Monday, July 17, 2017

2107 Tour de France Gets Intereesting

Fabio Aru in the Yellow Jersey after stage 12
After losing a couple star sprinters in the first week, the Tour de France got quite interesting in its second week. Chris Froome had looked unbeatable until the final climb on stage 12. Fabio Aru of Italy launched an attack and gained enough time to take the Yellow Jersey. He held it until stage 14, when he lost time in the short but steep climb to the finish line. Froome is back in the Yellow Jersey, but the standings are quite tight:
  1. Chris Froome (UK)
  2. Aru Fabio (Italy) 18 seconds back
  3. Bardet Romain (France) 23 seconds back
  4. Rigoberto Uran (Colombia) 29 seconds
Never in the history of the Tour have the top 4 riders been so close this late in the race. Froome has only a small lead, but he is the best time trial rider among the contenders. Since stage 20 on Saturday is a 14 mile time trial, he is expected to gain additional time against his rivals there. That means the challengers will have to take back considerable time before then. Their best chance to do that is on Thursday's Stage 18, which ends with an out of category climb up Col de Vars. The final climb is nearly 6 miles long with an average grade of 7.5%

In the sprints, Marcel Kittel of Germany has been dominant. With 5 stage wins, he has a chance to tie the record of 8 stage wins in one Tour de France. It has been done 4 times before:
  • Charles Pelissier (1930)
  • Eddy Merckx (1970 & 1974)
  • Freddy Maertens (1976)
Naturally, Kittel has a sizable lead in the Green Jersey standings. Michael Matthews of Australia is in second place with 294 points to Kittel's 373. Matthews may be able to pick up some points in the intermediate sprints of the mountain stages, but it will be very difficult for him to take the Green Jersey from Kittel.

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