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.

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