Stage 20: Time Trial- Marseille (22.5k)

And it all boiled down to this. Coming into this stage, Chris Froome(Team Sky) led Romain Bardet(Ag2R La Mondaile) by 23 seconds and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale Drapac) by 29 second. But Froomey is a time trial specialist, even winning a hilly Time Trial in the Tour De France last year beating one of the greatest TT specialists, Tom Dumoulin. Romain Bardet isn’t that good in a Time Trial, Uran on the other hand used to beat Froome in TTs until a few years back. The start and end of the stage was in the insane 67000 seater Olympique Marseille football stadium.

The stage wasn’t exactly flat, with that insane 9% gradient hill right in the middle of stage. As you know, the starting order in the reverse order of the current standings. So Froome would be the last to start while Luke Rowe(Sky) was the 1st. The riders would be separated by 1 minute till the last 28, who would go at a 2 minute gap.
So, Luke was the 1st to start and riders rolled in till American Taylor Phinney(Cannondale Drapac) came in and set a blistering time of 29.21, first to go below 30 minutes and told Luke that he was his father. From here on, he would be known as Darth Phinney.
Darth Phinney and his lightsaber-bidon
The course had over 30 turn of 90 degrees or more which meant even a little bit of lack of care would result in a crash. And the 1st to go down was Olivier Le Gac of FDJ, who already have just 3 out of their 9 riders remaining. With the former and current TT champions(Vasil Kiriyenka(Sky) and Tony Martin(Katusha))on the course, things started to heat up.
And then came Maciej Bodnar, flying through the course. Having lost Stage 11 after leading till the last 200 meters of the 202.5 km stage, he was determined to give Bora-Hansgrohe another stage win and for his great friend, Peter Sagan: Bodnar set the fastest time of the day, till that time beating Phinney’s time by over a minute: 28’15”14
Tony Martin rolled in with the second best time at that point,14 seconds down on Maciej Bodnar. European champion Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar) also went down, almost as soon as he started at the exit of the velodrome. Polish national TT champion and Sky’s super domestique, Michal Kwiatkowski started and was 6 seconds faster than Maciej Bodnar at the 1st time check and then 2 seconds faster at the 2nd time check. He finished in 28’16”22, a very close 2nd place to Bodnar. And he did it without the vortex suit. So whatever the French press was barking up about “tech doping”, that surely was a big “shut-up”: Stage 17 winner Primoz Roglic(Lotto NL Jumbo), another great time trialist having won the the hilly Lausanne TT during Tour De Romandie, had started off as a favourite to win the stage but he had mechanical issues and had to stop and get a bike change at the bottom of the hill, losing time. Warren Barguil (Sunweb) was awarded the most aggressive rider prize of the entire tour over Thomas De Gendt, which I believe is very unfair. As Lance Armstrong pointed out, De Gendt spent over 1000 kms of this year’s tour in breakaways. That’s almost a 3rd of the entire distance!
Barguil meanwhile was riding cheerfully, smiling at almost every corner except in this photo. And he infact, waved to the crowd when he finished, which was cheering like Olympique Marsille had scored a critical goal. Pierre LaTour(Ag2R La Mondiale) also crashed on the downhill but managed to finish. Italian National Champion, Fabio Aru(Astana, 5th overall) started riding to salvage some pride. I honestly have felt bad for the guy, he has fought hard and he has been berated badly by media. The guy gave his all and doesn’t deserve to be treated like that. Meanwhile, Alberto Contador(Trek Segafredo) rode like a gladiator and he really has warmed my heart through the tour. He is old but not out. Meanwhile the Top 3 started off, first with Rigoberto Uran who got off to a flyer. Then came Bardet, with cheers as louder than if Olympique Marseille ever won the Champions League: The noise even made Froome smile.
And then, came the part that really hurt and angered me. I have been an athlete and I believe no competitor should be booed, they should be respected. And the French crowd, who I have loved through the tour, disappointed me greatly by booing Froome. That was uncalled for:
Uran was setting a blistering pace, just 17 seconds behind Kwiatowski at the 1st checkpoint. Bardet was suffering, he was unwell before the stage and his position on the bike was shaky and he just wasn’t able to put the power down. He took a couple of corners close, almost crashing. As Uran was about to finish, he got a bad scare and he almost went off: However, he regrouped and finished in 28’46”53. Bardet had lost 19 seconds to Uran by the 1st time check and wasn’t in 2nd overall anymore. He kept losing time even as Froome was grinding the pedals rhythmically. He was poetry in motion.
As we approached the end, Bardet was completely in sight of Froome, not even 100 meters ahead and it looked like it was going to be humiliation for the great Frenchman who I have deeply admired.
But Bardet, being the champ that he his, pushed his pedals down as hard as he could. And I think Chris Froome’s chase helped him a bit as when he finished in 30’18”13, he finished the overall classification just 1 second ahead of Mikel Landa in 4th place. Froome went all out, finish in 28’21 and the crowd really disgusted me. They went from cheering for Bardet to booing Froome in the 3 second gap:
And it was celebrations for Froome as he won the Tour De France( yes, there is 2 stage left, but tradition dictates no one will attack the leader in the last stage, also 54 seconds is a big enough gap which can be defended by Sky even if Uran decides to break tradition).
Bodnar took the stage win!
And this picture broke my heart. I have massive respect for Bardet and there is a very big possibility he might lose his podium spot tomorrow to Landa if Sky pull something strategic.
So, stage results: (Polish 1-2!)
General Classifications:
Jersey Wearers after Stage 20:
Can Landa take the podium spot from Bardet? Who will win the prestigious sprint tomorrow at the Champs Elysees? We’ll find out. Thanks for reading. #TDF2017


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