The Tour de France is only one week old and already it’s looking like a war zone.
Another crash coming in to the finish of stage 6 in Le Havre saw the curse of the Maillot Jaune strike again with race leader Tony Martin crashing heavily and fracturing his collarbone. Immediately after the finish he vowed to continue in the tour but he was later withdrawn by his team when it was revealed he requires surgery. Martin also took down three of the favourites in Nairo Quintana, Vincenzo Nibali and Chris Froome. Froome and Nibali escaped with only slight abrasions but Quintana landed pretty heavily and on his elbow. Luckily for all involved it was inside the final 3 kms and all were given bunch time.
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At least the Orica GreenEDGE boys managed to stay upright on this stage. Well the six of them that are left anyway. It was a pretty special day on stage 5 through the battlefields of the Somme and the OGE boys all wore specially designed black armbands as a mark of respect. Team Manager Shayne Bannan said his team’s official gesture was the result of special planning between the department of Veteran Affairs, The Australian Embassy and ASO, the Tour organisers.
As we drove past the Australian war memorial in Villers Bretonneux, there were two young French boys dressed in the Aussie WW1 uniform saluting every tour car and tour rider. Australia lost 10,000 fine young men in the fields around there in just over 12 months. Australia's sacrifice is unlikely to be forgotten by the future generations of Villers-Bretonneux either. At the local school, for example, above every blackboard is written the inscription: "N'oublions jamais l'Australie" (Let us never forget Australia). There is no doubt that Michael Matthews is displaying some of those qualities that the Aussie veterans are remembered for - Courage and Determination.
Matthews is still having trouble sleeping but the two small fractures in his rib cage have settled a bit and he said he feels a slight improvement. I spoke with him after the finish of stage 6 in Le Havre and asked him if he felt he could improve enough to challenge for a stage later in the race.
“That’s the plan for sure,” Matthews said. “I’m not in the Tour de France to just get to Paris. I don’t want to be just another number in the bunch...If I was just here to finish I would have pulled out already.”
Sounds like a battle plan to me.