Saturday, July 19, 2014

Stage 13 Saint-Étienne / Chamrousse - Porte Cracks, Nibs Attacks

The Tour has reached the Alps for two days of slog in the big mountains. The 197.5km route from Saint-Etienne to Chamrousse had a category 3 climb and category 1 climb with a final 18.2km long ‘hors categorie’ ascent to Chamrousse at 1730m.

Gabs knew the riders were going to need loads of fuel in the tank for a stage in the big mountains so he grabbed some zucchinis gratefully offloaded by locals up to their ears in the things and some Saint-Marcellin cheese and cooked up a big bunch of Zucchini and Cheese Flan. The butter in this recipe is used to grease gratin dishes used to bake the flan in so don’t be shy and go the whole hog on a block of butter. This takes the Beurremetric Counter up to 750g.

Back to the race the riders were facing awesome climbs in the heat. I see teams are slow off the mark on the helmet shower idea. According to Matthew Keenan, or Keeno for short, noted fire trucks were deployed ahead of the peloton in case the tarmac suddenly erupted into flames in the heat. 30 degree temperatures are pretty warm but these French roads can’t take a bit of heat? Seriously? On a 40+ degree day the road to my chateau is as good as gold.

On the slopes spectators were out in force. Phil seriously needs to brush up on popular culture. As the motocamera passed two spectators in superhero costume Phil asked, “Is that Star Trek?”. Paul corrected him with, “That’s Captain America”.

So far there hasn’t been a lot of discussion on the roadside random front (morph suits, whatever happened to those?) There has been a little more commercialisation this year with oversized bidons running up the road flogging fruit juice or whatever.

Oversized bidons are the least of the rider’s problems with Jakob Fuglsang (Asstana) coming a cropper on a carelessly discarded regular sized bidon on the road. He picked himself up, kit torn and bloodied, but pushed on insisting it was ‘just a superficial flesh wound’.

Just a superficial flesh wound

The talk of the day was Richie Porte (Sky). All eyes were on the Tasmanian to start nibbling into Vincenzo Nibali’s (Asstana) lead. But it all went wrong on the lower slopes of the final climb to Chamrousse. Whether it was a hunger flat, melting roads, lack of a shower helmet or as Paul calls it simply ‘a strange reaction’, Porte looked like he was rolling back down the hill. Instead of nibbling into the lead Porte found himself left holding a plate heaped with time. If he’s going to get back into the race he’s got a lot of eating to do.

Further up the road Alejandro Valverde (Moviestar) made a move but Nibs wasn’t having any of it launching a shark attack at 7km to go. Nibs triumphed on the stage and added some valuable time.

It’d be brave/foolhardy of me to declare Vincenzo Nibali Tour winner with still a week to go, but from here it’s looking like it’s his Tour to lose.

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