Friday, July 25, 2014

Stage 18 Pau / Hautacam – I Want it All and I Want it Now

Today was the final mountain stage of the Tour from Pau to Hautacam. The two category 3 climbs followed by the two legendary ‘horse categorie’ climbs of Col du Tourmalet and Hautacam promised another gruelling day in the saddle.

Gabriel Gate was at it with the baking again and the riders questioned the raison d'être of a Prune and Raisin Tart on the Tour. Gabs pointed out the obvious health benefits of prunes and that they might be necessary after all the cheese in the onion soup dish of the day before. He warned them not to go overboard on the tart but reminded the riders there’d be plenty of camping cars on the route should anyone need to go. No butter in the recipe. The Beurremetric Counter needs a dose of butter, not prunes, to get it moving up from 870g.

The first 80km were relatively easy with two short category 3 climbs that favoured a breakaway. Then the slog began with the 17.1km climb to the top of the Col du Tourmalet. Phil thought the riders were on dragsters as they deployed parachutes for the descent before the 13.6km climb to Hautacam.

There’s been a disturbing lack of vache at this year’s Tour and today’s stage was no different. The eagle-eyed Les Vaches du Tour team did manage to spot things resembling what looked either like cows in the far distance or cows that are bred incredibly small in the Pyrenees. If they’re that tiny it’s no surprise they’re hidden from the ubiquitous vultures soaring on the thermals high above the valleys. A dancing cow was spotted in some impressive field art but turned out to be just a vulture in a cow suit.

A stuffed bear made it to the roadside to watch the race. Why was the bear stuffed you ask? What do you think it was doing in the woods all morning after stealing a stack of prune and raisin tarts?

Once again there were plenty of Basque flags and spectators in orange out on the roadside in memory of the Carrots. So many tears. And it’s official, figures released today show more boxes of kangaroos have been sold at this Tour than any other.

Lady Luck has been a bit quiet at this year’s Tour but she whispered in Paul’s ear and said she wanted a showdown. Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida), the second oldest man in the universe, overheard this but was he really serious? Vincenzo Nibali (Asstana) was one hungry shark devouring every rider he came across. This was the 'queen stage' after all and in the spirit of Queen he wanted it all and wanted it now.

We will not let you go

The issue of bints wandering on to the road to take selfies came up again. One tried to get a photo with Nibali climbing the Hautacam but with a hip and shoulder from Nibs it was no selfie for you! Would have been good if the Queen were there instead of photobombing the Hockeyroos at the Commonwealth Games. Imagine that, the Queen photobombing Nibs on the Queen stage. How meta!

In the end Nibs prevailed to notch up his fourth stage win. What was he thinking as he crossed the line? Paul would say take off his sunglasses so you can look into his mind and you’ll find the answer there.

Alejandro Valverde (Moviestar) slipped to fourth in the GC and will have to time trial like a man possessed in two days time if he has any hope of being on a podium step in Paris. 

Chapeau to Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) moving up to second even though he’s 7’ 10” behind Nibali. He’s one of the leading lights in the ‘renaissance of French cycling’ and one to watch in the years to come.

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