With the first week of the Tour de France drawing to a close and the first rest day upon us it is time for a race recap, with a difference. Read this week’s double espresso to hear Breakaway Digital’s thoughts on a stunning opening to La Grande Boucle.
I said in the previous edition of the double espresso that I, and many others think this years Tour de France has the chance to break free of the predictable shackles that have bound it together in recent years. The absence of some of the sports biggest names such as Cavendish, Kittel and Froome has meant that there is space for the next generation of riders to shine through.
This has somewhat remained true with the fortuitous victory and subsequent yellow jersey of Mike Teunnisson on stage 1 and the likes of Italy’s Cicconne (TSF) taking the maillot jaune on stage 6 in his first appearance at the race.
However, what is not a surprise is that Peter Sagan already has a firm grip on what could be a record breaking 7th points jersey at the race.
In this week’s double espresso I didn’t want to just focus on the winners of the race but provide another perspective of the peloton. Or in fact not the peloton but instead the breakaway. Here are my top picks from the first week of the Tour.
This year’s edition of the race see’s 5 Pro-continental teams receive an invite. Part of the understanding of the invite is that these teams enter the often faited breakaway’s of the long transitional sprint stages in the first week.
In return for animating the early stages these teams get much needed television exposure for their sponsors, and to a certain extent themselves if they can crest a categorised climb at the head of the race or win an intermediate sprint. Another opportunity they have is the prize for being the most combative rider.
We think there is a certain honour placed on the shoulders of those who get to play the leading role in such a magnificent race. Here is their tale.
The first break of this year’s race featured a surprise visitor. He came in the form of Olympic champion and classics specialist Greg Van Avermaet (GVA). Having worn the maillot jaune for 8 days in the 2018 edition and a further three days in 2016 GVA is normally in contention for a first week yellow jersey but this time his motivation was the king of the mountains polka dot jersey.
The inclusion of the famous cobbled climbs of the Muur de Grammont and the Bosberg within the first 50 km’s tempted GVA out of the nervous peloton and into the break searching for a classification leaders jersey. He crested the 3rd category Grammont first and soon after topped the 4th category Bosberg in second place securing the coveted maillot á pois rouges. By doing this he became the first Belgian rider to wear the jersey on Belgian roads since Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke in 1980.
Stage 3 saw the baton of the climbers jersey passed from one belgian to another. Tim Wellens was one of the first riders to attack on the stage and after the gap to the bunch decreased dramatically he decided to attack solo with 48km’s to go. A brave move and one that we certainly approved of. A double Giro d’Italia stage winner, Wellens is a rider who garners plenty of respect from the pro peloton.
It wasn’t his day to take his maiden tour stage win. But he secured the polka dot jersey by cresting the côte de Champillon first before being overtaken by a charging Alaphilippe whilst he had to stop with a puncture.
He continued to attack and build his lead in the climbers classification. Stage 8 saw his formidable compatriot, team mate and king of the long distance breakaway Thomas De Ghent go up the road in search of some fun.
Boy what a stage it was. 200 km’s flying through the beautiful French countryside. De Ghent went up the road as the flag dropped and he never came back. The peloton clearly new the threat he posed to the stage and so never gave the almighty break consisting of the big hitters Terpstra, King and De Marchi more than 3:30.
The win looked highly possible until the last 14 km’s when De Ghent left De Marchi in search of solo victory. A late attack from French darlings Alaphilippe and Pinot almost caught him but he held them off by 6 seconds to claim his second Tour De France stage victory. Both of which came from a breakaway ride.
Thomas De Ghent is one of our favourite riders, partly because of his gorgeously smooth and strong pose he has on the bike, partly because of his well groomed beard but mostly because he is always there in the breakaway. Giving it his all, with no idea if it is going to stick.
Our final star rider of the first 10 stages has to be the one and only Daryl Impey with his victory into Brioude on Bastille day. I think it would be hard to find anyone in the peloton, save for the French riders who would have been disappointed to see him win. Riding his 7th Tour and at the age of 34 anyone would have forgiven him for losing sight of a precious stage win. Giving up is the last thing he has done. Getting into the days 14 man break he bridged over to Nicolas Roche and Tiesj Benoot on the final climb of the côte de St-Just. Roche was dropped on an uncategorised ramp in the run into the line and so it came down to a two up sprint for the win between Impey and Benoot, with the South African champion proving to be the much stronger sprinter of the two.
6 years after Impey was the first african rider to wear the coveted yellow jersey he added a very well deserved stage win to his Tour palmarès. Chapeau Daryl, you have proven the old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks satisfyingly wrong.
This daring and audacious approach to racing is exactly what the Tour needs and what the spectators want. Chapeau to all of the riders who attack wherever they can, and bon chance for the rest of the race!
Make sure you check out our second rest day wrap up on the 22nd of July when we hope to bring you more exciting tales of ambitious attempts at foiling the ever powerful peloton.