At first we saw the Tinkoff-Saxo fluo yellow jersey darkened by dirt, a sign of a big fall. But it was all so calm as if Contador had slipped on a training ride. Nobody was in a hurry and he had his knee bandaged to dress a bleeding wound. After some discussions and a shoe change off he went but half an hour later. The latest is a fractured tibia which makes you wince knowing he rode with this.
It changes plenty in the race. We were expecting a Froome-Contador duel and now that’s gone. Instead it’s Nibali vs the rest.
Twitter said Contador’s bike was broken… unleashing a speculative storm including some commentary that it broke in two before the crash. This was always unlikely but caused a Twitter teacup-storm, amplified perhaps because the racing was implicitly neutralised following Contador’s fall and so attention turned to the fate of the bike. The first news came from France Télévisions’ Nico Geay who reported his bike was broken in two but it seems it simply broke on the impact which is perfectly normal. There was also chatter about it falling off the roof of the team car. Either way team DS Philippe Mauduit was spotted putting a broken bike into the back of the team car, folding it as if it was a travel model.
Back to the Race
The race was implicitly neutralised following Contador’s crash but before he climbed into the team car it became apparent he wasn’t in today’s race and Astana picked up the pace. They had to as Michał Kwiatkowski was up the road and being paced into the yellow jersey by Tony Martin. The Pole would crack later but nobody could afford to give him much room so the Kazakh squad lined up at the front of the peloton. It took a team to contain Tony Martin and his enormous ride, another impressive day. The lull in the race saw the Tour go from being ahead of the fastest schedule to behind the slowest one.
As this morning’s preview tried to emphasise, the penultimate climb of the day, the Col des Chevrères was much more than its modest billing of 3.5km / 9.5% suggested and for once the TV cameras managed to capture the pitch of the road as it reared up. It broke the breakaway, cracked Tony Gallopin and transformed the peloton which went into the steep section numerous and emerged as a small group.
On to the Plateau des Belles Filles where Rodriguez was pedalling squares as if painted by Picasso. But he finishes the day with the King of the Mountains jersey and looks to have the form to extend his lead.
Vincenzo Nibali’s looking as insatiable as he was in the 2013 Giro. He didn’t need to attack today, yet alone go clear from so far. But he’s more an artist than a spreadsheet hero and he just rode away. Thibaut Pinot was the best of the rest coming in 15 seconds after to cheers from friends and family while the whole country had more to cheer. Alejandro Valverde was next with Jean-Christophe Péraud. Then Romain Bardet rode into the white jersey accompanied by Tejay van Garderen and Richie Porte. Leopold König was next but lost 50 seconds to Nibali.
On a more relative level the stage produced several other losers. Such is the severity of the final two climbs that anyone struggling “paid cash” as the French say. The price was high for Bauke Mollema (1.06 lost), Jurgen Van den Broeck (1.16), Pierre Rolland (4.14), Tony Gallopin (4.46) and Andrew Talansky (10.12). While NetApp-Endura’s Tiago Machado started the day in third place overall and finished last; first reported as abandoning he carried on only to get axed for finishing outside the time limit, a courageous effort.
I didn’t understand Europcar’s move yesterday. The ex post explanation was that it allowed Pierre Rolland to take back time on the overall. Which was true but it left him tired and proved to be yet another Pierre Rolland Energy Wasting Attack™.
Forgotten among all the drama and sport was Ted King’s exit. The US rider’s a social darling as well as big support for Peter Sagan but he’s been suffering was dropped first and could not ride in the gruppetto before abandoning.
The Tour’s pecking order is Nibali ahead of a small group with Valverde, Pinot, Bardet, Péraud, Porte and van Garderen. The Italian is in command and retains a full team in his service. But as bold as his move was he only took 15 seconds. The fact that he gained a single second suggests he’s better than the rest.
Nibali seems hard to beat but the overall classification is bound to change because if we ignore Nibali the other ten overall are within about 100 seconds. The hope is their fight for position causes sport and perhaps trouble for Astana. But don’t underestimate the importance of the Tour, not everyone will risk the security of a top-10 jackpot just to move up from seventh to sixth overall. All this assumes Nibali stays upright.
Talking of forecasts, the weather. After a cool start things are set to change with sunshine and hot weather forecast for the rest of the week.
Admin note: A problem with the server that hosts the site means ALL comments and posts were lost. Fortunately it’s all backed up but this dates from 11 July and all comments added to the site since then have vanished. Sorry about this.