Alejandro Valverde, Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan and now Australia's Richie Porte are all out of the race, with each incident contributing a ripple effect through the peloton and all with the potential to change the pre-race narrative.
1. Cycling needs to get its act together on concussion
News earlier this week that Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) had once again suffered a concussion during the Tour de France was troubling. In 2013, Martin lost consciousness on his way to hospital following a crash on Stage 1 of the Tour, only to continue on Stage 2. This week, the German reported a “small concussion” from a crash outside of Liege that left him nauseous. Martin has continued to race. There is no such thing as a “small concussion” – either you are or you aren’t. Concussion protocols, outside of the control of teams, need to happen and it’s time for the UCI to step up.
2. BMC were challenging the way things are done – they had to try
There is a fine line when taking chances. If you roll the dice and it comes off, you’re a genius. Make no mistake, if Porte had taken time out of Froome on Stage 5, the narrative this week would have unfolded very differently. Porte’s crash on Sunday was nothing short of horrific and it’s a great shame that his challenge was brought to an end.
Porte may have been favourite before the pedals first turned in Dusseldorf, but he was still the challenger to Froome’s title. Team Sky have a stranglehold on the status quo and the only way loosen that, is to fire the odd grenade and that’s exactly what BMC was attempting to do.
3. There is nothing like a good villain at Tour time
Is it the barrier guy? Is it Sagan? No, it’s Cav! Is it Bouhanni (again)? Geez, Demare is pushing his luck… Is it the commissaire? Calmejane the cochon, sheesh… Aru, you have to be joking. Froome, can we talk about that corner? Meow.
4. The Green Jersey is Kittel’s to lose
We’re just nine stages down but barring total disaster or another disqualification, Marcel Kittel is in the box seat to wear green in Paris. That doesn’t mean he’s unbeatable. Arguably, three of the four sprint stages to come, suit the German which means that the handy 52-point lead he already has over Australia’s Michael Matthews, will grow. For more on the challenge to come, read on.
5. Alejandro Valverde’s absence has hurt Nairo Quintana
If Stage 5 to La Planche des Belles Filles was indeed the first course of this edition’s degustation, then there is little doubt that the cunning Spaniard’s presence was missed. While there has been plenty of talk of BMC leaving Richie Porte isolated, Movistar deserves to be put under the same microscope. Like Porte benefits from following the wheel of Greg Van Avermaet, Quintana was lost without Valverde on Stage 5. Every second on mountain stages counts for the Colombian, without the time trial prowess of Froome or Porte. Back to the drawing board.
6. Dan Martin is in the form of his career
The Irishman is one of the sport’s good guys. While this isn’t everything, in an era of cycling that still struggling to escape from the clutches of ‘whatever it takes’, the Dan Martins of the world are needed. He’s finished in the top 10 of a grand tour just twice (9th at the Tour last year and 7th at the Vuelta in 2014), but this is the best we’ve seen over a career littered with solid performances and two monuments. Martin won’t die wondering and that makes for great racing.
What’s to come in week two?
Six stages of racing will ensue before the second rest day and the thrills delivered over the last week are set to continue.
The GC battle is just heating up
Stage 12 will be the first of two stages in the Pyrenees and will be key in the battle for the minor placings in Paris. The Bastille Day showdown on Stage 13 over just 101km promises plenty of fireworks while Stage 16 is a great example of the ASO rolling the dice and testing those who want to come out on top.
Bling, do your thing
If Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) wants to make a move on Kittel’s points classification lead, he has a few opportunities to do it. Given his versatility, if anyone can take on Kittel, it’s Matthews. The Australian looked good on stage 8 and if can hold his form on the shorter climbs, look for him to be in the mix on stage 14 where 30 points will be on offer at the finish.
The white jersey competition is nothing short of outstanding. ORICA-Scott’s Simon Yates versus Pierre Latour (AG2R-La Mondiale), versus Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates). This one is going down to the wire.
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