0.62 seconds separated BMC Racing from Team Sky, nothing at all but a useful lesson in team work. The two teams were obvious picks for the day but such a close margin added some thrills to what could have been a boring procession of teams.
BMC Racing win thanks to team work. They were equal with Team Sky at earlier time checks and then Sky pulled ahead at the last time check at the foot of the final climb. Normally you’d back Sky’s climbers to scale the hill faster than BMC’s one day riders and this is what happened, Sky went too fast and lost their shape while BMC were a tighter and more even unit. They win the stage but don’t get Tejay van Garderen into yellow. Sometimes yellow is burden because of the all the duties that accompany it, certainly Monday’s rest day puts plenty of demands. But for the team the publicity gains and for van Garderen the lessons to be learnt surely mean they’d have wanted to take the jersey.
Nicolas Roche was apologetic after the finish feeling he’d let down Team Sky but it doesn’t work like that, for a rider to be dropped the others have to be going too fast. Chris Froome looked very strong with many long turns.
Movistar had a mini meltdown midway wbut they regrouped in time to finish third. They’re just four seconds off BMC Racing and could have won were it not for the mishap. All three teams are so close.
Astana were splitting up on the hills too but just about kept things together to finish 5th, 35 seconds down. The time loss isn’t big but it means Vincenzo Nibali slips to fourth of the “Big Four”, ending a poor week for him. The likes of Lieuwe Westra and Lars Boom have been solid but not as effective as we have have expected.
The surprise: Lampre-Merida finished 8th and had the second fastest time up the final climb. Rui Costa is 5.20 behind Chris Froome so the result is anecdotal but not the wipeout you could have imagined.
The disappointment: Katusha finished 19th. They’ve lost their sole Russian, rouleur Dmitry Kozontchuk, and Luca Paolini slipped away in the night but for a large budget World Tour team they still got beaten by Bretagne-Séché.
The rest day awaits. Teams travel in three aircraft from Lorient in Brittany to Pau, the earliest teams going in the first plane and the last ones to finish in the third before buses ferry them to the hotels. If all goes well all the riders will be in their hotels by before dusk. Meanwhile the rest of the race has a 700km transfer late into the night. When they wake up tomorrow if they’re lucky they’ll see fields of sunflowers and the Pyrenees on the horizon.