What happened today?
5. No crashes
Amazing scenes today with no major crashes on the feared cobblestones, after yesterday’s carnage on seemingly innocuous roads. I suppose everyone was paying attention, and it was mostly dry and dusty. And they didn’t use the worst sectors from Paris-Roubaix.
4. Not enough cobbles for Nibbles
Vincenzo Nibali looked magnificent on the cobbles again, powering over every sector with skill and intent. Several times he managed to open small gaps to his rivals, only to see the pave sector finish before he could really put anyone away. This gave Sky and TInkoff-Saxo a chance to regroup and no damage was done.
3. Froome better than expected
After last year’s debacle in the equivalent stage, a lot of people were expected Chris Froome to struggle on the stones. He didn’t miss a beat (Paul Sherwen even remembered to mention that Froome is a “former mountain biker” #sherliggettisms #drink) and with excellent support from his teammates (Geraint Thomas take a bow) he even managed to throw in an attack on the last sector.
It was a perfect result for Froome: hand over the pressure of the yellow jersey to a guy who’s no threat in the long run, without losing any time to the guys who really matter to him.
Contador and Quintana survived, but the small Colombian didn’t look far off cracking. Still, that’s enough for Nairo.
Not many changes to the Big Boys’ GC, other than Thibaut Pinot having a shocker.
2. Paris-Roubaix specialists get a shock
My tip for the stage, P-R winner John Degenkolb, won the sprint for second, ahead of Peter Sagan, Greg “The Bridesmaid” van Avermaet and Eddie “Thank god I’m off the Death Star” Boasson Hagen. All men you would usually expect to see in the top 10 of a Spring Classic. But they were upstaged by an inspired ride by the new maillot jaune…
1. TONY MARTIN
C’est magnifique! The German may sound like he’s named after an English plumber, but he’s a pretty special bike rider. Three world time trial championships and a reputation for generating more power than a hydroelectric power station show that. Tony needed a measly 1 second to take the yellow jersey for the first time in his career, but he was never likely to get it in a bunch sprint. So Tony attacked 3km from the finish and simply rode everyone off his wheel. You have to be incredibly strong to do that.
He’s a popular bloke, is Tony, and perhaps for once there’ll be smiles around the dinner table at camp Etixx-Quickstep.