Tuesday, January 18, 2022
HomeDiariesLe Tour de France 2012 - Stage 16: Pau - Bagnères-de-Luchon, 197...

Le Tour de France 2012 – Stage 16: Pau – Bagnères-de-Luchon, 197 km.

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As a colleague from another life used to say; ‘you should never drink on an empty head.’ A sentiment I can endorse as we sit in our hotel in Vielha, Spain. Having left Pau, there were no digs to be had in France near the stage finish at Bagnères-de-Luchon – the Tour is a black hole which sucks up every hotel room within an hour’s drive and we had to cross the border to get to our digs.

QuickStep, Saxo, Movistar and Euskaltel all did the same thing and are here in Vielha, too.

It took a bit of a struggle to find the digs, tucked up a back alley, but they’re sound – no wi-fi in the room but it’s good enough in the bar where we had a cerveza or two as we edited the pics, wrote the words and got our article organised.

It was nice and quiet until some English and Aussie Tour fans arrived – not that I have a problem with either nationality, but jings, they were loud.

The mountain air, San Miguel and excitement of watching le Tour roadside create a heady mix.  And perhaps they should remember that France is France – not Rochdale and gendarmes aren’t ‘friendly bobbies.’

 Bagnères-de-Luchon
You don’t get views like this from the Press Room – glorious. Photo©Martin Williamson

We had our usual good day, driving the parcours; and all of France is happy with Tommy.

 Bagnères-de-Luchon
Tommy Voekler heads for a great stage win and the polka dots. Photo©Martin Williamson

But it’s apparent that Nibali has settled for third; the attacks today were mere show-boating.

He’s distanced Evans enough not to worry in the time trial and it would be folly to risk that in ‘death or glory’ attacks.

It’s been apparent from the first hill top finish that Evans doesn’t have the form he did, last year.

 Bagnères-de-Luchon
Ivan Basso keeps the speed high for Nibali, to distance Evans even more. Photo©Martin Williamson

Meanwhile, Wiggins and the Sky ‘clockwork soldiers’ tick ever onwards.

 Bagnères-de-Luchon
Wiggins has things under control it appears. Photo©Martin Williamson

We were going to drive the full stage, tomorrow but have decided to change our plans; we’ll be hugely surprised if there are any ‘exploits’ and we received another one of those emails from ASO explaining complicated shenanigans for evacuating the mountain top finish.

Given that the ‘default setting’ for Tour traffic is chaos and ‘bouchons’ – a new French word we picked up, meaning ‘traffic jams’ – if the organisation warns you about how bad it’s going to be, then you best listen.

We’ve now decided on a mission for the start area; but we’ll find a bar and watch the finale.

 Bagnères-de-Luchon
Hundreds of thousands of people can’t be wrong. Photo©Martin Williamson

The crowds today were maybe a wee bit less than one might expect in the Pyrenees but there are a number of factors in play – there were four major climbs to choose from, there are no Spanish riders in the race doing anything other than clinging on and the French fans, whilst happy to amble to road end or village square think twice about driving deep into the mountains and the subsequent nightmare to get home.

That will change perhaps, when and if Thibout Pinot, or one of the new generation French riders – maybe Demare, can challenge for the GC?