Boom! Cobbles and crashes

The Boom in question was of course Lars Boom, the former Cyclocross world champion, who won one of the hardest, most miserable stages in recent memory. Miserable for the riders, that is. For those of us watching on TV, it was absorbing.

Was it carnage?

It was carnage. Commentary basically consisted of: “There’s been a crash!” for most of the three hours, but the relentless deckage didn’t seem to slow anyone down. The average speed was 47km/h.

That was faster than stage four, which was dry, didn’t feature any cobbles and didn’t have anywhere near as many crashes. There was also a peloton on stage four, which usually helps in maintaining a higher speed. There was no peloton on stage five. There were just scraps. It was like the bunch had been grated. Looking at the exposed skin, it seemed many of the individuals had been grated too.

Chris Froome crashed twice before they even got to the cobbles and he’s had to abandon the race. I got the impression his wrist was making it difficult to control the bike in nasty conditions, but I’m sure an official explanation will be out there by the time you read this. I’m not coming back and editing this once the information’s out there though, because today’s all about ploughing onwards with no regard for what you’re leaving behind.

Happiest plough

That would be Vincenzo Nibali, although Boom might run him close. Nibali’s Astana team picked all the right moments to apply pressure at the front, shedding major rivals almost every time they did so. By the end, he wasn’t just leading the bones of the general classification. He was also ahead of the classics muscle. Until Boom unveiled his extra oomph in the last few kilometres, it seemed Nibali might even win the stage. In the end, he came third, gaining substantial time on everyone of significance.

In fact there’s a lot to take in, so let’s have a quick look at the new top ten.

  1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana – 20h26m46s
  2. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana – 2s behind
  3. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale – 44s
  4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step – 50s
  5. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek Factory Racing – 1m17s
  6. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol – 1m45s
  7. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Belisol – 1m45s
  8. Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky – 1m54s
  9. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp – 2m05s
  10. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar – 2m11s

I should also say that Romain Bardet, Tejay Van Garderen and Rui Costa are on the same time as Valverde.

There’s a lot of names there, so let’s try and simplify things a bit by stripping out all the guys who’ll fade in the mountains. Kwiatkowski’s a possible, but in reality Nibali’s closest challenger is Jurgen Van Den Broeck. It’s fair to assume that Van Den Broeck will finish fourth without ever once appearing on TV, so the first proper challenger is Richie Porte. That’s the meaningful time gap – 1m54s.

Chaos is a ladder for Richie Porte. In the absence of Froome, he became Sky’s main man. He immediately took the opportunity to attack the group containing Alberto Contador by using Geraint Thomas as a pacemaking windbreak. For his part, Contador really didn’t enjoy himself on the cobbles and now lies 19th, 2m37s back.

Anyone else?

The Shlecks (Frank) lost eight minutes. Chris Horner, Haimar Zubeldia, Laurens Ten Dam and Pierre Rolland lost four minutes.

It’s also worth noting that on a day when everyone was sliding around all over the place, none of Orica GreenEDGE’s nine riders crashed.

Green jersey news

He finishes with the best sprinters on sprint stages, with the top climbers on hilly stages and with the top classics riders on cobbled stages. Peter Sagan finished fourth and extended his lead in the points competition still further. Odd, but true.

Stage six

Poor stage six, having to follow stage five. It should be a sprint day, but maybe crosswinds will save it, giving us more weary chaos to savour.