Tour de France stages of 200km (and more) are “boring, no fun and make no sense” according to teams and riders in the 2018 race after finish of the 230km stage to Chartres on Friday, the longest stage of the 2018 race.
Most will only remember Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) sprinting to victory ahead of Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), but there were five and a half hours of racing before that which saw no fewer than four different breakaways get away before being caught.
“It was boring today,” world champion Peter Sagan said. “We went pretty easy all day and then raced the last 10km.”
“We were discussing it in the group. Is this really necessary, is it needed in the Grand Tours?” said race leader Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing).
“You could ask if it was really worth it, but I think everybody probably enjoyed it – the first easy day after a pretty stressful first [six] days. It was a welcome chance to relax and speak a little bit with other riders.”
The stage cutting east towards Paris included many open and exposed roads. Briefly, the peloton was split and Daniel Martin (UAE-Team Emirates) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) were caught behind. Ag2r La Mondiale drove the pace and formed echelons, but the action soon died down and it was all calm again.
“The stage was designed thinking that there would be a lot of wind and echelons would form,” Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) explained. “But the wind never materialised, at least not strong winds, and the stage was just a long ride through the French countryside instead.”
Watch: Tour de France stage seven highlights
“I don’t know if Chris was bored, but they have no choice but to ride these days,” Team Sky sports director Nicolas Portal said of his star Chris Froome.
“This one was long one at 230km and almost 10km of neutral zone. In a way, it is too long, even the guys in the break gave up, they say, ‘What can I do?’ We had three breakaways try.
“I don’t think the distance makes the race very fun. And you don’t need 200 or 250 kilometres, if you race shorter, it’s better. It would make the race faster, harder to control.”
Portal added that maybe the lower ranked teams need these days to ride in an escape to put their sponsor names on television. “They might need a sponsor or whatever… who knows what the riders and teams say.”
Alejandro Valverde said it clearly when he came to the Team Movistar bus, “Days of 230 are boring and make no sense.”
The Tour organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) might have heard the disquiet after an often tedious first week off last year’s race. The 2017 edition included eight stages over 200 km, whereas this year’s race has just five.
Going to the other extreme, it included a mountain stage of 65 kilometres. The 17th stage travels through the Pyrenees, staring in Bagnères-de-Luchon, covering the Col de Peyresourde and the Val Louron-Azet before finishing up the Col du Portet. It is the shortest road stage in the last 30 years.