Monday, July 25, 2016

Stage 21 Chantilly / Paris Champs-Élysées - Froome Makes it Black-to-Black Tours for Sky

Stage 21 and after 3,519 km the Tour finally came home on a 113 km parade from Chantilly to the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

Gabs’ final duty in the Tour kitchen was to make a raspberry mille feuilles. If you thought the recipe sounds familiar you’d be right, this raspberry mille feuille made its last appearance in stage 21 at the 2014 Tour de France.

*Sigh*, no butter and this hasn’t quite hit the mark of the year ‘of the butter’. The buerremetric counter weighed in at a grand total of 1.1 kg, which is a vast improvement on last year’s Buttergate scandal where only 310g was used. Still, it falls short of the 2014 record of 1.12kg.

Now in its third year, Tomo was talking up the ‘ladies’ race Le Course by Le Tour de France as the riders prepared to take on 13 laps of the most beautiful avenue in the world, the Champs-Élysées. No danger of a parasol getting caught in the spokes here Tomo, the women are all here for a serious bike race.

Ant McCrossan and Rochelle Gilmore were on caravan of commentary duties when all of a sudden the audio went down. Did a fan stumble over the power cord to the commentary box? Whatever was happening it was taking a long time to fix.

A big bunch was starting to rip up the cobbles. What do we do? Without Ant and Rochelle the couch peloton was going to have commentate for itself but how were we going to identify riders without the start list or knowledge of preferred sock length?

A quick scuttle up to the caravan of commentary and it was Henk and Macca to the rescue who held the fort until Ant and Rochelle were back.

The race wasn’t without incident. Nerves in the peloton and the frantic pace brought about a series of small crashes followed by one big massive crash.

In the sprint Chloe Hosking was first across the line and for the second time in five years an Aussie was on top of the podium in Paris! That was some tough racing and the magnitude of the win sinks in when you think of the class Hosking was up against - that class being Marianne Vos, who some would argue is the best all round cyclist, women’s or men’s, in the world.

The publicity caravan came roaring into Paris. Fans were disappointed as the cows had cleaned out all the cowbells and Alpecin shampoo.

At last pictures from the longest départ fictif in history came through.

New Tour champion Chris Froome threw the rule book out the window again and was drinking beer with his teammates, although later he was spotted with the traditional flute of bubbles.

Bernard Hinault finally waved the flag and the ‘race’ was on with a not too serious attack. This is the last year of Tour duties for Hinault. Next year he’ll be standing by the roadside with his grandson. Also, he’s got cows to take care of.

The peloton passed through a field and there was a lost opportunity for field art crop circles if we ever saw one. Aliens, where are you?

Mattie spotted a mini chateau with ‘Le Weber’ on the go for a Sunday afternoon barbecue.

And it was all fun and games in the peloton with Maciej Bodnar hamming it up with a top tube descent. Roman Kreuziger picked up the one remaining KOM point and if he did it on a kiddies tricycle no one would have given a damn.

The peloton edged its way closer to Paris and Andre Greipel stopped for a swap to his raging silverback gorilla bike.

Kitteh loses it after a mechanical

Inevitably the Ps made their catch and we waved bye-bye to Mattie and Robbie. Chapeau to everyone on the commentary team who keep us informed and entertained for three weeks. Robbie McEwen has been outstanding in the caravan of commentary and I look forward to hearing his analysis, expert opinion and humour for many Tours to come.

Into the city proper and Paul noted, “Paris had been put together some time ago”. You could have fooled me, I thought we were getting the pop-up version.

The Ile de la Cité looks to Paul like a miniature Manhattan, just like in the song ‘first we take miniature Manhattan, then we take miniature Berlin’.

Ah Paris, je t’aime you sexy beast and there it was - the aerial tricolore display and the crowd went wild.

Australia’s greatest cyclist Cadel Evans made an appearance for a Troll DJ request ‘Glory Days’ by The Boss. Glory days indeed and Chloe Hosking was definitely having a glorious day.

Phil wasn’t sounding too well and appeared to be losing his voice and did I hear him do a 'bush hanky' in the caravan of commentary? Eww!

Riders hit the Champs-Élysées and Paul noted it boasts some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Really? Have you seen what a broken down outhouse in inner Melbourne would fetch?

Out on the Champs Marcel Kittel had a mechanical and was spitting kittens at the wheel change omnishambles. He managed to get back into the race and after the nine laps past Norwegian corner were complete it was Andre Greipel who won the sprint for the second year in a row.

Chris Froome arrived safely to claim back-to-back yellow jerseys, the first rider to do so since Miguel Indurain in the 90s. With three titles to his name surely this elevates Froome to one of the greats. 

For the record books.

Golden fleece: Chris Froome - again
Green: Peter Sagan – again
Polka: Rafal Majka
White: Adam Yates
Team: Movistar - again
Super-combative: Peter Sagan

Once again I'd like to thank all who have taken an interest in Le Wrap and thanks for the comments and retweets. I do this for the love of the Tour and your support is what keeps me going.

Until next time, au revoir!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Stage 20 Megève / Morzine-Avoriaz - Dizzyguirre Takes Stage On Monster Descent

Stage 20 and it was the penultimate stage before the peloton jumps on a plane for Paris on a 146.5 km mountain stage from Megève to Morzine-Avoriaz.

Over to the kitchen and Gabs made a potato and reblochon cheese gratin which Gabs says is a popular party dish for young adults. He also made mention of a ‘lizard trolley’. I don’t know what sort of wild parties you go to Gabs!

The gratin is also a speciality of the Haute Savoie Alps region so here was a chance for the peloton to savour some real savoie fare...

Gabs has made a late run on the butter. The recipe calls for 20g but the baking dish needs to be lined with extra butter. A whole block should do it, you’d better make doubly sure the gratin doesn’t stick to the base requiring a jack hammer to clean it off. This takes the buerremetric counter to 1.1 kg. Tomorrow’s stage will bring us the verdict on ‘the year of the butter’.

From the fall of the flag at the conclusion of the départ fictif the riders were off to a quick start with Sylvain Chavanel launching the first attack.

Mattie and Robbie engaged in a bit of hot air balloon chat but between you and me, best leave it to the ‘experts’, eh?

The peloton passed what at first appeared to be a chateau but turned out to be a convent. OMG, a real life flying nun school! Plenty of wind must blow through the Alps to achieve lift off.

