09 July 2014

Faces of the Cobbles

The day the Tour de France hit the pavés

That was one of the most memorable stages of the Tour de France that I can remember. Last year's stage that was split by the wind was special, but today, Stage 5 added rain, wind, mud and cobbles into the mix of an already jittery peloton. It was awesome. Not so much for the crashes or withdrawal of the defending champion, but because of the display of pure competition.

We saw real bike racers on the cobbles.

Pure and simple - that was a bike race. Set aside the talk about whether a stage like this belongs in the Tour de France; wind, time trials, mountains, flats, and cobbles are apart of cycling. Although many of the Tour riders felt strongly that this route was uncalled for, it was clear this stage brought together the skills of the best mechanics, the tactics of the best team managers, the quick decision making of the best team staff, the instincts of the best teammates, the brutality of mother nature, and the luck of god, into one exciting stage. What emerged was the iron will of a rider in a yellow jersey.

There is no doubt that Vincenzo Nibali took risks today, but mostly he looked like an animal totally in his element. He looked like a man who found his inner cobbled classic. Just look at the profile footage of him over the cobbles, or his bike handling skills as he passed other riders - it was phenomenal. He fought for and earned his time gap on the other GC contenders and rightfully retained his yellow jersey.

You cannot control weather, luck, or when one rider has a great day on the right day. 

Although we don't necessarily wish for crashes as fans, we do wish for great competition in sport. It wasn't always pretty today, but the stage was effective in whittling down the chances that the best bike rider will indeed win the Tour de France. The fact that Talansky, Porte, Valverde, Van Garderen, Contador, Sagan, Kwiatkowski, Mollema and others did so well in today's stage is a testament that they are worthy right along with Nibali. But he and his teammates were simply outstanding today.

Super sad for Chris Froome. 

The top-21 from today's stage are not all considered to be cobble classic specialists, but they dominated Stage 5:

1.ITA NIBALI Vincenzo41ASTANA PRO TEAM20h 26' 46''
2.DEN FUGLSANG Jakob42ASTANA PRO TEAM20h 26' 48'' + 00' 02''
3.SVK SAGAN Peter51CANNONDALE20h 27' 30'' + 00' 44''
4.POL KWIATKOWSKI Michal74OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP20h 27' 36'' + 00' 50''
5.SUI CANCELLARA Fabian163TREK FACTORY RACING20h 28' 03'' + 01' 17''
6.BEL VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen131LOTTO-BELISOL20h 28' 31'' + 01' 45''
7.FRA GALLOPIN Tony134LOTTO-BELISOL20h 28' 31'' + 01' 45''
8.AUS PORTE Richie7TEAM SKY20h 28' 40'' + 01' 54''
9.USA TALANSKY Andrew91GARMIN - SHARP20h 28' 51'' + 02' 05''
10.ESP VALVERDE BELMONTE Alejandro11MOVISTAR TEAM20h 28' 57'' + 02' 11''
11.FRA BARDET Romain82AG2R LA MONDIALE20h 28' 57'' + 02' 11''
12.USA VAN GARDEREN Tejay141BMC RACING TEAM20h 28' 57'' + 02' 11''
13.POR COSTA Rui Alberto111LAMPRE - MERIDA20h 28' 57'' + 02' 11''
14.GBR THOMAS Geraint8TEAM SKY20h 29' 02'' + 02' 16''
15.FRA PINOT Thibaut127FDJ.FR20h 29' 11'' + 02' 25''
16.NED DUMOULIN Tom106TEAM GIANT-SHIMANO20h 29' 11'' + 02' 25''
17.RUS TROFIMOV Yury29TEAM KATUSHA20h 29' 11'' + 02' 25''
18.NED MOLLEMA Bauke61BELKIN PRO CYCLING20h 29' 13'' + 02' 27''
19.ESP CONTADOR Alberto31TINKOFF-SAXO20h 29' 23'' + 02' 37''
20.BEL BAKELANTS Jan72OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP20h 29' 25'' + 02' 39''
21.SVK VELITS Peter149BMC RACING TEAM20h 29' 30'' + 02' 44''

It is clear that not only Belgians can ride the cobbles. There were fourteen countries represented in the top-20 riders on Stage 5.

Map of the countries of the top 20 riders in Stage 5, 2014 Tour de France link to map

Really great photographs at Cycling Tips Tour de France Stage 5 in Photos Photography by Break Through Media and Cor Vos. 

Now for some fun photos from the day on Twitter. The day the Tour de France met the cobbles and  mud. (Just to be clear I didn't take any of these photos, I am giving credit where credit is due)

Lars Boom  Photo from @ShimanoRoad
Vincenzo Nibali  Photo from @Felipelect
Cyril Lemoine, the polka-dot jersey  Photo from @cobblekiller
Alberto Contador  Photo from @Tinkoff_Saxo
Markel Irizar  Photo from @Emily_Maye
Marcel Kittel   Photo from @carcher2K
The leading group, Stage 5  Photo from @ACCPIAssocorridori
Geraint Thomas leading Richie Porte over the cobbles  Photo from @TeamSKY
Jacob Fuglsang leads Vincenzo Nibali over the cobbles  Photo from @AstanaTeam
Movistar  Photo from @jjrojillas
Conditions of The Day - Stage 5 2014 Tour de France  Photo from @Tinkoff_Saxo
Congratulations to Lars Boom!

That was an awesome race!