“Pass the pipe and slippers Gianni, it’s downhill all the way today,” as Chris Froome almost certainly didn’t say as he signed on for Stage 4 of La Vuelta today.
One look at that race profile suggested they’d barely have to pedal. A couple of lumps and bumps – plain sailing with a bit of a run-up – and it’ll be a seafood supper on the beach of Tarragona by tea-time.
For a race as brutally mountainous as the Vuelta Espana, a day with a net descent between start and finish is pretty much a day off.
Of course, the passive feet-up-on-the-handlebars approach has never been Team Sky’s way, and they were never going to take this for what it was, or what it could’ve been; a light-hearted old-skool Vuelta kind of a day.
In an alternative reality Chris Froome was pulling Bradley Wiggins impersonations for the cameras, while Dave Brailsford watched on from the team car cracking jokes over the team radio:
“Hey Chris…remember that time when I told you to ride at 430 watts, and you said you were…then you looked down and you were only doing 423….HIL-ARIOUS!”*
Instead, Sky lurked menacingly at the front for much of the race, as if anyone were in any doubt who’s in charge.
At the intermediate sprint, to prevent any rivals from bagging the two or three (and lets be honest about this, inconsequential) seconds of time bonus, Froome sent a pair of teammates up the road to strong-arm.
Like a couple of government minders in an old communist dictatorship.
“These bonus seconds aren’t for you…you’re not welcome here…and no cameras.”
Thankfully, Eurosport’s Carlton Kirby was on board with the plan to lighten the mood somewhat, at one stage apparently riffing on a surreal processed meat vibe.
For reasons that eluded me, he used the phrase: “like trying to draw a line using an uncooked sausage.”
And described Wilko Kelderman, post crash, as looking like he’d: “rolled into a bacon slicer.”
As the race approached it’s business end, the prospect of a bunch sprint finish never had been, and never was, in doubt.
The riders negotiated several hundred (I think…I lost count if I’m honest) roundabouts, took in three or four right-angled corners, and left Italian Matteo Trentin to complete a straightforward sprint win with a chasm of daylight between him and the rest.
Everyone said what they say after a bike race. People may or may not have eaten seafood on the beach-front. And the whole show rolls on to Stage 5.
Where “more roundabouts” is my big prediction.
*I pinched this joke from Twitter. I can’t remember from who. If it was you, let me know, and I’ll credit you.