I’m only going to comment on any stages I get a chance to watch, so it may be few & far between, here’s my initial observations.
The time trial didn’t really tell us much, just that none of the favourites has bad form. There’s been much made of Pinot’s placing (41seconds down on Dennis) ahead of the other favourites, but ahead of him we have some riders who could be potentially high on GC, given a bit of luck. Robert Gesink has some decent form, he’s fresh from a 9th place in the Tour de Suisse, plus a 5th on GC in the Tour of California, both hinting that he’s still got something left in the tank. Neither of these imply a top finish in the Tour, but they do suggest that he could still be up there until the final week, when things get ‘a bit stickier’. On the same time as Pinot was Rigoberto Uran, we know he can perform in a grand tour & he’s now the top placed GC rider. If Rigo’s time trialling well, he’s probably got some decent form, so if anybody gives him some space to get some time, they’d be making a big mistake.
A crosswind devastated stage that could end up reasonably decisive if the favourites are as closely matched as it looks. The winners were Contador, Froome, Van Garderen & Uran (and my young rider tip Barguil) who were in the front group of 24 riders. Froome gained an additional 4second advantage over the others from a small split on the finish line. Big losers were everybody else, including Quintana, Pinot & last years champ Nibali who suffered additional “unluck” (©Sagan) with a late puncture, which required some team car surfing to get back to the group which lost 1min 28s on the leaders. Even further back at 5min 4s were riders like Rolland, Kruijswijk (7th at Giro), Ten Dam (9th in Tour last year), Hesjedal & the Yates bros, effectively writing off any team support for a high overall place, although they may creep up later. Notable time loser was Voeckler, who allowed himself to lose over 11 minutes, we all know what that means in the next few days. It was obvious that BMC, Sky & Tinkoff-Saxo had domestiques with their leader, which could make a huge difference in the next few days, Movistar were riding hard but losing time to the front group, so may not be as strong as we imagine.
As I’ve said, none of the top riders look to have a huge advantage over the others.These stages show us who’s serious about winning the Tour, they can also create ‘mountain-like’ time gaps, which create big problems for some riders in a couple of weeks, it means they’ll have to drop their rivals to have any chance of getting the time back.
If the riders are on a similar level this year, each stage, or specific mountains may play into the hands of a different protagonist each day, with their different skill-sets, as a fan, you’d certainly hope so. In the past we’ve seen the final winner make mincemeat of their rivals on the opening time trial or prologue, this didn’t happen in 2015, there doesn’t look to be anyone head & shoulders above the others. If this is the case, we get to see more changes in the yellow jersey, pure climbers who can change pace excelling on climbs like Alpe d’Huez (especially from the lower slopes), while the diesels struggle to hang on, the same goes for the steady climbs where the diesels excel. It looks like a great Tour ahead.