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2016 Tour de France; Stage 1- Cav Kicks Kittel’s Keister.

July 2, 2016

On a day that saw Alberto Clenbutador hit the deck hard enough to put a question mark over the rest of his Tour due to injuries to his right shoulder, Mark Cavendish claimed an impressive- albeit surprising- victory. Cav’s 27th stage victory was the first to put him into the yellow jersey. It was clear that the gravity of the moment meant a lot to him, given that the Tour’s maillot jaune was the only grand tour jersey he had not worn, and certainly the most iconic blouse missing from his notable collection.

The stage was filled with a number of crashes, most notably the crash that took Contador down with about 80km remaining. Though he was able to rejoin the race and finish with the other GC contenders, it was clear that he had given himself some pretty good owies to contend with over the next three weeks. Within the final kilometer, and within sight of the finish line, another crash took place during the final moments of the leadouts for the sprinters, when a Katusha rider clipped the stupid protruding feet of the finishing chute barriers. WHY these stupid barriers are still in use, is a mystery to every rider, team director, and team mechanic forced to build new bikes for riders after the stage. Luckily, it appears Katusha’s Michael Morkov will be fine, despite how bad the crash looked.

In the usual hectic chaos of the Tour’s first week, the finish was expected to be dicey. In the bump-n-grind of the finish, it was Sagan who really opened the sprint and initially looked the goods until Marcel Kittel began to close in on him. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, Cavendish popped out from behind Sagan and Kitten both, showing them a clean view of his rear wheel. Cav’s teammates Edvald Boasson Hagen and Mark Renshaw both did incredible work to keep him positioned well, and then he finished the job in fine fashion. Kittel held off Sagan to finish second, with Sagan in third, and other top sprinters Greipel in fourth and Kristoff in eighth.

Of note for American fans was the nearly wire to wire breakaway with Alex Howes from Cannondale-Drapac. Howes got into the early break after chasing with another rider, after three others had gotten away a little earlier. Howes was the last man standing from the break, getting some serious tv time for his POC helmet and glasses … and presumably for Cannondale too. The Colorado kid did a mighty fine job on the day.

Post-stage, Cavendish was the seasoned pro, thanking his sponsors and giving a nod to the historical significance of the finish at Utah Beach. With his daughter in his lap, as well as on the podium, it was obvious that Cavendish was savoring the moment. Tomorrow will be the first time in Cavendish’s career that he will take the start line wearing the Tour’s yellow jersey.

Tomorrow’s stage will be one for the fast finishers who can survive a punchy climb; look for Sagan again, as well as Orica teammates/frenemies Simon Gerrans and Michael Matthews, as well as Alejandro Valverde to try to take the yellow from Cavendish. Dimension Data may try to keep the yellow on the team’s shoulders with Boasson Hagen being a great candidate for the stage win, if today’s finish crash injuries don’t slow him down any. With three category four climbs, and a finishing category three climb, it’s pretty certain Cav will only get to wear yellow for day … unless he pulls something truly magical out of himself. If the stage follows the usual script for the first week, it’ll be filled with more crashes, and the finish will have LOTS of nervous riders fighting for position at the bottom of the climb … so a surprise winner is not out of the question.

We shall see …

Tim

PS- buy a kit!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 3, 2016 2:06 AM

    Tim, those POC Mushroom Helmets are the most obnoxious dome protectors since those silly leather strap dealing. Reminded me of Super Mario Bros. from my childhood. One word for those helmets: Atrocious.

    Whoever picked those for the team needs to be fired immediately, and banished to ride in Greenland for the rest of his life.

    Like

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