Over 190km of nothing, then BAM! Richie Porte gets a puncture and the whole stage comes to life. It was a terrible loss for the Australian but he had a compatriot from a rival team to help him back on his way – it’s just that this isn’t technically allowed, and Porte paid the price.
Just as well it happened, really, or we’d have had nothing to talk about. Luckily we do now.
1. Richie Porte loses time and then loses more time
A bit of a nightmare situation for Porte, with his hard work on week one coming undone on an innocuous sprint stage straight after the rest day.
A mechanical problem with 5km to go saw Porte and his Team Sky colleagues struggling to catch up off the back of the peloton. Such was the speed of the bunch, the men in black couldn’t get back to them and ended up losing over 40 seconds.
What the television cameras didn’t see, but the Cycling Weekly photographer Graham Watson did, was that Porte accepted a front wheel from fellow Australian Simon Clarke, riding for Orica-GreenEdge.
Big mistake, apparently. Those sticklers at the UCI have a rule against such shows of sportsmanship, with the commissaires subsequently docking the pair an extra two minutes.
For Clarke, this isn’t much bother – he finished six minutes down anyway and isn’t competing for the General Classification
For Porte, though, the decision could be devastating for his title hope. He moves down to 12th in the GC, a whopping three minutes down on Contador.
With a very long time trial still to come, Porte would have been reasonably confident in getting most of the time back if he had only had his initial 65 seconds of deficit.
The peloton and wider cycling world, according to Twitter, seems to be wholly against the penalty – I wonder how Alberto Contador and Fabio Aru feel about it?
2. The nothingness of the stage
Until the final 5km of the stage and Porte’s moment of misfortune my notepad was empty of any meaningful observations.
It is the day after the rest day and the stage profile promised a pretty easy day for everyone except the sprinters. Long, straight and pan-flat roads don’t make for the best racing – see the Tour of Qatar, for example.
To be fair to the organisers, stage 10 is one of the very few stages that is actually set up for the sprinters and doesn’t contain half a dozen hills in the middle.
Thankfully us viewers got a bit of a spectacle at the end to make up for the snooze inducing 195km that preceded it. And then what happened afterwards will keep us talking for days.
3. The chase made a bit of a hash of it
Unlike the couple of occasions in the first week when the breakaway were allowed to just ride away to victory, it wasn’t supposed to happen on stage 10.
As the kilometres rolled by and the time to the break stayed at over two minutes, the sprint trains behind got a bit twitchy.
The likes of Andre Greipel, Luka Mezgec, Giacomo Nizzolo and others will likely be a little annoyed that their respective teams couldn’t do enough to bring back the four-man break, but that’s not to take anything away from the five guys out front.
Luckily those teams do not have to wait long for another chance for sprint success, with an even flatter and shorter stage to Jesolo on Friday.
4. An opportunist breakaway turns into a winning one
When five relatively unheralded Italians went up the road at the start of stage 10 it’s unlikely they thought it would last – it was a nailed on sprint stage.
Breaks like this one are usually for the smaller teams to get a bit of publicity on television, hence why wildcards Nippo-Vini Fantini, Bardiani-CSF, Southeast and Androni-Sidermec were present.
Add to that a struggling WorldTour team (Cannondale-Garmin) and you’ve got all the ingredients of a doomed breakaway.
The bunch never crossed the gap, though, so the small group of Italians up front battled it out for unexpected glory – Bardiani’s Nicola Boem triumphed in the end.
It’s these kind of victories that can make careers for the lesser known Pro Continental riders and Boem will surely be revelling in the story for some time yet.
5. Alberto Contador found a buddy to chat about shoulders with
It’s good that Contador isn’t alone in his struggle with a gammy shoulder – his Etixx-Quick-Step rival Tom Boonen also knows a thing or two about that kind of injury.
The Belgian separated his shoulder at Paris-Nice, but his injury was significant enough to require surgery and a prolonged spell on the sofa.
Contador, meanwhile, is soldiering on with just ibuprofen for comfort, allegedly, and the pair had a little chinway in the peloton about the injury.
The Spaniard was gesticulating a lot more than in previous days as he pointed out the exact nature of the injury to Boonen, who nodded along sympathetically and shared his thoughts.
All-in-all, a lovely moment. But then what else are these guys going to do on a long, flat, boring stage?