• Mur de Huy - telling, but not definitive... (AFP)Source: AFP
The Mur de Huy offered a glimpse into the climbing form of the favourites but it is nothing more than that, writes Anthony Tan, who says the Tour is yet to establish a hierarchy of contenders.
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7 Jul 2015 - 4:58 PM 

As they scattered all over the road, it was like a big kid had thrown a whole bunch of Skittles down on the ground. Only the Skittles were humans; wafer-thin bike riders with a millimetre-thin layer of clothing between them and the asphalt.

When it was replayed at the actual speed, it looked a video editor had mistakenly hit the fast forward button. When it was replayed in slow motion, it still looked too fast.

In 25 years of watching the Tour de France, it was probably the worst mass pile-up I'd seen. It was garish.

Perhaps the only consolation, and a small one at that, was that none of the GC favourites was injured. After the events of yesteryear and what it promised, to see two of the main favourites exit before the halfway mark was disappointing in the least, and made for an anticlimatic next week-and-a-half, which effectively saw Vincenzo Nibali do a 1,500 kilometre victory lap around France.

Anyway, so much has been written and said about the crash (or crashes, I should add), it's superfluous to elaborate much further than to say, for the umpteenth occasion, how much one should admire a professional cyclist's resilience - and when the chips are down and commonsense tells them otherwise, their tenacity to get back on the bike and keep going, and going, and going, against the odds.

"Perhaps the length of the Mur de Huy doesn't suit him, but the slope was right up his alley - more so than for Contador, Quintana and Nibali."

So, then, how much can we read into what we saw on the Mur de Huy?

Well, I think Chris Froome is being a little disingenuous because after he took the maillot jaune he said that, "The climb doesn't suit me, really, so it's a surprise to come here in second place and gain some time over the other GC contenders."

When you cast your mind back to races where he's been at his devastating best, Froome has excelled in situations where the climbs have been steep - Stage 7 of the 2012 Tour, to La Planche des Belles Filles, and Stage 15 of the 2013 Tour to Mont Ventoux, are deeply etched in the psyche of the cycling aficionado.

Perhaps the length of the Mur de Huy doesn't suit him, but the slope was right up his alley - more so than for Contador, Quintana and Nibali.

So, if you're money's on someone other than Froome, I wouldn't be too worried yet. Quintana likes going from a long way out and setting his own pace (think Stage 16 to Val Martello, 2014 Giro d'Italia); Nibali prefers the steadier gradients and a fast, though not changeable, tempo; and Contador thrives on longer ascents - not to mention descents; the recent Route du Sud a prime example, where he gapped Quintana on the descent of the Port de Balès - and changes of rhythm that disrupt his rivals', which, clearly, a climb like the Mur de Huy does not allow for.

The climbs included in this year's Tour - and it is not for another week that we will see the first real mountain stage contested - Stage 10, from Tarbes to La Pierre-Saint-Martin - feature all those elements, so it will be up to the Big Four and anyone else who can hang on to take opportunity, and advantage, when the occasion arises.

Said Contador, "There are still many days of racing. You must stay positive. The yellow jersey gives you confidence; you tell yourself you're well but it also creates pressure and responsibilities. Still, I would love to hold it."