Thursday, July 20, 2017

Stage 17 La Mure / Serre-Chevalier - Aero is Everything

Stage 17 and the Tour headed back to the stunning French Alps for a gruelling 183km from La Mure to Serre-Chevalier.

Gabs was in one of his favourite parts of France, the Savoie region to taste the finest of goat and sheep chiises. He visited the Aussie run alpine retreat and cookery school ‘Chalet Savoie Faire’ so I can strike that off my shortlist of quirky hipster cafe names.

When it comes to chiisses waiyne is never too far away and I’m not talking the uni politics club gathering with cubes of cheddar and Chateau de Cardboard served in a plastic cup.

The race got under way and the forecast was cloudy with a chance of macarons. At the 20km mark a crash brought down the polka dot and green jersey wearers Warren Barguil and Marcel Kittel before a sizable breakaway headed for the first big climb of the day the hors categorie Col de la Croix de Fer.

As the riders descended the Col de la Croix de Fer, Troll DJ rocked out to Jane’s Addiction’s ‘Mountain Song’ and so did the couch peloton whipping out their air guitars from their air guitar cases.

News crackled over race radio that Marcel Kittel’s injuries from the earlier crash were too much, forcing him to abandon the Tour. A real shame after an outstanding five stage wins at this Tour and just as the points competition was really starting to heat up with Michael Matthews narrowing Kittel’s lead to just nine points.

However, Kittel’s loss is Matthews's gain and so long as Bling can stay upright all the way to Paris the green jersey is his. I just think it’s an unfortunate way to get it, but as Mattie and Robbie point out that’s bike racing.

Rumour Mill: A story emerged in the Colombian news that Nairo Quintana was looking at a move to Team Sky or Astana. Got to admit Nairo Quinstana has a certain ring to it but Movistar dismissed the rumour.

Kittel ponders what might have been.

New French President Emmanuel Macron got a box seat in the big red car to watch the Tour and as is tradition the French head of state gets to meet the heads of state – of the Tour that is.

Macron was looking, well, very presidential but don’t you think there’s a side to him where he’d love nothing more than suiting up as a colourful vanilla buttercream filled biscuit and jump up and down at the roadside?

The riders hit the cat 1 Col du Telegraphe and you know why it's called that? It’s called the Col du Telegraphe because by the time you reach the top the legs are sending a message to the brain to FUCKING STOP STOP.

The 12km climb up the Telegraphe was beginning to hurt and Robbie observed a lot of ‘goldfish style breathing’ as the air became thinner and there was still the 2,642 m Col du Galibier to go.

This stage was do or die for the GC contenders who, according to Robbie,"give you nothing, take you nowhere".

Former Tour champion Alberto Contador searched and found some of his old form and hope sprang eternal for Bertie as he sniffed out a possible stage win.

Following the short descent of the Telegraphe, the road headed skyward for another 18 km up the hors categorie Col du Galibier, the highest point of this year’s Tour.

One by one riders and the peloton began cracking and I always wonder if that coloured smoke you see from the roadside is from a flare or a rider blowing up.

Robbie saw some riders had their shoulders almost up to the ears. Wrist bone connected to the shoulder, shoulders almost up to the ears - the Tour is absolutely brutal on the body!

Primoz Roglic was first over the top of the Galibier and with a fast downhill run all the way to the finish in Serre-Chevalier Mattie said, "the former ski jump champion now has to float to the bottom".

Back in the yellow group and Romain Bardet was off with Chris Froome reacting to every move. ‘Barguil the Brave of Brittany’ fought on with the a bloodied knee.

'Fallible Fabio Aru' struggled with the Galibier climb and saw his position slipping from second in the GC.

Roglic's ski jumping nerves of steel and top tube were put to good use knowing the value of 'aero is everything' to solo across the line for his and Slovenia's first Tour victory.

Bertie deservedly earned the most combative award and the now highly visible Rigoberto Uran moved to second behind Froome and Aru slipped into fourth overall.

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