On the first rest day of the Tour, we take a look back and quickly recap all the action from the first nine stages.
The first week of the Tour de France isn’t always decisive: previous editions have often featured a parade of sprint stages before the arrival of the big mountains in the second and third weeks.
The 2018 edition, however, has been thrilling, with time lost, fierce sprint duels, a visit to the cobbles and crashed favourites.
Here’s how it unfolded:
Roaming a mostly flat 200km along the Vendée coast, the opening stage was a nervous affair for the peloton. The final 10km was particularly eventful – four time winner and defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) was brought down in a crash, losing 51 seconds along with Richie Porte (BMC) and Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott). In a separate incident, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) broke both wheels, losing over a minute. At the front of the race, meanwhile, Fernando Gaviria (Quickstep Floors) took the stage win and the first yellow jersey in his Tour debut.
Despite the best efforts of a long range breakaway from French veteran Sylvain Chavanel, the race was brought back together at 14km to go. As the teams of the sprinters jostled for position, a major crash at 2km to go brought a number of riders down, leaving a reduced bunch to sprint for stage honours. The popular Peter Sagan took the win in a slightly messy sprint, and with it the yellow jersey.
Team time trials aren’t the most exciting road cycling discipline to watch, but they can have a pretty significant impact on the overall standings. Over a 35.5km route, BMC Racing proved strongest, reversing Porte’s fortunes after his time loss on stage 1 and pushing Greg Van Avermaet into the race lead. Team Sky were next best, conceding four seconds to BMC, whilst Peter Sagan had a rough day in a discipline he doesn’t excel in, dropping out of yellow.
After an eventful opening few days, stage four went to plan for the teams of the sprinters. Despite a crash with 5km to go bringing half the peloton to a standstill, there was a decent bunch to contest the sprint. Fernando Gaviria’s impressive first week of the Tour continued with a second stage win, edging out Peter Sagan and André Greipel for line honours.
A number of stages in the Tour’s opening week drew inspiration from the calendar’s Spring Classics. Stage 5 was the first of these, with a hilly profile reminiscent of the Ardennes Classics. An ill-fated breakaway nonetheless produced some fireworks in the pursuit of points for the King of the Mountains jersey, with the race coming back together with 12km to go. On a short but sharp final climb, Peter Sagan again came through a decisive stage victory, again showing why he’s one of the best riders in the world.
Of a similar tone to stage 5, this stage featured a nasty finishing climb, the fearsome Mur de Bretagne. The lead up was no less straightforward, with crosswinds forcing some dangerous splits and slashing the advantage of the day’s breakaway. At 5.7km to go, a clash between GC contenders Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) caused both to lose time by stage’s end. At the front of the race, meanwhile, Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) took a flyer with just over a kilometre to go, crossing the line as winner. There was no change to the race lead, with Greg Van Avermaet continuing his rein in yellow.
The seventh stage of the Tour, the longest of the race at 231km, was a demonstration that not every day can be a thriller. Undertaken at a plodding pace even slower than the organiser’s slowest expected, a couple of long range breakaways failed to make much of an impression other than giving their sponsors some airtime. Things got a little spicier in the final approach, with the Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen (Lotto NL-Jumbo) ultimately taking the win ahead of both Sagan and Gaviria.
Another transition stage following a similar script, the eighth stage traversed 181km from Fougeres to Chartres. For the most part the day’s racing was fairly uneventful, with the exception of a crash with 17km to go bringing down Dan Martin, the KOM jersey-wearing Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) and Tony Martin, among others. In the end, it was Dylan Groenewegen making it two in a row in a chaotic finishing sprint. Fernando Gaviria and André Greipel were both relegated, after headbutting in the final.
The kind of riders that win Grand Tours don’t traditionally excel on the cobbles. One of the most eagerly anticipated stages of the Tour, stage 9, took in nearly 22km of them, finishing near the Roubaix velodrome so renowned from the Paris-Roubaix one day classic. Tragically for Australian viewers, Richie Porte crashed out soon after the stage start, for the second year running having entered as one of the top favourites and leaving with broken bones on the 9th stage. The carnage continued, with countless crashes and mechanical issues throughout the day. John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) took an emotional victory in front of yellow jersey Greg Van Avermaet.
The Tour now makes the journey south to Annecy, near the Swiss border, where the riders will enjoy a well-deserved rest day before tackling the Alps.
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Tour de France night - Melbourne, Wednesday 18 July
Join us at @coffeepeddlr on Wednesday 18 July as we soak up Stage 11 of the Tour de France and enjoy a tasty feed by Sliders on Tyres.
Tix are now available through Eventbrite!