It looked like a straight Arnaud Demare (FDJ & France) v. Andre Greipel (Lotto & Germany) shoot out in Troyes but Marcel Kittel (QuickStep & Germany), over on the bright side of the road, was way too quick for them both; Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data & Norway) hit out long and produced a good performance given he was stranded at the front so early, only being swamped late as Demare slid like an eel between the Norwegian and the barriers.
Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis & France) looks ordinary in this company and we at last caught a glimpse of Dan McLay (Fortuneo & GB) in eighth; but Kittel was in a different class despite an anything but text book lead out.
None of the teams have been producing Vanderaerden/Cipo/Cav/HTC leadouts and today was no exception – no one was ‘dropped off neatly’ – more a ‘stramash’ of a finish as they say in Scotland.
Kittel came from way back, around 10th spot, displaying dynamic acceleration to leave all the big names flat footed in his wake, repeating Zabel’s German Troyes win in 2000.
No l’Équipe yesterday for VeloVeritas but we got one today, Sagan is top of the front page with all manner of Peter pics inside, including an ‘exclusif’ selfie.
It’ll be interesting to see what they say about him tomorrow’s edition – from Head Boy to School Bully overnight; maybe the commissaires will want to talk to his parents about that Cavcident he was involved in?
You have to admire Bora though, they’ve been on to CAS [The Court of Arbitration for Sport] stating their argument that the Slovak should be allowed back into the race because the judges did not allow him to state his case.
Of course, it can’t ‘fly’ because now he’s missed two stages but it keeps the Bora-Hansgrohe name grabbing the column inches.
Sagan’s DQ is a huge PR blow to the team – all the pressure now lands upon skinny Pole Rafa Majka; who looks in decent nick and will no doubt be points hunting come the big mountains.
On the subject of loss of PR, Cav’s exit is nothing short of a disaster for Dimension Data; over to you, Messrs, Boasson Hagen and Cummings.
Old Eddy B looks like he could do the biz on a transition stage after a decent prologue and a very strong showing in today’s sprint.
Meanwhile, Stevo hides in the peloton and builds his form, day by day – he’s told us that it’s next week he has the red pen rings around a stage or two.
It was definitely another one for the sprinters today, under blue skies through beautiful golden wheat fields, classic ‘La France Profonde’ Tour images as the break did their labour of Sisyphus, that’s the dude who had to keep rolling the big boulder up the hill – forever…
Wanty were in the break again with Belgian Frederik Backaert, a Wanty man since 2014 with some strong results this year – 11th in Gent-Gent, 5th in the Samyn and Finistere and second in Tro Bro.
His amigos for his thankless day out were Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE & Norway) who’s been around the block teams-wise, from cult Norwegian Conti team, Joker to Team Type 1 in the US then French squad Bretagne Seche, back to Joker then IAM in Switzerland before finding his current desert home.
His biggest result was to win the Tour of Alsace back in 2015.
Completing the trio was home boy Perrig Quemeneur (Direct Energie) who l’Équipe cited as the most ‘typical’ Tour rider the other day in terms of age/weight/height/experience; 14 years a professional, all with Jean Rene Bernadeau’s teams until last year when he joined Direct Energie.
No big wins but solid team work in all the Grand Tours.
In the peloton Steve Cummings was in his usual tail gunner spot with big Julien Vermote for QuickStep on point – again.
The hard working break only succumbed with three K to go with Katusha for Kristoff; Cofidis for Bouhanni; FDJ for the green jerseyed Demare, Lotto for Greipel, QuickStep for Kittel and gamely, Dimension Data for Eddy BH all doing their bit to claw the desperados back but no one patently in charge of proceedings.
As I said at the start, it looked like it was between Super Heroes rumble between ‘Green Lantern’ and ‘le Gorille’ but the man with the heavy hair gel bills was in a class of his own.
Yellow (Froome), Green (Demare), Polka Dot (Aru) and White (Yates) all ‘as you were.’
More of the same tomorrow, only one fourth cat. climb and lots of vineyards to trundle through – Kittel again?
Worth a punt, surely.