France – Today’s Tour de France TTT stage was a great inside look at the racing that takes place within a race, especially during a 3-week long Grand Tour.
At the start of every major stage race each team will come with a clear set of goals and objectives, many of which do not include winning the overall itself. Realistically, there are only a handful who are competing for the Tour de France GC, with others content to focus on the possibility of stage wins, or one of the other classifications such as the Green jersey points competition, Polka Dot mountain jersey competition or White Best-Young-Rider jersey competition. Aside from that, some teams may be simply shooting for a strong showing to prove that their invite was worthy and thus giving them a platform to build on, or to get in some key breaks and garner a little TV time for their sponsors. It all has very real, very tangible value.
In the case of Team Argos-Shimano their Tour de France presence is very clearly built with a primary focus on the flatter sprint-finish stage wins, such as Stage 1 which went to Marcel Kittel. This doesn’t mean that other opportunities will not present themselves along the way, or that strategy won’t shift if circumstances do–but, as long as the race is not dictating any change in priorities, their mission remains true.
In a day like today–while Argos-Shimano does have some of the world’s best TT’ers–the 9-man squad as a whole was not really in contention for this stage win, nor will they tell you they are gunning for the Tour de France overall, so how they rode spoke to their total race-long strategy. It was a day to go hard but not take any unnecessary chances. No reason to over-tax anybody. With more sprint stages and opportunities ahead, focus instead on putting in a good effort, getting through safely, and delivering all nine men to the finish line. So, on the surface it might be easy to look at Team Argos-Shimano’s last place TTT finish and ask, “What happened?”, but in truth the team rode exactly the race they wanted to today.
17 days to go and lots of racing ahead.