The Tour de France so far in 2017 has been a slow burner. Stage 9 leaves me no option but to dust off my big book of cycling clichés.
It was epic.
More than that, it was brutal.
As the dust settles the generous group of favourites now finds itself viciously whittled down to a much smaller group of favourites.
Geraint Thomas crashed (abandoned), Richie Porte crashed (abandoned), Dan Martin crashed, twice, but struggled on to the finish. Nairo Quintana proved that his alleged attendance in the race this year wasn’t one big conspiracy theory, but unfortunately did this by slipping backwards as the pace got hot on the Mont du Chat.
A tough Giro d’Italia has apparently turned his climbing legs into paté.
Alberto Contador didn’t so much dance on the pedals as wrestle with them, and found himself pinned to the canvas and losing four minutes and more – and surely any hopes of the podium.
The stage was won by Rigoberto Uran Uran, the Columbian with the large, Jagger-esque features, winning a five man sprint by a couple of centimetres from yesterday’s fall-guy Warren Barguil. Even that was far from regulation; since a tangle with Dan Martin on the final descent Uran had found himself stuck in a ludicrously big gear for the final, rolling, 12 kilometres.
Winding up for that final sprint he resembled a body builder on ‘leg day’ in the gym.
The defining image of today, though, is of Richie Porte.
He was one of the riders who saw the whites of the Mont du Chat’s eyes back at the Criterium du Dauphine in the run-up to the Tour. The descent, then, had us watching with fingers crossed and breath held.
His crash here was bad.
The sight of a prone cyclist being tended to by medics at the roadside is stomach churning. The fact that he was conscious and talking was the only consolation.
The fact that that is our point of reference says it all.