What – a – stunner – of – a – stage!!! The tramontane wind blew chaos through the peloton. There was non stop echelon action, and to top it all, we were treated to the sight of Peter Sagan in the green jersey out sprinting the yellow jersey of Chris Froome for the stage win. Both riders finished 6 seconds ahead of the main pack, tightening their grip on their respective maillots as their rivals were caught out in the turmoil.
Riders of the race
There is NOTHING we love more than riders who dare to take a risk, those who are having fun with their racing and ride with panache. We know the Velvet Samurai has this is spades, we have seen it countless times over. We hadn’t expected to see it from Chris Froome, and boy, is he ever making us eat our words!! He has lost no opportunity to put time into his rivals in the most unexpected of places. We’ve seen the #superstorktuck on the descents, and now echelon antics and a sprint finish. Panache speaks for us all.
Sagan added to his victory tally and his maillot vert campaign, Froome put 12secs into his GC rivals, but neither could have survived today without a team that knows how to exploit a cross wind. We lost count of the number of times echelons formed and dissolved as the road twisted and turned. But at every crisis point, riders from Sky and Tinkoff were always in the right place, and it was only ever a matter a time before one of them made the crucial split. It came with 12km to go when Sagan and his team mate Maceij Bodnar rode off the front of the peloton. Froome was on them in an instant, and Geraint Thomas rode across the gap like a demon to join them. With everything to gain, the foursome put on a ferocious display of balls-to-the-walls riding all the way to line.
I think we can all agree with Sagan’s post race comment…
“Froomey and Geraint Thomas came with us. I said, ‘We are too strong. They’re never going to catch us.’ We just pulled very hard and it happened. It was unbelievable.”
The Echelon rules
Sky and Tinkoff provided a masterclass in ‘echelon tactics’ that some teams would do well to study. The first rule is to always keep your leader protected and as near to the front as possible. Movistar’s Nairo Quintana is now trailing Froome by 35 seconds. Initially he was well chaperoned by his team, but as the sheer physicality of repeated echelon activity took it’s toll, he was increasingly isolated and nowhere near enough to the front to counter the winning move. Movistar knew what they faced this morning,but they failed to deliver – who knows how important those 12seconds may turn out to be.
Second rule of the echelon club is that you must be flexible enough adapt your plan on the fly. Today was the last opportunity for the sprinters to take a victory until the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Etixx-Quick Step kept Marcel Kittel on the right side of the splits all day and still had a phalanx of riders in the front group when the winning move went away. In those crucial few minutes as the Fab Four flew the Quicksteppers went missing. The committed only one man to the chase and by the time they put more it was all too late. As Chris Boardman commented: “There is really little point planning for the final kilometre when the break has already gone.”
Off the back
Lawson Craddock of Cannondale-Drapac was one of the many riders who crashed during the stage. Distanced and alone, he really had to dig deep and find it within himself to just keep going. We are happy to report that Lawson crossed the line last – 17 minutes after the victor but within the dreaded time cut.#chapeau
A masterclass in style
We’re deeply impressed that on a day when the victory came down to a sprint between yellow and green, Eurosport’s Ashley House had the foresight to wear this trouser, belt and watch combo. The man has style!
1 Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) 3:26:23
2 Chris Froome (Sky) same time
3 Maciej Bodnar (Tinkoff) s/t
4 Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) +0:06
5 Christophe laporte (Cofidis) same time
GC top 5
1 Chris Froome (Sky) 52:34:37
2 Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) +00:28
3 Daniel Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) +00:31
4 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +0:35
5 Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) +00:56
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Chris Froome (Sky)
Points jersey: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)
KOM jersey: Thibaut Pinot (FDJ)
Best Young Rider: Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange)
For full stage review: CyclingNews
Header image: © ASO/A.Broadway