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Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 11: Eymet – Pau, 203.5km. Maciej Bodnar excites as Marcel Kittel takes his tally to five!

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Maciej Bodnar

‘Sprinter stages,’ why are they so dull? Albeit ‘Bison’ Maciej Bodnar (Bora – hansgrohe & Poland) did a job of enlivening the last wee bittie of yesterday’s procession.

Firstly, the GC teams won’t go in the break, they’re there to look after their team leader; mountain stages are different where they’ll put men up the road so as the team leader can bridge up to them.

That rules out Sky (Froome), AG2R (Bardet), Movistar (Quintana), Trek (Contador), Astana (Aru), UAE (Meintjes) and Orica (Yates).

In all of Lance’s seven Tour ‘wins’ his team mates (Hincapie) only ever won the one stage – the focus has to be 100% on the GC man.

Secondly, the big sprinters’ teams won’t go because the last thing they want is for a break to ‘stick’ – they want a mass charge.

Maciej Bodnar
Kittel’s Fifth. Photo©Pierre Froger/ASO

Scratch Dimension Data (Boasson-Hagen), QuickStep (Kittel), Katusha (Kristoff), Lotto (Greipel), Sunweb (Matthews), Cofidis (Bouhanni), LottoNL (Groenewegen), Bahrain (Colbrelli) and Fortuneo (McLay).

Even although it’s apparent that the likes of Bouhanni isn’t on form, neither is Greipel at his best but if he can win on the Champs Elysees then all will be forgiven.

Who’s left?

Maciej Bodnar
Marcel Kittel in green. Photo©Pierre Froger/ASO

BMC: they’ve lost their GC man, Porte so their focus now will be on ‘transition’ stages for GVA, Kung and Roche.

Bora: after the loss of Sagan for the sprints their focus changed to Majka but with him out now too, to their credit they’ve started going in the breaks with Bodnar serving us up a great ride on Stage 11.

Direct Energie: with Calmejane’s beautiful stage win their Tour is a success whatever happens, but as with BMC they’ll be thinking more of ‘baroudeur’ stages for the likes of Chava and Tommy V.

But it’s still surprising we haven’t seen them be more aggressive on the flat, you would imagine they crave that TV time?

Cannondale: See BMC/Direct Energie, with Talansky having given up his dreams of Grand Tour podiums and Rolland on his best form in years, they’ll be hoping for mountains glory but again it’s hard to see why they don’t fire men up the road to get the Cannondale name out there.

Maciej Bodnar
FDJ are super-popular. Photo©Pierre Froger/ASP

FDJ: whilst the elimination of Demare and three of his team mates, morale isn’t going to be good but again, French team, French race – why so little visibility?

Wanty: where would we be without these boys?

Every day they fire men up the road, doomed or not, they’re getting the column inches and TV time.

Team boss, Hilaire Van Der Schueren was saying the other day how happy his sponsors are with all the exposure.

Another factor to consider is that in years gone by it was only the last hour or two of sprinter stages we witnessed on tele so much of the tedium went unrecorded to us punters.

But now with every minute of every stage televised and analysed by ever more ‘experts’ the reality of these stages is there for all to see.

In the Hinault – and Cipo in the Giro – eras, the racing didn’t start ‘til the Capo had stopped for a pee, taken off his arm and leg warmers and given the nod.

What’s to be done?

Drink more beer, earlier, that should help.

Our day was good if long, it’ll be nice to get some real food soon though – with only pizza places and burger joints open when we finally flip the lids on the laptops.

We left our nice rural digs and headed south, missing out the race start and skirting the flat, quiet, wooded region of Landes down to Labastide d’Armagnac where we took up position at a junction where a gaggle of folks had gathered.

Everyone was laid back with not a Janitor in sight.

Maciej Bodnar
The TV ‘copter comes down low for the panning shot. Photo©Ed Hood

We didn’t have to wait too long on the action with the first sign being the TV helicopter hovering low just beyond the bend to get a shot of the peloton streaming round.