Following a brilliant opening few days of the Tour de France, the second weekend continued in the same vein with drama everywhere.
Heading into Monday’s first rest day there is plenty to ponder and it is fair to say the nine stages to date have whetted the appetite for more.
While the sprinters enjoyed the limelight for the majority of the opening week, Saturday and Sunday were all about the general classification as the peloton rode into the Jura Mountains.
However for all the excitement, it showed us little we did not already know. The 2/7 favourite Chris Froome is clearly the strongest man in the race, while Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador are nowhere near.
Saturday was quieter than expected as the GC boys looked after each other to allow Direct Energie’s brilliant young climber Lilian Calmejane to solo to victory atop the Station des Rousses.
Sunday though was a different story, with three Hors Categorie climbs always expected to cause fireworks. While there were a number of notable crashes in the opening half of the stage, AG2R’s attack on the descent of the Colombier sent shockwaves through the lead group.
Astana’s Fabio Aru then prompted widespread condemnation for attacking when yellow jersey Froome had suffered a mechanical.
Aru’s break earlier in the week as he won on La Planche des Belles Filles lit up the race but he was not allowed to go this time and once Froome got back on he was understandably unhappy.
That could have been the highlight of the Queen Stage but there was plenty more drama to come as the riders slalomed their way down the Mont du Chat.
While the majority negotiated the slopes expertly during the recent Dauphine, the wet conditions led to carnage with BMC’s Richie Porte crashing out, while Quick-Step Floors’ Dan Martin was lucky to avoid serious injury after being on the receiving end of the Australian’s tumble.
Martin was less than pleased with the organisers but the general consensus was that the incidents were mainly down to the pace and ferocity of the racing. Ironically it was Rigoberto Uran who won the day, despite his bike being broken in Porte’s fall.
The Colombian was given the nod by the judges over Warren Barguil, who had to settle for the mountains jersey and is 20/23 to take it to Paris.
Monday’s rest day gives the peloton a chance to take stock ahead of the resumption of the race in the Dordogne on Tuesday. Two fairly flat stages take us down to the Pyrenees and then who knows?
Froome still looks good for a fourth maillot jaune and although the form of Aru (21/4 outright) and Romain Bardet (12/1) is ominous, it is not a worry for the Team Sky man, while Simon Yates (1/3 Young Rider Classification) and Marcel Kittel (4/11 Points Classification) seem fairly set in the white and green jerseys respectively.
What to look out for? Well Thursday’s stage 12 which finishes on the Peyragudes after five other climbs should be interesting, while Friday is Bastille Day and the French riders will be fighting it out to get in the breakaway.
More drama awaits and for all we have seen so far, it could be an entirely different story when the Tour has its next break in seven days.
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