Whilst most people’s eyes have been on the unfolding of Wimbledon and the omnishambles that is the current British political system, there has been a bike race taking place across the Channel. In its 103rd Edition, the best known of the cycling Grand Tours has already left Mont Saint-Michel in the north and worked its way to the south-west border with Spain and Andorra where the caravan will pass through the Pyrenees. Yesterday was the seventh stage of this year’s competition and there have already been some exciting moments.
The main story from the opening week has been the success of Mark Cavendish. The Manx sprinter has won three of the seven opening stages and has passed Bernard Hinault to take second spot on the list of all-time career stage wins; Cavendish sits behind only Belgian giant Eddy Merckx but has a further six wins to take the top spot. In addition to this record, Cavendish rode his first ever stage in the Yellow Jersey. For the first time in his career, he won the opening stage of the race which allowed him to ride in the coveted ‘maillot jaune’ before losing it to Peter Sagan on the second day.
The third stage was less eventful until the final sprint that saw Cavendish take home one of his tightest finishes to date giving him his 28th stage victory. The fourth day was the longest and went to Marcel Kittel in another painfully tight jostle for the line whilst Cav was stuck in the middle of the sprinters pack.
The first mountain stage was on day five and was not overly taxing but included a climbing finish. This stage was the first belonging to overall leader Greg Van Avermaet and put quite some time between him and the competition. Stage Six saw a return to form for Cavendish as he took his 39th stage win and posted himself above Hinault. With another tight sprint finish, the situation was perfect for the Brit. Van Avermaet was still in the lead and Sky’s leader Chris Froome was rooted firmly in fifth.
There was a surprise finish to the final stage of the week as British outsider Steve Cummings took the win. Riding on his own up the final climb, Cummings took the stage with over a minute between him and the next rider. The stage had a controversial turn as an inflatable distance marker collapsed across the road and halted a number of riders on their way to the finish; it has not yet been announced whether or not riders will be compensated for this.
Going into week two, Van Avermaet holds the yellow jersey and there are two British riders in the top ten with Chris Froome placed sixth and Adam Yates in second.