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Wow. What a first week! With the Tour de France’s first rest day, let’s sit back and review the action thus far.
The surprise: Rohan Dennis
Not too many were surprised he won. He’s a good cyclist in good form and was always in with a chance. The dominance of his victory was the real surprise, however.
Dennis broke the average speed record to do it. His mastery of not just speed but technique through the tight corners of the time trial was so astonishingly better than anyone else, and he was the only man to post a time below 15 minutes. A deserved maillot jeune recipient.
The crash: Day 3
The crash of the peloton on Day 3 was the biggest talking point of the Tour thus far, leading to the first of two yellow jersey holders in this tour, Fabian Cancellara, to withdraw.
The race director neutralised and ultimately stopped the race in an absolutely idiotic spot (seriously, in the middle of a tiny narrow street instead of the open road not one kilometre earlier) and the stage was lost in terms of pure racing.
Tony Martin gave up the game a couple days later in another incident – which is the first time ever that two yellow jersey holders have had to withdraw in the opening week.
The sulk: Mark Cavendish
Mate, come on. Winning isn’t everything and sometimes you need to acknowledge you were outridden on the day or that you made a tactical error. Fobbing the blame onto your teammates wins no fans. Airing it on social media makes you look like a giant tool.
The mistake: Stage 2, Astana and Movistar
The wind is roaring and the peloton is battling to stay together. Team Sky and Saxo Bank then step up the pace, break it apart and cause the first major shake of the GC leader board. Chris Froome and Alberto Contador capitalise and open a minute’s gap on Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali.
Why did this happen? Because Astana and Movistar were hovering in the middle of the peloton and didn’t pay attention. Riders that win the Tour are riders that are right up the front of the peloton with their teams at all times. Notice how Movistar have been more prominent at the front of the peloton since then?
The damage limitation: Movistar
No doubts about this award. Punished for their laziness on Day 2, Movistar recovered very well in the TTT by conceding only three seconds to Team Sky. Team Sky were probably factoring to gain 30 or so extra seconds on Movistar in this time trial. They didn’t.
This result sends another message: Movistar will be right next to Team Sky on the mountains. Chris Froome beware.
The relief: Stage 4
They survived the cobbles. No major disasters for anyone. Phew.
Predictions for the big four
Well placed to add a second GC win. He is a minute ahead of Contador, two ahead of Quintana and 2:30 in front of Nibali. He is an all-rounder but his major strengths of the tour have concluded. No more time trialling. He’ll need all the seconds he gained in the first week as part of his defence. Team Sky may not be as dominant on the mountains as they were in previous years, so he’ll be required to step up and take charge more than he would have liked.
Mixed. Along with Froome he benefitted on Stage 2, but then surprisingly gave away easy seconds on the Mur de Huy. Saxo did as expected in the TTT to keep him about a minute behind Froome. He’ll need to attack Froome hard and early in the Pyrenees instead of trying to wait until the Alps. He looks a bit tired though. The only one of the big four to have done the Giro this year, can his legs hang on?
Hmm, certainly the least well placed of the four. A seasoned performer should not have found himself in the position he did in stage 2. He’s a solid climber, but Astana aren’t as strong as Sky and probably won’t have the same bite in the hills as Movistar either. He was left behind on Mur de Bretagne. He is the defending champion and a proven performer so we can’t quite rule him out yet, but he’s given Froome a big head start.
We all knew that the first week of the tour would be about minimising the lead the others would gain on him. Movistar no doubt planned for Froome and Contador to be ahead of Quintana at this stage but have made the job harder for him because of Stage 2.
He’s given Froome a two minute head start. While it’s not ideal for Quintana, as a spectator it will now guarantee proper racing. The next two weeks are tailor-made for Quintana, and he will have plenty of opportunities to make inroads into Froome’s advantage. Make no mistake, for the next two weeks Quintana is the hunter and Froome is the hunted.
The hunt is on. Who will succeed? I’m a big Quintana fan, and I think he can still win. Can’t wait for it.