If you rode the Tour in the colours of Lampre you've got €9,830 coming your way - but don't get too excited, that's to be split between nine coureurs and the staff. And if you then remember that's for one month's work - the shine comes of things a wee bit. However, if you were one of Vincenzo's hard working storm troops then you'd be splitting €539,330 with the Capo not taking his share. That's better !
First mission in Périgueux was to have a good look at the chrono hardware on display. There's a dazzling amount of tech on display from Canyon, Pinarello and the rest - it's hard to keep up with the manufacturers' claims and to get your mind round what's the best solution. Concealed front brakes, for example are a confusing one - whilst Trek's Speed Concept conceals the mechanisms within the fork blades, which is perhaps the optimal solution, the likes of Giant and Ridley have the brakes behind the fork crown.
There's always drama when you work le Tour. We've followed Tour time trials for years; roll up at the start, tell the dude which rider you're following, they give you a windscreen sticker, marshall you into position at the appointed time and off you go. This year, however we were notified that we had to attend a meeting on Friday evening at the Permanence after the stage if we wished to follow a rider. Fair enough - but then they changed the venue a few hours before the meet was due.
Bonjour! Hautacam and the Pyrenees are in the rear view mirror as we head for the start of Stage 19 and the start of the long haul north towards Paris. We were on the Tourmalet, yesterday - a beast of a mountain. But first, Lourdes - go, see it and then leave, quickly. At the bottom of The Tourmalet sits Sainte-Marie-de-Campan where - back in the days when men were men - Eugene Christophe had to fix his own forks but the commissars still nailed him because the blacksmith's apprentice worked the bellows at the forge.
Another great stage yesterday - Peraud takes a giant step, Rafal Majka confirms, Nibali consolidates, Konig stumbles... After breakfast we had a wander round Lourdes; it's one weird place - but I said that yesterday. We decided against the finish col to Saint-Lary Pla d'Adet - dead end climbs are nitemares to get off after the stage and we figured that the action might just start on the Col de Val Louron-Azet. We got up there in plenty time, claimed our spot and waited 'til it was time to grab our caravan swag.
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.
Jack Bauer; tall, dark, slim, handsome, polite, grounded, friendly - it would have been so nice to add 'Tour de France stage winner' to that description. Dave and I were holed up in a nice old bar/restaurant attached to a genteel hotel in Carcassonne watching the finale of Stage 15 and willing the big man from the land of the long white cloud to cross that line first.
Alberto Contador's withdrawal was a huge shock to the Tinkoff team and immediately after it Michael Rogers said; “It’s the first stage without Alberto, and the sadness is not just something we can leave at the rest day hotel. But we have a strong team and we’re all in a good condition. So we’ll be setting new goals and ambitions and shift our focus to taking home stage wins. Cue Rafal Majka.”
10 years ago we’d have been knocked out by the riding of Vincenzo Nibali – now we question. It’s not a case of cynicism or love of the ‘D-word’ gossip, it’s just that we were fooled for so long and so comprehensively that if a rider is dominating in the fashion of ‘The Shark’ then one does wonder – it’s impossible not to.
Alex Kristoff wins in the town which used to be the heart of the French bicycle industry – St. Etienne. We also managed to get our paws on L'Équipe, again - for the day of Nibali's second coup, on La Planche des Belles Filles. The front page features a satisfied Nibali, a devastated Contador as well as Bardet and Pinot - at last French guys with realistic GC ambitions. C'est bon!
VeloVeritas owes an apology to the Frenchman who rides for that most Belgian of teams, Lotto’s Tony Gallopin; we thought he’d had his ‘day in the sun,’ wearing le maillot jaune on Bastille Day. And if we may digress for a moment; since World war Two the jersey has been worn on Bastille Day by a French rider on 17 occasions, including Anquetil on five, Hinault three times with Bobet and Tommy Voeckler both achieving this feat twice – as well as Monsieur Gallopin, this year.
La Planche des Belles Filles. Epic. There's no other word. In any Saga there are heroes and villains; but the only one of the latter to manifest herself on this day was Lady Luck. Lashing out spitefully at Alberto Contador and casting a second Grand Favourite from the Tour. I can't recall the last time I saw the Spaniard "chuck" a race so knew it was serious.
Patrick Lefevre said today it was one of the greatest performances he has ever seen; Tony Martin fought for more than an hour to establish a gap of 30 seconds and then go away from the second group of 25 riders with the whole Europcar team trying to get him back. Remember that Lefevre has been one of the most respected managers in the sport for two decades and isn’t prone to throwing praise around.
