Stage 19 and welcome to the three final dead rubber stages of the Tour as the peloton settled in for an arse-numbing 222km day in the saddle from Embrun to Salon-de-Provence.
Gabs was in one of his old stomping grounds, Aix en Provence, to visit a waiynery that produces some of the delightful Provence rose. Ahhh summer, easy eating, easy drinking!
Out on the road, well you know, there was a bike race of sorts and not a lot going on really apart from Belgian cyclists attempting to shake things up on their national day. Belgian rider Thomas De Gendt Engine steaming through Banon collecting the intermediate sprint points.
Five time Tour winner and cycling legend Eddy Merckx celebrated Belgium’s national day not in Belgium but in France and not in the back of a Merc or a Volvo but a red Skoda.
The French airforce kept the couch peloton entertained with an aerobatic display and tricolore flyovers.
At the roadside there was an unusually large number of aerial bicycle displays and hypnotic spinning bicycle wheels and oh wow man! Hypnotic bike wheels, man! Could it be the Groovy Guru and the Sacred Cows, man?
No Sacred Cows doing Painters & Dockers covers (Kill,Kill,Kill), but a French Nirvana cover band was attempting ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.
Wow man, dig those wheels!
I wonder how does Troll DJ feel about these roadside random musical incursions? The answer came quickly with ‘Never Going to Give You Up’. Yep, the couch peloton was Rickrolled by the Troll DJ.
The fun never stops in the Troll booth with a horsie montage - les chevaux were giving les vaches a run for their money...Hey, hang on? Did the Troll DJ just troll the Les Vaches group???
In the caravan of commentary Mattie and Robbie were shootin’ the breeze and Mattie said he’d been asked if there’s a French word for panache? That was meant to be tongue in cheek of course but that's something that Thomas Voeckler would never do.
Robert Wagner got some attention and don’t you think Wagner and Serge Pauwels would make great teammates or some sort of ‘Hart to Hart’ remake?
Another hot day and Mattie noted that Bahrain-Merida had gone through nearly 200 bidons, which seemed excessive for a team from a country that’s mostly sand.
Some words of wisdom from Mattie about drinking on the road - "Better to arrive with a few still in the esky in the back than with empties all over the place".
But after three weeks and a 222km day in the saddle all a rider wants is a Coke, a gel and a fresh pair of legs.
All the couch peloton wanted after three weeks was sleep and the abandonments came en masse and I got the feeling I'd be the last of the couch peloton standing, I mean sitting, by the time the riders got to Salon-de-Provence.
By the way how many choppers do they bring to the Tour? Is it like they do a little helicopty shift, knock off and then the next one goes? Helicopters these days - no Gatling guns or medevacs under fire, they’ve gone soft if you ask me.
Back to the race and Robbie could not guess who would take the stage because picking a winner was, "harder to pick than a broken nose". Oh Robbie, you do realise your commentary goes out to most of the English speaking world? If you keep dropping pearlers like that you’ll change the English language forever.
The riders passed through some pretty villages, some with rather narrow streets and was that a regular dude on a flat bar bike popped out of nowhere? Probably off to the épicerie for a bit of shopping.
Last drinks and riders were gearing up to the run to Salon-de-Provence. Things were really heating up in the front and Mattie saw Chavanel and then Chavanel in the lead and good grief, he's riding ahead of himself. Mattie called out, “the sun tan in the breakaway”, and after three weeks I think Keeno has finally cracked.
The riders headed to the line, Edvald Boasson Hagen looked like he’d just stepped into a Salon as he took the right-side of a roundabout that proved to be the right side as he raised his arms ahead of Nikias Arndt and Jens Keukeleire.
It was a wonderful win for Boasson Hagen who had a couple of near misses this Tour. We love EBH and can you believe at the age of 30 he’s a very seasoned Tour rider but still looks like he just finished high school.
Attention turned to tomorrow’s time trial in Marseille. Less than 30 seconds separate Chris Froome from his nearest rivals Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uran but it will be a late start for Froome who will have some time on his hands for beach, shops and maybe even a movie.