WORDS: Nick Christian | PHOTOS: ASO/Pauline Ballet/CorVos/Thomas Maheux/Alex Whitehead/Swpix.com⠀
There we were, all ready to file our Stage 5 “analysis” when word reached us of Julian Alaphilippe’s costly indiscretion. Were we supposed to come up with a whole new one? What kind of journalists do you think we are?
If we must say something about it, all we have for you is this: if the Deceuninck Quick Step star hadn’t lost the jersey in the commissaire’s cabin, he would have given it up on the road; if not yesterday, then today. If not today then the next hilltop or mountain stage. We admire him as much as anyone but Julian Alaphilippe - and we cannot stress this strongly enough - was never going to win the Tour this year.
And now to return to our original, scheduled hot take...
For a full four hours yesterday social media was abuzz with waggish pundits eager to tell everyone how boring they were finding the day’s stage. One might submit that they can count themselves lucky (or check their privilege) to be able to spend an entire weekday afternoon in September watching a bunch of blokes on bikes schlep through picturesque Provence. Some people actually work for a living. Of course, we are not “some people,” ourselves, but then we were not among those whinging...
Our second submission of the day is that to complain about such transition stages is to challenge the very essence of the Tour de France. As was pointed out in our pages a few years ago, the point of the Tour is that it’s a three week long advert for the country with a bit of bike racing thrown in. Those sweeping helicopter shots of solar farms aren’t filling time between intermediate sprints, the sprints themselves are the interlude. I know, right? Mind = blown.
Thirdly - and finally - you’ll be relieved to hear, some seemed to be under the impression that it was the absence of a breakaway that was why there was no racing excitement. As if punting Pierre-Luc Périchon, Maxime Chevalier and Kévin Ledanois up the road would have transformed the stage from a Terrence Malick snoozefest into a Christopher Nolan epic. Spoiler: it would not.
While probably not unheard of, that no breakaway formed at all today is extremely rare. Typically the riders given that doomed-to-fail function belong to, erm... how to put this politely… the no-hopers. [Probably could have been a bit more polite than that - Ed.] Which is to say the teams that know they have nothing else to play for, no other way to get their sponsors’ logos on TV.
What today tells us is that there are none at this year’s Tour who feel that way. Not at the moment at least. All three of the aforementioned are riding for outfits which have genuine goals that all have a realistic chance of accomplishing. There are no truly small teams at this year’s tour. No no-hopers. Isn’t that excitement enough?