Sunday, July 21, 2013

Stage 21 Versailles / Paris Champs-Élysées – Au Revoir Le Tour

Here it is, the final stage of the 100th edition of Le Tour de France. Seems like the race only started three weeks ago. The 133km stage to Paris from the glittering palace of Versailles comprises a parade to the heart of the city of light then 10 laps seven kilometres each of the Champs-Élysées. For the very first time the riders get to go around the world’s most famous bit of traffic furniture and worst roundabout, the Arc de Triomph.
Yours truly picked up the race at the civilised hour of 4.00am to catch the twilight finish just as the peloton was about to hit the famous thoroughfare. The Ps were busy pointing out many of the famous landmarks and monuments of Paris like they were auditioning for jobs as English speaking guides on those sightseeing buses. And it wouldn’t be the last day of Le Tour without Paul’s obligatory Jardin des Tuileries lecture.
It was going to be a long night after three weeks of hard racing and Gabriel Gate prepared Boeuf à la Ficelle aux Légumes de Printemps or poached beef with spring vegetable. No butter but I guess you could dab a little knob on the veggies if so desired. The lack of butter this Tour made me wonder if Gabs had been listening to the advice of the dietary gurus. However, the Beurremetric counter crossed the line on an artery clogging 634g.
As the riders hit the Champs-Élysées, Troll DJ busted out Art vs. Science’s ‘Parlez Vous Francais?’ The Champs-Élysées is a busy street and we are getting down with everyone we meet. The sprinters started getting busy and getting down as the laps counted down to the finish. As the sun set the riders popped on their flashing LED lights. Some donned fluoro vests and plastered their bikes in reflective tape for extra visibility.
Be sure to get an Eiffel of Paris

A rumour had circulated Cannonball Peter Sagan was going to do an Evil Knievel jump over the Arc de Triomph on his bike. It wasn’t to be, however he thrilled the spectators with a jump over the Orica-GreenWEDGE team bus. He didn’t achieve quite enough clearance and took the aircon unit clean off.
A fast and furious sprint finish to the line saw Argonaut Marcel Kittel take his fourth stage win of the Tour pipping favourite Mark Cavendish (Oooomega Farmer – Quick Stop) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol).
Under darkening skies came the podium presos. Vases and umbrella stands were the order of the day. The Arc de Triomph became a canvas for a fancy projection show. The Eiffel Tower sparkled in excitement. Tour Down Under organisers could learn from this and light up Rundle Mall in Adelaide.
At the end of 21 days and more than 3,000km of racing the history books will record:
Richie Froome (Sky) – Yellow Jersey
Peter Sagan (Cannonball) – Green Jersey
Nairo Quintana (Moviestar) – Polka-Dot AND White Jersey
Taxo Sinkoff – Team Winner
Christophe Fabulon – Super Combative
This concludes Le Wrap for the 100th edition of Le Tour de France. I hope you have enjoyed following it as I have writing it every day of the Tour. Before I go, I have to agree with Paul Sherwin's observation the other week - Chris Froome looks strange on a bike.

Stage 20 Annecy / Annecy – Semnoz – All over bar the shouting

It’s the final day in the mountains and the final serious day for the maillot juane. The 125km parcours takes the riders through the gorgeous area around Annecy with a mountain top finish at the ski station at Annecy - Semnoz. Richie Froome (Sky) went into the race with a handy five minute margin, his grip on the yellow is almost complete. The real battle of the day was for second and third on the podium.
Gabriel Gate had been out fishing in the streams and brought back a big haul of trout which he smoked improvising with saw dust and the overheated engine of the Orica-GreenWEDGE team bus. Gate turned out a magnificent Terrine de Truite Fumée au Concombre or cucumber and smoked trout terrine. No butter so the Beurremetric counter sits on 634g.
Halfway through the race Radioshack Leotard’s Jens Voigt took off like a scolded cat and at the age of 41, the oldest man in the peloton and indeed the world, led the peloton until 8km before the finish. Not even a rose bush that leapt from the side of the road in the neutral zone was going to stop him. Keep in mind Voigt was racing in the last century and here he is still going strong. No wonder ‘The Jensie’ is a legend with Tour fans everywhere.
Oh no, look out for that rose bush!

The outcome of the race would be decided in the final 7km on the climb to Annency – Semnoz. Alberto Contador (Saxo Tinkoff) lost his grip on second. Rockin’ Rodriquez (Katusha) succumbed to Froome and Quintana (Movistar) with the young Columbian taking the stage and second place in the General Classification, an outstanding effort for a Tour debut.
In other news Australia is abuzz with the announcement of Eros Ramazzotti’s NOI World Tour dates. How do we know? Well SBS has had the ads on high rotation during Le Tour broadcasts for the past week, that’s how we know. If this deal to get ‘My Favourite TdF Things’ recorded with Weird Al Yankovic falls through there may be an opening with Ramazzotti later in the year. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Stage 19 Bourg-d'Oisans / Le Grand-Bornand – Don’t rain on my parade

