Blazin' Saddles - Tour de Farce: Curb your enthusiasm

Blazin' Saddles - Tour de Farce: Curb your enthusiasm

02/07/2016 at 17:33Updated 02/07/2016 at 19:35

After a fairly sedate start to the 103rd edition of the Tour de France it took a combination of crosswinds, Cavendish and a curb to spice things up in Normandy.

Just how Alberto Contador is still in this year’s Tour is anyone’s guess. If any of us mere mortals had collided with road furniture at such a velocity we’d be off sport for months – and not merely off our bike for a few seconds.

Such a raw and battered shoulder would have kept most footballers out for a season. Heck, Real Madrid’s Pepe would have to retire and move into a home.

Until Contador’s crash, things had kept to the script in the 188km opening stage – with a five man group battling for the polka dot points over two early climbs, and then some blustery winds catching out Thomas Voeckler and a bunch of other tail-enders, including three team-mates of the man who would eventually go on and win.

Of course, that was Dimension Data’s social media manager’s entirely diplomatic way of explaining that Bernie Eisel, Stevo Cummings and Danny Teklehaimanot had been dropped in the crosswinds at Pirou-Plages.

It didn’t matter. Subsequent events would soon conspire to bring the race back together – albeit in a rather painful way for that man Contador, who appeared to collide with BMC’s Brent Bookwalter before ploughing into the curb at high speed.

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... was suddenly roused into a bit of a frenzy.

Mirroring the plummeting of the pound as the early EU Referendum votes came in, the odds of Contador winning a third (or is that fourth?) Tour suddenly plummeted – inversely proportional to his odds of winning the polka dot jersey consolation competition.

The Spaniard was saved by Team Sky’s Welsh duo Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe being brought down to earth from their national football team’s run in Euro 2016 by also hitting the deck. The pace subsequently slowed, and Contador was able to return to the fold fairly quickly – although not before carrying out a shoe change which saw veteran Italian Matteo Tossatto chomp at the bit and take one for the team…

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Once safely back with his GC rivals, Contador was able to drop back and receive some medical attention from the race doctor, whose curly bouffant quickly set tongues wagging.

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The names of singer Leo Sayer, accordionist Yvette Horner and Willy Wonka actor Gene Wilder were also thrown into the ring of ribaldry. But what soon became remarkably clearer – on watching the grim collision from a different angle – is that Contador’s Tour would already have been over on any other day.

And to think that it all started in such serene circumstances, with the race’s curtain raiser getting underway in the shadow of Mont-Saint-Michel as France’s equivalent to the Red Arrows flew overhead.

Early drama came from the world champion Peter Sagan, who thankfully made sure that the crosswinds didn’t come too early for his spirited mechanic.

Cannondale-Drapac got all excited when early images had shown their man Alex Howes blasting off the front of the peloton…

Sadly, we did see – and it wasn’t your man Howes! The American was actually bounding off in pursuit of three earlier escapees, who had edged ahead under the instigation of Australian Leigh Howard – who was only drafted in to make his Tour debut for IAM Cycling three days previously.

It was the Bora-Argon 18 duo of Paul Voss and Jan Barta who played their cards well to ensure their team – though Voss – took the first polka dot jersey of the race.

Cue Dutch superstar Marianne Vos being caught out hook, line and sinker on social media…

And that was the excitement… until the crosswinds, curb and Cavendish came into play.

For a while, Howes and Delaplace kept the romantics dreaming en route to the site of the D-Day landings of World War II.

And instead of an incongruous German victory on Utah Beach, the victory went to British bulldog Cavendish – who managed to beat his old foe Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel, the man over whom he had previously never got the better of in head-to-head sprints.

At the end of a turbulent period in which British voters from Wales and the provinces voted to leave Europe and English footballers were sent crashing out of Europe by Icelandic minnows, it was left to Cavendish to show that he was able to remain at the forefront of European cycling.

But while there were smiles for Cavendish on the podium...

... Contador was left to rue a split-second event which could curb his enthusiasm for the remainder of the race.