Riders of the Race
It seems every day there’s some new controversy in this year’s TdF and today was no different. But before we get to that, I’ll start off with the most astonishing and, for one rider, most heartbreaking finish so far this Tour. There certainly didn’t have to be a jury ruling on my decision as to who I was going to name my Riders of the Race – that honour has to go to Sunweb’s Warren Barguil and Cannondale’s Rigoberto Uran.
Even though this was certainly a race for the climbers, it wasn’t a summit finish, but a steep and dangerously fast descent, then about 15km of flat to the finish line. Barguil, who had been out in the various breaks that kept forming and dissolving all day, found himself caught first by Ag2r’s Romain Bardet on the descent, then by the chasers of Sky’s Chris Froome, Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang and Fabio Aru and Uran on the flat. Uran’s bike had been damaged on the descent, during the hideous crash of Richie Porte and Dan Martin, and the Mavic car was called to try to do something that would allow him to ride in more than just two gears – one mighty big one and one tiny one. But to no avail. So he just carried on … In what seemed like mighty strange tactics on behalf of Astana, they worked with the yellow jersey to catch Bardet to make it six together under the flamme rouge.
As they played a bit of cat and mouse, Barguil saw his chance and started to sprint for the line, followed by Uran and Froome. Photo-finish between the Frenchman and the Colombian and news came out that Barguil had won the stage – the pent-up emotion of this cruel stage made Barguil burst into sobs as he went to the tent to sit for his post-stage interviews. Then news came out that, in fact, Uran won (by more than 6mm) so the organisers had to run to catch Jagger before he left for the hotel. The astonishment of Uran was matched only by the disappointment of Barguil. Barguil, however, can be consoled by the fact that he is now in the polka dot jersey and, as the next few stages will be flat, will probably stay as KOM at least until the end of the second week.
Broken dreams and broken bones
The descents off the HC climbs took their toll on the peloton in ways none of us wanted to see. But the crashes started almost immediately with JumboBee Robert Gesink – who rode so strong yesterday – and Manuele Mori (UAE) crashing hard within the first few kilometres. Mori laid on the ground screaming in agony and although Gesink was able to get up, they both abandoned – Mori with a fractured shoulder, Gesink with a fractured vertebrae.
The descent of the Col de la Biche, slicked by light rain, proved too much, particularly with Ag2r’s double dose of attacks both in the breaks and in the yellow jersey group, and Geraint Thomas was caught in a crash with Rafel Majka (Bora-Horsgrohe) and broke his collarbone. Majka went down hard and though he got back on his bike, he was in no shape to be at the sharp end of the race and quickly went back to the gruppetto.
But that was nothing compared to the horrific crash of Richie Porte and Dan Martin on the descent of the Mont du Chat. Riding in an elite group of six, including the maillot jaune, Porte seemed to lose control, go into the dirt, the force of which catapulted him across the road to hit the wall then collide with Martin’s bike, sending the Irish rider flying. While Martin got up and waited for a new bike, Porte didn’t move and it was one of those times in a cycling fan’s life where you desperately look for some movement. Luckily, the medics got to him almost immediately, secured him in a neck brace and reported that he was awake and talking. The crash looked so bad, the broadcasters callously kept showing it – at that point, I can’t say I cared who won this stage or even this entire Tour de France. It’s difficult to get those images out of your mind.
The good news is that Porte’s injuries are – miraculously – not nearly as bad as was first thought (although concussion is no joke). We wish him the speediest of recoveries.
And, yeah, stop posting videos and pictures of his crash.
To attack or not attack
It’s that old ‘should [whoever] have attacked/kept riding when [whoever] had a crash, a mechanical, wanted to take a pee’ – we had it in the Giro with Movistar and Tom Dumoulin and we’ve had it in the Tour with Fabio Aru and Chris Froome.
Fabio Aru attacked just as Chris Froome had raised his arm for assistance from his team car due to a puncture. Quintana went with him (supposedly to stop him). Did Aru see the raised arm first or was it just coincidence (he said he didn’t see it)? Hard to tell for sure – especially on the films circulating on Twitter, you see what you want to see. Should he have attacked? That’s debatable as well. But the other riders stopped him so that was that, in my book. The peloton took care of that. The End. Which leads us to this next little clip that happened after that incident. Did Froome accidentally ride into Aru because he unclipped and lost his balance? Or did he mean to nearly drive Aru into the crowd? Again, hard to tell and you’re going to see what you want to see but there were definitely questions.
The guys were suffering today – not only because of the jiggity-jaggity profile of today’s stage but the full gas of yesterday’s stage. Arnaud Demare formed his own gruppetto almost immediately after the start of the race and never made it back up to the real gruppetto, not making the time cut and taking three of his FDJ teammates home with him. Good thing Thibaut Pinot isn’t in any danger of getting a podium spot …
Chris Froome looks like he’s going to hang onto that yellow jersey with a clenched fist. Today, many of his rivals fell or fell short: Porte, Martin, Thomas (okay, not strictly a rival). Nairo Quintana didn’t look particularly interested in the race, getting dropped and coming in 1.15 down from Froome, now 8th in GC at 2.13; and Alberto Contador is a shadow of the rider we’re used to, getting dropped or crashing on the climbs and coming in over 4min down on Froome, now 12th in GC at 5.15 down. Is there anyone strong enough to take the race to Froome now?
While this stage was exciting in a lot of places – the way the peloton split apart on the climbs, the way the guys in the break kept testing their strength, the photo-finish, the attacks that came thick and fast – it was also a stage that had some serious bad vibes, from crashes to bad tempers on the road. It’ll be good for everyone – riders and fans alike – to have a rest day from this.
Top 5 stage
1 Rigoberto Uran (Cannodale-Drapac) 5:07:22
2 Warren Barguil (Sunweb-Alpecin) same time
3 Chris Froome (Sky) s/t
4 Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) s/t
5 Fabio Aru (Astana) s/t
Top 5 GC
1 Chris Froome (Sky) 33:19:00
2 Fabio Aru (Astana) +0:18
3 Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) +0:51
4 Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) +0:55
5 Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) +1:37
All the jerseys
Leader: Chris Froome (Sky)
Points: Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors)
KOM: Warren Barguil (Sunweb-Alpecin)
Best Young Rider: Simon Yates (ORICA-Scott)
Team Classification: Sky
Most Aggressive Rider: Warren Barguil (Sunweb-Alpecin)