Another day in the mountains and today’s 204km parcours took the riders over five climbs including the ‘hors d’oeuvre category’ Col du Glandon and Col de la Madeleine.
Even in summer it can get chilly in the Alps and there’s nothing quite like a warming Tartiflette au Reblochon or potato and reblochon cheese gratin. Dairy is well represented in this dish with reblochon cheese, crème fraîche and 20g of butter. Pure hip gold but so yum! The Beurremetric counter goes up a notch to 634g.
Again the stage wound its way through breathtaking scenery and by three ‘natural parks’ in the region boasting a 150 varieties of bird and would you believe nine species of amphibian. Paul spotted a black kite and was thankful it wasn’t an alpine vulture. So are we.
Troll DJ pulled out some big guns with ‘HocusPocus’ by Focus and the one the vast army of Les Vaches du Tour devotees had been hanging for, ‘Cows with Guns’ by Dana Lyons.
Dark clouds were gathering on the Alps and it looked like the peloton was going to be hit by a thunderstorm. They say cycling is the new golf. Golf ball sized hail could smash a carbon fibre bike to smithereens, not to mention the lightning. Retiring to the 19th hole seemed like a great idea when the rain came pouring down.
Yeah, take that rain!

To give us an idea of the rain a shot from underneath the chopper cam gave a unique aerial perspective. Phil had us convinced there was a cameraman hanging off the bottom of the helicopter. No really, until he said it wasn’t true. Thanks for filling us in Phil.
The race split into a number of groups. Pierre Rolland (Ooooropcar) gallantly led one of the groups. He started sticking out his left leg giving it a good shake now and then. There were fears he was suffering cramp but the real reason was a piece of sellotape stuck to his foot.
There were hopes for a consecutive stage win for a Frenchman but it wasn’t to be. It was pissing down but it wasn’t raining on Rui Costa’s parade. Rolland was left to fight in the rear guard as Costa (Movistar) caught the Frenchman at 19km to go. Costa took the stage making it the second for this Tour and the third Tour stage win of his career.
Richie Froome (Sky) stays in yellow. Second and third remain unchanged with Contador (Taxo Sinkoff) and Quintana (Movistar) filling the spots in the General Classification. Short of crashing down a ravine or being snatched off his bike by an alpine vulture in stage 20, Froome should be leading the parade into Paris on Sunday.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Stage 18 Gap / Alpe-d’Huez – Yelp d’Cruelaz

It’s the final days and Le Tour is into the Haute-Alpes. There was much anticipation for this 172km stage from Gap to the Alpe-d'Huez and not just for the two ascents of the magical mountain but for a look at how the podium’s shaping up for Sunday in Paris.
Energy levels must be very high to take on such big climbs. Gabs had just the ticket in a sugary rolled Savoy sponge with blueberries or Biscuitde Savoie Roulé aux Myrtilles. There’s no butter in the actual recipe but is needed to smear on the Swisse, sorry, Swiss roll tin and baking paper. Can’t be too careful as you don’t want the delicate sponge to stick to the tin and break up whilst trying to remove it. Looking at the 250g block of butter in his hand, Gabs went for it and used the whole block. This pushes the Beurremetric counter to a respectable 614g.
The spectators were out in force in a variety weird and wonderful costumes. The most intriguing was what looked like an eagle or a seagull on the roof of a camping car at the 78.2km mark. Fans speculated it may have been an angel but I didn’t think they’re supposed to have feathers all over. I think we’ll just call him the Birdman of Alpe-d’Huez.

The Birdman of Alpe-d’Huez

Paul calls the climb up the Alpe-d’Huez ‘a piece of discarded string’. The rest of us call it a road and on the corners of that road spectators congregate on the basis of nationality to cheer on the riders from their respective countries.
The Irish and South Africans were noticeably present. Dutch and Belgian corners were easily recognised as they were full of traffic furniture. The Dutch corner was the most rowdy of the lot and the carrots must have felt right at home pedalling through a sea of orange.
Once over the Alpe-d’Huez, there’s another climb up the Col de Sarenne and then a nightmarish descent down a goat track to the bottom of the valley and then the encore Alpes-d’Huez climb to the finish.
BMC’s Tejay Van Garden (as the Ps called him more than once) out in front on the descent of Col de Sarenne had a mechanical with a chain. Luckily Frenchman Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale) ran off the road on a corner into a ditch and not straight off a cliff. Ah, the Sarennity.
But it was the second ascent that turned the Alpe-d’Huez into the Yelp d’Cruelaz as one by one riders cracked. Toward the finish Van Garden, Riblon, Quintana (Movistar), Richie Froome (Sky) along with his trusty lieutenant Chris Porte remained contenders.
Froome cracked rueing the decision not to have packed more of that sugary Savoy sponge for the ride. With the weight of France on his shoulders Riblon threw out the sandbags and gave it his all to chase down Van Garden finally delivering a stage win for France.
Froome stays in yellow, with Contador (Taxo Sinkoff) second and Quintana moving up to third in the general classification.
Shortly after the race the weight of Contador’s bike came under scrutiny from officials. Was it on drugs? Would the bike argue the Rock “N” Roll chain lube must have been contaminated? The bike got the all clear and Contador gets to ride another day.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Stage 17 Embrun / Chorges – The harder they come, the harder they fall

