The longest stage of the 2018 Tour de France was a flat one and made for an unlucky Friday the 13th for the Tour de France TV audience. In the end, we got a sprint featuring the very best and a surprising winner. Dylan Groenewegen of LottoNL-Jumbo surged past the pack to take the honours.
With a suspicion that today’s stage might be uneventful, I decided to keep a log through the kilometres to help me pick up any highlights.
200km to go: Turned on TV. I missed the first break being caught.
196km: Yoann Offredo (Wanty) launches a bid for a solo break. He succeeds. If all goes to plan, he’ll be all on his own for 190 kilometres.
180km: Offredo is still alone out front.
150km: French TV is reduced to showing farmers doing actual farming.
140km: Offredo is still going solo.
123km: Feed zone. Astana have the best-looking musettes: traditional Astana blue with nice shiny finish.
115km: Remember that people in Australia stay up all night to watch this.
105km: Offredo is still solo. Yves Lampaert’s Belgian national champion’s jersey is a thing of astonishing beauty.Embed from Getty Images
100km: AG2R decide to try and split the race up. Why? I have no idea. It’s not massively windy and there’s a lot of time for anyone dropped off the main peloton to get back on. It’s like they saw Quick-Step do it yesterday and thought, “oh, that looks fun.”
97km: News comes out that Dan Martin (UAE) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) have been caught on the wrong side of a split. This is not the race-shaking information I was hoping of.
90km: Offredo is caught. The race is all back together and there’s still two hours of “racing” left.
80km: ITV Cycling decides to tweet. The word “entertaining” is subjective.
76km: Somehow Laurent Pichon of Fortuneo has a two-minute lead over the peloton. I must have nodded off when that happened.
70km: Look at Twitter. Today’s Giro Rosa sounds like it’s been interesting.Embed from Getty Images
50km: Pichon still has a two-minute lead. Where is Thomas de Gendt when you need him?
40km: Look, I’ve tried to keep it upbeat and positive but this is hard to watch. It’s so bad I almost – almost! – clicked on a Bernard Hinault article on Cycling Weekly.
35km: Pichon caught. Katusha gets up on the front of the peloton and pretend they have a chance of winning the stage. Meanwhile, farmers continue to farm and NYVelocity is ecstatic.
30km: One of those intermediate sprints that isn’t an intermediate sprint has happened. Apparently, Bernard Hinault thinks the governing bodies which allowed Chris Froome to race should think about the consequence. (I clicked on the Cycling Weekly link … I’m so ashamed.)
20km: Even through the TV screen, you can feel the intensity of the race increase as the finish line comes into sight. I’ve been waiting for an important phone call all afternoon. It’s going to come anytime now, isn’t it?
15km: That was fake intensity – with no break to catch, there is no urgency to get this thing over with. The peloton should be made to watch this entire stage when they get back to their hotels. That would make them think twice before doing it again.
Finally, it all came to life with the GC teams fighting for safety and the sprint trains forming. With 500 metres to go, it looked like the Sagan v Gaviria finish we’ve become accustomed to this Tour. Then, suddenly, Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) loomed into view. The flying Dutchman went round the others and powered ahead to the finish making it look easy.
Big things were expected of Groenewegen at this race and looking at the way he left two of world’s best sprinters in his wake, those expectations were justified. His win was so dominating that I had to look up who came second afterwards, all I could remember was the yellow and black force of nature heading towards the finish line.
Rider of the race
Slim pickings today but I’ll give it to Yoann Offredo of Wanty who appeared to be having fun whilst on his long solo exploit.
1 Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) 5:43:42
2 Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step) same time
3 Peter Sagan (Bora) s/t
4 Arnaud Démare (FDJ) s/t
5 Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) s/t
GC Top 10
1 Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) 28:19:25
2 Geraint Thomas (Sky) +0.06
3 Tejay van Garderen (BMC) +0.08
4 Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) +0.09
5 Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) +0.15
6 Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) +0.21
7 Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First Drapac p/b Cannondale) +0:48
8 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0.54
9 Raja Majka (Bora) +0.55
10 Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) +0.56
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)
Points jersey: Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe)
KOM jersey: Toms Skujins (Trek Segafredo)
Best young rider: Soren Kragh Anderson (Sunweb)
Most combative: Laurent Pichon (Fortuneo)
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Header image: © GETTY/Velo/Tim de Waele