Le Tour de France 2016 – Stage 11; Carcassonne – Montpellier. Sagan and Froome Escape the Sprinters
It COULD have been a ‘snooze-fest.’
It SHOULD have been a sprinters stage.
Enter, stage left one superb Slovakian in green, Mr. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff).
He attacks from the front in the cross winds inside 12 K to go with Polish TT champ team mate Bodnar aka ‘The Bison’ and spreads pure panic among the world’s best riders – but that skinny Sky man Froome is sharp again, as is team mate Thomas.
They see the way the cookie is crumbling and board the Tinkoff express, Thomas just makes it.
Sagan, Froome, Bodnar and Thomas hurtle under the flame rouge clear of a desperate and beaten peloton.
It’s hard to believe your eyes but it’s real; the green jersey wins, the yellow jersey is second, Bodnar third whilst Thomas is washed away – the bookies would have given you big odds on that one.
There are no more superlatives left...
Sorry, nearly nodded off there folks at 75 K to go...
We had two up the road, French champion Arthur Vichot (F des J) and Leigh Howard (IAM & Australia) – the IAM Management has obviously been thumping the table...
Anyway - early crashes, Vichot and Howard go away and... that was the status quo (yawn) ‘til the ‘echelon episode’ – however the parcours direction changed, it came back together and now the Dynamic Duo only have a dozen seconds as Stannard beasts it at the front through yet another sleepy village
We’re back in open country and the crosswinds are causing big damage with even Froome on the front of that echelon with the breakaway just a line in the notebooks.
The front group is compact but there’s carnage behind – Tony Martin (Etixx) has missed the boat and it’s a tough day for Thibaut Pinot (F des J) who’s been yo-yoing all day.
There’s a crash in one of the villages but none of the Bigs are affected.
With 49 K to go Sagan (Tinkoff) takes more points at the intermediate second behind Kittel (Etixx) with Cav (Dimension Data) third.
It’s a far from boring race now; mad speed then a lull then more mad speed through the vineyards.
This looks like it’s going to be hectic in the final.
It’s calmed down at the front and the flotsam and jetsam are battling to get back – a hard old day despite the earlier fast sportive stuff.
Compatto – but not for long as it goes crazy once again then lulls.
Dangerous stuff – but then it’s tranquilo now inside 20 miles to go.
But we’re off again with Tinkoff doing the damage – it’s blowing apart now with 12 K to go; Sagan and ‘The Bison’ Bodnar are on fire - Froome sees the danger, Thomas too.
Four clear; Sagan, Froome, Bodnar, Thomas – wow!
They have nearly 20 seconds with five miles to go.
Sagan is bestial – Thomas would say later; ‘motoring!’
Cav has a mechanical, it’s over for him – it won’t be happy cheeky chappy Mark tonight for the TV.
Etixx should commit here but don’t – they’re playing poker.
Vik reckons they’re holding back lest they blow Dan Martin away?
Lotto chase, Jumbo too; 24 seconds now – but we have four of the strongest guys in the race up front, spelling beautifully.
The gap is inside 20 seconds, it’s still possible to bring them back with two K to go, maybe...
Flame Rouge – they’re not coming back.
Thomas is dead, Froome drives, then Bodnar, Froome jumps – ‘behave Christopher !’ Sagan seems to say.
Bodnar celebrates, Sagan wins, easily – but I think he’d have preferred to give it to Bodnar had that pesky Froome not been so cheeky.
Sagan and Bodnar cuddle after the line – no wonder, sheer brilliance on their part.
Sagan has really cemented the green jersey lead this day; and Froome has landed another big body blow on his rivals – and taken even more time.
We’ve asked the question already – ‘is the Tour won already?’
Ventoux a demain – let’s just hope that wind dies.
CODA - and we're sorry to report that we've just received the ASO communique:
Monsieur Prudhomme explained that the finish line will be placed near the Chalet Reynard, making the stage 5.7km shorter.
"It will be a spectacular climb of 10km.
Rider safety is more important."