Phil Liggett, at the culmination of Stage 6, said that there were “no changes” in the GC standings and that the “men who mattered” were “up there.” Sure, Cancellara – the yellow jersey – was joined by a handful of GC contenders who stayed safe from a gutter-to-gutter crash that split the field with 24k to go and caught many GC riders behind it today. The biggest names who didn’t lose time were Evans, Wiggins, and Menchov – who, it must be said, needs to be considered a serious GC podium threat.
But a look at the General Classification shows a number of riders who can no longer be considered GC hopefuls due to having lost major time in today’s crash.
Below is the Virtual Classification – the classification of GC-hopefuls, with Cancellara left in out of deference to the Yellow Jersey, and their current overall placing on the left column:
|1||Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan||29:22:36|
|2||Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling||0:00:07|
|5||Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team||0:00:13|
|6||Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team||0:00:17|
|7||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||0:00:18|
|17||Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team||0:00:28|
|18||Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||0:00:29|
|20||Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi||0:00:40|
|21||Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team||0:00:42|
|22||Levi Leipheimer (USA) Omega Pharma-QuickStep||0:00:45|
|31||Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team||0:02:27|
|34||Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team||0:02:40|
|36||Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre – ISD||0:02:42|
|37||Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan||0:02:43|
|40||Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar||0:02:50|
|51||Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||0:04:13|
|108||Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin – Sharp||0:13:38|
The shake-up of Stage 6′s crash balances the equation between climbers and GC hopefuls. Many of the riders who lost major time – Schleck, Scarponi, and others – are riders who would have needed to attack Wiggins, Menchov, and Evans in the mountains in order to gain time. With those riders dangling 2+ minutes behind the leaders, the likelihood that they can be considered serious GC threats lowers, considerably.
What happens when a rider’s GC ambitions are squashed? They salvage their Tour by taking rips at stage wins. We might see two distinct groups forming on the road – climbers who were former GC hopefuls, lighting up the road looking for stage wins, and the genuine GC contenders watching each other. Evans and Wiggins, in particular, are quite savvy. They are not likely to waste energy chasing, say, Frank Schleck, when they know they’ll make up time on him in a time trial. With three individual time trials and only three summit finishes, the Tour’s moderate parcours already raised the question of whether or not climbing specialists could truly challenge the all-arounders like Wiggins, Menchov, and Evans. This crash furthered the divide – possibly, enough to give riders some room to make for some very exciting stages.
Follow mattio on Twitter @_mattio.