Astana’s design team may not have made a good job of that Italian champion’s jersey but it’s wearer, Vincenzo Nibali certainly made a good job of Stage Two of the 2014 Tour de France, (aka The Tour in Yorkshire) catching an elite group napping with 1700 metres to go to take stage and GC glory.
‘Shark Attack in Sheffield’ said the ASO press release – we like that.
The nay sayers were writing him off just a week or two ago but the man has won two of the three Grand Tours and has finished on the podium of all three – to underestimate him was folly.
Yesterday I was ranting that the Tour doesn’t belong in Yorkshire – no death threats, yet – and neither do Yorkshire idiot fans emulating Continental idiot fans.
One lass had to be dragged back from the road by a friend as she tried to snap a rider on her iPhone – no wonder Navardauskas knocked several out of spectators’ hands.
And there were the obligatory twats running beside the riders; not even looking at the race and focusing their inane gaze on the TV camera.
For once Carlton Kirby said something sensible; ‘the race is about the riders, not you!’ as one nutter kept pace with the leaders on a climb.
Two Carlton Classics today; ‘Demare is relaying himself!’ Eh?
‘Sagan has been given his freedom, today!’ He’s the damned team leader, Carlton.
The fact that the break was cut very little slack today was a measure of how seriously the ‘Bigs’ were taking this stage.
It must be a worry to Europcar that no sooner had Tommy V rocked, rolled and grimaced his way across to break survivor, Biel Kadri than the AG2R man dropped him.
Kadri did a good PR job but Cofidis’s Cyril Lemoine had done a better one in that tightly reined earlier break; picking up six K o M points to Kadri’s five and claiming the maillot a pois.
Call us sentimental but we like to see French guys going good – Rolland was aggressive in the finale but still has the Giro in his legs.
Rolland lost 16 seconds at the line as did Thibaut Pinot (F des J) not a lot – but not so easy to claw back from Chris, Bert and Vincenzo.
One young Frenchman who was right there at the death and even had a dig was AG2R’s Romain Bardet – good to see.
On the subject of tight reins, Vasili Kiryienka and Geraint Thomas should be first on the massage table tonight after the job they did – and Sagan’s Cannondale boys were also on galley slave duties until late in the day.
The finale was frantic and it encouraging to see BMC’s young American Tejay van Garderen and Belgium’s Jurgen Van Den Broeck active; it’s early days but the more riders in the mix the better – we’ve all seen too many processional Tours de France.
And also good to see Chris Froome closed down rapidly when he moved on the last climb – with a hugely diminished leading group bearing testament to a hard day’s racing.
Nibali timed his move perfectly with everyone looking to Sagan to counter; but as Sagan explained after the stage, Nibali is his friend, they raced together on Cannondale for two years so he wasn’t about to take the rest up.
Greg Van Avermaet recorded the millionth second place of his career – but with van Garderen ninth it wasn’t a bad day for the Swiss/American team.
Michal Kwiatkowski was third for QuickStep – no cigar but a good pointer that his form is back on the up.
With Cav out QuickStep will be extra dangerous on the cobbles of Stage Five – Patrick Lefevre needs exposure for his sponsors and it’s too long to wait until the Stage 20 time trial for Tony Martin.
Sagan was fourth on the stage to take a solid lead in the green jersey competition and is level on time with Kwiatkowski in the young riders’ classification – it’s hard to believe the Slovak Champion is still only 24 years-old.
All of the main GC faves are within two seconds of Nibali and it should remain status quo tomorrow as Giant, Cannondale, Lotto and F des J close it all down late in the day in the streets of Londres – but no need QuickStep to help…
One GC man who must fizzing a little is World Champion, Rui Costa who’s Lampre sprinter team mate Sasha Modolo was DNF today – a waste of a place for a good mountains domestique.
And whilst I hate to moan – especially about a cycling legend like Greg Lemond; is the man really cut out for the role Eurosport have placed him in?
Perhaps he’ll improve as the race goes on but his questions seem ‘clunky’ and ‘dry’ – he was OK with Degenkold who got the jist of what Greg meant.
But I felt a bit cringey as Greg struggled to enunciate his question about Kittel’s losing of the yellow jersey being ‘tactical‘ – Greg, Marcel’s the size of a bungalow, son!
One interesting thing about ‘Greg Time’ was the close look we got at Alejandro Valverde – that man looks sharp to me.
Tomorrow my annual quest for L’Équipes begins – wish me luck.