Le Tour de France! Ca va? What does the ‘0’ stand for in 02:30 ?  “Oh my God, it’s early!” Four hours sleep, as Barry White would say; “it’s just not enough!” It’s 14:19 and we’re on the motorway, near Metz; we just got lost – no excuses, but the signage is grim.

A town will be clearly marked, then it disappears at the next roundabout and being on the correct route has a large element of luck to it.

It’s not until you fly over Northern France again, that you remember how much a part agriculture plays in the structure of the French economy.

Le Tour de France
Nicki Sorensen.

Fly over Scotland and it’s not long before the patchwork of fields gives way to the hills – moorland or fores, but in France, the barely crumpled green, brown and golden quilt covers the land to the horizon and beyond in every direction.

Paris has hi-tech La Defense and Toulouse spawned Concorde, but make no mistake, much of France is still “profond.”  Rural, deep, real.

But, enough of my blethers – “what about the race ?”

Cavendish quatre à quatre” says the heading above the postage size picture of Cav, tucked into the gutter of L’Equipe’s front page.

On the cover of Monday’s edition, the whole front page was devoted to a colour picture of Fédrigo getting the better of Pellizotti at Tarbes.

The French are obviously getting bored with the ease with which Cav is hoovering up stages.

There was a piece in the Guardian, this morning that the French are also peeved about the young Manxman’s getting a bit “eggy” (as Terry Wogan would say) and making use of the “F” word, to quote L’Equipe’s headline, our Mark is alleged to have been ‘going off’ thus; “Asshole” and “F***ing Frenchies” – ah yes, I can see Viktor raising Cav even higher on the pedestal, now.

Ironically, right beside those eight column inches, he gets 10/10 to Tyler Farrar’s 8, Hushovd’s 4 and Freire’s 3.

They also analyse Cav’s train, “Le TGV de Columbia”… Grabsch and Eisel control the breaks and start the chase, at 50 kph.

Monfort, Kirchen and Rogers prevent breakaways and launch the final part of the train – 60 kph.

Hincapie, Martin and Renshaw bring Cav in, alone, as fast as possible and as close to the line as possible – 70 kph.

Doesn’t sound that difficult!

And across the top of the page above, a picture of him getting the better of Tyler Farrar, it proclaims; “Un sprint parfait” so, I guess they can’t be that pee-ed off with him.

Le Tour de France
The Salle de Presse in Vittel.

It’s 17:30 CET now, in the press room, Vittel – we were met with the usual indifference when we went to get the creds – fat, bald and old doesn’t cut it with the ASO lovelies. [Ed’s not describing me! Martin].

But eventually the White Knight arrived; a helpful lad who spoke English – job done!

Sorensen just won, he jumped the break then jumped his co-escapee, Calzati to win in the grand manner.

Cav skooshed the bunch sprint to stay in green.

That’s it, then, game on – best do some work !

Ciao !

Le Tour de France
Tour 09 Stage 12 Map.
Le Tour de France
Tour 09 Stage 12 Profile.

al-thumbAl Hamilton

AS starts today’s news with the fact that Cavendish wins stages with or with out race radios. “Dictadura del sprint” and “Con pinganillos o sin ellos, se repite el final gana Cavendish”, remember pinganillos are race radios in Spanish. So “Cav” is the dictator of the sprint, which if you think of it, that’s quite strong in a country that lived under a dictator (Franco) as recently as 1974!

Le Tour de France
Cav is the talk of the race.

Cavendish is the star of all the Spanish sports papers, “Cavendish equals the record of victories in 11 stages”. The man from the Isle of Man is being mentioned in the same breath as Petacchi, Cipollini and Freddy Maertens in that they have all won 4 stages in the first eleven stages.

The other big news is that Leipheimer and another 106 riders, including Wiggins and Menchov, are to be given back the 15 seconds they lost on Tuesday. Possible good news could be that Bouygues may stay on as a sponsor for another year costing 5.5 million euros; the win by Voeckler seems to have helped.

Andy Schleck has said “Seria estapido no atacar al Astaná en los Alpes…” so it would be stupid not to attack Astana in the Alps, fairly obvious.

Le Tour de France
We can’t wait, Andy.

Contador and Armstrong are his main competition and Alberto has the form, but Lance has to be given a lot of respect. And Friday to Colmar? “I would be stupid not to attack; I have a plan, maybe an early attack!”

So the last week will be all go, bring it on!

Más Tarde, Al.