Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Stage 4 Le Touquet-Paris-Plage / Lille Métropole - The Ministry for Pulling Faces

The Tour bid farewell to a magnificent three days in Britain and the challenge now was how to cross the English Channel to the race back home on French soil.

Last year’s transfer from Corsica to the French mainland saw the riders commandeer every available flying dinghy. No such luck for the riders this time. Swimming the channel covered in pig fat in freezing cold water with a bike strapped to one’s back wasn’t exactly appealing. Fortunately there’s a rail tunnel under the Channel. It was a bumpy ride over 50km of railway sleepers but many riders saw it as good training for the cobbles of stage five.

After three days in Britain the riders were well and truly sick of a diet of Yorkshire pudding, deep fried Mars Bars and flat beer. Gabriel Gate had just the thing waiting as the peloton emerged from the Chunnel - Scallop Mousse with Prawn Sauce. This delicate dish contains no butter in the actual recipe but is saved by the four buttered soufflé moulds. Now you’d want to do this properly, so I’d go for a whole 250g block. This takes the Beurremetric Counter to a healthy 350g.

But it must be remembered the riders are here for a bike race and the day’s 163.5km stage took the riders from the coastal resort town of Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, a popular playground with water sports enthusiasts, to Lille Metropole.

Trekie Andy Schleck was forced to abandon the Tour due that tumble in London the day before involving a spectator trying to take a picture. Some 2.5m spectators came out to watch the Tour’s three days in the UK. Fantastic for Tour organisers but was that too many for the riders? Well, you can’t legislate against the stupidity of spectators but then again we wouldn’t want to see dry stone wall barriers for every future Tour event held in the British Isles – the endless dry stone wall blather from Phil and Paul would just be too much!

Chris Froome (Sky) managed to chute in the first couple of kilometers but Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (Oooooropecar) broke free from the peloton ‘pumping and blowing’, according to Phil. He had a one and half minute lead at one stage until he was caught on the outskirts of Lille. ‘The Ministry for Pulling Faces’ is renowned for his solo breakaways in France, not for national pride but for TV exposure for the team sponsors.

Voeckler smiles for the cameras

Again, this was another day for the sprinters. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha Rocket) gave it a shake but Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) proved too good again making it stage victory number three.

Everyone’s attention has turned to stage five on the cobbles. Cobbles are like a horizontal dry stone walls when you think about it. Phil and Paul are going to be insufferable.

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