Stage 4 and the riders rolled out of Mondorf-les-Bains on the 207km ‘transitional stage’ through the beautiful Lorraine region to the town of Vittel.
We’ve come to know’ transitional stage’ to mean ‘boring AF’with long flat roads and a bunch sprint at the end. But the sun was out and finally started to feel like summer.
Right from the start Wanty-Group Gobert’s Guillaume Van Keirsbulck went out on a solo ‘suicide breakaway’ with the peloton happy to let him go. Robbie and Keeno explained that being a new comer to the tour (Wanty-Group Gobert secured a wild card entry) the Belgian team would have lots of TV time and free advertising. That’s one explanation, perhaps Van Keirsbulck just wanted to be first to the post-race massage table.
Back in the kitchen Gabs was baking Nancy’s chocolate cake (we must thank Nancy for the recipe). The recipe calls for 125g of butter so I’ve brought back the buerremetric counter to record a total of 935g of butter so far this Tour.
But being the 4th July American cuisine was the order of the day, so out came the burgers and hotdogs which was a blessed relief from the 2 minute noodles of the day before. I was surprised to hear that Matt and Robbie are not fed by Gabs but by caterers of US broadcaster NBC.
And while we’re on the topic of food and drink, Robbie described the ‘Karotewasser’ of the Lorraine region. Apparently this rather strange practice dated back to medieval times where knights errant would dunk the local porous carrots into black tea. Mate, I think someone on Wikipedia or in Russia is having a lend of you Robbie, FAKE NEWS!!!
Speaking of carrots, Robbie waxed lyrical about the ‘crash carrots’ of the now defunct Basque Euskaltel Euskadi team, famous for their bright orange jerseys and habit of spending more time off the bike sprawled across the road than actual racing. Because of this it was safer to have them behind you than in front.
Later in the stage Matt and Robbie revealed which Tour riders they pretended to be when they were children (yes, really). Obviously an Euskaltel Euskadi rider was not one of them.
Sagz be like.
Troll DJ was busting out the tunes and The Smiths 'This Charming Man' was an obvious choice. Sadly, my request for Creedence Clearwater Revival's 'Have You Ever Seen Lorraine?’ went unanswered.
Later Troll DJ was trolled itself by a roadside random dad band belting out The White Stripes ‘Seven Nation Army’. Nice one dads.
There were no new McKeenanisms of note but as nod to the Sherliggetts Matt dropped a 'job of work' describing the massive restoration effort on Toul's Cathedral of Saint-Etienne in the 1980s.
It wouldn't be the Tour without the famous fields of sunflowers and at 89km to we had our first sighting of the tournesol, which happened to be right near a huge solar panel power station. Well I’ll be, a tournesolar power station!
Time seemed to be today’s theme, which appeared to just drag on. There was some impressive clock field art which also featured a tractor, combine harvester and sheep followed up by the vary impressive ‘calendar château’ of Château de Haroué in Nancy with its 365 windows, 52 fireplaces etc. (Robbie challenged the couch peloton to guess how many chimneys).
The riders approached the home of bottled water and Tour sponsor Vittel. I wonder just how much Vittel paid for the naming rights for the town of Vittel?
Van Keirsbulck was inevitably caught by the peloton after his huge solo effort at 16km to go, then it was time for the sprinters to get organised for the charge into Vittel.
Robbie cautioned about the hazards of a narrow departmental roads and potholed arse-fault on the shoulder. He added, "there's a real bottle neck in the centre of Vittel". We saw what you did there Robbie.
A crash within 2km to the finish saw current yellow jersey holder Geraint Thomas hit the deck. Fortunately he was okay, not so for Mark Cavendish who was elbowed into the barrier by Peter Sagan.
Frenchman Arnaud Demare emerged victorious, Cavendish withdrew with a broken shoulder blade and in a dramatic decision that will divide cycling fans for years to come (on social media anyway), Sagz was kicked out of the Tour.
Whoever said transitional stages were boring?