Cycling is just plain cruel
Stage 9 Le Tour is proving to be a bit of a bogey for our man, Richie Porte, the Australian again forced to abandon following a crash. There’s not much more to say about it other than we’re all devastated for Porte and wish him a speedy recovery.
John Degenkolb was the winner stage 9 deserved
High drama was predicted, and the Tour delivered a total rollercoaster. At the end of it all, John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) was the perfect victor.
The Milan–San Remo and Paris-Roubaix winner completed his comeback after a car collided with his training group in January 2016 where Degenkolb came perilously close to losing his index finger. After struggling to get back to his winning ways, there could be no better stage for the German to cross the line first, than Sunday.
The green jersey is Peter Sagan’s to lose
Sagan seems destined to equal Erik Zabel’s record of six green jersey wins. Heading into the first rest day, the world champion holds an 81-point lead over Fernando Garviria (Quick-StepFloors) with another 86 points back to Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo). The three riders have two wins each and while Sagan has the advantage due to his more dynamic abilities, it’s Gaviria who could be left thinking 'what if' following his relegation on Stage 8.
Kittel and Katusha are not happy campers
Getting the chemistry right with a new team can take time, but the signs are not favourable for Kittel. A flying finish into third place for the German on the opening stage has been as good as it gets, all the while the man who replaced him as the lead sprinter at Quick-Step, Gaviria, has been a star.
Reportedly unhappy regarding his role during the TTT, a story emerged in Saturday’s l’Equipe quoting Katusha DS Dimitri Konyshev saying of Kittel “We pay him a lot of money, but he is only interested in himself.” Ouch.
Kittel later travelled back to the team hotel in the front of a team car and not with his teammates. While that’s not unusual, off the back of his outburst at the conclusion of the stage, coupled with Konyshev’s comments, there’s a compelling argument to suggest that something has to give.
230km-long stages have no place in grand tours
The timing could not have been worse; as two other high profile sporting events reached a crescendo, cycling put its hands in the air and whimpered, no contest.
Given all the advances in technology and logistics, these transitional stages are a hangover from a bygone era.
They are an appalling advertisement for the sport and do just as much damage as farcical delays by anti-doping authorities. If the UCI could reduce team sizes for grand tours, they can set some limits around stage lengths, too.
A few GC contenders’ teams are already at a disadvantage
Eight-man teams were introduced for grand tours in 2018 with an eye to improving the safety for riders and reduce the likelihood of one team - read: Sky - dominating proceedings. While Sky still boasts a full complement of riders after nine stages, some other teams with GC contenders have not fared so well.
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) said goodbye to Luis Leon Sanchez on Stage 2, Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) lost Axel Domont on Stage 4 and Alexis Vuillermoz on Stage 9, and when Michael Matthews didn’t start stage 5, Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin was down to six teammates, and Nikias Arndt is now nursing some heavy bruising after crashing on the cobbles.
JJ Rojas’ DNF on the cobbles also made things tricky at Movistar given he was Mikel Landa’s chaperone. The leadership tightrope they were already walking becomes infinitely more difficult without a full squadron of riders.
It’s the quiet ones you’ve got the watch
Seen much of Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)? Nope. The Shark of Messina, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) was lurking in the shallows on the opening stage, although one gets the sense that he’s quietly stalking his prey.
While others have been in the thick of the action, these two stand out so far by doing the least to draw attention to themselves. Away from trouble and no immediately apparent wasted surges of energy.
Job done, so far.
The GC is poised just nicely, thanks…
Fourteen men within 2:40 of each other. From Geraint Thomas (Sky) down to Dan Martin (UAE-Team Emirates) it’s a dream line up and one \the ASO should be rubbing their hands together with delight over.
With four-time winner Chris Froome (Sky) at 1:42, along with a so far composed Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), and Mikel Landa, it’s with great excitement the Tour is set to head into the mountains on Tuesday.
The first of nine Hors Catégorie (HC) climbs will, without doubt, rearrange the pecking order and given that Stage 10’s climbs are relatively short in relation to what’s to come, therein lies the danger. A bad day on Tuesday could destroy your hopes of wearing yellow in Paris.
How the GC looks after Stage 9 - the main contenders:
Thomas: +43 seconds (59 seconds ahead of Froome)
Jungels +50 seconds (52 seconds ahead of Froome)
Valverde: +1:31 (11 seconds ahead of Froome)
Majka +1:32 (10 seconds ahead of Froome)
Fuglsang +1:33 (9 seconds ahead of Froome).
Nibali: +1:48 (6 seconds behind Froome)
Mollema +1:58 (16 seconds behind Froome)
Roglic: +1:57 (15 seconds behind Frooome)
Dumoulin: +2:03 (21 seconds behind Froome)
Kruijswijk +2:06 (24 seconds behind Froome)
Bardet: +2:32 (50 seconds behind Froome)
Zakarin +2:42 (1 minute behind Froome)
Quintana: +2:50 (1:08 behind Froome)
Uran: +2:53 (1:11 behind Froome)
Martin: +3:22 (1:40 behind Froome)