After five nights at the same hotel, the trip started this morning as we packed our bags for the move to a new one.
My young teammate Marc Hirschi had an extra piece of clothing to pack as he started the day in the white jersey of the best young rider, a great achievement to make only his second day on the Tour.
The jerseys of our Sunweb team are also white, so it didn’t really stand out during the stage but it’s also because it rained again and we all found ourselves in rain capes or jackets during part of the day.
Although we had four categorized climbs en route to Sisteron today, the second half of the flatter stage saw most of us expect a mass sprint finish as we exited Nice this morning, so few were ready to spend the day in a breakaway that was almost certain to be caught before the finish.
But there is always a race in an ongoing race in the Tour and when a three-way break came after a few kilometers it included King of the Mountains, Benoit Cosenfroy from Ag2r and second climber Anthony Perez from Cofidis, both tied on points and both hoping to have the prized polka dot jersey by the time they were rolled up later.
As race leader Julian Alaphilippe’s Deceuninck-Quickstep team trailed the peloton a few minutes behind the breakaways, things were pretty relaxed for the first hour or so and I found myself chatting with Irish National Champion Sam Bennett.
Sam is one of the best sprinters in the world at the moment and like me he dreams of a stage victory in the Tour de France.
While we were chatting his team drove up front in hopes that Sam’s dream might come true today, but we ignored all of that and talked about cars and houses and stuff like two oul guys in the pub.
A hailstorm at the bottom of the first climb caused everyone to fight for the capes. It was quite windy so I didn’t want to take my hands off the bars for too long and since my arms were already wet by the time I got mine, I had a little trouble sliding it around.
All around me guys were having the same problem, some of them struggling with sleeves and zippers with their teeth as the hail fell.
Up front, Perez had beaten Cosnefroy on top of the first three climbs, giving himself enough points to take the lead in the mountain competition, but by the time we reached the Col de Leques, about 50km to go, they were both back. in the peloton while Jérôme Cousin of Total Direct Energie forged a lonely path ahead.
A great day here for Perez suddenly took a turn for the worse when he punctured on the climb and then crashed completely out of the race on the descent. Instead of wearing the polka dot jersey, his points will be erased because he did not complete the stage.
His efforts will not be recorded on the GC tonight. Instead, the letters DNF for not finished will serve as a reminder that cycling can be a cruel sport.
As Cousin was caught up and the sprint trains started massing in front of the field, I tried to keep our sprinter Cees Bol and the guys in position near the front about 25kms.
I strayed from the path for the last 10 km or so. We had been doing about 60 km / h, but the headwind and the stress of trying to stay in front, drag racing with the other teams, made us feel like it was longer.
The final sprint was pretty chaotic and the guys were disappointed on the bus afterwards that they couldn’t get Cees properly in the final.
He was boxed and finished seventh as Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan came out of nowhere to disappoint thousands of Irish fans and pip Sam on the line for the stage victory.
If it’s any consolation Caleb is married to a girl from Cork so maybe we can take the win today.
Tour de France, live Tuesday Eurosport and TG4, 12:15 p.m.