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Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 1: Düsseldorf, 14km ITT. Thomas in the Rain!

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Düsseldorf

Due to the fact that I read about/talk about/write about bike racing every day I have a monstrous ego regarding le velo and hate to get anything on the subject wrong.

However, I would be delighted if the following statement proves to be erroneous; ‘Christopher Froome of Team Sky has won the Tour de France already.’

Three weeks from now I’ll be happy to hold my hands up and apologise for being so silly but…

Froomey’s right hand man, Geraint Thomas is in yellow – a huge psychological blow to the opposition and an equally big boost for Sky morale; another of his henchmen, ‘Kiry’ was third; Christopher Skeletor was sixth himself, 35 seconds clear of Richie Porte, who most would see as the Monaco dwelling Englishman’s main rival, and a third disciple, Kwiatkowski was eighth – that’s four Skys in the top 10.

Some may say that 35 seconds is nothing on a mountain stage – but there are very few who could take that amount of time back from Froome and his Automatons.

From the get go he has the whole field on the back foot.

Düsseldorf
Geraint Thomas’ first yellow jersey. Photo©Pierre Froger/ASO

If you look back to the Tour greats, Merckx, Hinault, Indurain [there were no prologues in the Anquetil era], all of them rode great prologues; it establishes the status quo from the start and despite what noises the opposition might make to the press has a very powerful effect upon their morale; ‘Jeez, the beggar is flying already, how are we going to beat that?

And what of Porte, who looked to be going strongly but was, in fact “having a ‘mare” on that horrible dreich afternoon beside the Rhine.

Bicycling Australia had this to say;

“With all eyes on one of the top overall favourites, Richie Porte of BMC Racing Team, the Tasmanian went out hard early but reverted to a more measured pace as the rain continued to fall.

“I’ve been cautious, it was slippery,” Porte said, after posting a mid-field time of 16 minutes 51 seconds, 47 seconds behind the lead rider, Geraint Thomas.

It probably wasn’t the best TT from me … I was nervous and it was better to take no risks,” Porte added.”

The thing is, it was the same rain on the same tarmac for Thomas and Froome, Richie.

Continuing on them of disappointing rides, I’ve always been a Contador (Trek) admirer but he can’t be happy to have dropped 42 seconds to Froome with Dauphine winner and another favourite, Fuglsang (Astana) on the same second.

Quintana dropped 36 seconds but then we didn’t expect the little Colombian to be ‘there’ on what was essentially a boulevard blast made tricky by the rain.

Düsseldorf
Geraint was fast and more importantly, upright. Photo©Gautier Demouveaux/ASO

What is interesting is that most of the favourites are grouped together mid-field with Froome at least half-a-minute in front of tall of them.

Posting a poor time is one thing but crashing out of the Tour before it even starts is another; Bahrain Merida’s press release told us;

“Our leader Ion Izagirre who started as the last of our team, crashed badly in the corner close to the point where Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) had crashed as well. 

“It was a very hard hit into the fence. 

“Izagirre was then immediately transported to the hospital by an ambulance in company with the team doctor Luca Pollastri. 

“The first diagnosis said that Ion Izagirre has an unstable lumbar fracture and he needs a surgical treatment.”

The news from Movistar was even more sombre;

“The 2017 Tour de France barely lasted seven kilometers for Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) as he suffered a serious crash during the race’s opening TT in Düsseldorf, which forced him to abandon.

“Transferred by ambulance to the University Hospital in Düsseldorf, examinations confirmed two fractures to his left leg: one in his kneecap and another one in the talus bone. 

“Valverde also suffered a deep wound to his tibia, without any muscle tissue affected by that cut.

“The doctors taking care of Valverde’s condition have decided to operate him on his kneecap fracture tonight, which means that Valverde will remain in Germany for the next few hours. and the schedule for his return home is still unconfirmed. 

“The recovery time expected by the Movistar Team’s doctors makes it unlikely for the Spaniard to return racing during the current season.

I listened to Europsort’s Carlton Kirby’s inane commentary for some of the race and was astonished when he made the comment that Quintana would be happy to see Valverde down and out of the race.

On the run up to every Grand Tour the Media tell us that there’ll be friction between the Colombian and the Spaniard about leadership issues.

Then comes the race and the pair work faultlessly together – but then when the next Grand Tour comes along we get the same story.

Team boss Eusebio Unzue has been managing top riders and their egos and winning Grand Tours for 30 years, or has no one told Carlton that?

Düsseldorf
Richie Porte is, according to some, Froome’s main rival. Photo©Gautier Demouveaux/ASO

Other noteworthy rides; BMC’s young Swiss, Stefan Kung up there in second spot, we interviewed him back when he won the world pursuit championship two years ago and he’s been making steady progress ever since; QuickStep’s Italian all rounder, Matteo Trentin in fifth spot, that’s stage winning form, I’d say and his team mate, big ‘home boy’ sprinter Marcel Kittel in ninth place – another man delivering a harbinger of stage winning form.

Kittel may have the chance to deliver today, Sunday as Stage Two takes the riders out of The Fatherland and across the border into Liege and the Boulevard de la Sauveniere near the cathedral.

With a three kilometre finishing straight it’s one for the ‘trains’ – Bouhanni, Colbrelli, Demare, Greipel, Kittel, Matthews, Sagan will all be there (no Coquard, however).

But can Cav do it again and heave that damp soil away from atop his coffin?

We’ll know around 4:00 pm GMT.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and 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. 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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