Tour de France
A classic’s start
There are always expectations. Race plans often work out and stage 2 the makings of an ordinary stage. We saw some significant gains and deficits for the GC contenders. Race on.
I have raced a lot in Holland, its flat and windy. The Dutch invented the race echelon.
Stage 2 began in usual fashion with an attack coming out of the blocks, what was unusal was that the quartet was allowed to roam. The peloton settled into a steady pace and Rohan Dennis was allowed to enjoy the spoils of the Maillot Jaune. His life has changed, acknowledged now as one to be taken seriously he suddenly would have just about every rider in the race as a new friend . He took down the biggest names in the business and showed he is a name we will see more of.
There was an expected weather change but for some reason as the stage panned out the directors seemed to overlook the impact this would have on the stage. The clouds began to loom and by the time the race passed through the feed zone rain drops were beginning to fall.
With close to 200 nervous riders, stage 2 of the Tour de France, wind, a squillion pieces of road furniture and the final ingredient rain, depending on your perspective, impending disaster. Todays stage is the stuff the classics are known for, think of events like Gent Wevelgem, Kuurne Brussels Kuurne.
It makes bloody exciting viewing from the armchair but riding the crosswinds is tough for those who haven’t experienced them. Riding the kermesses in Belgium gave me the grounding I needed for this tough kind of racing and we could see some of the Belgians doing well yesterday
It seemed some teams were prepared, the priority protect their GC riders. Others were hunting for that early stage win, a modern characteristic of tour racing and paid the price in the overall ratings.
Froome and Contador were surrounded by their troops to keep them out of the gutter, holding the long term view without which the stage would have cost them time in the end.
The GC contenders are now separated and there are the inevitable complaints about unsafe conditions. As a rule, the same riders make all the noise, snow and wind, cobbles! Maybe they need to look at their own behavior.
So what of Grand Tour Ethics? Are riders under so much pressure for gains. No one is waiting for the mountains and we know time-trials aren’t a huge issue this year. Back in the day, if there was a crash like Hansen’s, which split the field, the peloton would have eased, concerned for his well-being. There was also the consideration of the way you won a race and with a man down and half the peloton at a standstill, there used to be a protocol.
It isn’t nice coming down at 60kph, sliding to a halt, untangling your bike looking around for teammates and knowing the bunch has actually accelerated up to 65kpm and you are standing on the roadside, bruised and battered knowing you have to catch them.
Great to see Sparticus in yellow again. He knew he had a chance of getting into yellow, all he had to do was get 2 seconds over Martin and yet another jersey on his back
Written by Phil Anderson
Photo: Graham Watson