• It's not the first time we've seen him go for a jog at Le Tour... (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Once again, we have been reminded that the Tour de France is like no other bike race, writes Anthony Tan.
Cycling Central
9 Jul 2018 - 3:45 PM  UPDATED 9 Jul 2018 - 4:03 PM

There he goes again, running at a cycling race...

Unlike Mont Ventoux in 2016, however, at least this time he had his bike with him.

During Sunday night's coverage of Le Tour on SBS Television, race director Christian Prudhomme explained that the reduction in team sizes from nine to eight riders was done in part as a safety measure. The other reason was to not let any one team assume absolute control over proceedings, thereby creating a milieu of uncertainty and greater room for unpredictability.

Ironically, or rather, curiously, out of the aforementioned quintet of GC contenders, the two expected to lose chunks in tonight's team time trial are already some way ahead of Porte and Froome on GC.

After what we've seen the past 48 hours, do you see how these objectives may be in conflict?

Regarding safety, Prudhomme reasoned that there is twice as much road furniture today as there was 10 or 20 years ago, and a fast-moving peloton of 176 would be potentially less hazardous than a bunch of 198 riders.

I can't spot the difference, to be honest. In fact, I think it looks as, if not more, precarious, than before.

There's a few factors at play. Most of the top sprinters do not have an entire team at their disposal: Quick-Step Floors (with Fernando Gaviria), Bora-Hansgrohe (Peter Sagan), Dimension Data (Mark Cavendish), Katusha-Alpecin (Marcel Kittel), Groupama-FDJ (Arnaud Demare) and LottoNL-Jumbo (Dylan Groenewegen) all come with a secondary - or equally important - objective, be it to win stages with opportunists, or, in the case of Bora-Hansgrohe (Rafal Majka) and Katusha-Alpecin (Ilnur Zakarin), search for a high place on the overall classification.

So, while you may still see sprint trains, many are a carriage or two (even three or four) short than in years previous. Furthermore, this season there's also been no one dominant sprinter - meaning all of the aforementioned think they've got as good a shot at winning as each other. There's no 'Oh, Kittel/Greipel/Cavendish is at another level' type of talk; they appear respectful of one another, though by no means fearful.

You've also got GC riders in the mix till the three-kilometres-to-go kite, the point at which bunch time is preserved on flat stages. Chris Froome, Richie Porte, Nairo Quintana, Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uran have all been seen rubbing shoulders with their heavyweight counterparts, intent on not losing unnecessary seconds - and, if obstacles or incident befell their adversaries, gaining precious time that would otherwise have to be won in the mountains or time trials.

Which is exactly what has happened.

Ironically, or rather, curiously, out of the aforementioned quintet of GC contenders, the two expected to lose chunks in tonight's team time trial, Bardet and Uran, are already some way ahead of Porte and Froome on GC, who have arguably the two strongest formations for the 35 kilometre blast around Cholet. Quintana's Movistar outfit is expected to make the top five - yet after just two stages he has already conceded 1'15". There's also the Mitchelton-Scott team of Adam Yates, another historically strong TTT unit, who will now hoping for a top-three position to recoup some of the 1'07" conceded to date, which is also where Porte and Froome find themselves.

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Before the Tour began, it was deemed by pundits the TTT would sway the balance too far in favour of Team Sky and BMC Racing, and to a similar though lesser extent, Movistar and Mitchelton-Scott. However events of the opening two stages is a smack-in-the-face reminder that such is the intensity and ferocity of the opening week, until Le Tour gets going, speculation is all it will be.

Who would've thought that the TTT will bring the top five dogs to status quo? And that's assuming that tonight will go without incident...