Le. Tour. De. France.
Well, it rained and as a consequence they scrapped 2 of the 9 cobbles sections, 1 km at Mons-en-P V Le that was rated the highest difficulty and 1.4 km from Orchies to Beuvry-la-Forêt, leaving just 7 and reducing the overall length from 15.4 km to an even 13, not that it made any difference. Even the main roads were treacherous at best, Chris Froome, defending champion and a favorite this year, had to withdraw before the cobbles crashing twice before the midpoint of the race. Marcel Kittel dumped it on a roundabout (what we would call a traffic circle).
Others surprisingly survived. The eventual stage winner, Lars Boom, races what’s called cyclo-cross which routinely covers terrain much more difficult than this but Fabian Cancellara who won the the Paris-Roubaix which is runs entirely on this very route and other stages like it, finished a disappointing (for him) 5th, a little over a minute behind. Not that he didn’t improve his position in the General Classification. Other winners on the day were Jakob Fuglsang, Peter Sagan (who survived a crash at the very end), Michal Kwiatkowski, and Cyril Lemoine.
The big loser was Alberto Contador who finished almost 3 minutes behind the stage winner and over 2 minutes behind Vincenzo Nibali who is now openly talked about as the favorite.
Twelve riders had to be treated for injuries, many more opted to work with their trainers, Ariel Maximiliano Richeze joins Chris Froome on the sidelines and will not start today, the 6th drop since the start of Le Tour.
On the stage the winner was Lars Boom of Belkin. Jakob Fuglsang and Vincenzo Nibali of Astana finished 19 seconds behind (Fuglsang is Nibali’s lead-out rider) and Peter Sagan, Fabian Cancellara, and Jens Kelikeleire a little over a minute behind. Only 4 more riders finished within 2 minutes.
In the General Classification the leader is still Vincenzo Nibali with Jakob Fuglsang a mere 2 seconds behind. Peter Sagan is in 3rd (:44), Michal Kwiatkowski in 4th (:50), and Fabian Cancellara (1:17) 5th. There are only 3 other riders within 2 minutes and 13 under 3 minutes. Alberto Contador is 2:37 behind which he could make up in the Mountains but it’s a while until we get there. In the Points contest Peter Sagan leads with 185, Marcel Kittel has 135, and Bryan Coquard 121. In 4th Alexander Kristoff has 85 and in 5th Vincenzo Nibali with 53 only 3 ahead of Mark Renshaw. There were no categorized climbs. The Youth competition is led by Peter Sagan, Michal Kwiatkowski (:06), and Mateo Trentin (:20). No one else is within a minute.
Today’s stage, Arras / Reims, is basically a tour of World War I battlefields and while scenic is not likely to be very interesting. It’s about 120.5 miles long and has 2 Category 4 (least challenging) climbs. The section before the first climb (a little over halfway) is very flat with the Sprint Checkpoint coming after the first climb but before the ascent at Chermin des Damas which looks as tough on the map as any of the 2 rated climbs but obviously isn’t. Then a long flat across a plateau, a descent, the last rated climb which is scored at the first peak of a saddle, and then a final descent into more flat at the finish.