ysobelle: (Kayli)
[personal profile] ysobelle
Stage 16: Moirans-en-Montagne, France to Bern, Switzerland, 209km

Before we go anywhere today, I want to introduce you to the one guy I always look for out on the roads. He’s called “The Devil,” and I’ve seen him almost every year since…man, I don’t know when. He is absolutely a cycling fixture, and everyone knows who he is. Ladies, gentlemen, and all others, I present to you: Didi Sent.

Didi ‘The Devil’ Senft jumps in the air at the start of stage 16. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images




So.

176km out in front of the peloton. That's a lot. A LOT. But Tony Martin managed it, in a breakaway with teammate Julian Alaphilippe, who only dropped away a few kilometers before. The two of them pushed the pace hard on today’s stage into Bern.

No sooner, of course, is everyone together, than one rider takes off again, just shy of the 20km to go banner. It’s Rui Costa, a rider from Lampre, a team from whom we haven’t seen much this year.

But much of the talk today is about Fabian Cancellara, for whom this will be the last Tour de France. And how better to say goodbye than to ride through his home town? It would be wonderful for him to win here, with the finish line a mere 4k from his home, on roads he says he “knows blind.”

Costa, though, is maintaining about a twelve-second lead, zipping through the road furniture that hampers the large peloton behind him. The problem, of course, is that there’s a hill right before the line, and he could easily be caught, seeing that he’s been out there with no one to help him, and the peloton is full of teams. Ah— there he goes. He almost made it, but no, he’s caught.

So now we have all the sprinters’ teams trying to get their men in the right place at the right time. They’re all in a straight line right now until we get to the flat of the approach. Across a bridge, under another bride flying a huge Swiss flag and a banner showing solidarity with Nice.

Oh, lovely: cobblestones! It’s frantic inside 2km now. But the front of the peloton is fractured— there are riders trying to make a break even now! It’s pointless, with the teams organised. Peter Sagan is being brought up. John Degenkolb, too (the one in the terrible car accident months ago, remember), and they’re under the Flamme Rouge!

There’s a bunch, now, not even a whole peloton. Warren Barguil's there, Kristoff, Sagan, Cancellara behind Sagan, Cav, Valverde! And— who is it? Who won??

What the hell, is this the Year of Photo Finishes?? It’s Peter Sagan over Alexander Kristoff by CENTIMETERS. Kristoff, who thought he’d won, and even celebrated, threw his bike just that fraction of a second too late. Sagan didn’t even know until he saw a photo of the finish on his iPhone backstage, at which point, he got a victory kiss from his wife.

I cannot remember a year with so many so-close finishes. It’s kind of great. These are really top athletes in excellent form, and it’s truly exciting. Peter Sagan gets not only his third stage win, but the Green Jersey again, of course— with a huge crowd of Slovakian fans waving flags for him. Chris Froome is still in Yellow, too. Surprisingly, both Tony Martin AND Julian Alaphilippe are presented with today’s red numbers for Most Aggressive Rider. I’ve never seen that before, but it’s so well-deserved. The both of them came in together at the end, side by side, chatting, with the broom wagon right behind them.

Froome is being very circumspect about his prospects, not taking anything for granted when speaking of his competitors. I think it’s probably safe to say, though, he’d really have to screw up on a major level to lose it at this point. Having said that, well, we have a rest day tomorrow, and then— woohoo!— we hit the Alps. And as I always say, anything can happen in the mountains. Froome is lucky: Sky, like so many teams, is still at full strength with nine riders. I don’t remember a peloton ever being so complete this late in the race, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. It does mean, however, that competition will be fierce, and plotting thick and fast.

Should be gorgeous.

Sagan pips Kristoff to the line. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images, via https://www.theguardian.com/sport/live/2016/jul/18/tour-de-france-stage-16-live?page=with:block-578bb2e3e4b08239dbab7b3b#liveblog-navigation

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