Saturday, July 25, 2015

Stage 19 Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne / La Toussuire - Les Sybelles – The Day the Robots Became Human

Stage 19 and it was another day of hard climbing in the breathtaking French Alps.

Gabs prepared a Beaufort omelette for the rider’s musettes which was going to be a little awkward to eat out on the road. The Beaufort in the omelette refers to a semi hard cheese, not the wind scale for measuring the after effects of a big feed of cassoulet.

Two teaspoons or about 10g of butter are in the recipe taking the buerremetric counter to 250g. There had been rumblings in the peloton about ‘butter gate’. In a tweeted video statement Gabs apologised for the lack of butter in the recipes this year. WELL, IT’S ABOUT TIME GABS! However, we got an exclusive sneak preview to what’s in store for next year’s Tour and he promises it will be ‘the year of the butter’.

Being a big mountain stage and the holidays the fans were out in force. On the roadside we spotted what looked like Obelix but it turned out it was just Gerard Depardieu on a bender.

Asterix has got Gerard's lunch sorted

‘The Shark of Messina’ Vincenzo Nibali, who happens to be one of the best descenders in the peloton if you haven’t heard, was looking like a shark on the hunt for a stage victory.

Romain Bardet was in a hunt of his own for the poker dot jersey and he wasn’t letting a broken front derailleur derail his chances; a quick bike swap and he was on his way.  It must have been one of those moments Paul would class as a good time to have a mechanical because you don’t want a badly timed mechanical or badly timed crash ruining the party.

The riders hit the final 16 km climb to La Toussuire. Paul could attest to how difficult this climb would be because he’d driven the car all the way to the top stuck in second gear. Hmm, I thought that’s how he always drove.

On the final climb Pierre Rolland had held the wheel of Nibali and suddenly The Shark of Messina was off and Rolland couldn’t answer. There was no stopping Nibs now. The reigning Tour champion had a less than brilliant tilt at defending his title and now a stage win and possible third on podium is all he can salvage. Plus he was helped by the fact Mick Fanning was made to sit on a surfboard at the finish line to draw him in.

A little further down the road Nairo Quintana was sitting on the wheel of Chris Froome when Quintana ‘sprouted wings’ and was charging away at 5 km to go. Froome had to react. Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde were left in his wake.

This was the showdown between Quintana and Froome we’d waited nearly three weeks to see in the ongoing blue and black / white and gold dress feud.

For the first time Froome had to get out of the saddle. Phil sensed he was ‘squeezing out an already dry sponge’. And was that a pain face we saw on Quintana? Surely not. Froome was clearly under pressure and to Phil this was,"the day the robots became human".

Nibs crossed the finish line in a well deserved victory. Froome held on to yellow with a slight dent in his margin. That’s what you’d call a hard day in the office for Froome, and nobody wants that on a Friday.

Needless to say now Quintana's discovered the robot is actually human he’s going to be throwing everything including the kitchen sink at Froome on the Alpe d'Huez.

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