The infamous Autan wind – the wind blowing over the south-western region of France and which is locally known as “wind that drives you crazyThe wind that drives you mad – caused major fractures during the race in Lavaur, the small town of Tarn last used in 2011 when Mark Cavendish won a rainy sprint.
There were flashbacks from last year’s stage in nearby Albi when Frenchman Thibaut Pinot lost 1min40sec to rivals in the cross winds.
This time, Pinot and his Groupama-FDJ remained safe. But Tadej Pogacar [UAE Team Emirates], Mikel Landa [Bahrain-McLaren], Richie Porte [Trek-Segafredo] and Richard Carapaz [Ineos Grenadiers] were all caught off guard when the race fractured, losing 80 seconds.
It was a hectic day right from KM0, with Peter Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team putting the hammer immediately from the start in Millau in an ultimately successful attempt to reclaim the green jersey from Irishman Sam Bennett. [Deceuninck-QuickStep]. It was also timely, given the criticism the Tour faced on Wednesday and Thursday, when the race was relatively calm.
Wout van Aert [Jumbo-Visma] eventually won a scaled-down peloton sprint, underscoring his status as the dominant driver in the peloton at the moment. The Belgian, who also won Wednesday’s stage at Privas, is mainly used as a domestic in this race, working for the leaders of Jumbo, Primoz Roglic and Tom Dumoulin. But when he’s not pulling them out or picking up water bottles for his teammates, he looks unbeatable. This victory was High Aert, although he preferred to focus on the others afterwards. “Today I think mostly we have to mention Sepp Kuss and George Bennett, they weigh 60kg or less and [in the run-in] they were shooting at 60 km / h, ”he noted.
It is true that Jumbo-Visma looks incredibly strong in all areas right now. Their dominance has undertones of Team Sky at their peak. Perhaps even more dominant than Sky, given that they have winner Milan-San Remo and Strade Bianche in the bottle, winning sprint stages at will. Everyone is just waiting for the Dutch team to tear up the race and put Roglic in yellow. The Slovenian is three seconds behind Yates as the race heads to the Pyrenees on Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday’s stage, from Cazeres to Loudenvieille, promises to be particularly brutal, with three huge climbs including the Hors Categorie Port de Bales. If Jumbo decides to roll, we’ll find out very quickly what Yates’ legs really look like. But there are also plenty of injured GC contenders now looking to buy some time.
“The next two days should be pretty tough,” Yates noted, adding that it hadn’t been the most relaxing prelude. “I think everyone expected an easy day today, but obviously Bora had other ideas.”