Today’s the final individual time trial in what could best be described as a ‘mountain’ time trial over 32km involving climbs and a tricky descent at the end. The technical nature of the parcours requires a different approach to equipment than for a time trial such as at Mont-Saint-Michel on the flat last week.
Many riders opted for a regular road bike for the climb and then swapped for a low profile time trial bike for the descent so the riders could tuck themselves in to get into more of an aerodynamic position. A number of these bikes were equipped with a rear wheel disc to minimise ‘turbulence out the back’.
For a time there apprentice Matthew Keenan warmed the seat in the commentary box whilst the Ps were away doing God knows what. He astutely observed the lakes in the area are the flattest spots in the region. Now that would be handy for a time trial if only Tour organisers could freeze them first.
Got to hand it to the Troll DJ for putting a good post ad break montage together. Tonight’s had an animal theme which included piggies, cows, sheep and, wait for it, A BUZZARD. OH MY GOD, THEY SHOWED A BUZZARD!
The dog suit from stage seven made it into the montage as well. This had the fans guessing the mystery inside an enigma of who/what was in the dog suit that day. It could’ve been a ‘Specducken’; a streaker, in a mankini, in a morph suit, in a cow suit, in a dog suit. Must have been damn hot in there.
Again we saw more of that true grit Le Tour is made of in the form of Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R La Mondiale). Earlier in the day Peraud crashed on the course in a training run cracking a collar bone on his right side. Peraud bravely opted not to withdraw from the time trial. He put in a solid effort until he crashed again landing heavily on his injured side. Not surprisingly Peraud has abandoned. They say ‘the harder they come, the harder they fall’, chapeau for the Frenchman.
Hard as nails

Van Garderen (BMC), Valverde (Movistar), Contador (Taxo Sinkoff), The Mighty Quintana (Movistar) and even Paul Sherwin man-crush Andy Schleck (Radioshack Leotard) put in great times but it was Froome Dog who took the stage and gets to take on the Yelp d’Cruelaz in the maillot jaune.
At the post race cocktail party those trays of Chaussond'écrevisses aux Truffes or yabby turnovers with truffle didn’t last long. Two tablespoons butter takes the Beurremetric counter to 364g.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Stage 16 Vaison-la-Romaine / Gap – Gap year

After a day of beers and sightseeing in Vaucluse, the riders hit the road for the 168km ‘pre-Alps’ stage involving a death-defying 10km descent into the town of Gap.
Froome Dog (Sky) spent his rest day defending himself against claims of drug cheating after his performance up the slopes of Mont Ventoux the day before. Seems in the post-Liestrong era any top rides from cyclists will immediately attract finger pointing. A bit sad really. However, there’s a part of me that wishes a cheeky SBS Troll Dj would play 'When the Drugs Kick In' by the Del Lords to a montage of Froome’s climb, just the once.
According to Paul the early morning breakaway happened early in the afternoon. The peloton wound its way through more gorgeous gorges. There are some lovely rivers and streams in the area. Phil was convinced one of the helicopters grabbed a rod and some bait and had ‘gone fishing’.
Poor Phil and Paul. I think in this year’s Tour the two have finally cracked. Perhaps they need a ‘gap year’, in Africa, studying geological formations, spotting buzzards and commentating the mountain biking.
Back on the road seven French riders went out front. Apparently people are beginning to talk about the lack of a stage win from a Frenchmen. But the real talking point is whether we’ll see a Rupert Guinness troll shirt in the SBS post-race analysis with Tomo before the end of the Tour.
But we just knew Troll DJ had to respond to seeing the French out front with the theme from ‘The Magnificent Seven’. Whenever I hear it I get a strange urge to ride horses, smoke ciggies and drink beers. That’s subliminal advertising for you.
After the final climb of the Col de Manse, there is a long, tricky descent into Gap. And whenever you hear 'Cadel' and 'tricky descent' uttered by Paul the inevitable 'mountain biker' will follow. I’m surprised after all these years Phil is not finishing sentences like these for him like an old married couple.
At 18km Rui Costa from Movistar went out front and led all the way into Gap. He had such a lead that he almost had enough time for some SaganWagon style stunt team antics – or a spot of gardening, like that other Costa we know. A nice stage win for the Movistar team.
 A thrilled Costa after his stage victory

Further back in the field Froome and Contador (Taxo Sinkoff) nearly came to grief on the descent. Contador ‘overcooked’ the corner in front of him, according to Froome. It’s moments like these you realise Le Tour could be over for a rider in a split second.
Froome finished as the leader again in the general classification. I bet he and the other riders are looking forward to sitting down to a big feed from Gabriel Gate of Selle d'Agneau Rôti aux Herbes or a roasted saddle of lamb. There’s 50g of butter in the recipe which nudges the Beurremetric counter to 336g.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Stage 15 Givors / Mont Ventoux – Fly me to the moon

Mont Ventoux. The giant of Provence. The very name is said in reverent awe by Tour fans everywhere. When this bad boy is in town mothers gather their children and hurry them indoors. This is a 242km long stage and the struggle and effort required will make the riders feel like Le Tour is about to conquer the moon.

Indeed it is a desolate moonscape at the top. Erosion has exposed the 91 million year old rock which has Phil wondering what stories these ancient rocks could tell. If the rocks could speak they’d probably say things like “pleased to meet you and by the way I'm a very old rock”.
The summit of Mont Ventoux

Many spectators turned out to line the route to the top of Mont Ventoux. Phil estimated there would be hundreds of thousands of people on the slopes. It’s a miracle they were able to fit them all up there.

