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Le Tour de France 2014 – Stage 5; Ypres – Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, 156 km. Boom Wins and Nibali Extends

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When you’re in the Tour village, the sun is shining and the riders’ kit is so clean it almost glows, their tans are the colour of mahogany and the smiles for the pretty girls are a mile wide, who wouldn’t want to be a professional cyclist?

But when you see men like Sagan and Cancellara on their knees today, sodden, crash scarred and with the prospect of having to do it all again, tomorrow then you remember that it can also be a long ways from ‘ice cream and fairies’ on le Tour.

Lars Boom
Pinot messing around in the Village Depart last year. Photo©Ed Hood

Despite a scything wind and rain – with horrible, massive concrete cooling towers forming part of the bleak backdrop – the first hour went in at 49 kph plus and the average was still above 47 kph two hours in – scary.

A painful day for Sky and Froome; I felt a bit of his anguish as he climbed into that team car – so sad to watch.

Lars Boom
Chris Froome realises he’s too badly injured to continue – or, three crashes in two days has knocked the fight out of him. Photo©Laurent Cipriani

And I’ve already had my first ‘told you so!’ text from a Wiggoite who advocated Brad’s presence in the team.

Vik – who we must tell you picked Boom as the winner before the start – reckons Brad will be having a celebratory beer or two this evening.

In seriousness though, Vik and I agree that when a man with as little flesh on his bones as Froome hits the deck, it’s not going to be a good thing.

Three crashes in two days were just too much for his frail frame – we wish him a speedy recovery.

But I still think that David Brailsford made the correct call and it’s now up to the team to show – QuickStep lost Cav but have far from surrendered.

However this horrible – but brilliant to watch from a sofa – day belonged to the maillot jaune.

Lars Boom
Nibali showed the reputed ‘one-day experts’ a thing or two today. Photo©Eurosport

Massive respect must go to Nibali and his Astana boys; but in particular Dutchman Lieuwe Westra who has to be first on the massage table tonight and get the thickest steak – as long as it’s not from Argentina, China or Mexico, obviously.

And to Danish MTB star turned roadman Jakob Fuglsang who made the cobbles look simple to ride.

Just to prove that we’re not jumping on the ‘Vai Vincenzo’ band wagon, here’s what we said about him before the Tour:

“Vincenzo Nibali (Astana & Italy) is a man who’s won two of the three greatest stage races on earth and stood on the podium of all three.

“To write him off because he’s not had the wins this year is simply foolish, albeit his season has had few hi-lites.

“But victory in the Italian Elite Road Race Championships came at just the right time for his morale – and sponsors.

“He has a team of hard men around him, the varied parcours should suit him and we see him on the podium in Paris.”

Contador didn’t have a great day but neither was it a disaster – however, I wouldn’t want to have to put 2:37 into Nibali on his current form.

But like Nike Terpstra said as he spoke to Greg Lemond and that other dude, the one with the training shoe fixation; ‘you can take five minutes back on one mountain climb.’

Lars Boom
Contador simply did what he had to do today.

Tinkoff DS, Steven De Jongh was pragmatic;

“Well, we lost about two-and-a-half minutes to a very strong riding Nibali but we’re still confident. Alberto lost touch with the back wheel of Vincenzo and we simply couldn’t close the gap.

“Fortunately, Alberto didn’t crash at any point and he didn’t have any punctures and not having any crashes is very important concerning the rest of the race.

“We’re five days into the race. “Alberto is in peak shape and better than he was in Dauphine and we’re going to do some hard mountain stages.

“So, we’re still absolutely confident but aware that there’s some hard work to be done in order to make it back to the top of the rankings.”

And let’s not forget Boom; his cyclo-cross skills made all the difference but his timing and commitment were perfect – major respect to the man.

Lars Boom
Lars Boom shows his cyclo-cross background in taking today’s stage. Photo©Wessel van Keuk

There’ll be no probs for Lars getting a contract next season, irrespective of what happens with Belkin.

After a day of such drama let’s lighten the mood with Stage Two’s L’Équipe words of wisdom.

Lars Boom
‘The wild beasts are dropped’ says the headline above a huge victorious Vincenzo image. Photo©Ed Hood

If this was the Gazzetta and a French guy had won the stage and taken pink they’d be using one of their postage stamp sized pics reserved for foreign successes.

Inside we get a wee reminder of Nibali’s Grand Tour stats – he won the Vuelta in 2010 and Giro in 2013 but in all has six podium finishes; Giro ’10, ’11 and ’13 plus Vuelta ’10 and’13 and Tour ’12.

Pretty solid stats; and we’re reminded that it’s five years since an Italian lead le Tour – Nocentini in 2009.

The commissaires get 1/10 for fining Laurens Ten Dam for taking a pee with fans around – but it’d be hard to find a quiet spot with all those fans lining the route.

Apparently old Laurens asked the commissars in question if they never need to do a pee?

And finally, L’Équipe reckoned they couldn’t leave the ‘Isle,’ as they call the UK, without performing the ritual of eating fish and chips at Holme.

Their verdict?

1/10: and that seems like a good place to end – with just an interesting wee coda from VeloVeritas pundit, Ivan for you:

Sporza, the Belgian Sports new agency asked:

Does a Pave stage belong in the Tour?

  • YES 84 %
  • NO 16 %

on a sample of 13,000 votes.

Au revoir.

Ed Hood
Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 47 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, a team manager, and a sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days for some of the world's top riders. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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