Tears of sorrow, tears of joy. If you were left unmoved by Sam Bennett's post-race interview after his maiden stage Tour de France stage win, then you have a heart of stone.
Tears were also shed by Nick, Andy and Cycling Mole (probably), who correctly predicted the likeable Irishman would cross the line first.
Scores on the doors so far:
St 2 Alaphilippe (Andy and Mole)
St 3 Ewan (Ian and Mole)
St 6 Alexey Lutsenko (Mole)
St 9 Pogacar (Nick and Miles)
St 10 Bennett (Nick, Andy, Mole)
Stage 11: Châtelaillon-Plage - Poitiers (167.5km)
Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick Step) In 2019, Caleb Ewan was the sprinter under pressure in a high profile Belgian team that demanded stage wins. His first victory on Stage 11 was a visible release and with the mental shackles removed, he dominated the remaining sprints. This year, the weight on Sam Bennett's shoulders has seemed even greater and after yesterday's win, I think it'll feel like a totally different race for him.
Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) With my fellow rouleurs picking all the 'likely options' I'm feeling inclined to go for the left field. Clearly basking in the glory of a successful pick yesterday and losing my head. So you remember that chap who belied the bookies and took yellow on the first stage? I'm thinking Kristoff might have it in him - having sat in the broom wagon for several days - to make it count on basically the final spring stage before the Champs-Élysées
Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) Heading inland should calm things down. I'm not Ben, and picking plucky underdogs is not my thing. Time for the other sprinter in this race (apart from Wout, obvs) to do his.
Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) Last sprint before Paris, possibly, and this whizz from Oz won't miss this tailor-made opportunity. Hardly a surprise, but it's difficult to see past him. PS Cycling Mole, I know your buddy Cees Bol is going strong, but I just don't think he has the pure speed to beat Ewan or Bennett at this year's Tour. But I would like to see a "third man" emerge in this summer's sprinting battle.
Elia Viviani (Cofidis) When it comes to pure speed, Ewan and Bennett have the rest licked and then some. Sagan is close-ish, but you get the feeling he’s not going to improve any over the three weeks. Viviani, on the other hand, can get better, and showed it on stage 10 with his third place behind the top twosome. Whether the freestyling role he is forced to play with Cofidis works out for him, we’ll see, but worth a punt.
Cycling Mole says...
Another day and another win, I was delighted to see Sam Bennett crossing the line first. I remember first interviewing him way back at the end of 2014, we’ve come a long way since! Stage 11 and another day for the sprinters, but this one features a tricky little finish. We have a little kicker, 600m at 4.2%, which crests with 2km to go. Not only that, but the final 300m rises at 3%. This finish will test a few of the sprinters out, especially at this point in the race.
Looking at the picks, it’s nice to see Ian and Miles are up to their usual. Ian has picked Viviani, that’s right, he’s actually at this race! The Italian has yet to win a race for Cofidis, and you’ve guessed it, if he wins this one I’ll buy everyone a drink. Miles is hoping that Kristoff can get back to winning ways, he’s not a hope in hell. Nick and Andy are both banking on a little Aussie popping up and taking the win, which isn’t a bad shout. The problem Caleb has is a lack of team-mates, he’s down to just four helpers, which makes life very difficult. Only Ben has gone with the obvious pick of Sam Bennett, which surprises me. Confidence is a valuable commodity, and he’ll have it in bucket loads.
I’m going to take a risk in this stage and not go for Bennett or Ewan. The uphill finish is wonderful news for a certain big Dutchman. It’s nice to see that Andy is aware of my big mate, but to say that he doesn’t have the speed to beat Bennett or Ewan is simply wrong. Cees Bol is the King of uphill sprints, cast your mind back to the Volta ao Algarve earlier this year, he’s a beast when the road kicks up. The little kicker inside 3km to go is also brilliant for Sunweb. They’ll dominate the closing stages, mainly thanks to another one of my buddies, and my mum’s favourite rider, Tiesj Benoot. Just you wait and see.