Have Bauer, Quick-Step Floors and Marcel Kittel begun to break the mould in terms of how sprinting ‘should’ be done? That is the question we have begun to ask ourselves as we head to stage 11 of the Tour de France.
Stage 10 saw just a continuation of the dominance Marcel Kittel has enjoyed so far in the Tour de France. With the only other sprinters to have won stages of the Tour de France – Peter Sagan and Arnaud Demare – both out of the race, it seems that Marcel Kittel and Quick-Step Floors are just unstoppable. And the thing is they’re not even dominating the kilometres in the run in to the sprint.
Here’s the way it’s working so far. For more than three quarters of each of the sprint stages of the Tour de France so far, one delegate from Quick-Step Floors, Lotto Soudal and Katusha-Alpecin almost without fail have combined to limit the breakaway’s advantage during the course of each day. Cofidis and Dimension Data have been other notable teams to post riders in support from time to time; but for the majority it is these three outfits that between them are really doing Team Sky a bit of a favour.
Although Team Sky are always close to the front, and have been every single day since the first road stage of the Tour de France, they’ve not really been challenged to go full throttle in pursuit of the breakaways. Instead it’s been the individual engines of riders like Tiago Machado, Julien Vermote, Adam Hansen and Thomas De Gendt that seem to have nearly single handedly broken the will of breakaways all over the place for nearly two weeks now.
But yesterday we saw something not unseen elsewhere in sprint stages of this year’s Tour de France. Quick-Step Floors, not for the first time, appeared caught out of position while their rival sprint giant – Lotto Soudal – assembled en masse at the front with the final kilometres ticking down. It looked like perhaps Greipel and his red train had gotten it right and Kittel and his blue team had finally gotten something wrong. But not so. Kittel is able to come from what many would see as too far back for other riders, to simply power his way through, but his team are also doing their part in putting him in place just where he needs to be.
While sprinters’ code is to be positioned close to the front, fighting for position and risking being boxed in by others or worse, Kittel is being positioned just behind the trouble and being left to rack up the stage wins from there; and boy is it working or what?!
Stage 10 saw Jack Bauer on the receiving end of a bit of argy bargy from former boxer, Nacer Bouhanni. The Cofidis rider seemed to take offence at the Quick-Step Floors’ riders advances on the right side of the road that took Bauer and his team right next to the Cofidis rider and his outfit that have struggled to have any serious influence on the sprints so far.
Bauer appeared to bump into the Frenchman just slightly, receiving the angry response from Bouhanni of a swung fist. Race commissaires responded by issuing the sprinter with a 1 minute time penalty and a 200 CHF fine. No action has been taken towards Bauer but some have thought it surprising that no more severe action was taken towards Bouhanni, especially considering Peter Sagan was thrown off of the race after elbowing Mark Cavendish off of his bike in the stage 4 sprint.
RoadCycling’s stage 11 prediction is:
1st: Marcel Kittel
2nd: Andre Greipel
3rd: Daniel McLay
4th: Nacer Bouhanni
5th: Dylan Groenewegen