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The Roar

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Tour de France Stage 9: Time trials, coke and personalities

Nairo Quintana has been in and out of the Giro's pink jersey, not that free-to-air viewers have been able to see it. (AP Photo/Gian Mattia D'Alberto)
Expert
12th July, 2015
10

It’s a bit cruel having a team time trial at any time other than on the first day. Especially when it’s at the end of a first week that saw several teams lose riders due to the vicious crashes.

28 kilometres at full speed is never easy, especially when it’s hilly.

Personally I think doing this was too much of a gamble by the organisers, even though there were no real disasters. Even before a pedal was turned anyone could see that it was one that could potentially unfairly punish some general classification riders who have weaker teams over others.

Movistar put in a great stint, though Nairo Quintana would be fortunate to make third on the podium, even though he clawed 24 seconds back on Alberto Contador. It seems that the massive promise he brings to the Tour is again not being delivered upon.

It’s early days of course but he, like Vincenzo Nibali, just doesn’t look to be quite zinging in the way a top three rider should at the moment.

Tejay van Garderen is looking very good indeed in second on the GC, thanks to his BMC Racing team winning the stage here. He only gained one second on Chris Froome thanks to a powerful effort by Team Sky.

So far, it has to be said, Chris Froome looks most in control among the GC contenders. We know Froome can ride a bit, but many feel that Contador is the more naturally gifted rider. Whether the Spaniard will be ruing riding for the Giro-Tour double remains to be seen, as he may have given away his natural advantage.

Orica-GreenEDGE had a terrible team time trial. It was quite obvious they’d decided before the race to save energy, leave no man behind and to go for a stage win on another day.

Poor Michael Matthews has looked out of sorts ever since his crash early on, though in Adam Yates they have a rider who came seventh on the tough finish to Mur de Bretagne on Stage 8.

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The young Briton is a star in the making and he should feature later on, with a bit of luck. Keeping his form going, along with not wanting to shred the team, were likely the reasons for the their slow ride.

One has to feel (or not, as the case may be) for Katusha who were without Luca Paolini, the Katusha rider who got kicked out of the Tour due to a positive A sample for cocaine found in his system that he vows he never knowingly ingested.

Fans of cocaine around the world might well be wishing they too could ingest cocaine mysteriously without having to either seek it out, pay for it or even snort it, but yes, it seems that for Paolini, that’s how it happened.

Paolini sent out a message via Twitter later to apologise, using a couple more exclamation marks than was perhaps prudent.

“I believe and always have believed in the controls, they are making this sport more credible, ever more so,” he said. “I wanted to stay silent and resolve this thing in my own way!! I’m not the type to scream of a scandal and hopelessly try to run away.

“And as for what’s happened, I take full responsibility and will look to clarify this as best as I can! I apologise to all my colleagues, riders and of course [the Tour], ASO, knowing that it was the least appropriate moment, especially due to the very high media concentration.”

It’s fair to say that the news of Paolini’s apology has been greeted with more than a little skepticism, but it’s worth remembering that he still has a B sample to be tested, and though he may be nervous I’m sure he’ll stay positive. Cough.

It was great to see MTN-Qhubeka’s Daniel Teklehaimanot resplendent in his polka skinsuit, and also to see Peter Sagan in green again. The way the points are tallied for the Points Classification was actually altered this year in the hope that someone other than Sagan might win, so if you’ve any love of an underdog, you’ll be rooting for him.

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Now, if only he didn’t ride for Oleg ‘Over’ Tinkov, who tweeted this after the news of Luca’s positive:

Hmm, classy.

Sagan is truly riding like a monster, second on the GC, leading the Points and Best Young Rider competition, and also taking care of the misfiring (so far anyway) Alberto Contador.

Yes, he may have displayed a sticky hand when it came to podium time once, but he supplies something the peloton is sorely missing: namely, a personality.

So, a rest day, and then the Pyrenees! Let the intrigue continue.

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