Wednesday, July 07, 2010

July 7, Stage 4: Cambrai - Reims 153.5km

That's more like it. I was able to get a lot done this morning (before I left for work and then once I was at work) and those are the kind of stages I like. They don't stress me out or upset me and at the end, they provide the best kind of excitement. Like I said yesterday, I figured there'd be a breakaway and I was right. Alas, it was a doomed one, but I wasn't too sad because it mean we might finally have a sprint finish. And, to be perfectly honest, the Tour really needed one of those. I know, it's only stage four, but we've all been itching for it since the crashes on stage one. And, finally, here it came.

Though first the break had to be caught and the roundabouts had to be negotiated. I'll be honest, we have a couple here in the Detroit metro area and they are horrible. I know they're supposed to slow traffic, but people don't know how to drive around them and therefore they're super dangerous and annoying. And, well, kind of scary! I cannot imagine how these cyclists, going at such high speeds, negotiate them with ease. Probably it's a combination of recon of tour stages and the fact that Europe is full of roundabouts, and thus everyone knows (in theory) how to handle them. Anyway, they did a lot of stringing out of the peloton, which is always entertaining and then they hit the home stretch -- without any crashes. The Eurosport commentators were totally amused (and surprised) by the lack of crashes leading up to the finish, but I think we were all relieved, too.

Up until the last 10k or so, the whole stage was pretty laid back, even the break. They hovered around 2-3 minutes and when time came to catch them, it wasn't hard. I think everyone was ready for a break after the drama of the first two stages. I know I've talked about all the bitching the cyclists have done, but it was a relief for us fans, too. It was nice to go through the day without hating everyone, like I did yesterday (though starting a cycling-only twitter also helped). I watched an interview with Sylvain that happened after yesterday's stage (god, I adore him) and he talked about how he was hoping to take it easy today, and the rest of the sprint stages. So on a personal level, I was pretty happy with the way the stage went -- it wasn't too hard, we saw him a few times, chatting up some of his compatriots.

As for the sprint itself? My motto this year seems to be anybody but Cavendish and yet again, that's what happened. Much to my surprise (and amusement) it was Alessandro Petacchi who pulled of the win. It was like watching the Ale-Jet of old. It was also nice because the two previous times I've seen him win this year, it was because he made it out of the carnage unscathed and ended up the last man standing. Today, though, he kicked major ass and it was totally awesome. I know, I want Robbie McEwen to win, but whatever. Seeing that Petacchi still has it was way more fun. Also, because it meant that Petacchi out sprinted both Thor and Cav, and while I like Thor -- there are plenty of other cyclists I'd rather see in green.

So, it was a good stage. Happy with the winner, not so happy about the yellow jersey but it's easier to just ignore that. Tomorrow looks like another sprinter's stage, maybe we'll have a lucky breakaway that sticks, but I doubt it. I'll just hope that Petacchi can get a few more points and take the Green jersey away -- or that Robbie McEwen can overcome his injures and win a stage. And that Sylvain gets all the rest he needs before the mountains.

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