July 08, 2017

A Big Weekend

The long, hot stages of this Tour, an old school design, are having their effect and the peloton is beginning to fatigue. This was apparent yesterday during the sprint run-in to Nuits-Saint-Georges and the poor, possibly fatal to his ambitions for the Green Jersey, performance of Arnoud Démare. French Champion was riding far too back in the peloton with 20 kilometers to go, and his team had to make an enormous effort to remount the peloton and place him near the front. That effort exploded his team just at the wrong moment but no matter as the young star simply was not in the game and even stopped sprinting in the final meters. Démare’s arch rival Nacer Bouhanni had an excellent run-in to the sprint, found himself in perfect position on Kittel’s wheel and then….the German’s jump was so explosive that Bouhanni was ejected out of his slipstream. I’ve rarely seen that and Bouhanni must be asking himself some questions as golden opportunities like that one don’t arrive very often.

I spent some years living and racing is the Jura region of today’s stage. The area is beautiful and, the Jura mountain range, although old and not high, is difficult just the same. Sunday is touted as the hard day but today will be deeply fatiguing as the breakaway artists – yes our Baroudeurs like Sylvain Chavanel – have a perfect stage to show off their aggressive talents. Look for a combative race, a big change from what we’ve seen in the first, sprinter-team controlled week, with multiple breakaway attempts and high speeds from start to finish.

The racers are desperately awaiting Monday’s rest day but they have get through two brutal days before reaching that oasis.