Stage 11 and can you believe it we’re already half way through the Tour? How time flies. Another flat stage from Eymet to Pau at the foot of the Pyrenees - one, as they say in the classics, for the sprinters.
From the moment the flag was pulled into the red car Marco Marcato, Maciej Bodnar and cow-milker extraordinaire Frederik Backaert formed a breakaway. Getting into the breakaway is by now a familiar pattern for Wanty-Groupe Gobert rider Backaert – you could say he Wanty the TV time..?
Not much happened out on the flat through the fields of tournesol and corn until a crash in the feed zone near the 'Chapel of the Cyclists' at Labastide-d'Armagnac . Clearly the cycling Godz were away on a group ride with no offer of protection in the hazardous feed zone. Dario Cataldo was left with a broken scaphoid and a scare for GC contender Jakob Fuglsang who was nursing a sore wrist.
The field art followed the familiar themes of bicycles with animated wheels and clocks and OMG, A TRACTOR HOURGLASS!!! Like tractors through the hourglass...10/10 for originality!
As the race progressed the ‘cross tail’ winds, according to Matt and Robbie, were picking up slightly. I’m not sure of the significance of a cross tail wind which I interpret to mean ‘not too annoying but not all that helpful’.
Conversation turned to Nacer Bouhanni’s swing at Jack Bauer on the run into Bergerac the day before. Matt and Robbie were slightly incredulous at the punishment levelled at Bouhanni which was a one minute time penalty and a fine of 200 Swiss Francs, which according to Mattie is about the price of a sandwich at a Swiss airport.
Like...how does the saying go again?
At 30km to go Maciej Bodnar flicked the switch into time trial beast mode and soloed away. To the hum of carbon the power-house Pole was powering to Pau. Bodnar looked like he was dreamin’ but he dared to dream and who dares sometimes wins despite the odds of a rampaging peloton against him.
Meanwhile Alberto Contador’s nightmare continued with the two time Tour winner crashing with team mate Michael Gogl. Bertie just can't take a trick this Tour and it’s kind of sad to see a champion fade away.
Bodnar continued to power on to the Pau and Mattie thought he was, "spending all his petrol tickets". Petrol tickets??? And another Keenanism is born.
Robbie declared, "Bodnar is not normal" and at the front of the peloton a group of elite time trialists was chasing a time trialist and this year’s field art theme is starting to make more sense.
As the peloton headed to Pau the sprint teams were getting organised at the front but they still had to catch Bodnar. Yesterday’s winner and leader in the points competition Marcel Kittel had, according to Mattie,”been flying in economy and has moved to first class just before the cockpit". Don’t know about you about but I’ve never been able to swing an upgrade like that.
But Kittel showed he’s all class as Bodnar was denied a 200km time trial victory in the final 300 metres and the man in green sprinted to his fifth Tour win.
In the post race interview Kittel revealed the secret to his sprinting prowess, which is not about power and speed but being good at Tetris by getting the right gaps.
Chris Froome arrived safely in Pau, Kittel is in the form of his life and at the halfway mark this Tour is starting to look – predictable.