• A calculated move that teams like Tinkoff-Saxo took full advantage of... (AFP)Source: AFP
Asks Anthony Tan, is it coincidence that two of the Big Four who missed the crucial break on Sunday's stage attributed their woes to bad luck, and the other two did not?
6 Jul 2015 - 8:21 PM  UPDATED 6 Jul 2015 - 10:18 PM

"It was a question of bad luck, not my legs. That's cycling. You also have to accept these things," Vincenzo Nibali, the defending champion said, while Nairo Quintana, who also lost 1'28 to Stage 2 winner André Greipel, pretty much echoed the Shark's sentiments: "With the rain and the crashes we had a bit of bad luck and we lost a bit of time, but we hope to get that back day by day."

"This was no coincidence. This was a calculated move by Etixx-Quick-Step and Lotto-Soudal that teams like Tinkoff-Saxo, BMC Racing and Sky took full advantage of."

Both before and during this year's Tour de France, many riders said each of the first seven road stages is akin to riding a Classic. As a result, Tinkoff-Saxo made a late decision to bring another rouleur rather than a climber; similarly, Team Sky brought their two best performers from the Spring Classics, Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas, to "chaperone" their leader through the melee, as Chris Froome tweeted after Sunday's windswept stage to Neeltje Jans.

It's also worth noting that Tinkoff-Saxo and Team Sky regularly do training camps with their respective leaders and often race with a core group, and that the teams of Nibali and Quintana, Astana and Movistar, do not; the latter pair far less chummy with their team buds, preferring to prepare themselves alone, and whose Tour teams (in particular, Movistar) are selected at the eleventh hour.

Coincidence again?

On a day when communication via race radios would have been problematic and sometimes non-existent, how much of an effect did the bonhomie within the coteries of Contador and Froome have on a stage like that?

There was also the fact that in the heat of the moment, when the second and decisive split occured with just under 60km remaining, Nibali admitted "I didn't quite understand what was happening". Yet one of the guys riding just ahead of him - which happened to be the maillot jaune of Rohan Dennis - knew exactly what was going on, and in a moment of lucidity, made a selfless act for his leader...

"We were going through a lot of roundabouts and I was sort of toward the back, thinking it was safe because it wasn't too hard," Dennis recalled.

"Then (Thibaut) Pinot let the gap go. He swung out and basically looked at me, saying I had to close it. I looked around and saw Nibali was there as well. So I made the call not to chase because if Nibali loses time, it is better (for Tejay van Garderen).

"I could have closed the gap and taken Nibali with me, which more than likely would have meant I would have kept the jersey. But by sitting up, Nibali lost time, which makes it better for Tejay, who is our goal for the Tour."

And did you notice that a number of the key players from Sunday's stage - including Contador, Michael Rogers, Peter Sagan, Daniele Bennati (all Tinkoff-Saxo), Mark Cavendish, Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick-Step) - were also the same players who stole a march on the wind-buffeted thirteenth stage of the 2013 Tour to Saint-Amand-Montrond?

This was no coincidence. This was a calculated move by Etixx-Quick-Step and Lotto-Soudal that teams like Tinkoff-Saxo, BMC Racing and Sky took full advantage of. (That said, the way Etixx rode the finale could be described as an uncalculated cock-up.)

I think Tom Dumoulin of Giant-Alpecin, who finished eighth on the stage and is now in an excellent position to take the maillot jaune today to the Mur de Huy or tomorrow to Cambrai, said it best: "I fought for my position all day... That was not just luck."

Said Contador after Sunday's stage, "It's always good to have a few of the main rivals behind me in the GC than at the front, but we still have a long way ahead of us and I think the advantage I have today will mean nothing by the end of the Tour."

Then again, it could mean everything.