The Tour de France caravans and peloton moved into Switzerland on Monday. Team Sky was challenged but they held fast and protected Chris Froome who retained the yellow jersey for another day. Peter Sagan, Tinkoff, maintained his lead in the points for top sprinter. Mark Cavendish, Dimension Data, has more stage wins this tour with four under his belt, but Sagan has more points accrued.
Sagan won Monday's stage by a hair. It was another photo finish. Sagan and Alexander Kristoff, Katusha, duked it out for the top spot. On the TV coverage it looked as if Kristoff misjudged the finish line and "threw" his bike a fraction of a second late.
The weather was hot on Monday. It melted the tar on the roads in places adding to the difficulty of the route.
Today's peloton ended in the Swiss city of Berne. It was particularly welcoming for Fabian Cancellera, Trek, who makes his home about 5 km from the city. He has already announced that this is his last year as a professional rider. He is 35 years old this year and plans to retire after this year's biking season.
Those who are asking where Bradley Wiggins is this year will be pleased to see him when the Rio Olympics are on next month.
Stage 16 Standings
Alberto Contador, Tinkoff, was forced to bow out of the Tour de France this morning. A combination of injuries and a fever forced the move. Three other riders also withdrew due to injuries and/or sickness -- Cedric Pineau FDJ, Matthueu Ladagnous FDJ and Mark Renshaw, DD. Renshaw will be missed by Mark Cavendish as he is Mark's lead out man in the sprint finishes.
Chris Froome, Sky, retains the yellow jersey as overall race leader. Many of the fans were expecting a challenge by Nairo Quintana, Movistar, on the final climb to the finish but it didn't come. The TV commentator remarked that Quintana made a very good limpet as the Sky team couldn't seem to drop him no matter how fast they set the pace. For awhile it looked as if Richie Porte, BMC, would challenge Froome for yellow, but he had to be content with his two minutes plus deficit. A flat just outside the three kilometre safe zone cost him in stage two and he has been trying to make it up since.
The fans have been well behaved for the most part, but one overenthusiastic man in a lime green onesy, yes really, nearly caused a crash when he crossed the road in front of a rider. Another fan standing on the pavement at a blind corner was knocked to the ground as a rider collided with him. Fortunately the rider was able to stay on his bike and continue.
Mother Nature played a part in the finish of the brutal stage. The beginning was hot, around 36 degrees but on the final climb the temperature had dropped to hover around 10. Large ice balls pounded spectators and riders alike. The roads and streets were awash.
Standings Stage 9
Stage 10 will see the peloton start to the Garonne region of France. It begins with a category one climb and has only a three climb during the day. Looking at the profile, it looks as if the sprinters will have a chance to show their stuff.
Chris Froome, Sky, grabbed first place and the yellow jersey in a daring down hill move that left the other riders as also rans. As the riders topped the last peak of the day Froome made a break from Nairo Quintana, Movistar, who had been dogging his movements all day. Once he was off the front, he increased his gap by riding in a dangerous and unconventional but very effective way to descend the tricky run in to the finish. At times Froome reached speeds of 50 mph(80 kph).
Today's stage was a brutal one of two category ones, a four and an HC. The weather was hot. In fact the heat was the main factor in a late day crash that saw Pierre Roland's chances of a podium finish today dashed. The glue in his wheel melted and the tire came apart.
Three riders came off the front early but were caught up in the ascent of the last peak of the day.
The peloton is down to 197 competitors today. Michael Morkov, Katusha, called it quits. He was quite badly injured in the early part of the race. Alberto Contador, Tinkoff, has admitted that he is having a tough time coping with his injuries sustained in the early days of the race as well. He has turned over the reins of team captain to Romain Kreuziger.
Stage 8 Standings
Stage 9 will be another punishing day. The route from Vielha Val d'Aran to the Principality of Andorra will have three category one climbs, a four and an HC.
The Tour de France got their first taste of the Pyrennes in this year's competition. The firs part of the stage was relatively flat with just one category 4 climb, but then the peloton was confronted with a cat. 1 up the Col d'Aspen.
There was a large, early breakaway that at one time had 29 riders in it, but it got gradually whittled down to an elite few.
Steve Cummings, DD, who was not picked for the British cycling team to go to Rio, showed the world his ability to read the race and take advantage of timing. He was off the front solo and came in well before second and third placed riders. Vincenzo Nibali, Astana, was expected to overtake all competitors on the steep slopes, but ended finishing off the podium. The TV commentators mused that Nibali's recent victory in the Giro d'Italia may have left him lacking his usual energy.
A new record was set at the start of today's stage. This is the first time on record that all 198 riders who started in Normandy are still with the peloton. Some are riding injured but still enduring.
Another first occurred today as well. This one was not so happy. A spectator is reported to have dislodged one of the pins securing the large, inflatable finish banner. Adam Yates, Orica, was trapped under it and suffered facial injuries needing four stitches. Others about to cross the finish line were also engulfed and delayed. The race jury gave them the same time based on their gap to Nibali's fourth place finish.
Stage 7 Standings:
Mark Cavendish, AKA the Manx Missle, is showing that he has lots of fuel left to win stages in the Tour de France. Cavendish riding for Dimension Data has 29 TDF stage wins. There had been speculation that at age 31 he no longer had the explosive acceleration needed for world class sprinters. He is showing those doubters how wrong they were. He has won three out of six stages in the world's toughest bike race so far.
The riders completed 1238.5 km by the end of Stage 6, as they rode in a bunch sprint into Montauban. While the day's stage was not as interesting to the spectators, the final ten kilometres was as exciting as bike racing gets. The road narrowed and the 198 athletes were forced to squeeze in or risk getting shut out. The Sky team rode at the front but didn't enter into the mad dash to the finish. They are protecting their team leader, Chris Froome.
Many might surmise that bicycle racing is not a contact sport, but if you watch the TV feed closely, you will be able to see numerous instances of shoulder and elbow contacts. Often crashes are caused by the machines contacting one another.
While some competitors like Alberto Contador, Tinkoff, continue to ride after a bad fall, others are evacuated to hospital immediately and are out of the race. The TV commentator put a fall at the speed that these men ride in perspective. He said to dress only in lycra and sneakers, then get in your car and speed up to 60 km, open the door and jump out. When you hit the pavement, you'll get a good idea what these athletes face.
Fortunately no crashes occurred today.
Tomorrow, Stage 7, the riders will pedal from L'Isle-Jourdain to La Payolle, a distance of 162.5 km. This is the start of the Pyrenees Mountains. They will have only two categoried climbs, but the second on is a Cat. 1, nearly at the end of the Stage.
Stage 6 Standings
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