The Tour de Carnage continues. Just when you think this race can’t top the surprises it’s already delivered, it goes and ups the ante and drops a bomb that will continue to send out aftershocks for some days.
Alberto Contador is out. There are other very interesting things going on in this Tour but there is nothing bigger than the news that we’ve lost the second pre-race favorite within the first ten stages of the race. Incredibly, of the top 5 from last year’s edition only Joaquim Rodriguez of Katusha is in the race and he is close to an hour down on the leader Vincenzo Nibali.
Bert made it through the cobbles and the rain of the first week unscathed only to crash out today.
Christopher Froome abandoned before the race even hit the cobbles. Roman Kreuziger is currently twiddling his thumbs on his sofa and wondering where he left his passport. Nairo Quintana was left at home by Movistar despite his second place last year, much to his displeasure, though he did get a nice pink jersey out of it all. The Tour will have a brand new top 5 this year.
The first favorite to hit the sidelines – Froome. Will we now see a Froome vs Contador battle at La Vuelta?
With all those names gone or in trouble the race looked wide open, and despite starting 4:08 down on the overnight leader Tony Gallopin, Contador was still very much in the race at 2:34 down on the man in second, Vincenzo Nibali.
The pre-stage talk was all about when and where Contador would attack, but it was all futile after the Spaniard abandoned after crashing midway through the stage. Unbeknownst to him or anyone else at the time, the crash had left him with a broken tibia. Incredibly, he rode on for ten kilometers after the initial crash before climbing into the team car, unable to continue to bear the pain any longer.
“Mentally he’s destroyed, of course,” Bjarne Riis told a group of journalists after the race. “He was in the shape of his life. This was his Tour. It’s a mess. We were here to win the Tour de France. He’s in super good condition, never better. It’s a big, big pity.”
It was a brave effort from Contador to try and continue
Several reports emerged stating the the reason for the crash was a frame malfunction which would not have pleased the Tinkoff-Saxo sponsor Specialized, but Riis said that Contador simply lost control.
“He was going fast on the downhill at about 60 or 70km/h. It was a bumpy road and he lost control of he bike. Maybe he was eating.”
Abandoning is never, ever a pleasant experience, and despite the crowds by the roadside shouting out encouragement to him, he looked the loneliest man in the world as he said goodbye to his teammates. The rain fell, the mist closed in, and the car door was shut on Contador’s Tour de France.
The race will be poorer for his absence and we will never know just whether or not he could have beaten Nibali, who stamped his authority on the race today with an imperious victory atop La Planche de Belles Filles. It’s a little soon to assume the Italian will ride into Paris in Yellow (especially after what happened today), but he does look a good bet.
If he does take it though the question will always linger as to whether or not he would have been able to win had the two pre-race favorites been there. For the record, Nibali looked like the coolest man in France today, especially as he took his sunglasses off and inserted the arms into his helmet whilst riding uphill at 35km/hr. I guess he works out.
He was of course thrilled to win but had a kind word for Contador also.
“It was huge work for the team, a huge victory and I am delighted. It is not a good thing we lost Contador today, I don’t know how he crashed but we decided to sit up for a while and then we had to pull away because Kwiatkowski was on the front so… I thought he’d be able to finish the stage at least but in the end we had to do some riding because Kwiatkowski and Martin were up the road. Scarponi had an amazing day and it just feels like a really good day.”
If Nibali, or Gallopin, or indeed anyone asked the peloton to slow down it was a class move, especially given the fact that Contador was not race leader nor in the top three. Yet push on they had to because there was “a motorbike leading Kwiatowski to the finish line, and that motorbike’s name is Tony Martin!” (Thank you, Paul Sherwen).
What a ride
Martin is fast becoming the new Jens Voigt, a perfect teammate that will bury himself for the leader and one who can win a thing or two also. He’s won himself a lot of new fans these past couple of days. Kwiatkowski knew what he was witnessing and gave fulsome praise to the German after the race, and could only lament the fact that could not push on to take the stage and move up the GC.
“What he did is just incredible I had so much time before the second last climb but I had no legs to finish it,” he said.
The young Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider’s day will come, I am sure of that.
All in all it was an incredible day with some great riding, a tragedy, a valiant if vain effort from Gallopin to keep Yellow, and even some Thomas Voeckler facial ticks thrown in for good measure.
Tony Gallopin certainly gave it his all
Still not sure quite what place Bjarne Riis and Alexandre Vinokourov have at a race that they both doped at when they participated in it. Maybe I’m in the minority here but it dumbfounds me. Things change, but then they don’t, not really. And don’t get me started on Menchov.
So! Onwards and upwards we go, rest day tomorrow and then the warriors return to the Colliseum, minus one Spaniard. This Tour de France is just nuts.
Lee Rodgers leads a double life as a pro racer on the UCI race circuit with the Lapierre Asia Cycling Team, competing in the UCI Asia Tour as well as some European events and the likes of the Tour of Qatar and Oman, rubbing shoulders with the best the WorldTour has to offer, whilst keeping up a day job as a cycling journalist. The highlight of his cycling career so far was winning the Singapore National Champs – road race and ITT – as well as claiming the Green Jersey at the 2.1 Tour de Taiwan in 2012, and naturally, writing for PEZ. His writing appears in several magazines and websites and you can catch up with him regularly on his blog, http://crankpunk.com/