Tour de France week one: crashes, controversy and a stage for the ages | William Fotheringham

Sundays stage to Chambry was one of the best in recent years and while it leaves Chris Froome very much in pole position, there are plenty of miles still to cover on the road to Paris

1) Where did Sundays stage sit in the league table of epic days on the Tour?

Right up there near the top. In words of the volume of events, of the sheer sum of stuff that went on and the tales that were thrown up, Sundays stage to Chambry was one of the best in recent years. But it is probably topped by the stage to Les Arcs in 1996, run off in a rainstorm over the Cormet de Roselend, where Miguel Indurains reign came to an end, where Stphane Heulot abandoned the yellow jersey in tears, where Chris Boardman and Laurent Jalabert cracked disastrously, and Lance Armstrongs future manager Johan Bruyneel flew off the road on a hairpin and went into a canyon. Everyone has their favourites: the 1986 Tour was full of epic days, while further back you could point to the lAlpe dHuez stage in 1977, or Orcires-Merlette in 1971. Lets just say Sunday is in good company.

2) Have there been more crashes than usual?

The crash question has been a perennial one for decades. There are a significant number of spectacular crashes on the Tour every year and, sadly, always a fair number of casualties. What is different this year is that the crashes have involved a bigger number of star riders than usual in prominent situations Alejandro Valverde on day one, Mark Cavendish, John Degenkolb and Ben Swift on day four, Geraint Thomas four days out of the first nine, and finally Sundays demolition derby, which did for Thomas, Richie Porte and several others. There was also a spectacular mass chute on day 2, captured by the British photographer Chris Auld. There have, inevitably, been questions about the wisdom of routing a stage over the narrow, twisting roads used on Sunday, but the Mont du Chat was used for the Dauphin Libr last month with no ill effects. The problem is, when it rainfalls, wherever you are racing, the roads become dangerous, as we saw in Dsseldorf and en route to Lige.

3) Has Froome as good as won the Tour?

Not quite. He is well placed for his fourth victory, with Porte regrettably out of the race( although as Froome told, he would rather the Australian was still here ), Quintana slipping behind and Alberto Contador seemingly out of the reckoning, and only Fabio Aru, Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Urn within a minute. Also, his team-mates Mikel Landa, Mikel Nieve and Sergio Henao are well placed in ninth, 14 th and 15 th overall respectively. It is rare for a Tour de France leader to enjoy such support in depth and then to go on to lose the race, so all the cards are currently stacked on Froomes side, as they have been since Planche des Belles Filles. There are possible flies in the salve, however: there are plenty of road still to be covered and many, many opportunities for things to go wrong for the race leader and his squad. Astana have two strong riders in the first five in Aru and Jacob Fuglsang, who may prove tough for the race leader and his support riders to neutralise.

4) Were the leaders right to construct Aru wait when Froome had his mechanical on Sunday?

Fabio
Fabio Aru, in green, initially assaulted before reconsidering. Photograph: Chris Graythen/ Getty Images

This is a matter of opinion. It could be argued that the race was not wholly on, in other words the favourites had not yet begun to making such a moves and they continued to marking each other, except that Froome had his team working on the front to reduce the result group in number, which to me appears suspiciously like racing. No one waited for Alberto Contador when he crashed twice earlier on Sundays stage, both on occasions when the race was not on. There is also the nebulous notion of a tradition of respect for the yellow jersey. In truth, there are plenty of occasions in Tour history when the yellow jersey has been attacked at moments which might be seen as inappropriate, as Contador did in 2010 with Andy Schleck. Given that this is a competitive sports event, the riders have every right to use the opportunities that appear on the road; if they know that they will be publicly slated for it for an alleged breach of ethics they have the right to decide whether to live with that or not.

5) What interest is there in the other jerseys besides yellow?

A good deal. Warren Barguil has taken a commanding lead in the mountains jersey over Primoz Roglic and Simon Yates gained valuable ground in the under-2 5 standings ahead of Louis Meintjes and Pierre Latour. The green jersey competition has an interesting look after Australias Michael Matthews snaffled full points in the intermediate sprint on Sunday to move 52 points behind Marcel Kittel. The chances are unless they decide to focus all their attention on his team-mate Barguil the two-man Sunweb team will attempt to send Matthews up the road whenever it is hilly to recur his tactic of Sunday and gain more points. Whether that will be enough to overhaul Kittel, clearly the strongest flat road sprinter in the race, is the question that will give this contest legs.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *