It's been a long time since I've witnessed this much carnage at the Tour
The last occasion I can recall such circumstances
was 11 years ago, at the 1999 Tour.
What was thought to be a
relatively innocuous second stage quickly turned into a massacre, when
on the Passage du Gois, a two-mile long causeway that depending on tidal
conditions can be submerged in water, a 25 rider pile-up eventuated
that split the field to itty bitty pieces and left Lance Armstrong's
most noted adversary, Swiss rider Alex ZÃ¼lle, behind in a frantic chase
that never regained contact.
ZÃ¼lle along with Jan Ullrich were
arguably the only two riders to really challenge the Texan during his
Tour reign, and Armstrong's 7'37" winning advantage did not really tell
the full story.
I'm not saying ZÃ¼lle would have beaten Armstrong
in the first of his seven straight wins, but had he not crashed, the
race would without doubt have played out very differently.
Sunday's opening road stage to Brussels, many riders complained about
the narrow roads leading to the finish; and as I write this blog minutes
after another crashed-filled day to Spa that resembled a
mini-LiÃ¨ge-Bastogne-LiÃ¨ge with its twisting roads and short, sharp
climbs, it's certain many more will do so again, most likely the crew
from Garmin and Saxo Bank.
But read this from cycling legend
Eddy Merckx, who told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf after Stage 1:
"It's part of the job. Especially in the beginning of a Grand Tour, you
can not blame the organisation. It is the riders themselves who [must]
bear the blame. If you do not want to brake and if you are not afraid to
go for an opponent who is faster, then do not be afraid of crashing."
In the end Monday, the Schleck brothers were saved by an entente
cordiale initiated by the erstwhile maillot jaune of Fabian
Cancellara, who relinquished his golden fleece to perhaps the most
popular guy in France right now, Sylvain Chavanel.
For want of a
better title, the biggest loser was most definitely Garmin's Christian
Vande Velde, whose second serious crash in as many Grand Tours has most
certainly put paid to any chance of the podium in 2010.
stage at least, weather was the contributing factor behind the
multitude of crashes - and that's just something you can not control at
the Tour de France Ã¢â¬â or any other race for that matter.
rightly said, another uncontrollable that pertains most particularly to
the Tour is the opening week: always twitchy, always fast, and
inevitably, always crashes.
Tuesday's mini-Paris-Roubaix [Stage
3] is likely to be no different and quite possibly, much worse.
If you don't want to see crashes, don't watch Ã¢â¬â or hide behind your bean