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2016 Tour deFrance; Stage 10- How Many Orica Riders Does it Take to Beat Peter Sagan?

July 12, 2016

Thanks to a field of tired, bored, and waiting-for-Thursday GC riders, along with the well-played help of teammates, Michael Matthews (Orica-Bike Exchange) scored his first Tour de France stage win … and likely not his last. Matthews has previously scored stage wins in both the Vuelta and Giro, proving that he can survive some pretty significant climbs to get his victories. The boy they call Bling is a handy sprinter in the bunch, though not a pure high-speed-only guy. In the past, he’s taken some great uphill sprint finishes, like at the Giro, and shown considerable tactical “sagesse.” Today, that brain power came in as handy as the leg power … and power in numbers.

A large break got away over the top of the large opening climb of the category 1 Port d’Envalira, opening a sizable gap, while containing no legitimate threats to the GC riders. With Thursday’s assault on the mountaintop finish of Ventoux in the minds of the GC riders, and tomorrow’s mass gallop into Carcassonne, the break was allowed a lot of rope. Sagan was the day’s main protagonist, proving his class as World Champion. Never one to simply sit in a break without working, or to even get into a break without potential, Sagz was spurring things on all day. Eventually, Peter McStripeypants decided to light the afterburners, whittling the group down to a more manageable and committed size.

The final break group was packed tight with talent, each of the riders capable of snagging the win solo; Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), Greg van Avermaet (BMC), Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R), Sagan (Stinkoff), and the Three Amigos from Orica-Bike Exchange (Durbridge, Impey, Matthews). If anything, the break should have been driven by the mathematically superior Orica mates, but it was still largely Sagan doing the work. Orica marked each move Sagan made in the final 20km, making a few attacks to draw him out further as things slowed. But it was clearly the objective to attempt to wear down Sagan, rather than take him on head to head with fresh legs. As the line drew near, all eyes were on Sagan and Orica. Everybody knew- especially Sagan- that the stage was Orica’s to lose … and if they had, it wouldn’t have been a startlingly embarrassing Etixx-ish screw up.

Durbridge buried himself working for Matthews as they headed up the final, and deceptively owie, Côte de Saint-Ferréol. After Luke Not-Skywalker went “POOF”, it was Impey’s turn … and his turn again … to work for Matthews, who was on Sagan’s wheel tighter than a gnat’s ass (which has been scientifically proven to be very tight). Dumoulin, GvA, and Edvald surely must’ve enjoyed watching the show. As they entered the last few hundred meters, Sagan managed to get Impey into the leadout position. Matthews was turning blue from breathless anticipation, when GvA began the sprint early- hoping to catch the cat-and-mousers eyeballing each other. It didn’t work for the big Belgian and he faded fast, with the teeny-tiny-micro-missile Dumoulin surfing the wheels and looking for an opening. Matthews got into the open, Sagan seemed to get boxed a bit, and Boasson Hagen smashed the pedals with all his strength. Bling held on to get his first-ever Tour win, while Sagan managed to nearly catch him, and EBH grabbed a smart third.

About 3hrs later, the peloton of GC teams sashayed across the finish line, spread out from gutter to gutter, eating baguettes and jam, while sipping tea and discussing their recent stock investments … and their new bank accounts in the Andorran tax haven they just left behind.

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Tomorrow will certainly be a day for the pure knuckle draggers like Cavendish, Greipel, Kittel, et al. The guys like Greipel, Kristoff, and potentially Coquard, who have not yet scored a win, will be looking to redeem themselves before the wheels fall off completely on Thursday’s climb of the Ventoux. Expect the GC guys to eyeball each other- again- and allow the sprinter’s teams to worry about bringing back the inevitable breakaway. It’s unlikely a break will succeed, as the sprinters will be far too hungry for another chance to strut their stuff … and score themselves favor with their teams. As far as the GC race goes, tomorrow is cruise control, and Thursday will be a bloodbath.

Tim

PS- you look really pretty in blue.

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