• More where that came from... (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
While it do not produce any reordering on the leaderboard, that we saw three big names willing to attack the maillot jaune on the Plateau de Beille provides hope the Tour's second half will not be as one-sided as the first, writes Anthony Tan.
By
17 Jul 2015 - 6:24 PM  UPDATED 17 Jul 2015 - 7:45 PM

You probably think it trite to hear the "race is not yet over" phrase being peddled (sorry) ad infinitum by various host broadcasters of the Tour de France, thinking they're only telling you this so you'll keep watching; not because they actually believe what they're saying.

This time, however, it's true.

"After a week and a half of dominance by Froome and Team Sky, things are starting to even themselves out..."

Even the next four stages, often referred to as transitional, are far from easy, and the maillot jaune could well find himself ambushed.

Stage 14 to Mende, with a hat-trick of punchy climbs in the final 40 kilometres and finishing atop the Côte de la Croix Neuve, is perfect for a sucker punch. Though that said, from what we've seen on the Mur de Huy and Mûr de Bretagne, Chris Froome has fared best out of the five pre-race favourites on bumps like these.

Two days later, the stage before the second and final rest day in Gap, presents another such opportunity: a 201km journey from Bourg-de-Péage and 12km out from the finish in Gap, a perilous, high-speed descent off the 9km-long Col de Manse...

Here, do not be surprised to see Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali test Froome's downhill aptitude. Four years ago on the same numbered leg of the 2011 Tour, that's exactly what Bertie did, taking Cadel Evans, Samuel Sánchez and erstwhile maillot jaune Thomas Voeckler with him but leaving Andy Schleck in their wake, who finished a minute in arrears.

As for the quartet of stages in the Alps to follow, I don't think I've seen such an unforgiving back end to the Tour, ever.

Stage 17 to Pra Loup contains a quintet of climbs with virtually no respite, and on the exact same parcours one month ago at the Criterium du Dauphiné, Romain Bardet dislodged the likes of Froome (the eventual overall winner) and Nibali. Stage 18 boasts seven climbs including the 21.7km Col du Glandon, its summit 40km from the line in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. Arguably the hardest stage of the Tour with four ascents and 51.5km of climbing in just 138km, the finish atop the infamous 18km brute that is La Toussuire, well, that is Stage 19.

Et pour dessert? Stage 20 may have had the Col du Télégraphe and Galibier belatedly removed, replaced by the 29km-long Croix de Fer, but there's no getting out of climbing L'Alpe d'Huez.

Stage 12 to the Plateau de Beille showed how, after a week and a half of dominance by Froome and Team Sky, things are starting to even themselves out among the original Fab Four. (Hell, even Nibbles found his legs... C'est bon!)

No one committed to a full-blooded attack, each just dipping their toes in the water. Though importantly, they were willing to attack.

Only Team Sky (and BMC Racing, if you count Tejay van Garderen, which you should) boast a full complement of men; Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte have so far been brilliant for le pédaleur sans charme - but how long can they keep it up?

"We'll keep dreaming and trying; there's still a long way to go and everything won't be decided until the final mountain stage," Quintana said Thursday.

The pendulum is swinging. No longer is this year's Grande Boucle a lopsided affair.