Ian Stannard leads the peloton

You’ll hear that phrase a lot if you watch much bike racing. The man’s basically a locomotive.

Yesterday, Alejandro Valverde fell while wearing the red jersey. Sky were trying to take advantage of some cross-winds at the time. It was immediately clear that no-one was going to slow down, but we didn’t really fear for Valverde until we realised Ian Stannard was driving the pace.

Of course it was Stannard. It’s always Stannard. That’s his job. However, this was a situation where that really mattered. It was on the flat.

Stannard is a big guy

Sky list his weight as being 83kg. That’s 13st in old money. By comparison, Chris Froome is a similar height, but only weighs 69kg. Stannard is never going to threaten on a climb, but he still needs extraordinary power to get over the lumps and bumps of the road over a long stage. It is this ability to produce massive power for bloody ages which makes Stannard the ideal man to lead the peloton. At the front, you need to do more work because you’re fighting greater wind resistance.

Echelons

Because of yesterday’s cross-winds, the peloton split into echelons. Echelons are diagonal lines of riders that stretch across the road and because of their nature, each one can only accommodate so many riders. The rider at the very back of an echelon will be exposed to the wind and will therefore have to do more work. This means he will typically start a new echelon.

To stay in touch, the riders at the front of chasing echelons have to match the work being done at the front of Stannard’s. Few can match his power. Yesterday’s stage might actually have been more interesting if there had been more flat, but fortunately for the chasing groups, the road soon went uphill and Stannard became redundant.

Valverde and his Movistar team-mates did well to limit his losses to less than a minute, but he’s livid about Sky’s behaviour. He says they tried to profit from his fall. Sky say they didn’t realise it was him who’d fallen until they were already 50 seconds ahead of him and already committed to chasing down a breakaway group.

Either way, Froomedog’s now just one second behind Joaquim Rodriguez who’s in the red jersey. Stannard’s 165th, but someone’s got to do the hard miles.