An ill wind

Should have been
The kind of stage
You can set your watch by:
A breakaway
Left out there
To cook slowly on a high heat
For three hours
Then, slowly as the ox
Spins on his spit,
Reel them in
And set it up
For the fast men’s showdown –
All legs and elbows
To the line.

But then the wind blew
The day to pieces:

Left bodies scattered all over the road
Like crash debris
As men gasped and strained
On the pitiless slopes of the invisible hill;

Arrowheads forming,
Aiming at targets
Moving steadily
Out of range
On a flat parcours
That didn’t produce
A level playing-field.


Today’s flat stage out of Tours ended with the inevitable bunch sprint, won by our very own Mark ‘The Manx Missile’ Cavendish – his 25th stage win at the TdF. But the real story of the day was the wind, which split the field and created the kinds of time gaps you’d expect to see after a major mountain stage. The biggest loser was Spain’s Alejandro Valverde (MoviStar) who, like Richie Porte a few days ago, saw second place overall disappear down the road, probably for good. Even maillot jaune Chris Froome lost a minute of his advantage over fancied rival Alberto Contador, with Team Sky looking vulnerable once again. What’s going to happen when they hit Mont Ventoux on Sunday is anyone’s guess right now. ‘The invisible hill’ is roadie slang for a headwind, which has the power to turn a flat road into a slope, a slope into a mountain, and a mountain into hell on earth. N.

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