This is a guest post by Mr.Q, a professional quizmaster and an ardent Tour de France fan who is reporting his 4th tour
A 22 year old Slovakian is living out the dream of a million cyclists across the globe, is the only way, I can perhaps try and define his achievements.
Every serious cyclist on this globe, millions of them – I guess, would at one point or the other, think of doing himself proud in a race. Many of them, thousands of them – I guess, would even dream of doing it all as a professional. A few hundreds of them – I guess, would actually turn professional too and try and win a few races. But how many of them would be able to turn out for the biggest and perhaps the toughest race of them all, the Tour de France – only a hundred eighty plus, every year, as the stats shows us, for the last ten years or so atleast. In this elite group, how many of them can go and win a Stage of the race, that too as a debutant? How many will be able to win 2 Stages in three days? Hardly anyone, if the stats are to be believed. And this is where the feats of this young fast man Peter Sagan of Liqigas- Cannondale, from Slovakia starts looking like a dream run, for he has already done the Double!! And the Tour is just 4 days old. But here comes the more frightening aspect – how many Stages can he win in this Tour?? Me thinks, he could go on to win at least 3 more stages!!
The 3rdroad Stage of the 99th Tour de France started of from Orchies to Boulogne-sur-Mer, a distance of 197kms, with all of the 198 riders still riding this year.
Surprisingly, Michael Mørkøv of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, who is wearing the mountains jersey, again jumped the peleton and made his way to join the breakaway today also. It was surprising, for its the third consecutive day that he got into a breakaway, which meant that of the 600km that the tour has ridden so far, he has been at the front for more than 580km!! As a debutant, but with a team which has Grand Tour pedigree, both in the terms of riders and its management (Alberto Contador, a former 2 time winner of TdF, now in suspension for a substance offense and the owner Bjarne Riis himself being a TdF winner), he seems to be riding the TdF as if it’s a one week race!! At this rate, he is bound to crack and that’s something which does not bode well for the team which is already in deep trouble. Now, me thinks, he is being sacrificed for a bigger cause, the need for publicity and the need to prove to the sponsors that its worth while to associate with this team!! Just so long as August this year, for by then Contador would be back. …:)
After the flag off, the peleton was off to what could be described as a sluggish race to start with. But by the 8km mark five riders had escaped. The lot included Michael Mørkøv of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, Giovanni Bernaudeau of Europcar, Ruben Perez of Euskaltel-Euskadi, Andriy Grivko of Team Astana and Sébastian Minard of AG2R-La Mondiale. With 5 climbs for the day, Mørkøv kept at it till the very last one and won the points for the first 4 climbs to ensure that he continued as the leader in the King of the Mountain Jersey competition. But in the end, he did crack under the pressure and only Grivko was left of the breakaway on the final climb.
In the run up to the end, there was a intermediate sprint finish point, which saw some action. With the breakaway taking the first 5 spots, the race was for the sixth spot. Sagan, Cavendish and a few others sprinters were lining up for the same when Vacansoleil-DMC team tried to play it rough with couple of their riders jumping the gun for the sprint line. In the process they almost managed to take Cavendish out of the race and bottled him up, but exceptional bike handling by the Manx man ensured that he not only got out of the group, but won the sprint to the line and gave the errant rider a glare and couple of words to digest!!
This was all the action at more than halfway stage, before a series of crashes took place. With less than 50kms to go, the first of the serious crash took place, and Team Sky lost Sivtsov to an injury as a few riders hit the deck. This crash split the peleton and some big names like Philippe Gilbert and Samuel Sanchez were seen trying to fix their riding gear and the cycle. As the gap between these groups stretched over a minute, it became apparent that few of these riders were going to lose big time in their race for the overall. The next serious crash with 35km to go took out Jose Joaquin Rojas of Moviestar and Marteen Djallingii of Rabobank and left a lot of top contenders including Christian Vande Velde, Thomas Voeckler, Dan Martin…etc. in the lurch. Tom Danielson of Garmin Sharp is also on the casualty list and remains to be seen if he will start tomorrow.
At the front, it was again the RadioShack Nissan team with Fabian Cancellara in the Yellow Jersey, who kept the peleton within the breakaway’s ambit the whole day. This was the 25thday for Cancellara in the Yellow Jersey, something, which is unmatched amongst current professional cyclists. (On the very first day of the TdF this year, I had committed that Cancellara can hold the Yellow for atleast the first 10 days and this looks to be coming true..:)
And just as the final climb was coming up, another of my prediction, cant find another a better word for it, that Sylvain Chavanel will try to win the stage today came into reality. 4kms from the finish line, out of the blue, Chavanel came storming and almost got away!!Chris Horner of RadioShack Nissan spotted the danger of the Yellow Jersey slipping away from his team, as Chavanel is placed third with a gap of just 7sec on Cancellara, drove hard and narrowed the gap. Thereafter the BMC Racing team got their act together and pulled the peleton across to bridge the gap leaving Chavanel in its wake.
The last climb was a fast and furious affair with one big bend just 400m from the finish line. And here, my second prediction – that Cancellara would do a big turn and leave everyone including Sagan running for the second spot, turned upside down!! It was Sagan who bolted up the ramp leaving all, including Cancellara, in his wake to do what he himself termed as the “Forrest Gump dance” as he crossed the finish line a full second ahead of the rest of the field.
In the end, there were no changes on the leader board as all the leading contenders finished on the same times, even though couple of them were caught in a crash just near the finish line. The Yellow Jersey of the race leader continues with Fabian Cancellara of RadioShack Nissan. The Green Jersey for thepoints leader continues with Peter Sagan of Liqigas Cannondale. The White Jersey, for the best young rider continues with Tejay Van Garderen of BMC Racing team, while Michael Mørkøv of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank retains the King of the Mountain Polka dotted Jersey.
The dominating fashion in which Sagan is winning the stages is making him a serious Green Jersey contender. And going by his thoughts after the race one can only conclude that barring a super show by Cavendish or another rider, Sagan might just walk away with the Green jersey on his debut tour itself!! “Two stage wins is good for me. I want the green jersey in Paris, I think,” said Sagan. “It’s my objective. I think it’s a big goal for me. To win a stage was also part of my plan and even if I don’t win another stage, I’ll still try for the green jersey. And I’ll win it, I think.”
Cancellara in the Yellow Jersey said, “I don’t know what was going on with the crashes behind us. I told my team to cause damage at the front by riding hard and staying away from what was going on back there. The roads were so small and up and down, right and left.The team had good control of the race today and I’m happy to arrive safely. I tried at the end to get a good result, but Sagan went pretty fast. I think there are two sprint days now so we hope to keep the jersey awhile longer. I felt safe all day. The team did a lot of work for me and it was a great effort from everyone. Sagan showed how strong he really is on a final like that. Maybe he’s unbeatable, so congratulations to him.”
Boulogne-sur-Mer is the largest French fishing port and keeping in line with this is Nausicaä -the National Sea Centre which will offer you a wonderful insight into oceanand marine life. There is also the 13th Century Castle-Museum, as well as the 11th century Belfry, designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site apart from the Cathedral of Basilica Notre-Dame to explore in the town.
And for the foodies –the sea food here is one of the best. Don’t leave town before trying the “Coquilles St Jacques”, a dish of scallops.
Tomorrow, the 4thStage of this year’s TdF is from Abbeville to Rouen, a distance of 214kms.Me thinks, it will be a bunch sprint just as every other pundit is predicting. Cav, looks in good form, but so does Greipel. The question is will the delivery train work for Greipel or will Cav be able to ride shotgun on someone and pip everyone at the post?? Read about it tomorrow here….:)
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