After yesterday’s crash-marred Stage 5, the peloton is left with a long injury list, including GC contender non-starter Janny Brajkovic, and injuries afflicting stars including Tom Boonen, Alberto Contador, Robert Gesink, Sylvain Chavanel, et al. Were the crashes avoidable? What should be done? Fingers are pointed at each other, but ultimately race director Jean Francois Pescheux decided to blame the “movement in the peloton“. Today’s stage did not bring the deserved relief - poor weather with strong winds, showers through the stage and rain in the finishing town. Topping that off with the traffic furniture and narrow roads of the final k’s, there are likely to be more complaints from the peloton.
Today is when the truer extent of injuries are revealed. Gesink’s injury may be worse than it appeared yesterday, as he changed his bike 3 times in as many kilometers it seemed. On the other hand, Sylvain Chavanel’s dislocated shoulder didn’t stop him from attempting a counter-attack. Could this be a day for a breakaway to succeed as the injured nurse their wounds in the peloton? Vacansoleil certainly thought so, placing strong puncheurs Lieuwe Westra and Johnny Hoogerland – along with Adriano Malori of Lampre-ISD and a few other – into a breakaway. This adventure paid off, netting Hoogerland the Polka-dot jersey today.
Team Saxo-Bank showed off their real-time inventory management skills by having Daniel Navarro swap bikes with Alberto Contador when the latter’s bike had issues, only to give Navarro the spare bike of Contador to pedal up to the pack and switch again. Talk about dedication to getting the right bike to the right leader!
Realizing that sprint points are few and far between, teams with Green Jersey ambitions seem to have done their algebra and decided to go full-on for every possible scrap of points on offer. It is not clear if this will translate to them chasing down breakaways, but the desire is there. Team HTC drove the peloton to catch the remnants of the breakaway; they also showed the depth of their sprinting options by dropping both Mark Cavendish and Mark Renshaw, setting up Matty Goss for the climbing finale. This year’s parcours may mean that a strong puncheur like Philippe Gilbert may have a good shot at Green Glory, having netted a stage win and good positions in intermediate and final sprints. Indeed, OmegaPharma-Lotto drove in the finale, which looks like a semi-classics race than a traditional stage race.
The picture for Radio Shack has become clearer as Leipheimer lost a minute on the GC today thanks to what seems like a careless crash just outside the final 3k. The fireworks in the finale came as expected with the usual suspects animating it: Thomas Voeckler, Alexandre Vinokourov, and a spent Malori.
What did you think of today’s stage?