Paris-Nice – Stage 1 – Bois-d’Arcy to Bois-d’Arcy
Paris-Nice coverage picked up almost where Strade Bianche left off the day before, with a rider shouting at a man on a motorbike.
Yesterday it was Michal Kwiatkowski, who had to point out, with the urgency of a man about to crash, that the moto-rider was about to cut him off as he took a crucial left-hander.
Flash forward to today and there was a BMC rider (Amaël Moinard?) making it quite clear to the two motorbikes capturing all the misery, that they should in no uncertain terms, f*** off.
Curiously English is the preferred language of the expletive, whether by Pole Kwiatkowski or Moinard (?), to who are presumably French moto-riders. Which might be why the point never really gets through.
Great pictures though, which allowed the rest of us to watch one of those courageous kinds of stages, blown open by an “orange alert” cross wind that divided the peloton in two. It would be a thrilling day for the Schadenfreude-cam.
The struggle was obvious. As well as sticky bottles helping along tired riders, there were sticky arm warmers, sticky rain capes, and sticky gloves. It was an ugly day that some might have preferred had played out behind closed doors.
Like Delko Marseille Provence’s Gatis Smukulis for instance.
Smukulis, the Latvian champion, had caught the first echelon, but then spent the day keeping up with it, leaving him no time or energy to remove his leg warmers. He’d got as far as rolling them down to below knee level for a brave “St Trinians” look, but no further.
Schadenfreude-cam was there to capture his eventual demise as he slipped off the group. He waved off the camera (this never works), trying to muster what dignity a man with his knees in the wind, could realistically manage.
Meanwhile others were watching their general classification hopes disappear up the road.
Alberto Contador and Richie Porte had been caught out when the peloton split, so too Simon Yates (whose brother Adam was having a better day in Italy). Then there was Romain Bardet, who had come ready to do battle, but who would leave bruised, and beaten up.
First he missed the split, and then he crashed with 40km to race. With grazed skin, cut knees and no (possibly sticky) gloves, he worked hard to regain his place the second group, and looked like he’d restored some hope after scrambling across the finish line. It was only then he heard the news that he’d been disqualified by the race jury who know a thing or two timing and when to deliver bad news.
Not that place in the front group was any guarantee of security, as one rider after another discovered.
Frenchman Bryan Coquard of Direct Energie was dropped with just 4.5 km to go. Then Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel of Direct Energie was dropped with just 4.4km to go. It wasn’t just the Frenchmen crumbling.
Mad Jack Bauer followed, then the sprinters Marcel Kittel and André Greipel, which ultimately gifted the stage to French sprinter Arnaud De Démare, who with suitable panache confessed he’d enjoyed himself.
A tough day in the saddle, which we got to see in all its vivid detail, thanks to those f***ing motorbike cameras. Yeah, they need to get out of the way sometimes, but roll on Stage 2.
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