Being Bastille Day, the French national holiday, you’d expect at least one French rider to ‘do it for France’ and put on a heroic showing. Frenchman Sylvian Chavanel (Oooomega Farmer – Quick Stop) did just that going on the attack at 25km to go but it wasn’t going to be France's day.

As the climb progressed more riders up front were ‘asphyxiated’ according to Paul. The climb was high but not 747 cruising altitude high. The only asphyxiation that’s been going on in this Tour has been in a sealed commentary box after a big feed of cassoulet.

Ever the showman Cannonball Peter Sagan popped a wheelie and everyone went wild. Quite a difficult stunt to pull off on a road bike. He’ll be doing those H&R Block ads SBS has been running pretty soon.

Higher and higher the riders climbed with Froome Dog (Sky), The Mighty Quintana (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Taxo Sinkoff) left to battle it out.

The fans were out in force cheering them on. There were some obligatory mankinis and a surprising number of men in tutus. A case of watching too much of the NRL Footy Show? A blow up doll made an appearance and now the whole world knows now what that spectator had been doing in the camping car. Then again, there’s all that time to kill waiting for Le Tour to arrive. We’re thankful we didn’t have to witness moonscapes of a different kind from the roadside.

Contador was the first to crack. Quintana and Froome duked it out for the remainder of the race until Froome burst out of the blocks to win not only the stage but the King of the Mountains classification and keep a handy lead in yellow. With seven days of racing to go anything can happen. But with the way Froome's riding it would be difficult to imagine any other rider standing at the top of the podium in Paris on Sunday.

Today is a rest day in Vaucluse. It’s hot work climbing a mountain and what better way to cool down than with Glace à l'abricot auxAmandes Caramélisées or apricot ice-cream prepared by Gabs. No butter of course and here’s hoping we don’t see Beurremetric counter still reading 286g on Sunday.

Stage 14 Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule / Lyon – The great escape

It’s been two weeks since Le Tour’s Grand Départ on the I'île de Beauté. As thoughts turned to the daunting task of conquering Mont Ventoux on Sunday, today’s stage had its share of lumps and bumps on the 191km parcours.
Gabriel Gate made some Cervelle de Canut or Lyonnais cheese dip with herbs to go with the baguettes in the musette bags. In a pinch the riders could also use it as chamois cream being a longish stage. No butter, but this could almost be forgiven since the main ingredient is fromage frais. No movement in the Beurremetric counter which stays on 286g.
Phil and Paul couldn’t help but reflect on yesterday’s remarkable stage. Paul pondered over what might have been had Valverde (Movistar) handled his ‘mechanical incident’ differently. Well Paul, it’s like this - Valverde punctured, and unless Valverde fancied running all the way to the finish the options were pretty much restricted to a wheel change or change the wheel.
With 150km to go mark 18 brave souls broke away despite having being told by the peloton “there will be no escapes from this camp”. The mission was simple, escape from Sagan. No need for tunnels or a variety of ruses to fool the peloton, short of stealing a motorcycle they were away with only a handful caught at the sprint finish.
Jill Bear wasn't so lucky in his escape attempt

On the last climb Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenWEDGE) was out the front and another stage win for the OGEWagon was looking likely until Oooomega Farmer Quick-Stop’s Matteo Trentin pipped him at the finish. Froome Dog hung on to yellow and he looked a little happier collecting another stuffed lion in Lyon than the day before.
The 15th stage sees the riders arrive at the ‘roof of Provence’ on the French national holiday Bastille Day. So far the French haven’t won a stage in this year’s Tour. The fact the Germans have bagged five must be shitting them right up a wall.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Stage 13 Tours / Saint-Amand-Montrond – Friday the 13th

Today’s stage started where yesterday’s ended, in the city of Tours. The flat 173km parcours to Saint-Amand-Montrond was meant to be a ‘stage of transition’ (another day in the office in other words) and at best a ‘sprinter’s delight’ on the closing few hundred metres. But some days turn out quite different to what you expected them to be.
For the superstitious, the day is Friday and the stage number 13. Would there be a lot of bad luck for the riders or would (despite Froome Dog in yellow) the horror show continue for team Sky? Earlier on the signs were ominous. It was windy, grippy and ‘stabby,’ according to Paul. What he meant by this is unclear. Was it shower scene from Psycho stabby or just plain old PMS stabby?
Whatever it was there was an evil lurking on the parcours in the shape of the wind, and you never want to be caught out by wind. These ‘ferocious crosswinds’ wreaked havoc wrenching the peloton apart and from then on it was drop, split, chase.
A split in the peloton
Movistar looked like being the stars of their own horror movie when at the creepily named ‘feedzone’ at the 84km mark Valverde punctured. Thankfully he wasn’t alone at the side of the road on a dark and stormy night (we all know how that ends) and soon he and his team mates were charging back to the peloton.
From there it was on with Belchin and Oooomega Farmers really pushing hard up front. Paul banished any thoughts in the minds of the riders they'd been Morris dancing all day by declaring “they'll know they've been in a bike race”.
And hats off to Alberto Contador and Taxo Sinkoff for their effort. At the 32km to go mark there was the moment the Taxo Sinkoff bunch had a bit of a look around, sensed an opportunity and then all five hammers came down like five furious cats set among the pigeons. Wonderful stuff.
Oooomega Farmer Quick-Stop’s Mark Cavendish won the stage adding it to the previous 24 Tour stage wins under his belt. Froome hung on to yellow but I’ve never seen someone look so unhappy on the podium accepting a stuffed lion. I suspect it’s the worry about his team and its ability to take him into the mountains for the final week of the tour that got to him.
Post race Gabriel Gate had some poached peacheswith a strawberry and sparkling Vouvray sauce waiting for the riders. Fruit now! This health kick is getting out of hand. No butter of course, so the Beurremetric counter is stuck at 286g.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stage 12 Fougères / Tours – On my own

We’re more than halfway through and today’s flat 218km flat stage through the Loire Valley saw Le Tour head to Tours.

