For three Tour de France stages my will-power was strong. I like having a job, and a wife, and kids who recognise me when I come through the front door every night, and I knew what I had to do to maintain that.
All was going well.
And then I accidentally stumbled across an @letourdata retweet and disappeared down the rabbit hole of data.
I like a stat, you see.
Once the deep-dive into real time Tour data has begun, escape becomes impossible. Who knows where it will end: Divorce? Alcoholism? Fathers 4 Justice?
Like an addict, given a hit, real life melts away to be replaced by granular graphs of Tom Dumoulin’s speed data, rider profiles in the form of radar charts, and final kilometre sprint heat-maps.
It makes Strava seem like mere gateway data.
Perhaps it’s for the best that I succumbed.
What a dereliction of duty it would be for me to wax lyrical in my usual 500-word whimsical style without knowing that today we are about to see the longest finishing straight of this year’s race (400 metres). Or that yesterday Lawson Craddock, he of the fractured shoulder blade, still managed to clock a top speed of 90 km/h.
The hard-earned foundations of my life may well be about to crumble under the weight of a massive skipful of nerd friendly cycling stattage, but what can I do?
I can’t just not know this stuff.
Especially on a day like today where the visual renderings of the action by @letourdata were more entertaining than much of the actual action. It was a quiet day. One of those fairly dull Grand Tour stages that acts as vital context for the exciting bits.
The break formed early – pleasingly composed of a two French and two Belgian riders, perhaps in honour of the evening’s football World Cup semi-final between them? A state of play that could only have been improved by the actual Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba heading up the road to join them, mid-race, in a doomed bid for a stage win.
The break built a lead of eight minutes, before the peloton started the reeling-in process.
We had a little bit of will-they-won’t-they tension towards the end, as the leaders clung to their gap, before that 400 metre finishing straight where an entire gallop of lead-out men appeared, snorting and flexing in service of their sprinter.
A flat(ish) stage with a 400 metre finishing straight will always end with a sprint.Embed from Getty Images
The only way to flag this fact more obviously would have been to give the lead-out men a baton to pass to their fast finisher, and have Sally Gunnell skulk just beyond the finishing line poised for an awkward interview.
(That one’s for you, 90’s athletics fans.)
Fernando Gaviria won, for the record, pipping Sagan to the line. His Quick-Step team doing their now familiar job of totally and utterly bossing matters. The Colombian now has a 50% Tour de France strike rate (2/4).
And for the first time in this year’s race none of the main contenders lost any time, and the Yellow Jersey stayed where it was (across the torso of the mighty Greg van Avermaet).
Quick-Step bossing matters: