Meanwhile, in the land of the skinny…

I’ve still got both eyes firmly fixed on the cobbles, but let’s just take a very quick glance back at the Tour of Catalonia, which hoved into my peripheral vision last week. It was what the stage racers were doing to keep themselves occupied while all the Belgians were hammering around in the wind and rain. It’s one of those stage races which is supposed to be important in its own right, but which is actually just a week-long opportunity to ruminate on what might happen in the Grand Tours later in the year. Nowt wrong with that though.

Who was involved and what happened?

Most of the Grand Tour contenders were there: Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Joaquim Rodriguez and Nairo Quintana to name but a few. Chris Horner and Richie Porte also started, but dropped out due to injury and illness respectively. It was a seven-stage race, but stage three turned out to be by far the most important. A proper summit finish gave us some clues as to everyone’s current form, even if there was actually very little to see until right near the finish.

Eurosport viewers had to endure Carlton Kirby asking: “Who’s going to light it up?” about 46 times on that final climb because no-one seemed keen to attack. Eventually Froome had a bit of a go, drawing out familiar mountain stage rivals, Contador, Rodriguez and Quintana. This group of four then rode together for only a very short distance before Joaquim Rodriguez departed within the final kilometre. When it comes to bigger efforts which only last a minute or so, the other guys simply can’t match Purito’s speed. It’s his thing (and it’s a far better thing than, say, ‘finishing 15th’ which is Jurgen Van Den Broeck’s specialty).

And that basically decided the entire race. Stage four looked harder, but perhaps due to the shockingly bad weather, the time gaps ended up quite small. Tejay Van Garderen took a somewhat surprising win that day – his first in a top level stage race – but that only got him up to third. Alberto Contador came second overall and I also feel compelled to draw attention to Domenico Pozzovivo who came eighth.

Conclusions

To be honest, everyone looked quite samey. Even though Froome came sixth, he only finished 17 seconds adrift. However, if in itself the result isn’t very exciting, it does promise greater excitement to come. No-one’s dominating and so it’s harder to predict the Giro, Tour and Vuelta, which will make them far more fun to follow.

And now back to the cobbles.