Sunday, July 27, 2014

Stage 20 Bergerac / Périgueux - Time Is On My Side

Odd bikes, skin suits, helmets that look like they were designed by the late HR Giger, we’ve finally reached the penultimate stage of the Tour, the 54km individual time trial from Bergerac to Périgueux. No intermediate sprint or categorised climbs here, it’s just each rider flat out against the clock.

The penultimate stage deserves a special occasion dish and what better way than to celebrate than with Duck Fillet with Porcini Mushrooms and Green Peppercorn Sauce. No butter here but there’s cream and cognac which almost makes up for it.

Tour organisers on the other hand went all out on the dairy at the starting house. All the chocolate fountains were unavailable for the weekend due to a large number of weddings in the area so a milk fountain had to do. Weird, but effective. Sure beats a yellow bubbler.

At 54km this was quite a lengthy time trial on a route with some ups and downs. Some riders are real guns on time trials and others, well not so. Tony Martin (Mega Farmer-Quick Stop) is one of the very best. Earlier Keeno overheard Rockin’ Rodriguez (Katusha) plea with Martin to be gentle with him. Hmmm.

By the time we’d tuned in quite a few riders had already gone through. We were in time for the big guns and for riders battling for podium posies behind Vincenzo Nibali (Asstana). The Panzerwagen went in to the race the red hot favourite. Keeno noted that you know when Tony Martin reaches his threshold when a long line of saliva dribbles down his chin and on to his chest. The least he could do you'd think is to reach for a tissue.

Now THAT'S an aero helmet

Keeno dipped out to make way for the Ps and then the time trial by ordeal began. There were plenty of maths problems to solve with time checks and numerous calculations. It got so much smoke started coming out of the Ps computer. Probably time for SBS to update the 386 they’ve been using held together with duct tape sitting on a wonky milk crate.

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) lined up at the starting gate to chants of “T Bone, T Bone, T Bone...” He put in a great ride but had to settle for third overall. Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R C3PO) despite puncturing but remaining calm moved up to second. A great achievement in the ‘renaissance of French cycling’. For the first time two Frenchman secured podium positions for Paris since Laurent Fignon and Bernard Hinault finished first and second in 1984. That’s a long time between drinks in anyone’s books.

It must be said punctures were a problem on perfectly good roads in perfect conditions. Let’s just step back a moment. These bikes are made of high tech cutting edge materials, some of them that were used on the space shuttle. Countless hours have been spent on high powered computers crunching the numbers to achieve maximum aerodynamic efficiency backed up by extensive wind tunnel testing. After all this you’d think they’d have the nous to fit a halfway durable tyre to the thing. What is it they do? Do they make the tyres out of gossamer thin condoms or something?

In a foregone conclusion Tony Martin took the stage. Makes you think that in future Tours the organisers should just cancel the time trial and give the stage to the Panzerwagen on a rest day.

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