Andre GreipelCarlton Kirby made his second accurate statement of the 2014 Tour, today; ‘ Andre Greipel is back!

For sure.

He looked for all the world like his nickname today; ‘Le Gorille’ – it was good to see him back and his relief at winning was palpable.

The huge disappointment in the Lotto car when the big German crashed out of Gent-Wevelgem was forgotten after a stage win which effectively means Lotto’s Tour is a success, irrespective of what Jurgen Van Den Broeck can pull out of the hat.

If yesterday was brutal then today was savage; a 46.3 kph average through the rain with the last 10 kilometres at warp speed.

Andre Greipel
Andre Greipel gets his Tour stage. Photo©sportal.com.au

Cav may have gone but QuickStep don’t seem to have noticed as they blitzed what was left of the peloton with Renshaw again in the frame – Kittel being the main victim of the killing pace they set.

It’s easy to say that they can’t win because Kittel, Greipel and Kristoff are all quicker than the Aussie.

But as Stephen Roche always says; ‘if you’re not in it, you can’t win it,’ and Androni manager Gianni Savio’s mantra is; ‘you must honour the race.

No one can accuse QuickStep of doing any less – and Kwiatkowski even tried, ‘a Cancellara’ – or ‘an Ekimov’ if you’re of my generation; jumping away in the last kilometre as the sprinters gathered themselves for the final madness.

Andre Greipel
Michael Kwiatkowski is looking in great shape. Photo©PAP/EPA

Kristoff again showed that he’s quicker than I think he is – or maybe just endorsed that it was another grim day; the kind of conditions he excels in.

It was good to see wee Frenchman Samuel Dumoulin in third spot; we need a French stage win – albeit Vik would have the AG2R man banished from the Pro Tour on the grounds that he’s too small to be a pro.

Sometimes Vik take it too far…

Andre Greipel
Samuel Dumoulin is one of the smallest riders in the race. Photo©ag2rlamondial

Renshaw took fourth, going as well as he ever did.

Sagan unable to deliver as favourite on Tour de France cobbles’ screams the headline on the Cyclingnews website – funny, there was me thinking the laddie had done not bad after never being lower than fifth in the six stages so far.

And he leads the green jersey competition by 80 points, 217 to Coquard’s 137 points – not a bad margin, I’m thinking.

On the subject of Frenchmen; both Pinot and Rolland dropped a minute today – albeit Rolland has a Giro in his legs and is riding the Tour so that he can take time off after it as his wife is expecting a child.

It was a bad day for Demare again with more crashes – never good for the morale.

Bardet meanwhile continues to go about his business and not drop any time – we gave high hopes for this young man.

It may be cool to be on the leading team but that kudos comes at a price with Nibali’s Astana men and Contador’s troops too, on the front for much of the final 60 K.

Andre Greipel
Michael Mørkøv relaxes in the Village Départ. Photo©Søren Reedtz

It’s still a source of wonder to me as I watch Michael Mørkøv ride tempo for one of the best riders in the world – I remember him as a skinny laddie riding his first Six Day, in Grenoble, and crashing out.

Daniele Benatti is in his 13th season as a pro and has ‘reinvented’ himself from sprinter to tough, reliable domestique, spending hours on the front in the service of his leader.

Matteo Tosatto in his 29th Grand Tour has an even longer history in the peloton than Benatti with 18 seasons – a highly respected individual.

Andre Greipel
Froome’s abandon made the front pages. Photo©Ed Hood

Chris Froome’s retiral made the front pages in the UK; but Christian Prudhomme had few words of solace for the skinny Englishman saying that the cobbles are part of French cycling heritage and part of le Tour – and a pro should be able to handle is bike in all circumstances.

Pragmatic but true – albeit Lady Luck has a role to play and whilst she blessed Froome in 2013, she’s a fickle lady…

Continuing on our negative theme, Jeroen Blijlevens and Bart Voskamp have been making the headlines in The Netherlands; the two ex-TVM riders have ‘fessed up’ to transporting and using EPO in the 1998 Tour de France.

Andre Greipel
Jeroen Blijlevens being congratulated by Michael Boogerd. Photo©omroepbrabant

Belkin had to let Blijlevens go from his management position last year after he made an admission to the French Senate Committee that he’d kitted up – but this is a newspaper splurge.

There’ll be a cheque book somewhere in the mix and I guess it’s just a coincidence that it’s been published just as le Tour returns to the Continent.

Le Tour was off the cover of L’Équipe for Stage Three but well represented inside with Kittel’s second stage win getting us a rash of Marcel stats:

  • six (now seven) Tour stages
  • one Vuelta stage
  • two Giro stages
  • one Paris-Nice stage
  • four Dunkirk Four Day stages
  • four Tour of Poland stages
  • one Etoille des Besseges stage
  • three GP de ‘Escaut (Scheldeprijs) wins
  • the Tour of Picardie overall plus two stages
  • three stages in Dubai (but let’s not mention those Dubai stages to Viktor)

He’s 26 years-old – but at the same age Cav had won 25 stages.

Andre Greipel
Kittel’s palmarès is growing rapidly. Photo©Jeff Pachoud

Eddy Merckx is still ‘recordman’ on 34 stage wins and whilst a year or two ago it looked like Cav was going to top that, in these days of Kittel, Greipel and Kristoff and with Demare, Bouhanni and Coquard all still to come fully to the boil, it looks like a much tougher task, now.

L’Équipe gives ‘selfies’ 0/10 saying that whilst they’re ‘la mode’ – the fashion – they’re suicidal with a bunch whistling past.

And they share my views on Sagan, giving him 9/10.

And a wee tidbit which I found interesting; in 1970 there were three agents in the sport, now there are 50 – pro cycling was always a business, but never more so than right now.

Stage Seven could be a sprinter stage; it’s long at 234.5 km and flat but has the ‘sting in the tail’ of proverbs – two steep, nippy fourth cat climbs which could just be enough to split it and let a Gerrans or a Chavanel steal it.

A demain.