As the Tour de France barreled into its second week, every day pushed the athletes closer and closer to their limits, and the race only seemed to get harder.
On the morning of Stage 10, Mark Cavendish’s leadout lieutenant Mark Renshaw lingered at the breakfast table far longer than the rest of his teammates, picking at a small pile of white rice. Less than 30 minutes into the stage, his Tour was over. The culprit: a stomach bug.
The Tour shows no mercy. Riders abandon, but it just keeps going.
The day starts with coffee. The aficionados tune their morning boost to perfection. Others just settle for what they get. With that part of the day done, the kit can be donned, and the stage can be ridden.
A high-powered break went to the line at stage 10’s finish in Revel. Remarkably, Orica-Bike Exchange had three riders in it. Luke Durbridge gave everything for Michael Matthews, so when he crossed the line and saw that Matthews had won, he headed straight for Matthews, celebrating the whole way. Then he laid down his bike at the foot of the media hurricane, like a steak laid down in front of the mouth of the bear.
The visual highlight of week two? The double ascent of the Grand Colombier. The tough climb offered much in the way of views, but unfortunately, not very much in terms of challenging the dominant Maillot Jaune, Chris Froome.
Two weeks into the Tour, effort has incinerated every last gram of fat on the riders. It’s perfectly normal to see every sinew of muscle fiber in a rider’s legs, plus the requisite veins as icing on the non-cake. Then there’s Daniel - a level entirely unto himself.
The crowd usually elevates the race and riders. Other times, as in the case of Mont Ventoux, the crowd takes on a different collective mood and things take a turn for the negative.
But still the riders keep pedaling and no matter what happens, the race goes forward. For all of the controversy of the Ventoux stage, there was one happy rider - Thomas De Gendt. The Belgian took the stage, the polka dots, and most of the glory on offer that day - only to be nearly forgotten following the infamous crash and the outright famous Froome running escapade.
Then the hours ticked by into evening and horror struck Nice. It suddenly all felt insignificant.
In these uncertain times, filled with so much awful, the moments at the Tour that are filled with love and smiles and laughs - family - those moments ring so true, so clear.
After the wild events of Ventoux were eclipsed by the tragedy in Nice, the Tour de France rolled on, albeit in somber fashion. The never-ending wind wreaked havoc on the riders, and in this particular bend, likely caused Tony Gallopin’s crash.
Because there are never too many curves.
Kristoff said that he didn’t see the line, so he didn’t have a chance to throw his bike. Sagan saw it, threw, and stole the day. Sagan has 51 top-tens in 100 Tour de France stages.
Another Mark Cavendish win - his fourth of this year’s Tour and the thirtieth of his career - saw the finish line melt down into a ball of chaos. Riders, minders, photographers, videographers, journalists - seemingly everyone fell upon the race’s dominant sprinter in hopes of that one shot, the one sound bite.
What’s the best way to cap off a historic ride? Ice cream. And champagne. Then onto the next stage. The race goes forward.