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Tag: Le Tour de France 2013
Chris Froome will go down in the record books as Great Britain’s second Tour de France winner. But whilst the slim man who now lives in Monaco may have GB next to his name in the record book – he’s originally from Kenya by way of South Africa and his win is a huge shot in the arm for cycle sport in the Dark Continent. But Froome was beaten to the punch as the first African in yellow by a man whose passport still declares ‘Republic of South Africa.’
Forget stories of barbed wire fences; that’s not what did the damage to our favourite Tour rider, Jack Bauer’s face. We know what really happened on stage 19 but gave our word to Jack that we’d keep schtum – suffice to say that it was a sore one and not his fault. We bumped into him in the twilight of the Champs-Elysées on Sunday night as he waited for the Garmin post-Tour shindig. Not an amazing Tour for Garmin but hardly a disaster for them either, with Dan Martin’s stage win on the board and Andrew Talansky continuing his upward climb through the ranks. Jack had a dozen stitches in place but already the swelling was on the way down and there’s little doubt he’ll soon be back to looking as cool as ever.
Saturday night was sore - 4.5 hours on the road after the race then straight into the best of two falls or a submission with the motel wi-fi. However a chance meet with the night porter and we were 'in' on the staff password - words and pics all safely on their way. We realised a dream yesterday; our very own barbie on a mountainside - it was just 'the biz'. We had a wee bit of a 'stramash' with some Belgian journos who practically parked on our bonnet - but in the interests of EU harmony we bunged them a sausage and a kebab off the barbie and harmony reigned.
Whilst we did muse over the possibility as we supped our McDonald's coffee, this morning, I was unprepared for it actually happening. What I'm talking about is the setting of Alberto Contador's sun - both Quintana and Rodriguez distanced him on the very last climb of the 2013 Tour de France to elbow him off the podium. I thought he’d resist Rodriguez, at least. But no, both of them combined to push Alberto off the podium – his natural habitat for the last decade. The end of an era.
First we had Siberian snow at the Giro – and now, Rangoon rain at Le Tour. It’s never boring with VeloVeritas on the Grand Tours. But first – a rant! Sodden, tired and in need of victuals the VV crew inched down through the traffic jams off the Col de la Croix Fry towards our inn for the night. Smiling, we present ourselves to our hostess; ‘Twin room?’ – ‘non! double!’ ‘OK, but we can eat here?’ – ‘non!’ ‘Oh well! wi-fi?’ – ‘non!’ And that’s how we first came to be in here McDonald’s ‘til chucking out time, last night.
I could never be a ski bum, 60 Euros per night for the room - but you have to pay extra for sheets - and towels - there's no toilet paper - then you have to clean the place at the end of it. A bit like borstal really, with off-hand, condescending staff. If you were there 'with the boys' to watch the race that would be fine but not when you're working. All that said, it was a nice place to be, high in the Alps, the shop was well stocked and you could get L'Equipe with a two minute walk. It's edition 21,551 of L'Équipe today and they carry a big feature on Froome and whether his performances are 'coherent.'
This must be the place; Andrei Greipel’s pedalling back to his hotel, the road’s blocked with cars, buses and civilians. Yes, it’s the finish of the 32 kilometre mountain time trial from Embrun to Chorges – trouble is that we want to be at the start and the satnav is routing us through the finish area. But the cops and race officials are tame and they guide us through to the ‘off course’ route to Embrun – that’s the one the team cars and motorcycle police use to get back to the start in place to place chronos.
If you’re in love with the sport, sometimes it breaks your heart. I can remember sitting in my living room watching Bjarne Riis and Luc Leblanc squabble by the road side about whether the race should continue during the ‘Festina Tour’ – a race ultimately won by Marco Pantani. Tears were close; ‘what are they doing to the Tour?’ I remember thinking. Riis, Leblanc and Pantani – God rest his soul – have all since been proved to be cheats on a monumental scale. And it’s my sincere wish that Mr. Riis has taken a trip to Damascus since those horrible days and that his modus operandi are very different from those of 15 years ago.
‘Naturellement’ says the headline in L’Équipe. It’s ambiguous, to say the least. Does it mean that the Ventoux was always to be the place where Froome was going to place his stamp on things? – after all I wasn’t the only one who tipped him or Voeckler for the stage win. Or does it mean they think he’s ‘clean’ – natural? Or are they being sarcastic, meaning that his performances are anything but natural? It’s hard to tell; but the paper is owned by ASO who run the Tour.
It was a long day for VeloVeritas, yesterday. But it was a cracker – positioned 800 metres from the line we were there from when Froome spun past like a madman on rollers until Jonathan Hivert ground past us, oh so painfully some 50 minutes later. We’ll spare you the waxing lyrical about Provence, lavender fields, cicadas and also the stats about the mountain and who’s won there in the past and give you our thoughts on some of the men of the day. Christopher Froome: was first up and with the highest of cadences and the skinniest of arms he’s an unlikely strong man – but he’s been our favourite from the start.
Quote of the day comes from a gentleman of Ivan’s acquaintance; ‘It's not fair what Contador did to Froome, using his team like that in the wind.’ Damned Johnny Foreigner – no wonder they don’t play cricket. And that blighter Nibali pulled a similar stroke on Christopher in Tirreno-Adriatico, attacking downhill in the rain – I mean one or the other would be bad enough, but downhill and rain . . . Vik rang this morning to say that we should have been sitting watching the stage on TV, yesterday not driving around France. We did try to watch the finale, Vik . . .
