Omega Pharma-Quickstep’s, Tony Martin sped to victory around the iconic Mont Saint Michel in the stage 11, individual time trial.
No one can accuse the Tour de France of lacking spectacular beauty and stage 11 was for those who have a keener eye on the French countryside, than the lads on two wheels, nothing short of spectacular.
The 33 kilometre race against the clock produced one of the fastest time trials in history and it can only leave us begging the question of just how fast Marin could have gone if he wasn’t riding with half of epidermis still on the roads of Corsica.
The German carved up the course and was then rewarded with an anxious two hours in the hot set, waiting for his closest rival in the discipline, Chris Froome, to leave the start house.
Froome rode an excellent race against the clock to only fall twelve seconds behind the two time world champion in the discipline. He actually posted the fastest times for the day at the first two check points but fell away coming into the difficult finish. As expected, he ended the stage with even greater distance between him and his closest GC rivals.
It is looking increasing as though the other top ten riders in the GC will be left to spend the next ten days fighting it out for the minor placings on the podium.
The fat lady is on the stage, the lights are warming up and she’s about to hit her first note. All barring a major incident, Chris Froome will find himself the owner of the coveted yellow jersey come Sunday week, on the Champs Elysee.
Of Froome’s closest rivals, Movistar’s, Alejandro Valverde finished over two minutes down on the yellow jersey wearer and he trails the Kenyan born Brit in the overall classification, by 3’25”.
Alberto Contador may be sitting in the top five, but at almost four minutes behind on the overall classification, the Spaniard finds himself in the unusual position of fighting for a minor place on the podium, rather than the top step.
Contador is not the rider of old but that may not be a bad thing if it means he no longer eats dodgy meat. He finished the time trial 2’15” off the winning time.
The day also had its ups and downs for Aussie riders Richie Porte, Cadel Evans and Michael Rogers.
Porte finished the stage in fourth place after riding himself off the podium in stage 9.
Cadel Evans finished in twenty second place, 2’30” off the pace whilst Saxo-Tinkoff’s Rogers finished one better in twentieth place, 2’26” adrift.
Evans did move up to fourteenth on the overall standings but is now 6’54” off the pace.
The famous Mont Saint Michel is surrounded by, what is essentially muddy quicksand, and quite frankly I wonder if Radioshack’s Andy Schleck would have preferred that to his disappointing day in the saddle. The Luxemburger isn’t much a time trialist anyway, but he bled minutes to his rivals, almost five minutes in fact. Schleck now sits at 8’32” behind in seventeenth place in the GC standings.
The race so far had been looking good for Andy as we were beginning to see his confidence return. It will be important to see how he bounces back from this set back over the last half of the event.
After having announced he will ride with his brother next year, the Luxemburger will need to finish the race as he will be surely searching for a new contract if his wish is to stay riding with Frank.
The stage was also not without controversy, as colourful British rider, Mark Cavendish had urine thrown at him.
Twitter was alive with a swathe of puns for the Manx Missile who finally got to wear yellow, as more than one or two in twitterland suggested and also with those who offered more serious and outraged comments.
One of the most beautiful things about the sport of cycling is its accessibility. Anyone can ride start out in cycling, all you need is a bike as a youngster and some encouragement. The roads are public and the freedom that cycling gives is its attraction for many.
As a spectator sport it is also one of the few where you can get up close with your idols and one of the few that is free to watch. How many sporting events, where the world’s best are competing, can you think of that are free?
We may debate Cavendish’s actions in the stage 10 sprint and agree to disagree on them and his lack of punishment for knocking Tom Veelers off his bike, but throwing urine at anyone, regardless of if they are a sportsperson or just someone walking down the street is disgraceful.
It’s such a shame that such an incident occurred to mar what has, to this point been a great Tour de France.
The race will now move toward the Alps, which will not be a breeze for Froome, especially after we saw the British team exposed on stage 9 and it is hard to not see the peloton, especially those in the peloton who speak Spanish, not playing school yard bullies again. Chris Froome may look to have the 100th edition of the Tour de France sewn up, but at least this year’s contest is just that, a contest not a procession.
First published on The Roar 11th July, 2013