The rain started pelting down, Some cows were seen standing and one seated at 101 km to go so only the seated cow got the forecast right. No goats were sighted on the stage.

Wet and slippery roads inevitably brought up the topic of tread on bicycle tyres. Robbie didn’t think tread would make much of difference as a car tyre is completely different. Surely Robbie the technology exists to make a bike version of a Computer Cat tyre? They were pretty clever back in the 80s and computers have advanced a fair bit since then.

The heavens really opened and even Thor made an appearance putting the hammer down.

Earlier Henk Vogels had been out looking for filthy roads and filed a report about a monster climb he found so apparently the monster climb is the new filthy road.

Race radio was playing up as moisture seeped into the valves and messages weren’t getting across to the riders. Well, that’s what *they* say – ‘my radio isn’t working’ is the equivalent of the dog ate my homework.

There was some nice work from the camera moto for the deft cutaway from a potential nude male roadside runner. Still in the cold wet conditions we wouldn’t have seen much allowing for shrinkage.

Robbie and Mattie were caught at 60 km to go, or there abouts, my TV screen is getting harder to read. Either I get my eyes tested or get a bigger TV for next year’s Tour.

One minute in to the commentary from the Ps and already the first ‘job of work’ from Paul. This was going to be a long 60 kms.

Please, do tell about this curious sport of 'cyclocross'. In your own time Paul.

Sure enough the mangling of idioms had commenced with ‘petal to the metal’ and ‘new man on the block’.

Chapeau to the French couch peloton contingent who out-Sherliggetted the SherLiggetts with ‘Julinson Pantaphilippe’ and ‘Jarlinsian Alaphitano’, for Julian Alaphilippe and Jarlinson Pantano who’d been riding side by side out front. Genius.

Phil and Paul broke the news Peter Sagan had been handed the must combative rider of the Tour award. The packing room begs to differ – sure he’s been impressive picking up the stage wins but he already had the green jersey in the bag in the first week. Personally I think Pantano should have got it but he did pick it up for the stage at least.

Alaphitano may have been working hard out there but Paul saw Daryl Impey ‘dishing out the stick’.

The end came for the Pantaphilippe duo on the Col de Joux Plane when the fin of the ‘Shark of Messina’ Vincenzo Nibali surfaced. That’s it, when the fin of Nibali appears you’re goooone.

By this time the rain was in Biblical proportions and Phil watched as, “Nibali on the flood waters is closing in”. Phil thought he saw Alaphilippe mouth his last words, “I’m Julian Alaphilippe and I’m from Belg...I’m from France”.

It was a massive mauling from Nibali who made the most of the wet conditions turning it to shark fin soup.

There was 9 km of descending to go under very treacherous conditions on a road that even on a dry day would have you reaching for a pair of FDJ brown knicks.

Nice bike wrangling skills from Pantano who saved himself on a tricky corner and managed to catch the shark that ripped his legs off on the climb.

Race radio was officially washed out as the valves went out one by one. It didn’t seem to matter now as Ion ‘Dizzyguirre’ had the lead and took on the vomit-comet inducing descent.

We got the lecture from Paul about the winter sport of cyclocross. Paul, just like ad breaks in the final 10 kms this really isn’t the time.

Ion Izaguirre soloed to the line and what a win for the Basque born rider who bagged the first win of the Tour for the Moviestars team.

Back in the GC group Chris Froome had a reserved booking for the top step of the podium but the rest of the top ten hadn’t been settled. Richie Porte’s throw at a podium step didn’t quite work and settled for fifth. Twelve year old Romain Bardet must be thrilled as the runner up and Nairo Quintana, who blamed his performance on allergies, still grabbed a podium step in third.

There was a delay in the yellow jersey presso and Tomo was getting worried that the meter on the satellite feed would run out.

We finally got to see Froome receive his golden fleece and podium lion. As it turned out the delay was not caused by a re-dressing of his wounds and a quick freshen up - the machine used by officials to detect heat generated by hidden motors in bikes picked up a Pokémon GO Vaporeon monster and there was a stampede to the Sky team bus.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Stage 19 Albertville / Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc - Good Day for Bardet, Bad Day For Holland

Stage 19 and it was the penultimate day in the French Alps as the Tour made its way on the 146 km route from Albertville to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc.

Over in the Tour kitchen Gabs whipped up a blueberry mousse. Have you noticed he’s has gone a bit heavy on the desserts this year? Well, you’re not fooling me Gabs, I see what you’re doing - this is all a ruse to try and hide a Buttergate scandal isn’t it? You’re not fooling the peloton either and quicker than you can say “blueberry pie”, riders bemoaned the lack of butter in the recipe.

Out on the road and lots of tired bodies were hauling themselves up the climbs. Rain and thunder was forecast for the stage but so far no signs of it yet and none of the cows were seated.

Early in the race a 20 man breakaway made its escape with Asstana driving the peloton in pursuit. After three weeks of hard racing you couldn’t blame riders for getting a little tetchy, teammates included. In one example Asstana’s Diego Rosa appeared to have words with teammate Andriy Grivco to back off with the pacemaking. Grivco snapped back with a non-verbal, “no one tells Grivco what to do”.

Mattie was profiling the ever rising baby-faced star of French cycling, Romain Bardet. Apparently he landed a role in the communications department at ASM Clermont Auvergne rugby club to finish off his business degree. Sounds interesting but I didn’t know they take in 12 year olds as interns these days.

It seemed like everybody on two legs and four was out to cheer on the riders with a first confirmed sighting of goats, which happened to be seated indicating rain. Phil swears that seated cows can be counted upon to forecast rain but so far the cows had been standing. So who’s right, the cows or the goats?

Tom Dumoulin had a fall with Daniel Teklahaimanot. Dumoulin looked to be distressed holding his wrist, crying at the side of the road. He withdrew citing ‘severe wrist trauma’ which later turned out to be fractured radius, putting his trip to Rio in doubt. It was a sad end to an outstanding Tour for the Dutchman who picked up two stage victories.

The riders passed some very well behaved standing cows on a corner. They looked very contented having scored cowbells and bottles of Alpecin shampoo after the Tour caravan passed through.

Heavy skies over the mountains suggested a storm was brewing – and not just in the physical sense but figuratively as well over the forecasting accuracy of cows vs goats. Looks like the goats are more reliable after all.