Cav and Contador, how can you not respect them? We missed the mad action today; we were driving from the stage start to the digs and thought we had nothing better to do than find a bar to watch proceedings. However, we forgot that we’re deep in La France Profonde; rural, quiet, sleepy, hot and totally devoid of spots to catch Le Tour.
Martin summed it up best; ‘normally you’d have expected Cav to be all but unbeatable in those circumstances.’ I felt the same, especially with Tony Martin winning the chrono, QuickStep morale being sky high and Cav being desperate to make amends after his brush with Veelers the other day. On Thursday in Tours, I thought The Missile launched just a fraction too early – maybe trying that wee bit too hard? Al Hamilton reckons that it’s Steegman’s fault; he’s not quick enough to be Cav’s last wheel?
Bonjour, from the Balladins Motel, ville de Tours, from Martin and Ed! Yes, VeloVeritas has joined le Tour – well, almost, we spent the day in Tours, tomorrow’s stage finish town - doing a wee travelogue piece for ‘a well known North American Website’ and skeking the Mont-Saint-Michel TT on TV. Tony Martin was impressive, so was Chris Froome – Cadel Evans, Pierre Rolland, Nairo Quintana, Tejay van Garderen and a whole host of others, weren’t.
It's not often he gets it wrong, but he did today. Cav let Steegmans go and decided to go 'in the wheels' with Greipel and Kittel, tangled with Veelers - taking the Dutchman down - and ended up third. As my host for the stage, Viktor said; 'well, that'll be the crash hat getting kicked around the QuickStep bus, then!'
We were worried yesterday that the Tour may be heading towards a 2012 ‘boring procession’ behind Squadra Murdoch – so big thanks to Garmin, Saxo and Movistar for making sure it was anything but. This season, Dan Martin has dispelled any doubts about whether he was ‘doing a Danielson’ and being a ‘coming man’ for year after year – Catalunya, la Doyenne and now a Tour stage mean that we can file British Cycling’s biggest ‘one that got away’ firmly under ‘Big.’
Yesterday we alluded to the fact that a ‘break might stick’ and ‘Froome in yellow?’ We got the first one wrong but even we didn’t realise how spectacularly right we’d be on the second one. ‘Boom! Froome blows the race to pieces!’ was how ASO saw it.
Peter Sagan (Cannondale & Slovakia) is a breath of fresh air; he has the patter, the power, the speed, the will to win - and Cannondale have the airbrush work to back him up. And perhaps the scariest thing about him is that he’s still only 23 years-old. If he can avoid the fast cars, clubs, models, tax problems and injury then he could well join the ‘Greats’ with another ten years possible.
Daryl Impey (GreenEDGE & Republic of South Africa) was in danger of always being remembered as the rider who suffered a horrific crash in the final metres of the Presidential Tour of Turkey in 2009 with the yellow jersey on his back – the podium substituted for an ambulance, that day. Not now. Now, he’ll be remembered as the Dark Continent’s first maillot jaune.
When I heard it was going to be a bunch sprint at the end of Stage Five, I knew there would only be one winner. The anger would have been boiling inside Cavendish since yesterday; losing that TTT by less than a second would have killed him. The chance for him to be on the podium with his boys - gone. No one was going to get the better of him after that disappointment.
'GreenEDGE will be on a high' we said of their chances in the TTT – and they exploited it in the best way possible. There’s a lot of luck involved in professional cycling and it was Sky and QuickStep’s turn for that particular lady to desert them, this time around. Tony Martin is a beast of a man and the Belgian team’s power house – and no matter how tough the world champion is there’s no way he could have been at 100% in Nice after the mauling he took on Stage One. The same applies to big strong boys Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard for Sky – both came down very hard on Saturday. If truth be told, there’s no way Thomas should still be in the race, not with a fracture to his pelvis.
Aird Mohr ferry terminal, Isle of Barra, Outer Hebrides, 17:00 Monday. There's only one bit of road on the entire island where you can get a mobile signal. And as for the 'net, I've sworn, raged and cried at trying to get solid internet connections in Europe, over the years. I've even had it go down in the T-Mobile Worlds press centre in Salzburg, never mind Barra. But here we are, five hours out of Oban across the Minch, on the edge of the Atlantic; Marlene opens the iPad, presses two buttons and in the time it take to write this, www.cyclingnews.com pops up. I'm amazed, she's nonplussed; 'it's always like that,' she sniffs.
If you nominated Jan Bakelants as the rider who would prevail in Ajaccio, take a bow. The 27-year-old from RadioShack-Leopard has been a pro since 2009 but has not won a race in that time. Now he's the leader of the Tour de France. He held off the peloton after an attack that came on the long, flat run to the finish. On the weekend that another Tour de France - the sailing equivalent - began in Dunkirk, there's a Belgian leader of the original Tour de France.
My son asked me today what the chances of Cav taking the win and the yellow jersey were; "95%" said I, confidently. But it’s that other 5% which makes it a bike race. The bulk of the stage was a ‘paint drying’ job with the early break – which went in remarkably fuss free fashion - of Jerome Cousin (Europcar), Juan José Lobato (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Lars Boom (Belkin), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Cyril Lemoine (Sojasun) sitting up in the huff because they couldn’t get the gap; then the peloton doing the same to give the escapees some space and incentive to get back on the case.