Stage 14 had it all: an early (ultimately successful) attack; a subtle Chris Lilley tribute; the spectacle of sprinters climbing Cat 1 mountains at the head of the peloton; a dastardly act of sabotage; an ungentlemanly attack; and a gesture of sportsmanship from the yellow jersey that restored our faith in human nature. Wait, there’s something missing from that list… Cows! There were no cows! Now that I think about it, perhaps this was presaged in the Gabriel Gaté segment – for the first time this year he failed to use even a small knob of butter. Let’s tune in to possible subliminal messages from M. Gaté over the coming days.
Before joining the action, Dave McKenzie interviewed BMC’s John “Multitasking” Lelangue and I was disappointed to see that he seemed entirely focussed on the interview.
When we joined the action on the road at 108.9km to go, the 11-man breakaway was already 10’37” ahead of the peloton. We’d missed a split in the peloton, where Schleck and a few others were dropped, but they’d rejoined and it seemed like fairly relaxed riding in the main group, given that none of the breakaways were GC threats. For my money, I was pleased to see Moo-is Leon Sanchez in the break, having pinned my hopes on some good Pyrénéan riding from him for my Fantasy team.
We were treated to the sight of the Champion of the WorldTM fetching a “racing cape” for Wiggins, who toyed with it a while and then passed it to Christian Knees to stash in his jersey pocket. Yes, the action was pretty slight early on. The cameras focussed on Vorganov’s sticky-taped shoes, leading to Matthew Keenen to describe the Russian’s shoes as “slippers with cleats”. Twitter wasn’t going to let that comment pass, and we soon had @HTFU_Princess claiming high heels with cleats, and TheMeanSplendour putting in a good word for Crocs with cleats.
Rolling, rolling, rolling. Attention within the Twitter Peloton was starting to stray and there were some unconfirmed sightings of cows on signs and digressions on the fortunes of Radioshack. The intermediate sprint was a lock for Sagan, but he was taking no chances, riding with one eye on the guys behind to ensure he’d get maximum points. Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Izaguirre decided to have a bit of fun with it, feinting a break and then retreating back into the group, laughing. And, speaking of rolling, some field-performance-artists appeared to be paying homage to Pat Mullins of We Can Be Heroes.
Team Vaches breaks through!
The climbs started, but there wasn’t the expected breaking apart of the peloton. In fact, the climbing drama was distinctly lacking. The Ps’ talk turned to raincoats, the Velits twins (they were born an hour apart and use their “own language” to escape comprehension from other riders – sadly this didn’t mean a private, invented language), Sandy Casar’s dog story, Peter Sagan’s age… Sometimes listening to the Ps is like being at a family reunion. All the favourite anecdotes are recycled to shorthand phrases and then repeated endlessly. They did spend a lot of time letting us know that the road on the Mur would be narrow. Still, we were kind of surprised by how narrow it was (the risks of crying wolf, I guess). “That’s not a road, that’s a cattle track” observed Mr Rufus. Well… where were the vaches, then?
As the peloton reached the top of The Wall it was clear that the breakaway was staying away – the only question was whether Evans might try to get some distance between himself and Wiggins. Unfortunately, a saboteur had other ideas and there was a collective gasp as Cowdell pulled to the side of the road at the summit and released his back wheel. The service car was nowhere to be seen, and the first team-mate on the scene discovered that he, too, had a puncture. Wiggins tried to hold the peloton back as it became clear that misfortune had struck a number of riders, however Rolland took the opportunity to make his own break.
Reports kept coming through, via the Ps and twitter, that tacks had been strewn on the road. All the tension that had been lacking throughout the stage was condensed into this last section of the race as the peloton tried to catch Rolland whilst not leaving Evans with a time gap. Kiserlovski of Astana was the unluckiest of riders, coming off his bike when it punctured and withdrawing with a broken collarbone.
Essjaymoo grabbed this photo of the angry BMC train chasing down the Wiggins group. The cow sign at the side promised real vaches…
LL Cool Sanch won the day and the peloton slowed down for the Evans group once Rolland was caught. Twitter called out for the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage from #trolldj, however his choice of Unbelievable to celebrate Sanch’s win was a much more positive way to finish.
18 minutes behind LL the peloton came through the finish together and Bradley Wiggins had made the almost instant transformation from potty mouth to “Gentleman Wiggins” due to his display of sportsmanship.
- Santigold’s God from the Machine – “You can make it alone if you try” accompanied footage of breakies, ripped shorts, patched shoes.
- Yakety Sax, otherwise known as the Benny Hill theme, was set to a sped up clip of cheerleaders, riders, field artists… and cows!
- Why Don’t We Do Something? by Hey Geronimo was a perfect match for a montage of bike changes, going off into ditches, and Sky leading out.
- Trouble Trouble by the Potbelleez captured Evans’ myriad frustrations: his punctures, and Ochowicz struggling in the ditch.
- Unbelievable by EMF rounded things out for LL Cool Sanch’s win.
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