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.