Tour de France? More like Bore de France today. Stage seven was the endless hangover after yesterday’s wild party. Even purists would struggle to glean enjoyment or point out the hidden subtexts to the racing.
It’s simple: the bunch rested their legs, let two wild card breakaways reap the publicity and brought it all back together for a sprint royale.
A few minutes of intrigue threatened to break out after Dan Martin and Nairo Quintana were caught out 30 kilometres from the finish, but order was soon restored.
What is it about stage seven of the Tour? The same number was just as long, forgettable and sprinter-friendly in 2018 and 2017, with Groenewegen winning into Chartres and Kittel in Nuits-Saint-Georges respectively.
Yet, a fair few contenders for our fruity fillip came to mind. Offredo or Rossetto, the hapless breakaways off the front for a third time already in the opening week? (On that note, there’s a few teams who should put a man up the road rather than working for sprinters who invariably finish eighth or ninth.)
The noble Tour commentators of the world? Reduced to discussing rotary enginges and 17th century chateaux during six hours of inaction. This dirge, suffice to say, was not what wall-to-wall live Tour coverage was intended for.
Or the citizens of Chalon-sur-Saône, since the bunch rolled into town 25 minutes behind the slowest schedule? They’d waited 31 years for another finish; they could wait a little longer.
On the Bourgogne town’s outskirts, Wout van Aert continued his dazzling Tour debut. He hit the front with four kilometres to go… and stayed there for 2,000 metres, stringing out the bunch. The stage was set up for Dylan Groenewegen from there. All the more impressive considering 40 minutes earlier, he’d been off the back, nearly dropping Martin and Quintana.
The king of ‘cross continues to catch the eye here, whether helping out his fast man, sprinting to second yesterday or proving a key part of the winning TTT effort.
As the Jumbo-Visma Tour juggernaut rolls on, why not a stage win later in the race?
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
Rouleur Top Bananas 2019: