Featured image courtesy of Yuzuru SUNADA
The Tour de France is back on the road. Week one was eventful, chaotic and some GC contenders riding conservatively – week two began with the flattest stage of the entire race. Stage 10 from the Île d’Oléron to the Île de Ré via coastal roads of the Charente-Maritime was always going to end in a sprint but for the GC it also turns into a stressful day. Let’s unpack the day on what was a fantastic day for Ireland!
After missing out on selection at last year’s Tour for Bora-Hansgrohe, it’s no surprise that the emotion emerged in Sam Bennett’s post-race interview – a sprinter who’s been denied his opportunity at the biggest race in the world but now finally has a Tour de France stage to his name.
A well-deserved victory for Bennett who joins an illustrious list of Irish stage winners, the Dan Martin’s, the Sean Kelly’s and the Stephen Roche’s – we now have another that we’ll talk about for years to come. Deceuninck Quick-Step made the day perfect with terrific work by Tim Declerq all day at the front, Kasper Asgreen with solid work and the leadout by Michael Mørkøv was superb.
Stage wins at the Giro, the Vuelta and now the Tour don’t come sweeter for a sprinter. The ability he has, Sam Bennett should realistically already have won stages at the Tour. Difficulty in resolving his contract at Bora-Hansgrohe, its been frustrating and has taken so much hard work to get to this point. Quick-Step have given him a chance and he’s taken it. Caleb Ewan beaten at the line will be disappointing for him but judging by his social media it’s always nice to see fellow sprinters praising each other, Ewan saying he’s pretty happy for Sam Bennett and we are too!
Elsewhere today’s stage was the best placing for Peter Sagan in third but he’s now out of the green jersey. We are witnessing something we’ve not been used to at the Tour in eight years – a competition for the maillot vert. Sagan does not seem himself. With three realistic stages left for the sprinters, if Sam Bennett storms to victory again at this Tour and scores more points at the intermediate sprints from now until Paris, then he’ll win the jersey. While the world of cycling absolutely loves Peter Sagan, surely it would be nice to see a change in green?
Great to see André Greipel finishing sixth but for Elia Viviani the wins just aren’t coming. The Italian finds himself in exactly the same position when riding for Team Sky – a team targeting the GC with Guillaume Martin and not much resource for his own goals in the sprints. No disrespect to Viviani as he’s a top sprinter but the man himself form wise is going backwards. Cofidis are a completely different team to Quick-Step but perhaps time will tell as to whether Elia Viviani can get better.
Major enquiries are going to have to be made at Team Sunweb. They once again had the perfect lead-out for Cees Bol but disintegrated again – the Dutchman finished eighth. Jasper Stuyven and Luka Mezgec rounded off the top ten.
For the yellow jersey contenders, the GC doesn’t change but it was far from a quiet day. Flat days, road furniture, roundabouts and a stage that hugs the coast always cause nerves among the peloton. Guillaume Martin and Tadej Pogačar both hit the deck but nothing serious, Miguel Ángel López looked at one point cut off by the winds in the finale and even Primož Roglič’s team Jumbo-Visma took a wrong turn at a roundabout in the final kilometres. Ineos Grenadiers did their usual work at the front keeping Egan Bernal safe – job done for everyone and another day down.
Crashes were in abundance. Many speedy recoveries to Mitchelton-Scott’s Sam Bewley who suffered from a fractured wrist – a cruel way to end his Tour de France debut. Toms Skujiņš, Davide Formolo and Nico Roche all hit the deck with nasty ripped jersey’s and road rash – UAE’s Formolo the most prominent being a domestique to Tadej Pogačar.
The Tour is back on the road as week two rolls across the heart of France. Nothing pleases us more to see that after Covid tests on the rest day, no rider has tested positive. Some team staff have been sent home after testing positive and how sad that the race director Christian Prudhomme tests positive and has to leave the race! We wish him a speedy recovery but it’s a reminder that this race is still in the balance.
While the racing is still on, we keep going. Tomorrow is another flat stage although there is one category 4 climb! For the sake of our enjoyment – Vive le Tour!