Bradley Wiggins reflected on an unusual day in the Tour de France as the eased off the throttle for much of the stage to Compiegne.
“I was having a chat with Dave [Millar] at about 4.30pm and there was still 95 kilometres to go and we were still rolling along I couldn’t believe it.
“It was a very strange day. Geraint Thomas came and asked me if it’s always like this. Usually the first hour is very fast and it takes a lot of attacks for a break to get away but this year the breaks are going pretty easily. No one wants to control the race.
“Yesterday those two French guys [Nicolas Vogondy of Agritubel and Matthieu Ladagnous of Francaise des Jeux] went and the gap was quickly up to eight or nine minutes. I think then they thought ‘hang on, we’ve got 200k to go and there’s only two of us’ so they eased up.
“When the gap went up to eight minutes CSC started riding for Cancellara and it very quickly came down to five. Then they eased up and it went out to eight, then they chased again and it came in.
“Our guy Stephane Auge then jumped across because he wanted to get the king of the mountains points and he got across quite quickly.”
Wiggins said there was a light headwind most of the day but that didn’t explain the leisurely early pace. “I looked at my computer after we’d done 100 kilometres and the average was 32kph. The last hour was flat out but even at the end it was only 35kph, which is unusually slow.
“I don’t know why that was. It’s anyone’s guess what the favourites are thinking. Maybe everyone is a bit scared to do too much this early.”
It meant a late finish for the peloton as they crossed the line at 6.38pm – almost an hour behind the fastest schedule for the race. Some teams didn’t reach their hotels until gone eight o’clock.
And as Ag2r’s Christophe Moreau said: “At the end of the stage my arse hurt more than my legs.”
Wiggins added that he was enjoying lying fifth overall but realised it would kill any chance of getting into a break until after the mountains.
“It’s great being fifth in the Tour but I need to lose a few minutes because CSC will chase if I do anything. We’re waiting to Bourg-en-Bresse where I know I’ll lose a few minutes and then there’ll be some more chances,” he added.