Costa on his own

On the Col de Saisies ‘the man in black’ (as Phil calls him) Wout Poels appeared as if to say, “hello, I’m Woet Poels”.

On the descent of Col de Saises the rain started coming down and Pierre Rolland came down with it as his wheel washed out from under him on a corner and slid into mud, narrowly missing a photographer’s moto. Fortunately Rolland didn’t hit a hot engine on a moto, which wouldn’t have been fun and was soon back on the bike.

The now heavy rain made descending treacherous and soon riders were falling like tenpins. Richie Porte came down in a crash with Sebastien Reichenbach and had to get back up to the GC group. The red and black of Porte’s BMC kit got Kevin Sheedy swinging his jacket above his head at the roadside and lifted Porte’s spirits.

It wasn’t all beer and skittles in the GC group as Chris Froome crashed with Vincenzo Nibali in a heart-stopping moment. Fortunately for Froome he was okay, albeit with a ripped and bloody golden fleece. Teammate Geraint Thomas was on hand who gave him his bike. At least Froome didn’t have to run or ride an omnishambles of a neutral service spare this time.

Dani Navarro was the next to crash and had to abandon. So far the only riders that hadn’t crashed were Rui Costa and the 12 year old rugby club intern Romain Bardet.

Costa had been sitting pretty up front for some time on his own oblivious to the carnage behind him. Bardet joined Costa at around 7 km to go and pulled away at 3 km to solo across the line to win the stage and France collectively died in relief.

Back down the road and all eyes were on the GC. Romain Bardet looked as if he’d knocked Bauke Mollema off the perch to take second. Mollema was having a stinker of a day having crashed and then running out of gas trying to get back into the race. Paul could see he was in trouble and said of Mollema’s rocking style, “he’s pulling himself inside out now”.

Not even, in the words of Paul, “the big dog that looks after people in the mountains”, could save him and Mollema slipped back to tenth in the overall standings. With Dumoulin out and Mollema in tenth this was a bad day for Holland.

In contrast a banged up Chris Froome crossed the line and even on a ‘strange bike’ extended his lead to 04’ 11”. But anything can happen in cycling and just when we thought the Tour was over in stage 18, stage 19 proved the race is far from over and there's still stage 20 to come.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Stage 18 Sallanches / Megève - Better Watch Out For The Skin Deep

Stage 18 and the Tour was back in France for the second time trial, and shortest stage of the Tour, the 17 km individual time trial from Sallanches to Megève.

As the Tour approaches its final days, Gabs prepared a special dish of yabby turnovers with truffle. Gabs used his keen sense of smell to sniff out the truffles from under the oak trees so he didn’t have to spend a penny on this luxury ingredient.

Speaking of luxuries, butter has been more of a luxury lately but it’s back in this recipe with 40g, taking the buerremetric counter to 830g.

An uphill time trial called for different approaches to equipment. The demand for aerodynamic efficiency isn’t so great for climbing. A number of riders opted just for their normal road bike. Others thought strap-on extension bars were the way to go. For others nothing less than the full TT kit would do.

By the time we joined the caravan of commentary many riders had already completed the course. Ion Izaguirre got his turn in the hot seat.

Roadside randoms were out in force but were noticeably better behaved than at Mount Ventoux the week before. Clearly they heeded Richie Porte’s stern talking to.

A rather poor looking Didi copy, a facsimile of the devil if you like, was bouncing around on the course. I mean come on, there’s only one Didi!

Gerard Depardieu was back at the side of the road on his annual Tour de France bender dressed in an Obelix costume.

Mattie recounted Kiwi Shane Archbold’s heroics after crashing and completing the previous day’s stage with a broken pelvis. Not quite the ‘blood and snot on the handle bars’ but cyclists are a bloody tough lot.

Jakob Fuglsang, who has some of the best hair in the peloton, rode his standard road bike like a virtual time trial with virtual extension bars except it was a real time trial.

All eyes were on Tom Dumoulin who won the first time trial in stage 13. He went the full kit and there was a touch of excitement in Robbie’s voice as he described Tom’s latex skinsuit and long socks. I do wonder about the long socks though, is Dumoulin a maths/science teacher when he’s off the bike?

Dumoulin was clearly popular with the fans who formed a Mexican wave of noise on the climb.
Mattie had made mention of Chris Froome being measured up for another skinsuit and it really had us guessing if he’d come out in an ultra shiny yellow outfit in an effort to out-do Dumoulin.

Sky unveils next season's skinsuit look

Mattie noticed Wilco Kelderman had gone the safer option and ditched the full rear disc that caused him so much grief in stage 13. Still his effort was well off the mark and Mattie recalled when he was known as ‘Wilco Keldermerckx’ because he used to win everything.

Dumoulin was setting a cracking pace and passed Jan Bakelants and his only response was with a shake of his head.

Thomas De Gendt knocked off Izaguirre from the hot seat but wasn’t there for very long as Dumoulin finished 41 seconds faster than de Gendt.

A tricky chicane on the approach to the line caused a few nervous moments. Staying safe is the key and in words worthy of a T-shirt print Robbie advised that, “slower is sometimes faster”.

It was time for Matt and Robbie to duck off to the side with the team cars to make way for Phil and Paul.

Paul noted Fabio Aru was 17 km from the finish line, which came as no surprise as he hadn’t started yet.

Phil said, “Tom Dumoulin set the bar very high here”. Well yes, but in order to achieve that he needed to set the bars very low to get the maximum aerodynamic advantage.

Geraint Thomas left the start house wearing a silky black skinsuit with see-through cutaways at the back. Jesus, did he pick it up from an adult shop?

Aru got going and finally began to close that 17 km gap to the finish line and put in a blistering effort to finish third.

It was Richie Portes' time to go and Paul thought Phil let fly with a ‘Richie Froome’. Now Paul had planted the seed we just knew it was going to happen in real life.

Nairo Quintana made a quick start and looked more at home on his customised time trial bike than in stage 13. After all the hills suit Quintana better than the flat and managed a top ten finish.

Adam Yates hit the road with a ‘Yates you can’ attitude in his bid to claw back time from Bauke Mollema. Mollema didn’t have the greatest of runs finishing down in seventeenth place.

Porte was nine seconds faster than Dumoulin at first time check and looked to be in control.

The final rider of the day Chris Froome went with the full on time trial bike with full disc at the back, which according to boundary rider Jens Voigt was the ‘risky option’.

