We expected to see the sprint contenders launch themselves from the careening chimera of the peloton, emerging from a blurry heat haze and sprinting into sharp focus.
We got something different, a throwback if you like, to the ‘old days’ of Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault and Lemond.
A mixture of crosswinds and tailwinds caused havoc as the peloton, spurred on by powerful teams with a vested interest in causing mayhem, split into three of four groups, each riding in echelons across the whole width of the road, to counter fierce gusts from the North West.
As they approached the final 12 kms, the point at which the sprinters’ teams normally take control, we witnessed a denouement with a difference.
Green jersey wearer, Peter Sagan, the man who put ‘pep’ into pepper, stole off the front with Saxo teammate Bodnar. Ever vigilant Christopher Froome in the yellow jersey, riding in a perfect position near the front of the group, jumped onto Sagan’s wheel accompanied by superman Geraint Thomas…..in a nanosecond the four of them agreed to give it everything….for the hell of it…to race hard.
And boy, did they truly honour the Yellow and Green jerseys as the foursome rocked it all the way to the line, leaving the sprinters to fight for crumbs.
Froome has twice thrusted the sword with a flourish worthy of the greats.