Prior to today’s stage twelve at the Tour de France, Steven Kruijswijk was known for two things:
Firstly, as the man with shoulders like coat hangers.
Secondly, for his performance at the 2016 Giro d’Italia, where he held the leaders jersey imperiously between stages four and eighteen, before crashing dramatically into a snow drift and chucking it all away.
He “did a Simon Yates” before it was fashionable.
Impressive bit of creativity, too, in using that snowdrift as a prop in his demise; making it far more photogenic than Yates’ simplistic sinking-into-a-bottomless-pit-of-exhaustion approach this year, in 2018.
So, extra style-points there.Embed from Getty Images
But now, finally, he has a third string to that bow of memories (whatever the hell one of those might be).
Alpe d’Huez is known for many things, one of which being the massive party that takes place at “Dutch corner”. So to be a Dutch cyclist (like Kruijswijk) and lead a big mountain stage, clear of the peloton, and through “Dutch Corner” alone, is definitely a bit of a moment.
It’s career defining stuff.
A sport like pro cycling, which thrives on the side-stories as much as the winners, does this kind of thing better than any other sport.
If the Dutch fans had built a fake snowdrift and Kruijswijk had staged a mock made-for-TV crash for the hell of it we could’ve all packed up, gone home, and found some other sport to follow.
That would’ve been the pinnacle.
But, being the consummate pro, he elected not to fake his own crash and instead cracked on to try for the win. Unfortunately, his mighty hail-mary seventy kilometre attack was finally reeled in by the big boys with just a handful to go.
Those vast shoulders slumped, and he clung on to salvage a good day from the ashes of a heroic one.Embed from Getty Images
While he was doing that Froome, Bardet, Thomas, Dumoulin and Landa were strung out, five-abreast, and jockeying for position in the closing stages. With the rest of the field scattered across this great climb like the dregs of a party, these five were left to duke it out, mano y mano y mano y mano y mano.
As the road swept through its final bends Geraint Thomas, having ridden a canny climb, responding to attacks and choosing wheels, opened up a hitherto unseen high altitude uphill sprint.
Dumoulin tracked him for second. Bardet, Froome and Landa made up the Quintet.Embed from Getty Images
Post-stage Thomas, having consolidated his Yellow Jersey, continued to give it the genial jack-the-lad Welshman, praising Froome and toeing the team-leader line. As TV’s Ned Boulting noted yesterday, regarding Team Sky’s internal politics: “at the very least we have a situation.”
Tomorrow, we all draw breath, as the roads flatten out for a while.
Bearing in mind that, through abandonments and time cuts, literally all the main sprinters are now out of the race (Cavendish, Kittel, Groenewegen, Gaviria, Greipel).
We might not have seen the last of G’s prowess in the sprint.
Three wins in a row, anyone?