As the peloton swallowed up lone breakaway rider Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, it seemed like an ordinary sprint day of the Tour de France, with the peloton thundering into Vittel. We knew about the dangerous corner with fourteen hundred metres to go, but that was a danger that could be averted. As it was, Van Keirsbulck had been the only real entertainment of the day, with an attack not even followed by the other wildcard team, desperate for TV views, doomed to fail despite the herculean effort to stay in front of the peloton for almost two hundred kilometres.
When he was caught well inside the final fifteen kilometres, however, the peloton headed towards the finish in Vittel, with Cofidis and Dimension Data, along with the GC teams of Sky and Astana leading the peloton until the town environment was reached, and the peloton narrowed to fit through the dangerous bend. It did so without issue, and perhaps a slight relaxation caused by having gotten through that feared part of the stage caused the ensuing carnage. First, it was the entire Quick-Step Floors leadout train who fell, taking out yellow jersey Geraint Thomas (unhurt) and as yet unnamed others.
This split the peloton into a tiny group fighting for the stage, with favourite Marcel Kittel a few metres adrift, with the Lotto-Soudal and Dimension Data trains most prominent for their sprinters André Greipel and Mark Cavendish, but as Jurgen Roelandts tried to kick off the sprint for Greipel, Alexander Kristoff came around him with 275 metres to go, and the sprint was on. As a group, everyone drifted to the right-hand side of the road, compacting and springing apart again, but it was too late to avoid carnage, as Bouhanni jinked right just as Démare started his sprint, forcing Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan to go in the same direction in order to follow their wheels. Bouhanni then moved left but Sagan this time did not follow, instead challenging Cavendish for Démare's wheel, moving yet further to the right and into Cavendish's space. As Cavendish tried to fit into the tiny, narrowing gap between Sagan in the barrier, the Slovakian's elbow flicked out and flicked out again, leaving the Manxman with nowhere to go but into the Carrefour hoardings on the side of the road. He hit the deck, suffering a suspected broken shoulder and taking Ben Swift and John Degenkolb down with him.
Meanwhile, Bouhanni had found Kristoff's slipstream, which Démare liked the look of, so he cut across his compatriot, forcing him to stop his sprint and fall to fourth place. All Démare's gain however, sprinting up the middle of the road (remember, he had started his sprint there, before going along the barriers) to take his first victory, overshadowed as it will be by the mess on the roads of Vittel.
Questions as to who is at fault for what will ring throughout the internet and throughout the Tour caravan today, with Sagan being blamed by some (including the race jury, who have penalised him by first relegating him on the stage and deducting fifty additional points from him in the green jersey classification, and then disqualifying him from the Tour), Cavendish by others and parallels being made to similar indiscretions which have happened in the past. As it is, the costs of this stage are still to be tallied up, with too many appointments with the race doctor to be made this evening.
- Arnaud Démare (FRA), FDJ - 4:53:54
- Alexander Kristoff (NOR), Katusha - st
- André Greipel (GER), Lotto-Soudal - st
- Nacer Bouhanni (FRA), Cofidis - st
- Adrien Petit (FRA), Direct Energie - st
- Jurgen Roelandts (BEL), Lotto-Soudal - st
- Michael Matthews (AUS), Team Sunweb - st
- Manuele Mori (ITA), UAE Team Emirates - st
- Tiesj Benoot (BEL), Lotto-Soudal - st
- Zdenek Stybar (CZE), Quick-Step Floors - st
Démare takes the green jersey (for real this time), Geraint Thomas may feel lucky to hold onto yellow basically unscathed, while Latour keeps white and Brown maintains his lead in the mountains classification.