Day five commenced in Belgium for the start of stage five in the town of Ypres as the Tour marked the centenary of the beginning of World War I before crossing the border into northern France and finishing at Arenberg Porte du Hainaut.
Meanwhile locavore Gabriel Gate went out trapping rabbits and when he’d caught enough to feed the peloton, he returned to the kitchen to cook them up with that most famous of local ingredients Belgian beer to produce a hearty Flemish Rabbit Carbonnade. The recipe calls for half a tablespoon of butter taking the Beurremetric Counter to 375g.
The 155km route takes in the battlefields of World War I, but the real battle the riders faced was crap weather and nine sectors on lumpy, bumpy, muddy, slimy cobbles totalling 15.4km. The puddles were so deep the riders had to pack snorkels.
Taking on the cobbles
Two sectors of cobbles were removed before the race so if anyone sees cheap driveway paving materials up for sale tell them the locals are really pissed off and want their road back.
This version of Melburn-Roobaix, or ‘The Hell of the Northcote’, promised bone-jarring punishment to body and bike but many of the spills happened before the riders hit the rough stuff. Still, there were plenty more spills on the cobbles with Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) somersaulting on his bike and a Moviestar knocking a spectator into a ditch.
The social media was ‘red hot’, according to Paul, with the news of Chris Froome (Sky) abandoning after his second crash of the day. Sad to see the defending champion exit this way. Now he knows how Brazil feels. Curiously, Froome kept his helmet on in the team car. Was he worried about it crashing too?
This stage suited the cobblestone specialists, but factor in riders with very little experience on the ‘pave’ and you have a recipe for chaos. In the words of Paul this was a race about courage and you need suitcases of the stuff to take on wet cobbles.
Troll DJ got into the spirit of the day with ‘Shakin’ All Over’ and cheekily snuck in ‘I See You Baby’. Asstana’s Vincenzo Nibali gave his ass a shake in his determination to hang on to brown, er, yellow, going out on his own without his teammates embracing the philosophy, ‘if you want something done, do it yourself’.
Rui Contador (Mampre-Taxo) looked threatening until he hit a hunger flat and was left ruing the decision not to have that second helping of rabbit stew. The man known as Spartacus, Fabian Cancellara was favourite to win the stage but the day went to Lars Boom (Belkin).