Stage 11: Round-up

The Vache tour of the Loire valley continued today and, I have to be honest, if there’d been a sag wagon on the horizon I’d have flagged it down and hitched a ride. Perhaps it’s mid-tour fatigue. Perhaps it was knowing that, even though we’d spent the night in the petit-est chambre in the chateau, it was still grander than any lodgings we’d had to date or would have again. Perhaps it was the saddle on the rental bike, the manufacturers of which should be charged with – at the very least – wanton cruelty. Perhaps it was passing through the Most Beautiful Village In France early on in the day’s stage and having nothing but a nuclear power plant, a shadeless, shoulderless road and a headwind to look forward to. At any rate (let’s be honest, it was sloooooow) we reached our Auberge by early afternoon and prioritised the bar over the TV in our stuffy room.

Fortunately we had internet in the bar so we knew what was going on in both the cricket and the Tour and when to head back upstairs for the final time triallists.

A time trial and the Ashes at the same time. How focussed can we possibly be?

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Image: The Guardian

Stage 7: Round-up

Starting in the Camargue, we were hoping for more vache-action.

Sags stage 7Image: Reuters/Jacky Naegelen

The only jersey to change shoulders after this stage is the King of the Mountains, and I think we’re all with Kimbo in hoping that our new Mountain Overlord eschews the full dot kit despite being of the usually unlovable brown pants brigade. Goes to show how much we hate dotty knicks, I guess.

Stage 6: Round-up

M. Vache and I boarded a very crowded train from Sète to Montpellier. It was a local and our tickets were “non-reserved”, but they could just as well have been “try the next one, knuckleheads”. We pushed on, regardless, and arrived in the rather gorgeous finish town of Le Tour 100‘s sixth stage in time for a late breakfast.

Montpellier

We’d had a look at the course on google maps and plotted out some likely view spots, having decided that the actual finish might be a bit crowded. After our rather grand petit dejeuner, we wandered out for a recce of the final kilometres. The organisers were out in force, setting up barriers and direction signs.

This way

We weren’t the only ones checking out the course.

Recce

It was hot and rather a trek from the centre of town to the route the Tour was taking so once we figured that the elevated highways weren’t the best vantage point, we decided to head for the finish and see what life might be like there, with a view to going back later in the afternoon to a likely spot. The song goes “Mad dogs and Englishmen…” but it might just as well be “Anglophones”, as the barriers from the finish to around the 150m mark had been snapped up by Australians, English fans and the odd American. We decided we might as well grab a spot, too.

Mad Dogs

We chose the 150m mark, as there was a large screen so we could keep tabs on what was happening on the road without alienating the Fair Use policy of our wireless provider too egregiously. The only drawbacks to that was that there was no shade and they seemed to be showing some version of a Gabriel Gaté al fresco cooking show.

JumbotronAlmost immediately, we lamented the fact that we hadn’t brought hats. We hadn’t counted on the desire of the sponsors to hand out as many freebies as they do. By the end of the first fifteen minutes, we each had a baseball cap and a choice of bucket hats to help us avoid having to call on Saint Jean or whoever runs rescue services for ill-prepared Tour fans. Oh, and saucisson that we didn’t have to fight for.

SwagWe saved the greatest shows of gratitude for the water trucks that went by, spraying us liberally as long as we cheered loudly. When it comes to the prospect of dehydration, I’d have to say we had no shame.

The five hours that seemed, at the beginning, to be interminable passed pretty quickly. Of course, while we were listening to the French announcer calling “something something Christopher FROOOOOME!” and “something something ONDY SCHLECK!” for what, having read the stage reports, seems like no other reason than the sheer enjoyment of saying FRRRROOOOOOME! and ONDY SCHLECK!, there was a race going on. And not just any race. A race… with vaches.

 

 

Isn’t it always the way? Thanks to Team Vaches, for the excellent screen grabs and #LVDT tweets, as always.

The stage headed towards its conclusion, with the late glitch of a pre-stage favourite hitting the road. There was some discussion on Twitter as to the legality of Cav’s method of rejoining the peloton, but that wasn’t apparent to us. We were just hearing “something something Cavendeeeeeesh!”.

With 10 km to go, there was a kerfuffle amongst the local fans near us that involved the gendarmerie and then a heated discussion that actually included the phrase “liberté, egalité, fraternité!” and would have ended with “who’s going home in the back of a divvy van” had it happened in Australia. It might have been over the massing of these flags.

Crazy

Suddenly the race was upon us. My fears of bringing down the peloton by dropping a water bottle or losing one of my hats were forgotten.

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Greipel disappearning, Cav trying not to lose him, Sagan ripping through.

Image: M Vache

And it was over. Our first “live” tour stage. Won by Greipel with the added bonus of a yellow jersey for Daryl Impey.

Africa's first yellow jersey.

Africa’s first yellow jersey.

Image: M Vache

 

Stage 3: Round-up

You’d think you’d have a pretty good crack at seeing Le Tour here in France, right? Well, if you have a TV it’s all relatively straightforward. Turn it on, grab snacks and drinks, watch bike racing. If, however, you don’t have a TV, things get a bit tricky. Trickier still if your expensive pocket wifi craps out on you on the same day that your  accommodation has been altered to a place that doesn’t have TV and offers check-in at the convenient hour of just-after-the-race-is-over.

Plan B. Ride kilometres out of your way to a place called Brasserie des Sports in Est Derriere Unprintable only to find that SURE, they show *both* sports, rugby and union.

Ah, to hell with it, mes twittos provide un excellent résumé.

Last opportunity for Corsica’s cows to shine!

There was one confirmed vache-sighting, from Hardcore Commute:

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Hint: squint

6171A05E-9BD4-4A5B-B213-979C6ABAA8E8Image: Graham Watson

Stage 2: Round-up

The good news was that, despite a number of crashes in the opening stage, no rider missed the start of stage two. Whilst no doubt relieved that the suspected collarbone fracture wasn’t found, Tony Martin probably found the diagnosis of “a concussion and a contusion on his left lung… soft tissue damage on his hip, chest, left knee and shoulder… [and] a very deep wound 5cm wide on his left elbow” to have at least garnered him a cert for a couple of days in front of the TV. Alas, that’s not how this game works.

A frenzied race for the finish… and that was just Monsieur Vache and I trying to reach Carcassonne in time for live pictures.

Tomorrow’s stage starts with Bakelants in the maillot jaune. Kittel doesn’t return to the Argonaut kit immediately, as he leads the points competition. Pierre Rollands did it for Europcar and France -not necessarily in that order – for the dots, and the cow that just won’t quit will wear the white jersey.

In our mini-Tour, I have unilaterally decided to scrap jerseys as M Vache leads in all classifications by virtue of being the one with the satnav. In Fantasy League news, Miss Meow has a narrow lead over Enrico666. Congratulations!