When I think of France I think of food. Croissants, Cassoulet, weird bits of innard and gristle with fancy names like Andouillette and Pansette de Gerzat. And from there, I think of Lyon. The French food capital and venue for today’s stage finish. All of which Gallic pre-ramble brings me to the latest malaise of French Tour de France contention.
Thibaut Pinot bailed out a few day ago losing several weeks, sorry…minutes, on a bad day at the office. But sylph-like AG2R man Romain Bardet and smarty-pants philosopher and part-time bike-racer Guillaume Martin continued to put up a fight.
After Stage 12 they sat third and fourth overall.
After Stage 13 Bardet was gone, out, a heavy crash and subsequent desperate chase revealing some minor post-stage bleeding to the brain (or a mild concussion, depending on your media outlet of choice)! A blow for Bardet, and for France, and a little reminder that cycling needs to really up it’s medical game and take concussion as seriously as every other sport across the entire world does.
He, surely wisely, abandoned.
Martin, meanwhile, just found the other guys to be stronger than he. Philosophical. As you might expect.
France, thirty-five years and counting, must wait one more year.Embed from Getty Images
The first half of Stage 14 was about the Green Jersey. Current holder Sam Bennett was attacked relentlessly by usual holder Peter Sagan and his team. It was targeted and brutal, over a couple of big-ish climbs, and eventually broke the Irishman. Sagan clawed back a slew of points but Bennet remains thirty-odd clear.
That a couple of pro sportsmen will happily (!?) self-harm themselves in front of a live TV audience for the honour of owning a lovely Green t-shirt is surely what our favourite sport is all about.
As for the run-in to Lyon, my surprise new favourite team Sunweb (a title admittedly threatened recently by the simple presence of a bandido beard and ‘tache across the face of EF Pro Cycling’s Dani Martinez) played a blinder.Embed from Getty Images
Using a couple of lumps in the final few K’s they launched the ever grim faced Tiesj Benoot to disrupt thoughts of a simple sprint, backed this up by using Marc Hirshi to chase down counter-attackers with big names (De Gendt, Alaphilippe, Sagan) and then flung Soren Kragh Andersen off down the Lyonnaise streets with three kilometres left.
Like a manic city-centre criterium it was frenzied, noisy, not just done, but dusted. Andersen could not be caught. Black and white has never looked so technicoloured.
(Top Image: Peter Edmondson from uk / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0))