Stage 8 on the Tour, and it was Bastille Day. It might as well have been Groundhog Day.
It was a sleepy start, Bora-Hansgrohe’s road captain Marcus Burghardt even going off the front to stop for a pee then cheer the passing bunch from the side of the road. There wasn’t much liberté going on, a bit too much fraternité.
Today’s lambs to the breakaway slaughter eventually nosed ahead: Ten Dam, Grellier and Minnaard before even Sunweb’s hirsute Dutchman realised the folly of the endeavour and slipped back to the bunch with 140 kilometres left.
It was hardly storming the Bastille, but it sufficed. Tour debutant Grellier resisted strongly when his companion dropped back, only caught with six kilometres to go.
Direct Energie have been arguably the most attacking team of the race so far, chapeau to them and Grellier for trying to beat the first week break-bunch sprint formula.
The last two days will hardly live long in the memory – certainly not for crash victim Dan Martin – but that’s the Tour: it’s fair to have a drowsy 48 hours before the tension and nerves of the pavé and the natural selection of the Alps.
The Rouleur Top Banana goes to an unsung hero of each stage of the Tour de France – not the winner, not the yellow jersey – but a rider whose efforts deserve recognition