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Le Tour’17: Ed’s Final – Final Word!
Le Tour'17 - The Final Word: Ed Hood gave you his Tour Report Card last week and Sam his Team Awards, but the dust has settled on the French Grand Tour and Ed has gathered more armchair opinions. When the great Eddy Merckx speaks you have to listen. The final - final word on the 2017 Tour de France.

Sanremo - Italy - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Former Belgian cycling champion Eddy Merckx and VRT’s cycling expert Michel Wuyts at the Sanremo fountain, in Sanremo, Italy - photo PN/Cor Vos © 2017
Merckx, happy with a cup of tea

It’s one thing to be a social media ‘troll’ popping up behind some smart pseudonym when you have a point to make about our wonderful sport but it’s another to sit down and provide a reasoned argument to the issues of the day.

I mentioned to PEZ reader and observer of all things cycling, Ivan, that the rumor mill is speculating that Nairo Quintana may be leaving Movistar for Sky or Astana. I said that I wasn’t sure why such a move would happen certainly not for the Tour with Froome there; perhaps with the Giro in mind? We also discussed the issue of Sky’s absolute concentration – per Indurain and Armstrong on Le Tour.


The all conquering Sky team

His comments bear an airing:
"It would be crazy for Sky to take Quintana, Froome is good for two or three more years, Quintana is no replacement for him, he wouldn't be a worker, his mentality is not what Sky want in a worker, he's not reliable, too fragile, Froome is hardy, he can cope with misfortune whilst the Colombian can't; I wouldn't touch him with a barge-pole.

The crucial single factor in winning the Tour is your team; all other things being equal, US Postal and Sky (and their ethos of one leader, one goal) were crucial to Lance Armstrong and Chris Froome winning the Tour, LA could never have won the Tour with Lampre, who ever remembers what US Postal won apart from the Tour?


Armstrong had the team to take him to the finalé

Ullrich could have won the Tour with US Postal, maybe even Beloki or Rumsas; this assumes of course that LA would not have been able to create his own team a la US Postal. I think Dumoulin, Bardet and maybe even Dan Martin or Porte could win the Tour with Sky, assuming Froome is absent and has no team the same as Sky. I don't think anyone can beat Froome and Sky together.

AG2R is too French, they can't commit to the huge cultural, commercial and strategic changes to challenge Sky. Murdoch’s team has always had the greatest advantage over every other team, not the money, other teams could get the funds - Sky could afford the luxury of only ever being interested in the Tour. Nothing else mattered, this is no small thing, they never had the non-commercial and cultural roots of the traditional teams, they were never hampered by tradition and "old ways" and home Media - they could focus on the one race that counted for the non traditional sponsor, the Tour.


Bardet - Too French!

Other sponsors could potentially do this, perhaps a Garmin in the past, Orica, Bahrain etc, but it takes a plan, a long-term plan with guaranteed funding and a commitment to build a team which can win the Tour, Telekom attempted it too late, again, they had an advantage in being a non-traditional sponsor from a non-traditional cycling land, Germany.


Ullrich could have/should have won more Tours

If Sky lost faith in Froome, or he went to another team – which would be an insane move for him - then Sky would go for only one rider, Dumoulin, he is like Wiggins, Brailsford could win the Tour with him, whether Dumoulin can win with any other team than Sky is a moot point.

Pro bike racing is not a science, it’s an unpredictable sport - but the talent of the Sky project was in reducing the unpredictable to a lower level, in the one race than lends itself most to control."

Salon-de-Provence - France - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Christian Prudhomme, Justine Henin, Eddy Merckx pictured during the 104th Tour de France 2017 - stage 19 from Embrun to Salon-de-Provence, 222.50 km - foto VK/PN/Cor Vos © 2017
Eddy Merckx visited the 2017 Tour for a day in the car

Another man I have to answer to is Bill, he’s a PEZ regular and in reply to my comments that it was a ‘decent’ but not great Tour he thought we might be interested in what the Legend that is Eddy Merckx had to say in the Belgian Media about the 2017 Tour.

In answer to:
"Froome wins his fourth Tour - that's perhaps not a surprise for you?"

Ted's reply was:
"I knew it after the Dūsseldorf time trial. Sky had four riders in the top ten. Who was then going to beat Froome? Richie Porte? Not in a tour of three weeks. Bardet? No. Uran? Definitely not."

Izoard - France - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - illustration - sfeer - illustratie Rigoberto URAN URAN (Columbia / Cannondale Drapac Professsional Cycling Team) and soigneur pictured during the 104th Tour de France 2017 - stage 18 from Briançon to Izoard, 179.50 km - foto Miwa iijima/Cor Vos © 2017
Uran? Definitely not

In answer to:
“You didn't find it an exciting Tour - not even in the last week?”

Merckx replied:
"No. What happened in the last week? Barguil went after the mountain jersey because he was leader in the competition. I think he was just after the mountain classification. He won it by being first over the big climbs. Matthews has also ridden a good Tour - two stage wins and the green jersey too. It’s a pity that Kittel wasn't there of course.

And the rest? If you watched the TV in the first week, you only needed to see the last ten kilometers. I've seen all the Stages. Some have been interesting, but not so that I sat in front of the tele for six hours. It wasn't a 'Grand Cru'."

Salon-de-Provence - France - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Eddy Merckx & Justine Henin with team Wanty-Groupe Gobert pictured during the 104th Tour de France 2017 - stage 19 from Embrun to Salon-de-Provence, 222.50 km - foto VK/PN/Cor Vos © 2017
Eddy Merckx visits the Belgian Wanty-Groupe Gobert team during the Tour

In response to:
"In the meanwhile Froome has four Victories. One more and he reaches the same level as you, Indurain, Hinault and Anquetil."

Ted replied:
"Bah! Yes! Five, six, seven, you can't compare that any more. Bike racing has become a different sport. You can't compare Froome with Hinault, Indurain, Lemond or me. We have won other races. I won the Giro five times, Milan - San Remo seven times. If Froome wants to win all those, he must race for many more years."


Merckx Hinault and Anquetil - 15 Tour wins between them, but also much more

In an interview with VTM Ted didn't see Froome as one of the ‘greats’ and said:
"If you only ride the Tour, you can win as many as you like. Bike racing is about more than the Tour de France."

There was more but that's the gist of it. He wasn't critical of Froome and said that if, in his day, the Tour was regarded as it is now, he would have concentrated on it alone, too. Some nice observations from Ivan and who can argue with the Legendary Baron Merckx?

Sanremo - Italy - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Former Belgian cycling champion Eddy Merckx and VRT’s cycling expert Michel Wuyts at the Sanremo fountain, in Sanremo, Italy - photo PN/Cor Vos © 2017
Bike racing is about more than the Tour de France."

With thanks to Ivan and Bill for taking the time to get in touch and some thought provoking content – and keeping me on my toes.

Roll on the Vuelta.




It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he's covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,500 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself - many years and kilograms ago - and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.

 

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