What an epic stage that was yesterday! There are more than a few riders licking their wounds and feeling sore this morning.
I can’t believe how many crashes there were, all on what looked to be very innocuous roads. Bradley Wiggins, Sylvain Chavanel, Laurens Ten Dam and Levi Leipheimer all got involved in a crash early on, necessitating Wiggo having to swap his bike for a while whilst the Team Sky mechanics put it right for him.
Next, Team Radioshack leader Janez Brajkovic crashed with Rabobank rider Robert Gesink. Brajko had to retire and was taken to hospital with a minor head injury and apparently, a busted collar bone. GWS Brajko.
Not content to miss out on the tarmac kissing, the next star to fall was Alberto Contador. He seemed unflappable and just calmly waited for his team car to help him out. He soon lost his cool slightly however as he was seen throwing his bike down whilst waiting for his mechanics later.
Nicki Sorensen got tangled up with a passing Tour motorbike which dumped him onto the verge and tangled his bike up with a passing team car, dragging it 200 yards down the road.
Another crash involved one or two Euskatel Eskadi riders and one was left laying in the gutter for a while. I hope he was OK.
Tom Boonen was also felled, along with team mate Gert Steegmans and Lars Boom of Rabobank. Tom looked very sore, with much road rash and, for a little while I feared he had bust his collar bone also. He rode on but seemed to be favouring his right arm as if in lots of pain.
That wasn’t the end of Tom’s trouble. In the earlier intermediate sprint, Tom, Jose Rojas and Mark Cavendish were all pushing for the 5th spot. Tom and Rojas were all over the road, baulking Cav. Tom and Rojas had their points docked by the commissars after the end of the race. This dropped Rojas out of the Green jersey position, which he had been awarded on the podium post race.
With the main peleton going hard and post crash stragglers trying hard to catch up, with just over 30 km to go Europcars leader (and a top bloke) Thomas Voeckler launched himself off the front in an attack. He was followed by Francaise Des Jeux rider Jeremey Roy and they hung it out there until the 3 km to go banner when Roy got swallowed up. Tommy managed to keep it going for another kilometre but soon got caught.
It was then down to the lead out riders. HTC booster rockets Tony Martin and Matt Goss were in line at the Flamme Rouge (1 km to go banner) and were riding hard. I think Cav had this planned. It was an uphill finish and he wanted the run in to be so fast that others couldn’t launch a sprint. He just stuck to the fastest wheels he could and went for it with about 300m, at which stage he was down in 9th or 10th. He just flew and managed to get past Philippe Gilbert with about 25m left. Now that’s what I’m talking about (thanks Big Al Simpson, my IPMBA Instructor trainer for that one).
That is stage win number 16 for Cav and that puts him up there with Tour legend and 5 time winner Jaques Anquetil. It also gets him back into the points competition fight.