Gary is Senior Graphic Designer at the Bike Co-op and a big Tour fan who isn’t really that grumpy
“I’ve always found the Tour de France an odd sporting event. All the glory and emphasis is on winning the yellow Jersey as you roll into Paris after 3 weeks of blood, sweat and tears, and yet with modern cycling as it is, it’s usually the dullest aspect of the race.
If I hear Team Sky talking about how they kept Chris Froome safe one more time, I’m going to throw my TV out the window. The Tour de France should never be won by staying safe – it should be won with panache, grit and attack. Not sitting watching your power output. As one of my colleagues drily put it, “There’s nothing quite as exciting as watching marginal gains.”
While I’m grumbling about Team Sky, is it just me or are they getting thinner every tour? Even Geraint Thomas is getting that emaciated Team Sky look – “No, you can’t get off that turbo trainer until you have lost at least another pound.” If they get any thinner, Sport Relief will be having a TV appeal for them.
“They do say you can’t win the Tour in the first week but you can lose it.”
But I digress. For me, all the action usually takes place in the stage wins. The excitement come from watching the underdogs attacking from 100+ km out (will they get caught? – usually) and seeing that grit and determination as well as the joy on their faces if they actually manage to cross the line first. I love watching the many faces of Monsieur Voeckler as he gurns his way along the road upsetting the peloton with his erratic attacking and riding style. It’s a funny old sport in that you often remember a stage by those who didn’t win rather than by those who did.
The Tour so far
So what’s happened so far? Well, the first 4 days were all about the sprinters. The Manx Missile Mark Cavendish won his very first yellow jersey on stage 1, making him a very happy bunny indeed (well, in relative terms at least. Cavendish is the Andy Murray of cycling when it comes to interviews.) He then went on to win stage 3, placing him second in the league of all-time stage winners only surpassed by the Cannibal himself, Eddie Merckx.
One of my favourite characters, Peter Sagan, took the win on Stage 2 and gained his very first yellow jersey. Poor Marcel Kittel was a bit down as he hadn’t won a stage, but he got his mojo back on Stage 4 when he won by a gnats chuff. The photo finish was extremely tight showing his tyre crossing the line first by about an inch.
Meanwhile the GC contenders for the maillot jaune were all trying to ‘stay safe’ in the first few days. Unfortunately Alberto Contador had trouble staying upright and brushed shoulders with the tarmac on a couple occasions. Richie Porte lost a bit of time on stage 2 due to a puncture which I was personally gutted about, as I was hoping he would give Froome a run for his money. They do say you can’t win the Tour in the first week but you can lose it.
Van Avermaet had a cracking day on Wednesday (Stage 5) when he took the Stage win by over 5 minutes after an early breakaway. Now that’s what I am talking about! Chapeau, fella. And the cherry on the cake for Van was that his stage win also put him into the yellow jersey.
Others did not have such a good day; teeny tiny Quintana of Movistar cranked up the pace blowing the peloton apart, Sagan dropped out of yellow, Nibali totally bombed, Contador lost more time (maybe they hadn’t had their special weetabix yet) and Froome – you guessed it – stayed safe.
So in closing, a great week for the sprinters although I do hope that with the lack of real GC contenders at this early stage the tour is not going to become a two horse race between Froome and Quintana, with Froome winning without doing anything spectacular.