Today was a flat stage, favouring the bunch sprinters. True to form, a break away formed, stayed out front for most of the day, but got caught in time for the sprinters teams to try to get lead-outs organized. I find these types of stages pretty unexciting except for the last 10 minutes or so. Today there were two highlights:
- George Hincape saw a chance when most of the break had been caught leaving only one guy up ahead, and sprinted for the last intermediate sprint point. Somebody from AG2R saw him go and beat him to the line, but George ended up with a 2 second time bonus for being third to that line. He was gambling that Thor Hushovd and the others within a few seconds of him in GC would end up out of the time bonuses at the finish, and he was right – his quick thinking and quick peddling landed him in the Malliot Jaune for the first time in 11 years of riding the Tour.
- None of the sprinters teams got really organized for the final sprint, and Tom Boonen made a really bad mistake, but Thor Hushovd got caught without a good line, so he tried to push along the barricades. Evidently one of those green foam hands that one of the sponsors were handing out to all the spectators caught him edge on and slashed his arm open. He crossed the finish looking fine but then collapsed with blood all over him. It looked awful.
I don’t expect Hincape to keep the yellow for very long – one of the sprinters will get some time bonuses and push past him. The GC never starts to sort out until the first individual time trail, and doesn’t get decided until the mountains. The biggest hills and the last TT are in the last week, so it might be a tense race towards the end.
They’re saying that Hushovd’s cut isn’t that bad and he’ll be fine to ride tomorrow. Hope that’s right.
Tomorrow’s stage might bring some surprises. There are a few small hills towards the end, and that might help a small break away escape and not be caught up at the end by the sprinter’s teams like happens on the flatter stages. I expect the break away will feature “also-ran” teams that don’t have a good GC contender or a good sprint contender. We’ll see.