Gabriel Gate baked a local specialty Gâteau Nougatde Tours or a nougat cake as a mid afternoon snack for the peloton. Curious name as it contains no nougat. No butter either, so the Beurremetric counter total sits on 286g.

More than a bike race, Le Tour is also an opportunity to showcase the great beauty of France and promote tourism. The Loire Valley is no exception and it’s no wonder the helicopter shots linger on the fairytale castles the region is famous for.
One of the famous chateau of the Loire Valley

Apart from the ‘chateau p0rn’ this was a fairly mundane stage. Being flat it’s ‘one for the sprinters’ as they say which begs the question why not shorten the race from 218km to 200m?
Still there was enough time during the race for the Ps to explain some of the tactics. For example, Paul employed a fishing analogy for the peloton chasing down the breakaways. Once hooked you play with it until it wears out and then you reel it in.
And somewhere along the way Paul has adopted Chapatte’s Law (that it takes a group of chasing riders 10km to make a one minute gain on a lone rider) as HIS very own formula. If we let him get away with that then I’m claiming Einstein’s E=mc2 as my very own.
So after 218km the race really was decided in those last 200m or so. A big crash in the peloton as the riders neared the line saw another wheel come of the Sky train with the ‘wonderful, wonderful Boasson Hagen’ out with a fractured shoulder.
Cav couldn't quite dish it out at the finish and lost by half a wheel to Argonaut Kittel who made it an impressive third stage victory. Froome Dog stays in yellow. His Sky team has reduced to seven, however with the way Froome’s going you wonder if he really needs a team to support him at all.
In other news I’m still waiting to have my song ‘MyFavourite TdF Things’ recorded. Dame Julie Andrews is too busy. Next on the list I’m yet to hear back from Weird Al Yankovic. Give it time and Jedward may give it a go.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Stage 11 Avranches / Mont-Saint-Michel – True grit

Today’s the first of two individual time trials over 33km between Avranches and the eye-poppingly spectacular Mont-Saint-Michel. If you’re unfamiliar with the individual time trial, think of it as a team time trial but without the team.
Mont-Saint-Michel is an island close to the shore straddling where Brittany crosses over into Normandy. An abbey and monastery took centuries to complete on the site owing to the fact that the sea had a habit of filling up the land around it once a day. Apart from the weather being too hot, too cold, deliveries of the wrong type of tile and tradies not showing up on time, the tide was another factor adding to the delays of the build. After the French revolution Mont-Saint-Michel served as a prison until it closed in 1863 before its conversion into the tourist trap we know today.
As previously mentioned the other remarkable feature of the area is the extraordinary tide. This was not lost on Phil and Paul who worried about getting the bogged SBS commentary van off the mud flats before the sea came rushing back in. Try explaining that one to the boss.
Mont-Saint-Michel at high tide

Lambs graze on the salt marshes in the area that supposedly gives the meat a unique flavour and its high price tag. Gabriel Gate fired up the oven for a delicious Gigot d’Agneauaux Flageolets (roast lamb with flageolet beans). Three tablespoons or 42g of butter pushes the Beurremetric counter to a total of 286g.
Individual time trials are unique in that it’s one rider at a time in a silly helmet and a skinsuit hoping to complete the course in the fastest time possible. Some are specialists and  Olympic and world champions of the discipline. Others are not. Paul keeps on telling Andy Schleck (Radioshack Leopard) that he must work on his time trialling to improve. I’m sorry Paul, what you saw today is about as good as he gets. Perhaps it was the effect of that peculiar game cricket being played across the channel, but you could almost hear the cameraman utter ”can’t bat, can’t time trial” as Schleck limped in over the finish line.
Time trialling was no problem for Oooomega Farmer Quick-Stop’s Tony Martin who went like an Aston Martin to complete the 33km in 36 minutes 29 seconds. Froome Dog was the only one to cause any discomfort for Martin in the hot seat but fell short to finish second and hold on to the maillot juane for another day.
Speaking of discomfort, Martin rode with the injuries he's still carrying from a nasty crash on the first stage of Le Tour on Corsica that resulted in half an elbow grated onto the road and a heavy concussion. Mere mortals like us would go off on compo for six weeks for a paper cut. Guys like Martin just get on with it. Now that’s true grit.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Stage 10 Saint-Gildas-de-Bois / Saint-Malo – Another day in the office

The tour kicked off from Saint-Gildas-de-Bois for the 197km ‘undulating flat’ stage to Saint-Malo in Brittany after Monday’s rest day in Saint-Nazaire.
The teams and riders chose to spend the day in their own way. Orica-GreenWEDGE got right into the party mood performing their tribute to AC/DC with inflatable guitars, dodgy wigs and explosions. Even the OGEWagon driver got into it.
Some chose to spend the rest day locked in their trailers. Speaking of Sky, team mechanics managed to put the wheels back on the Sky train after they were recovered from the bottom of a ravine in the Pyrenees on the road to Bagnères-de-Bigorre.
Today’s stage took the riders through some magical Breton country side with plenty of Chateaux to keep arm chair rouleurs satisfied. When you think of Brittany, according to Phil, think Merlin. In fact Merlin created Brittany, with the help of the fairies that live at the bottom of Phil’s garden. Some of the oak trees in the forests are as old as Merlin, so they must have saplings when Phil was a boy.
Merlin's half brother Catweazle (with friend).

