Whether by chance or by design, Le Tour organisers seem to have created a route of chaos where anything may be possible. Who are the winners and the losers in this game of chance?
Fernando Gaviria Rendon – Winner
Even if he does nothing else this tour, Gaviria is already a winner. Not many people get to wear the yellow or green jerseys at Le Tour de France, yet Fernando Gaviria Rendon staked his claim to both on his first stage in Le Tour. Given Gaviria’s age and experience, Le Tour admins also have to award him the white jersey for the best young rider.
Este día es tan especial que quiero saber si te sientes orgulloso de mi @iljokeisse MI CAPITÁN. Compañero de muchas horas de entrenamiento esta también es para ti porque sé que darías todo, por estar acá. Y agradecer a cada una de las personas del equipo por un sueño hecho realidad. GRACIAS #thewolfpack @quickstep_team thanks guys really good job 🤪🐺🐺 . . . 📸 @letourdefrance
Even better was Gaviria’s exhilarating win over Sagan in Sarzeau, and the battle for the green jersey is now set to become a highlight of this tour. Few riders make such an explosive debut – Gaviria is now a name that fans, the press, and the peloton will find impossible to ignore.
Mark Cavendish – Loser
The Manx Missile’s star may be fading, especially in comparison to Sagan, let alone Gaviria. Kittel is an existential threat on any sprint stage but frankly, it feels a little like the changing of the guard when it comes to sprints. Lotto-JumboNL’s Groenewegen is a name to note, whereas Cavendish is a known value.
Cavendish must be frustrated with an unfamiliar team surrounding him – arguably he’s not had much practice time with this Dimension team. He must miss Bernie Eisel – Cavendish looks conspicuously alone, and his instinct for hijacking the best lead-out seems blunted.
Geraint Thomas – Winner
As the joint race leader for Team Sky, Geraint found himself over 50 seconds ahead of his teammate and yellow jersey favourite, Froome. Should all things go according to Sky’s plan, both Froome and Thomas should start stage 17 together, in the same grouping of riders to support each other.
This is assuming Froome makes up 60 seconds of time on his fellow Team Sky race leader. Team Sky may be using Thomas to check the front-runners. It may be a tactical genius – or Team Sky may well see that a bruised and psychologically weary Froome may find a 5th Tour de France win a step too far.
Nairo Quintana – Loser
The Colombian is a popular figure within the peloton and beyond but even within his own team, he’s increasingly a bit part player. Albeit an incredibly valuable bit player. An incredibly unlucky start to Le Tour has done more than scrape Quintana’s ambitions. It’s exposed the strong links and depth in the strength of Movistar’s tour team.
Nairo Quintana on Chris Froome boos: Sometimes you reap what you sow
— Cyclingnews.com (@Cyclingnewsfeed) July 6, 2018
With Landa and Valverde in contention, Movistar have options. One of the most experienced teams suddenly has a range of options to attack the yellow jersey, not least an immigrant from Team Sky – perhaps eager to supplant Quintana and make himself a nuisance to Froome. Or should I say Thomas?