The opening week of the third and final big tour of the season has been as intriguing as ever.
As we head into the first rest day we have witnessed some excellent racing along with big crashes and plenty of controversies. Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin is the wearer of the red jersey at a critical point in the tour who is just over a minute ahead of Spaniard Joaquin Rodriguez, surprise package Esteban Chaves and Sky’s Nicolas Roche.
The red jersey has switched between Dumoulin and Chaves since the start with the diminutive Colombian winning two stages to the Dutchman’s one. Other stage winners include Sagan, Valverde, Ewan, Lindeman, Stuyven and Sbaragli.
The biggest controversy of not just this race but for quite a while in the sport is the disqualification of Italian rider Vicenzo Nibali. He took the notorious ‘sticky bottle‘ scenario too far in the eyes of the race Commissaire and was promptly kicked out of the race.
It was a big decision for the race officials but it has been a problem in the sport for years but it rarely faces any penalty. If you watch the footage, you will see exactly why one of the best riders in the world was made an example of and rightly so. You have to wonder why such an established rider would choose to do such a thing even if the race was not going his way.
The controversy continued the following day as sprinter Nacer Bouhanni did something very similar right in front of the television cameras. The French rider had just been involved in a crash and looked like he was struggling when his team car pulled up alongside him. He took an age to take the drink bottle as the car seemingly pulled him along but it was not as clear as the Nibali incident. However, if you apply the rule to one you have to do so to another.
As for the retirements so far, the biggest name to head home is Peter Sagan, the green jersey winner from the Tour de France. He was knocked of his bike by a motorbike and had to retire the following day. Not sure it was through pure frustration and anger that he showed or the awful road rash that he received as a result.
Other recognisable names to leave the race are Teejay van Garderen, Nairo Quintana, Fabian Cancellara, Nacer Bouhanni, Daniel Martin along with stage winners Caleb Ewan and Jasper Stuyven,
|1.||NED DUMOULIN Tom||TEAM GIANT – ALPECIN||38h 34′ 56”|
|2.||ESP RODRIGUEZ OLIVER Joaquin||TEAM KATUSHA||38h 35′ 53”||+ 00′ 57”|
|3.||COL CHAVES RUBIO Johan Esteban||ORICA GreenEDGE||38h 35′ 55”||+ 00′ 59”|
|4.||IRL ROCHE Nicolas||TEAM SKY||38h 36′ 03”||+ 01′ 07”|
|5.||ITA ARU Fabio||ASTANA PRO TEAM||38h 36′ 09”||+ 01′ 13”|
|6.||ESP VALVERDE BELMONTE Alejandro||MOVISTAR TEAM||38h 36′ 13”||+ 01′ 17”|
|7.||COL QUINTANA ROJAS Nairo Alexander||MOVISTAR TEAM||38h 36′ 13”||+ 01′ 17”|
|8.||GBR FROOME Christopher||TEAM SKY||38h 36′ 14”||+ 01′ 18”|
|9.||POL MAJKA Rafal||TINKOFF – SAXO||38h 36′ 43”||+ 01′ 47”|
|10.||ITA POZZOVIVO Domenico||AG2R LA MONDIALE||38h 36′ 48”||+ 01′ 52”|
The second week promises to be just as interesting after the rest day on Tuesday. Four of the six stages are in the mountains while the other two include plenty of hills so the sprinters are expected to suffer. In truth, this route was not designed with the sprinters in mind which suggests why a lot of the world fastest have avoided La Vuelta this season.