ysobelle: (Kayli)
[personal profile] ysobelle
Stage 3, Granville to Angers, 223.5km

I’m a little late again. Sorry. You’ve seen this before, though: breakaway out front, peloton not overly concerned yet. Wash, rinse, repeat. Don’t worry: it gets much more exciting as we go on.

The two out front today are both Frenchmen: Thomas Voeckler and Armindo Fonseca. Fonseca took off before the 2km mark, and after some time, Voeckler— a seasoned vet of the Tour— took off and joined him. Fonseca, at least, had an advantage of over eleven minutes at one point, but it’s down to 1.15. They pass the sprint point, taking the biggest two amounts of points, but shortly thereafter, the sprinters come through: Pater Sagan in Yellow, Kittel, Greipel, and, of course, Cav in Green. They’re all keeping their numbers up.

Okay, there’s some art in the field that’s just too adorable for words. A hundred people or so, standing in a heart shape around a sign that’s a person waving, and words reading “the heart of France.” And all the people are stepping back, and then in, back and in, rhythmically, so it looks like the heart is beating. AWWW. Absolutely the helicopters were going to find that.

The peloton has picked up the pace. 46 seconds to the leaders. It’s been a long, fairly placid day. One of the longest stages of the Tour (though tomorrow’s is the longest of all) , so no one is really wanting to suffer overmuch. There’s a lot of time to rehash what happened yesterday— such as Peter Sagan not knowing the peloton had caught the last two breakaway riders, which led to him not knowing he’d won the stage til after it was over. Which is why, of course, there was no traditional victory shot of him doing a victory dance over his handlebars on the line. Someone asked Julian Alaphilippe about losing by a hairsbreadth, and he all but shrugged, saying there are worse things to do than lose that closely to the World Champion. But of course, everyone’s talking about Jasper Stuyven beating everyone for so long, and then losing 450 meters from the end. Cycling is not a gentle sport.

Okay. 15km to go, now, and the peloton is definitely out for blood. The road curves too much now for them to see Voeckler and Fonseca, but they know they’re there. They have to slow down a little as they hit another small town— there are far too many of them to go all out in the narrow streets. The leaders have no such problem, and are still going. They’re looking over their shoulders now, though. Voeckler is starting to pull some faces, showing the strain. They’re under the 10km arch, and now the peloton fills the road, fifteen seconds behind. It is, as ever, a somewhat terrifying sight.

Voeckler gestures to a spectator to stand back— he knows what’s behind him. Don’t stand there, buddy.

The sprinters’ teams are organising, coming to the fore and lining up. Oh— oh, the— dammit. There’s the catch. Voeckler and Fonseca moved over to their left, resigned, and are swallowed up, dropping back through the peloton like stones.

This is going to be a very technical sprint. There’s a fairly sharp bend 350 meters to the end once they hit town, and there’s not going to be much space to reorganise for the drive to the line. Paul Sherwin is pointing out that with the way the peloton is now, and the speeds it’s hitting, if you’re not in position already now, you’re screwed. He may not have phrased it quite like that, of course.

They’re so fast at this point! Around one corner, under the 5k banner. I see Dimension Data, Etixx, Cofidis. Cofidis lost their sprinter to a bar fight last week— do they have a suitable replacement in their squad? Sagan is — OH! There’s another sharp turn, and an Orica rider has gone into the barriers! It doesn’t seem too many are involved— the race goes on.

Under the 1km! Sprinters are lining up! I see Cav! I see Sagan! There’s the turn— Cav’s behind Greipel— Greipel’s started early, and—- both of them think they’ve won!

Waiting, waiting— there’s going to be a photo— Greipel had raised his hand, but the look on his face was one of uncertainty— IT’S CAV!

The TV coverage is pretty clear, but it looks like no one’s actually told Cav. But the charts are up on the screen, and it’s official. It’s his 28th stage victory, and — ah! They’ve told the team, and there is much cheering and shouting. My G-d, I’ve never seen a closer finish. That was literally a difference of an inch or two at most. He’s second only to Eddy Merckx for sheer number of stage wins. He had such a terrible year last year, and the year before that wasn’t great, either— I’m really, really pleased for him. He can be a temperamental, obnoxious bad boy, but he’s got incredible talent. (Technically, he’s tied with Bernard Hinault, but he has more seconds and thirds, as well, whereas Hinault “only” had firsts.)

AAAAAH! Fabian Cancellara is in the booth doing colour! SQUEE!I love this guy. He broke his BACK in the Tour last year, and stayed in the race for another TWO DAYS. He’s made of iron, I swear. This, he swears, is his final Tour. He says he’d love another stage win. I can’t blame him.

One other thing makes me really happy today, too: Cav is back with his best-ever leadout man, Mark Renshaw. I hadn’t known Renshaw was with Dimension Data. No wonder Cav’s doing so well.

So Peter Sagan, that long-hair with the fun voice, is back in Yellow. Valverde is on his heels. Froome is only 14 seconds off the front. Richie Porte is, wow, 77th. He’s gonna have to do some serious work to pull this up, but he and his whole team know that. It’s going to get so exciting soon. Geraint Thomas called much of today “boring.” Heh. Not for long.

ONE INCH. No, really.

Photograph: ITV, from https://www.theguardian.com/sport/live/2016/jul/04/tour-de-france-2016-stage-three-live

July 2017

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