Saturday, July 15, 2017

Stage 13 Saint-Girons / Foix - Christmas in July

Stage 13 and it was going to be the shortest stage in the saddle barring the individual time trials for the 101 km from Girons to Foix in the Pyrenees.

Tour organisers had been listening to calls from fans and commentators for shorter stages with full gas racing, so they’ve taken a leaf out of the cricket book and went with a Twenty20 style experiment, you know, with fireworks, music, dancing, colourful costumes and...oh hang on, cycling already has that.

The riders were lead out of Saint-Girons by the big red car. Jakob Fuglsang’s left arm was bandaged up and he was riding hands off the handlebars which wasn’t got a good sign since you can’t really climb without hands on the bars.

The flag dropped, Frenchmen Warren Barguil and Thomas Voeckler were off like scolded cats in a "go until you blow" effort according to Robbie.

The attacks started coming and Barguil and Voeckler were hauled back after 10 km of racing.
Sylvain Chavanel, Philippe Gilbert and Alessandro De Marchi got out front and Chavanel collected the maximum intermediate sprint points.

Arthur Vichot hoisted up the white flag abandoning the Tour. After a great first week in which Arnaud Demare took stage 4 and led in the points competition, FDJ was reduced to a shadow of itself with just four riders remaining.

The Tour choppers were back in the air after the unscheduled chopper rest day and brought us magnificent breathtaking pictures of the Pyrenees. The choppers were also on Pyrenenean vulture watch in case they started circling any stragglers in the Gruppetto. Two vultures were spotted soaring high above the valleys and Phil and Paul must have been going berserk out the back of the NBC catering truck.

De Marchi was first over the top of the Col de Latrape. Back down the road Barguil attacked in the yellow jersey group and, Mikel Landa and Alberto Contador followed.

Landa looked to be riding for Landa again and some of that old Bertie El Pistolero spirit was back to try and get a stage win.

Speaking of Bertie what was with his bottle cage with the chop-top bidon? A packet of biscuits? For some reason Robbie suggested it was tin foil. Perhaps it was just a blanket he could throw over the riders up front.

So much was going on in the race and Mattie declared that, "not even Nostradamus would dare to predict a winner". Well yeah, there’s that and the fact that he’s dead.

Twenty20 cycling comes to Paris

On the second climb of the day Landa and Bertie dropped De Marchi with Nairo Quintana in pursuit. Mikel went Rogue Landa when it became apparent he wasn’t working for Froome anymore and got a sniff of yellow.

SBS commentator Henk Vogels turned up for official Tour duties and Tweeted, “Love the short stages , real bike racing none of this controlled BS , love a filth stage’. FILTH STAGE!!! HENK IS BACK!!!

The winner of the Criterium du Dauphine Jakob Fuglsang abandoned the Tour after trying to ride up mountains with no hands became too much for him. This meant team leader Fabio Aru was on his own now to try and fend of Landa’s tilt at the golden fleece.

The final climb was the brutally steep goat track Mur de Péguère or ‘Wall of Péguère’ which must have felt like a wall of purgatory to the Gruppetto. Quintana and Barguil reached Bertie and Landa albeit at snail’s pace. The track narrowed so far that even the neutral service motos had trouble getting through. Any mechanical problems and neutral service drones would need to be deployed to drop in spares.

Barguil reached the top of the Mur de Péguère, then passed the Fidler on the Camping Car Roof.
Back down the road and Froome dog looked to be in a whole lot of trouble, or maybe he was foxing? ‘Boring’ Curious George Bennett was anything but boring and Aru stuck like glue to Froome.

‘Voldemort’ (no not that Voldemort, Lance) Rigoberto Uran was stirring up the yellow group and somehow remained, “almost unseen in the brightest kit".

The yellow group crested the Mur de Péguère and it was on for young and old with constant attacks on the descent and all the way to Foix.

Barguil crossed the line and got the win every French man, women and child desires on Bastille Day.

In the battle for GC Froome finished 6 seconds behind the Italian national champion and I bet there were some words for Rogue Landa in the Skybus later.

Aru was presented with his second yellow jersey and right now, in Mattie’s words, "Fabio Aru has got more presents under the tree than anybody else".

It must be Christmas in July.

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