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.