pro cycling

TDF 2017 Stage 6: A race within a race within a race


The beauty of the Tour de France (apart from the actual beauty, of the sunflowers, the pretty villages, and the rest), is the race-within-a-race-within-a-race-within-a-race.

Each stage, while part of the race as a whole, and contributing to the various classifications, is a prestigious and career defining bike race in its own right.

Why not take a moment to contemplate the beauty of the now defunct ‘combined’ jersey (above), which neatly summarises all this using the medium of clothes.

One day you have hills, for Sagan, Van Avermaet, and co. to recreate springtime in Belgium. Follow that with a mountain-top finish – like the Planche des Belles Filles yesterday – for the skinny climbers to inflict maximum pain on each other while everyone else tries to survive.

Then the whole show rattles on and we’re back to the rolling rural French landscape and a sprint finish in the town of Troyes; a rather pleasant place, in my experience, of squares, and restaurants, and the gentle thrum of French civility.

Just the kind of place to watch the controlled chaos of le Tour.

And a sprint was exactly what it was always going to be on Stage 6; with a breakaway of three riders allowed to dangle within range of the peloton for much of the day, the sprinter’s teams were never going to let them spoil the big finish.

@letourdata crunched the numbers with just over 100 kilometres to go and gave the break an 18% chance of staying clear until the finish; a generous prediction, I’d say.

I’d have put it nearer 1.8%.

Incidentally, I am a person who likes a sporting stat more than is strictly healthy.

Having now discovered @letourdata,  I confidently predict a 94% chance of me losing my job, my marriage, or at the very least some much needed sleep, down the rabbit hole of Tour de France data over the next two-and-a-bit weeks.

How have I been coping without this in my life, for example:

You missed the live action or the TV highlights?

No problem – why not catch up with Kittel’s win in the form of a graph.

In reality the actual, 3D sprint, was a bit messier.

Embed from Getty Images

There wasn’t quite the danger of Vittel on Stage 4 (and that elbow), but with no sprint train wrestling full control the big men spent the last few hundred metres ducking, diving, and freelancing their way to the finish.

Once he found clear Tarmac, Kittel was too strong.

Arnaud Demare’s 2nd place kept him well clear in the race for the Green Jersey; a fact which I am very much enjoying. Not only do I like to see the French doing well in their own race, but Demare conducts his interviews in French, and sporting a crisp casquette at a rakish angle.

It gives him a touch of the Jacques Anquetils in a certain light.

It also makes a nice change from groomed modern pro’s in baseball caps and big shades.

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