The organisers were stuck between a rock and a hard place. If you have a linear race that’s just dominated by a superior team or a superior rider, then it becomes something of a procession. I don’t think that’s very popular with the fans and the public.
So it seems they add in these disturbing elements to try and destabilise the race, to create time gaps going into the mountains that people then have to overcome by riding aggressively. I can understand that reasoning.
I also think winning the Tour should mean being the best rider, the most complete cyclist. There’s an argument to say that being able to ride over the cobblestones and narrow roads is a skill that the Tour winner should have, alongside riding in echelons and things like that.
The other side of the argument is that people want the best man to win. When you insert a lot of additional risk, the danger is obviously that bad luck ends up playing an excessive role in proceedings: big favourites are eliminated, the race is affected permanently, and you don’t get what people would consider a worthy winner.
As it turned out, most of the crashes didn’t occur on the cobblestones. Apart from us and Richie Porte – who also didn’t crash on the cobbles – the time losses were pretty minimal. It was perhaps testament to how well prepared the teams were, with a lot of teams, like ours and AG2R, helping out GC riders with their classics specialists.
All of which begs the question as to whether the experiment was successful? A lot of risks were taken and yet the race hasn’t really been changed.
It was a disappointment that we should be one of the few to lose out on Sunday. But crashes and falls are a part of the first week of the Tour de France. They’re especially a part of that kind of stage.
Objectively, the riders in the team did everything that they could to mitigate against the risks. All of them performed. Some of them, like Pierre Rolland, who was there with Rigoberto at the end, even over-performed.
Having done such a great first week it does sting a little to lose that time, but it is what it is. There’s a whole different race coming now.