When it is Alpe d’Huez, you don’t have to wish too hard for something special. Two massive out of category climbs leading up to the most iconic climb in the sport. That is what they served up today, and the riders delivered. A long escapade for Steven Kruijswijk, swept up in the dying hairpins, leading to a second stage win in-a-row for Geraint Thomas, this time in yellow. It also marked the first time a British rider, or indeed the yellow jersey, has won on this famous col.
Greg Van Avermaet has defended yellow with honour. Yesterday, the classics style rider, went on a mountain attack to try and keep it for another twenty-four hours. He was well aware that today, his effort would catch up on him. It did, and with half the short but heavy mountain stage remaining, the question was who would inherit the jersey?
You could not take your eyes off of it, though did you ever think you would be able to? Action from the first cobbled sector to the line, with crashes and mechanicals, splits and dust. The race had it all. A story book winner, and not too much damage to most of the general classification … unless your name is not Richie Porte. This was the stage many had been looking to when the race route was announced. A test of bike handling skill, of strength, and of good fortune on broken roads on the way to the historic cycling town of Roubaix. And as expected, all three played their part.
When Peter Sagan came to the front of this race for the first time, it was but metres from the finishing line. And that’s when it matters after all. The Slovak won again and took his third straight World Championship. The first man to ever achieve the feat. More history for the brilliant Sagan.
When I last wrote about this Vuelta, almost a week ago, everything was looking good for Chris Froome. He had crashed twice in as many corners that day but his lead stood at 59 seconds to Vincenzo Nibali and nobody had put him in trouble. Indeed, everyone else was starting to fall out of touch. Fast forward six days and you could say that everything still looks good for Froome. But it hasn’t all been easy in the days between.
The stage had everything you don’t wish to see and everything you do, all at the same time. It was a stage full of drama but which, when it came down to the details of the standings, didn’t have a dramatic impact. Cycling can be funny that way. It was the incidents rather than the results that told the story. Cycling can be so often that way.
They say a solar eclipse can do funny things to animals. Which might explain the reports today of a shark attack in the mountains of Andorra. Over 100km away from the nearest body of salt water as the moon crossed the sun.
The sharks name was Vincenzo Niabli, and it was a predatory attack of stealth precision.. I am speaking of his victory on today’s stage at the Vuelta, of course. Dropped on the final climb he used the descent to make the catch. And once among them he didn’t hesitate. He chewed them up and spat them out, crossing the line with a visible gap; his had mimicking a sharks fin.