The Tour de France took its victims again today in Normandy, with the same man as yesterday losing out. Yes, it was Alberto Contador who hit the ground again, this time in a crash on wet roads with 120km left in the stage. The Spaniard got up, and didn't seem to be as badly affected as yesterday, but the two crashes took their toll, with him losing 48 seconds on the final climb, right as his team mates dropped Sagan off to power past Alaphilippe in the sprint. The BMC leadership debacle also looks to be sorted for this race, with the duo of a flat tyre with four kilometres to go, and a slow change from a Mavic neutral service car seeing
him Richie Porte a minute and forty-five seconds behind the lead group.
Another story of the day came from the breakaway, which consisted of Paul Voß in a futile search for more KOM points, his team mate Cesare Benedetti, Fortuneo-Vital Concept's Vegard Breen, and Kuurne champion Jasper Stuyven. The quartet worked well together, and with 60 kilometres to go they had six minutes on the rather listless peloton. Sure, Dimension Data stuck someone on the front to "protect" Mark Cavendish's yellow jersey, but it was looking good for the break until about six teams surged with about forty kilometres to go, to help the respective interests of their numerous leading riders. The gap fell, but seemingly not quickly enough, and Jasper Stuyven still had two minutes of an advantage when he attacked on the uncategorised Côte d'Octeville with eight kilometres to go and raced through Cherbourg. However, his day in the break caught up with him, and Tinkoff, Sky and BMC charged him down, making the catch just after he crested the day's main obstacle, the Côte de La Glacerie.
A quick, hair-raising descent followed, and the uphill sprint started, with Roman Kreuziger doing a great job to lead out Sagan, but when he pulled off, Sagan didn't immediately start his sprint. Joaquím Rodríguez was really the first to launch, but he was followed by the stronger kick of Julian Alaphilippe, who looked like he might have the chance at taking stage honours, before Sagan shot out from behind him and took the win by a bike length, not even knowing that the stage was his. It's the first Tour stage the Slovakian has won since stage 7 in 2013
Contador and Porte were the real losers of the day, but Thibaut Pinot's Tour hasn't gone off to a perfect start, losing eleven seconds. Also, take note of the dynamic at Etixx. There was no teamwork between Alaphilippe and Martin on the final climb, which makes me wonder if the are the duo they purport to be. Finally, Michael Mørkøv and Sam Bennett won the hearts of the viewing audience, with gutsy rides to finish the stage, Bennett coming in over sixteen minutes down.
|Greg Van Avermaet