SAN DIEGO, July 19, 2015 – Sunday’s Stage 15 at the Tour de France was overshadowed by a nasty incident involving overall leader Chris Froome of Team Sky.
Near the start of Saturday’s Stage 14, a French spectator threw a cup of urine on Froome, shouting “Doper!” The inevitable questions are being asked in news media coverage about whether Froome’s dominating performance so far might be aided by pharmaceuticals.
Froome was disgusted as you might imagine, but threw the blame mainly on the media for raising the spectre of doping. Froome said the fans have been wonderful for the most post, but when the media stirs things up, these sort of incidents happen.
There are very few sporting events where fans get as close to the competitors as professional cycling. They are inches from the cyclist flying past, especially on the mountain stages where it seems completely crazy to see thousands of people crowding the cyclists as they pass by. But the event is surprisingly incident free most of the time.
While it is understandable Froome is upset by the assault, blaming the media is a cheap shot. With cycling’s history of doping, there will be skepticism and the competitors need to understand and put up with it, proving they are clean by being transparent, cooperating fully with doping control efforts, and calling out any riders who aren’t playing fair.
Now, onto to Sunday’s results. On this slow descent into the Rhone Valley, a breakaway composed of several strong riders including Peter Sagan of Tinkoff Saxo did its best to stay away, but the peloton reeled them in to set up a spectacular sprint finish.
Initially the run-up seemed a little disorganized, but Lotto Soudal set up their man Andre Greipel perfectly, and the big man called “the Gorilla” is showing the best form of his career at age 33, blowing past his rivals for his third stage win. John Degenkolb of Team Giant-Alpecin, Alexander Kristoff of Katusha and Sagan followed in order.
After the finish, Michael Matthews of Orica Greenedge had words with a Confidis rider after being pinned against the fence, saying he used his head and elbows creating an unsafe situation. Orica Greenedge has lost three riders to injury and Matthews himself is battered and bruised. The team is trying to salvage its Tour, and Matthews was disappointed when the door was shut on him this way.
If you’re wondering where super sprinter Mark Cavendish was, he was dropped early when and other riders were unable to keep up with the peloton as they chased the breakaway riders. He rolled in with a large group over 12 minutes behind. He will try to survive the Alps and hope he fares better on the final ride into Paris.
All the race leaders took care to stay safe and maintained their positions at the top of the leaderboard. Froome remains in the yellow jersey, 3:10 in front of Nairo Quintana of Movistar. American Tejay Van Garderen sits in third, Quintana’s teammate Alejandro Valverde in fourth and Alberto Contador of Tinkoff Saxo in fifth.
The contenders have weathered several hot days on the road with the Alpine stages looming. Froome seems impossible to shake with his good form.
Despite losing on the line, Sagan keeps the green jersey and has a comfortable lead over Greipel. Quintana has shaken off his challengers for the white jersey as the best young rider. Joaquim Rodriguez wears the polka dot jersey, although it belongs to Froome.
Van Garderen feels he’s in a good position to get a podium finish. “I’m still feeling pretty confident for the Alps, they’re definitely more suited to me as a rider. For tomorrow I expect more of the same as we have shown all Tour, that we’re strong, riding as one unit … As for me I definitely need to stay out of trouble before the Alps.”
Stage 16 is a day the contenders need to stay out of trouble before the final rest day on Tuesday. The route into Gap is a series of climbs and descents, with a steep final descent from the Col de Manse to the finish. The overall leaders need to worry about avoiding crashes as rivals throw caution to the wind in a last gasp attempt to get a stage win, or gain time.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Follow the Tour de France daily in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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