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Tour Stage Two: Same again?

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Mouilleron-Saint-Germain – La Roche-sur-Yon (183km)

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On tomorrow’s stage

For those of you who didn’t read the Viewer’s Guide that Conor and I put together, Conor picked stage on as the most interesting sprint stage. I picked stage two as being stage one, but with a bit less enthusiasm. Conor and I agree about this – there’s a definite diminishing return in the sprint stages. Part of that is because all the sprinters are there, and healthy, on day one, but it is also because the month’s pecking order is yet to be established.

So, what might change things? Well, I didn’t see stage one, but I hear there was chaos. Remove some of that chaos and we might see more riders getting involved in the finish. Equally, and I hope I’m wrong about this, there’s a decent chance of a pile up. This isn’t a nice run-in.

The weather is a threat, and there’s plenty of exposure, as there was on Saturday. As on Saturday, however, the forecast is modest and unlikely to cause difficulties. Nor is there anything in the parcours to encourage the breakaway or the tougher sprinters to believe that we aren’t looking at another bunch sprint.

Have we got a pecking order yet? History says that we might have. Last year Kittel won the first gallop and proved himself the fastest finisher in the race. In 2016, Cav took stage one and added three more. Greipel did the same after winning the first road stage in ’15. You get the idea. Is Gaviria legitimately quicker than Kittel or Groenewegen, the two men most widely expected to match him this year? I’m not sure. Does the combination of form, speed, and momentum make Fernando Gaviria my pick for tomorrow? It absolutely does.

Amy’s wine of the day:

The wine: Domaine de l’ecu Pinot Noir Ange

Sticking with the red from a white region theme, we have a Loire pinot.

From the importer: Many feel that Domaine de l’Ecu (along with a very small group of other domaines, of course) is to thank for what Muscadet is today. there are a series of non-negotiable “house rules”

that apply to all the wines at Domaine de L’Ecu: working the soils, harvesting by hand, fermenting with indigenous yeast, avoiding pumping or racking of the must (only gravity), and minimal use of sulfur. All in all, it is a philosophy of “no make-up”; just true wines without adulteration or artifice.

The estate is now run by a passionate, wine-loving gentleman named Frederik (Fred) Niger. In recent years, Fred has embarked on a compelling endeavor to craft a collection of Vin De France varietal wines fermented and aged in a combination of amphora and barrel, and sometimes amphora alone. He is particularly interested in the energy exchange between vessel and wine, and ultimately in how this energy is transmitted to those of us who have the pleasure of experiencing these vibrant, lively, pure expressions of soil and grape.

On the Tour

I didn’t have to make a pick for stage one. Conor took that responsibility (well, so did Jens, but that’s more comic relief than prognostication). I didn’t have to pick the overall winner or top ten, either (again, thanks Conor) or white (cheers, Shawn). I drafted some stages, surprised nobody by saying Sagan would win green, then went on holiday. I missed the Froome nonsense and the toughest round of predictions I can imagine. This morning, I had a brief look at the various betting markets, trying to see if I had an opinion.

Reader, I placed no bets.

I thought about a couple. Majka at 14/1 for the spotty jersey looked big, though I think a GC contender will probably take it. Daniel Felipe Martinez was the same price to make the top ten. That was probably a dodged bullet (I think he’ll have freedom and will climb well, but I doubted his ability to go three weeks without shipping time on a non-climbing stage.

I’m writing this simply to confess that I have no strong opinions on this Tour. Conor’s “why they can’t win” piece was on the money for me. I don’t think we’ll see the Giro-Tour double done any time soon, and the media backdrop gives me more pause over Froome’s chances. That said, I don’t think he’ll have to be at 100% to win this – each of the contenders has serious holes. I’ve heard the theory that there are loads of contenders for the top ten, and for the podium, and I keep coming back to Bill Walsh’s theory on quarterbacks – “if you think you’ve got three guys, you haven’t got a guy.”

I’m expecting three intriguing weeks. But I won’t bet on any outcomes, and I don’t think we’ll need to see a world class performance to see a winner.