Saturday, July 6, 2013

Wait - what just happened?

Did Le Tour just get boring? I hope not, but I'm afraid it might have. Oh today's racing wasn't boring mind you, but it was predictable. It featured an exciting break on the first climb of the day over the Col de Pailhéires by none other than this years Colombian hope Nairo Quintana. He floated away on the climb with an ease that was almost shocking...and though he looked like he was hardly working to get that minute plus advantage - he obviously was. 

We know that now because on the finishing climb to Ax 3 Domanes he was swallowed up and spit out the back by the Sky boys. Nothing to be embarrassed about however, as so was nearly everybody else as Froome and Porte played de ja vu and crossed over with a Sky one-two that was eerily similar to last year. Dirty Valverde caught and passed his teammate Quintana and finished a strong third, but over a minute back. Bauke Mollema impressed and rode over the line just behind the Spaniard and just ahead of his Belkin teammate Laurens Ten Dam...a brilliant ride by both of them. 

Euskatels Mikel Nieve Ituralde was next across just ahead of the trio of Kruezinger, Contador, Igor Anton and the sprightly Quintana who had animated so much of the race but by this time was just trying to limit the damages to Team Sky. Contador did not have a strong day and looked to be in trouble on both climbs, but managed to pull it together and stay within two minutes of the new Maillot Jaune...with big thanks to his man Kreuzinger. 

Further down there was absolute carnage as a number of pre race "sort of" favorites saw their dreams of a Tour win or possibly even a podium shattered. Rolland lost 3:47, Evans 4:13, Thibault Pinot 6:00, Ryder Hesjedal 8:15 and BMC nearly had to send a rescue squad to find Teejay Van Garderen at a whopping 12:15 off the pace. 

Yes, many dreams were crushed today... and the selection for the overall victory may have been reduced already to a very select few, but this race has shown time and time again that she can surprise and bring the mighty back to the fold just as quickly as a chain can hop. Let's hope she has something up her sleeve over the next few stages...or the only drama at this tour may be whether or not Porte is stronger on the climbs than his team leader Froome. 

Not to discount what Froome did at all, but it was just so expected. After biding his time behind his team on the first climb he looked to possibly be in a spot of trouble as they headed up Ax 3 Domanes. Saxoff had a gaggle of riders there for Contador, but Froome had only Porte - apparently that was all he needed. The Aussie strong man dished out an unimaginable amount of pain and Froome bided his time until just the right moment and then boome - he was gone. He flew by Quntana who had just a moment to try and catch his wheel...he yoyo'd there for a second before the string snapped and Froome rode off into the distance, finishing 51 seconds ahead of his teammate and over a minute ahead of anyone that wasn't wearing a Rapha jersey. 

It was a classic example of a Tour favorite taking the race by the throat...and winning with panache... somewhere Eddy is smiling. 

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