Quelle feast! Sprint awesome-ness in Tour de France
When it comes to the Tour de France, Twisted Spoke is more of a GC guy. We watch the sprint stages with interest but not with the high level of anticipation and passion of a stage in the Alps or Pyrenees.
That said, in our opinion, the 2016 edition of Le Grand Shindig has had the most fantastic sprints we’ve seen in a long, long time. Nearly every stage has been a furious and hotly contested battle with the winner taking the stage by millimeters and photo finish.
The opening week has been a veritable feast of fastmen. A resurgent Mark Cavendish of Dimension Data has already won three stages and regained his lost crown as king of the Tour de France sprints. We had foolishly written off Cav’s chances and questioned what we considered his silly Olympics dalliance with best bro Bradley Wiggins. We figured he was done as the top dog.
Well, Cavendish has proved us dead wrong three times and looks as fast as he was in the Tours where he’d win four or five stages with ease. His head-to-head acceleration against Marcel Kittel showed he has more horsepower than the massive German. It was impressive work and we feel like an idiot for having doubted the Manx Missile. He now has 29 Tour de France stage wins, three in one week and he ain’t done yet.
Speaking of Kittel, he got off to a rough start in the Tour, he and his Etixx-Quickstep squad botching their early opportunities. Still, he rallied and pulled out a win on stage 4 into Limoges, holding off the fast-closing Bryan Coquard of Direct Energie. It was another photo finish and Kittel timed his bike throw just a fraction of a second better than the Frenchman.
Then World Champion Peter Sagan got his first Tour stage win in three years with a powerful uphill surge in Cherbourg, beating Julian Alaphillipe. He scored the win and the maillot jaune and egomaniac owner Oleg Tinkof was grinning from ear to ear. It’s been an amazing year for Sagan with the world champ lycra on his back.
If you had to pick the one sprinter who has been most impressive besides Cavendish, our vote would be Coquard. We knew he was fast and talented but it appeared to be second tier fast — wins in races that aren’t World Tour or high profile outside of France.
However, he’s been consistently close and by our count, on the podium twice this week. His acceleration up the left side of the road to catch Kittel was an amazing performance. He was rocking his bike back and forth like a crazed lunatic as he nearly pulled off the upset coming from way back. Now we know: yes, he’s damn fast.
Sadly, the odd man out in these thrilling sprints has been Andre Greipel of Lotto-Soudal. You can usually count on the German and his well-drilled train to deliver at least one stage win in Le Tour. For a number of reasons — bad positioning, train mishaps, faulty timing and pure bad luck, Greipel is still empty handed.
Best thing of all, in this grand feast of sprint stages: No crashes. When was the last time in the Tour where we haven’t seen sprints marred by massive crashes that took half the sprinters out of contention and often knocked them out of the race because of injury? It’s been an amazing run of good fortune considering how narrow some of the run-ins have been.
We’re pulling for Coquard and Greipel to each score a win and then you’d have to say, best sprinters Tour de France ever.