There was the familiar sight of an Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider timing his burst to perfection and winning a sprint finish but instead of Mark Cavendish it was his room-mate Matteo Trentin who took the honours on stage 14 of the Tour de France in Lyon today.
The 23-year-old Italian applied everything he had learned from Cavendish as he provided the Belgian team with their fourth stage win of the 100th Tour, adding to two from Cavendish and one from Tony Martin in the first time trial.
Tour debutant Trentin beat Michael Albasini over the line with another first-timer Andrew Talansky of Garmin-Sharp crossing in third.
Ireland's Dan Martin remains in 11th place overall.
It was an unusual cast for a bunch sprint finish but these were the remnants of a long 18-strong attack which set off early on the rolling roads from Saint-Pourcain-sur-Sioule, while Team Sky led home the main peloton some seven minutes and 17 seconds later, keeping Chris Froome safe in the yellow jersey.
Trentin, enjoying his first win as a professional, looked a little dazed as he tackled the array of responsibilities which come with the honour.
But while he still has things to learn about that side of the job, it seems Cavendish has taught him plenty about the art of the sprint finish.
“With Mark we always plan the sprint before every race,” Trentin said.
“We always say the main thing is to stay calm and wait for the moment. Today I just wanted and waited.
“We saw with the wind that those who went early for sure came back because it was too strong. I just waited because I knew my good sprint is 200 metres.
“At the 200 metre marker, I went.”
Cavendish won yesterday’s stage 13 to Saint-Amand-Montrond to silence a few doubters who suggested his day had passed as he faced challenges from younger men in this year’s Tour.
Today, he was a proud onlooker as Trentin stood on the podium.
“Been lucky to witness some amazing teammates wins in my career, but today was the 1st that brought tears to my eyes. @MATTEOTRENTIN £soproud” the Manxman tweeted.
Trentin’s victory was not so welcome among the thousands of fans lining the streets of Lyon, who
were desperate to see Julien Simon become the first French stage winner of this Tour.
The Sojasun rider launched an attack 15 kilometres from the line and pulled as much as 40 seconds clear as they crested the last of seven categorised climbs, but he was chased down as they passed under the flamme rouge one kilometre from the finish. His was the most daring of several attacks and feints off the front of the 18-man group once it became apparent one of their number would take the win today.
David Millar, who won on this day – the anniversary of Tom Simpson’s death – in last year’s Tour, was among those who showed an interest, but the Scot drew his finger across his throat to signal he was out of gas as they went up the penultimate climb of the day.
Millar won on this day last year, his victory on stage 12 to Annonay-Davezieux coming on the 45th anniversary of the death of British rider Tom Simpson on the ascent of Mont Ventoux, where this year’s Tour heads tomorrow. That challenge was clearly weighing on the mind of Team Sky as they let the breakaway go and concentrated on controlling the peloton, protecting Froome from any repeat of yesterday’s attack which allowed Bauke Mollema and Alberto Contador to cut 69 seconds out of his lead yesterday.
They did their job as Froome retained his two minute 28 second advantage over the Dutchman Mollema, with Contador remaining 17 seconds further back.
“That wasn’t that far from a perfect day for us today,” Froome said.
“Maybe we’d have made the first 80km a little more relaxed than it was. So many guys going in the break caused a bit of stress and a lot of teams who missed out brought it upon themselves to bring that move back and weren’t able to – so guys were going flat out in that first part of the race today.
“It was a little more controlled towards the end with my team-mates on the front keeping an eye on things. They were great.”
While Sky ponder the challenges to come in the Alps over the coming days, Trentin promised Omega Pharma-Quick Step will focus on their one remaining goal - delivering Cavendish to what would be a fifth consecutive victory on the final day in Paris.
“We are here for Mark,” he said. “Now we are focused on the Champs-Elysees.”