Tour de France Column by Toby Miles - Chaos of the first week
- Credit: Archant
Read Toby Miles’ Malliot Blanc Column as the 18-year-old aspiring professional cyclist unpicks the chaos of the Tour de France’s opening week.
The Tour de France’s opening sprint stage has a reputation for pile-ups – as the 176-strong field plunged into the final 10-miles of Stage One in cycling’s premier event, pressure was at a season high on Saturday.
This year’s day one sprint – with a precious victory and prestigious yellow jersey waiting for the winner – isn’t far behind Stage 21, the final stage down the Champs Elysees, in prestige.
General classification teams join the fight for the front – aiming to keep their leaders safe – meaning the factors are in place for a dangerous finale.
Lawson Craddock was first to slip away as the tempo increased. The American finally lost contact after 50-miles clinging to the rear of the peloton, after colliding with a spectator.
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With slanted shoulders and blood gushing from his left eyebrow, Craddock battled to finish, long after the TV cameras had turned away – earning another day nursing his fractured shoulder-blade through the French heat.
The Tour’s famous drama unfolded with the first mass pile-up, caused by a FDJ rider clipping the wheel in front as I spotted Richie Porte picking his way through the fallen bodies and bikes.
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With sprint lead-outs at full speed, Porte had no hope of re-joining the bunch. TV coverage kept tabs on the BMC man, as he scrambled to limit losses.
The early breakaway, forgotten since the crash, was inevitably caught with fewer than four miles to go. Jerome Cousin and Guillaume Martin’s had just enough time to fist-bump before the peloton absorbed them.
More drama. Chris Froome, who’s faced boos from spectators – apparently unaware of his exoneration – tussled to locate his teammates at the front, when he took a risk, sprinting for a slither of road on the outside.
Marcel Kittel slid across Froome who bumped off the burly German’s right shoulder and into a farmer’s field.
As many Tour favourites chased in vain behind, Quick-Step Floors provided a masterclass.
Inside the final kilometer, with five teammates still in front of Fernando Gaviria - who had been seen shaking with terror before the start of his debut Tour - Quick-Step dominated, delivering the Columbian to the finish, as he held off Peter Sagan.
The chaos will continue until the first mountain on Stage 10. Momentum’s vital in Tour sprints, and the winner of the opener has invariably been the dominant fastman.
I expect Gavaria to continue the trend.
I’d predicted Dylan Groenewegen to be the man to beat this year but his team can’t dream of challenging Gavaria’s. I’d still pick the LottoNL-Jumbo man for a win before the Tour’s end, as the new generation overhaul the old guard of Greipel and Cavendish.
Meanwhile, the yellow jersey contenders are in survival mode. Geraint Thomas is in pole position ahead of Stage Nine’s cobbles, which present an opportunity to gain more time. Could the Welshman finally get a clean run to contest Tour victory? He’s got the form.