Ok, cycling fans.
Stage 3, the first day in the mountains, and it’s the moment of truth at this year’s Vuelta.
If the sight of Chris Froome’s Sky team mates asphyxiating the opposition against a backdrop of impossibly beautiful mountains isn’t your idea of a good time.
If you were hoping to see Alberto Contador roll back the years in his final race.
If, to be quite frank, you don’t enjoy Chris Froome relentlessly being Chris Froome…
Look away now.
And then continue looking away for the next two and three-quarter weeks.
I could be wrong, and all kinds of surprising things could happen between here and Madrid, but I think the die is cast.
Where Froome’s dominant lieutenant at le Tour was Michal Kwiatkowski, today it was Gianni Moscon – with a familiar train of Castelli clad climbers in formation behind. So fast, that for the opposition to attack would have been…well…it wouldn’t have been anything, because it was impossible to attack.
Froome himself eventually went clear, with only Esteban Chaves able to latch on and follow. The chasers caught them on the downhill run to the finish, for Vincenzo Nibali to win a slightly frantic sprinter-free sprint.
All elbows and limbs.
But Froome now wears the red jersey of the race leader.
Nibali, being “the shark of Messina”, did a weird shark fin gesture as he crossed the line. From anyone else it might have been charming, but Nibali can be difficult to warm to.Embed from Getty Images
Some people, of course, prefer to call him “nibbles.”
An elaborate rabbit-like nibbling gesture as a race-winning salute would have won me over, perhaps using an actual carrot stashed surreptitiously in the jersey pocket for just such an occasion.
Unfortunately, I have very little influence over the celebratory routines of pro cyclists. But he’s missed a trick there.
For the non-Froome-non-Sky fans, glum at the prospect of the formulaic Vuelta Espana win that now threatens to unfold, I can offer some consolation.
As you are probably aware, Columbian Esteban Chaves is officially the worlds most cheerful man, having won that title for three years in succession now; he is to happiness, in fact, what Froome is to Grand Tour cycling.
If he continues to challenge at the sharp end of the bike race, the TV highlights every evening will conclude with his happy thoughts and infectious smile.
Leaving you chuckling away in sympathy, and feeling all is with the world, because somewhere, in a hotel in Spain, Esteban Chaves is smiling.
(Image: By Jaguar MENA [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)