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Le Tour de France 2010, Stage 19: Bordeaux – Pauillac 52km ITT; Schleck Surprises, But It’s Bert

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“Sea, sex and sun,” sings Serge Gainsbourg on Radio Nostalgi – all very well, but the boys have 640 K to drive, this Sunday morning, it’s the TT from Bordeaux to Pauillac. Today’s chrono is 52 kilometres, but Saturday’s L’Equipe glossy magazine takes us back 30 years to a much shorter effort against the watch – the Olympic one kilometre championship in ‘Moscou.’

Thoms: a new dimension‘ says the headline – German Lothar Thoms won in 1:2:95.

That wouldn’t get top six, now.

Pauillac
The following car is prepped.

‘L’Heure de Vérite’ says the banner across the top of the page in the newspaper – ‘The Hour of Truth.’

Pauillac
The Pinarello is UCI – approved.

That’s the thing about le Tour; Schleck may be the coming man in les montagnes, but he has to do the ‘alone and unpaced’ thing, survive the pavé and watch for splits on ‘Crazy Cav’ days.

Exploit your strengths, survive you weaknesses – but I have to confess that I was surprised by Schleck’s ride. I had though that he’d drop two minutes to Contador, but not a bit of it.

The Spaniard’s reactions at the finish were untypical of a man not known for displays of emotion – he was very relieved to have held Schleck off.

Pauillac
Following Geraint was a great experience.

Like Bert said, ‘form isn’t math’ and during this Tour his wasn’t the best – but he rode conservatively, kept his cool and if God spares us all, he’s a three time winner, this apres midi, in Paris to join the likes of Lemond and Bobet.

We had a long day, up early and down to Bordeaux, we did a bit of that tourist stuff, mixed in with skeking the hi-tech TT bikes over at the start. That’ll be up on the site in the next few days.

It’s a lovely city, the suburbs may be the usual grotty sprawl but the old centre is gentile and beautiful.

During the course of our walk we bumped in to the race a few times – the early starters had the best conditions, for sure, calm and with a pleasant air temperature.

As the afternoon progressed the intensity of the wind increased and the direction gradually swung round until it was howler of a head wind right down the finishing straight.

Pauillac
Moinard upped his effort to match Geraint’s pace.

Following Geraint in the test was good fun but compromised a little by his failure to shake off the French rider Amael Moinard.

The Cofidis man didn’t ‘hing the wheel’ exactly, but used Geraint as a marker – the gaggle of cars rather kept us out of sight of our boy.

But like I said, it was fun.

Geraint’s a cool guy, very unaffected by his fame and long term a better bet for Grand Tour success than his more famous team mate.

Pauillac
Despite the increasing winds, Wiggins and Geraint rode to great times.

Credit where it’s due though, Wiggins – and Geraint, who was only seconds behind him – did excellent rides, given their field placings, catching the full blast of the wind.

After we’d had a few words with Geraint we took time to interview Dave Martin (not the one from The Bicycleworks) who is the man behind EUROPEDS, the bike tours company whose accommodation we were in for seven nights.

Pauillac
Bert rode a good, calculated and composed test.

On Friday and Saturday we stayed in a beautiful chateau north of Bordeaux – so it was the least we could do to big the man up with an interview.

We were at 600 metres to go to watch the big guns blast home – Contador did finish faster, you could see it, but Schleck had given his all in the early kilometres.

Pauillac
Geraint warms down after his effort.

Then it was time to fight through the ‘civilian’ traffic back to the digs and start on the words and pictures.

The pizza van was just about to close at 9:55 pm when the we pulled up, but the guy was sound, took pity and rattled two megas into the oven for us.

Paris here we come!

* * *

Pauillac – Gallery

Ed Hood and Martin Williamson
Ed and Martin, our top team! They try to do the local Time Trials, the Grand Tours and the Classics together to get the great stories written, the quality photos taken, the driving done and the wifi wrestled with.

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