At the second time check Porte was eight seconds down on Dumoulin and it was going to take a big effort. Porte came home in third and then was upgraded to second. Now all Dumoulin and Porte could do was wait and see how Froome would go.

Froome looked slow and there were no time checks appearing on screen but by the time he reached the third time check he was ahead of Dumoulin.

On the downhill run to the chicane section before the line Paul spotted Froome, “getting into a strange position”, as he tried to squeeze every bit of advantage from his ride.

As Froome crossed the line it was clear he was here for a big smack down and finished 21 seconds ahead of Dumoulin and extended his lead in yellow to 03’ 52” ahead of Mollema.

There’s still Friday and Saturday to go in the mountains but so long as he can stay upright, Chris Froome has pretty much got his third Tour win in the bag.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Stage 17 Berne / Finhaut-Emosson - A Sweet Win for Zakarin

Stage 17 and the Tour resumed from the final rest day for 184.5 km ride to the mountains from Berne to Finhaut-Emosson in Switzerland.

With another hot day forecast, Gabs prepared a cool and refreshing cucumber and smoked trout terrine with some trout caught by Phil that morning. To smoke the fish Phil improvised by converting the caravan of commentary into a smoker by placing the time trial hot seat in there with some cuckoo clock wood shavings.

No butter in the recipe and with only a handful of stages remaining Gabs’ vow to make this Tour ‘the year of the butter’ is looking very shaky indeed.

The rest day was largely a relaxed affair with the riders cooling off with a dip in the Aare River that runs through Berne.

With the Olympics just around the corner it was time for some riders to take stock and consider whether to push on to Paris. Mark Cavendish answered the call from the British selectors to come home and Rohan Dennis called it quits.

When we joined the caravan of commentary the race was well and truly on. Warren Barguil was spotted sporting a torn-look jersey. Was he making a fashion statement? No, turned out he was involved in a crash with Borut Bozic, and Gorka Izagirre and the road surface, which acted like a grater on breathable fabric and skin.

The scenery was incredible with many oohs and aahs from the couch peloton. Switzerland, you hot mess of a country you!

If you thought the mountains were spectacular, the waterfalls (or cascades) were equally impressive – just don’t go chasing them, save the chasing for the breakaway. Oh yeah, whatever you do don’t go standing under La Cascade de Pissevache...

With a big cat. 1 and hors categorie climbs ahead, Robbie reflected on how difficult a mountain stage was in the final week of the Tour. To Robbie it was like, “you look down at your legs and all you’ve got is two barbecued sausages”. Now I’m not sure if he was referring to severe sunburn, legs burning red hot with lactic acid or a hunger induced meat-o-vision hallucination like in the cartoons.


The Ps made their catch at 36 km to go and came across some very impressive precision crop circles at Valais. Paul thought a farmer must have used a GPS guided tractor. The Swiss are known for precision but the execution of the lines and circles looked TOO precise for GPS.

Phil talked about his time when he encountered the famous canine breed the Saint Bernard. He had difficulty controlling them, they kept running away and rescuing people buried in snow and wouldn’t sit still long enough for Phil to pour a brandy from the barrel under its chin.

The riders reached cat. 1 Col de la Forclaz. Tony Gallopin went on the attack in the desperate hope he could try and get a French stage win. Alexey Lutsenko went solo but Rafal Majka made it first to the summit hoovering up more KOM points. Jarlinson Pantano was riding with the pride of Colombia on his shoulders for their national day and went over the top with Majka.

Back in the GC group on the Forclaz, Tejay van Garderen was dropped with all hope of a high finish in Paris gone. Post race he said he had no excuses. Phil and Paul thought he was suffering what Paul calls a ‘strange reaction’ to the rest day. Whatever it was in the end it was I beg your pardon, I never promised you a van Garderen.

Vincenzo Nibali nursed his protégé Fabio Aru up the climbs and I can’t seem to shake this disturbing image of a grown man attached to one of Nibali’s nipples.

Diego Rosa played a role as a booster rocket for Aru but was ejected when the job was done. Meanwhile Katusha rider Ilnur Zakarin was rocketing up the final climb to Finhault-Emosson.

Riding for Colombian on its own wasn’t going to do it for Pantano. Russian Zakarin has his bags packed for Rio but still doesn’t know if he’s going.

Zakarin crossed the line to win his first stage at the Tour and even I was exhausted just watching that uphill drag to the line in the final couple of hundred metres.

Back in the GC group with van Garderen gone it was up to Richie Porte to take the lead for BMC. Froome latched on to his wheel and Porte was working for Froome. Again.

All eyes were on Nairo Quintana with time running out for a Paris podium finish. CANtana do it? Adam Yates, Romain Bardet, Aru and Louis Meintjes had other ideas and left Quintana in their wake. Adam Yates must have been inspired by the ‘Yates You Can’ slogans that have been painted on the roads throughout the Tour. Sadly, for Quintana this Tour is shaping up to be CAN’Tana.

Froome increased his lead over Bauke Mollema to 02’ 27”. It’s going to be tough for anyone to try and pare back that lead.

When you’re out of gas in the final week of the Tour it’s a loooong walk to the next petrol station in the mountains.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Stage 16 Moirans-en-Montagne / Berne - Feel the Berne

Stage 16 and the riders set off on a stunningly beautiful day as the Tour headed on the 209 km route from Moirans-en-Montagne in France to Berne, Switzerland.

Since Gabs was now in Switzerland he prepared the Swiss classic veal with mushroom sauce and Rosti. There was joy in the peloton when the riders discovered there was 60 g of butter in the recipe. This brings the buerremetric counter to 790 g.

Early on in the race Tony Martin (the cyclist, not the comedian) and Julian Alaphilippe from Etixx-QuickStep broke away and despite the efforts of a few chasers could not be reeled back to the peloton. Robbie puzzled about their tactics. Oh, to be a fly on the windscreen of the Etixx-QuickStep team car. Well, not if you hit it at 100km/h.

Out on the road organ music seemed to appear from nowhere. It had the couch peloton wondering if that was that our Troll DJ or its French TV cousin practising on the Hammond.

The Etixx breakies were the first to say hello to Switzerland as they crossed the border. Martin was in Panzerwagen time trial beast mode but it wasn’t all one way. Martin agreed to time trial on the flat, Alaphilippe towing duties on the hills. Deal.