Apart from the magic countryside it was ‘another day in the office’. And you know Phil and Paul are getting bored when they start obsessing about wind, especially cross winds. But then you know the Ps are REALLY bored because they’ve been counting chain ring and cog teeth.
There was enough traffic furniture to keep the peloton on its toes. As there were no mountains the climbers largely kept to themselves. I’ve often wondered about the KOM competition on really flat stages. For example, would speed humps count for KOM points on a stage through Holland?
Things really started to heat up for the sprinters as the riders neared the finish line in the lovely coastal town of Saint-Malo. Oooomega Farmer Quick-Stop’s Mark Cavendish may have learnt a thing or two from watching the British Lions rugby tour on the telly. 300m from the finish line Cav appeared to hip and shoulder Argonaut Tom Veelers who hit the road hard. The video evidence is inconclusive but chances are he’ll be facing the tribunal over that.
This time Kittel wasn’t skittled by the Gorilla (Andre Greipel) or the SaganWagon resulting in a second stage win for the German. Froome Dog hung on to yellow.
And a solid effort from Gabriel Gate in the kitchen with his Cotriade, a hearty Breton fish and potato soup. 80g of butter pushes the Beurremetric counter to a total of 244g for stage 10 of Le Tour.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Stage 9 Saint-Giron / Bagnères-de-Bigorre – Hooray for Hollywood

As day two in the Pyrenees dawned the peloton prepared for another gruelling day in the saddle for the 168km stage between Saint-Giron and Bagnères-de-Bigorre.

This was going to be another challenging stage after a day of hard climbing and with more mountains to cross than the number of bidons a domestique can humanly stuff into a jersey.

Froome started the day in yellow after yesterday’s triumph. But it was a different story today with his Sky lieutenants left far behind. Tasmanian team mate Richie Porte, who rode so strongly the day before, was all but left behind in Saint-Giron finishing about the time the rest of the tour was checking in baggage for the flight up north for the rest day and the next stage from Saint-Gildas-de-Bois to Saint-Malo.

The Froome Dog would finish the day in yellow but in the space of less than 24 hours the wheels had seemingly fallen off the Sky train. Team member Kiryienka is out having finished outside the time limit. Cyril Gotye of Oooorpcar was left wondering if this was the Sky team we used to know.

But it was not all gloom and doom. Movistar’s rising star Nairo Quintana had a good day with a top ten finish in the GC. And it seems quite a few of the fans are starting to develop a bit of a Quintana crush for the young Columbian.

At the podium preso Froome failed to show at the allotted time to accept the yellow once more. Reports suggest he had gone to the team bus. We waited...And waited. What was going on? Was this a diva like straight-to-trailer-Hollywood-tanty? Froome did show in the end. We’ll just have to wait for OK! Magazine to reveal the real truth behind his slow-show.

What really went on in the Froome Dog trailer?

With the podiums out of the way, it was time for Le Tour to pack the bags and head for the airport. Being a relatively short domestic flight, a feeding station was set up on the tarmac between the terminal and the plane. Riders grabbed their musette bags whilst trying to avoid any collisions.
Gabriel Gate had popped some Escargots aux Beurre d’herbeset de Noix or snails in walnut butter into the bags. How you get butter from a walnut I don’t know. I always thought it came from cows. Still what’s been a snails paced start Gabs has delivered with a healthy 150g of butter. A good start but he has A LOT of catching up to do.
Before I leave you to enjoy the rest day, here’s a joke that would make Mike Tomalaris proud; Why did the arthroscopic surgeon set up his practice in the mountains in the south of France? Because he likes the peer in knees.

Stage 8 Castres / Ax 3 Domaines – Shut up tongues

Can you believe we’re already a third of the way into Le Tour and have reached the Pyrenees? This can only mean one thing - all eyes have turned to mountain men Froome Dog, Schleck, Contador and Evans for two stages of gruelling climbs.
The stage takes the riders through the highest point of Le Tour on the Col de Pailhères. With fresh memories of the blizzard conditions of the Giro d’Italia, the peloton nervously checked the forecast after realising they hadn’t packed the winter woollies. Conditions were pleasant, but the way the Ps talked about the ascents you’d be forgiven for thinking the peloton was about to conquer Everest.
The parcours winds its way through some breathtaking scenery of mountains, valleys and more gorgeous gorges with the Gorge of St Georges the most gorgeous of them all. Needless to say this wasn’t going to be good cow spotting territory.
In true sporting cliché parlance it's the climbs that separate the men from the boys. Africa was in yellow but it took a  young South American to really put a cat among the pigeons.
Things appeared to be going well for Thomas Voeckler (Team Ooooropcar and interpretative tongue dancing specialist) going on the attack at the 39km to go mark until the mighty Nairo Quintana (Movistar) caught his wheel. The Columbian was on the march having defied a ‘death curse’ all his life, according to Paul. Voeckler saw his chances flag. Pretty soon Quintana had left Voeckler in his wake. The Frenchman  had nothing left except to say “shut up tongue”.
We hadn’t seen Voeckler more upset than the time his tongue turned up as himself at a Thomas Voeckler’s tongue lookalike contest only to be judged runner up to the tongue that did those beer commercials a few years ago.
Voeckler contemplates what went wrong

