Sunday, June 30, 2013

Stage 1 Porto-Vecchio / Bastia - A ‘Grand Départ’

The Tour de France has touched the sun drenched island of Corsica for the very first time and what a ripper stage it’s been.  
As per usual the SBS broadcast starts with Gabriel Gate’s ‘Taste Le Tour’ segment where he explains the culinary specialities of the region that day’s stage happens to be. Corsica is heavily influenced by Italian cuisine. Tonight’s dish was a lovely Langouste de Corse aux Linguine. Butter was disturbingly absent though. Which explains why my Taste Le Tour ‘Beurremetric Counter’ is still set at zero.
The Ps (race commentators Paul Sherwin and Phil Liggett) are back in that run-into-an-old-friend-you-haven’t-seen-in-a-while-who-owes-you-a-shit-load-of-money-but-you’re-glad-to-see-them-anyway kind of way. They were soon back to their ‘SherLiggettisms’, tapping out a rhythm of clichés There was a bit of ornithological banter related to Phil’s hobby of bird watching. Paul spotted what he thought was a Mediterranean Shag. I have no explanation for the schoolboy giggling that ensued. 
Then there was *that* flying dinghy spotted as the parcours hugged the beautifully rugged coastline. That’s definitely going on the Santa list. A flying dinghy would also to be handy for avoiding the Corsican traffic furniture, enough to make any Dutch town planner proud. This was no ordinary traffic furniture, according to Paul, but ‘complicated’ traffic furniture. I’m still trying to figure if he meant quantum mechanics theory complicated or understanding the emotional state of teenage girls complicated. 
Works from the master of traffic furniture, the late Jeffrey Smart.
Toward the end of the stage things got very interesting with a series of spectacular crashes and the 'highlight' of the Orica-GreenWEDGE team bus getting firmly stuck under the Bastia finishing line arch. There was a frantic attempt to free the bus as the peloton came thundering toward the town. It was like the movie ‘Speed’ in reverse and with no Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock to save Le Tour. Just like the movies the bus was moved in the nick of time avoiding the inevitable catastrophe. The driver couldn’t be from Melbourne. Cleary hasn’t had the experience of getting stuck under the Montague St Bridge. 
The thin end of the wedge for Tour organisers.
In honour of the great race I penned a song to the tune of ‘My Favourite Things’ from the Sound of Music. I tweeted it out to rapturous applause and here it is in full.
My Favourite TdF Things 
Pre-race poses and discarded bidons
Suitcases of courage and other SherLiggettisms
The sprinters quietly wait in the wings
These are a few of my favourite TdF things!
Yellow coloured jerseys and carrots on saddles
Cowbells and Cadel and where is Sir Braddles?
Domestiques in the peloton fight the crosswinds
These are a few of my favourite TdF things!
Maillot pattern dresses and town mayors in their sashes
Mountain top finishes and spectacular crashes
A Sagan victory salute for a stage win
These are a few of my favourite TdF things!
When the Froome dog bites
When the road rash stings
When I’m feeling sad
I just put on the telly and watch my favourite TdF things
And then I don’t feel so bad!
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention there was also a bicycle race. Argonaut Marcel Kittel won and gets to wear the maillot jaune for the next stage Bastia / Ajaccio.

Stage 2 Bastia / Ajaccio – A state of calmness in the peloton

Today’s ride had more of a sense of calmness about it compared to the bedlam of yesterday’s stage finish. I wouldn’t exactly call it ‘another day in the office’ since it’s only the second day but I’m sure many riders were thankful just for surviving the first.
Pre-race the Orica-GreenWEDGE team passed the hat around to pay for the ruined finish line arch. The  team bus aircon unit won’t be fixed until Le Tour is back on the French mainland, so it could get a bit hot and sticky in there for a few days. Ads running on SBS might point to the cause of the crash. Seems those Swisse sleep pills, the preferred choice of the Orica-GreenWEDGE team, might have been a little too effective. Subsequently, the team doctor has put them under lock and key.
The stage took the riders into the beautiful mountains and gorgeous gorges of Corsica. Horses were on their best behaviour. SBS commentator Mike Tomalaris was right about the lack of cows, although reports of wild boar sightings gave Gabriel Gate some ideas for a spit roast to feed the tour caravan, if he could manage to find enough road kill. It was not to be but did get his mitts on some local brocciu cheese and whipped up a delicious Corsican Fiadone cake. No butter so the Taste Le Tour Beurremetric counter is still stubbornly stuck on zero.
Spit roast anyone?

The fans were out in numbers as usual for the ascents. Some wore morph suits adding to the spectacle. A refreshing change from mankinis? Hmm. Still, how anyone can wear a morph suit for more than two minutes without suffocating is beyond me.
The inspiration behind the morph suit craze

The calmness in the peloton was rippled in the final 10 kilometres by a couple of white knuckle moments. An idiot runner bolted seemingly out of nowhere into the middle of the road. With the peloton bearing down a white dog made it off the road just in the nick of time.
Happily there were no major crashes to report and Tour officials were taking no chances with another balls-up by strictly enforcing a ban on massive VIP yachts taking a shortcut through the finish line.
Day two of the post-race SBS wrap had Mike and Scotty maintain neutrality in the trollshirt stakes by sticking to their standard issue black SBS shirts . We eagerly await the return of cycling writer Rupert Guinness to throw a cat among the pigeons.
And the winner of the stage? One of the blokes from Radioshack Leopard.