not having the jersey if not better because it won't be Cofidis or CCC tiring their domestiques out, but rival teams in the GC mix. A good example here is in the 2008 Vuelta - Leipheimer was in the maillot oro after the ITT but Contador was the on-paper leader. They shopped the jersey to Chavanel on time bonuses for a day, then re-acquired it in the mountains. Euskaltel-Euskadi got Egoí Martínez into a break in a transitional stage after the Pyrenées, and he was close enough to get into the race lead. Caisse d'Épargne decided that if they could keep Leipheimer in the jersey, however, it would potentially foster discontent in the Astana ranks, so decided to try to chase the break down to prevent Martínez getting into the lead. This blew up spectacularly on them. Firstly, they failed to bring the time gap down enough thanks to Astana and Euskaltel running interference to disrupt the chase, and secondly, when Valverde dropped off the péloton to get a rain jacket and the péloton split, Euskaltel then got on the front to help Astana distance the Don, in retribution for trying to prevent them getting the race lead a few days earlier. Astana therefore didn't have to do as much work on the stage they shopped the jersey, Euskaltel then worked to defend the jersey in the next few stages, taking the responsibility off Astana, and then helped them distance Valverde on a day when they didn't need to do that work because the split in the bunch meant the pace was up anyway.
 
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Racing changed a lot since 1990. Nowadays it is enough to put a Tony Martin or Davide Ballerini in the front and the job is done 95% of the time. Sometimes there is still anarchy, but then, as a team of a favorite, you have to work anyway, regardless who wears the leaders jersey. Just look at the Giro. Deceuninck Quick Step had to "defend" the leaders jersey since stage four. At the last mountains stage to Sestriere their domestiques reached the positions 10-14-20-25. They obviously did not get tired. The same guys get the positions 16-22-65-70 at Etna on stage 3.
Quickstep can do it, but see my point about Strongest team in the race; that was a squad that was originally picked to help Remco win a Giro, so no surprise that they were able to control the race for a long time. And I mean, come on. It's Quickstep. You're surprised that they can control a peloton? Also, 3 of the 4 guys who finished high on Sestriere were in the break.

And Quickstep reinforces my point about Tony Martin; Sky were happy to let Martin, never a GC contender, have the jersey for a few days, early on, because it meant a strong team would control the race and keep drama to a minimum until the mountains.
 
They only had it for 3 days, but they had days where they were the "de facto" leaders (the day after Sorensen's crash, when there was no MJ in the race). I think there was also a suggestion that Castorama didn't seem too enthusiastic about defending Thierry Marie's yellow.

Boyer caught up to Lemond on Val Louron after he had cracked badly, but he had been isolated for most of both stages until then. Cornillet would have been expected to be up there in the mountains, too. Millar and Kvalsvoll's injuries obviously hurt the team anyway, but Millar has said that having to ride at the front on those days was not ideal for him. They really only had Duclos for that job, and with the injuries, Duclos was then expected to work on the mountain stages too...

Lemond wasn't going to win that race anyway, but with no support on the mountains, and being a targeted rider as the 3-time winner, his chances of being competitive were pretty much zero.

Point being, "taking the jersey too early" isn't an empty notion or just a platitude. If you're the strongest team in the race, like Sky or Postal or Jumbo*, then yes, taking the jersey early, holding onto it, and controlling the whole race is a valid strategy. But if you don't have the strongest team, having to ride on the front all day can come back and bite you in the backside. And even the likes of Sky, Postal, or Banesto were usually happy to have a Tony Martin, a Voeckler, or a Pascal Lino get their few days of glory. When vanAvermaet took yellow in 2016, he had to go in the break himself the next day to keep it, because BMC's GC focus was on keeping Porte out of trouble.


*Leaving Jumbo in here to illustrate that even when you're the strongest team in the race, this tactic doesn't always work.

So how did LeMond win in 89 with no help in the mountains? On the stage to Val Louron in 91, it came down to a straight shoot-out between the big guns. LeMond even attacked on the Tourmalet, when it was down to about 10 riders, but then got dropped before the top which is when Indurain/Chiappucci escaped. LeMond then lost 7 minutes to them by the finish. You could argue if he had team-mates to chase, they might not have lost so much time, but the reality is LeMond was dropped. If he had been in top form, this would not have happened or he would not have lost that amount of time. Those were not the days of a team riding to the final mountain so not having a team-mate is just cover for LeMonds own decline.
 
Jul 15, 2019
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I guess this year it's because of the "race could be over tomorrow" thing hanging over the peloton. But didn't it happen as late as the Vuelta last year? Stage 8, large group got away with almost ten minutes, Edet got the jersey.
Breakaways took the jersey at all three Grand Tours last year. Twice at the Vuelta. Jumbo and Roglic gave it away at the Giro. The threat of cancellation might play a part, but I think more importantly the race situation for it hasn't been there until now -Yates and Almeida not being GC favourites didn't have any reason to ship it at the Tour and Giro - by the time Roglic wore yellow the guys they might want to give it to were miles behind.
 
It could be interesting to know how many layers of clothing some of the riders were wearing during this stage. There were some riders much more bundled up than other riders were.
Watching the US broadcast of Stage 6 you can see Jumbo getting musettes with thermal jackets at the 40km mark, which is very close (too close) to the Summit to be doing that. Gesink drops one, maybe two jackets getting into the musette; which could be the start of Jumbo's problems. I suspect that more chaos could have occurred (CN says Primoz had a mechanical) and they may have had to stop to get a bike and jackets from the car. Primoz makes it across to the lead peloton at about 21km from the finish as they approach the climb with only George Bennett who does not have a thermal jacket on. That puts them at possibly a 20km chase across to the peloton that is completely ballistic because they know Roglic and Jumbo are out of the picture. He's lucky to be as close to the lead as he is with that kind of untimely luck.
 
Watching the US broadcast of Stage 6 you can see Jumbo getting musettes with thermal jackets at the 40km mark, which is very close (too close) to the Summit to be doing that. Gesink drops one, maybe two jackets getting into the musette; which could be the start of Jumbo's problems. I suspect that more chaos could have occurred (CN says Primoz had a mechanical) and they may have had to stop to get a bike and jackets from the car. Primoz makes it across to the lead peloton at about 21km from the finish as they approach the climb with only George Bennett who does not have a thermal jacket on. That puts them at possibly a 20km chase across to the peloton that is completely ballistic because they know Roglic and Jumbo are out of the picture. He's lucky to be as close to the lead as he is with that kind of untimely luck.
Good point on Bennett not having the thermal jacket on. I still have that stage on the DVR because I still plan on going back and watching that part to see if there was anything else on video. You're right Gesink did drop at least 1 jacket and then we hear later about the jacket issue, so that shouldn't be fully surprising to us. I'm fairly confident we can say that at least some of the riders had 4 layers on at one point or another during the race. The question is how many had more than 4 layers on. Valverde had at least 5 layers on at one point during the race and I don't think it was cold enough for him to have had more than 6 layers. I do wonder if there were more riders who had 5 layers on at some point or another during the stage.
 

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