After the final rest day in Carcassonne the Tour was off to the Pyrenees for three tough mountain stages. The 237.5km route from Carcassonne to Bagnères-de-Luchon is the longest of the Tour.
The rest day in Carcassonne saw the riders let their hair down. There was lots of medieval fun to be had at France’s version of Kryal Castle. The riders swapped bicycles for heavily armoured horses for a spot of jousting. The Orica-GreenWEDGE team bus even got into a joust with a stop sign with the sign coming off second. This lead to a run on the bookies to put on omen bets for Orica-GreenWEDGE’s Michael Albasini to win the stage.
Later a sumptuous dinner was held in the great hall of Carcassonne where riders feasted on pheasant and a haunch of venison washed down with tankards of ale before a rave party that went until dawn.
Gabriel Gate baked some Apricot and Almond Friands which would be handy in the musette bags on such a long stage. Gabs must be reading this blog and hearing my pleas has finally cooked something with butter in it. The 90g in the friands brings the Beurremetric Counter to 840g. With only a few days remaining can Gabs get it up to 1kg?
With fresh legs coming off the rest day there was a chance of a breakaway succeeding. The route got progressively hillier and after a long day in the saddle the final climb to the top of the 11.7km long ‘horse categorie’ 1,755m high Porte de Balès would have The Jensie calling for silence from the peloton. Fortunately there was a long fast descent to Bagnères-de-Luchon to placate the screaming legs.
Phil enjoyed some twitching as vultures circled high above the valleys of the Pyrenees on thermals generated by the hot air rising from the commentary box. Phil saw the vultures descend on road kill. On closer inspection the road kill turned out to be the Sky team’s plan book discarded by the roadside.
Pyrenean vultures pick over the carcass of Sky's Tour hopes
Paul noted the valleys of the region are an ’excellent place for hay’. When he’s not admiring the dry stone walls of Yorkshire you’ll find him leading tours of hay enthusiasts to the Pyrenees to sample the region’s delights. Meanwhile Phil was excited by a banner in a small village for a ‘snail party’. Well, at least it was a change from fishing.
The Pyrenees triggered nostalgia for the now disbanded Carrots. Who would have thought there was still so much love for a team that spent more time on the road than on the road on a bike? Yet there have been many reports of the mere mention of their name having teary fans reaching for a box of kangaroos.
I’m curious about these ‘glass cranks’ the Ps talked about. It appears they cause riders to ease off pedalling up hills for fear of breaking them. That’s a bit silly having them fitted for a mountainous stage. Then again riders carry sand bags, hammers, elastic bands and an assortment of screws - and I’ll never get elliptical chainrings.
It was looking like a good day for Ooooropcar with Cereal Gotye doing his best to support Thomas Voeckler with his best Voeckler tongue impressions. A good day until Michael Rogers (Sinkoff-Taxo) got the jump on Voeckler for the butt-clenching, vom-inducing mad descent to Bagnères-de-Luchon.
What a ride for Rogers. The Aussie achieved his dream of a stage victory at the Tour to add to the two he picked up at the Giro. Paul says a race can be won uphill or can be won downhill. Rogers had a much simpler philosophy, “I was going to crash or I was going to win”.
Oh yeah, Voeckler’s tongue finished second.