Yesterday I complained about how the Tour was settling into a pattern, and today's stage everything changed. A wild, wet, and tumultuous stage over nine sections of cobblestones created this year's first real selection, with Chris Froome crashing out, Vincenzo Nibali extending his lead in yellow, and most of the GC contenders happy they made it to the finish in one piece. Lars Boom won the stage - which was like a mini Paris-Roubaix - in convincing fashion, and Jacob Fulsong finished just ahead of his teammate Nibali in second, putting him in second overall as well. Peter Sagan was a close fourth, extending his lead in the green jersey points competition and landing him third overall in GC.
Besides Froome, who sadly crashed twice before he even reached the cobbles and couldn't continue, the day's big loser was Alberto Contador, who rode well but ended up conceding nearly three minutes to Nibali, and over 30 seconds to Andrew Talansky, who is looking more and more like a genuine podium contender every day. We now have to ask ourselves, can Niabli win? We'll have to wait for the mountain stages in the alps to find out.
Update: There has been a lot of discussion about whether cobblestones belong in the Tour. Without commenting on that, I just want to point out that Chris Froome crashed out *before* ever riding on cobbles. It was a wet stage on narrow roads, but I don't think anyone is suggesting that the Tour stop riding in rain, or on back lanes in France. Net net it is too bad that Froome is no longer in the race, but that's cycling...
Tomorrow is another flat stage, and most likely another sprint finish. We'll see most of the peleton recovering and taking it easy, but will anyone be able to beat Kittel? Andre Greipel, call your office.