Phew! Roller coaster couple of days at the Tour de France. The GC favorites remain firmly in their respective places. However, we did see some exciting racing out of them and some of the pretenders to the throne.
Yesterday was another difficult climbing day. The race took in 4 climbs that culminated in the Plateau de Beille. The mountain top finish shook loose any hangers on and the men that came to the finish were the true hard men of the Tour. This stage was won by the crafty Joaquim Rodriguez with the Katusha squad. This is his 2nd win at this years Tour and he was obviously thrilled with his victory.
Among the GC men we saw Contador throw down an attack without success. Froome's leuitentant Porte showed remarkable restraint and maturity in just holding his pace and slowly dragging back all comers instead of reacting too quickly and upping the pace. This was a demonstration of experience and maturity.
Today saw a stage with a somewhat flatter profile. The finish was not as flat as some of the sprinters would have liked and this narrowed down the number of men who came to the finish together. Ultimately we saw Vanavaermat and Sagan come to the line together with Vanavaermat getting there first. GV is one of my favorite riders and I'm glad to see him get a well deserved stage win. Sagan once again could only manage 2nd and his sprint looked somewhat dulled. We've seen similar examples throughout this race and my guess is that what we're seeing with him is sprinter transitioning to a stage race rider. We saw this in the past with Laurent Jalabert.
The other notable happening today was JC Peraud falling after crossing wheels in the middle of the field. He took a hard fall and got pretty torn up. He was slow to remount his bike and then spent a considerable amount of time getting back to the group. However, Peraud wins my "class act" award for grabbing bottles from the car and restocking his teammates when he arrived. Despite being the team leader, Peraud showed us he's a diligent teammate. I admire this quality in a leader.
Tomorrow takes in a number of climbs and finishes up the steep Col de la Croix Neuve. It has a steep section near the end and the combined stressors of the stage will take its toll on all the riders. I expect that we'll see the leaders stay together with a few sporadic attacks. My prediction is that we'll see a secondary rider like Bardet, Fulgesang, Valverde or one of the Sky team men win.
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