An Open Letter to Whichever Quick-Step DS Was Responsible for that Fiasco

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Dear Mr. Directeur, whoever you may be.

I know you have a stressful job. I know you have a lot to worry about. I know that I've never been in your situation, I know that it's not an easy one. And I know that this stage was not an easy one to predict. I know, as well, that the flat is kind of Marcel Kittel's terrain. But I also know how useful a fifth place in the Tour de France is, and how it must be cherished and protected. I know that your team is kind of renowned for being able to do exactly what was necessary to protect that fifth place in the Tour de France, and you did not do it.

I'm aware that your team was hit with quite the blow to hear that Philippe Gilbert wouldn't be swinging his leg over his Specialized this morning, and that this was always going to be detrimental to your efforts in the wind. But hey. Come on now. You're Quickstep. Crosswinds are kind of your thing. So let's have a quick review of your actions today:

  • Kittel, predictably, gets dropped on the Côte de Boussoulet
  • Stybar, Vermote and Sabatini, Quick-Step's three best riders on the flat remaining in the race, drop back to help Kittel.
  • Sunweb make sure Kittel stayed dropped, because of course Sunweb made sure Kittel stayed dropped.
  • Kittel lost a huge amount of time in the crosswinds, because that's just what happens when you get dropped in the crosswinds.
  • Martin, who is, in case you'd forgotten, having the Tour of his career and looking for every second he can find, riding for a team who does well in crosswinds, is stuck in those crosswinds with a climber, Gianluca Brambilla, and one rouleur, Jack Bauer. Martin has had trouble in the past with positioning and could probably do with a little bit of shepherding as the race splits in the crosswinds, because the race was always going to split in the crosswinds.
  • Back with Kittel, Stybar and Vermote are working as hard as they can, right up till they realise Kittel can't be brought up to the front group, approximately an hour after everybody else realises it (This work prevented the team cars from getting in the gap between the groups, by the way, jeopardising Martin were he to have a puncture or mechanical). They promptly cease to work for the day, being a great deal of use to...
  • Martin, who's sticking with Brambilla and Bauer at the front, right up till he falls a little back just as Sunweb and Sky split the group.
  • Bauer actually makes the split, but looks around to realise that Martin has not.
  • He drops back, does some sterling work, but it's not enough because, surprise, one team mate can't chase down a group where literally everyone is working.
  • Martin loses fifty seconds and two places on GC. Reminder: he burned a lot of matches on two rightly praised attacks to claw back thirty seconds on stages 13 and 15.
Look, I'm not saying that anyone was completely to blame for what happened. Maybe Martin should have done better. Maybe there could have been more race awareness on the part of every Quick-Step rider in the front group. Kittel was never getting back on, however, and wasting three team mates on him was never a clever tactical decision when you have a top five to protect. These tactics have cost Quick-Step and Martin extremely dearly, in a race where, to be nearly as clichéd as the post-race interviews, every second counts.