Moscon, Froome, FIFA and fighting for wheels

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 Yesterday saw the GC riders have the first big showdown in the mountains. “But it was only stage 3!” I overheard people saying at the café this morning. I always thought the win was going to be between the GC boys, however I didn’t expect so much damage to be done so early in a three-week race. Like the Western Bulldogs' hopes of playing in September, Jungles' and Contador's GC hopes look to be all but over. On the flip side to that we saw some mighty impressive rides from some of our outside favourites like the smiling assassin Esteban Chaves, who looks like he has put his nightmare Tour de France behind him. He now looks to be the clear leader of the Orica-Scott threesome showing his strength being the only rider able to follow Froome’s savage attack on the last climb- more on that later. The American Tejay Van Garderen who I had written off for a bid at the overall win has given me reason to question my predictions as he showed us in Andorra that he has ambitions of the top step in Madrid. With the long time-trial on stage 16, the man who resides in Aspen could be a genuine danger to Chris Froome’s red jersey. It’s great to see him back in super form, although let’s not all get carried away as its only stage 3! 

 

Team Sky and Froomey were super last night but it will be hard to stay at such an elite level for so long, I’ve learnt this from playing FIFA for hours on end and trust me, you will slip up in a big way at some point. In my case the result is smashing controllers, in Froomey’s case its blowing up and losing 15 minutes on a stage. However, yesterday we saw no signs of any weakness from Froome or the Sky artillery besides Wout Poels, who along with all but 10 other riders was blown out the back of the group by the inferno tempo being set by the astonishing young Italian Gianni Moscon on the final climb of the day. The 23-year-old who was 5th in Paris-Roubaix this year, one of the hardest 1 day races over cobbles in the north of France, was riding on the front of a group of 10 in the mountains of a Grand Tour. For all you cricket fans reading, this is very loosely the equivalent of getting a 5fa with the ball and then tonning up with the bat, he can do it all. Amazing scenes!! 

 

After the job of Moscon, the loyal Mikel Nieve took over the fierce tempo until Froome launched his attack with 1km from the top of the final climb and only 8km from the finish. With only Chaves on his coattails, the duo crested the top of the climb with a 10 second deficit to Bardet and Aru who left the remanence of the favourites group in their wake in the last few hundred meters of the Cat 2 climb. The two groups of two would come together on the tricky decent into Andorra La Vella and in the final 600m the group of 4 became 9. With 300m to go our favourite for the stage Vincenzo Nibali hit out with an early sprint to hang on for victory and display a questionable shark like celebration. To be fair he is the shark and did just win the stage so, for mine he can do whatever celebration he pleases. Chris Froome moved in to the leaders red jersey and holds a small buffer to Chaves, Van Garderen and a handful of others. A la to the Tour de France this year we might see the Brit ‘loose’ a few seconds on his rivals on the finishing climb of stage 5 to hand over the leader’s jersey to give his sicarios a spell from defending reasonability's. If not, then all the best for a longggg 3 weeks boys! 

 

Today sees the riders start or finish in Spain for the first time this year. 198km from Escaldes to Tarragona is on the menu for the peloton as a slight uphill kick greets the riders in the port city, on the picturesque Mediterranean (the things I’d do to be sipping sangria on the Med right now). A tricky technical finish including a round-about with only three hundred meters to go reminds me why I was never a sprinter. With this information in mind it’s going to be all about good position and expect to see the fighting for position from as far as 10km to go. All the boys who featured in stage 2 will be the ones to watch again today, with chances few and far between for the fast men, expect a hectic finish. Trentin, Modolo and Theuns are the men who will be in the mix and I expect Degenkolb to be there either for his own ambitions or to help teammate Theuns, unlike 2 days ago. With Blythe the king of positioning and surfing the right wheels, I’m going to tip the Aqua Blue Sport rider for the win today.  

 

I’ll see you back at the social club 

C.Flakemore