Quintana continued his heroic effort but Sky had a long march in mind when it sent out Richie Porte on the final ascent to reel in Quintana and to launch the Froome Dog to the finish. Apart from Froome all the big names failed to fire leaving questions at the backs of our minds about what went wrong. Last year Froome played second fiddle to Sir Braddles. This time the Froome Dog was well and truly let off the leash to take the stage at Ax 3 Domaines and lead the GC.
Today it was Tomo and SBS cycling computer Anthony Tan’s turn for the post-race dissection. We fear the Tan Man may have experienced a software glitch. Facts, figures mixed in with a heavy dose of cliché made Tomo wince more than once over a number of excruciating minutes. Tanny, sometimes you’ve just have to take a leaf from Voeckler’s book and know when to say shut the tongue up.
And it seems Gabriel Gate has been listening to the pleas of the Tour caravan. Today’s dinner was a lovely roast duck leg dish Cuisse deCanard Rôtie aux Pruneaux. The Beurremetric Counter account has officially opened on 1 tablespoon of butter.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Stage 7 Montpellier / Albi – TGI Friday

With the arduous battle of the Camargue cross winds behind them and thoughts turning toward the challenging Pyrenees ahead, the riders set out from Montpellier for the 205 km race to Albi. But this wasn’t going to be an easy coast-into-le-weekend-flat-stage kind of a ride. Race organisers made it a little more interesting, throwing in some lumps and a couple of categorised climbs to get them out of the Friday comfort zone.
The Cannonballs weren’t taking any chances with getting the Sagan Wagon first to the finish line forming a lead-out train some 140kms earlier than what was really necessary. But the stakes were very high. SBS cycling computer Anthony Tan’s threat to parade around the streets of Albi in the Tankini still stood if Peter Sagan didn’t get the stage win.
A crash 10km into the race resulted in Sharmin Garp’s Christian Vande Velde abandoning Le Tour. Apart from this the day was incident free and mostly about getting to Albi at beer o’clock for some Friday arvo frothies.
Somewhere in the world it's beer o'clock time

In news that’d slipped under the radar until Paul and Phil’s long suffering apprentice Matthew Keenan brought it up was Oooomega Farmer Quick-Stop’s Sylvain Chavanel being fined 100 Swiss francs ‘for eating in a way that damages the image of cycling’. Let’s think about this for a moment. With all the doping scandals that have rocked the cycling world in recent times it would be reasonable to expect the UCI to be out there day after day kicking down doors and taking down the real criminals. But no, they choose to come down like a ton of bricks on things like incorrect cutlery usage such as starting from the inside progressing outwards on a four course dinner.
We’ve since learned dining etiquette wasn’t one of Chavanel’s stronger disciplines in finishing school. What he actually did to attract the fine remains a mystery, but short of shoving a banana in his ear hole I can’t think of any other reason.
Tour fans breathed a sigh of relief as the Cannonballs safely brought the Sagan Wagon home for the win. Orica-GreenWEDGE’s Daryl Impey gets to wear yellow for another day. I must say the Ps were remarkably restrained in acknowledging the significance of yellow on the shoulders of a South African cyclist and what that might mean for African cycling in general.
The Ps were fairly quiet and restrained for the whole race come to think of it. This may have been helped by that plate of Croquants deCordes almond biscuits Gabriel Gate dropped off at the commentary box. But Gabriel, you left out the butter. Who the feck makes biscuits without butter?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Stage 6 Aix-en-Provence / Montpellier – A state of nervousness

Today’s stage from Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier can be summed up in the words of Paul Sherwin as windy and nervous. These were about the only things on his mind today. For some such as Bouhanni (from French team All the Way with FDJ) it was all too much forcing an abandon of the great race.
It’s been five days of hard slog. You can forgive the riders for starting to find it just that little bit harder getting out of the cot in the morning. There’s nothing like a corpse-reviving-double-shot-strength espresso for petit déjeuner to get you going for the day.
All that coffee may explain (or perhaps the lack of butter in Gabriel Gate’s Salade de Cerises au Marc de Languedoc or cherry fruit salad with Languedoc brandy) all that nervous energy in the peloton as they took to a blustery parcours that skirts the Camargue which, as Phil Liggett loves to point out, is famous for its wild horses and pink flamingos.
A famous pink flamingo
The peloton gallantly fought the cross winds employing the oldest survival tactic in the book, the echelon. The Dutch and Belgians are very good at this riding technique coming from the flat empty wind swept lands of the north. What the wind was cross about was never determined. Did it get up on the wrong side of the bed? Or perhaps it was just nervous and nervous wind is the worst kind of wind.
But the nervousness didn’t end there. The fields and limestone outcrops looked nervous. Even the acrobatic Camargue bulls, smaller than their Spanish cousins, looked nervous.
We finally put the finger on the cause of this universal state of nervousness. It was Paul’s endless descriptions of nervousness that got on everyone’s nerves in the end.
However, the nerves soon evaporated at dash for the finish line in Montpellier. I suspect some riders may have discarded the cherries from Gabriel's special treat and stashed the brandy in their bidons for the run home.
The finish saw Greipel and Sagan skittle Kittel. Lady luck continues to smile for Orica-GreenWEDGE with the team's Daryl Impey becoming the first African to slip on yellow. We won’t hear the end of it from the Ps now...
Now that we are at the gateway to le weekend, I’ll leave you with a Friday fun fact; Did you know there’s a large urban habitation dedicated to making energy drinks for riders? It’s called the For Bidon City.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Stage 5 Cagnes-sur-Mer / Marseille – The Cannonball Run

