TDF Stage 2 – More Mayhem

5 Jul

At the beginning of Stage 2 there were 18 teams intact, 194 riders. Rider Adam Hansen of HTC-Columbia was forced to abandon because of a broken collarbone sustained in one of several crashes in Stage 1.

Stage 1 may have had a greater number of crashes, but the crashes of Stage 2 had a greater impact on the outcome of the stage as well as an impact on the general classification or GC. The rain, climbs and narrowness of the roads all added to the precariousness of the route.

There are always crashes in the Tour, but never have I seen so many in the peloton go down as they did today.

As is standard in every Tour de France stage there was a breakaway. Sylvan Chavanel, a French rider on the Belgium team Quick Step, initiated the breakaway at about the 10k mark. Seven other riders joined him and opened up a gap on the peloton of several minutes.

Once the climbs started the peloton started to reel the breakaway back in. This is standard practice. The peloton doesn’t concern itself with breakaways when there is no GC contender in the group. A GC contender goes, the breakaway is reined in immediately, but no GC and the breakaway is allowed a certain distance from peloton. The peloton will bring the group in as the stage proceeds – 90% of the time if not more. Sometimes climbs slow the breakaway down, or fighting amongst the breakaway can factor in, but the peloton as a mass can more easily close in on the breakaway.

Sometimes you wonder while watching this cat and mouse game play out repeatedly in race after race, why the riders even bother to get in a breakaway – they rarely succeed. Today was why. Usually, the most the breakaway is rewarded is with one rider getting a stage win and other riders getting points and 2nd, 3rd place finishes but rarely is that the fortunate, winning rider rewarded with the yellow jersey.

Rare, but it happened today. Sylvan Chavanel ended up with not only the stage win, but also the yellow jersey. The French must be beside themselves with joy. It has been a long while since a Frenchman wore the yellow jersey in the Tour de France.

There were a number of riders that had to go to the hospital for treatment whose status for tomorrow is unknown. I have read that Armstrong and Contador who also crashed (easier to probably name just the riders that didn’t crash) are okay and will race tomorrow, but nothing yet on Andy Schleck and Christian Vande Velde.

If you are new to watching the Tour de France, you have seen an incredible bike race thus far. Today in addition to all the crashes, you also witnessed one of the things I love the most about the Tour de France and bike racing in general. The code of conduct that exists among bike riders which basically is this:

You don’t take advantage of another rider’s misfortune, be it an accident or mechanical failure. The peloton will hold up and wait as they did today.

The peloton today, under the direction of Fabian Cancellara, the leader of the race in the yellow jersey, decided to wait on the GC contenders (and yes, two of them are on Cancellara’s team) but they also waited on Armstrong, Contador, Evans – all GC contenders. Fabian Cancellara gave up his yellow jersey because of that move but as he said after the race, “fairness before selfishness”.  It’s also fair to say that Fabian would lose the yellow jersey in a day or two anyway.

As I said I admire the unwritten code of conduct that bike racers follow, but I also believe in fair competition and I have mixed feelings about how the remainder of the stage played out.

On the one hand I understand given the magnitude of the crash and how many GC level riders were involved, holding up the peloton until riders can regroup.  That has happened before, Lance Armstrong was the beneficiary of a similar act, but there is a limit to what is fair when it becomes unfair to the competition as a whole

That limit was passed I believe with the decision to not allow the riders to sprint at the end.  Yes, there could have been more carnage but crashes during sprints is part of bike racing.  Bike racing is dangerous and if you try to negate or equalize all risk, then it is no longer true bike racing. 

Stage3:

Tomorrow will bring us the most difficult stage thus far.  Stage 3 was the stage where everyone predicted crashes and carnage because of the cobblestones the riders will race on.  The Tour does not usually include them, one day classic races such as the Paris-Roubaix are over the cobbles.

Based on what we’ve seen thus far it’s hard to imagine what shape the peloton will be in after Stage 3.  Pray for no rain, cobblestones are murderous when wet.

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.

Creative Commons License
For the Love of Bikes Blog by Susan Lash (2009 - 2014) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.loveofbikes.com.