After the rest day yesterday, this stage was not exactly a rest stage (especially not for poor Tom Veelers1) but it was one of the more leisurely stages you’re bound to see. Which is fine, but just means there’s not much to report.
Here’s big Marcel Kittel edging out Andre the Gorilla Griepel at the line:
And here’s Cavendish shouldering Veelers as he (Cav) tries to catch Griepel’s wheel. Veelers, a teammate of Kittel, hit the pavement and later had help limping off the road.
Sean Kelly (ah, the great Sean Kelly — listen to his accent a bit, won’t you?) said immediately after that the crash was ’just one of those things that happen in the group sprint.’ Indeed, it’s all part of racing (not unlike hard checking in hockey or the brush-back pitch) and with that in mind it’s worth noting the nerves of steel — or carbon fiber, I guess, these days — that it takes to muscle into the field as the line approaches. Think of Veelers’s mental state, or Henderson or Bodnar, as they lead out their man, and then think of all the guys close behind them. They’re all going almost 70kmh and not even trying to win and they all know they could go down. This is what the major leagues of anything are all about. (Though I maintain that the glory of a sprint stage win, especially a stage like this with little impact on much of anything, is negligible.)
From letour.fr’s live coverage, this went up early in the race after the five-man break of Mate, Westra, Simon, Cousin, and Oroz formed. None of them higher than 93rd in the GC and all of them over an hour behind Froome. Reminded me of Donnie Brasco somehow. Julien Simon, though, is from Brittany and letour.fr reported that he was well aware of the route: ‘We will pass Beignon, which is where my mother and my grandmother are from and I know all the roads in the area by heart.’ So there had to have been a great deal of pride as Simon rode by at the head of the race today.
So the standings don’t change. Tomorrow’s first individual time trial will really be interesting to see the state of Froome’s strength after having a hard ride to Ax 3 Domaines, and to see who his real challengers might be.
And challengers there are! This is some good info from letour.fr (again) on the time spread (after each year’s respective first rest day) between the 10th place in GC on up to the race leader:
The ones I marked (*) are the key: the man leading the GC did not go on to win the Tour. In other words, their lead was in jeopardy after the rest day. And all of the above had bigger leads than Froome has. In other other words, Froome’s 2’45” total over the next nine riders is far from secure. Just saying.
Nice to see Kévin Reza, a name from stage 5, placing 8th in today’s sprint.
Jérôme Cousin of Eurocar gets the ‘Fighting Spirit’ award for starting today’s breakaway. This is fast becoming my second-favorite concern after the King of the Mountains (and, uh, I suppose the yellow jersey).
Eurosprt’s feed was no better than NBC’s and much as I love Sean Kelly, I’m going back to NBC tomorrow.
Happy Birthday to The Eagle of Toledo, Federico Bahamontes!
1. Correction: Seems it was Tom Veelers who crashed, not Albert Timmers as I said earlier.