Froome in yellow but nobody’s scared.

Aru did the do.

Aru did the do.

Impressions from a thrilling day in the Tour de France, version 2017. Today was the first day in the “mountains,” a short but hard (average 8% grade) and then horrific (20% grade) climb up to La Planche des Belles Filles.

First, winner Fabio Aru of Astana. The newly crowned Italian road race champion came into Le Grand Shindig after the heartbreak of not starting his home tour and number one season objective, the Giro d’Italia.

A persistent and slow healing knee injury put him in France and he delivered big time. The smile on his face as he crossed the finish line for his first Tour stage win told you how thrilled he was to make up for the Italian disaster.

“I’m amazed. I attacked and gave it everything. I wanted to see who would move because Team Sky was setting a fast pace. I wanted to see what they had,” said Aru. In answer to his question, not enough.

Senõr Giro-Tour double, Nairo Quintana, put in a troubling performance, finishing ninth, 34 second back and failing to respond to those final accelerations from Aru, Froome and Porte.

The propaganda out of his Movistar squad, team manager and Quintana himself was that physiologically speaking, he gets better in the second grand tour. Well, he better.

While the short, punchy climb in the first week didn’t suit his pure climber skills, it was a head snap to see him fade off the pace when the stage was up for grabs. (Just like fellow Giro rider, Thibaut Pinot who went steadily backwards — FDJ team boss Marc Madiot never claiming the Frenchman gets stronger with the Giro-Tour debacle.)

Hello Dan Martin, let’s turn up the spotlights just a little. The mercurial Irishman showed he is off to a blazing start at a podium placing. According to the bathroom scale chez Martin, he’s come into this Tour lighter than he’s even been and it showed in the final three kilometers. Chapeau for caloric discipline and welcome to the “top rivals” part of the show.

Alberto Contador. When le merde hit the fan, the Spaniard was in the vicinity but far from the decisive action. He rolled in behind Froome, Porte, Martin and Aru and the first question that came to mind was whether it could have been worse.

Did he manage an 8th placing on experience and willpower, is he wisely keeping his powder dry and his wattage in check for the Pyrenees and Alps or is he well and truly done, final Tour, wave goodbye? “Today the important thing was to save the Tour because I was not great,” said El Pistolero who gets points for honesty. Still, disturbing thoughts aplenty.

Romain Bardet (AG2R) was in the mix. We are fans of the little Frenchman with the advanced college degree and he did play a significant role in today’s final. He finished just ahead of Contador and Quintana and is 47 seconds away from Froome and that stylish yellow jersey. So, in a word, encouraging.

Richie Porte was glued to Chris Froome’s rear wheel when La Planche des Belles Filled reaches its final agonizing accelerations. Yes, he’s confident, yes, he’s on form, yes, his BMC did too much work at the bottom while the Sky train rested. Still, he hoped for better but all in all, job done and keep rolling down and up the road. No reason not to be feeling strong after today’s result.

And finally, the ungainly one, Chris Froome. After uncharacteristically winning absolutely nothing this year in the run-up to his favorite race, Froome perhaps wanted to make a “I’m le Patron” statement by putting time into all his rivals. E

Well, except for Aru job done but we won’t be the first to notice it wasn’t much of a body blow. The three time champion was unable to shake Porte after the stellar work of his five-high priced domestiques. We’ve got a long way to go but no rivals came away from stage five thinking, well, this is hopeless. On the contrary, people like Bardet, Porte, Aru and Yates have every reason to think the podium is wide open.

Missing in action? Hmmm, Fuglsang was very quiet and nothing for the eternally smiling Estaban Chavez back in 31st. Boys, wassup?

 

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