We got the real deal from Troll DJ playing a majestic tune for the majestic vaches montage from this year’s tour. Not long over the border and Switzerland turned out to be a vaches fest. Hmm, maybe the Swiss could lend a few to the Italians for the Giro in May.

Out on the road the thermometer was rising into the low 30s and the domestiques were busy with bidon collection duties. IAM Cycling must have been particularly thirsty - Stef Clement’s jersey looked like a condom stuffed full of water bottles.

Meanwhile Tony Martin continued to power on, treating this stage as if it were a 209 km time trial.

Tony Martin taking it in his stride

The Ps caught up to the caravan of commentary at about 55 km to go. All eyes were on Fabian Cancellara (or Spartacus as he’s affectionately known) who was heading to his home town in his final Tour de France. Could he win today? Phil and Paul thought he could noting he’d won in Berne before, in the final stage of the Tour de Suisse back in 2007. They then reminded us – repeatedly. That number of the day? 2007.

The breakies reached the intermediate sprint on their own and since he’d done most of the work Martin and Alaphilippe agreed to split the prize money 60/40. Martin made it look easy dragging Alaphilippe along but that wasn’t enough for the Panzerwagen who even started to do the pace making for a train at one stage.

Switzerland has a reputation for producing fine goods when it comes to cheese, multi-tooled pocket knives and of course watches and clocks. Phil and Paul were particularly enamoured of the Swiss built machines of BMC claiming they are the ‘Swiss watch of bicycles’. Well, if BMC is the Swiss watch of bicycles then those neutral service spares are the two-bob watches.

Martin and Alaphilippe looked like they might have had a chance to make it all the way to Berne but eventually succumbed to the peloton. Alaphillipe was the first to sit up, caught at 25 km to go. Martin kept on going until, in the words of Paul, “boom, boom, out go the lights”, caught at 22 km to go.

Phil and Paul noted it was Mandela Day in South Africa and recalled that Steve Cummings riding for the then South African MTN Qhubeka team won the stage at last year’s Tour on that day. Surprising then it took that long for the two to twig at 12 km to go there was a South African in the race in the form of Daryl Impey. All of a sudden Spartacus was forgotten.

As the kilometres counted down Rui Costa got himself out in the front of the peloton who had him in their sights. Brave but he didn’t stand a chance and was gone at 4 km to go.

The final 600 metres to the line is a cobbled incline reminiscent of a one-day classics style finish. Classics specialist Spartacus was well positioned but didn’t quite have the fire power as ‘Penis Sagan’ (yes, Phil did say that) pipped Alexander Kristoff with a thrust to the line for his third stage win at this Tour.

Celebration from the Spartacus fans wasn’t to be but he still managed a top ten finish not to be sneezed at for such a long day in the saddle. But the party was about to start for the large contingent of Peter Sagan fans who arrived from Slovakia on the bus known as the Sagz Wagon.

Oh yeah, and Chris Froome hung on to yellow with a handy 01’ 47” lead over Bauke Mollema.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Stage 15 Bourg-en-Bresse / Culoz - Colombian Conquers Colombier in Culoz

Stage 15 and its back in the mountains as the Tour heads toward Switzerland on a 159 km route from Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz.

After the dip and crackers debacle, Gabs made it up to the peloton with the family favourite grandmother’s chicken. The butter makes a welcome return since we last saw it in stage 10. The two tablespoons take the buerremetric counter to 730 g.

Early on in the race a sizable breakaway made its escape which included a handful of French riders including Julian Alaphilippe, Alexis Vuillermoz, Roman Sicard and of course Thomas Voeckler. 

Time is running out for a French victory at this year’s Tour. Bryan Coquard came so close in stage 4 to Marcel Kittel but today might be the day. However, the determination of Poland’s Rafal Majka to grab the polka dot jersey looked to spoil their chances.

Robbie and Mattie were calling the race from the drop of the flag. The topic of conversation was Mark Cavendish’s 30 Tour stage victories, just four short of Eddy Merckx. Cav would prefer not to be compared to the legendary Eddy Merckx because he’s Eddy Merckx. And just how good was Eddy Merckx? According to Robbie he was so good he won races he wasn’t even in.

At the 52 km mark the riders took on the category 2 ‘Col de Pea Soup’. Believe me, Robbie is getting better with his French. He can also say wazoo, which is French for bird.

The peloton made its way through countryside that takes pride in its cheese. This was celebrated in the field art work titled by Robbie, ‘Milking the cow, making the cheese’.

Phil and Paul did a Chris Froome and threw out the rule book to launch a surprise attack to catch Robbie and Mattie at 69 km to go in time for the big climb on the hors categorie Grand Colombier.

With a big contingent of Colombian riders at this Tour they shouldn’t have any trouble on the Grand Colombier, which is merely the size of foothill in their home country.

The riders started the climb of the Grand Colombier in earnest to the tune of cow bells from spectators at the side of the road, which makes up part of the soundtrack to the Tour in these mountainous regions.

The Lacets du Grand Colombier

The 13 km climb soon took its toll as one by one the sprinters were spat out the back. Every now and then Europe’s highest peak of the snow capped Mont Blanc came into view. Good thing there’s no road up there, the sprinters would just toss their bike to the side of the road and go home.

Still Mont Blanc provided a majestic backdrop to majestic vaches in one of the helicopter shots and I could almost cry.

Maps of the ‘hexagon of France’ featured heavily in field art. I wonder Paul just how many hectometres are there in the hexagon of France? There are just not enough fingers and toes to count.

Rounding the corner into the final week of the Tour we got our first ‘heads of state’ couch peloton drinking game mention from Paul. Time to raid the top shelf. Expect to hear more of heads of state in the coming days as podium in Paris takes shape.

Majka was first over the top of Grand Colombier and went on the descent with Alaphilippe and Colombian rider Jarlinson Pantano toward the finish line at Culoz. At first it was reported Julian Alaphilippe had crashed but it turned out to just be a mechanical.

Majka and Pantano crossed the line but the race wasn’t over yet with a lap of Grand Colombier but this time from a different approach via the spectacular Lacets du Grand Colombier.

The Lacets du Grand Colombier is an amazing piece of road that twists and turns up the mountain. Phil said it resembled a tape worm. I think it looked more like intestines, or was it a series of S-bends?

Questionable fan behaviour was on display as smoke from a lit flare reduced visibility on the climb to zero. My lesson is hey kids, don’t set fire to your flares, wear them like a boss.

