Have you been watching the Tour this year? If you have, you might be in a state of near disbelief like me. Le Tour is like no other race: everything is bigger, faster and more dangerous, and in the case of the 1st four days of this one, has more stories to tell already than most Grand Tours have over 21 stages.
François Thomazeau, a hardened journalist who has covered 32 Tours, said that no script writer would dare to write the scenario of these first few stages because it would be too unbelievable.
The current French cycling chou chou, Julian Alaphilippe, won convincingly in Landernau. He was one of the favorites for the stage, of course, but most ‘experts’ had Mathieu van der Poel picked. VDP was mal-placed on the final climb and wasn’t a factor. For French cycling fans and the organizers of the Tour, the picture below was about the best they could dream of for a first stage.
What a difference 24 hours can make. The experts now had Alaphilippe doing a double on the climb to Mûr-de-Bretagne, a climb seemingly hand-made for Juju’s talents. Well, didn’t Van der Poel attack on the first time up the climb, plenty far from the finish! He was caught at the top, but had taken 8 precious bonus seconds that only he knew would come in handy at the end. I had him written off for the final climb because he definitely burned a match on that first effort, but this kid has some magical reserves and he attacked around 800 meters from the line, winning with a clear enough margin to take the yellow jersey, something he was well aware that his legendary grandfather (Raymond Poulidor) never did. Note: his father Adri did, though, in 1984.
This stage was special for all the wrong reasons, marred by crashes that had plenty of riders losing time and Caleb Ewan abandoning the race.
One of the pre-race stories was Ineos’ ‘four pronged attack’, with Thomas, Porte, Carapaz and Geoghegan Hart. Suddenly, Carapaz is the only one left in the top ten (3rd), with Thomas over a minute down and Teo out of it at over 13 minutes. And there hasn’t even been a mountain stage yet! Someone far cleverer than me said that the four pronged attack has turned into a chopstick.
You want fairytales? How about one of the most successful sprinters of all time coming back to win his 31st stage of the Tour after being nearly non-existent for 4 or 5 years? Add to that, Mark Cavendish‘s lengthy battle with disease (Epstein-Barr virus) and probably depression, not to mention that the only reason he is even riding the Tour this year is because his teammate Sam Bennett is injured (unless you ask his team manager…).
I know things will calm down eventually, but 21 stages is long. Personally, I’m looking forward to a rest day!