Le Tour de France 2016 – Stage 17; Berne – Finhaut-Emosson. Ilnur Zakarin Goes Solo
How are the mighty fallen?
We had to double check the number – but ‘yes’ it was Tejay, way off the back and just ‘riding in’ on the Col de la Forclaz – well, we got that one right, we said he do nothing in this race.
But we did also say that Quintana would win it – but that was more out of hope than anything else.
It was a hot one again, blue skies, fans out in force – the real Tour de France dream.
We paid our first call to the Tour village today and schmoozed with the ViP’s, PR girls, media types and general hangers-on.
Nice coffee and cookies in there, Viktor!
After that there has to be a little ‘tech’ – aside from the UCI guy checking the Movistar Canyons for motors we noticed that most of the team have Campag dual pivot brakes on the front.
Generally these only go on the rear because they have such savage stopping capabilities but the pros obviously need that extra braking power – especially on carbon rims – as the drop off the cols.
Yates bike runs a monster 32 cog at the rear with a Shimano Ultegra electronic rear mech to handle the huge jump in sprocket size.
The weather had brought out the stars and the Bigs were happy to pose for pictures, shake hands, sign autographs and generally be nice to their fans – good to see.
Switzerland drips with affluence, whether it’s the houses or the cars parked roadside you can tell there’s an awful lot of dosh in these parts.
Last weekend I read piece by Richard Williams, I can’t remember if it was the Guardian or Observer but part of his solution to the ‘Froome Ventoux Polemica’ was to ban ‘unsightly’ camper vans from the roadside.
Get a grip man!
We embedded on the second last climb, the Forclaz – to get on to the finish climb was a big production with shuttle busses and the traffic coming off a ‘dead end’ climb is horrific.
We decided the Forclaz would do us just fine.
Lutsenko was first up – way ahead of the race itinerary – but you could tell he was in borrowed time.
In hot pursuit was Dutch 'chronoman' Stef Clement - he's won a Worlds time trial medal in the past - with Tommy V right on his tail.
Clement was driving for team mate, Pantano but it would be tall, skinny Russian Zakarin who would take the day, eventually.
Etixx's classy young Frenchman, Julian Alaphilippe had been tailed off, carrying the red 'most aggressive' number - jointly with Tony Martin - for their epic break on the road to Bern, the day before the rest day.
Thomas was doing the "US Postal Thing" for Froome with Poels, Landa and Henao all in attendance.
The maillot jaune was his usual model of style - elbows and knees sticking out and looking down at his stem.
You're never gonna take down your Felice Gimondi poster to replace it with one of Christopher...
The remarkable Sagan was right there, if starting to slide backwards, he's going to win the points competition by a huge margin now that Cav has 'left the building.'
The Manxman - and team GB - will be hoping he's pulled out in time to get sharp for Rio - but he'll watch Stage 21 on TV with mixed emotions.
Our interview subject from yesterday, Jasper Stuyven looked like he had things under control - there were many, many riders behind him.
We wondered why it was such a 'production' for Shane Archbold to saddle up again after his puncture - it transpires his pelvis is broken.
One tough young man.
Stone last was Dan McLay with two of his team mates.
He was suffering, badly; jersey open, out of the saddle, rocking, rolling - painful to watch.
For all the early 'sportiv' stages, when you get into the mountains you're reminded just how brutal this race is.
And tomorrow they have get up and ride a savagely short mountain time trial with that merciless time cut ever in their mind.
Froome has the Tour won, barring disasters but further down the GC it's a more interesting race and one which involves just as much suffering as the 'Bigs' do.
Dan will get a BIG shout from us in the chrono.