One of the joys of sport is its unpredictability. That is why I’m cynical of those who try to reduce performance and strategy to statistical analysis.
Thus I am sure that the Ineos team and most of the media had targeted the time trail from Pau as the occasion for Geraint Thomas to topple race Leader Julian Alaphilippe and hold onto the yellow jersey in the mountains.
It was not to be. The Frenchman won the time trial taking 14 seconds off Thomas and increasing his lead.
Alaphippe is a grimpeur (climber) but his stocky frame is better adapted to short bursts and he will not have the team support that Thomas can expect from Ineos. All is set for an exciting stage today culminating in the hors categorie Col Tourmalet.
Alaphilippe represents a new generation of dashing young riders. Cyclist like Matthieu van der Poel, whose winning of the Amstel One Day classic when he came from nowhere, was hailed as the race of the century.
Another – Wout Van Aert – had an awful accident yesterday when he struck a barrier at 25 mph. By contrast Thomas and before him Chris Froome seem formulaic. So I and the connoisseur of cycling with whom I watched the stage were rooting for Alaphilippe as was the French nation who at last have a hero with the potential to win.
When we switched to the Open there was not that much sadness that Rory McIlroy failed to qualify. Shane Lowry is the more genuine Irishman and Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrell Hatton the more likely to achieve.