What an opening week to this this topsy turvy Tour, and what a remarkable stage on Sunday to allow us to catch our rest day breath before action resumes.
If the derring-do of young Marc Hirschi left him - and many of us too - broken hearted, then at least two of our pundits can take solace in picking Tadej Pogačar to take the stage after that insanely entertaining descent into Laruns. A tip of the casquette to Nick and Miles.
Top tipster Cycling Mole takes on the combined might of the Rouleur panel in a battle for bragging rights. Scores on the doors for the first nine stages:
St 2 Julian Alaphilippe (Andy and Mole)
St 3 Caleb Ewan (Ian and Mole)
St 6 Alexey Lutsenko (Mole)
St 9 Tadej Pogačar (Nick and Miles)
Now we are back on the flat for a few days, but with a predominantly coastal course for stage 10, could we see more of the crosswind chaos wreaked so perfectly by Bora-Hangrohe on stage 7? Maybe, maybe not....
Stage 10: L'île d'Oléron - Saint-Martin-de-Ré (168.5km)
Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick Step) I very nearly went for Wout van Aert because, well, why not? He continues to exceed expectations. But this time, whether the wind wreaks havoc or not, Deceuninck - the well-drilled emperors of the echelon who went missing on the road to Lavaur - will be wise to it, lest they get another rollicking from Mr. Lefevere. Looking to break his Tour duck, Bennett will be especially motivated.
Cycling Mole says...
I’m just about over the disappointment of Hirschi not winning stage 9. Okay, he wasn’t my pick, I was on Alaphilippe, but his ride was insane. Without doubt, the best effort I’ve seen for many years. To make matters worse, Nick and Miles both picked Pogačar, what a disaster!
Stage 10 and a route designed for echelons. It’s a pity the request didn’t quite make it to the weather Gods, it looks like the wind won’t be much of an issue. Saying that, the roads are so exposed, it won’t take much to cause a split. The final 20km all takes place on narrow roads; I hope I’m wrong, but I see a lot of crashes.
Thomas 'don't pick me' de Gendt
Looking at the picks, I’ll again start with the shockers. Ian takes the biscuit, with Thomas De Gendt. He should know better, as the mighty De Gendt agreed with my tweet about not picking him when the stage ends in a sprint. Pay attention Ian. Next up is Ben picking Sagan. He’s not sure if it’s brave or stupid, but I’ll help him out. Ben, you are being stupid. Miles goes with Wout, but will he sprint? After already taking two wins, we’ll have to see if he’s happy to take the necessary risks in the closing kilometres. Nick and Andy are in agreement, they’ll be cheering on Sammy B. Even though he’s only got four team-mates left, I’m shocked and stunned that no one picked the fastest rider in the race, Caleb Ewan.
What about me? The narrow finish is perfect for a team with experience and a brilliant final man. Time for Sam Bennett to win his first Tour de France stage.