Stage 14 took the peloton on a sightseeing tour through the gorgeous gorges of the River Tarn on a 178.5 km route where the riders landed on an airfield of all places at the finish.
Over in the kitchen Gabs kicked back a little on a Saturday afternoon with some slow cooking. Beef stew with olives and fennel was on the menu which had the peloton wondering why they were being served a winter dish in the middle of summer. For Gabs anytime is a good excuse for a stew.
No butter and the buerremetric counter sits on 200g but there’s some Pernod and a reasonable slug of red wine that goes into the pot. It was going to take hours to cook and now the cork was out of the bottle Gabs wasn’t going to have the wine turn to vinegar by the time the stew was ready to serve.
As the peloton took in the sights Paul remarked that the gorge is known for its ‘cave dwelling fauna’ and we weren’t quite sure if he was referring to the 23 species of bat that live in the caves or Phil.
The area is also renowned for its vultures and quite a few were spotted today, so many in fact I think I'm going to start a special vulture classification competition ‘Le Vautour de Tour’, subject to Les Vaches du Tour approval of course as I can see a problem already with the acronym.
Some very adventurous or just plain crazy people perfectly timed a bungee jump for the Tour chopper cameras from a platform hanging precariously over the gorge. That was some elastic band eh Phil? Good thing it didn’t snap.
No, not that Sports band
Paul spotted the French President François Hollande who’d come down to watch the race. Paul tried listening in to what he was chatting about with Tour race director Christian Prudhomme. Nothing about the potential of a Grexit or local politics, just how the top blokes in the GC were going. Well, how about that, a head of state discussing the ‘heads of state’.
Hollande was seen getting into the big red car guiding the Tour. Paul thought the French President had the best seat in the house. Phil would disagree because with him it’s always the vultures that have the best seat in the house.
As the race started heating up there was talk of Alberto Contador changing bikes for one with lighter tyres. I’ve witnessed mountain bikers changing tyre pressure mid race but this is getting ridiculous. And what were the tyres filled with, helium?
This may have made sense back in the days when riders raced on steel framed brutes but on today’s light as a feather carbon fibre machines the gains, at best, would be extremely marginal.
There’s also one drawback to consider - a lighter tyre, according to Paul, is more likely to explode. I’m figuring that’s more to do with tyre pressure than the hoops suddenly bursting into flames. And besides, helium isn’t flammable.
A sizable bunch of breakies had been chased by the peloton all day. Mikal Golas, or ‘Goulash’ to Phil and Paul, attacked at around 27km to go. FDJ had being a doing a job of work to get Thibaut Pinot ready for the final tough 3km climb to the airfield.
Pinot joined forces with Romain Bardet but the duo were caught by Stephen Cummings, no not that Stephen Cummings from Aussie band TheSports, but the British guy who rides for MTN-Qhubeka. Cummings rode away to victory as the first rider of an African registered team to have won a stage at the Tour de France and to cap it off on Mandela Day.
Meanwhile further down the road the ‘Furious Five’ were duking it out. Froome held off the other four but Nairo Quintana managed to haul himself up to second place in the GC behind Froome.
The airfield finish was a nice touch. The hard working Tour choppers were able to attend the jersey presos for once!