France’s last hope for the stage Romain Bardet rolled the dice on the Lacets but by that stage Majka and Pantano where making their charge down the hella cray but hella fun descent to Culoz.

Pantano was too good for Majka in the sprint to the line making it his first Tour victory, and a victory for Colombia on the Grand Colombier.

Rafal Majka has won stages in all the Tours he’s participated in (okay, this is only his third). Better luck next time, you’ll still win a stage – it’s in the contract.

Stage 14 Montélimar / Villars-les-Dombes Parc des Oiseaux - Cav Flying High On Win Number 30

Stage 14 and the Tour headed north on a flat 208.5 km route from Montélimar to Villars-les-Dombes Parc des Oiseaux.

Gabs prepared a cream cheese and herb dip and the riders were bemused that all they were getting was some crackers and dip. No butter either and the peloton banged their tin cups in unison until Tour organisers brought in pizzas and garlic bread (at least there’s butter in that).

The dip was a delicious starter though, mind you, the riders watched each other like hawks so there was no double dipping.

The winds of the past two days continued to blow down the Rhone Valley. A strong headwind slowed down the riders until Jeremy Roy, Alex Howes, Martin Elmiger and Cesar Cenedetti broke free. For the most part though the peloton took it easy with some big mountains coming up in Switzerland.

It was time for Robbie and Tomo from the caravan of commentary to let their hair down a little and put together a blooper reel set to the Troll DJ classic ‘Manamana’. Henk is reported to be filthy about it.

Back to the race and Robbie spotted a unique chateau that took one man 30 years to build. All materials were locally sourced which happened to be mostly be snails and rocks. Yep, you can’t get those materials down at Bunnings.

Robbie was dissecting the art of the bidon toss. He stressed it was important to throw bidons toward the kids at the side of the road and not at them and it’s probably best to check they’re not full either.

The domestiques scooped up the musettes as they passed through the feed zone. They looked quite colourful. I wonder if there’s a Bertie the Beetle feedbag? And by that I’m not talking about a feedbag of steak but one with a few chocolate beetles and a plastic thing. Go for the premium 40 euro bag and you also get a voucher for a hotdog and bottle of water at Euro Disneyland. They sell out really quickly – Oleg goes and buys them all for his Tinkies because he can.

British Olympic team selectors on the phone to Cav

The French broadcasters ran an educational film on how the Tour does its bit for the environment, which is mostly picking up rubbish. Okay, it isn’t exactly saving island nations in the Pacific from drowning kind of stuff but we don’t want the environment clogged with Bertie Beetle wrappers do we?

Robbie has been working on his French and since the Tour would be arriving at a bird park (Parc des Oiseaux) here was a chance to expand his vocabulary. Robbie thought ‘wazoo’ was French for a stork and then learned it was French for bird. Technically Robbie was correct, a stork is a bird, but totally wrong at the same time.

Mattie and Robbie discussed Julian Alaphilippe’s remarkable escape from major injury in the previous day’s time trial. The Frenchman was barrelling along when a gust wind blew him into a rock face at the side of the road. He walked away with just a scratch and a couple of bruises. We’ll never know what Julian was thinking as he flew off that rock face but I reckon he was probably shrieking ‘merde!’

Phil and Paul made their catch and couldn’t stop talking about their morning at the wazoo park. They had a ball, a real highlight of the Tour and it couldn’t have been any better unless it was a dry stone wall festival.

The Ps noted the park was a delight for the working media covering the Tour, unless you happen to suffer ornithophobia of course.

Paul was particularly interested in the varieties of African species in the park. Hornbills, storks and his favourite, pink flamingos, were all there - except for the Abyssinian ground hornbill. Wow, Paul REALLY knows his hornbills.

Oh yes, there are penguins too, but sadly, no puffins.

Back on the road and the riders pedalled though fields of sunflowers or tournesols to the delight of the couch peloton. About time too, Tour organisers have really had to make up for the dearth of tournesols last year.

Down at the business end of the race the last of the two breakies Elmiger and Roy shook hands before being swallowed up by the bunch at around 3 km to go.

On the sprint to the line Marcel Kittel misfired as Mark Cavendish sailed past him to notch up his fourth win at this Tour and made it Tour stage victory number 30.

With four wins at this Tour and a week of mountains ahead it might be time to call it quits to get ready for Rio. Something tells me British Olympic team selectors are on the phone to Cav already.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Stage 13 Bourg-Saint-Andéol / La Caverne du Pont-d'Arc - Dumoulin Dominates Time Trial

Stage 13 and after the comic drama on Mont Ventoux, it was time for the first individual time trial of the Tour on a hilly 37.5 km route from Bourg-Saint-Andéol to La Caverne du Pont-d'Arc.

Gabs prepared a special Friday treat, chocolate dessert with chestnuts. No butter and look, I know it’s been a few days and the peloton has started murmuring but you are forgiven just this once because CHOCOLATE!

I do think Gabs is having a bit of a laugh though with the addition of glacé chestnuts as a nod to the old chestnut of complaints about the lack of ‘the butter’ in the recipes. Oh Gabs, you’re such a card!

By the time we were joined by the caravan of commentary team, many riders had already completed their time trial in descending order according to the GC standings.

The ‘race of truth’ requires special bikes with extension bars, HR Giger inspired helmets, and skinsuits. All this is designed to help the rider to be as aerodynamic as possible in their attempt to beat the clock.

In recent years a lot of development has gone into the skinsuit improving a second here, a second there. Yet for all the space age breathable fabrics, experimentation with cut and contouring and hours of wind tunnel testing, what do they do to it? Pin a low-tech bib number to it.

Robbie noticed some skinsuits looked like latex. Well, you know, each to their own.

Inevitably the chaos of Mont Ventoux came up as a topic of conversation. Debate had raged over the judges’ decision to give Chris Froome the same time as Richie Porte and Bauke Mollema at the time of the stack into the moto.

Then there was the question of Froome advancing up the road on foot. Well yes, it is a bike race and not a triathlon but accepted wisdom is that you finish on a bike, in which case he did.

So yes, I agree fully with Robbie that it was the right decision to award Froome the yellow jersey. After all the crash wasn’t his fault and the judges had to acknowledge the embarrassment and humiliation of that omnishambles of a contraption laughingly called a bicycle handed to him by neutral service. In fact if he’d made it to the finish on that bike he probably deserved a time bonus of 30 seconds.

