Shortly after a hectic stage 9 at the Tour de France, race director Christian Prudhomme was available for the media in Chambéry to evaluate the first part of the race. As it turns out, Prudhomme is delighted about the eventful first nine stages.
In what sounded like a state of the union, Prudhomme didn't find much to complain about. "An enormous amount of things happened," he said. "We also had all sorts of weather, with the rain in Düsseldorf and three days with a heat wave. There were three days when we need a photo finish. We had everything. There's a GC where everything is still possible. There's the panache of Romain Bardet, the attack of Fabio Aru when Christopher Froome lifts his arm... There's still two weeks of racing coming up."
Prudhomme expected that the tough first part of the race would take its toll on the riders.
"It was a dense first week. It was challenging and it allows for more surprises in the following weeks. One has to be strong, intelligent, and have a strong team ... Timing and tactics come into play as well, since there's a lot of riders on the same level. Chris Froome, the maillot jaune, remains the top favourite for the Tour de France, without a doubt."
Prudhomme liked to compare the eventful first part of the Tour de France with ASO's previous stage race, the Critérium du Dauphiné. "There's still the Massif Central, the Pyrenees and the Alps coming up and a chrono in Marseille," he said. "There's riders like Porte who have been eliminated yet everything is still possible. There are several riders of the same level, like in the Dauphiné. As you know, that wasn't decided until the final stage. We'll see in two weeks' time, but if it unfolds in the same way that would be good."
The crashes that marred stage 9 from Nantua to Chambéry were regrettable, although Prudhomme pointed out that it's up to riders to decide how many risks they take.
"The descents are part of the course. There's a lot of riders who crashed today. There were some hard crashes. You've got to know that we're not happy to see riders crash. The descents are part of the course, just like the climbs. The most important thing is that the injuries of the inflicted riders like Porte are reassuring. Florence Pommerie, the Tour doctor of the Tour de France, said that he received a big knock on his head but the brain scan looked okay," Prudhomme said.
The French race organiser also highlighted the performance of the French riders on stage 9.
"We had Romain Bardet who rode with panache, we had Warren Barguil who thought he'd won but didn't win," Prudhomme said. "We knew this stage would rule some riders out for the general classification but we didn't expect it to be this violent, especially for Richie Porte. There's still guys in contention and there's still two weeks to go, on terrain that should suit attackers."