Yuk. Heavy showers driven by blustery westerlies, the peloton being soaked one minute and then on dry roads the next, it was more like Auckland winter weather than what we imagine for the Tour. Gripping racing nonetheless, with a fine debut win for Edvald Boasson Hagen and Team Sky.
Today’s stage was the first that looked like it could actually go the way of the escape at one point, as the Garmin and HTC Teams looked at each other and the other sprinters’ teams seemed uninterested due to the uphill finish in prospect.
One of those traditional unwritten rules of the peloton, is that the race-leader’s team chase for the first half of the stage or so, at which point the teams interested in the stage win are supposed to take over. However, it wasn’t until about half distance that some agreement seemed to be reached with Garmin beginning the chase with a little help from HTC…I suspect The Politician Who Shall Not Be Named would have been very good at these peloton negotiations to decide who will commit how many riders to chasing at what point, but unlike politics, you don’t get to lead teams in this game without a lot of hard work. He could probably lend his sign to Lance though.
The breakaway bunch was slowly whittled down to Adriano Malori who hung on until 15km to go when he was swallowed by a peloton now driven by HTC, Cadel Evans’ BMC squad and Leopard-Trek.
The final sprint was notable for the absence of the pure sprinters, Cavendish seemingly content with his points from the intermediate sprint and this affair was contested by the bigger, stronger riders with Edvald Boasson Hagen timing it perfectly to head Aussie’s Matthew Goss and fellow Norwegian Thor Hushovd.
Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen never tired of talking about Thor being such a “big, solid rider” who would be much more comfortable in the wet than smaller riders…put in perspective, he’s all of 6’0 and 83kgs so certainly wouldn’t give Brad Thorn any worries.
Tonight’s stage takes us from Le Mans down to Chateauroux, scene of Mark Cavendish’s debut stage win three years ago. It’s the final chance for the sprinters to shine before we hit the slopes of the Massif Central and then the Pyrenees, so yes, I’m tipping Cav again.
Cycling jargon of the day is “Rouleur”. A rouleur (literally “roller”) is a big strong rider capable of pushing a big gear and maintaining a high pace and momentum on flat and rolling terrain. These are the riders who do the donkey work of the peloton chases.