Where do I even start?
I think the best way of putting it is that stage 5 of this year’s Tour de France was one for the history books. We came in expecting to see chaos, but nothing like this. The crashes, the wet roads, and the almighty cobblestones either ruined the Tour or gave it new life depending on which angle you take. Here are some of my emotions/thoughts following one of the most bizarre stages I have ever witnessed.
No rider deserved to race a stage like that. The conditions turned an already dangerous course into a death trap. While riding in the rain is doable, riding with a special set of tires on slick roads to prepare for the muddy cobblestones ahead is a whole different story. Add in the nerves of the cyclists and there is no wonder why there were so many crashes today.
It looked like a demolition derby, not a cycling race.
I struggled to find the right word for this section because satisfied or fulfilled seem like too harsh of words to use. This stage had all the excitement a spectator could ask for. The race was changing every few minutes with all the crashes and groups forming and splitting apart. It was thrilling entertainment. That said it all came at a hefty cost. The most noteworthy being the defending champion Christopher Froome abandoning the race.
Although Froome was the overwhelming favorite to dominate the race, now that he has crashed out it swings the door wide-open for any of his numerous rivals to take advantage. It’s a cruel thing to say, but because Froome couldn’t stay upright we now have a more exciting and less predictable race.
Or perhaps not; the Italian wearing yellow today turned heads by surviving the cobbles like a classics specialist. Vincenzo Nibali and his Astana teammate Jakob Fuglsang rode like madmen to finish 3rd and 2nd respectively.
With the miraculous ride Nibali was able to put minutes of time between him and his closest rivals making him the new favorite to hold the yellow jersey all the way to Paris. Nibali, who won the Vuelta a Espana in 2010 and the Giro d’Italia last season, would become just the 6th cyclist ever to win all 3 grand tours in his career.
Do cobblestones belong in the Tour de France?
After all the drama of today’s stage everyone is left pondering that one question. The best part is that there really is no right answer. It’s a topic that could be debated until the end of time, but at the end of the day it comes down to a matter of two different perspectives: the spectators and the cyclists.
The spectators want an exciting race worth watching. The cyclists would rather have a safer Tour with a worthy champion at the end. There is no question that the majority of the peloton is against including the cobblestones after hearing all the post-race comments after stages like these. Yet, the race organizers continue to put them in every few years to please the viewers.
Being a spectator that sees both sides of the argument it leaves me with all these mixed emotions. Yes, it was a fantastic stage to watch, but it was a horror show in motion for the cyclists.
All I know for certain is that stage 5 left an extensive scar that has altered the rest of this year’s Tour.