There was the chance that the break would stick; but with John Degenkolb’s Giant boys working themselves into the tar for him – and having done their homework by riding the stage finale on the rest day – and the likes of Ferrari and Matthews fancying their chances now that Bouhanni is back in France, not to mention Sky piling it on to keep Froome out of trouble, it was odds on to be a sprint finish.
We have to start betting ‘each way’ – yesterday we said; ‘Michael Matthews’ and he was third, today we said; ‘Nacer Bouhanni’ and he was second. And much as we admire the wiry Frenchman, John Degenkolb was 100% correct when he said of Bouhanni’s complaint about the German shutting the door on him; ‘on the right side there was only the barriers.’
We weren’t so far away with our tip for the win in Cordoba, Michael Matthews the GreenEDGE Aussie was third and held on to his race lead; but we should slap out own wrists for not mentioning Germany’s Giant, John Degenkolb – the man to watch when gravity is involved and rains on the ‘pure’ fast men's parade.
I love the drive from Gent up to Kuurne for the Kuurne Brussels Kuurne semi-classic... staring out of the car window at the fields, the canals, tree-lined avenues, the steeples, tiny concrete roads that would be great to explore on the bike. There was a little rain on the way up but by the time we got to Kuurne it was a mild, sunny morning; ideal for wandering down the main drag where the busses line up and checking out 2020’s new hardware.
We didn't realise when we made our way to the Civic Hall in Leeds for the sign-on of the 2019 Elite World Road Championships just what an epic day we were in for; emergency purchasing of umbrellas in the local outdoor centre didn't quite cut it as the deluge lasted almost the entire race.
Denmark’s Mads Pederson drops to the wet Yorkshire tarmac, a hundred metres past the finish line, he can’t take in what he’s just accomplished. He has out-sprinted one of the foxiest and fastest men around, Matteo Trentin of Italy - the hot pre-race favourites for the title on this horror of a day.
Stage Three heads back into the hills; Ibi to Alicante over 188 kilometres, not as tough as Stage Two but with two third cat. climbs, the Puertos de Biar and Tibo – due to the geography of the stage we chose the latter.
Six millimetres; that’s less than quarter of an inch – the difference between reading headlines ‘Eddy avenges Cav’ rather than ‘Kittel takes his third’... But it’s been Kittel’s week; and when a sprinter’s head is right – as Kittel’s obviously is – even Lady Luck is carried along with them. The big German has more than justified whatever Patrick Lefevre is paying him at QuickStep; three stage wins in the Tour is something most sponsors would give their eye teeth for.
Utter madness! That’s all you can say about the finale, with no team really able to control it, the finish straight was a scene of complete chaos. Kittel and QuickStep blew it and were nowhere - it looked like just perhaps Cav was going to be the man as he let a gap open on his lead out men then jumped Demare’s wheel as the French champion roared by him.
Peter Sagan’s quote of the day? “What is pressure?” As team mate Marcus Burghardt said; “he was such power in his head and that’s what makes the difference.” Despite pulling his foot in the sprint at the top of that nasty finish climb he was just too quick for everyone...
‘Why do you rant about cycling?’ they ask us. ‘Because someone has to!’ we reply. There has to be a voice in the wilderness ... Did you watch the Worlds? Dave, Ivan and Vik all boycotted it – although they admitted to watching the finale. The Belgian offensive in the desert would have done Field Marshal Erwin Rommel proud – but apart from that and Sagan’s killer finale the race was processional.
John Pierce is one of the world's great sports photographers, he's a friend of VeloVeritas and in our site's best tradition, the man can RANT about the sport he's been a part of for 50 years. In Part One of our interview John told us about his introduction to the profession of cycling photography, his work around the globe and the background to his famous image of Guido Van Caster, Eddy Plankaert and Bernard Hinault sprinting flat out at the end of Stage 12 of the 1981 Tour De France which won 'Action Sports Picture of the Decade' nine years later. In Part Two, John looks at the changes in the sport - and in the photography equipment - through the decades, telling us why he prefers Canon over Nikon and Paris-Roubaix over all other races.
Peter Sagan, again! There’s little left to say about the man but as soon as we walked the last couple of kilometres we knew it was one for him – a sharp cobbled climb up from the river, across a cobbled bridge, past the bear pit then another nippy climb before the 1,000 metre, straight as a dye, pan flat finish straight.
Another criminally boring stage saved by a beautiful finale with Cav making it 30 stage wins – there are few superlatives left for the Manxman. Good to see Kristoff in second spot; the remarkable Sagan was right there in third spot and very nice to see John Degenkolb up there in fourth spot. Kittel got it wrong today and Greipel was again off the pace. And, erm that’s about it...
Mark Cavendish? There’s little left to say about the man, his third win of the 2016 Tour de France and his 29th career stage win to take him one ahead of Bernard Hinault in the record books with just the legend that is Eddy Merckx ahead of him on 34 stage wins. Dimension Data and Deloitte will be ecstatic. Cav beat Etixx Stage Four winner, Marcel Kittel into second place – the downhill charge should have suited the German - and in third spot a terrific result for Fortuneo’s Dan McLay not so far away from ‘The Missile.’ Kristoff, Coquard, Theuns, Sagan, Groenewegen all behind the Englishman – a real quality effort.
We make no apology for more ranting – there’s much to get upset about in the sports firmament at the minute. It’s hard to believe that the public would be so naive as to believe that Athletics would be squeaky clean given the sums of money washing around and the vested interests of the massive sportswear companies who depend on big results from their sponsored athletes to shift their sweat shop trainers, track suits, sweats and Tee’s.
I’ve read Edgar Allan Poe, I’ve seen The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Rosemary’s Baby; I’ve even been to a Folk Festival - so I thought I’d witnessed what true horror was. I was wrong. The Bradley Wiggins Limited Edition Pinarello Dogma F8 is beyond my worst nightmares.
You have to be in the right frame of mind to rant – unless you’re a Master, like Vik – VeloVeritas’s cycling sage and soothsayer, Vik can waken up ranting and probably rants in his sleep. I can’t do it to order – but the stars have aligned this morning and there’s a lot to get off my chest...
Spanish sports paper, Mundo Deportivo says; 'El Tigre, en la Lieja-Ponferrada-Lieja' comparing the race to an Ardennes Classic. 'A complete cyclist with a brilliant future,' they say of the 24 year-old Pole Michal Kwiatkowski. Despite a tiny box on the front cover, the race gets two-and-a-half pages with nice colour pictures.
VeloVeritas cycling sage, Vik hates those narrow bars Adam Hansen uses - they're to make him more aero and save those precious watts - but they certainly didn't do him any harm, today in Cangas de Morrazo. Not just a win; he's saved Lotto's Vuelta - it goes from 'Ligthart and Hansen enlivening the breakaways' to 'stage winning' and that's about a million miles. By good fortune we had a chat with the man just before this Vuelta kicked off...