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.

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