This year’s Tour de France has been an eventful one to say the least. With the tour still in it’s early days and today heading from Besançon to Oyonnax, it’s a good time to reflect on the events so far, as the riders make their way across the Rhône-Alpes region of Eastern France.
When looking back at the glorious race, it’s hard to think of anything else besides the drama and the tragedy of the crashes. Not to overlook Vincenzo Nibali’s great performance – he held the Yellow Jersey long before Froome and Contador crashed out – but it seems impossible to ignore the ‘lowlights’ of the tour.
Tour blow number one – Cavendish crashes out
An ex-Sky rider and still a British cycling sprinting star Mark Cavendish blew out early days in the tour after a nasty crash at the end of stage 1. The crash was the first in a long line of many this tour, and at the time, we had no idea what the rest of the race had in store for us.
How this crash has affected the race so far: Since Cavendish saw that imaginary gap at the end of stage 1 and hit the tarmac, a collection of sprinters have come in first on stage wins. We’ve seen riders such as Marcel Kittel take three stage wins out of the first four, which no doubt was made easier from the reduced threat of the Manx Missile Cavendish.
What this crash means for the rest of the tour: It really opens up the rest of the race for the Sprinters, leaving new possibilities out on the road. Sagan and Kittel look strong each stage but as we’ve seen previously, Greipel can just as easily brute his way to the finish line and threaten the rest of the riders.
Tour blow number two – Froome floors it
The news of Chris Froome exiting the Tour de France on stage 5 left British cycling fans devastated for days. This, plus the exclusion of Bradley Wiggins by team coach Dave Brailsford means that unless Richie Porte pulls a fast one – which he hasn’t trained for – Team Sky aren’t going to bring home the GC jersey this year. It also means that their won’t be a British winner to continue the trend of the previous two years.
How this crash has affected the race so far: Vincenzo Nibali has managed to stay in the lead with the Yellow jersey, we can’t discredit his hard work, as he was in the lead before Froome crashed out, but his absence has certainly eased off the pressure a tad for the Italian.
What this crash means for the rest of the tour: This means two things, firstly, that Britain will have to work extra hard next year to continue their reign in cycling, either by putting out a backup top GC rider with Froome or changing the team’s domestique tactics. It also means that people will count the winner of this year’s Tour de France as ‘lucky’. This is of course, very wrong and will be blown out of proportion by the media. We have to remember that this is the toughest bike race in the world. Some may say that Nibali always had it in the bag, but it’s not over yet.
Tour blow number two – Contador says ‘count me out’
Well he didn’t say those exact words, he actually broke his leg and carried on cycling 15km uphill before realising it wasn’t going to be sensible to continue. The Spaniard was the third big name to drop out of one of the toughest ever tours and isn’t going to be made to feel bad about it either way. With a broken spirit and tibia, Contador courageously heads home.
How this crash has affected the race so far: In the one race day that has followed this slip, Nibali has retained his Yellow Jersey, but I suspect this coudl have a profound long-term effect on the tour.
What this crash means for the rest of the tour: After videos and images of Contador’s smashed-up bike, it does leave others wondering about the routes chosen and the safety of their bikes. Conspiracies are present now however, and they do point out that the broken frame we saw on the news reports wasn’t actually Contador’s – what do you think?
On a straighter, more blunt note, it does mean that the road is clear for Nibali, although the tour is still not yet halfway done, and it is notoriously one of the most unpredictable sporting events around.
Check back for more Tour de France 2014 coverage here at ProBikeKit.