Mont-Saint-MichelWe’d hoped for a big GC dog fight on the Joux Plane but what we got was a dour struggle to the line whilst those crazy baroudeurs battled for the stage win.

It was a nice morning to start with but as we parked up on the Joux Plane the clouds scudded in, thunder roared down the valley and the lightning flashed brighter than a million photog’s flash guns.

Callum and I stared glumly through the windscreen, we HAD to go out in it shortly.

Izagirre
Photo©Ed Hood

Etixx Ardennes Man Alaphilippe was first up through the gloom with Colombian Stage 15 winner Jarlinson Pantano (IAM) close behind.

In the finale, despite his skills as a demon descender, Pantano just couldn’t get up to Movistar man, Izagirre who swished down over the wet tarmac to stage glory.

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Jon Izagirre takes the stage. Photo©ASO/G.Demouvaux
Izagirre
Photo©Ed Hood

Astana’s Giro winner Vincenzo’s efforts to salvage his Tour came to nought – third on the stage, out descended by Izagirre and Pantano.

Izagirre
Photo©Ed Hood

Former world champion, Lampre’s Rui Costa was involved in the charge too, whilst there would be no victory there would be good TV exposure.

Izagirre
Photo©Ed Hood

It wasn’t a great day for Astana with Nibali failing and Aru having a ‘jour sans’ and dropping out of the top ten.

Izagirre
Photo©Ed Hood

The Bigs were all huddled together and one look told you that attacking was just not an option; Yates (Orica) was right on Porte (BMC) though – just in case.

After the escape artists and peloton it really was the ‘men all over the mountain’ of cliche.

Izagirre
Photo©Ed Hood

Orica’s South African time trial champion, Daryl Impey did sterling work for Yates lower down the mountain – keeping a steady high tempo but had ‘popped’ by the time he reached us.

Izagirre
Photo©Ed Hood

Arthur Vichot (F des J) suits that French Champion’s maillot but is no mountain man – this was the second day we saw him in difficulties on the climbs.

Izagirre
Photo©Ed Hood

The Emperor Napoleon was on hand to oversee the day – he must have been disappointed to see Arthur’s lowly position whilst wearing the tricolour uniform.

Wellington was bad enough – but now there’s this Froome character.

Izagirre
Photo©Ed Hood

Trek’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne winner, big Jasper Stuyven was faring better than many on this horrible day, still looking reasonably ‘together’ as he fought his way over the col.

Izagirre
Photo©Ed Hood

BMC’s American stalwart, Brent Bookwalter didn’t look in too bad nick either.

Izagirre
Photo©Ed Hood

French Giant GC hope, Warren Barguil looked his usual million dollars – just a pity he was way off the pace…

Izagirre
Photo©Ed Hood

Jumbo’s Cobbled Classics beast, Sep Vanmarcke was looking anything but a million dollars though – staring up to the next bend but knowing there were still many more to come before the summit.

Izagirre
Photo©Ed Hood

Handsome Frenchman Tony Gallopin (Lotto) was at his limit too, in his own wee world.

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Photo©Ed Hood

My flash interrupted Welshman Luke Rowe’s lunch; he’s entitled to a bit of peace with his energy bar.

But think of Paris tomorrow, Luke and the Sky team prize money split…

Izagirre
Photo©Ed Hood

Astana’s Paolo Tiralongo has been riding Grand Tours since the beginning of time but those cols don’t get any easier.

He looks the part though, harder than hard.

Izagirre
Photo©Ed Hood

Lampre’s Yukiya Arashiro is probably on the squad as part of Lampre’s Japanese marketing strategy – but the man is gallus and get’s round.

Izagirre
Photo©Ed Hood

Etixx chronoman Tony Martin may be a strong beast of a man but his face said it all today, wasted…

Izagirre
Photo©Ed Hood

Bryan Coquard, the compact Direct Energie sprinter has been close a couple of times this Tour – and was second on the Champs, last year?

This year?

But the boys have to get him home, first.

Izagirre
Photo©Ed Hood

Often, when the gruppo amble past there’s chat and laughter – not on this day.

Stony silence.

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Photo©Ed Hood
Izaguirre
Photo©Ed Hood

The voiture balai passed and it was time to join the infernal procession off the hill.

Izagirre
Photo©Ed Hood

Dodge the Crazies and think about a bath and a pizza – unaware of course that our last digs, straight out of ‘Zombies, Dawn of the Dead’ had worked a number on my laptop and it would take a ‘system resume’ and ’til midnight to clear it.

Such is life on le Tour – but like Jess Glynne says; ‘No Place I’d Rather Be.’

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Jarlinson Pentane felt Nibali was holding him up on the descent. Photo©ASO/A.Broadway
Izagirre
Chris Froome has the race wrapped up. Photo©ASO/B.Bade