Has this first week of the Tour de France been one of the most exciting in soooo many years, or what? Yellow jerseys won and lost; one day on top of the world, the next in the wrong echelon; the Tour keeps surprising us day after day.
What. A. Stage. So often grand tour racing seduces us with a promising parcours and riders full of intent. So often we’re let down as teams play it safe and we’re left with a race as predictable as a superhero movie at the local multiplex.
But not today! Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) took a superb solo win in Saint-Etienne, holding off a fast-charging Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep). The dashing Frenchman retakes the maillot jaune for Bastille Day, while Pinot has done his chances no harm whatsoever climbing to third on GC.
It was the longest stage in this year’s Giro d’Italia and, boy, did we feel it. With the threat of rain, mumblings of possible neutralisation of the finish and a technical sprint finish, it felt like quite a cautious stage, with perhaps the crashes over the past few days weighing heavy on the riders’ minds. But nothing was neutralised, there was only a touch of rain and the double zebra-crossings of slippery paint didn’t bring anyone down. The sprint was won by Lotto-Soudal’s Caleb Ewan, after a heroic effort by his team from 50km out to keep him in the running over the cat-climbs. Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep) took second, while maglia ciclamino wearer Pascal Ackermann (Bora-hansgrohe) was third.