In one sense, this least typical finish to any road stage ever — a temporarily truncated finish line caused by a team bus stuck under the scaffold — was in fact what’s so typical of the Tour: it’s just so damn exciting.
A five-man break led for most of the race before, typically, getting swallowed up by the peloton late in the day. ‘Échappé terminé’ Phil Liggett said, which is just a small example of why we love him. The break had grabbed the top 5 sprint points in San-Giuliano, leaving 10 points for the sixth to cross the line. There was a great moment when it looked like Cavendish was not going to contest the points in order to fake Greipel into thinking he wasn’t at full strength, thereby gaining a little edge later in the psychology of the final sprint. But then the bus got stuck.
It was no joke: the whole road was blocked.
Organizers moved the finish up 3km, to a spot that Liggett pointed out was a bend in the road. Super dangerous for a sprint. Then they freed the bus (it was the Orica-GreenEdge team’s) and the peloton amassed itself again. Then Geraint Thomas of Team Sky went down, taking a good portion of the peloton with him, including Cavendish, Greipel, and other top contenders for the stage. All this at over 70km/hour!
At the end it was Marcel Kittel over the line, beating Alexander Kristoff with a well-timed jump at 150 metres or so.
I’m hoping Kittel wears the green jersey tomorrow (he won three today: maillot jaune, green, and white), to say that that yes, he won the stage and the points, but the honor of yellow was mitigated by all the confusion of the bus. VeloNews reports, ‘Marcel Kittel’s leadout man John Degenkolb had no idea the finish line had ever been changed to 3km to go’ which makes you wonder if any riders knew, or if some did and some didn’t, and thus how fair was the finish? All reasons for Kittel to wear green. We hope to talk more about the sportsmanship in the Tour in the days ahead — there’s a great tradition.
Truth be told, the majority of the race was dull, as flat road stages can be, especially with a sprint finish as a pretty foregone conclusion. My favorite moment of Ligett and Paul Sherwen filling time was their exchange on oysters:
‘A lot of people think the Greeks or Romans brought oysters to Corsica but in fact they occur here naturally. ’
‘The Romans were very partial to oysters. They used to pick them here and take them back to Rome.’
Good old Phil and Paul.
Just one more screencap from NBC’s online coverage:
It’s beautiful to see them wind around these fountains, some riders going left some right before flowing back into a group again. Vive le Tour!