The first four stages of the 2013 Tour de France has been full of surprises.
The rugged beauty of Corscia surprised and amazed us and made us all wonder, just why did it take 100 years for the Tour to finally get there.
Stage one produced a surprise sprint, perhaps more than a surprise winner. Kittel is of course Argos Shimano’s sprinter, so we should not surprised that he won the stage, but there was no Cavendish, Greipel or Sagan, something no one would have expected.
Stages two and three saw a surprise wearer of the yellow jersey, Jan Bakelants, and no one was as surprised as the young Belgium.
The stages have kept on producing surprise after surprise.
Gerrans outsprinted Sagan, Orica GreenEdge won the team time trial, which I don’t really think was much of a surprise, and of course Gerran is now in yellow.
As excited as Aussie cycling fans may be, and we are, I don’t think many would have placed the family home on this outcome half way through the first week of letour.
Stage five, however, was the Tour de France returning to a more traditional stage, back on mainland France and producing a familiar sight crossing the finish line first.
Omega Pharma Quickstep’s, Manx Missile took his rightful place in the gallop to the end and showed his rivals just how it is done.
The rainbow jersey of the World Champion did not deliver Cav the 2012 Tour of his dreams. This year, the man from the Isle of Man has once again jettisoned his team kit and is instead donning the colours of the British Road Champion.
And in typical Cav style, he’s waited until half way through the first week to remind the peloton, pundits who like to write him off and cycling fans, of just how good he is.
He wins with a lead out train, he wins without a lead train. He is quite probably the greatest sprinter of all time.
Even when his lead out train was looking as organized as a meeting of disorganized anonymous, he still found the finish line first.
Even when he was looking boxed in in the final five hundred metres, he found a way to get clear and take the victory.
He’s genius is impossible not to admire.
The Manx Missile, however, wasn’t seen for the first five hours and twenty eight minutes of the 228.5 kilometre ride from Cagnes-sur-Mer to Marseille. The stage is the second longest of the 2013 Tour de France and for much of the day a breakaway of six riders enjoyed their day in the sun, soaking up the valuable television air time that the sponsors love so much, before making way for the fast men of the peloton.
This is not to say that the day didn’t have plenty to offer fans of Aussie cycling.
Orica GreenEdge may not have pulled off the hat trick but for Aussie viewers, we were treated to the boys on the front of the peloton for just about all of the broadcast.
Looking resplendent in their yellow helmets, courtesy of leading the team’s classification, the Orica GreenEdge riders ground down the six man breakaway, with a little help from Lotto-Belisol and Argos Shimano, in a stage that quite frankly was not strictly a sprint stage.
This was a flat stage, that wasn’t flat.
It wasn’t mountainous either, just up and down, winding roads and quite windy, especially in the final fifteen or so kilometres.
The thing with long stages like last night’s, is that you can be fooled into thinking that nothing is happening for four of five hours, when that is very much not the case.
There is always something happening in the peloton, from the GC contenders contentedly watching each other, to the teams of the sprinters organizing themselves.
The stage also reminded us of the bruised and battered bodies still riding and of course, those who have been sent home due to not making time cut offs. Once again, watching Sky’s Geraint Thomas gingerly climbing back on his bike were quite stomach churning.
So far this year’s Tour de France has offered as many injured athletes, bravely, or foolishly riding on, depending on how you look at it, as it has surprises.
We can only wonder what tomorrow’s stage, which will suit the pure sprinters has in store for us.
So far what is clear, is that we’ve been treated to some amazing scenes, on and off the bike.
The 2013 Tour de France has offered an abundance of surprises, all of them pleasant and stage fives return to familiar sights has been pleasantly welcomed.
Only time will tell what else the world’s biggest bike race has in store for us.