There is a new leader in the Armchairtifosi.com Intermediate Sprints Competition (not sponsored by Chateau D’Ax). Sylvain Chavanel of Direct Energie rolled past the massive church that dominates the village of Saint-Andre-Treize-Voies in splendid isolation, four minutes clear of a peloton powered along by Quick Step Floors, with work-horse Tim Declerq and Niki Terpstra collecting the minor placings points. Though on level points with stage 1 scorer Kevin Ledanois, it is Chavanel who can pretend to haul on the Chateau D’Ax jersey by virtue of holding the higher ranking on GC; Chavanel had been part of the early 3 man break and rode on alone for nearly 130km, mopping up the 3 bonus Bonification seconds 15 km from the finish. That was enough to move him up to 5th overall behind stage winner and new leader Peter Sagan.
Veteran Chavanel’s career is too well known to need recounting here. At 39 he is the 3rd oldest rider in this year’s race ( Franco Pellizotti and Matt Heyman have already become eligible for membership of the VTTA) and is almost old enough to have raced alongside the Chateau D’Ax team [come on, lads, that’s 3 mentions in one post – I must deserve at least a reclining armchair]. By competing in this year’s TdF he has set a new record of lining up in 18 editions of the race – that’s 18 consecutive years, with only 2 DNFs and he has won 3 stages.
Once Chavanel had been mopped up by the peloton, a bunch sprint looked inevitable, only for another crash to seriously deplete the numbers in contention. Peter Sagan held off Sonny Colbrelli and Arnaud Demare to record his 9th TdF stage win – interestingly, the last time a stage finished in La Roche sur Yon (1938) it was also won by the wearer of the rainbow jersey, Belgian Eloi Meulenberg.
Before the dramas of the finale the early skirmishes of the day had seen plenty of crashes (including a DNF for Luis Leon Sanchez, who broke 4 ribs and an elbow but still attempted to get back on his bike), a failed audition by Janse Van Rensburg for the part of Monty Python’s Bicycle Repair Man as he tussled unsuccessfully with a jammed chain, and an hilarious exchange between Ned Bolting and David Millar that should have been broadcast after the 9pm watershed; Peter Sagan had stopped for a mechanical issue but combined it with a “comfort break” – was there really any need to say that one of the Bora staff was holding Sagan’s helmet? Oooh-er, missus.
Tomorrow is the team time trial, which means a day off from intermediate sprints. I’m not a fan of them – it’s a risky enough sport without the hazards of crashing into teammates and, when they’re longer than 20km (tomorrow’s is 35km) the time differences can be comparatively huge, penalising the GC riders who don’t have a team of strong time-trialists. There was one Italian stage race (the Coppi e Bartali?) where the teams were split into 2 squads of 4 – that would be an interesting innovation in a Grand Tour, setting a dilemma for DSs – do you put all your strong riders in the A team, or split them up? What would Movistar’s Eusebio Unzue do?
ARMCHAIRTIFOSI SPRINTS STANDINGS – 1.SYLVAIN CHAVANEL (FR)(DIrect Energie) 3 pts; 2.Kevin Ledanois (FR)(Fortuneo) 3 pts; 3.Yoann Offredo (FR) (Wanty – Groupe Goubert) 2 pts
TEAMS- Direct Energie lead on 4 pts