This stage started like so many others that this reporter has been privy to over the years. A breakaway of no-hopers goes out early on the long dash to sponsor exposure in the continuous glare of camera coverage that travels with the breakaway, while the peloton ambles along at cookie ride pace, giving the breakaway its due until the time comes to catch it in a flash and set up for the win. The day's favorites for victory were not the pure sprinters given the absurdly steep pitch just 2.5 km from the finish. No, today was a day for the wily and cagey bobcat not the speedy cheetah.
I was fortunate to hook a ride with some soigneurs from the AG2R/La Mondiale team and found that a gillet with team colors and a spare wheel were all the ticket I needed to cut a swathe through the crowds and get ringside for the big show.
At about the 20 km mark, I bravely stepped out into the road a bit to snap a few photos of the peloton for this story. As luck would have it, a major crash occurred right where I stepped out into the road as a rider swerved abruptly around me for some unknown reason a caused a pile up. I caught this great close up of Cadel Evans:
I attempted to walk to the top of the day's penultimate climb, but the grade proved far too much effort and a handy cafe became my base of operations for the final 5 km of today's stage. I nearly spilled my trippel all over myself when I saw Sylvain Chavenal launch his gutsy attack on the steepest part of the climb, for he is a real favorite of mine. While gutsy, the attack was short-lived and the rider dubbed "Spartacus", Fabio Candelabra put on the craziest burst of power outside of the start of a Cat. 4 criterium, dragging Petey Sagan (no relation to Carl Sagan as far as I know, but that dude did get around a bit. Not like Richard Feynman, that physicist was a total man whore) along with him. Sagan tucked in admirably, not letting the flailing chicken-wing elbows of Candelabra entice him to pull through. And so "The Gun Show" came to fruition with the victory of Peter Sagan.
We also have a new leader in the LCBDFTdFpbUCNSP as directeur sportif Grant Dunstan of the La Folie Flyers team mounts the top step with the smashing performances of Chavenal, Candelabra, Sagan, and Wiggins. Steve White and his Hoogerland's Thigh team slip into first loser territory, while embattled directeur sportif Quint Ervin occupies third place with his Team SRAM Red 2012 p/b Bojangle's (which are not allegedly hopped up on doped Chinese fried chickens).
Now I'm off to do an interview with Tom Boonen and some Belgian supermodels at a hot new club here in Liege.