Out on the course Alexis Gougeard set the fastest time to be bettered by Maciej Bodnar. Former Hour Record holder Rohan Dennis set the fastest time until Nelson Oliveira claimed the hot seat and spent a considerable amount of time there.

Then it was Tom Dumoulin’s time to go. He was blistering on the time checks and because Oliveira had perspired so much Mattie advised him to make sure to wipe down the hot seat before he departed.

Strong winds out on the course had to be factored into the choice of which wheel to use. A full rear disc is pretty standard on the back of a time trial bike but what to put on the front?

Going double disc wasn’t even a question - riders would have been blown into the gorgeous Ardèche Gorge by the cross winds. The main choices were Tuff or spoke with variations of rim thickness in between.

While equipment is critical to the time trial, Robbie couldn’t stress more the importance of ‘dosing your efforts’. Err, that’s not legal, is it?

There were more riders to come and Sylvain Chavenel muscled his bike to the finish.

On the course Wilco Kelderman was trying to tack into the wind to avoid being swept off the road. Let that be a lesson – don’t go out on a windy time trial with a Tuff on the front.

Fabio Aru left the start house hoping to get a full service on his time trial bike from the mechanic in the team car.

To use the wheel-pizza base comparison Dan Martin went with deep pan on the back and thin crust on the front. Wasn’t a big help though.

As the start list whittled its way down to the GC contenders, all eyes were on Chris Froome and whether he could beat the 50’ 15” set by Tom Dumoulin.

Earlier the skin suit fitters were around at the Skybot team hotel measuring up Froome and he said, “make it a skinny”. Lulz ensued.

Nairo Quintana was out on the course and cut it fine, or wide I should say, on a left hander that nearly took him into the wall of a building. Quintana looked like he was over-spinning a bit on the pedals but wasn’t doing too bad a job for a pure climber and finished in 20th. Where’s there a neutral service moto when you need it...

Finally it was time for the yellow jersey to go. Froome gained time at each of the time checks to finish 01’ 03” behind Dumoulin but take second place for the stage. Froome increased his GC lead over his nearest rival Bauke Mollema to 01’ 47”. As we enter the final week of the Tour Froome is looking certain to be on top of the podium in Paris.

Presentation time was a solemn affair with respective jersey holders and the day’s winner paying their respects to the victims of the horror Bastille Day attack in Nice.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Stage 12 Montpellier / Mont Ventoux - Born to Run

Stage 12 and the riders set off on a slightly shortened 184 km route from Montpellier to the ‘Giant of Provence’, the mythical Mont Ventoux.

The peloton was going to need every bit of energy to tackle the steep climb so a hearty chicken casserole with olives and capsicum. No butter this time after the massive effort with the snails. Gabs, I know people are health conscious and all that but did you know butter is good for you now? Much better than that ghastly margarine dieticians have been telling us to use for years.

Out on the road and it was a fairly straight forward affair on relatively flat roads. Fabio Aru was spotted getting a full bike service on the move from the Asstana Team car.

Hats off to the mechanic, that’s some feat to be able to replace a crank set with chin just a few inches above the road going at 60 km/h. The commissaires were less impressed. Aru had trouble separating from the team car. Sticky bidon is a common problem in pro-cycling but sticky car?

Troll DJ busted out the Miami Vice theme to a montage of the beautiful sites and the water sporting activities of the Mediterranean coast. The tour is always scenic, but this year the scenery has been ridiculously good.

With category blow-your-beret-off winds forecast for the moonscape top of Mont Ventoux, the race finish was moved six kilometres down the road. The caravan of commentary was actually in a supermarket carpark miles away. Robbie and Mattie were taking no chances, it’d disintegrate in the winds at the top of the mountain.

The Man from Mansfield Simon Gerrans may have been a victim of the wind or perhaps a spot of oil on the road when leading a chase his front wheel washed out on a corner and hit the deck hard. His new ORICA-BikeExchange jersey was torn and he was bleeding but it looked like nothing was broken.

It was later revealed Gerrans had broken his collar bone and pulled out of the Tour to try and heal in time for the Olympics. He's had a few broken bones over the years and makes you wonder how many falls can Gerro’s body take?

Mattie was admiring the hairstyles in the peloton, remarkable really since they were all wearing helmets. He noted Bryan Coquard’s sprinting ability and admire's the young Frenchman's ‘quaff’. Andre Greipel adopted a ‘hairodynamic’ position on his bike to stay out of the wind.

Phil and Paul were having a slow day only catching Robbie and Mattie a 22 km to go near the base of the mythical mountain.

Paul thought Simon Gerrans had had a ‘funny crash’. I don’t think Gerro thought it was very funny.

Phil called the leading group hitting the lower slopes of the Giant of Provence the ‘Twelve Musketeers’. Sounds like they come in three additional sets now days. That, or Phil will be telling us Jesus only had three disciples next.

In a surprise move Andre Greipel went on the attack as the road tilted upwards. This Tour has been something - climbers attacking on flat stages, sprinters on mountain stages. What’s the world coming to?

Greipel the mountain gorilla continued charging up the road like an enraged silverback and Paul wondered when Nairo Quintana would ‘light the blue touch paper’ and set off some Bastille Day fireworks.

Froome makes the dash up the Mont Ventoux

Bastille Day always draws a large crowd to the roadside at the Tour but today was more crowded. The shortened finish and because fans who made the attempt to get to the top of the mountain were blown back down it created a corridor of noise concentrate.

As the climb got steeper the rope, Phil’s words, was running out on the riders as they started to crack and fall off the back.

In the final kilometres of the race Bertjan Lindeman, Dani Navarro, Serge Pauwels and Thomas de Gendt were in the lead group. Frenchman Sylvain Chavenel joined the group but fell away along with Lindeman. With the Frenchman gone it was time for the Colombian Navarro to step up to honourary French status because he rides for Cofidis.

Further down the road Quintana lit the blue touch paper and attacked followed by Sergio Henao (you know how it goes).

As the remaining lead trio headed toward the line Thomas de Gendt was riding like Thomas de Tank Engine. At 1 km to go the 1 km to kite was missing after being blown away by the wind. Serge Pauwels surged but it wasn’t enough as de Gendt crossed the line.

Down the road Chris Froome decided to go taking Richie Porte and Bauke Mollema with him. Porte was working for Froome just like old times. It was all too much for Quintana who raised the white flag.

