As 15,000 people cycled the penultimate stage of the Tour de France 2016, from Megeve to Morzine in the Etape du Tour on Sunday, the drama of the actual race was unfolding in the Pyrenees.
Going into the first rest day of the 2016 tour, we have no doubt that this break is welcomed by all the riders and especially those who have worked so hard over the past week to secure points in all the jersey competitions. From domestiques* to GC** contenders the teams of professional cyclists have certainly entertained us.
On Friday, stage seven, from L'Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle saw British rider, Stephen Cummings take his second ever stage victory in the Tour de France. Riding away from his breakaway companions to take 38 seconds over the 2nd and 3rd placed riders. There was more drama for the British riders as young Adam Yates crashed when the 'flamme rouge', the large inflatable arch that signals just 1km to go (see video below). It was unwittingly disconnected by a fan who managed to catch his belt on the power cable. Sadly the timing was such that it hit Yates just as he reached it and was catapulted through the air. Luckily he sustained only minor injuries (including a cut to his chin that required stitches) and has continued to show his strength and skill in the following stages. The race was brought to a stand still as the rest of the peloton tried to negotiate their way around or through the fallen structure.
Stage eight on Saturday 9th July saw Chris Froome take the stage victory, and the yellow jersey, as he cruised home to his first ever downhill win from the top of the Col de Peyresourde. His 6th stage win at the Tour de France since 2012, he is now the leader of the race and will have to defend that position over the coming two weeks.
Yesterday was a stage filled with extremes as riders spend much of their time trying to cool themselves down in the unbearable heat of the Pyrenees, before the cycling through hail stones on the final climb of the day. Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin took his first ever Tour stage win in an incredible stage. Sadly though, GC rider, Alberto Contador abandoned the race after a failed attempt to test his strength in an attack. He climbed off his bike after battling through the first week with injuries sustained on day one.
Further fan disruption during yesterday's stage has caused plenty of chatter on social media, after a spectator was knocked down by New Zealand cyclist, George Bennett. The spectator walked out in front of Bennett on the final Arcalis climb. It was the second spectator contact incident in consecutive days. Chris Froome was fined by the UCI race jury for pushing away an over-enthusiastic fan on Saturday.
It sounds like a rest day is in order for the fans as well as the riders. Let's hope for some safer cycling when the race continues tomorrow with stage ten, Escaldes-Engordany to Revel.
*Domestiques are those riders who work hard on behalf of their team leader, fetching water, giving over a tyre during a punture, attacking with the rest of the team, or helping to keep their team leader out of trouble within the peloton.
**GC contenders - those team leaders who are in contention for the top podium spots at the end of the three weeks of racing. GC stands for General Classification.