This year’s first French victory du jour in stage 8, followed by the team time trial of stage 9, close chapter one of the Tour leading into the first rest day, just in time for the wearer of le maillot jaune to gear up for the Pyrenean mountains ahead. And more than geared he proves by the end of stage 10 with his not-to-be-caught solo win on La Pierre-Saint-Martin, reinforcing Chris Froome’s general classification (GC) lead by almost three minutes. Meanwhile, in green, out of green, and back in green again, Peter Sagan keeps a not-so-tight hold on his best color.
Stage 11 to the top of the Col du Tourmalet keeps Froome on top overall, far ahead of defending champion Vincenzo Nibali who’s clearly not having his greatest Tour. If that’s not enough, what some consider the hardest climbing day comes in stage 12 to the Plateau de Beille, amid extreme weather variations from dry heat to hailing downpour– but ultimately still no shakeup in the overall standings. Stage 13 into Rodez offers up the most exciting and unpredictable finish of the week, as Sagan propels to yet another almost-win but must settle for yet another second place du jour. At least he propels ahead in his points total after a momentary mid-stage loss, again showing he actually has to work to keep the green jersey for a change, courtesy of Andre Greipel of course. Still meanwhile– no GC shakeup.
Two-thirds of the 102nd Tour de France close with stage 14, seeing the first win for the first African team in Tour history, renewed points dominance for the “green machine” amid yet another top five stage finish, and in addition to a 2-3 switch in the GC, now an overall lead of more than three minutes for the man in yellow.
It might seem by now that le maillot jaune is wrapped up for this Tour– but then, is it? As always, we shall see. So comes and goes yet another July week across France. Next up, the Alps!