Tour de France Diary
Stage nine: Gerardmer to Mulhouse - 170km
MULHOUSE: Organisers could not have asked for a better scenario than to have a Frenchman wear the yellow jersey as overall leader on Bastille Day.
In this instance, it is Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) who is a good guy and comes from a strong French cycling family.
So it’s not just nice for the organisation but for the Gallopin family that Tony claimed the yellow jersey – or ‘maillot jaune’ – for Monday’s 10th stage from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles from which some big changes were expected.
It will certainly be hard for Gallopin’s team to defend the jersey, and his Belgian team have also had to consider how any effort will impact the interests of their most genuine overall contender, Belgian Jurgen Van den Broeck.
Monday’s stage, at 161.5km and including six categorised climbs before the last and seventh to the finish at La Planche des Belles Filles, is one for the hurt locker.
The prospect of racing the first potentially selective stage of this year’s Tour left me hoping that most of the European Tour contenders will have watched the World Cup final between Germany and Argentina as I turned the lights out to sleep.
Stages like Monday’s are big occasions because of the expectation and anxiety they create.
But despite that, the tension in other lower billed stages can be greater than expected. That was the case with Sunday’s ninth stage from Gerardmer to Mulhouse in the Vosges that was won by German Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
There was a change in the yellow jersey wearer because Gallopin, while finishing down on Martin, crossed the line way ahead of the main group of 83 riders on the stage that included overnight Italian leader Vincenzo Nibali.
If it appears that it is easy at the finish of such a stage, that means it was hard at the start, as Sunday's stage was with two hard climbs straight up for the peloton.
When you start a stage straight into a climb, it’s so stressful. You drink more coffee on the team bus before to get yourself going and you have the warm up on the trainers.
On Sunday, the stage began hard and fast; especially during the time it took for the main break of the day – from which Martin and also Gallopin emerged – to form.
Because the break was such a big group, the peloton couldn’t just let the stage leaders go. So we rode the descents fast, rode the climbs quite fast too. And then on the last descent that was wet, all I can say is: 'Thank God, we took it a bit easier'.
However stage 10 pans out, I will still be looking forward to the rest day on Tuesday.
I don’t normally like rest days as they put you out of your routine; but they are there for a reason, so you might as well put them to good use – as I do.
Of course, I'll sleep in and enjoy not having to wake up and then get up to race. But I will train, and on this occasion I plan to ride on the time trial bike I plan to race on for the stage 20 time trial that could well end up settling who wins the Tour or not.
That’s the Tour – planning, planning.
There may be almost two weeks of it left, but trust me, before you know it, the finale to Paris will arrive and any opportunity to improve or defend your position will have come and gone. I hope I use it before that happens.
Richie Porte is a rider for team Sky