We were in Düsseldorf today, finishing in Liège and Big Marcel – not forgetting his Barnet – was the ‘schnelest.’
Not that hard to predict; it’s Belgium so it must be QuickStep – it would have been better if it was Flanders and not Wallonia but I’m being churlish.
Patrick Lefevre struggling to find a sponsor?
Unlikely when his boys ride like this – who wouldn’t want to be associated with this squad?
That ride in the Stage One time trial told us much about the big German winner’s motivation and fitness.
In Düsseldorf the remarkable Cav took fourth spot; a non-frenzied finale was in his favour though, just like last year, with the fact that the peloton only killed the break so late explaining much about the last 10 kilometres which were notable for a lack of cohesion among the sprint teams.
It was Kittel’s Kiwi team mate Jack Bauer who did much to snuff out Phinney and Offredo’s stage-long effort, late in the day but at least Phinney came out of the day with the king of the mountains jersey.
Thomas held on to his yellow jersey with no drama albeit team pack leader and race favourite Froome Dog bit the dust, had to change bikes and chased hard to get back.
But with Kwiatkowski as his chaperone it wasn’t so tough.
Froome can’t be faulted, he was well positioned when a Katusha’s front wheel slid out from under him on the slick tar in front of him and there was no place for the race favourite to go.
We have to wonder though about the teams’ choices of rubber – four Jumbo Lottos came down yesterday and that can’t be a coincidence.
I caught up with Saturday’s newspaper Tour preview on Sunday morning;
“Sky’s strength will only become clear next week when the race heads into the Jura mountains.”
Old William Fotheringham got that one wrong in Saturday’s Guardian; it actually took Sky all of 16 minutes on the streets of Dusseldorf to establish themselves as the dominant team.
He also explained to us that Geraint Thomas’s form was “in doubt;” of course in Sunday’s Observer there’s no mention of these comments, just much waxing lyrical about Geraint and Sky.
I was just thinking about those Englishman, Irishman, Scotsman and Welshman jokes – the order is a little out of kilter for the Tour.
It was the Irishman, Shay Elliott who was first to take yellow, then the Englishman, Tom Simpson but right enough, the Scotsman David Millar was third and finally the Welshman, Geraint Thomas.
Stage Two was always going to be a sprinter’s stage – a wet sprinter’s stage at that and last hour apart it was always going to be a snooze fezt.
Four men were allowed to go up the road; Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie & France) a national, European and World (Omnium) track champion – but also a talented road rider with a win this year in the GP de Lillers and a stage in the Coppi e Bartali.
Laurent Pichon (Fortuneo Oscaro) who’s had some nice results, this season with wins in The Classic Loire Atlantique, a stage in the Coppi e Bartali and the tough Route Adelie de Vitre.
Yoann Offredo (Wanty & France) is there, he spent nine seasons with F des J before defecting to Belgian squadra Wanty for 2017 where he was top 20 in Flanders and Roubaix – no mug.
Taylor Phinney (Cannondale & USA) was the fourth suspect; the man with the mega genes; dad Davis a Tour de France stage winner and mum an Olympic Road Race Champion.
He was a junior and U23 phenomenon; World Champion on the track and in the time trial, Worlds road race medallist; then the highest ever paid neo pro – 250,000 Euros per season we believe – as a full pro he wore the pink jersey in the Giro having won the prologue and was only narrowly beaten by Tony Martin in the Worlds TT.
But then came that horror crash in the US road race Nationals and the wheels came off – his interviews over the last two years revealed motivation problems.
BMC let him go, Cannondale took him on and this is a make or break season for the tall chronoman who took 12th on Stage One – to go in the break on Stage Two in the rain is a good sign that he may have screwed his head back on.
But why go in the break knowing you’re doomed?
At this stage of the race the sprinters’ teams are all rabid in their quest to get their big bucks fast man over the line first and grab those headlines and TV time – a break this early in the race has little chance in the modern World Tour.
The BUT is that all the stages are now televised live from start to finish and your sponsors name will be all over TV screens throughout Europe for several hours.
ALSO the early stages have tasty ‘easy’ mountains points on offer where you just might grab enough to get that precious podium time, pulling on the spotty jersey – as Phinney demonstrated with a whole two points to his credit.
AND you might just stay away – but not today.
The Tour starts properly when we enter La belle France via Luxembourg, finishing in historic Longwy.
It’s up and down all day with five categorised climbs including the Cote de Religieuses atop which the day’s labours are done.
Gilbert, Sagan, GVA, Stybar or maybe a GC guy?