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The Yellow Jersey's « motor » lost efficiency after the Pyrenees, by Antoine Vayer (Julien Allen translation)

28-07-2015, 17:23 - Antoine Vayer

Here is the last piece by Antoine Vayer, published in Le Monde the 27th of July (french version here). Many thanks to Julien Allen (@Late2PartyArk) for the translation

No more engine? Less fuel? What have we learned from our traditional "radars" report, which is now an internationally accepted reference on the subject of "watts" and cyclists' power outputs, the principal subject splitting this 2015 Tour de France? That cycling is on the road to redemption? Certainly. But the performances and behaviour of Chris Froome and his dauphin, Nairo Quintana, remain a genuine concern.

Cycling is searching for heroes, capable of exciting spectators and fans, not champions whose name and record everyone will quickly forget. The French duo Pinot-Bardet, less efficient by 6% and 7% respectively since the 2014 Tour, below the level of 390 watts on average in the 'radar' climbs of 2015, were brilliant as always on occasion, each winning a stage. This suggests that a human performance can become a spectactular one and can finally cover the rider who delivered it in glory. That's new.

The genes of a « pronghorn »

Vincenzo Nibali, winner in 2014 and the only rider to have broken the ceiling of suspicion of 410 watts last year (417), lost 5 % of his potential and finished off the podium with 396 watts on average. His victorious « heist » on the 19th stage, where he tackled three climbs in a row without weakening (Croix-de-Fer, Mollard, Toussuire) between 390 and 400 watts, were still better than Virenque at his peak and not far from what Rasmussen was capable of. Let's just say he was able to recover after his failures in the Pyrénées. That's Italian.

Alberto Contador, with 394 watts, lost 10 % of his efficiency compared to his victorious 2009 Tour (439 watts). That's huge. Informed gossip tells us he's got no motor left in his bike and even less fuel. He tried on numerous occasions to fly away like the old days, swishing only at the air with his sword. Let's just say we confiscated his medals and during his downfall he took with him, despite the sceptics, his panache. That's Spanish.

Chris Froome, for his part, killed the Tour on our national holiday, at la Pierre-Saint-Martin. Just as he had in 2013 at Ax and on the Mont Ventoux. He sickened his rivals and baffled no less a figure than Armstrong's famous trainer Michele Ferrari, who asked himself whether Froome might have the genes of a « pronghorn antilope ». His equipment was checked, a little late, upon our request (Le Monde of Tuesday 21 July) in the Alps. We politely invited Froome to repeat his infernal cadences as a show of good faith. He wasn't able to. He simply "managed" his progress with his team, to end his Tour precisely on the « suspect » level of 410 watts. Well calculated. That's English.

The press conference organized by his team Sky was a model of attempted manipulation, whose purpose was to spread confusion and make us believe in miracles. Froome apparently only produced 5.78 watts per kilo (w/kg) at la Pierre-Saint-Martin, an absurd figure thrown out like dog chow by his staff. His physical capacities are therefore inferior to the people he is beating. That’s it ! His SRM reader has been overestimating his power output by 6 % because of his osymetric chainring. Chris Froome, with his "real" 5,85 w/kg, should have finished l’Alpe d’Huez at 434 watts, following the « Sky » logic of 6 % of overestimation. He should have beaten Quintana, like at la Pierre-Saint-Martin. But he finished 1 minute and 20 seconds behind him.

An « old school » rider

In 2013, in order to let us have some explanation for the incredible performances of their boy, his manager, Brailsford, and his « scientist », Kerrison, had nevertheless explained to us that this chainring had « zero effect on his performance » in terms of watts. Cheating is always accompanied by lying in school playgrounds. Froome won't win a third Tour de France if his equipment is checked at the right time and in the right place. It also remains for us to study his « exceptional », and so « special » capabilities in laboratory conditions, which has never been done. It'd be so British.

Nairo Quintana will win it hands down. The little climber is the only one to improve (+ 1 %, with 413 watts as against 410 in 2013) and who didn't weaken in the Alps after the Pyrénées. He, however isn't striving for those « marginal gains » being sold to us by Sky. He's an « old school » rider. He's beaten, with Valverde, 35 years old, 3rd in this Tour with 402 watts, the radar record of La Toussuire in 44 minutes and 30 seconds, but also that of the Croix-de-Fer, before registering the best time up l’Alpe-d’Huez in 39 minutes and 22 seconds, with 430 watts for 6.35 w/kg. Explosive! That's Colombian.

Antoine Vayer (translation - Julien Allen)

N.B. : The views expressed are not those of the translator.