The Tour goes to Tours, better know in cycling as the finish of Paris-Tours, the so-called “sprinters classic” held every autumn. No sprinter is towering over their rivals and the various sprint trains seem evenly matched too which promises another close finish, especially because today’s stage ends with two bends in the final kilometre.
Stage 11 Review
Another win for Tony Martin, seemingly unbeatable in the time trials. But it was close with Chris Froome just 12 seconds off the German. Martin is recovering from his crash on Stage 1 but there was blood seeping out through his white skinsuit, proof that well over a week later the wounds are still open. You wonder how he’s sleeping at night.
Froome’s rivals are now left thinking what they can do. I think he’s so far ahead that others will look to defend their positions, Alejandro Valverde and Bauke Mollema might be worrying more about Alberto Contador trying to poach their position.
Michał Kwiatkowski’s success continues. He took the white jersey back from Nairo Quintana. I think the Colombian will take it back but Kwiatkowski is surely the revelation of the year, a force in the classics and now flourishing in his first Tour.
In a similar theme, the OPQS team doctor says if Martin could lose four kilos he’d become a GC contender. But would he want to become a contender rather than the certain winner of every time trial he rides? It’s also telling of the sport, consistent victory is quickly taken for granted, just ask Peter Sagan who gets asked if he too could lose weight and win stage races. Why?
On a scenic day there was an ugly moment when Mark Cavendish reportedly got doused in urine. It’s not the first time it’s happened, in the 2008 Tour Nicolas Jalabert found someone shaking a bottle in his direction and it wasn’t water that he swallowed. He was soon ill and left the race.
Riders have had pepper thrown in their face, Eddy Merckx got punched and in 2009 an idiot used an air gun to take shots at Oscar Freire and Julian Dean. It does not excuse it but with an estimated 200,000 by the road yesterday, one lunatic seems probable.
The Tour de France has now passed the halfway point in terms of distance and today’s 218km is an easy way to rack up some distance as the race heads towards Mont Ventoux and the Alps.
But for now the race takes some unremarkable roads. I’d like to offer some insight into the route but can’t think of anything worth mentioning. The route is flat and exposed, passing the wheat fields that provide the flour for the 10 billion baguettes consumed every year in France. Whilst the end of season Paris-Tours classic has some hills thrown in to spice up the finish today’s stage remains flat.
Another lament that the Tour won’t visit the heart of Tours, especially since the town is famous for the Avenue de Grammont, the finish line of Paris-Tours. The introduction of a new tramway means the full length of the Avenue de Grammont can no longer be used but Paris-Tours continues to use a section for the finish. But instead of a long straight road, we get some sharp corners.
Note the U-turn in the final kilometre. The first corner is with 600m to go and it’s vital, it’s a clear turn to the right on a roundabout where the wide lane funnels into a smaller side road. The second corner is more a sweeping bend but still hard for one sprint train to overtake another here and then there’s just 400m to the finish.
Another sprint finish? Again with several hungry sprinters and powerful teams it’s hard to see a breakaway sticking over such a flat course.
Who is the fastest sprinter? I don’t think we can tell yet, perhaps Mark Cavendish is just that bit faster thanks to his aero position but each time a sprinter has won it’s been because they’ve been placed into the perfect position by their team. Not that they’re passengers on a sprint train express, it’s more that the level seems equal. If Cavendish might have that higher speed, his lead out is more variable. André Greipel was caught out in St Malo but has a better train. Argos-Shimano have the best record with Marcel Kittel. Meanwhile Peter Sagan is in green but I think he’s got less speed than the others.
Weather: if the route is boring it’s because it’s flat and exposed but as the race heads south-east the wind will blow from the north-east meaning a crosswind until the final 25km. The breeze will blow at 25km/h but could gust to 45km/h. Otherwise it will be warm and sunny.
TV: live from 2.20pm Euro time as usual with the finish expected three hours later. With the high probability of a sprint finish tune in for the final half hour to watch the sprint trains clash.
Le Regional de l’Etape
There’s been a custom in the Tour de France for a local rider to be granted permission to ride ahead of the bunch and stop to meet and greet their family, friends and fanclub and then rejoin the race. It’s not been seen for a while, after all these days riders can phone home and family visits rather than needing to ride up the road to greet their family. Instead a local might try to go in the day’s breakaway, see Sojasun’s Julien Simon on the road to St Malo. Today watch for local riders Cyrile Lemoine (Sojasun) and Jérémy Roy (FDJ.fr) although the latter might have tired legs after his impressive eighth place in the time trial.