Reflections on the first week in France
A look at the action from the first week of this year's Tour de France.
On the eve of stage six some were complaining that the first week of this year’s tour had been boring. But if that had been case stages six and seven changed everything, for very different reasons.
Stage six was looking to be a standard day for the sprinters when a ‘mega crash’ wreaked havoc among the peloton. Thirteen riders, including Grio D’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal (Gar), were forced to abandon with injuries.
Some rides suffered very serious wounds. Wouter Poels (Vac) required surgery for a ruptured spleen and damage to his kidney, meanwhile Hubert Dupont (AGR2) and Robert Hunter (Gar) both broke vertebrae. GC contenders Frank Schleck (Rds), Scarponi (Liq), and Gesink (Rab) were also affected. Scarponi and Gesink in particular losing massive amounts of time.
Team Sky take control
Drama came for the right reasons on the uphill finish of stage seven. Team Sky were dominant on the final climb which came six kilometres from the finish. Rodges, Porte and then Froome maintained a high pace at the front. Preventing anyone from attacking team leader Bradley Wiggins, and dropping many big riders in the process. By the finish it was just Froome (Sky), Evans (BMC), Wiggins (Sky), Nibali (Liq) and Taaramaee (Con) at the front. In the end Froome was the one who took the win. Although all of the top five will be pleased with the result.
Prior to stage six’s mega crash and the arrival of the hills, there had been some rumblings about the lack of action. This was probably a little unfair. The early stages had witnessed Peter Sagan’s (Liq) confirmation as the brightest young thing in cycling. But repeated flat stages can get a bit formulaic, and Radioshack made sure no one had a chance to take the yellow jersey off prologue winner Fabian Cancellara until stage seven.
Perhaps Mark Cavendish’s (Sky) fall on stage four robbed us of what might have been a great battle between him and his old team mate Andre Greipal (Lot). Cavendish just pipped Greipal to win stage two, but when the pair met again on stage five Greipal beat him comfortably. His injuries from stage four a possible factor. On the whole Greipal had a great week picking up back to back wins on stages four and five.
The real winners of week one were Peter Sagan and Team Sky. Sagan picked up three wins and is now favourite for the green points jersey. Team wise Sky look very strong. Even if Bradley Wiggins falters, Chris Froome, his lieutenant, looks very capable of challenging last year's winner Cadel Evans. We also learnt that Greipal (Lot) looks a good bet for the rest of the sprints. His lead out is working very well, and Mark Cavendish seems to be totally on his own, as Sky put all their efforts into the yellow jersey. Finally, one dark horse for yellow, or at least the podium, might be Vincenzo Nibali who looked pretty comfortable on the final climb of stage seven.
Tommorow’s stage will see the riders travel 157.5 km from Belfort to Porrentruy. The stage is one of the toughest on this year’s tour containing seven climbs.
Overall yellow jersey standings after stage seven.
Wiggins (SKY) - 34 hr 21’ 20”
Evans (BMC) - + 10”
Nibali (LIQ) - + 16”
Taaramae (CON) - +32”
Menchov (KAT) - +54”