Saturday, July 9, 2016

Stage 7 L'Isle-Jourdain / Lac de Payolle - Cummings Escapes Arch Rivals to Solo Win

Stage 7 and the Tour has reached the Pyrenees for a weekend in the mountains. At 162.5 km the route was shorter than what the peloton had become accustomed too but factor in the climbs and it’s still a long day in the saddle.

Over in the hot Tour kitchens Gabs was preparing a ‘comforting French winter dish’ of lamb and bean casserole. A bit unusual in the middle of summer in the south of France but Gabs thought a hearty dish would help the riders get through the mountains.

At last, the buerremetric counter made a move from back in stage 3 with the addition of 20g of butter taking it to 540g. Looks like the online petition from the peloton worked this time.

Out on the road and the 12 man early breakaway carrying Peter Sagan and Mark Cavenish was eventually reeled in by the peloton at the 43 km mark.

As we were joined by the caravan of commentary team Matt Keenan and Robbie McEwen, the riders passed what looked like a hot air balloon getting ready for lift off. Finally, a real hot air balloon you can throw out the sandbags from to gain height! On closer inspection it turned out to be not a hot air balloon just Phil and Paul doing their commentary warm up.

Being a Friday afternoon the staff from French TV were staggering about and rather clumsily pouring out glasses of wine for themselves and for the commentary and media teams assembled at the finish. Robbie was tempted but thought he might have a quite vino or two after the race. Best to lay off the booze at that time of day, things were already getting a bit messy out there and there’d already been an ugly incident over at the Eurosport commentary caravan.

Troll DJ turned on the music busting out the classic ‘Bicycle Race’. What? It’s the Queen stage already? That’s usually reserved for the final week of the Tour.

Robbie and Mattie were chewing the fat over how many of the riders in the peloton speak English. Robbie thought it would be most, except for Tony Martin, “who doesn’t speak much in any language” but is, “fluent in 54-11”. Enough said.

Just before Robbie and Mattie were caught the peloton passed a field art bicycle with a back wheel that imploded when it came into view of the Tour chopper.

Phil and Paul made their catch at 4 km earlier than on previous stages so they must have either had the hammer down or melting ‘arsephalt’ slowed Robbie and Mattie down.

Paul saw an old abbey that was once badly damaged during the French Revolution but had been ‘severely’ reconstructed. Not sure about that Paul, it didn’t look like the work of brutalist architects from here.

Phil and Paul were anticipating a battle between the GC contenders on the final climb of the day on the ‘slopes of the S bend’. Paul was particularly worried about a sharp corner on the Col d’S bend, but bends don’t have corners, oh never mind.

A large leading group of 29 men had formed and at 39 km to go Matti Breschel, Antoine Duschesne and Dani Navarro popped out the front of the now splintered group, which Phil called the ‘three carrots’. There was some misty-eyed reminiscing about the now defunct Team Carrot but fortunately the trio didn’t crash out.

The carrot reference may have meant they were the carrot to a hungry chasing bunch of donkeys. It was clear from Tour boundary rider Jens Voigt that there was no stick driving the peloton, however, the Skybots were ‘burning matches’.

The collapse of the flamme rouge deflates the spirit of the peloton.

Steve Cummings made his way up to the carrots and took of rather suddenly at 27km to go. Was the move reckless? All the carrots had to say was, “this is really something”.

The chase was on from Vincenzo Nibali, GVA, Dani Navarro and Daryl Impey. Cummings ascended the Col d’S bend minus the sandbags and it was soon apparent there was no way this fish would be reeled in.

Further down the slopes Phil saw Dominico, ‘Pots of Eno’, ‘Pots of Evo’ (we suspect Phil may have had one or two glasses of vino) make a little move, and thanks to Phil, Dominico Pozzovivo is now clearly ahead of Vincenzo Nibali in the how-many-ways-can-we-mangle-a-surname competition.

As Cummings soloed to the finish, Paul said, ‘the champagne will be in short supply”. Yeah, we kind of figured that judging from the commentary.

Steve Cummings crossed the line and what a ride! He knows not to throw stones but certainly knows when it’s time to throw out the sandbags.

It wasn’t time to celebrate on the dregs of the champagne yet, the rest of the riders had to come home and just as Adam Yates from OBE (ORICA-BikeExchange) approached the 1 km to go flamme rouge inflatable arch, it punctured, causing Yates to chute leaving his face bleeding.

Chaos ensued as the peloton tried to work its way through the flaccid arch like it was some kind tactile interactive art installation.

The motos stopped to lend a hand, God knows when neutral service would show up and we all know how hopelessly slow they are at dealing with punctures.

Until race organisers launch an investigation we can only speculate on what caused the red kite to deflate. Was it a stone or a piece of glass? Was it a simple case of the generator running out of petrol? No, blame it on the EU, it gets blamed for particularly everything else.

The couch peloton drew comparisons with the infamous OGE (Orica-GreenEDGE) bus incident back in stage 1 of the 2013 Tour de France which featured in the very first edition of Le Wrap. Makes you wonder about what it is with OGE/OBE and gantries/red kites at or near the finish line.

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