High speed cruising can be a trance. Almost asleep, riders ride already thinking of the finish, of the mark on the map, the point where they must attack or go in front to pull or to stop. Simply a second. Crash. Pile up. Carnage.
Today four climbs: Côte de Bohissau (4th cat), Côte d'Ereffe (4th cat), Côte de Cherave (4th cat) and Mur de Huy (3rd cat). A break - Barta, Elmiger, Nauleau and Pauwels - no story. No time to catch them: a big crash involving also the Yellow Jersey Fabian Cancellara.
Now the Race Director takes a serious decision: he signals riders to slow down and finally to stop. Neutralisation. Astana and Sky go questioning, Movistar defend the choice. Facts: all the ambulance are busy with the crashed riders so, according with the UCI rule, the race can't go on. Safety first. I think it has been right.
When the race starts again, it's a compact, slow peloton following the Director's car. The first KOM passes undisputated. Then it's true racing again. Greipel wins the intermediate sprint on Degenkolb and Bouhanni. Riders find back their focus. But many are injuried, some abandoned - Tom Dumoulin included. Cancellara rides at the back, bruised, sore.
40 km to go Team Tinkoff and Team Astana force the pace and split the peloton. Team Sky works to make it up. Back together but in a long painful line on the Côte de Cherave. Majka wins the KOM on Arredondo: he's the first Polka Dot Jersey. Vincenzo Nibali was nervous at the start, annoyed. He's expected on the Mur de Huy to take a revange, as well as Alberto Contador, gapped by Chris Froome in yesterday messy sprint.
But no. Absolutely no. The climb is as hard as always, as riders remeber from the Fleche Wallone. A few random attacks and then the serious stuff: Chris Froome in front. Purito Rodriguez. Who is up there? who is not? A splendid Alexis Vuillermoz takes a splendid 3rd! Purito takes the victory and Froome the Yellow. Nibali takes 11'' . Bravo Mollema, finally 10th.
"This is a special moment. I won Fleche Wallonne here and so know the Mur well. I couldn’t get it wrong today because I knew I had the legs. It was a tough, tough stage. It was a normal day until the crash but it went okay for me. I don’t know why they stopped the race but we all started the Mur de Huy at a high pace. I wasn’t sure I could win but I accelerated and it felt like it was the longest time I ever spent going up the Mur de Huy."
"It’s an amazing feeling to be back in yellow. If you’d have told me this morning I’d be in the jersey, I wouldn't have believed you, but it’s amazing. Especially on a day like this which had a punchy climb in the final. That isn't normally my kind of thing – I'm better on longer climbs – so I was really surprised to see the gaps open up like they did. I knew there would be gaps - but I didn't expect them to be as significant as they were and allow me to get into yellow.
I've got my team-mates to thank for the massive effort they put in. They turned themselves inside out to keep me near the front through the trickiest parts of the race. It was treacherous out there - we were up and down, left and right, and obviously there were the crashes as well. My team did a fantastic job and I couldn’t be happier with them.
It’s never too early to go into yellow, and I’d much rather be in this position than having to make up time on my rivals. We’re going to take it one day at a time now. Tomorrow we’ve got the cobbles so we’ll just have to manage that as well as we can. Something massive has happened every day so far and a lot of time gaps have opened up. I’m not banking on anything at this point and I just hope to get through these next few days with no major issues.
I support the decision of the commissaires – that was the decision they took on the road for safety reasons – to get medical attention to the riders. It was a bit confusing out there at first, and my sympathy goes out to all those guys involved in the crashes."
