Tour de France 2018 – The Wash Up
How do you stop Sky? – Team Sky have won 6 of the last 7 tours, and their all-conquering riding style has generally been blamed for the excitement and panache being sucked out of cycling. This year, teams were reduced to eight men and they didn’t seem any less intimidating. As a result, everyone seems out of ideas on what to do except accept that some teams are going to be better than others.
UCI President volunteered his ideas in a press conference after the race suggesting that teams could be reduced to six men, with team radios and power meters banned, while financial fair play rules could be introduced. Would any of those ideas work? Team radios were banned a few years ago and it didn’t do much, while taking away power meters doesn’t change the fact that Sky is the strongest team. Reducing teams takes away everyone’s depth. It’s only a salary cap that might change anything, spreading around the best riders onto different teams, but its hard to get riders to agree on what’s effectively a limit on how much you can pay them.
What’s undeniable is that this year’s Tour did lack drama for the overall classification. Tom Dumoulin was strong but wasn’t throwing down continuous attacks. The idea of Chris Froome was more threatening than Froome himself turned out to be. Nobody’s really sure how to fix it, but cycling does have a problem in that regard.
Sky Leadership Dilemma – So what does Sky do next year? On their roster, they’ll have the defending TDF Champ (Thomas), a four-time champ who’s the dominant Grand Tour rider of this generation (Froome), and the next best thing in cycling (Bernal). While Thomas is up for a new contract at the end of this year, he hasn’t shown any inclination to leave the squad, so you imagine next year’s going to be a sticky situation.
It could come down to what Thomas wants to do; does he want to turn his attention to the classics, which he never fully conquered? Does he want to win the Giro after having to abandon last year? For our money though, the wise move would be to send Froome to the Giro – the Italian public and press have been more accommodating to him than their French counterparts, who seem to like Thomas more than they ever have Froome. It would be the most PR-friendly move, but Dave Brailsford has never really gone for that angle.
Is the Giro-Tour Double possible? – Since Pantani in 1998, nobody’s achieved the feat, but if there was ever a year that someone was going to do the Giro-Tour double, this was it. We saw two of the biggest riders at the top of their game, and a bigger gap between the two races due to the World Cup. While Froome’s double tilt was planned from the very start, Dumoulin’s tour start was only confirmed after the Giro. Both of them came as close as anybody has recently, with Froome finishing 1st and 3rd, and Dumoulin finishing 2nd and 2nd. The only result to come close is Contador’s 1st and 4th in 2011 (though those results are wiped from the record books).
With those results in mind, you have to wonder if it’s worth attempting anymore, seeing how thinly riders have to spread themselves. After the race though, Froome spoke out and said he did think it was still possible, as both he and Dumoulin had come close. With Froome on the downslope of his career, it might be a step too far for him. While Dumoulin keeps surprising everyone, it would still be a monumental achievement that you don’t really expect. It’s one of those things that just seems to be getting harder and harder; if these two couldn’t do it, then who can?