It’s a very well known and accepted fact in cycling that sprinters are crazy. One has to be in order to fight, push, chop and risk ones way to the front of a 190-man field in the last kilometer of a race, and especially a race with the importance of the Tour de France.
The Tour lost its biggest media star yesterday and it was a bad – no – terrible decision. Let’s walk through that sprint a bit. They were all keying off of my fav Démare who launches and then chops hard left across his arch rival Bouhanni’s front wheel – now that one was a vicious and intentional move, welcome to sprinting with the big boys – in order to shake Cav and Sagan off his wheel. Cav and Sagan simply collided as they both tried to catch Démare’s runaway train. It wasn’t the elbow that crashed Cavendish, it was the contact with Sagan’s hips that did it and the fact that Sagan was better placed to take the wheel than he was. Sad for the sport as that was not an intentional crashing of Mark Cavendish.
Today is the first mountain-top finish at la Planche des belles filles and the peloton, climbers and flatlanders both, are dreading it. The issue is that that it pops up at the end of the race, and after four and most of a fifth day of racing in 53 x 12 or so, suddenly the riders go vertical, and slam it into 39 x 25 which is a shock to the system. All the GC contenders will be on guard, so look for a controlled race and then a crazy, almost field-sprint like run-in to the base of the climb with the trains working like mad to get their climbers into position. It’s known that your position at the base is probably going to be the same at the top – almost like a Flandrian Mur.
Chris Froome, following the precedent established by Miguel Indurain, then perfected by Lance Armstrong, will try and KO the field on this first climb of the Tour so that he can control from a position of power for the next two weeks. Look for Dan Martin to do something today as this is the sort of punchy climb that suits him. Faire la Lessive – is the French racing term (doing the laundry) that describes the first big sorting out in a stage race. We’ll have a much clearer view of this Tour by the end of the day.
John Eustice, is the organizer of the Thompson Bucks County Classic in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and a long-time cycling analyst who has contributed to ESPN, ABC Sports, Time Magazine, and CNN among others. The Bucks County native resides in New York City. He was a pioneer on the European racing circuit and is a two-time United States Professional Champion.