Peter Sagan finishes second to… Ruben Plaza?
No, me neither. Ruben Plaza won a stage of the Vuelta a Espana a decade ago and he’s been Spanish national champion a couple of times, but I’d have had him down for break fodder; one of those faceless riders who makes up the numbers and ultimately gets dropped.
He didn’t though. He waved goodbye to his break companions on the final climb in the alternative way and kept his lead on the descent despite some fairly spectacular descending from Peter Sagan. Short of stopping to deliberately finish third, the Slovak surely couldn’t have done much more to avoid coming second yet again. It’s all getting rather painful to watch.
He has pretty much sewn up the points competition at least, so he can dry his eyes on a green jersey.
Nibbles goes downhill
But literally on this occasion, which is a far better scenario for the Sicilian. In what must surely rank as the most predictable move of the race, Nibali opened up 15 seconds on the main contenders towards the top of the climb and then doubled that margin on the way down. Like Sagan, he was great to watch – largely because he didn’t look like he was about to die.
Unlike Geraint Thomas
Although to be fair to the Welshman, it wasn’t his fault. Warren Barguil claimed he had a wobble with Tejay Van Garderen just before a bend which caused him to take completely the wrong line. He succeeded only in escorting Thomas towards a Telegraph pole.
Despite bouncing off it and descending into a rather deep ditch, our man seemed to be okay and somehow kept his losses down to 40 seconds. It’s quite possible he out-descended both Sagan and Nibali, but the cameras didn’t show it. After the race, his main concern seemed to be that he’d lost his glasses. “They don’t make those any more,” he said mournfully.
This was far from being Thomas’s first fall of the year. Truth is, he’s rather crash-prone, even if this particular incident wasn’t remotely his fault. For a more entertaining example, see this wind-assisted dismount in Gent-Wevelgem earlier in the year.
Rest day first actually, but then it’s the Alps proper. Stage 17 is the day without hors categorie climbs, but it’s still a solid workout and the overall contenders will be having a go. Here’s the profile.