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2018 Tour de France: The final week and who’s in charge?

ALLEZ - Jose Vicente 'JV' Araneta - The Freeman

After two weeks that included 21km of ancient cobblestones and three mountain climbs, and not to mention bicycle mechanical problems, health issues and crashes, a clear picture has emerged on who’s going to wear the yellow, green and white jersey in Paris this coming Sunday.

As for the yellow jersey or the overall contenders, it’s a tussle between current overall leader Geraint Thomas (SKY), teammate and defending Champion Cris Froome (@1min39sec), and Tom Dumoulin (SUNWEB @1min50sec), Froome’s erstwhile rival two months ago in the Giro d’Italia and winner of the same race in 2017. Of the three, Dumoulin looks to be the strongest going into the final week. Thomas looks invulnerable but since he has never won a 3-week race in his life, I wouldn’t put my 13-month pay on him. Froome looks to be the weakest but with six Grand Tours under his belt, and notwithstanding his singular and amazingly ridiculous comeback in the Giro to beat Dumoulin, I wouldn’t look past him. In fact, I’ll out my eggs on his basket at this point. So here’s my prediction: 1- Froome, 2- Dumoulin 3- Thomas.  However, the biggest question is how SKY manage the ambitions of Froome and Thomas? It would be compelling to watch how the yellow  jersey will play out between teammates.

The other favorites like Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Richie Porte (BMC) are now at home, recuperating from injuries, while Romain Bardet, the great French hope, lost time last Saturday due to fatigue. The most disappointing is Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who is a non-entity this year. I think he should look for another team next year. He  can’t survive a team with three leaders in Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa. Its just minopssible.

The Green Jersey for the best sprinter should have been given to Peter Sagan (BORA-Hansgrohe) as early as last week. Unless he quits, or crash, green will be Sagan’s for years to come. His rivals, Fernando Gaviria (Quickstep), Dylan Groenewegen (LOTTO-Jumbo), who both won two stages each, and Marcel Kittel (Katusha) were DQ’d for missing the time cut. Sagan is just an out-of-this-world athlete and cycling’s biggest star. He is a mutant- he can climb with the climbers and sprint with the sprinters. I think that OAKLY sunglasses and Cannondale made a mistake of letting him go as their endorsers.

The white jersey, given to the best rider is worn by Pierre LaTour (AG2R) Behind him is Guillaume Martin (Wanty-Groupe Gober) followed by SKY’s Egan Bernal, with just 6 minutes separating the trio. While this jersey may be the least important among the three jerseys at stake, it is significant today because of Bernal. Bernal is a 21yo net-pro from Colombia. He should be wearing the white jersey now except that his job description is a domestique for Thomas and Froome. If he stays with SKY, i think that he has a good chance of becoming the first Colombian to win the Tour.

Finally, a heartwarming story from Lawson Craddock (Education First). Craddock crashed during the first stage and broke his shoulder blade but instead of quitting, he pushed on and dared his fans to match his $100 donation for every stage he finishes to rebuild the Texas Velodrome that was destroyed by flood. So far, the Texas-tough rider is still in the race and has raised almost $200k!!! Just amazing!


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