Fripp, Froome, butterflies
It’s an insane image but watching Chris Froome annihilate all his rivals on the Pyrenean climb up to La Pierre-Saint-Martin reminded us of a strange quote from long ago, from former King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp.
He was describing, if memory serves, what happened to the crowd at a show when he cranked up his electric guitar to titanic decibel levels and sent sound waves crashing over the audience. He said the experience was like crushing butterflies.
That was the metaphor in our head while watching the destruction that Froome unleashed on Vincenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador, Tejay van Gardener and Nairo Quintana.
There is now only the Fab One, the Butterfly Crusher.
It was Armstrong-scary how Froome dominated his rivals. Nibali was essentially sent home a failure, so thoroughly outclassed that you had to wonder about the quality of his “homework” as Froome likes to call the Tour prep. The Italian was a toothless shark doing an impression of a beached whale.
Alberto Contador was exposed as a Giro invalid, so exhausted from his efforts to win the Italian grand tour that he was incapable to matching the pace set by Sky and murderous acceleration by Froome. He looked like Indurain in his final tour — suddenly weary, forlorn, ancient.
Nairo Quintana managed to hang with Froome and his lieutenant Richie Porte when all others had been thrown out the back but his legs had none of the power to stick with Froome when he hit the gas. You’d think Quintana was 20 kilos overweight, huffing along, just trying to stop the hemorrhaging.
Meanwhile Tejay van Garderen rode a measured race that saw him lose time but nothing compared to the shocking deficits of Nibali and Froome. The steady American, backed by a strong BMC squad, still looks more than capable for a podium place.
For the rest? All the imposters were revealed, even the stage-hunting climbers who only hoped to shine for a day and one win. Joaquin Rodriquez spit out the back. French Tour darlings Pierre Rolland and Romaine Bardet decapitated. Poor Thibaut Pinot will need 50 sessions with a top sports psychologist to reverse all the mental and physical damage.
It was Sky’s version of scorched earth. Nothing left. No hope, no legs, no reserves, no platitudes, no fall back plans, just the stunned battle fatigue of an army of pretenders in full retreat.
The Tour is far from over and yet the inevitable impression is that it’s over.