Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Stage 16 Bourg-de-Péage / Gap – Mind the Gap

Stage 16 and the Tour has arrived at the foot of the Alps.

The weather has been particularly hot at this Tour. A good trick to cool down is the tried and true ‘ice sock’ a rider can wear on their neck out on the road. An even better way to cool down is with some delicious ice cream and Gabs prepared nougat ice cream with pistachios and glacé fruits.

I’m starting to get a little concerned with the lack of butter in the recent recipes. Ok, there is cream, maybe Gabs is going a bit heavy on the glacé fruits but I’m sure the riders will appreciate a few scoops of ice cream after a hot day in the saddle.

The heat was so much of a concern that Tour officials hosed down the road on the descent from the Col de Manse to the finish before the tarmac turned to taffy.

Before the race got started stage 13 winner Greg van Avermaet got the call from his pregnant wife to come home. For Greg baby comes before bike and we wish Greg and his wife all the best. Awww.

Right from the start the breakies got the jump including a very determined Peter Sagan. The peloton was mostly happy to sit back and let the breakies knock themselves out in the heat. The time gap widened so much that we were in for a double feature picture show.

Rafal Majka had a slow speed crash on a climb that left him hopping around on one leg. Paul noted that often low speed crashes can be nastier than the  high speed ones because you tend to hit the ground heavily. They’re also quite embarrassing. Still, that comment from Paul about high speed crashes being somehow ‘better’ than low speed crashes is up there with ‘a good time to puncture’.

The breakies had around a twenty minute lead over the main field, and after the climb of the Col de Manse the riders had to tackle a very technical 11 km hair-raising descent to the finish in Gap.

On the final climb a couple of classic ‘Sherliggettisms bubbled up to the top of the pot. We heard our first, “out of the saddle fighting with his machine” from Paul and after two weeks of hearing ‘The Big Four’, ‘The Fantastic Four’ and ‘The Furious Five’, Phil finally broke through with ‘The Heads of State’.

One of the more dubious Sherliggettisms was Phil’s comment, “they're the best riders at the moment and you could throw a blanket over them". I don’t think that’s very safe Phil.

Back to the race and the breakies were jostling for position. There was a psychological move from Thomas Voeckler, in other words he got on everyone’s tits. However Martin, sorry, Ruben Plaza managed to escape from Peter Sagan who’d worked his guts out all day.

The descent of the Col de Manse was fast and furious and according to The Jensie, “it’s all or nothing, it’s the hospital or the podium”.

There was no catching Plaza who soloed across the line. You could sense the frustration with Peter Sagan who came in fifth across the line. The green jersey is firmly on his shoulders but he’s desperate for a stage win and he may have to wait until Paris for his next shot.

Plaza was safely over the line but the second half of the double feature was being played out on the Col de Manse. Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali fired some warning shots at Chris Froome ahead of the big battles in the Alps.

Geraint Thomas spectacularly overshot the runway on the descent of the Col de Manse and nearly took out a spectator and a telephone pole with his head. Incredibly he was straight back on the bike and chased the yellow jersey group. Hats off to Geraint Thomas, the crash looked terrible but he rode on like it never happened.

After the race Nairo Quintana and Froome were cooling down on spin bikes in what looked like an animated discussion between the two. Were they discussing tactics or was it a bit of old fashioned sledging? No, as it turned out it was a continuation of the white and gold or blue and black dress debate.

Some people just never let things go.

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