Sorry for the late update, I had real work to do!!
Another Sprint finish, wide and straight with a slight uphill, and another crash in the last 3kms. After yesterday’s drama, Sky decided to work a lead-out train, as much to protect their GC contender Bradley Wiggins as to give Mark Cavendish a platform to sprint from. This dual purpose cost them focus, with Cavendish hitting the front far too early and unable to hold on. Taking full advantage was Lotto-Belisol, who dropped Andre Greipel off in the perfect position to take the win. The man they call the Gorilla absolutely mullered it. Also getting involved in the points for the first time were Saxo Bank, with Juan Jose Haedo taking a good third place, and Samuel Dumoulin of (Cofidis) taking 4th.
Cofidis? Dumoulin? In a Sprint finish? Surely some mistake? Well no, as yesterday we were treated to “the break that almost stayed away”. Normally on a sprint finish stage the bunch likes to let a break of non-contenders go up the road, sit out there neutralising any potential upsets to the overall results, and then reel them in with 15km or so to go. Very occasionally, they miscalculate, or the break is just that little bit stronger than expected, and the breakaway riders survive to the end. By the time they get inside the final few kilometres, the breakaway of perhaps 3 or 4 riders has been out there for 180+ kms, and there’s no more exciting finish than the “ooo I think they might make it!!” tension as the 1 or 2 survivors of the break try to hold off the marauding pack. This was it yesterday, with a heroic final solo attack by Samuel Dumoulin netting him 4th place, and much Kudos.
But what of the crash? Turned out that Sky‘s plan to keep Wiggins out of trouble was the right idea, as it was very close to the front – Tyler Ferrar (Garmin Barracuda) was the man brought down, after a bit of shoulder barging with Tom Veelmans (Argos-Skil Shimano). Most high profile casualty was Peter Sagan (Liquigas Cannondale), who was left with nowhere to go as Farrar’s riderless bike flew across the road, but the most respect has to go to stage winner Greipel who, with Ferrar throwing himself at the floor on the left side just ahead of him, took the impact by unclipping his right foot from the pedal and balancing himself out, unclipping his left foot to step on Ferrar (who was on the floor) and stop himself going down), clipping back in and going on to win the stage. All at 50kph+… Wow.
For the record this was Ferrrar’s 4th crash of the Tour, and we were all treated to the somewhat surprising view of him trying to get on to the Argos-Skil Shimano team bus to confront Veelmans. Not what we want to see, and totally out of character.
As expected, no changes in the team competition. Greipel’s win leapfrongs them into second, 4 points behind Sky, and Orica Greenedge (whose Matt Goss finished 3rd) are in the top 5.
Today’s stage is 208km and pretty flat, and on a west to east track could have a fast tailwind. This is the last chance for a sprint before we head into the mountains for the first time tomorrow. Again, I don’t expect any changes in the team classification. Lotto team manager Marc Sergeant has said that Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) will not be contesting today’s sprint finish after injuring his hand in a crash earlier on today. As yesterday, Sky‘s Cavendish, Orica-Greenedge‘s Goss and Lampre’s Pettacchi will be vying for the win. Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) remain in yellow, and would expect to hold it again today.