The Tour is rounding the bend into the final week of racing and stage 14 capped of a two day sojourn in the Alps. The 177km route from Grenoble to Risoul has two category 1 climbs and the ‘hors categorie’ Col d’Izzard. Mind you, the giant Col d’Izzard is no laughing matter on a 19km climb on an average gradient of 6% soaring to 2360m.
Gabriel Gate cooked up some Apple Fritters as a treat for the peloton as it hit the road. A nice change from the usual boring old bananas. As he waved goodbye to the riders who set off on their way, Gabs set off for Risoul to get the evening’s dinner ready. He thought a barbeque would be just the thing and chuckled at the thought of pulling a culinary word play prank by making rissoles in Risoul. This was going to be soooo goood! Unfortunately, the joke sailed over the heads of most of the riders who insisted on calling them ‘sliders’ and ‘mini-burgers’. Gabs really lost it when he was asked, “and just WHERE is the chipotle sauce?” Bloody hipsters.
What goes in must come out and we saw FDJ’s Arnaud Demare pull over for an emergency toilet break in a spectators camping car. Whether the camping car actually had a toilet is not clear. What is clear is that all reports pointed to Demare overdoing it on the zucchini cheese flan and paid the price the next day.
After yesterday’s monster climb to the finish at Chamrousse in hot conditions, there were bound to be some very tired and sore legs. But as with what goes in must come out there’s what goes up must come down and there was some awesome descending action on the way to Risoul.
Come on Tom sing it!
Descending these mountains takes a great deal of skill and sheer butt-clenching determination. Riders can hit speeds of about 100km/h and on some of these roads the drop can be many hundreds of metres.
Phil and Paul talked about how FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot sought cycletherapy to help him overcome his fear of descending. This involved techniques such as being put at the wheel of a racing car, being fired out of a canon and standard trust building exercises like falling off a log backwards hoping your team mates will catch you. Whatever it was the cycletherapy worked. Pinot put in a blistering performance to come in fourth for the stage and to hold on to fourth in the overall standings.
Blistering performance could not describe the commentary of the Ps. SherLiggettisms were firing thick and fast about sand bags and yo-yoing but it all got a bit weird when talk turned to 'the big boys taking on Goliath', melting clocks and trees not growing on alpine slopes when clearly they were. Phil admitted to being delirious in the high mountains but this state of ‘delirium’ is regularly observed at sea level too.
Paul put it down to the ‘rarefied air’, which is going to get a lot worse in the commentary van when they get a good feed of cassoulet into them when the Tour hits Carcassonne.
But the real tell tale sign the Ps were suffering delirium came in the belief Geriant Thomas was going to pull off a Sky victory. Poor Sky. Plan A failed with Chris Froome crashing out. Plan B with Richie Porte, well that went well. Plan C was try and get a stage win. After all else there’s always Plan D to fall back on and that’s to go home winless.
At the end of the 12.6km 6.9% average gradient climb to the finish Polish Sinkoff-Taxo rider Rafal Majka crossed the line - unzipped - to his first stage victory at his first Tour.