Vincenzo Nibali cares not for gravity
If Richie Porte is ‘flying’ then Vincenzo Nibali’s in orbit, effortlessly circling the earth. Just as it did in 2012, La Planche des Belles Filles brought clarity to proceedings. Searing, searing clarity.
One of the greatest aspects of the Tour de France is the sheer number of different stories unfolding simultaneously. Sometimes it becomes overwhelming and stage 10 was one of those days when too much happened to boil things down a single page summary. But I’ll do my best because I know you’re busy people.
Let’s first cull a load of major topics with a cursory one-paragraph recap.
Thomas Voeckler in the break with his full range of faces; Joaquim Rodriguez going all out for the mountains jersey, duelling ferociously at the top of each peak with Voeckler; Tony Martin doing it in the break again; Gallopin’ Tony reluctantly surrendering the yellow jersey and shedding a litre of saliva every 10km; and Alberto Contador crashing and abandoning.
Each of those warrants greater elaboration. None will get it. Let this be a lesson to you. Sometimes, when you feel overfaced by a challenge, the best thing to do is to not even try.
Did Geraint Thomas crash?
Of course he did. But he’s still in the race. Crashing’s just something he does. It’s as much a part of his day as warming up, warming down and devouring energy gels.
What else happened?
There was a devious and masterly move from Omega Pharma – Quick Step. Michal Kwiatkowski somehow got in the break. I honestly don’t know how he managed it. You’d think the general classification contenders would consider him a good enough climber to be a danger and would have chased him down, but apparently they didn’t. They instead had to chase later on, once he was a few minutes ahead. By that point, Kwiatkowski could make use of Tony Martin – his own personal one-man peloton.
Despite basically doing a 100-and-odd kilometre solo time trial the day before, Tony Martin rocked up and pretty much did the same again. When he finally pulled to one side, he pretty much came to a standstill, utterly, utterly exhausted.
That was the masterstroke, but maybe the other riders had it right. Kwiatkowksi is an outsider for this race for a reason and he faded towards the end, unable to pay Martin back for the most selfless ride imaginable. Joaquim Rodriguez, leading up the final climb, also faded and was passed much closer to the finish.
What else? You really seem to be missing something quite important
Vincenzo Nibali. He’s back in the yellow jersey – trapped inside it so firmly in fact, that he might as well be an XXL man wearing a small. He isn’t an XXL man though. XXL men don’t skip up slopes like these the way Mr Nibbles did.
The finish was instructive. Is Vincenzo Nibali going to be threatened in the mountains? On this evidence, only by the boredom of riding on his own, way out ahead of everyone else. He attacked near the bottom of the final climb, the main contenders tried to follow and the main contenders utterly failed.
Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Nairo Quintana and Joaquim Rodriguez – this year’s Vuelta promises the best start list of the year. Who says it’s a second-rate race that people only enter as an afterthought if they experience some sort of disappointment in one of the first two Grand Tours? It’s an absolutely first-rate race that people only enter as an afterthought if they experience some sort of disappointment in one of the first two Grand Tours.
The riders get to mill about cycling up mountains at their own pace tomorrow (that’s honestly what many of them do with their rest day). There’s no rest on this website, however. I’ve a special treat for you. Tell someone or other to sign up to the email so they don’t miss out.