Oh my G-d, is that the sun? Seriously? Well, isn’t that nice! We have six riders in today’s breakaway for most of the race. We’ve three riders giving chase— and hey! They’ve actually made the jump! So now there are nine riders out ahead by almost 50 seconds. Strategically, two of these riders now have teammates in this breakaway, which means organisation, which means the breakaway may indeed stay away today. We shall see.
Most fun bit today is the swing the Tour takes through, of all places, the Spa-Francorchamps Formula One racing circuit. I don’t really like that kind of racing, but I have to admit, it is cool as hell to see the peloton snaking around the track. Seriously, awesomely cool. Did I mention it’s cool? Cos it is. And then it’s over. Oh, well.
Back behind, the peloton is waking up. There was a slow, small crash, but it doesn’t look like anyone actually hit the deck, thankfully. Today’s colour comments from Bob Roll were what I was talking about yesterday: sleeping on road rash is hell. You move every eight minutes, he says. Imagine rolling over on open wounds every eight minutes. Ugh. How about not?
Bad news is Taylor Phinney has lost the King of the Mountains Jersey. The good news is it’s been taken by Nate Brown, one of the other three Americans in the race this year. Well, good news for Americans, that is.
There are two chases now: three, then two, following the four in front. We’re seven miles from the French border, and the fields are full of the most insane, huge-scale art. Dozens of people forming enormous, moving bicycles. It’s so cool! Especially with the sun shining and the peloton streaming past in technicolour.
Well, the hindmost chasers are swallowed back into the peloton, leaving seven to keep away: four, then two, with poor Adam Hansen of Lotto Soudal in the middle trying desperately to get up to the leaders all by himself. I don’t think it’s going to happen— there’s no one to help him with aerodynamics. He’s expending all that energy alone, and “Hey, guys! Wait up!” isn’t going to work.
Oh, UGH. Romain Bardet has had a mechanical, and AG2R is desperate to get him back into the race. He’s been booted from a race before for drafting the team car, so he and the two riders assisting him all need to watch what they’re doing. It’s okay if they leapfrog from one car to another while they’re working through the caravan, but to stay behind one car for too long is a serious no. Come on, guys. Move out.
Holy cow. There’s a really nasty finish today. Narrow road, 11% grade climb, and TWO hairpins.
Ouf. On a climb, now, and the leaders’ group has gone boom. Two have dropped back, leaving two to ride on. Watching these poor bastards struggle up an incline after all their hard work just feels sadistic. In fact, the two leaders have separated. Lilian Calmejane is all alone out front, with Pierre-Luc Perichon behind him. Oops— Perichon has been eaten.
15km to go, now, and very long shots down the road show the colourful impressionist shadow of the peloton all across the road behind Calmejane. He’s all alone, which means his chances of staying away are, sadly, nil.
Oh no! A few riders have gone down in a crash. Not many, and everyone’s up again, but it’s a little scary, as ever. Looks like it was just a touch of wheels in the pack, and it actually doesn’t even look like anyone hit the ground too hard, if at all. Which reminds me: earlier today, seems yesterday’s breakaway rider Thomas Boudat had a fall, and, when last seen, was carrying his right arm at that distinct angle that says “I didn’t need that collarbone, anyway.” I hope I’m wrong,
Ohhh, the catch. Wow— sorry, Lilian. Everyone’s back together now, and the peloton is converging on and in Longwy. 3km to go. The streets are so narrow! Greg von Avermaet is in the front; so is Michael Matthews. They have a mile left— it’s not time for a leadout yet, but everyone seems to be scrambling nonetheless! Peter Sagan is boxed in— will he be able to get through? A moment of levity: Marcel Kittel waves to the cameras as they start up the 11% climb to the finish— he knows he’s not a climber, and he’s not even going to try. Y’all have fun.
The Flamme Rouge! 1km left! OH! Richie Porte is in the front! Contador is right behind him! Geraint Thomas is back there— Porte is multiple lengths in front— but Sagan is coming! Sagan is in front— Geraint Thomas is up there too, Dan Martin— Sagan isn’t having it! OMG, Sagan’s foot has come unclipped from his pedal! He doesn’t panic, clips back in, keeps going! Michael Matthews challenges on the left, but nope! Sagan throws his bike, and then sits up, arm raised in confident victory. He’s got it, and he knows it.
It wasn’t the most tortuous or brain-exploding stage, today, but it was good riding, and, finally, good weather. I can deal with that.
Your treat for the day? A little bit of fun from today’s stage winner. No, I have NO IDEA why. Just enjoy it.
Bora-Hansgrohe’s Peter Sagan celebrates his victory. Photograph: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images