We’ve left Carcassonne and heading for Bagnères-de-Luchon. But first, our favourite picture of the Tour so far ?
L’Équipe’s shot of F des J manager Marc Madiot kissing Arnold Jeannesson after Stage 16 for all the good work he did for Pinot during his six-and-a-quarter hour 16 shift.
Some folks poke fun at Madiot; we like his style – committed, passionate and outspoken.
As a rider he was brilliant; a French Pro champion, two wins in Paris-Roubaix and top tens in Flanders – he’s got the T-shirt, in our book.
And his boy Thibaut has the white jersey and a foot solidly on the podium.
Stage winner, Mick Rogers was impressive yesterday; taking his third Grand Tour stage within a few weeks.
And proving – if it were needed – that Tinkoff-Saxo is not just Alberto Contador.
We were on the final descent – just for a wee change.
Truth is that we couldn’t find a spot to stop on the Bales so, like the flexible journos that we are we holed up on the descent.
It’s actually something we’ve talked about doing for ages, so Stage 16 was the day.
The speed is pretty breath taking – and for a ‘poor descender’ Marc’s boy Thibaut does not bad at all.
He gets up them pretty good too – even distancing Nibali on the last climb albeit was Movistar who did the bulk of the damage with Visconti, Izaguirre and Gadret all burning big watts for Valverde.
By the time the race passed us Nibali was back with Pinot – Valverde was there too, of course and Peraud.
Two jerseys we immediately noticed as MiA were the red of Tejay van Garderen and white of Romain Bardet.
Bardet came first, the worry on his face was all to obvious as his diminutive team mate Sam Dumoulin guided the then best young rider in the race down the rapid and at times very technical descent.
Tejay and his BMC amigos were beyond worried, there was panic in their eyes as they tried to limit the BMC man’s losses – and were on the ragged edge – but with Thibaut rampant that was always going to be difficult.
The top ten in this race has been anything but cast in stone and these stages are throwing up all sorts of surprises but most importantly we still have three Frenchmen in the top five in Pinot, Peraud and Bardet and that has to be the best thing that’s happened to le Tour in years.
Our base camp is in Lourdes it’s a funny old town; a place for respect, reflection and hope – one of the world’s most important catholic shrines.
The fact that it’s perhaps the most commercialised, tacky, over priced place in France, if not Europe and at night could be part of the set of “Blade Runner in Blackpool” rather takes you by surprise.
But it’s a good base for our Pyreneean adventure and we’re there for three nights; which is cool, saving a lot of packing and unpacking.
Tomorrow we’ll be on the Col de Val Louron-Azet, hours ahead of the race – no slip-ups for this stage.
The sun is baking but Dave has cheered us up no end by checking the weather forecast – ‘chances of thunder storms.’
Wish us luck…