Nacer Bouhanni chases back on
More crashing and another Nacer Bouhanni victory. In a sense, it seems like business as usual, but this was a fascinating finish where only the result fits the usual sprint script.
Watch the last few hundred metres and you’ll see Tyler Farrar – the American sprinter who pretty much never wins a sprint – slide out on a corner, effectively taking out 90 per cent of the peloton. This leaves Bouhanni to pick off just a couple of rivals. It looks easy for the Frenchman, but the fact that he was even in that position is the amazing part.
I get back to the front of the peloton with a little help from my friends
As on stage four, Bouhanni had been far from the pointy end of the peloton in the closing kilometres. Then, it was because of a mechanical problem. This time, it was because Team Sky’s Dario Cataldo threshed the bunch by speeding up a small climb not far from the finish. Sky’s aim was to kick out or exhaust all the out-and-out sprinters so that Ben Swift might have a better chance of beating whoever was left.
It was a good plan and well executed, but it didn’t quite work. Here we see the importance of team-mates because Bouhanni, distanced on the climb, was towed across the gap and then back up to the front by Sebastian Chavanel. The man whose nickname almost certainly isn’t Chav did a spectacular job in gaining ground on riders who were basically going flat out. If Bouhanni had had to do this by himself, he would have been – to use a technical term – completely shagged out by the time it came to sprint.
Bouhanni leads the red jersey points competition by a surprisingly slender margin of 24 points from Giacomo Nizzolo. To put that in context, a rider gets 50 points for winning a sprint stage and 40 for coming second with further points available for minor placings. Non-sprint stages deliver fewer points, but neither Bouhanni and Nizzolo will be placing on non-sprint stages, so this is of no great importance unless another rider surges into contention with a strong showing while they’re whinging and moaning about the slope somewhere near the back.
Probably another day for the breakaway. The final climb is tough enough that the overall contenders might separate, but it’s followed by an 8km descent to the finish, which might see them come together again.