Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 7: Troyes – Nuits-Saint-Georges, 213.5km. Kittel takes his third


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Kittel takes his third

Six millimetres in Troyes; that’s less than quarter of an inch – the difference between reading headlines ‘Eddy avenges Cav’ rather than ‘Kittel takes his third’…

But it’s been Kittel’s week; and when a sprinter’s head is right – as Kittel’s obviously is – even Lady Luck is carried along with them.

The big German has more than justified whatever Patrick Lefevre is paying him at QuickStep; three stage wins in the Tour is something most sponsors would give their eye teeth for.

Dimension Data’s joint number two star – with Stevie Cummings – quiet Norwegian, Edvald Boasson Hagen was impressive on Stage Six, despite being ‘dropped off’ early he fought all the way to the line and looked very strong.

Stage Seven saw him lose by that six mil. margin we already mentioned – like we said the difference between headlines and a secondary story.

Kittel takes his third – but only just! Photo©Pierre Froger/ASO

The man who impressed me on Stage Six and Seven was Eddy BH’s team mate, South African champion Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, right in the mix and very strong on the lead out; they got it wrong on Stage Six but it couldn’t have been closer on Stage Seven – well, maybe five mil ?

Boasson Hagen; we all remember those magazine headlines; ‘The New Merckx,’ and whilst he’s going well right now and he has had his moments with stage wins in le Tour, Giro, Dauphine and Tirreno, plus his multiple National Championships there are no Grand Tour podiums or Monuments on the balance sheet – albeit there is a Gent-Wevelgem and a Hamburg Classic.

Perhaps he’s too quiet, not assertive enough; fine up to a certain level but when it’s 260+ kilometres and for real he fails to make the mix.

I did hear that his body has a problem with absorbing nutrition when the race goes over 200 kilometres so maybe it’s as simple as that?

The peloton toils under the July sun. Photo©Pierre Froger/ASO

But ‘respect’ for yesterday; Matthews, Kristoff, Degenkolb, Groenewegen, Bouhanni and Greipel all in his wake.

Good to see Dan McLay in the top 10 for the second day running and being brutally frank about his performance; ‘I didn’t believe in myself enough,’ it’s hard to see him winning a stage in this company but…

And of course “Sprinters’ Stages” strike fear into the strongest commentator’s heart – not Carlton’s of course; it gives him more opportunity to explain to us what a wild, wacky, knowledgeable guy he is.

I’ve defected to ITV 4 and David Millar, ‘art school boy’ or not, the man knows what he’s talking about.

And ‘yes’ we did get L’Équipe with ‘Demare by a KO’ as the headline, with ‘Cavicide’ given two pages.

Italian Flyer ‘Ale Jet’ Petacchi (six Tour stage wins) saying that there was ‘no intent’ by Sagan and he doesn’t think it was a good decision to send him home but Belgium’s Tom Steels (nine Tour Stage wins) reckons that Sagan was ‘very dangerous with his arm movement’ should be excluded.

A view shared by France’s Fred Moncassin (two Tour stage wins) stating; ‘L’exclusion est meritee.’

But these statements were most certainly made before the frame by frame analysis of the finish sprint film.

The weight of opinion expressed to us still suggests that most folks think Cav’s going for the gap between Sagan and the barriers sowed the seeds of his own destruction.

L’Équipe reports that Cav was travelling at 54.5 kph when he hit the deck – ouch!

Ace photographer John Pierce had this to say on social media;

‘What kind of ass blames the World Champion for his Kamikaze mistakes? 

“He caused a crash at the Olympics, he crashed with Haussler (in Switzerland), he crashed at stage one in Yorkshire… yet he escapes any disciplinary action…

“Cavendish should have been DQ’d for dangerous riding, so many times – and you know the commissaires would not take action unless a team complained. 

“Perhaps that was Team Bora’s only error – they didn’t place a complaint about Kamikaze Kavendish.”

Don’t hold back, John.

The sprint ‘heads’. Photo©Pierre Froger/ASO

Bora’s bid to get Sagan back in the race has failed – obviously! – but some wag on Facebook has suggested that if the Slovak rode the stages he missed, overnight then he’d have covered the full race distance once he ‘caught up’ and would have satisfied UCI rules.

This reminds me of the time Dave and I were working on the Tour, in digs down near Milau and got to chatting to English chaps over breakfast.

They were keen as mustard but hadn’t quite got the hang of how it all worked.

The day prior a rider had been penalised 10 minutes – I can’t remember who now – and one of our new chums asked if this meant he’d start 10 minutes behind the field that day?

Dave patiently explained that they’d just add 10 minutes to his overall time – but perhaps the man was on to something?

Sagan, solo pursuing the peloton across France with a 10 minute deficit to make up?

KM0 marks the end of the neutralised zone. Photo©Pierre Froger/ASO

Today is a sore one.

Into the Jura mountains; just three climbs with no HC ascents – a cat. 3; a cat. 2 and a cat. 1 doesn’t look too severe on paper but this is a tough stage – and whilst it may not be a mountain top finish the final kilometres are Tough with a capital ‘T.’

This is the proverbial day on which the Tour can be lost.

And Sunday is even less bountiful:

A cat. 2 climb straight out the blocks; then a cat. 3; an HC; another HC; a cat. 4; and yet another HC all in 181 kilometres with the finish coming 26 K off the final summit of Mont du Chat after a mad descent and a heavy roads to the line.

The GC will firm up over the weekend and the serious Kings of the Mountains will lay the foundations for all those red dots.

A demain.