There was a very good reason to let it balloon that far if not farther. They don't care enough about this race. Echelons in 1 week races do ruin races because they virtually ensure most of the field doesn't care about the race, esp if it's on stage 1. Although most shorter stage races usually don't have the terrain for that type of stage.Yes, but that's their own fault. There was no reason to let the gap balloon to eight minutes. They could have kept it at two. So I guess there is some truth in what you say about some riders not taking this race too seriously. It doesn't align with your "echelons ruin stage races" because a) a windy stage counts as much as a mountain stage, and b) it is allowed to try to limit a gap.
Sure it's allowed to try to limit time gaps, but when riders see it's a losing cause, they lose motivation to care. Thus turning the entire race into something not worth caring about for the majority of teams.
Exactly why those who are 8 plus minutes down don't care about where they finish in GC in this race. This means that lower placing won't be fought over for the points because there aren't enough riders close enough for it to be a worthwhile endeavor. You could easily see riders who are thinking of trying a break on Thursday try to lose another 5 to 10 minutes on the climb of today's stage in hopes that UAE gives them a longer leash on Thursday and doesn't keep it that close.Others could end up being completely out of the race. And while anyone from the 8+ minutes group is unlikely to get into the top-10 today - what with Skjelmose in 10th being only 48 seconds behind - as someone pointed out; Pogacar could very likely win the stage today, and the GC is probably gonna be a bit more spread out as well, so come Thursday some riders could try and go in a break, hoping that UAE won't chase.