Stage 5 proved to be the circus which it promised when the route was revealed last year; cartoon crashes, farcical conditions and the downfall of a GC contender before the week was over.
Most expected the Napoleonic minefield of giant’s teeth, which form the cobbled sectors of Paris-Roubaix, to be the undoing of a contender; this was almost right. Froome was not a victim of the cobbles per sé, but rather the positioning frenzy which swept through the peloton as they approached the first sector of the day. This was nothing unusual as any classics viewer knows, being at the front in order to pick the safest lines and keep away from trouble is an obvious tactic when it comes to these brutal races. Regardless of how au fait the teams were with this notion, only four men had ever ridden this terrain in similar conditions before ( 2002’s Paris-Roubaix); Matthew Hayman, Samuel Dumoulin, Thomas Voeckler and Jens Voigt (the first two being present in today’s early break). With Froome already nursing what I suspect was a much greater injury than previously thought, it seemed almost inventible that the anxiety of trying not to accept another invitation to meet the deck would surely only lead to just that. Sliding out early on, Froome bounced up yet again and displayed his usual polite grit; but this would not be enough to negate the reality of the next incident. Returning to his feet the second time, Froome struck the iconic pose of an injured rider, arm held close to the chest in an attempt to nurse it as best as possible. Whether compounding the previous day’s wrist injury or adding to his quickly expanding collection of wounds, Froome escaped the ignominy of having his numbers stripped when taking the seemingly inevitable ride in the team car. “Rider 1, Christopher Froome, has abandoned.”
Has such an aggressive stage left viewers bereft of the mountain-top duels ASO promised between Froome and Contador?
Nibali’s Dreamy Performance:
– “Roubaix is the race of my dreams. It fascinates me, maybe because I like mountain biking. I’d like to do & win it one day.”
Vincenzo Nibali displayed a level of tranquility when surfing the cobbles which classic specialists dream of executing on a day like today. Whether this apparent ease truly came so simply to the diminutive Italian champion is another question altogether, but gaslighting is all part of the toolbox required to win a Tour. Guarded by a selfless team which consistently drove him into the safest places, positioning him correctly to counter or attack; the day’s showing certainly suggested his Roubaix dream could come true if he so wished. Pure class.
Where will Contador recoup his heavy shipping of time in the coming weeks?
Boomtime for Lars:
Having written this much so far and not even mentioned the stage winner demonstrates how severely overshadowed Lars Boom’s performance was by the cavalcade of incidents Stage 5 brought. Keeping his position in the front group despite his team-mate, and possible favourite, Sep Vanmarcke puncturing while beside him, Lars followed Astana’s lead and attacked solo late on to take this mini-classic. Boom had not been able to contest Paris-Roubaix this year due to injury, a monument which he has displayed ever-increasing form in over the last four years, one which could be his very soon should he ride like this again. Given the atrocious conditions the riders found themselves fighting against all day, Boom’s strong background in cyclo-cross may have added an extra touch of class which pushed him over the line as first man home.