Today’s stage saw the riders settling in and getting on with business on a ‘lumpy’ 228 km route from Cagnes-sur-Mer to the famous port city of Marseille. Twisty roads, giant slides and pony rides. The road to Marseille is one big fun park.

In keeping with Marseille’s maritime connection, Gabriel Gate served up a delightful Grondin Rôti à la Purée de Fenouil or baked fish with puréed fennel. It was well received by the riders but there are serious mutterings going on in Le Tour caravan about the lack of butter in Gabriel’s dishes. There are also questions about commentators sticking to their standard issue SBS shirts. No butter, no troll shirt, when are they to open their accounts?

At least the Troll DJ has been keeping the caravan rocking. Every so often it likes to bust out the old favourite ‘Mah Na Mah Na’ and did so the applause of Tour fans everywhere. The song was made famous by the Muppets and we’re not quite sure if Troll DJ originally chose it in reference to the Waldorf and Statler of cycling Phil and Paul.
Cycling commentators Phil and Paul

As self appointed tour guides, the Ps enjoy describing points of interest along the parcours which typically include structures like chateaux and monasteries, many of which were originally built in the 11th century, knocked down and rebuilt in the 16th.

Paul's speciality is geology and earth resources. SBS may need to look at introducing a segment like ‘Taste Le Tour’ and maybe call it ‘Les Roches du Tour’. Sometimes he forgets he’s watching a bike race at all and becomes all absorbed in topics like the history of bauxite mining.

After hearing enough of the geology lessons you just know Phil would go beserk if he spotted a buzzard. And when he gets over excited, he tends to get his wucking mords fuddled referring to teams as ‘Cannonball’ and ‘Oooomega Farmer - Quick Stop’.

For the sake of Orica-GreenWEDGE I hope they’ve been carefully checking labels on bottles against the WADA banned list. Going by the ads, I wonder just how many of these Swisse pills the team is on? Whatever they’re doing they seem to be doing it right.

Mark Cavendish from Oooomega Farmer - Quick Stop won the stage but Orica-GreenWEDGE’s Gerro held on to the famed maillot jaune. Let’s see if he can keep it on the way to Montpellier.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Stage 4 Nice / Nice – Nice one Simon

Well, here we are in Nice on the beautiful Côte d'Azur.  The riders had a mostly uneventful journey from the island of Corsica in their flying dinghies. Predictably, the carrots kept ditching but were thankful for the quick drying properties of lycra.
Gabriel Gate was expecting a hungry peloton and tour caravan. He raided a market garden just on the outskirts of Nice gathering up enough veggies to put together a delightful Verrine deRatatouille Niçoise Chantilly Citron. Not suitable for vegans as there’s dairy in the recipe in the form of a dollop of crème fraîche. Crème fraîche has a proud place in French cuisine but alas it ain’t butter. At the end of stage four the Beurremetric counter sadly sits on zero.
Today’s stage was a team time trial that took the riders 25 km around the streets of Nice. As the name suggests teams get to ride separately and the one who finishes the quickest (with the time taken at the fifth rider across the line) wins the race and takes the stage. Time trials are all about speed. This calls for special bikes that are very good at going fast in relatively straight lines and not much else, skin suits (basically a headless morph suit for cyclists) and silly looking helmets.
The Oooomega Farmers set a cracking pace and completed the course at an average of 57.8 km/h. Try as they may other teams fell short. Sky’s ‘whale skin’ suits were no help. Not even Cadel’s red helmet could rally his band of merry men. The carrots managed to stay upright, a victory in itself.
Oooomega Farmers looked like they had it in the bag until 18th starters Orica-GreenWEDGE took to the road. They had the perfect ride. Not even a pack of hungry wolves running out on the parcours could stop them. They just managed to pip the Oooomega Farmers and became instant Aussie heroes.
Just three days before Orica-GreenWEDGE were a laughing stock and now they’ve won two stages in a row and Simon Gerrans gets to start stage five in yellow. The OGEWagon is in town and everyone’s climbing on board. And if getting a team bus stuck at the finish line on the first day of Le Tour proves to be a good omen ALL the teams will be wanting to do it now.

The OGEWagon gets a new look and the aircon working again


With the extra prize money Orica-GreenWEDGE have more than enough to fix the aircon unit and splash out on a yellow spray job for the team bus.