Stage 16: Round-up

I guess the question is, can anyone/anything stop the yellow wiggle? I spent quite a lot of last night’s stage waiting in breathless anticipation for the attack that didn’t come until just before the final climb. When it did it came from Nibali, who actually managed to make Wiggins sweat a teeny bit.  Liquigas actually put the foot down at one stage, with Basso setting the pace for Nibali.  I’d forgotten Basso was even riding this tour.

So barring any unfortunate accidents the Yellow Caboose has run a text book tour campaign and will well deserve the winner’s spot. But tonight, the story was about the winner of the stage, and the loser. Tommy Voeckler (Veau-ckler to #TeamVache) finished ahead of Sorensen and Izaguirre in what can only be described as  a bloody hard slog.  Tommy’s facial expressions as he drove on and on became as much a part of the commentary as Jens’ age and “Nibali” mispronunciations. But his tongue must have super powers as he took home another stage in gurning style, earning himself the most combative award for the stage.

At one point I was distracted by something and when I looked back at the screen I saw close ups of trees and someone working their way through the branches – for a moment I thought the live stream has been taken over by Bear Grylls… but no – Chris Horner had taken a detour into the undergrowth. He appeared unharmed though and continued on after shaking the dirt from his ears.

The climbs were HC (have cheese?) and the descents were fast and furious; at one stage the bike riders were travelling faster than the moto carrying cameramen.

A large group of breakies was whittled down to 2 by the hard climbs and at one stage there were 6 groups displayed on tour tracker. One of these groups was labelled Group Evans, but we didn’t see the best from Cadel.  Suffering from a stomach bug (he’s not the first one to mention that in this year’s riders) he was obviously pained to be dragging himself over the hills. Bugger. TJ was in the break and held on to give himself a lead of 3:48 over Pinot in the Young Rider classification.

Good thing I was also on #VacheWatch. And luckily, SBS got into the spirit and provided live streaming from 7:30pm. If they have, we would have had an almost Vache-less stage.  As it was we got to glimpse many Vaches generally ignoring the riders.

This is what I was looking for …a Betizuak in front of snow-capped mountains and .. glitter!  Right.  Thanks @jaybeenesq for the postcard from your last jaunt to the Pyrenees.

 

 

I did tweet wondering where the cows were, and threatened to post pics of horses that we saw instead, but then an amazing thing happened.  Oh yes, as the riders went higher we came across more and more cows! Well that makes sense really as it’s mid-summer and they go higher as the snow melts.  Der.

138.9 km Vache on the crest.

135km with sheep in the background – just cause we can

135km closeup girls!

I really wish SBS had been broadcasting as this lovely Vache was video worthy (or at least a better pic) – appearing from nowhere to walk along next to the peloton for a bit, completely unperturbed by the action.

134.7 km

130.5 km snacking away

130.5km Lovely isn’t she?

79.3 Cows on the right, sheep to the left!

A good night’s spotting all round really.

#trolldj

  • “I’ve Got My Mojo Working” – Manfred Man. Tomas Veau-ckler working his mojo, his tongue, his facial expressions, anything to get him over that line.
  • “The Ending is Just The Beginning” – The Living End.
  • “Foreign Land” – Eskimo Joe.
  • “Every LIttle Bit Hurts” – The Spencer Davis Group – Cadel, showing the strain, trying his hardest, giving it his all.
  • “Far From Over” – Frank Stallone.

Field Art: Ever-loveable smiling sheep!

 

= = = = = = = = =

We’re lucky to have LVDT supporter (and jersey sponsor) Will, from Two Wheel Tours as a cowrespondent again this year and he snapped this gorgeous cow on the slopes of Tourmelet.

Check out Will’s albums over on his Facebook page.

Stage 17: Bagnères-de-Luchon > Peyragudes

Today’s 143.5km, five climb stage is the last chance the climbers will have to grab big points and given that only 4 points separate Europcar’s Veau-ckler and Kessiakoff of Astana, they are bound to be hotly contested. It’s also the last chance the for the weaker time triallists to move up in the GC – Nibali’s moves were all marked last night and it’s doubtful that Sky will let him escape. Tejay might make a play for a higher placing, though, and I’d love to see Moobeldia having a crack. Evans, whilst conceding he’s out of podium contention, has suggested that he would like to make a move, but it’s probably unlikely that he will be allowed.

The course today is “short, but brutal!” according to Technical Director Jean-François Peschaux. The climbing starts early, just after 18km, with the Cat 1 Col de Menté. This 9.3km ascent has an average gradient of 9.1% but the first and third kilometres average 10.3 and 11% respectively and the rest of the climb ranges from 5 to 12%. The descent is described as “tortuous” and the Cat 2 col des Ares and Cat 3 Côte de Burs will no doubt come as a bit of a relief. The day’s toughest climb, the 11.7km of the HC Port de Balès, starts at around 100km. Expect narrow roads, the usual fan kerfuffle, and perhaps picture break-up because of the trees (although we’ve been pretty lucky with that this year). After descending to Saint-Aventin, the final climb of the day commences. It’s really two climbs: riders will tackle the Col de Peyresourde (about 9km), descend briefly and then climb again to finish at the ski station of Peyragudes. Finally – a mountain top finish! They seem to have been few and far between this year. I’ll leave the last of the stage overview to Cycling Weekly:

We can’t emphasise enough how hard today’s roads are. Crashes are a possibility; they’ve been frequent in the past when the Tour has been here and they’ve changed the race. And the climbs a all hard and unforgiving. Anyone who breathed a sigh of relief when they got to Luchon yesterday, thinking they’d got through the Tour, might have to think again.