"Belle 3ème place derrière Rodriguez et Froome en haut du mur de Huy. J'ai été un peu trop juste pour suivre l'attaque à 400m de la ligne mais j'ai bien fini pour remonter 3ème. Certes sur le tour, seul les victoires compte mais ça fait tout de même plaisir d'arriver avec les meilleurs mondiaux : ) "
"What a day. Such a pity to lose yellow like this. So much stress and stupid crashes. And tomorrow will be exactly the same... #cycling #2015"
“The last two climbs I did not feel so good, but I knew it was important to start at the front. Bob Jungels put me in a really good position into the Mur. In the last 500 meters when they went full gas I could not follow anymore; I just did my own tempo – full gas – to the finish, and then in the last 100 meters I was able to close the gap to a small group with Nibali and Quintana so that was good. So it was a good day for the GC. It was totally different than Flèche Wallonne. The riders are different and we have already done two days of racing. And there is more stress here than at Flèche, you see that with all the crashes. Losing Fabian like that is a pity, we wanted to defend the yellow jersey and we didn’t get a chance to do it and that’s a shame. I was almost in the middle of the crash – one guy in front of me crashed, and his bike was almost coming in my way. I was lucky the bike bounced back the other way and then behind me Fabian crashed and some more guys. I was lucky, and for Fabian it was just bad luck,”
“My back doesn’t feel good, and for sure it’s a big disappointment. I expected to defend yellow today, not lying on the ground at 80km/h. One day you win, one day you lose. Like this, is for sure not nice. “It was on a slight downhill, and I saw the crash happening on the right side and I was hoping I could sneak between the riders in the field, but there was a drainage gutter and in the end I got hit from the back, and hit this drain thing and I don’t even know what happened after that. But thank you to the race organization to neutralize it. When you see so many people on the ground…it was the right thing to do.”
Tejay van Garderen:
"We saw some pretty bad crashes out there and a lot of confusion with the race being neutralized for awhile," van Garderen said. "In the end, I would say the day was a pretty big success. Froome gained a little bit, but I was able to distance a couple people and keep most of the important guys pretty close. I really have to give it to the team today. They did a perfect job of keeping me safe and at the front."
"The cobbles suit me a little bit better and it is also not totally flat, which is good for me. There is a little bit of uphill on the cobbles, so I am looking forward to tomorrow. The main goal is Tejay for sure, but I hope to go for a stage victory."
"Another crazy day at @letour Hope everyone that hit the deck isn't in too much pain!!"
"Happy I survived 2day. Which is a great sign. But I also learnt the next 3weeks will B the hardest Grand Tour of them all. #Going2Hell&Back"
"Like yesterday, the team was always around me. I was pretty nervous as was everyone in the peloton, as it always is in the first week at Le Tour. The team rode 100 percent today for me, especially Kwiatkowski. He was unbelievable. After everything I did for him in the past years, he gave it back in the last two days. It's amazing for me and I want to thank him as the World Champion for being such a supportive teammate the whole race. The story of today started with the big crash. Everything was neutralized. I was a bit confused as to what was going on, if they would neutralize longer or just for a moment. I heard about the big crash, and all the riders who went down, and I was sad about it. I was hoping for a big fight for the yellow jersey. I was close to wearing yellow today, but if I were to have been this close with an even bigger fight it would be even nicer. I wish a speedy recovery to all the riders who were involved. As for the rest of the race, it was really hard even compared to yesterday. It was not just the Mur de Huy. The other climbs before were really up-and-down, with small roads. I felt already in the last 20 kilometers that I was pretty tired. Maybe it is because of all the chaos of the last two days. I couldn't sleep so well yesterday. It was not my day today and I really had to suffer. On the last kilometer on the Huy i was dying. I was really fighting to survive. I was looking around the corner and looking for the sign with the time. It was around 30 seconds and still 100 meters to go. It felt so long, one of the longest feeling 100 meters of my career. The staff told me I was close to Froome with yellow, and I was a bit surprised. I kept giving all in function of limiting the gap for the stage of tomorrow. So, I am disappointed, but also quite happy because I didn't expect to even be this close. I am looking forward to tomorrow. The whole team is motivated for the cobbles and we will again fight for yellow."
Etixx - Quick-Step team doctor Helge Riepenhof:
"It was a high speed crash, which is already dangerous. Luckily they didn't hit any objects in the road, which is always much worse. So at the end of the day it's road rash, but road rash at high speed is painful. Michal Golas's left shoulder is hurt, but again it is just the skin and he is bruised. So he is a little sore and will suffer in the next days. But he'll be okay. As for Rigoberto Uran, he has a contusion on the back, just above his pelvis, so in other words his lower back. It is quite sore because of the position on the bike. He puts a lot of pressure and tension in this area. The muscles are a bit torn as well. He will also suffer some, but he will be at the start tomorrow."
1 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 3:26:54
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky
3 Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:04
4 Daniel Martin (Irl) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:05
5 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal 0:00:08
6 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:11
7 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team
8 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica GreenEdge
9 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team
10 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory Racing
1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 7:11:37
2 Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:01
3 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:13
4 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal 0:00:26
5 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:00:28
6 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:31
7 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:34
8 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:36
9 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:01:03
10 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:01:04
Polka Dot Majka