What a day to ride a bike race, it looked like hell on wheels. Once again Team sky were to the fore with Ian Stannard doing a sterling ride for third place.
When I tuned in the leaders were Stannard and Dutchmen Bobbie Traksel and Rick Flens. A fallen tree was blocking the cote du Trieu and the race was shortened by 20km which must have been popular with the riders. Also missing were the inflateable arches that the organiser considered to be a potential danger in the high winds and rain. He complained about the loss of advertising revenue but said that he must put the riders’ welfare first- that will be a first. About twenty riders was chasing the Stannard break at about a minute. Well they weren’t really chasing so Thor Hushovd and Jeremy Hunt (both Cervelo) just rode off the front to be joined by Hayden Roulston (ex Cervelo now HTC Colombia). This group of three began to gain on the Stannard group and were at just 35 seconds when Roulston did a hard pull in to the wind up a slight ramp and Hunt just started freewheeling. Less than a minute later Hunt was off his bike and climbing in to a Shimano support car! I have never seen anything like it, one minute Hunt has, in theory, a fair chance of winning the race and the next he had climbed off.
Hunt’s abandonment put paid to the chaser’s hopes and shortly after Hushovd was dropped by Roulston. Up front all three were still working together with Stannard doing the strongest pulls. With 8km to the finish Flens attacked and Traksel cleverly let Stannard bridge the gap. There was then a series of attacks with Stannard seeming ever more desperate and never gaining more than a couple of bike lengths. Traksel won the sprint with ease and Roulston finished alone a minute later.
At the post race interviews Stannard could say little more than he was trying to keep warm and he did seem frozen stiff. In fact the only lucid interview was with Traksel’s charming partner who was carrying a very young baby. Although I couldn’t understand her it was clear that she had a great deal to say, possibly about the race, possibly about the joys of motherhood, who knows.
Sky did not quite achieve a famous Spring Double but they can be more than satisfied with the opening of the real racing season.
San Francisco naked bike ride