Sunday, July 13, 2014

Stage 8 Tomblaine / Gérardmer La Mauselaine - The Pain and the Rain Falls Mainly in Lorraine

The Tour has finally arrived for the mountains in the beautiful Vosges region.

Riding on the success of Nancy’s Chocolate Cake, Gabriel Gate continued with the baking theme and prepared a Plum Tart from ripe plums he, ahem, found hanging from over people’s fences in Tomblaine. This tart is very popular in the region but not as widely known as quiche Lorriane.

Perhaps Gabs was inspired by the giant piece of field art spotted in stage seven. At first we thought it was Pacman, then a quiche Lorraine, or was it a lemon tart? Whatever it was I like to call it the ‘field art tart’ or ‘fieldtart’ for short.

The riders sure appreciated that plum tart for once the 133km flat hit the Col de la Croix des Moinats and the peloton headed skyward they were going to need all the energy they could get. They faced  two category 2 and a category 3 mountain climbs and the final 1.8km kicked up at a nasty average gradient of 10.3%. The profile resembled a ski jump the riders would take on in reverse.

It appears Tour organisers have heeded the message of stage six and got hold of a black kite for release to keep Phil occupied. It turns out the bird hire shop was out of buzzards and all they had left were a black kite and some pigeons so the black kite had to do.

Lightning and thunder were forecast which had the riders cursing whoever came up with the phrase ‘cycling is the new golf’. And the heavens did open up causing flashbacks to some in the peloton to the misery of the Giro. The sun managed to peek through but so far the weather’s been worse here in France than rainy old England.

Contador contemplates his next move

In the end the last survivor of the early breakaway got to taste victory and an extra slice of the plum tart. Blel Kadri (AG2R-3CPO) notched up the first stage victory for France and it’s not even Bastille Day yet.

In the GC contest we were all thinking Rui Contador (Mampre-Taxo) would start nibbling into Vincenzo Nibali’s (Asstana) lead. By day’s end Contador only took three seconds. Nibali must be really loving that yellow and is going to put up one hell of a fight to keep it.

Before I go chapeau to Cheng Ji (Giant-Shimano) the first ever Chinese rider in the Tour de France. Known as ‘the breakaway killer’, Cheng has been turning himself inside out all week for Marcel Kitteh.

It’s curious that for a country that produces practically every bicycle on the planet it’s taken this long to produce a Tour rider. Then again, China is probably too busy making bikes than to be riding them.

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