Hugely exciting first mountain stage, in terms of GC? Well, no. But there was still plenty of drama in front. A huge break got clear early on, containing twenty-nine riders, most notably yellow jersey Greg Van Avermaet, who got into the break as a method of conserving his GC lead for another day.
The decisive move of the day would be made with twenty-eight kilometres left in the stage, as Steve Cummings jumped solo out of a four-man group, and forged on toward the Col d'Aspin, increasing what had seemed like a small lead on the peloton to what looked like an unassailable one. When he reached the mountain, he only seemed to increase his lead on his pursuers, who had formed a four-man group of Van Avermaet, Impey, Navarro, and Vincenzo Nibali, who set the pace that eventually dropped the yellow jersey. However, it wasn't enough to dent Cummings' advantage, and he went over the Col d'Aspin with over a minute's lead over Impey and Navarro, with Nibali languishing behind. Cummings descended with ease to the finish, and was the only man in the picture by the end of the stage to hand Dimension Data an amazing fourth stage of the seven so far. Daryl Impey sprinted past Navarro for second, Nibali came in fourth, and Greg Van Avermaet got a top five finish to take his advantage to almost six minutes.
Back in the peloton, the Col d'Aspin wasn't a significant enough challenge to draw out the big GC contenders. The rain stayed away, and FDJ pulled the peloton under sunny skies. However, this was only to mask Thibaut Pinot's bad day, and the French hopeful was dropped halfway up the climb, coming in almost three minutes behind the peloton. His GC hopes are now over, and after the stage he admitted that he was not 100%, and that his dream of victory was dead. In what quickly became a difficult stage for the French, Warren Barguil also looked shaky, attacking at the start of the climb, but quickly falling behind near the top of the climb. However, he caught up on the descent.
Other people to attack included Domenico Pozzovivo and Jarlinson Pantano, who were caught by a combination of Julian Alaphilippe's move and Team Sky's grinding down. Dan Martin also had a go near the top, but was also brought back.
But here's what will make this stage live on in the memory of fans. Adam Yates must have had a gap on the peloton going into the Flamme Rouge, when it suddenly deflated, knocked him to the ground, and somehow flipped his bike on top of the deflated rubber. He arrived, bloody, four minutes behind. The time gaps were then reset to the 3km marker.
One person who didn't have any problems today was Alberto Contador, who will have been happy with the easy pace. He came in with the peloton, which is a huge boost to his ambitions for this race.
Also, Vincenzo Nibali attacked to take one KOM point, so he may be going for that jersey.
|Greg Van Avermaet
|Luis Angel Maté