Saturday, July 22, 2017

Stage 20 Marseille / Marseille - Bodnar The Beast Bags Another For Bora

Stage 20 and the Tour has arrived for the penultimate stage, the 22.5km individual time trial in the famous port city of Marseille.

When I hear Marseille I hear Mediterranean which means seafood and Gabs made a beeline to the fish market to watch the ‘human spectackle’ of fishmongers and customers going about their business.

Then it was off to Le Mirimar restaurant and a demonstration of their not so secret bouillabaisse recipe. Some pastis as an aperitif and a big bowl of bouillabaisse and Gabs is in Mediterranean heaven.

The start/finish venue for the ITT was the Orange Velodrome, which started life as a velodrome and evolved into a fudball ground and is home to Olympique Marseille Fudball Club. Today, it’s been handed back to cycling and with the application of some brand new silky smooth arsefault, the Marseille stadium was transformed into the Thunderdrome.

Tommo and Macca were discussing pre-race favourites and giant chickens rolled in to the stadium behind the pair. What these chickens were doing behind the wheel of the publicity caravan is anyone’s guess.

Mattie and Robbie were warming up to call the first riders out of the start house of the penultimate stage of a “four week three week race”. Now we've heard it all, Mattie and Robbie will be a babbling mess by the time the peloton hits the Champs-Élysées.

Riders rolled out of the start house one by one and the Les Vaches Group’s darling, cow milker extraordinaire, Frederik Backaert put on a turn of pace. He’ll be keen to get back to the farm after the Tour is over, his cows must be busting for a milking by now.

It was time for the Movistars to take to the course and attention turned to the annoying plastic sleeve on the skin suit to hold the bib number. Christ, it's like watching the super sickeningly organised person in the office. Give me some rusty pins any day.

The stands were pretty full and honestly the atmosphere was so charged if a piece of paper blew into the stadium the crowd would’ve gone bananas.

Bling Matthews left the start house looking resplendent in green wearing Cadel Evans’s bib number 141. A sign from the cycling godz? Okay maybe not - it wasn’t lucky for Robbie when he wore it.

Michal Kwiatkowski put in a blistering time to finish only 1 second down on Polish compatriot Maciej Bodnar’s 28 minutes 15 seconds.

Have to hand it to Kwiatkowski, he’s left everything on the road for team mate Chris Froome this tour, a champion rider in a champion team.

Second placed in the GC Romain Bardet was hoping for a miracle to get into yellow and was spotted warming up on the trainer, wearing an ice vest, and my brain flopped out of my head at the logic of it.

Olympique Marseille had better rethink next year's range of time trial bikes.

A solid effort from Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel, although this time he wasn’t riding ahead of himself.

Alberto Contador was the only non-French rider to get a huge roar from the parochial crowd. Bertie hasn’t had a stellar Tour but found some of that El Pistolero spirit and Bertie won us over again.

A huge cheer went up for polka dot jersey wearer and Bling roomie Warren Barguil as he left the start house.

Meanwhile Rigoberto Uran was doing, "a little bit of Mick Jagger on the warm up", according to Robbie. Not sure what he meant by that, dancing? Whatever warm up music was coming out of the ear buds it sure wasn’t anything from ‘Peaceful Piano’.

Clearly there was a mad tribal fudball crowd turnout for AG2R, and as Bardet set to roll from the start house, Mattie let fly with, "Romain Bardet, the student of the sport, is about to go into the exam room". Hey, we know he’s young but not that young.

With a huge roar Bardet rolled out of the stadium and it wasn’t long before Bertie arrived to an even bigger roar.

Barguil arrived in the stadium home and did I hear a "WAAAAAARRRRREN" chant from the crowd?

Not the strongest of disciplines for Bardet, his time trial performance cost him second place and Rigoberto Uran, who has the nicest hair second to Marcel Kittel, moved up and with a handy top ten finish for the stage. Simon Yates breathed a sigh of relief and Yates you can stay in white.

Chris Froome was the final rider to go and looked like he’d been 'poured on his time trial bike' like custard. He rolled out of the stadium to some booing from the crowd. Sour grapes and disrespect toward the yellow? Nah, just some good old fashioned garden variety hostility - there'd be something terribly wrong if the French didn't boo the English.

Froome finished for a comfortable third increasingly his lead in the GC to 54 seconds over Uran. But it was Bodnar the Beast’s day and bagged a second stage win for Bora Hansgrohe.

The podium pressos got underway and what’s with La Marseillaise playing over the PA in Marseille? Did the Brisbane Lions win today?

Now that the podium positions and the jerseys are sorted there’s only the procession to Paris followed by a crit race on the Champs-Élysées to come.

And well done Bling, well done, we look forward to seeing you on the podium in Paris tomorrow.

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