Sunday, July 3, 2016

Stage 2 Saint-Lô / Cherbourg-en-Cotentin – A Bridge Too Far

Stage 2 and the peloton continued its tour of the Manche ‘departamount’ in Normandy on a slightly lumpy 183 km course between Saint-Lô and Cherbourg-en-Cotentin.

In the kitchen Gabs prepared a sumptuous scallop mousse with prawn sauce. No butter in the actual recipe, that’s reserved for buttering the soufflé bowls. Since there was no actual quantity specified may as well go all out and use the whole block, you can’t be too careful. This takes the buerremetric counter to 270g.

Being just across the channel from England they cop a fair bit of precipitation in this part of France and today was no exception.

On the way to the caravan of commentary Robbie McEwen stopped to have a chat with Tomo. Robbie looked like a drowned rat which had the couch peloton wondering what he’d been up to all morning. It’s only stage 2 of the Tour and I’m starting to worry about Robbie. Mattie, I’d be keeping him on a short leash if I were you.

I mean you don’t want Robbie to follow the example of Henk Vogels who we discovered had been out searching for the ‘filthiest piece of road.’

The breakaway of Paul Voss, Cesare Benedetti, Vegard Breen and Jasper Stuyven was on from the get-go in the soggy conditions. Thank goodness for space-age materials and breathable fabrics that make modern rain capes, according to Robbie like ‘water off a duck’s back.’

But it didn’t stop there, moist conditions played havoc with the moto cameras. The Vaseline smeared camera lens look is soooooo Giro d’Italia.

At the 60km mark Alberto Contador crashed again. This is not a great start for the Spaniard. But more disturbing was the sight of one of the Tinkie team mates appearing to eat the in-sole of Contador’s shoe after retrieving a new one from the team car. Mattie quipped it was a, “late lunch on the soul of Contador”. Er, maybe putting the Devil on the team roster wasn’t such a good idea after all.

And just what would Lucifer do when he got to what Robbie called ‘the Jesus bridge?’ Walk on water? That’s a bridge too far. To me Jesus bridge is the reaction to a bridge on a tight corner.

It might take a miracle for Porte to get back into the race.

Mattie and Robbie were caught at about 45km to go by Phil and Paul. Paul spotted a very impressive lighthouse which “can be seen at 90 miles per hour.” That’s one hell of a fast speed boat Paul.

Phil and Paul noted that German rider Tony Martin had stayed up late to watch Germany play in Euro 2016. They thought he looked a little tired. Now he knows how Aussie Tour fans feel.

As the peloton approached the finish Paul has appeared to have gone full Brexit by counting down exclusively in miles to go. He’ll be bringing out chains and furlongs pretty soon but it is a change from the completely daft ‘hectometres’.

Back to the race and the peloton eventually bridged the gap to the four breakies. Hats off to Jasper Stuyven (not ‘Peter Stuyvesant’, you can't say that on television) who’d turned himself inside out to stay at the front and was caught at just 500 metres (what’s that in furlongs?) to go.

The uphill finish made the stage look more like the finale to a Spring classic. Indeed classics veteran Alejandro Valverde was in amongst it along with Julian Alaphilippe but it was world road race champ Peter Sagan who ended his three year Tour stage win drought and claimed the golden fleece for the first time.

No joy for Tasmanian Richie Porte who had been cruising comfortably until ‘disaster’ struck when he punctured within 5 km to go. His cause wasn’t helped by the snail pace like wheel change effort from the neutral service. By the time Porte got moving again the front of the pack was already ripping the legs off each other.

Porte seems to be unable to shake off the grand tour curse – a puncture incident cruelled his chances at last year’s Giro. On that occasion he took a two minute penalty for accepting a wheel from Simon Gerrans. This time Porte finished almost two minutes down.

Of course it’s early days but Porte has a big job ahead, and needs a miracle, if wants to get anywhere near the podium in Paris.

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