Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Stage 4 Saumur / Limoges - Hello Kitteh!

Stage 4 and it was another long day in the saddle as the peloton made its way south 237.5 km to Limoges in search of warmer climes.

Gabs was slaving over a hot stove preparing a hearty beef shin stew with carrots. But something was missing from the recipe. I must have gone over it ten times but alas, no butter! Hmm, stage 4 and Gabs’ commitment to making this Tour ‘the year of the butter’ is starting to look a little shaky.

Tuning into the race it looked like it might have shaped up to be a carbon copy of yesterday’s Sunday coffee ride but only longer. As it turned out the peloton had stepped on the gas like holiday makers trying to make it to the campsite by sundown.

In the caravan of commentary Robbie joined Mattie and extolled the benefits of a wine or two after a hard day on the road. He cautioned that if you drink too much of it you’ll reach the 'tipping point', so it pays to drink wisely if you’re relying on a cheeky red as a recovery aid.

We’re not quite at the first quarter mark of the Tour and already Mattie’s thoughts are with next year’s edition. He noted that German cycling, particularly in the form of sprint stars ‘The Gorilla’ Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel (or ‘Kitteh’ as he is affectionately known) had come a long way in recent years. So much so that next year’s Grand Départ is from the German city of ‘Doozledorf’. That pronunciation was a bit of a doozy from Mattie but there’s still enough time to brush up on the Deutsch.

The peloton wound its way through the countryside and along side the rivers of the region. Some people in yellow boats formed the outline of a pilot fish for Phil. Field art is quite common at the Tour but occasionally there is some river art, which should never be attempted with a tractor.

Mattie and Robbie were discussing KOM leader Jasper Stuyven. As it turns out he runs a chocolate shop with his uncle and they’ve been busy turning out polka dot jersey choccies. Stuyven rides for Trek-Segafredo. I wonder if they do coffee in the chocolate shop as well?

Troll DJ busted out some of Blur’s ‘Country House’. Riders weren’t at full gas but would soon be a blur when the sprint got going.

Speaking of sprinters, at the stage 3 podium presso five time champion Bernard Hinault shook Cav’s hand, not to congratulate him on equalling his record of tour stage wins, but to seal a deal for Cav to buy the Limousin cow that belonged to Robbie. Robbie said he saw it in the butchers early that morning. Now we know where Gabs got the beef shin from.

The day’s route to the south showcased the many lovely towns and historical monuments the region has to offer. Mattie and Robbie spotted a pagoda, which made a nice change from boring chateaux.

Phil and Paul caught Matt and Robbie as the riders approached a ‘radioactive’ lake. I don’t think you’d want to take a rod down there, there’s a chance you might just catch a glow-in-the-dark three-eyed pilot fish. If fishing’s not your thing you can, according to Paul, still ‘practice water sports’ there.

The P’s reflected on the long career of the man known as ‘the eternal second’ French cyclist Raymond Poulidor. He’d finished on the podium a record eight times but never at the top. He’s here at the Tour as a yellow jersey ambassador, which is ironic since he never won the race overall.

At the age of 80 ‘Poupou’ is still well recognised in France and as Phil noted he can’t even eat a grapefruit in peace without old ladies poking at him.

Back to the race and the SherLiggettism drinking game was in full swing. ‘Throw down the gauntlet’ had the couch peloton throwing down the shots but Paul’s ‘the bank account of energy’ had us taking a second look at the grid. Looks like we’ll be adding another square if it gets another mention.

Phil thought he was at a theme park with, “you don’t have to go to Disneyland, this is a real rollercoaster ride”. He also noted that, “these roads are typically British”. Er, has anyone told him the Brexit result yet?

Phil and Paul swapped fishing analogies for ‘rabbits’ which had the couch peloton perplexed. Nonetheless, all this talk about rabbits had an effect during an ad break with the slogan, “Alpecin shampoo, German engineering for your hare”.

Maybe Phil and Paul were referring to the bunny-hopping on the traffic furniture by the lead out men but they were soon back in their hutches as the big sprinters made the uphill charge to the line.

Cav couldn’t make it back-to-back stage wins crossing the line in eighth. It was another close finish, this time between Marcel Kittel and Bryan Coquard. Judges called for the photo and it was Kitteh by a whisker.

Peter Sagan gets to ride another day in yellow. The road starts to get a little more lumpy in stage 5, an hors d'oeuvres, if you like, to the big mountains ahead. Will the world champ hang on to the golden fleece for one more day? Sagan is having a bit of a floater at the moment, so there's every chance he will.

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