Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Stage 3 Verviers / Longwy - It's a Longw(a)y to the Top

Stage 3 and the peloton made its way from Verviers, Belgium to arrive on French soil in Longwy via tiny Luxembourg.

At last the sun was out to ease the nerves of the crash-ridden first two stages in the wet.

Gabs took time out to sample the delights of Luxembourg - cakes and fruity Riesling were the order of the day - so much so Gabs neglected to feed the peloton. That might explain the lack of recipes this year and I've all but given up on the buerremetric counter. Needless to say the peloton is not happy and soigneurs have been seen flinging packets of 2 minute noodles to riders at dinner time.

In the caravan of commentary there was time for a bit of Les Vaches du Tour chat although cows have been thin on the ground so far. Keeno made special mention of Wanty-Group Gobert’s resident farmer Frederik Bakaert who was in a six rider breakaway along with perennial grand tour rider Aussie Adam Hansen.

As it turns out Bakaert helped milk NINETY cows before heading to the Tour. Was that all by hand? That’s a lot of cows. Maybe after the Tour he could give the Benny Andersson lookalike in ‘River Cottage Australia’ a hand if the house blows away in a storm.

Robbie’s mail bag time and the first question was what do riders do when they need to answer the call of nature. Without going into too much information he explained that it was better to keep on rolling than come to a complete stop and then have waste energy catching up to the rest of the peloton.

For this reason Robbie thinks it’s a worthwhile skill for a pro-rider to master although he hastened to add you’d want to practice on quite country roads. Yeah fair enough, practicing a rolling nature break is probably not a good idea on a commuter ride through city traffic.

I for one can’t help but think for the rest of the riders with iron bladders who managed to hang on for the whole stage must have been looking forward to a long wee in Longwy.

A big shout out to the French team who bring us the pictures - the new onscreen graphics are bigger so you can properly read the distance to go now. Word has it the overhaul was in response to the deteriorating eyesight of an ageing MAMIL and MAWIL fan base.

Belgians Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet where among the favourites to win the hilly stage. Robbie and Matt noted that Greg Van Avermaet was named after American three time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond. Perhaps he parents could have gone one step further and named him Greg LeAvermaet.

In the later stages of the race all the breakies were absorbed with Lilian Calmejane reeled in after going solo at 10km to go.

Before the finish in Longwy the riders faced a 1.6km drag at 5.8% gradient up the Côte des Religieuses. This was where the cream of the punchier riders rose to the top. Richie Porte launched a surprise attack with the help of his BMC teammates but despite current world road race champ Peter Sagan pulling his foot from the pedal in the final uphill sprint, Sagan re-clipped and pipped Aussie Michael Matthews, Dan Martin and Greg LeAvermaet in a thrilling finish.

Sagan notched up Tour stage victory number eight and like Greg LeMond did all those years ago he's cementing his place in Tour history as one of the greats.

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