It looked like a straight Arnaud Demare (FDJ & France) v. Andre Greipel (Lotto & Germany) shoot out in Troyes but Marcel Kittel (QuickStep & Germany), over on the bright side of the road, was way too quick for them both; Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data & Norway) hit out long and produced a good performance given he was stranded at the front so early, only being swamped late as Demare slid like an eel between the Norwegian and the barriers.
It may seem like scant evidence to base a major assertion upon but from what happened in the Stage One time trial – and yesterday’s first significant ascent of the race, La Planche des Belle Filles, Chris Froome (Sky & GB) has the 2017 Tour de France won barring disasters or acts of God.
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...
From Düsseldorf 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?
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.’
It’s that time, we go from being saddos to the ‘go to guys/girls’ for info; the papers even pay attention to cycling for a week or two; Viktor hates it but watches every stage and Dave Brailsford is spending a lot of time in church praying for ‘Froomey’s’ form to come good... yes, it’s Tour time. VeloVeritas will be bringing you a word or two each day about the greatest annual sporting event on earth.
It’s hard to believe it’s 10 years since last I spoke to Paul Watson about a great ride he pulled off in 1987. Paul was British Amateur Road Champion in 1985, the same year as he was third in the Tour of Britain, ‘Milk Race’ behind Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner, Eric Van Lancker of Belgium and the man who should have been a super star but never quite was, Roy Knickman (USA). He rode pro with Van Lancker’s Belgian Fangio team at the end of that year but returned to Britain to ride for Raleigh in 1986.
I braved the tourists and human statues up on Edinburgh’s High Street to see if I could get Monday’s L’Equipe in the International Newsagents – it’s the one for all the good Tour stats. But alas, no dice – I had to settle for Sunday’s Observer and Monday’s Guardian where it’s wall to wall Christopher and Sky.
We'd hoped for a big GC dog fight on the Joux Plane but what we got was a dour struggle to the line whilst those crazy baroudeurs battled for the stage win. It was a nice morning to start with but as we parked up on the Joux Plane the clouds scudded in, thunder roared down the valley and the lightning flashed brighter than a million photog's flash guns.
We chose the wrong mountain - but little did we know there'd be a big rain storm on the last climb to give the race the jolt it's been requiring for three weeks. A great day for Bardet and AG2R. A good day for Quintana, Mentjies and Martin. A bad day for Mollema, Yates, Dumoulin, Rolland and Navarro - the latter three all crash victims. And Froome and Porte have had better days. . .
If anyone harboured any doubts about the fact that Froome was going to win this Tour it took him just 30 minutes to straighten things out. He destroyed everyone in including the man who's probably the world's number one 'chronoman' - Tom Dumoulin. Whilst the mountains may be beautiful, a time trial up one is a daunting prospect.
How are the mighty fallen? We had to double check the number – but ‘yes’ it was Tejay, way off the back and just ‘riding in’ on the Col de la Forclaz – well, we got that one right, we said he do nothing in this race. But we did also say that Nairo Quintana would win it – but that was more out of hope than anything else but it would be tall, skinny Russian Ilnur Zakarin who would take the day, eventually.
'Rest day' - it's a misnomer if you're a fanatic; but you could do one interview then hang out, I guess? But if you're like us, confirmed saddos, then it's a great opportunity to get a lot of talking and snapping done. Albeit on rest days you can linger a bit longer over breakfast - which is nice in a week of always having to be somewhere/do something right now or in five minutes. We asked our Trek contact if we could get an interview with Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne winner, Jasper Stuyven.
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.
While Jarlinson Pantana was winning the stage today for IAM Cycling and Columbia (that's his contract sorted for 2017 - IAM folds at the end of the season) Ed and Callum were race-bound, flying in to Geneva to get the car and get organised with race accreditation.
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...
The new crowned King of the Chrono is Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Giant). He put a minute into maillot jaune Froome in today’s technical and tough time test and set himself as the number one favourite for the Rio Olympic Time Trial. And that’s after a brilliant mountain stage win last weekend in Andorra.
First of all, a fantastic win by Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), let’s say that first and foremost. The Belgian was away all day then won the sprint from another two survivors of the big break of the day. As a bonus, he takes the polka dot jersey, too. De Gendt He's tamed the Stelvio and (most of) the Ventoux - he just needs to win on the Angleru now...
Dimension Data’s Steve Cummings has been a stage race winner in the Tour of the Mediterranean; a semi-classic winner in the Coppa Bernocchi and a stage winner in the Giro della Reggio Calabria, Tour of the Algarve, Vuelta, Tour de France, Tirreno-Adriatico, Tour of the Basque Country and Dauphine. Last weekend he added another beautiful Tour de France stage to his palmarès.
One of VeloVeritas’ functions it seems is unlocking the memories of those stalwarts – like our own mentor and soothsayer, Viktor and indeed, our editor Martin - who beat a path in the 70’s and 80’s to the legendary Mrs. Deene’s boarding house in Gent (and later in Zomergem) to show those Belgies how it should be done. The latest epistle which came our way was from Norman Gower.
When Scottish Cycling Endurance Coach and seven times Scottish Road Race Champion, Evan Oliphant gets in touch to tell us there’s a junior rider named Callum Thornley that we should be speaking to, we snap to attention.
When Jos Ryan of the David Rayner Fund gets in touch then we know it’s not just to ask how we are. ‘Have you been keeping up with our rider, Toby Perry’s performances in Spain, he’s just had his second win?’ Fortunately for us, we could reply in the affirmative.
If you watched Stage One of the Giro on Eurosport or GCN then you’ll have heard that someone had the great idea to recruit British professional rider, Dan Bigham to join the commentary team as a ‘chrono specialist.’ Here at VeloVeritas we thought it would be good to put to Dan all those sad questions that trouble bike obsessives like us.
John Watson started racing at 18 years-of-age in 1966, his first race was a ‘25’ which he won with a 1:00. By the following year he was National ‘100’ Champion; in 1968 he went to the Mexico Olympics; in 1969 he set a 12 hour record which stood for a decade; 1970 saw him set a ‘50’ record which sliced nearly four minutes of the previous fastest time for the distance and lasted for 13 years, win the BBAR, get fourth place in the prestigious GP de France time trial and get offered a place with ACBB.