Monday, July 10, 2017

Stage 9 Nantua / Chambéry - Life's a Biche

Stage 9 and the riders set out on what many regarded as the ‘Queen stage’ of the Tour and the first big hit out for the GC contenders on a huge mountain stage in the Savoie region of the Alps.

Gabs sampled the Savoie fare of the region and he made a bee line for the famous Chartreuse liquor and ginger beer for a Chartreuse mule or two.

Early in the race Robert Gesink and Manuele Mori abandoned after crashing and Mori looked to be in some distress lying on the road clutching his right shoulder. No one wants to see that but sometimes cycling can be a brutal sport.

40 km into the race the riders passed a giant creepy looking hay bale giant and the couch peloton tried to erase the memory before bedtime. Probably a good idea that the young kiddies were already tucked up in bed.

Boundary rider Ant McCrossan interrupted Orica-Scott Directeur Sportif Matt White who had been barking out instructions to the team to get in the solid foods early. What, is Matt feeding babies? I can’t wait to see him nurse a rider back into the race.

A large pack of riders arrived at the first hors categorie climb Col de la Biche and the profile suggested it would be a biche of a climb with an average gradient of 9% over 10.5 km.

Primoz Roglic was first to the top before Bugalugs, Axel Domont and Alexis Vuillermoz on a course that suspiciously looked tailor made for the French AG2R La Mondiale squad. They launched a descent that saw Geraint Thomas crash out of the Tour with a broken collar bone. At least G got to spend a few glorious days in yellow and we wish him a speedy recovery.

Way down the road and the Gruppetto was having another hard day in which a number of riders including Aussie Mark Renshaw and Stage 4 winner Arnaud Demare failed to stay within the cut off time.

With a number of crashes and a thunderstorm for the descent into Chambéry this was shaping up to be a dramatic stage. But it wasn’t all gloom and doom.

Robbie recounted the time he passed The Jensie being wrapped in bandages after a nasty crash at 80km per hour. The bike was cactus and he was given a Mavic neutral service bike. Robbie was later passed by what looked like The Mummy on a bike seven sizes too small speaking with a German accent. I think Robbie’s Jens Voigt impersonation needs a little more work though with a little less channeling of Yoda.

Thomas Voeckler took time out for a cheerio to the couch peloton and the tongue said hi too!

Fashun watch.: Did I see a sleeveless Cofidis rider collecting a bidon from the team car? Maybe he was off to audition for a remake of ‘Rumblefish’. And green rimmed clear glasses to match the Kermit green Cannondale Drapac kit?

Items of jewelry didn't escape the eyes of Matt and Robbie. Robbie noted the piece on a chain dangling from the neck of Richie Porte and noted, "the little map of Tassie goes everywhere with Porte".

It looked like more than a full week of commentating was taking a toll on the duo and the rest day couldn't come soon enough. Mattie normally doesn't miss a beat, but  'constemplating' had the couch peloton a little perplexed.

Warren Barguil was the first over the top of the second hors categorie Grand Colombier and back down the valley to be confronted by the imposing Mont du Chat (cat mountain).

The imposing Mont du Chat.

On the monster climb of the hors catogorie Mont du Chat  riders were dropping like flies. Michal Kwiatkowski Kwiatstopski and Bauke Mollema went up in a mushroom cloud.

In the yellow group the hand of Chris Froome shot up indicating a mechanical but Fabio Aru attacked, a real no-no in cycling etiquette. Oh dear, this was going to be really awkward for the Sardinian at the dinner table that evening. If Aru hadn't got the message yet he certainly did from a little dig from Froome and at that moment he was probably looking for a rock to crawl under.

The big question on the mind of Mattie of all the riders was, "how much left in the tank? E for empty or E for enough?" Alberto Contador looked like his tank was on an empty. Robbie thought Bertie's goose was cooked, well it certainly wasn't steak.

'Narrow' Quintana's chances for a Paris podium finish looked slimmer as he started falling back from the yellow group.

If reaching the summit wasn't difficult enough there was a long, tricky take-no-prisoners descent down Mont du Chat to Chambéry.

Richie Porte ran off the road in a horrible crash flew across the road collecting Dan Martin. In an instant Porte's Tour was over and the couch peloton was left speechless. A broken hip and collarbone is bad enough but it could have been so much worse.

At the bottom of the descent the twelve year old Romain Bardet got himself out front and the chase was on with the yellow group of Froome, Jakob Fuglsang, Aru and Rigoberto Uran.

Uran had a problem with his derailleur and with the help of a French McGyver from Mavic neutral service was able to go on only in fixie mode since the shifter was stuffed.

Bardet was caught a little over 2km to go from his AG2R home base in and in a sprint to the finish Uran pipped Barguil on the line.

A great win for the Colombian but there was more drama than one can take in one hit.

The rest day never looked so good.

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