Sprinter stages - they almost have you feeling sorry for Carlton. When we settled down in our mini-market/café with it's big screen and fridge full of cool beer we were quite prepared to sit and wait on Kittel obliterating everyone again after the usual boring run-in. But Big Bora Pole, Maciej Bodnar, AKA 'The Bison' - in his Cannondale days he had a great Polish bison air brush job on his top tube - had other ideas; jumping his doomed breakaway companions and heading off on a solo epic which only ended in sight of the line...
We've been covering the Tour de France for many years, and like most people who love cycle racing, it's one of the highlights of the year. Bastille Day at Le Tour is special, and the pressure on the French riders to perform is intense - we were lucky to be on the race when Warren Barguil took a fantastic win ahead of Nairo Quintana and Bert Contador. Fantastic weather, great racing, a change to catch up with old pals Adam Hansen and Jack Bauer, meant July 14th was a memorable day for both of us and is our pick for a highlight for 2017.
It was Public Image Ltd. who sang; ‘Two Sides To Every Story’ and whilst VeloVeritas and many of our regular readers feel that the Manx Missile committed ‘Cavicide’ by going for a gap which wasn’t there in the ‘Sagan Saga’ where the Slovak was alleged to have deliberately decked Cavendish and was consequently turfed off the race, not everyone shares our view.
Former Dutch Champion, Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL) struck out early on Stage 21 and held on for his seventh win of the season after stage wins in Dubai, Yorkshire, two in Norway and two in the Ster ZLM Tour. He’s had two sixth places, a fifth, a third and a second in this Tour but with that big hurdle called Kittel out of the way, this one belonged to him.
To paraphrase the late, great Donna Summer; ‘they work hard for the money.’ Those Sky boys. Perhaps Henao had a few mountain days where Sir David and Le Chien Froomey didn’t think the Columbian did enough graft – he made up for it on Stage 19 though, riding tempo remorselessly on the front of the peloton. Spectacular? No. Damn hard work? For sure.
As James Bond might say; ‘there musht be shom mishtake!’ Louis and Rigo doing a spell? Steady boys! In fairness to the UAE man from the RSA his pull didn’t last long. And neither did the Cannondale Colombian’s - but the former National Time Trial Champion and Giro TT winner had real power in his spell to close Froome down on the Izoard.
A decisive battle? No. A day of attrition? Absolutely. The ‘Royal’ group at the head of affairs behind winning LottoNL ski jumper turned cyclist Slovenian, Primož Roglič speaks for itself; Christopher Froome ((Sky & GB) is back in his usual position, at the front with a hugely strong team to back him and a time trial ‘buffer’ if he needs it.
In his classic song, ‘Pink Houses’ John Mellencamp says; ‘And there's winners, and there's losers - but they ain't no big deal.’ We’re not sure that Sunweb or QuickStep, the biggest winners and losers of the day would agree. Sunweb’s day was perfect; they isolated Kittel; took Matthews to the intermediate sprint win and then the stage win.
Sunday, Stage 15 and VeloVeritas’s last shift on Tour - so we headed for the biggest hill we could find to remind ourselves how special and beautiful France and this race really are. Today we’re in the heartland, perhaps not deepest agricultural ‘France Profonde;’ the rural, simple, beautiful heart of the nation, not with the gorges and cols - but it’s quiet, lovely and some of the simple, striking images surprise as you drive the parcours.
Yes, there are days when we’ve criticised the racing – those endless ‘sprinter stages’ where only the last five minutes saves the day. But we were puzzled by the comments we saw about yesterday’s stage to Rodez on social media; the "Bore de France" and the break "allowed for purely commercial reasons"?
VeloVeritas soothsayer, Viktor and I have long been critics of Warren Barguil (Sunweb & France) as a ‘one hit wonder,’ with his two stage wins in the Vuelta in 2013 then very little else; but in this Tour he’s certainly been reborn. He was so close to Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale & Colombia) last Sunday after being the hero of the day and today, on Bastille Day he scored the biggest and most beautiful win of his career with a historic stage victory.
It wasn’t until inside the last kilometre at Peyragudes that the drama really unfolded; Bardet confirms, as does Aru, Froome cracks a little, Quintana cracks A LOT and much as it pains me; ‘one season too many, Bert!’ And Bennett and Martin impress, especially the latter who’s carrying injuries from that horrible crash with Porte on Sunday.
‘Sprinter stages,’ why are they so dull? Albeit ‘Bison’ Bodnar (Bora hansgrohe & Poland) did a job of enlivening the last wee bittie of yesterday’s procession. Maciej Bodnar ended the day on top. Firstly, the GC teams won’t go in the break, they’re there to look after their team leader; mountain stages are different where they’ll put men up the road so as the team leader can bridge up to them.
VeloVeritas’ first Tour stage start of the year; Stage 10, Périgueux to Bergerac through the lovely Dordogne Valley countryside. But not before all them words were written and pictures edited, placed and posted from the VeloVeritas bedoffice. Périgueux wasn’t the busiest stage start we’ve ever witnessed but we’re not complaining; we were in among the buses and riders in jig time...
The deal is that they have four static bikes on rollers hooked up to a magnetic ‘cycle track’ – Scalextrix style - with little ‘Lego figures’ on tiny bikes on the track. The harder you pedal, the faster your little figure goes. Scottish honour was upheld by VeloVeritas with Martin posting fastest heat against Berteld Van de Velde, "the Moules Guy" at time of leaving...
Many are the times that VeloVeritas answer to Nostradamus, the Legend that is Viktor, has discussed Warren Barguil with me; two beautiful stage wins in the Vuelta in 2013 – and since then? Two wins, one a criterium – Vik’s making assessment that; ‘he’s milking it’ hard to argue with. Forgive us, Warren – today makes up for those fallow years.
It’s not often you see Direct Energie’s main man, Jean-René Bernaudeau in tears – unless someone spills something nasty on those John Wayne cowboy boots he always wears. But there were red, puffy and wet eyes for him yesterday as he hugged his big boy Lilian Calmejane at the Station Des Rousses high in the Jura mountains.
Six millimetres; that’s less than quarter of an inch – the difference between reading headlines ‘Eddy avenges Cav’ rather than ‘Kittel takes his third’... But it’s been Kittel’s week; and when a sprinter’s head is right – as Kittel’s obviously is – even Lady Luck is carried along with them. The big German has more than justified whatever Patrick Lefevre is paying him at QuickStep; three stage wins in the Tour is something most sponsors would give their eye teeth for.
It looked like a straight Arnaud Demare (FDJ & France) v. Andre Greipel (Lotto & Germany) shoot out in Troyes but Marcel Kittel (QuickStep & Germany), over on the bright side of the road, was way too quick for them both; Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data & Norway) hit out long and produced a good performance given he was stranded at the front so early, only being swamped late as Demare slid like an eel between the Norwegian and the barriers.
‘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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