Half an idea what’s happening in the Tour de France

If you’ve no idea what’s going on in the Tour de France, here’s an update from someone with half an idea. Lesson one: forget about all the guys who won stages in the first week. They were just making hay while the road was flat. Yesterday it was onto the serious business.

One of the great things about the Tour is that after almost a week of racing, you’ve pretty much no clue how the favourites measure up to each other. However, searing thigh-throbbing clarity arrived in stage seven where Chris Froome’s gangle-tastic win whittled the contenders down good and proper.

Ryder Hesjedal withdrew before the start, but then finally we saw people losing time as a result of the actual racing, not through crashes or punctures. In fact, there are only five riders within a minute of Wiggins’ yellow jersey and one of them’s Haimar Zubeldia – a rider who can make the rare claim to have gone a decade between wins. There are plenty of opportunities for wins in one cycling season, let alone 10 of them.

Threatening names

Cadel Evans and Vincenzo Nibali will be the most threatening names to Wiggins, particularly Nibali whose first name contains both a V and a Z. Evans finished ahead of Wiggins yesterday, but didn’t seem to be gnashing his teeth with excess energy. His bold move to the front at the end of the stage might have seemed rather more significant if Froome hadn’t then shot past as if the other riders’ tyres were made of jelly.

To say that Froome made the others look like they were standing still in the last few metres is to do him a disservice. If I were standing on that murderous slope and a cyclist distanced himself from me at the rate Froome distanced himself from Evans and Wiggins, my mouth would drop so far my jaw would lock for a week. You get the impression Froome could actually cycle up a wall.

Other names

Other riders within a minute of Wiggins include Denis Menchov, who managed to avoid falling off backwards when the road was at its steepest and Rein Taaramae, who is only 25 and therefore a bit of an unknown quantity.

Chris Froome’s 1m 32s deficit doesn’t seem right much at the minute either, depending how future mountain stages pan out. Pretty sure the race route doesn’t include any actual walls, but the hills and mountains start coming thicker and faster from now on and on yesterday’s evidence, Froome will be least miserable about this.