Well it’s started, and we weren’t disappointed with drama from what was shaping up to be a text book sprint stage until 10km to go. It was obviously going to be a sprint finish with the big boys shaping up for their first show down. It was a tailor made stage for Sagan or Matthews with a bit of an uphill finish, but 1st time tour rider Fernando Gavaria, and my pick for the win, did not disappoint after an absolutely perfect lead out from his Quickstep team. Once he hit the front there was no catching him. Poster boy Sagan had a crack, but did not quite have the legs. Kittle did well to get 3rd after a quiet season. He left Quickstep last year because he was worried Gavaria might get the tour berth ahead of him. So it must really hurt to be beaten by his ex team mate, and now nemesis.
The very essence of the romance of the Tour is the uncertainty of what might happen. 10km to go and the gods of chaos came out to play.First it was an innocuous crash that delayed Richie Port and Adam Yates. The Froome came off on a bend, managed to get back on and join the Porte/Yates group. Then Quintana has a double wheel puncture, possibly on a bunch of tacks meant for Chris Froome. In the end the big GC winners were Big Tom Dumoulin, Vincenzo Nibali, Romain Bardet, Mikel Landa, Rigoberto Uran and Ilnur Zakarin who all finished on the same time as the winner. Porte, Yates and Froome lost 50 seconds and Quintana 1:15. This situation has played really well for Mikel Landa. With Movistar coming in to Le Tour with 3 leaders something had to happen to focus their attention on one rider. Valverde will still thinks he has a chance but can’t climb like Landa, so finally Landa might get his chance at the expense of Quintana. It is not then end of the world for Sky though. With the Team Time Trial on Monday, and with 3 current/previous National TT champions in their team, they should get back the 50 seconds they are down.
An interesting tactical observation made by Robbie. For the last intermediate sprint Oliver Naesen from AG2R went up the road and got the last bonus second. It was enough at the finish to put him in 4th place overall at the end of the day. That means AG2Rs team car is 4th in the convoy. That means if Bardet has a problem his car will be there really quick. In contrast Team Sky are in 15th place.
It was also a bit of a flashing day for those who watched the TV coverage. About 20km to go a couple of cheeky fellas were mooning the cameras as the race went by. But stage winner Gavaria topped it by showing all his junk while getting a rub down before he went on stage, and with a cheeky grin.
So enough of my expert analysis, on to the sweep-stake. First of all, for those who noticed, I only displayed 6 riders per team in the team list. Bug fixed now, and your 8 team riders are now displayed. It’s a bit early in the comp to start picking on people, but we have 2 early leaders with Heartthrobs10 and Rocky Laurie. Race needs a couple of days to settle down before we see some shape to the table.