Nothing is brighter than the one that makes up for the lack. However, the Tour de France has the gift of the oxymoron, the striking contrast, the great reversal. The crossing of Denmark had tired, frustrated and disappointed us, and now the crossing of the Boulonnais mountains came to pschitt in turn. Did Christian Prudhomme surpass us in his design? Have we fantasized too much about this? Or are runners the ones who retain their strength at the expense of our entertainment? As the questions piled up in our heads, as we somehow prepared to enjoy the ten short miles of fiery sprint fighting, the Jumbo-Visma rocket took off. From a push, he brutally pulled us out of our lethargy. At the very moment when we were no longer expecting the show, here it finally appears.
For 900 meters of elevation gain, it took on the dimension of the prestige of its host. Surprising, staggering, startling, he changed gears radically, swinging the chain from one end to the other. We caught full eyes. Too even, compared to the 300 frames per second that our students are able to perceive. So, we felt it necessary to go back image to image in the 2 minutes of ascent of the first peak of this 109th Tour de France.
The decisive collision of the Jumbo-Visma
It is along the wide road of the Opal Coast where the platoon of the Tour de France tackled the maximum difficulty of the day: the coast of Cap-Blanc-Nez, named after the cliff of the same name. Overcome by his memorial, tormented by his war history, he thought well of witnessing the peace of grain at his center. In addition, under the obelisk erected between 1920 and 1922, the ball arrived concentrated, the head shared between the bodyguards of the chiefs and members of the trains of the sprinters. What followed was far more tumultuous than I thought.
Indeed, with the immediate approach of the difficulty, the formations INEOS – Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma accelerate and raise their runners on both sides of the road. The former are located on the right side of the road, the latter have opted to take the left. The two teams can be located next to each other, this detail will be important. But most of all, their slight advantage over their competitors will give them a considerable advantage in the hectometers to follow.
Indeed, the approach to the coast of Cap-Blanc-Nez is marked by a narrow bend at right angles, looking to the left, in the heart of the village of Escalles. Therefore, the rope is awarded to the men of Wout Van Aert, Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard. Naturally, this trajectory allows them to take the lead at the start, when it comes to relaunching.
The first gap of the 109th Tour de France
In fact, he barely crosses the bend that Nathan Van Hooydonck is already getting up on his petals and frantically shakes his machine from right to left, counterbalancing his strong flahute body. A Team Jayco-BikExchange rider deviates and leaves a break, separating the Jumbo-Vismas and INEOS from the rest of the peloton. From then on, the Dutch team took over the scheme launched in the first stage of Paris-Nice.
From acceleration to acceleration, from jolt to jolt, the men in the yellow helmet cause an earthquake on the Opal Coast. His opponents jump, the Tower trembles. Panic overtakes the trapped. As Nathan Van Hooydonck throws all his forces into battle, Primoz Roglic, Geraint Thomas and Daniel Martinez (in the background) somehow try to get back on track. The effort required is colossal, even overwhelming.
When Nathan Van Hooydonck is on the sidelines, Tiesj Benoot takes over. If Thomas, Martínez and Roglic managed to join their teammates, unlike the other competitors, the Belgian’s punch does not give them the slightest respite. On the contrary, the winner of the Strade Bianche 2018 tortures their swollen legs with lactic acid, even causing the implosion.
The tenors of the Tour de France in difficulty
As it deviates 300 meters from the summit, the tenors of the Tour de France have fallen. The rubber band has been stretched for Thomas and Roglic, the gap has widened for Pogacar, which we can no longer see even at the bottom of the screen. Poorly placed at the foot of the difficulty, the Slovene unleashes himself to hang the wheels of his opponents. If he leaves feathers in this dangerous undertaking, not without revealing some weaknesses at the same time, the big favorite of this 109th edition of the Tour de France will see all the fugitives against Calais. All but one. Van Aert Road.
Van Aert flies, Pogacar gets stuck
Yellow jersey on his back, the flamenco prodigy now delivers in person. An impulsive idiot lets Simon Yates and Jonas Vingegaard win. The leader of the Tour de France is isolated at the head of the race. With strength and mentality, he accelerates tirelessly and flies across the summit. As he descends downhill, he takes one last look at his step and sees nothing but silhouettes in the distance. He left.
Five seconds after him passed Jonas Vingegaard and Simon Yates. A few units later, Geraint Thomas, Daniel Martinez and Primoz Roglic cross the summit of Cap-Blanc-Nez together. As for Romain Bardet, the Brivadois parted ways with Tadej Pogacar, who was soon followed by Alexander Vlasov at the wheel. Stranded in the heart of the pack at the foot of the hill, David Gaudu soon joins all these beautiful people, after a crazy comeback.
A coast full of lessons
If it only culminates at 107 meters above the English Channel, the coast of Cap-Blanc-Nez may have created more damage among the favorites than a large mountain stage. Facing them unexpectedly in the face of difficulty, the Jumbo-Visma blasters faced them with their own strengths. However, in this small game, Tadej Pogacar seemed less imperial than he seems, just like Primoz Roglic. On the other hand, taking the wheel of Simon Yates, the last favorite left, Jonas Vingegaard had to add big points with the bookmakers, and consolidates his role as a substitute within the Dutch engine. On the French side, Romain Bardet recalled his form of the Giro and David Gaudu illustrated his skills as a puncher.
This 109th Tour de France is probably less predictable than it looks. The surprises promise to be numerous, bringing with them their share of failures and revelations. If the statistics are showing in favor of Tadej Pogacar after his thunderous prologue, the race is just beginning!