A long, lumpy stage ten days into the Tour – breakaway territory and a De Gendt-style winner, for sure, n’est-ce pas?
Mais non! Just over 60km remaining and a right-hander subjected the peloton to a crosswind. Voila, we have a split.
Adieu, Pinot. Adios, Landa. Farewell, Fuglsang. Bye bye, Richie Porte. And see you later, the entire EF Education squad, having pushed the split in the first place…
Ineos were alert to the danger, as you’d expect, with Michal Kwiatkowski driving the pace, ably assisted by Dylan van Baarle and Luke Rowe – a man who clearly loves days like these.
“After 152km we gave it a nudge,” Rowe told Eurosport after the stage with typical understatement, having put a host of GC contenders out of the frame.
The Ineos road captain has that same calm demeanour as his fellow Welshman and co-leader Geraint Thomas. If he’s ever flapped, we haven’t seen it.
The opening ten stages have been negotiated without any undue dramas for Ineos – save for Thomas’ rather alarming get-down on Saturday. And even that incident was dealt with in a calm and logical way.
As we head for the Pyrenees following the rest day, Ineos hold all the aces. The mountains will decide who emerges as team leader. Just four seconds separate Thomas from Egan Bernal, the young pretender.
Either way, Rowe will be there by their sides. And you couldn’t ask for a more loyal lieutenant. A truly top Top Banana.
Rouleur Top Bananas 2019:
Stage 1 – Greg Van Avermaet
Stage 2 – Tony Martin
Stage 3 – Michael Matthews
Stage 4 – Max Richeze
Stage 5 – Toms Skuiņš
Stage 6 – Geraint Thomas
Stage 7 – Wout van Aert
Stage 8 – Thomas de Gendt
Stage 9 – Jasper Stuyven