Rider of the Race
Oh-la- la-la-la!!! Who else could it be but Lilian Calmejane? The Frenchman with a GT stage win (Vuelta 2016) already on his palmares has been racking up GC victories all season from Etoile des Besseges in February. Of course victory at Le Tour is a huge step up, but for me it’s not just the fact that he won, but the manner of his winning.
I’m a rider who likes to animate the race, and I said to my teammates I wanted to try something today. They did such great work today, they allowed me to realise my dream, of winning a stage at the Tour.
This was a stage made for live coverage from kilometre zero. The attacks started as Monsieur Prudhomme dropped the flag and just kept on going. 48kms were covered in the first hour of racing – it was brutal and compelling. It took until well over 70km for the peloton to split in half, and in that front group of 50 or so riders sat Lilian.
Maybe he got some words of advice from teammate Sylvain Chavanel who was constantly stretching the elastic it seemed. Rolling back the years to 2010 when he won at Station des Rousse and graced the maillot jaune. I lost count of the number of times Calmejane had to bridge across and cover the moves as the attacks went and riders were dropped. His effort on the last kilometres of the climb as the road surface worsened may not have been pretty but it was redolent with both power and agony.
I’m pretty certain there was a collective twitter wince at this – goodness know what was happening in the team car at this point…
A leg full of lactic acid wasn’t going to stop him, a quick spin of the legs and he was off again. Sailing over the line, arms-a-whirl to deliver his team a crucial stage win and the polka dots – on the team boss’ birthday no less. It’ll be quite the party I imagine.
Notes from the back
You have to feel for fast men on a crazy day like today. not only was the pace blazing in the first part of the race, but the Tour organisers threw in the Interediate sprint point at the top of a nasty little climb. Sunweb threw down the gauntlet trying to ditch Marcel Kittel and Co and move Michael Matthews higher in the green jersey competition. They didn’t quite manage it, Lotto-Soudal’s Andre Greipel pipping the Aussie on the line. Not sure that was enough to make up for the ache in his legs though …
FDJ’s Arnaud Demare had a jour sans. Dropped by Sunweb’s infernal pace early in the stage he never saw even the gruppetto for the rest of the day. After fears he would not make the time cut he crossed in a group of 6 riders some 37mins after the winner.
They were not the last men at the finish though, that honour went to Bora-Hansgrohe’s Juraj Sagan…
Not giving up the yellow
There had been talk pre-stage that perhaps today was the day Sky would surrender the maillot jaune for a bit. While it’s true the virtual jersey changed during the stage jumping from Pierre Latour (Ag2r-La Mondiale) to Dimension Data’s Serge Pauwels, in the end it remained exactly where it started – on the shoulders of Chris Froome. The team were tested more than they have been so far, Luke Rowe was dropped very early but the men in white held firm. Geraint Thomas took a tumble (I really wish he wouldn’t keep doing that) coming back from a bidon run, luckily he appears unhurt
An astonishing day racing best summed up by this
with this on the menu tomorrow…
Top 5 stage
1 Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie 04:30:29
2 Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) +0:37
3 Guillaume Martin (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) +0:50
4 Nicolas Roche (BMC) s/t
5 Roman Kreuziger (ORICA-Scott) s/t
Top 5 GC
1 Chris Froome (Sky) 33:19:00
2 Geraint Thomas (Sky) +0:12
3 Fabio Aru (Astana) +0:14
4 Daniel Martin (Quick-Step Floors) +0:25
5 Richie Porte (BMC) +0:39
All the jerseys
Leader: Chris Froome (Sky)
Points: Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors)
KOM: Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie)
Best Young Rider: Simon Yates (ORICA-Scott)
Team Classification: Sky
Most Aggressive Rider: Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie)
Header image: Lilian Calmejane © LB/Tim De Waele/Corbis via Getty Images