Thursday, July 23, 2015

Stage 17 Digne-les-Bains / Pra Loup – This is not a Strava ride

Stage 17 and the Tour hit the Alps proper after the rest day on a carbon copy of stage 5 in the Tour warm up Criterium du Dauphine.

Over to the kitchen and Gabs cooked up a delicious chicken and capsicum casserole with olives. The riders looked at the forecast for yet another hot day and again there were questions about the wisdom of being served up a winter dish. Gabs insisted they were going to need a hearty feed for the remaining days in the Alps.

No butter in the recipe and despite the flying start in the first week of the Tour, the buerremetric counter hasn’t budged from 200g for days now.

Out on the road Bertie was having a fairly good day doing some damage in the peloton. Not such a great day for Tejay van Garderen who had started the day in third and had been battling a splitting headache until finally he abandoned, looking shattered, at 70 km to go. It was a sad end to a highly successful Tour.

The temperature climbed to 30 degrees and Phil forecast that it would rain ‘torrentiary’ at around 4.15 in the afternoon. In the absence of any cows, let alone seated cows, there was no real reference point to confirm this so Phil was forced to consult an unreliable forecast provided by Météo-France.

Troll DJ was happily laying down the tunes and played Tour standard ‘Bicycle Race’ by Queen. OK the title is a bit obvious (bicycle race, duh) but listen closely and the references in the song lyrics are pure genius:

You say black I say white – MTN-Qhubeka jersey
You say bark I say bite –  Froome Dog
You say shark I say hey man – Nibs ‘The Shark of Messina’
Jaws was never my scene – after Sunday I don’t think it’s Mick Fanning’s either.

John Degenkolb was on the move riding like he’s got some serious shampoo sales targets to hit before the end of the Tour. The peloton skirted the old border of the Savoie region whose culinary delights are known as Savoie fare…

‘Simon Gesture’ - Geschke to the rest of us - was leading the race at around 27 km to go in the rarefied air of the Alps on the climb of the Col d’Allos. Paul was a little concerned with dark clouds and how it would affect the descent.

The Jensie reported that he expected ‘open fire works’ between Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana on the climb which is a relief because the concealed ones really burn when they go off.

Pinot in action at Bathurst

Paul mentioned Thibaut Pinot’s previous psychological problems with mountain descents and noted he had special training on a racetrack. The only mountain racetrack I can think of is Mt Panorama at Bathurst NSW.

Paul is rather enamoured with the all this GPS tracking bizzo on the bikes which would come in handy if someone tried to pinch it. He’s thinking of getting one of those Strava thingies for himself. But this is the Tour, this is not a Strava ride Paul.

The downhill run from Col d’Allos loomed and it’s pretty scary. One would hope the riders had a fresh pair of knicks in their suitcase of courage because they were going to need it.

Pinot made his way over the summit and a little chute on a left-hander would give anyone the yips but he had the composure to get straight back on and did a pretty good job off the ride down. Looks like that Bathurst training is really paying off.

The heads of state started to make their moves and as Paul would say they were ‘going for the juggler’.

The sky was looking angry, in the air and on the ground as Chris Froome wouldn’t let anyone take a second off him. He looked composed as you don’t want to lose it all in the Alps and the gels don’t stay down well on the dizzy descent of the Col d’Allos.

Simon Gesture kept his lead as he ascended the final climb to Pra Loup and nearly took out a team car in the process.

Back up the road Alberto Contador crashed and Peter Sagan was right there to help. Bertie sustained some damage to his knicks but the real damage had been done to his time losing more than two minutes by the end of the day.

Simon Geschke soloed to the line for his first Tour stage finish and there was no hiding the emotion of winning a big mountain stage.

Quintana and Froome came in across the line and there was talk from German commentary a rider went over the side of the mountain. Fortunately there was no substance to the rumour and the only thing that looked like it went over the side of a mountain was Bertie’s chance of a place on the podium in Paris.

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