Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Stage 4 Seraing / Cambrai - Follow the Yellow Cobble Road

Stage 4 and the Tour crossed the border from Belgium into France on the longest stage from Seraing to Cambrai. Like last year Tour organisers threw in some cobbles from the famous one-day Paris-Roubaix just to shake up the race a bit.

To celebrate the peloton’s arrival back in France, Gabs prepared the classic French dessert crème brûlée but with a peppermint twist. Gabs prefers fresh peppermint but if none’s available crème de menthe will do the trick but for God sakes don’t overdo it!

Meanwhile SBS sent commentator Henk Vogels to do a Tony Greig style pitch report from the cobbles. Trying to find a smooth path on the cobbles is a bit like trying to find the smooth end on a pineapple. The middle of the cobbles is where you want to be according to Henk. But Henk, what about the keys to test the cracks in the surface? Where’s the ‘weather wall? ‘

Henk has been somewhat animated in his post stage analysis wraps with Tomo. I recall the late Tony Greig once lost a key in the pitch at the WACA. I’m starting to worry Henk will loose his marbles by the end of the first week. I put it down to either the excitement of being at the Tour or maybe it’s all that sugar in the crème brûlée.

As the peloton raced to the cobbles there was a lot of chat from Paul about the special designs on the bikes adapted for the rough cobbles.

There’s a lot more suspension on these bikes than we’ve seen in the past but it’s rather discrete compared to a full suspension mountain bike which is more like a pogo stick on wheels.

Among the clever innovations Paul noticed a ‘strange polymer insert’ on one of Asstana’s S-Works bikes, which had us guessing if it was a seat post without a saddle.

Phil was more concerned about the forecast for rain and what it might do to the cobbles. He said wet cobbles were like riding on ice. Er, I don’t think WADA would allow that Phil.

A section of cobbles

By the way want to know a Froome fact? According to Phil Chris Froome was born at 6,000ft in Kenya. That’s a long way to drop, perhaps he was on a full suspension mountain bike to cushion the landing.

During the ad breaks Marcel Kittel has been popping up on the telly flogging that ‘German engineered’ Alpecin caffeine shampoo. Fair enough, he needs something to do whilst he’s out of this year’s Tour.

The shampoo is one of those two-in-one jobs, so I presume you can wash your hair and drink it so you get your morning caffeine hit before leaving the shower. What a time saver! Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? Clever Germans.

John Degenkolb is doing Alpecin ads as well. Now what I don’t understand is if Degenkolb is out on his bike, how can he be in the ads at the same time? Another thing I don’t understand is how his hair is really short but has a healthy looking beard. Does he use the shampoo on his head or his face?

Back to the race and by the time the riders hit the first of the seven cobble sectors the ‘Big Four’ Froome, Quintana, Contador and Nibali were well up front with Nibs leading the charge for a good part of the way. Again the ‘Shark from Messina’ proved what a great rider on the cobbles he is. He really should give Paris-Roubaix a crack next spring.

Cyclo-cross ace Zdenek Stybar was taking the cobbles in his stride. According to Phil he ‘likes roads with no surface’, which either means Stybar prefers sailing through thin air or it was FUBAR commentary from Phil.

It wasn’t a good day for last year’s Tour third place getter Thibaut Pinot. He punctured at about 20km to go and looked like he was losing his cool. A few minutes later he was forced to stop due to a mechanical. He was filthy and we almost saw a bike discus. From there he couldn’t get his head back into the race and one of France’s big hopes ending up finishing 6 minutes 30 seconds behind.

After three days of knocking at the door of the maillot juane, Panzerwagen Tony Martin won the stage with Degenkolb in second, and took the golden fleece off the shoulders of Froome.

Henk Vogels was conspicuously absent from the day’s post-race wrap up. Did the SBS crew ‘accidentally’ leave him behind out in a field in Northern France?

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