Stage 10 and the Tour said goodbye to tiny Andorra as the riders set off on the 197 km hilly parcours from Escaldes-Engordany to Revel.
Gabs had enough time on his hands during the Monday rest day to go out and forage for snails. He wanted to get the riders into the spirit of Bastille Day just around the corner. What could be more French than snails? You couldn’t get any more French if you dressed the critters in striped shirts and berets and gave them a Gauloise but Gabs dressed the snails with herbs and walnut butter instead.
And yes, you read right ‘walnut butter’ and not from walnuts but real butter. At a hefty 150g the buerremetric counter has surged to 690g. Ohh yeah, the butter is back baby!
The rest day in Andorra was time for the riders to go for a bit of a leisurely pedal to keep the legs ticking over and for some serious duty free shopping.
Robbie had been out for a ride with roving reporter Henk Vogels, who had been searching for the filthiest roads in Andorra, came across teams out on their morning coffee rides. Oleg Tinkov was spotted in a rainbow jersey. Robbie thought Oleg was showing a bit of disrespect for the jersey that can only hang on the shoulders of a world champion. On the upside at least he was wearing clothes for once.
Back to the race and a 15 man breakaway formed after the race went over the top up a big climb to Port d’Envalira. Nibs, and Sagan were there along with the Three Musketeers from ORICA-BikeExchange - Daryl Impey, Luke ‘Turbo Durbo’ Durbridge and Bling (Michael Matthews).
Some sponsorship news. We now know Oleg is winding up his Tinkie team to buy a really big boat. Rumour has it he has his eye on Clive Palmer’s Titanic replica when it’s finished. The going price is said to be 20 million euros ONO, fish finder included. Alpecin confirmed it won’t be a sponsor next year so no more German engineering for your hare, it’ll just have to do with Sunsilk.
Robbie and Mattie turned to the topic of fashions in the peloton. They noted there were no sleeve tattoos, unlike footballers, because a sleeve tattoo looks a bit silly on Kermit arms. There are plenty of full set beards though, grown with permission from the captain, and the odd man bun.
Mattie spotted an artificial lake attractive to migrating birds and there’s plenty of water sport to be had. Err, okay Mattie. Fortunately, this one wasn’t radioactive.
When Robbie was racing he said he preferred to stay in a chateau than share a dodgy hotel room with the dodgy habits of roommates. The only thing was he tended to choose cheap ‘fixer-upper’ chateaux with walls but no roof, windows or upper floors.
The breakaway held its ground after a half-hearted attempt at a chase by the peloton that just gave up and decided to extend the rest day.
If snails aren't your thing there's always deconstructed croque madame
In a sign Robbie and Mattie have been spending too much time together we got the classic Keenoism from Robbie, “the cream always rises to the top”.
Expectations were rising in the caravan of commentary that Bling had a good chance of scoring a win. Mattie was so confident in he thought, “Matthews is big enough to pick up Adam Yates and put him in his back pocket”. Is that in the rule book?
The Ps caught Mattie and Robbie at 48 km to go. Thomas Voeckler popped up for a bit of TeeVee time and after all these years he’s ridden at the Tour, Phil is still perplexed by Voeckler’s ‘strange face pulling ceremonies’.
Paul noted as the miles, chains and furlongs counted down and there was still a considerable time gap and no way the peloton was going to bring the breakies back. And how do we know? We know because of Paul’s favourite ‘recipe’ – 10 kilometres for every minute, turn ‘em over and they’re done.
The race made its way through the streets of Castelnaudary. The Ps noted Castelnaudary hosts an annual festival dedicated to the regional culinary speciality, the stew of beans and sausage, cassoulet. The locals take so much pride in the event they name the town Cassouletnaudary for the duration of the festival.
At 24 km to go the leading group split spearheaded by Peter Sagan to form the Magnificent Seven of Sagan, Tom Dumoulin, GVA, Wonderful, Wonderful Boasson Hagen and the Three Musketeers Impey, Durbo and Bling.
Bling was out for revenge after finishing second to Sagan at last year’s world championship. Impey launched a series of attacks but Sagan held him in check. Durbo’s turbo wasn’t whistling as he was turning himself inside out.
Paul wasn’t hearing the whistle of turbos but the ‘whistling of tyres’ each time a rider accelerated.
Bling timed his move to perfection and crossed the line to notch up his first stage win at the Tour in addition to his previous two Giro and three Vuelta stage wins.
In the post race interview Bling said he was close to ‘giving it in’ on the Tour de France after failing to start in 2014 and spent nearly all of last year’s Tour nursing broken ribs all the way to Paris.
Finally after a week of racing the Aussie ORICA-BikeExchange team had something to celebrate and a big party was about to begin at the hotel with all the duty free picked up in Andorra.