Stage 16 – Ruben Plaza also beats Sagan
It was not a big surprise that a break got away, and then toward the end, one rider got away. There had been much speculation as to who would be in the break. I guessed Uran and was wrong. I might have guessed Gallopin, but he seemed to be a bit off colour today. But I doubt if anyone really figured that Ruben Plaza, the Lampre rider from Spain was going to be the one rider who managed both the original break and the break from the break for victory. It will make his career. I never quite know how to take the victory of a journeyman cyclist, with doping connections that never amounted to much. I guess if I were Spanish I might be easier with this, but I am not. I suppose luck plays a crucial part, and I should simply accept it.
Sagan made it into the break, wining the intermediate sprint with no other green jersey copetitor in sight. He was utterly determined to win his stage. However, nobody wanted to work with him to escape the break, since they would just get whupped at the finish. No one would really let him get away easily, since they all wanted to keep in touch with the win. So his only strategy was to get to the top of the last climb with the climbers, and then make a wildly risky and ultra quick descent. He is one heck of a bike handler. But he did not have enough time to catch Plaza, and so took his sixteenth Tour de France second place, and his fifth of this year. Since he won the intermediate sprint as well as second on the stage, it is now impossible to lose the green jersey, if he finishes the race. I am sure he will be involved heavily in the final sprint on the Champs, but he might do some of the intermediate sprints during the stages in the Alps. That contest is pretty much over. Not quite mathematically though. It is not really over until the race ends.
The French are slowly working their way back, trying to save their Tour. They are now in 10th, 11th, 12th,15th, 19th, and 20th. Pretty good compared to many of the recent years. Although I should add that 10th is 11 minutes off the pace and 20th is 36 minutes back. Each of those riders have four stages to make a big move, and gain enough time to enter the top ten. It won’t be like last year, but it will still be moderately respectable. I look for at least one of the French climbers to make a big move in the next days. In fact, today, Barguil made a rather young, inexperienced and memorable move on a rather sharp curve. In fact, it was a move that might have altered the Tour. He obviously didn’t know about the curve, and tried to go past riders on the inside, but it was so sharp a curve, he just rode right into Geraint Thomas, and pushed him off the road into a telephone pole and over a little slope. It looked horrible, his head actually hit the pole. But Geraint only lost a handful of seconds and is still in sixth place. He got up, and rode to the end without any obvious problems.
One thing we can expect is that some rider will make a big break in an attempt to gain enough points to win the mountains jersey. They will have to be good, since Froome could carry it all the way to Paris simply by riding fast up the remaining climbs that end a stage. Personally I hope there will be a bit of a battle lasting all four days. But I already said that.
That crash and Sagan’s break neck descent to take second were the two main events of the day. The riders passed the curve where Beloki crashed andArmstrong rode across a field to avoid hitting him. In fact, they interviewed the guy who owns the land and who raises goats on that corner. Such a strange event, the Tour. Nothing much changed today. I think all the big teams were really happy to just ride along today, take a good rest day tomorrow, and then a few dozen of them will duke it out in the Alps. I can already feel the end of the Tour coming closer.