Demare dropped, Porte punted and Aru astonishes all

Sam Hill Roar Rookie

By , Sam Hill is a Roar Rookie

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    Stage 9 of the 2017 Tour de France was a stage no-one will forget. It will go down in the history as one of the most dramatic stages in the Tour’s history.

    In a rain-riddled, slippery stage, the first wearer of the yellow jersey, Geraint Thomas, crashed early and broke his clavicle.

    Teammate Chris Froome suffered a mechanical only to be attacked immediately by Italian climber Fabio Aru. And on the last descent of the stage, Australian hopeful Richie Porte made a slight error of judgement and crashed heavily, breaking his collar-bone and fracturing his hip.

    As Porte was put on a stretcher and carted into the ambulance, it was clear that this was the end of Australia’s chance of winning the Tour de France.

    According to BMC directeur sportif Fabio Baldato, Porte will be okay and his spirits are high. An analogy was made by him later, drawing a similarity between Cadel Evans and Porte, recounting that Cadel won his first Tour de France off the back of a very traumatic campaign.

    There is still hope for Porte yet.

    The time-cut rule is one feared by many sprinters in the Tour de France. On a mountainous stage like Stage 8, riders having a bad day may fear that it is the end of their tour.

    Usually teams will take initiative to ensure this doesn’t happen by placing their sprinter towards the front on an early, crucial climb, or getting multiple teammates to help their protected rider chase back on after he or she is dropped.

    However, with an incredibly difficult stage looming, the priority on the stage was clearly not to protect sprinter Arnaud Demare. As he drifted off the back of the peloton, his bed was made. Teammate Thibaut Pinot put the pressure on at the front of the race and Demare was cast back out of sight.

    Switzerland Cycling Tour De Suisse

    (Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP)

    After a controversial Stage 4 that saw Peter Sagan ejected from the tour, things were looking good for Demare, who sprinted to his first victory in the Tour de France.

    It was very much overshadowed by the Sagan-Mark Cavendish elbow incident, however, which sent two of the greatest sprinters in the tour packing their bags and catching the next plane out of France.

    This was great news for Demare, as some of his closest rivals would no longer be getting in his way at a shot for another stage victory.

    We will have to assume it was a coincidence that the commissaires were kind to Frenchmen Demare in his home tour, overlooking his dangerous approach to the line, yet cutthroat in the decision to eject his competitor Sagan. I think it’s already clear to most that the decision to remove Sagan from the tour was simply rash and incorrect.

    After Stage 9, Demare will be heading home, not making it inside the time-limit for the stage. I am a little surprised there was no leniency towards him, as there often seems to be special rules set aside for local heroes, but I am glad to see the rule enforced as it gives some stability and credibility to the rules of the Tour de France.

    Unfortunately, I am not surprised by Fabio Aru’s disrespectful actions at all.

    Ascending the Grand Colombier, the final mountain of Stage 9, Froome suffered a mechanical which saw him thrown into a vulnerable position. Immediately, as if to raise his middle-finger right into Froome’s face, we saw Aru launch a vicious turn of pace. Luckily for Froome, he was still surrounded by enough teammates to neutralise the attack and bring it back together.

    While forbidding attacking a fellow rider while he suffers a mechanical is not an official rule in the UCI’s books, it is one of the many unwritten rules that riders follow in the Tour de France to demonstrate respect to one another. Every case is different, granted, but in this case it is blatantly obvious that Aru will finish the tour with vastly less friends than he began it with.

    This has been an exciting and dramatic Tour de France so far. I wait with bated breath to see what ensues following the first rest day.