‘Enfin un Francais!’ – ‘At last a Frenchman!’ said the caption on French EuroSport. And a highly deserving one – Blel Kadri won in the grand manner; in the break for most of the day; dissolving the partnership with his companions when they were no longer of any use to him then holding off the maillot jaune group to win ‘en seule’.
QuickStep, you have to respect them. They lost Cav but they've been contesting the sprints as if he was still here, with Renshaw grabbing places of honour. And today again Kwiatkowski was there in the finale - yesterday he tried a 'long one' for himself, today he set it up beautifully for Matteo Trentin. Patrick Lefevre has seen it all; a good pro himself, he won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in his day, he manages to run a glossy, modern team which at the same time doesn’t forget that the sport belongs to the people.
It was good to see Andre Greipel, ‘Le Gorille’ back and his relief at winning was palpable. The huge disappointment in the Lotto car when the big German crashed out of Gent-Wevelgem was forgotten after a stage win which effectively means Lotto’s Tour is a success, irrespective of what Jurgan Van Den Broeck can pull out of the hat.
When you’re in the Tour village, the sun is shining and the riders’ kit is so clean it almost glows, their tans are the colour of mahogany and the smiles for the pretty girls are a mile wide, who wouldn’t want to be a professional cyclist? But when you see men like Sagan and Cancellara on their knees today, sodden, crash scarred and with the prospect of having to do it all again, tomorrow then you remember that it can also be a long ways from ‘ice cream and fairies’ on le Tour.
I didn’t think Kristoff was as ultimately fast as that; I knew he’s a beast of a boy but didn’t think that a straight sprinters’ stage was tough enough for him - but he nearly proved me wrong in Lille at the end of Stage Four. The wily Paolini and strong-as-a-bear Russian Champion Alex Porsev dragged the Katusha Norwegian through the chaos and gave him a clear run – but Kittel was just too strong, again.
Two riders away all day from kilometre zero, they get caught with six K to go, Giant dominates the finale, Kittel wins. And that was that – but ah, yes, it did rain for the finish. I guess the boys deserve a bit of R & R after yesterday’s mini-Ardennes death race - but a two man break holding the 194 man peloton off until they could almost hear the finish flag flapping? But as they say in the USA; ‘KUDOS’ to Bideau and Barta showing those Pro Tour wheels suckers how it’s done.
Astana’s design team may not have made a good job of that Italian champion’s jersey but it’s wearer, Vincenzo Nibali certainly made a good job of Stage Two of the 2014 Tour de France (aka The Tour in Yorkshire), catching an elite group napping with 1700 metres to go to take stage and GC glory. 'Shark Attack in Sheffield' said the ASO press release - we like that. The nay sayers were writing him off just a week or two ago but the man has won two of the three Grand Tours and has finished on the podium of all three – to underestimate him was folly.
‘Sorry, I fell asleep, I need my afternoon nap after one of Flavio’s training sessions – a 90 minute chain gang then six laps of a circuit with a steep ‘kicker’ in it.’ That was Hamish Strachan explaining to us why he’d missed our call – good to hear that the young man is back in the groove after a difficult start to his year.
It was 2019 when we last spoke to Iain Macleod - he was with Aberdeen Wheelers then but is now with Kelpie Racing - he’d just won the SC 50 mile championships and the man is making the headlines again; a couple of weeks ago he took the Scottish Cycling Olympic Time Trial title and before that recorded the fastest 100 mile time trial ever ridden on Scottish roads.
It was ironic that Chris Anker Sørensen’s life should end doing what he had become known for after his career as a professional cyclist was over – preparing meticulously for his role as a TV race commentator, out riding the parcours of Sunday’s World Individual Time Trial Championship in Flanders.
We liked our jaunt to the Tour of the Campsies last year and feel at home among the rolling countryside and green hills there so we headed west, first of all paying our respects to the Robert Millar mural at the foot of the Crow Road; when you watch Roglič take the Lagos di Covadonga stage in the Vuelta it’s difficult to imagine the wee fella from Glasgow winning that stage – but win it he did.
We had a look around Hawick as the 2021 Tour of Britain race carnival hit town, we caught up with friends then headed out on the course, hiding from the wind on Wanside Rig to see the peloton as it headed towards Gifford...
With victories already this season in various time trial distances ranging from 25 to 100 miles (with a two mile hill climb win too), Iain Macleod (Kelpie Racing) added the Scottish Cycling Olympic Time Trial 2021 title to his growing palmarès.
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