Apparently Nacer Bouhanni won another stage

I’ll be honest, I didn’t see this one, but it appears to have underlined the sprint pecking order. Marcel Kittel was fastest, but in his absence, Nacer Bouhanni is fastest.

To be honest, the sprint competition in this Giro’s a bit second-rate. Bouhanni’s up-and-coming rather than being a major name and one of his main rivals in the race, Luka Mezgec, is literally second-choice – he started as Kittel’s lead-out man. There’s therefore a danger that articles about the flat stages are liable to become lists of names that don’t mean much to you. We need to flesh these characters out a bit; distinguish between them somehow.

Let’s start with Bouhanni. This is pretty common knowledge, but it’s a good way of remembering him – he’s the one who was a boxer in his teens and he still practises the sport during the winter. I’ll not go down the boxing pun road in future headlines, but that’s a good hook (accident) to start with.

One other sprint dude you should know is Ben Swift, who’s the young Brit. He had to wing it yesterday because his lead-out man, Edvald Boasson Hagen, didn’t feel he could fulfil his duties after crashing yesterday. This seems a bit rich when it was Swift who had fainted in the shower as a result of the pain resulting from his own fall. Fending for himself, Swift could only manage 15th, which leaves him in fifth place in the points/sprint classification. Bouhanni’s first.

Swift’s team-mate, the Irishman Philip Deignan, reckons over half the peloton has fallen in the first week. He describes a veritable sea of bandages. This will no doubt haunt me throughout my morning ride – not because I’m so sensitive, but because it’s left me humming this to myself. Inane repetition of a short fragment of music is all the mind’s capable of when your breathing gets ragged on a long, steep climb. It’s really irritating.

Stage eight

Speaking of steep climbs, we’re in classic Giro territory today: irregular gradients and narrow roads. There are two major climbs and it should be a day for the group they always refer to as ‘the GC boys’ on the TV coverage. You may have forgotten, but Nairo Quintana’s the favourite for this race. He hasn’t gone home. He’s still there and we might even notice him today. Cadel Evans will also have to prove that his strong position isn’t solely as a result of exploiting the misfortune of others.