5. Another scenic day
Again, the old formula of letting a small group up the road far enough that everyone can relax and enjoy the ambience of Brittany, but not far enough that there’s any chance of them actually staying away and ruining the plans of the big teams.
Bartos Huzarski (Bora-Argon18), Romain Sicard (Europcar), Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) and Pierre-Luc Perichon from local team Bretagne-Seche Environnement had their day in the sunshine. Lotto-Soudal did a big job of work (#sherliggettisms #drink) controlling things on behalf of Tony Gallopin, the break was caught too early and another break went, but it wasn’t given much rope and it was all back together with 15km to go.
4. Cannondale-Garmin flex
The green argyle crew with the funniest hats in the peloton flexed their legs in the latter chase, hoping for a good day for Dan Martin on the steep finish up the Mur de Bretagne (the ‘other Mur’). The team hasn’t had a great year so far, but a Tour stage would certainly help.
Martin was certainly good, finishing second and riding well clear of the fairly elite selection of riders in the last 500 metres. Unfortunately he left it a fraction too late, and was upstaged by…
3. Vill…Vuillerm… Who?
Not many tipsters would have picked the stage winner Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R). The 27-year-old French former mountain biker (#drink) launched powerfully 700m from the finish and grabbed the win while his more fancied rivals waited to see who would chase him.
It was a canny piece of opportunism, and perhaps he deserved a bit more respect after finishing 3rd on the Mur de Huy (the ‘real Mur’) earlier this week. Still, it’s his first big win on the World Tour.
Vuillermoz is the first Frenchman to win a stage of this year’s Tour, and he even managed to do it before Bastille Day.
2. The shark flounders
Vincenzo Nibali, the Shark of the Strait, looked more like a gummy shark as he was dropped in the finish.
He only lost a handful of seconds, but is the defending champion going to flake? Was the battering he took on stage 6 more damaging than he’s letting on, or is his form just not where it was last year? Can he handle the heat once the race hits the mountains, or is he fried?
Stage 9 is a team time trial, so we won’t have another opportunity to find out until after the rest day.
In the meantime, Chris Froome and Tejay van Garderen are both looking strong, Contador and Quintana have hidden effectively, Andrew Talansky appears to be struggling, and Thibaut Pinot has finally had two consecutive days without a crash.
1. Sagan pips van Avermaet in Bridesmaid jersey competition
Peter Sagan picked up 4th on the stage, edging further clear of his great rival Greg van Avermaet (6th) in the competition to rack up the most near-victories without actually winning anything. I think he’s got this category stitched up, given that van Avermaet’s objectives are about to switch to fully supporting Tejay vG in the GC battle.
Big Boys’ GC:
The team time trial up tonight might stir things gently, but at 17km short it’s not going to ruin anyone’s Tour (unless they crash).
2. van Garderen @ 13″
3. Uran @ 34″
4. Contador @ 36″
5. Barguil 1’07”
6. Mollema 1’32”
7. Valverde 1’47”
8. Nibali 1’48”
9. Kreuziger 1’51”
10. Quintana 1’56”
11. Rodriguez 2’00
12. Talansky 2’49”
13. Bardet 3’15”
etc. Pinot 6’33”