Then disaster struck as a moto suddenly stopped and Porte, Froome and Mollema crashed into it. Mollema and Porte recovered but the GC leader was left without a bike. Froome tossed away the rule book and started RUNNING, YES, RUNNING up the road.

Neutral service eventually caught up with Froome and handed him what looked like a kids bike. Of course the bike was slow coming from neutral service. Honestly, a $150 Huffy bike would have done a better job. The Skybot team came to the rescue with a proper bike but it looked like the damage had been done.

We were not sure if we were still watching the Tour de France or just watched Chris Froome compete in his first triathlon. Not a bad effort though, it’s not easy walking in cleats let alone run in them.

Chaos ensued, fingers pointed to overcrowding, drunken fans or a combination of the two that forced the moto to a sudden halt.

Froome’s hold on yellow looked to be in jeopardy but on the upside he’d just qualified for the Kenyan Olympic running team.

As the world waited on the judges’ decision Peter Sagan accepted his green jersey on a hundred gazillion points. In the post race interview he said, “for me it’s okay, for Chris Froome I don’t think so”.

The GC was still up in the air, the provisional result had Adam Yates in yellow and Froome in eighth. As we waited for the result Robbie and Tomo were in disbelief but with some time to kill there was no better time than to preview tomorrow’s individual time trail and marathon.

The wait dragged on and still no podium presso for the golden fleece. Bernard Hinault was there to help officiate but all he wanted to do was to get home to his cows.

Just before the meter ran out on the satellite feed, Tomo had word that Froome had hung on to yellow.

Condolences to the family and friends of the victims of the terrible attack in Nice on Bastille Day. 

Words fail me.

Stage 11 Carcassonne / Montpellier - Froome Throws Caution to the Wind

Stage 11 and the riders set off under brilliant sunny skies from the Kryal Castle wannabe Carcassonne on a flat and windy 162.5 km route to Montpelier.

Many fruits and berries are in season and Gabs put together cherry fruit salad in brandy. The brandy of the region is called Eau de Vie de Languedoc or ‘water of life’. Some riders could do with some in their water bottle to calm the nerves.

No butter in the recipe which is forgiven considering the massive hit with the snail recipe in stage 10.

The race was on in earnest when Mattie spotted smoke on the horizon.The peloton was still some way off but Mattie was praying the wind wouldn’t carry the growing bushfire in the direction of the riders.

The Tour choppers got a closer look and flames were clearly visible. Time to bring in the water bombing aircraft. By the way, do the French have an Elvis to put out fires? All the Tour chopper pilots could do was look at their bottles of overpriced spring water sitting on the console and thought they wouldn’t be much use anyway, and besides, they had a race to follow.

Robbie joined Mattie in the caravan of commentary and the conversation immediately turned to the 70 km/h Mistral blowing out there. No, I’m not talking about a very large fan but the legendary winds that whip up in this part of France.

Robbie discussed the importance of wheel choice to counteract the effects of crosswinds. A full disc on the back would act like a large sail and a gust of wind would have sent riders flying off into the grape vines. Thick-rimmed aero wheels were little better so a narrow rimmed wheel was the logical choice. If you looked at wheel selection like pizza it would been more of a thin crust than deep pan pizza day.

Wheels and pizzas aside, position on the road and strange formation echelons were key to surviving the cross winds. Mattie compared it to musical chairs and you don’t want to be left standing when the music stops. When the wind gets up it’s a game of musical echelons.

Being a flat stage you’d be forgiven this would be a relatively easy day and ‘one for the sprinters’. Factor in the wind and the mood was very different in the peloton. Mattie warned to not look an angry Greipel in the eye. Good advice, he’d rip your bloody legs off.

The strange formation of the Escherlons

We’re now halfway through the Tour and it was time for Troll DJ to bring out the couch peloton all time favourite 'Cows with Guns'. Heaven, but we could have had more! But Troll DJ let us know who’s in charge with Bowie’s ‘I am the DJ’. Droll, Troll DJ, very droll.

At 90 km to go the Tinkies tried making a split to take advantage of the cross winds. Robbie reacted with, “whatever’s happening is happening now”.

Such was the level of concentration and pace the riders only slowed a little for the feed zone. To use  a drive-thru analogy for Mattie it was, “no fries please, we’re going through”.

The race passed a quarry where red marble is extracted and some of it was used, according to Mattie, in the White House, which doesn’t make any sense.

Most of the commentary was centered on the wind, that’s a lot of hot air about wind. But who could blame anyone for not talking about the conditions when it was windier than a cassoulet festival out there?

The peloton passed L'Abbaye Sainte-Marie Fontcaude, which Mattie translated as 'warm fountain'. Funny, I was always thought besoin naturel meant warm fountain.

Out of the villages and out in the open the echelons were on like Pokemon. Nairo Quintana somehow got himself on his own 'surfing the peloton' in the washing machine up front to cross the intermediate sprint in ninth place. Surprising for a mountain man and just imagine the shock if he won the stage in a sprint?

The Ps made their catch at 50 km to go propelled by strong tail winds. Thoughts turned to tomorrow’s Bastille Day stage to the legendary Mont Ventoux. The mythical mountain is also known as the ‘Giant of Provence’ and to Paul the Giant of Provence “looks like a pimple”.

Phil spotted Nairo Quintana “having lunch and not looking worried”, which is typical Quintana poker face. In reality he wasn't happy with the crosswinds, the narrow roads and traffic furniture in the villages - not that he showed it.

Paul was wowed by the pink flamingos that inhabit the region and reminded us we’re not in Africa. Thanks Paul, and we’re not in Kansas either. The opportunity went begging for Troll DJ to cue up something from Toto...

On a sprint stage you'd normally see the yellow jersey being protected somewhere in the peloton. Not today, Chris Froome had once again, in the words of Paul, “taken the handbook of tactics and thrown them out the window" and was mixing it up with the likes of Peter Sagan to finish second behind the green jersey holder.

Sagan had a hundred million points in the bank securing his grip on the green and in a move no one expected Froome banked seconds plus time bonuses for Ventoux tomorrow. Winds are forecast to blow the beret off the Giant of Provence so this looks like smart thinking by Froome.

In the post race interview Sagan said it was, ‘crrraaazzy stupid out there’. We're not sure if he meant the crosswinds and the narrow village streets or the sight of Froome in a day for the sprinters