Variety, as you’ve probably heard, is the spice of life.
If it’s sunny every day how can you really, truly, appreciate a sunny day? You surely need to neck the odd glass of supermarket plonk to appreciate a fine vintage Bordeaux? And the Tour de France can’t ride up La Planche des Belles Filles every day.
Or, as the more excitable corners of the cycling media are now calling it: the super-Planche.
Days like stage seven give us the necessary context. A quiet roll through the countryside, a doomed breakaway featuring a couple of French lads, and a drag-strip finish along a full imperial mile of finishing straight.
To complain that much of the stage was a bit dull is like moaning that the Alps are a little hilly.
I’ve heard it described that, for the French, when le Tour passes through it’s one of the few times the people gather, communally, outside, and share a moment. Once you consider that a stage like today is essentially a two-hundred-kilometre picnic with fifteen minutes of sport at the end, it makes more sense.
And for those of us not lucky enough to be communally sharing lunch with French people we watch, on TV, from the corner of our eye, while we get on with something else.Embed from Getty Images
A spot of gardening?
Some domestic admin?
A day’s work, perhaps?
For the picnic I can report that wine was drunk, ham baguettes were munched, and cheese was lingered over. For the sport, we had our standard issue headlong arrow straight dash for a precious stage win.
Wout van Aert, a fan friendly ‘Wout’ across the front of his helmet, worked for Groenewegen. And when I say ‘worked’ I mean he dragged the entire field, single-handedly, like a boss, for several kilometres. Daniel Oss, wild hair in the wind, put in a shift for Sagan.
And Elia Viviani, winner of stage four, basked in the luxury of having a fully stocked led out train at his disposal.
They placed him, delicately, in prime position, with two hundred metres to go, and watched with awe as every other sprinter in the vicinity accelerated easily past him. Like a boy racer stalling at the traffic lights. Had he nodded off during this incident free day? Daydreamed through the big moment?
We learnt afterwards he had a puncture.
Unlucky.Embed from Getty Images
Caleb Ewan, meanwhile, and Dylan Groenewegen, challenged each other to a bike throwing competition; reaching the finish line together it was a question of who has the longest arms. A competition in which Ewan, tiny and elfin, will always lose.
Groenewegen chucked his steed three centimetres further to win by three centimetres.
The Dutchman, after his stage one crash, back in the game.