Friday, July 10, 2015

Stage 6 Abbeville / Le Havre - Le Tour Storms Normandy

Stage 6 and the riders got another taste of sea air as they skirted the Norman coastline on the 191.5 km route from Abbeville to Le Havre.

In contrast to the battlefields of The Somme, the cycling Godz of Normandy turned on a magnificent summer’s day and plenty of cows came out to enjoy the sunshine and the cycling action. Some were seated and Phil cautioned that when the cows are sitting down it’s usually a sign of rain. You can’t get more of a classic Sherliggettism from Phil and hearing that is almost as good as Troll DJ busting out the first Muppets tune of the Tour.

After accusations Gabs was trying to do a Pete Evans on the peloton, he conceded that salad and kale smoothies were probably not a good choice for a hungry bunch of riders. However, he made up for that faux pas with blue eye with oysters in a creamy cider sauce. That’s more like it and although the 10g of butter is a marginal gain it’s enough to push up the buerremetric counter to 100g.

It must have had something to do with the weather but Phil and Paul were in jolly good spirits and Paul was up for a few jokes.

Paul recalled a tweet from Adam Hansen about his plastered shoulder and how it eased the pain just a little bit ‘but I have ‘pain’ for breakfast…’ Crickets from Phil, that one sailed right over the top of his head.

Ornithological humour is more Phil’s cup of tea. As the riders approached the breathtaking Alabaster Coast of Normandy Phil was busy checking out the birds flying around the cliffs. Paul quipped that “although we are looking at the birds, one or two of the riders will be puffin on the way to the finish”. Phil nearly lost it.

Such wit! The phone will be jumping off the hook from the scenic river cruise companies wanting to hire Paul as a comic entertainer.

The Tour choppers brought us more stunning pictures of the beautiful limestone formations on the coast which reminded Phil of the ‘Sisters’ on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. I bet he’d be impressed by the Three Apostles in the Blue Mountains too…

The Grand Canyon, Normandy

It wasn’t just birds and limestone formations that caught Phil and Paul’s interest. A couple of blokes in yellow were spotted on high voltage lines on special ‘cable bikes’ which Phil thought were flying Teletubbies. Beats the flying dinghy spotted in stage 2 at the 2013 Tour, but only just.

After many hours in the saddle at some stage nature calls and out on the back roads of rural France the restrooms of service stations and a well known hamburger chain are few and far between. When you gotta go, you gotta go and the only option is by the road side.

Phil and Paul caught Alejandro Valverde during a ‘besoin naturel’ and noticed he’d ‘had an accident’ slipping on gravel. I don’t know what euphemism to read into that.

Speaking of water works, Paul was very impressed with the fine chateaux of the region and spotted one with a ‘water hammer’ for operating the fountains in the garden. Great if you can afford it, a water hammer in my ‘chateau’ usually means getting in a plumber and a second job to pay the bill.

Back to the race and Perrig Quémeneur, Daniel Teklehaimanot and Kenneth van Bilsen were out front most of the day in the breakaway. Eritrean rider Teklehaimanot made cycling history securing enough points in the King of the Mountains competition to become the first African to wear the polka dot jersey.

At 42 km to go Thomas Voeckler, who loves a good breakaway, tried to bridge the gap and got some TV time for team sponsor Oooropcar. Makes me wonder if there’s a clause in Voeckler’s contract that he has to give x amount of time in front of the cameras each Tour.

The breakies were eventually reeled in by the peloton in the final 10 kilometres and the riders got themselves organised for the uphill charge toward the finish line.

Then disaster struck for the man in yellow Tony Martin, who appeared to have clipped Vincenzo Nibali who went down along with Chris Froome. Martin was down on the ground for some time but with the help of some Etixx-Quick Step teammates rode to the line with a broken collarbone. Sadly, that was the end of Panzerwagen’s Tour.

But it wasn’t all bad news for Martin’s team; the man who ‘prefers roads with no surface’, Zdenek Stybar, avoided the crash to win the stage.

After the race confusion reigned as to who caused it. Nibs blamed Froome and threw a bidon at him.* Froome took the unusual step to meet Nibs at the Asstana team bus. Word quickly spread to chants of “Fight! Fight! Fight!” and riders came rushing from all directions. Froome entered the bus and Nibs apologised after watching the video replay and offered a cold one from the mini bar as a peace offering and the two GC men get to ride another day.


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