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.