Wednesday, July 7, 2010

When the Hell welcomes the Tour - mimitig

Cycling fans (are there any out there?) have been wondering when this year’s Tour de France would really kick off.

Le Grand Depart in Rotterdam was very low key for anyone who wasn’t actually there. Cancellara rode brilliantly to secure the Yellow Jersey through a time trial, again, but everyone else, except maybe David Millar, was way too cautious in the wet conditions and it was what Paul Sherwen would describe as a damp squid.

Day Two rolled out of Rotterdam into Belgium and – so, sorry chaps, can’t remember too much about it. Day three should have been great, with hills and cross winds, but that just didn’t happen. It was defined by horrid, slippy descents on narrow roads leading to half the field – and one motorbike-mounted cameraman - unintentionally dismounting, sometimes at speed.

Fabian, he of the yellow, decided it was all too much and neutralised the race: getting all the riders to effectively join in on a 'go slow' over the finish line. Well, all but one, a Frenchman, riding for a Belgian team, took a decisive lead 12 kilos in, then held it for 183 more as the riders crossed from his team’s country into his own.

Someone else was a little unimpressed by the go-slow: the God of Thundor, our Thor, seemed a bit pissed off by the strike and made his displeasure known afterwards in no uncertain terms, but there you go, that’s the Yellow Jersey.

But then the race hit the cobbles, the pave. Racing the roads of The Hell of the North – it is so surprising that so many top riders seem pissed off about this stage. The race route was published almost a year ago so there was plenty of time to practice and prepare. It didn’t work out that way. Chaos and crashes.

A young Canadian went off the front – for ages, then a chap whose name is Brut caught him. Behind there was both chaos and beautifully coordinated chasing.

Crashes galore - continuing the chaos of the first two stages. But fine chasing and excellent racing at the front.

The paves really did do for the peloton. I can’t remember a more exciting stage and let me take this opportunity to thank ITV4 for broadcasting stages live this year. I am guessing that this is their response to Sky. As in – hey buddies, we broadcast it all, we can decide whether to mention your name – if you’re good enough.

Well blimey, were Sky good enough today? I think so. My Welsh blood is rushing to my head and trying to make me sing all those songs because Geraint Thomas got second on the stage to big Thor and is actually second on the road. Damn close to the maillot jaune, and rose to the podium to pull on the white jersey of best young rider.

Lance is a couple of minutes down and, to be honest, I really don’t want to talk about him. Let Landis and the Wall Street Journal do their worst.

Brad is OK. Millar is not looking for a high GC so his third in the Prologue is good.

There is a long way to go in this tour but congrats to the organisers for a day of huge excitement.

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