Evaluating the first three Tour stages
I'm sure a bus stuck on the finish line wasn't the auspicious beginning that ASO had in mind for their Centenary Tour. As the CEO of Omega Pharma so eloquently summed up events, it all turned into a bit of a bordel. For those who don't understand colloquial French a bordel is a rather dirty unkempt establishment where one can pay to be entertained by ladies of disrepute. I'm sure other tastes are also catered for but it isn't meant as a term of endearment.
I suspect his vocal criticism of the closing kilometres was somewhat skewed by the amount of skin his riders had lost, and Mark Cavendish not winning but he wasn't that far from the truth. Why there wasn't a temporary neutralisation until the bus/ finish line gantry interaction was sorted out we'll never know but the commissaires certainly weren't as slow in deciding to fine the Aussie team for taking most of the day's publicity.
Kittel and Argos Shimano didn't seem to mind the chaos as they were lucky to be out of the mega crash at the 2 or was it 5 km point, lets just call it near the end and thus we had our first yellow jersey after a rather hectic sprint. It wasn't an elegant start.
Day two to Bastia and the proper cooking begins with mountains on the menu and as most of the sprinter teams are in shreds it leaves a bad taste in many mouths. Continuing with the food themed metaphors out in the hot Corsican sun the large German maillot jaune gets a proper roasting, ending up in a group of bruised tomatoes, broken celery and wrinkled salad leaves over a quarter of an hour behind.
Meanwhile up front, things get spicy just as the locals could be considering an extended lunch.The Sky team takes over on the front of the peloton as they hit the day's final slopes through the town and though it's only a short sharp hors d'oeuvre to digest they decided it's British style fish and chips that will be served up before any sweaty baguettes or paninis are put forward. Vasil Kiryienka lays the plates and places the cutlery, little Richie Porte shakes out the crusty chips and sprinkles the salt, then big fish Froome gives one squeeze on the sauce bottle and he's off. They've all been warned, this is how Sky like it.
However some people have no respect, smelling frites are involved the Belgians have the last laugh with Jan Bakelands getting the mayonnaise out and coating everything in sight. Smakelijk.
Stage three and the last day in Corsica before everyone piles on the boat back to the mainland. Radioshack are in charge which is not a bad deal for them as there's some kind of order now and Andy Schleck will have to pay attention near the front. No falling asleep is allowed when you have the race lead, teammate Jens Voigt sees to that and to everyone else's ambitions. The Master of Pain puts the hurt on the peloton over the kind of terrain where twentieth position is as far back as you want to be and last man is pure agony. Big surprise of the day is how frisky the Orica Greenedge riders are, they must have had sore ears from the management after the fiasco of the opening day because they put someone in every move and Simon Clarke ends up challenging for the mountain classification. Hopefully he'll take that jersey off Pierre Rolland soon, the latter's all Polka dot kit is a chicken pox inspired mess.
With Simon Gerrans out sprinting Sagan for the win the Aussies certainly leave the island in a much better way than they started.
Not everyone is in that comfortable position heading into the lead deciding team time trial.
- Robert Millar
Robert Millar was one of the last pure climbers of the Tour de France, winning several stages in the mountain stages and finishing fourth overall in 1984. He is also the only English speaker to have ever won the prestigious polka-dot jersey climber's competition jersey. Millar retired in 1995 but has continued to follow the sport closely. He was often critical of the media and quickly cuts through the excuses and spin to understand why and how riders win and lose.
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