Monday, July 15, 2024

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 4: Mondorf-les-Bains – Vittel, 207.5km. Demare wins but Sagan DQd!


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Utter madness!

That’s all you can say about the finale, with no team really able to control it, the finish straight was a scene of complete chaos.

Kittel and QuickStep blew it and were nowhere – it looked like just perhaps Cav was going to be the man as he let a gap open on his lead out men then jumped Demare’s wheel as the French champion roared by him.

As the rampaging wildebeests came into the finish straight Cav, Sagan, Kristoff, Greipel, Degenkolb, Bouhanni and Demare were all there and drifting right towards the barriers, taking the shortest line.

But as Cav went for the gap between Sagan and the fence, Greipel slipped a front wheel and the world champion went right as Demare went the same way and Cavendish hit the barriers and came down hard – as did Degenkolb and Ben Swift.

Sagan DQd
Arnaud Démarre takes the controversial sprint. Photo©Gautier Demouveaux/ASO

Bouhanni was in there somewhere but for once appeared blameless.

It looked difficult to apportion blame; too many men, all too fresh after an easy stage and all as motivated and aggressive as each other in the madness.

But blame was apportioned by the UCI commissars and Sagan went from second to 115th on the stage – a sore one for his green campaign. [And later in the evening, Sagan was DQ’d from the race altogether; seen by many as a rather harsh penalty for the coming together with Cavendish which was unintentional – ed.]

Sagan’s elbow did come in to play with Cav but it looked very much like it was simply to preserve his balance – albeit a bandaged Cav had a different view on that elbow…

Sagan DQd
Peter has gone from Hero one day to thrown off the race the next. We’re not sure we agree with the judges about that one. Photo©Gautier Demouveaux/ASO

No one will agree but my take is that Cav was going for gap that was closing and should have backed off – but that’s not in his makeup. The net result is that he’s out of the Tour too, with a broken shoulder.

Demare emerged a deserving winner; the first Frenchman to win a bunch sprint since Jimmy Casper shocked us all back in 2006 in Strasbourg beating McEwen, Zabel and Bennati.

The maillot jaune was on the deck too, in an earlier crash but fortunately inside three kilometres, so retained yellow.

Reminding us once again that a sprinters’ stage is just like war; hours of nothingness then minutes, maybe just seconds of mayhem, drama and danger which can change everything in a heartbeat.

Sagan DQd
Photo©Gautier Demouveaux/ASO

Initially we had to go a little higher up the ‘Paint Drying Scale’ today as we watched Guillaume Van Keirsbrulck go solo from the gun to way out over 10 minutes advantage then slowly get reeled in – but not until 17 kilometres to go.

That’s 190 K solo – respect and HUGE PR for the sponsors with these fully televised stages.

Still, it’s nice to look at TV images of folks enjoying sunshine instead of looking out the window at the rain.

Twice Belgian novice time trial champion, a winner of the junior Paris-Roubaix, GVK turned pro with QuickStep in 2011, where he remained until this season when he moved to Wanty.

His biggest win for Patrick Lefevre’s team was De Panne in 2014 but was better known as a solid grafter for the team.

This year he won Le Samyn – a big result for Wanty – and today he gave his sponsors huge TV time.

Sagan DQd
Photo©Gautier Demouveaux/ASO

But on the less, dare we say ‘boring,’ side of things, imagine my joy when outside a rain soaked International Newsagents there were not one but two editions of L’Équipe; Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday’s edition reckons The Froome Dog is a ‘favourite under pressure’ – but that was before Stage One and he put 30 seconds plus into all of his ‘rivals.’

On the subject of which they have Quintana rated as Froome’s number one challenger based on physical attributes/mental strength/experience/panache/team – then Porte, Bardet, Aru, Contador and Fuglsang in that order.

It’s a ‘stat fest’ in there – the mean average coureur of the 198 starters being 29 years and 128 days old; 1.81 metres tall; weighing 68 kilograms and has started the Tour 3.1 times.

Apparently Perriq Quemeneur fits that bill most closely.

Youngest starter is Elie Gesbert (Fortuneo Oscar & France) at 22 years (his birthday) and oldest is Haimar Zubeldia (Trek Segafredo & Spain) at 40 years and 90 days.

Chava (Sylvain Chavanel) of Direct Energie and France starts his 16th Tour (wow !) whilst aforementioned Zubeldia is on 15 starts and Chava’s team mate and compatriot, Tommy Voeckler on 14 starts.

Cav is on 10.

The Manxman’s team, Dimension Data is the oldest with an average age of 32 years and 55 days with the youngest, Cannondale at 27 years and 238 days.

Those two stats tell a story, Cav apart – who’s wages are paid by Deloitte’s – there’s no money for big stars but they can afford good riders in the autumn of their careers who the mega teams are no longer interested in.

And at the other end of the scale, Cannondale have to put most of their faith in youngsters who aren’t on the big bucks contracts yet.

Sagan DQd
Life on Planet Froome… Photo©Pierre Froger/ASO

There’s also a two page feature on ‘Planete Froome’ – the French give his British citizenship short shrift; ‘just a passport’ says l’Équipe.

Sunday’s edition features Froome on the cover and describes the short time trial as a ‘massacre’ continuing by saying that ‘Sky hit their rivals hard, early.’

So true.

Geraint ‘rode a hot race under cold rain’ and they list the Welshman’s road palmarès – they’re surprisingly slim; one Tour stage 2017, Paris-Nice 2016, a stage in Tirreno this year and the GP E3 in 2015.

And there’s a colour supplement with great pictures of Demare not to mention a feature on the best descenders – Sagan, Bardet and … Pinot, re-born as a downhill demon.

And there, mounted on a Festina bike is “King of the Mountains,” Tricky Dicky himself, a man at the centre of the Tour’s biggest scandal – Richard Virenque.

When they banish him from the race forever then I’ll begin to believe that organisation is sincere in their stance on kitting up.

And more important than the L’Équipe update, I spoke to Viktor today – Sagan’s gymnastics in the sprint yesterday now means that; ‘you can never use pulling your foot as an excuse to blow a sprint finish.’

A fair point.

But he’s unimpressed by big Steve Cummings’ riding tail end Charlie on every stage – ‘dishonouring the jersey’ says Vik.

But of course Vik reckons that the Grand Tours should be cut back to two weeks, mountain top finishes should be banned and only ‘proper’ public highways should be permitted; scratch the Angliru, Lagos de Covadonga, Zoncolan et al – and besides, the season finished after Roubaix…

Le Tour; just when you think it’s a boring procession it reminds you what a ferocious beast it really is.

And Sagan goes from hero to villain overnight – only on Le Tour.

The GC gets real tomorrow, up with those “pretty girls on their bench”.

A demain.