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Stage 16: Pau > Bagnères-de-Luchon

We come back from the rest day having woken to the now-traditional news of a positive test, this time involving Fränk Schleck. Seems a stretch to think that, given his performance this year, he has been enhanced in any way but I guess all that will unfold over the coming days and weeks. As it stands at the time of writing, 155 riders will start in Pau today. The testing bombshell aside, this is the stage we’ve been waiting for! The 197km route with its four climbs – two HCs and two Cat 1s – will provide opportunities for Evans, Nibali and perhaps even Froome to establish a claim to the yellow jersey. Of course Wiggins will be defending his position, but his result today will possibly be buffered by the calculation that he can make up small losses in the final time trial. For the other GC contenders, today and tomorrow will be key.

The first climb to challenge the riders is the 16.4km Col d’Aubisque, which comes on the heels of the early intermediate sprint point at 26km. The climb starts at around 37km and once the riders reach the summit, there’s a descent – with a bump in the form of the Col du Soulor – to the feed station at Adast. The 19km climb to the summit of the Col du Tourmelet starts just after Luz St Sauveur at 101.5km, although it looks pretty much all uphill from Adast. After descending Tourmelet, the Col d’Aspin climb starts immediately; rinse and repeat for the final climb of the day, the Col de Peyresourde.

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Stage 15: Round-up

I guess you can blame me.

I was lucky enough to score a rest day of my own on Sunday night with Injera taking over the recap reins for the evening (thanks!). Today we’re back to my usual drivel and I guess I’m being punished by Le Tour Overseers as we experienced a very tedious stage. Very late in the telecast I did a twitter roll call and was really proud that some many of #TeamVache had hung in there to spot until the end of a seemingly interminable transition stage. If you haven’t joined us yet on twitter, follow us here and use the hashtag #lvdt plus a km mark when you spot cows, fake cows, men in cow pyjamas, cow patterned wellingtons …

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Rest Day: Pau

Stage 15 seemed like a preliminary rest stage for viewers – the lack of tension in the race prompted Essjaymoo to instigate a late-night roll-call to make sure we hadn’t all nodded off. Still, we can’t be too critical. We’re all worn out from a couple of weeks of late nights; these guys have covered 2760.4km. A day off will do us all good.

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Stage 15: Samatan > Pau

Today’s 160km stage takes us from the Midi-Pyrénées to the Pyrénées-Atlantiques. Given the length of the stage, you might be expecting lots of big climbs. If you are, you’ll be as disappointed as I was to see that there are only three, packed into the last third of the stage, and they are a Cat 4, a Cat 3 and another Cat 4. These are followed by a downhill run into the finish at Pau. Transitional stages – how dull. There had better be cows!

There is a local hero in these parts. As we move into the Aquitaine region it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to learn that we are in the home of the relatively new Blonde D’Aquitaine breed.

 Image: Heuvelland Blondes

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Stage 14: Round-up

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.

@ozwinereview pointed out that he was likely texting with his toes.

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Stage 13: Round-up

Oh I’m so conflicted!  Last night’s coverage gave us what I think was possibly the best cow spotting of the tour so far, with added bonus Paul Sherwen commentary. But it was the only cow spotting for this stage.  Does that make it a good stage for #TeamVaches or a bad stage?

The riders were cycling for almost 5 hours today, through some uninspiring scenery. Eventually Michael Morecow got bored with it too and sped away front he pack in an attempt to get to the finish and into the showers first. From 60 km out he battled alone, through cross winds that split the peloton and on his way up the Cat 3 climb at the end of the stage, only to be caught by the peloton and bumped.

Andrew Greipel took home his third stage win for this tour, closely followed by Peter Sagan and Edvard Boasson Hagen.

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Stage 14: Limoux > Foix

You may think we’ve already hit the wall with this year’s Tour, but we haven’t. The riders enter the Pyrenees in this 192km stage and will face The Wall today in the form of a brutal new Cat 1 climb, the Mur de Péguère, which starts at around the 143km mark. This 9.4km climb is described by the Cycling Weekly guide as a “killer”. The last 4km, with an average of 11% and sections kicking up to 18%, are “an absolute leg-breaker”. Prior to the wall is the Cat 2 Col du Portel at 30km and then the Cat 1 Port de Lers at 126.5km. The 38km into Foix which follows the summit of The Wall might soften the impact of the killer climb at the finish line. Cycling Weekly predicts that Wiggins could struggle with the ascent against Cowdell. Let’s hope that this is true and that the longer descent – chosen over the more direct 26km option for safety reasons – doesn’t allow him to get back into it!

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Stage 12: Round-up

Oh I don’t know – am I tired, flat, sick of being awake in the middle of the night?

Last night seemed .. well .. tedious. Longest stage of the tour this year (226km), started high, and ended up low and flat. Flat… maybe Injera is on to something?  Tonight was the night for the breakaways and a group of five stayed away to earn some points and some team pride for Garmin Sharp. At 35 years of age, and with the retirement of the teams GC hope Ryder Hesjedal earlier in the tour, Scot David Millar was released from “team” duties to see what he had left in his legs on the 45th anniversary of the death of British cyclist Tommy Simpson during a tour stage. A classic “cat and mouse” sprint and the end saw Millar out-play Peraud to win the stage.  Millar has joined the group that I now think are pushing for a new race jersey competition, shall we call it the grey jersey, for the best riders over 35?

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