What's Cool In Road Cycling

Tour de Pez: A Day For The Sprinters?

Roadside St.13: Donna Summer is talking about ‘workin’ hard for the money’ on Radio Nostalgi, breakfast was parfait and the sun is shining on the stunning Millau viaduct – it’s gonna be a good day!

And we’ve got our quote of the day, already.

There were a couple of English fans staying at the same hotel as PEZ, we got round to discussing Renshaw’s declassement. Dave reckoned that a ten minute penalty and/or a fine would have sufficed.
‘Ten minute penalty?’ said our man, ‘does that mean he’d start the next stage ten minutes behind everyone else?’

The race moto gendarmes passed us on the way up to the start, running big speeds in groups of four, team pursuit style.

Matt and Gord have snaffled all the good photo ops but we did snap former yellow jersey and ‘cheeky chappy’ Vincent Barteau; he ‘manages’ the crazy Vittel cycling team which is part of the caravan.

Rodez is ‘proper France’ not commercialized at all, laid back, with a lovely old cathedral – and the local jazz band is cool.

We grabbed a quick coffee as we walked to the bus park in search of our first interviews of the Tour.

Garmin’s DS Matt White is ‘PEZ friendly’ and always has something interesting to say.

How’s David Millar ? ‘Slowly getting better, if he’s to get in a break then today is the day, I think it will be too difficult for the sprinters’ teams to control. Failing that, he’ll target the Bordeaux time trial.’

It seems easier than usual to get in the break ? ‘I’ve never seen it so easy, within five minutes the break has formed – I think the heat means a lot of guys are tired; and don’t forget too that a lot of riders are worse for wear.’

Ryder ? ‘He’s been very impressive – he’s looking forward to the Pyrenees, now.’

Would Tyler have beat Cav if Renshaw hadn’t switched him ? ‘We’ll never know and Renshaw’s disqualification was down to the commisars; but what I will say is that it was a totally unnecessary maneuver.’

The Cervelo bus was next to Garmin’s and there was Thor’s machine – understated use of green, we like that.

And who better than a Norwegian to talk green jerseys ?

Dag Otto Lauritzen won the L’Alpe d’Huez stage of le Tour back in the 80’s.

Will Thor take the green jersey to Paris? ‘He wants it very badly but his preparation hasn’t been perfect, he’s missing a little in the sprints, he’s got the base but with breaking his collar bone he didn’t get time to do specific sprint preparation. That’s why he’s picking up points here and there – you know people say it’s the sprinter’s jersey, but look at last year, Cavendish won six stages and didn’t take the green jersey.

I think it will be a fight with Petacchi all the way to Paris.

Ale wants it too, he used the Giro to prepare for the Tour.

If Thor loses it then it’ll be down to the stage to Spa and Cancellara – OK, wait for Andy but still have the sprint. Cavendish and Petacchi were behind, Thor lost 25/30 points, that day.

Thor should have said to Cancellara, ‘do what you want, but I’m sprinting!’ But that’s behind and he has to forget it – even though I’m still annoyed !’

Basso is struggling – is it still possible to do a good Giro and Tour ? ‘The Giro parcours may be hard, but the Tour is a harder race, there’s more media, more pressure and there are more riders in top condition; it’s OK to go to the Giro to prepare, maybe win a stage – but it’s very difficult to be at your best in both races.’

Andy or Alberto ? ‘I hope Andy, but I think Alberto; yesterday he had the advantage but I think it will be a fight all through the Pyrenees to the time trial at Bordeaux, where Contador will have the advantage – but remember that Evans was supposed to beat Sastre in the time trial to win the Tour, two years ago.’

Over at Caisse, big Christophe Moureau may be past his best but he’s still very popular – and looks cool.

At Katyusha, Aleksandr Kolobnev said hello, whilst staff member Serguei Outschakov was busy talking about the time he beat Lance to win into Revel many years ago.

Time to go; a real transition stage, up, down, left, right – perfect for the break.

The Mergals climb at a 24 k and photo op time – the baby even smiles on cue.

There are spooky straw yellow jersey and polka dot men at 50 K – a bit too close to the ‘Wicker Man’ for our liking.

This is rural France, long stretches of road have no spectators.

But the Ambialet climb at 72 K has big crowds; Marvin Gaye soothes us from the SEAT radio with ‘Sexual healing’ but Cav won’t enjoy these five K.

Even here, deep in ‘la France profonde’ there are Belgian camper vans.

And one thing about the French – they know how to picnic.

The feeding station comes at 93 K – Lombers; we hang on ’til Realmont at 98 K. Ham sandwiches and ‘nice little tarts’ – trouble is, it ain’t rice tarts like we thought, it’s damn fish!

We use Coke as a mouth wash – jeez! those were foul! The pit stop gave us a chance to catch up with the race – on the cafй TV.

Three away with nearly five minutes – Flecha (Sky), Fedrigo (Bbox) and the irrepressible Chavanel (QuickStep).

But behind, Columbia and Lampre grind out the rhythm of the chase – Ale and Mark must have really good legs; but haven’t these guys heard of ‘baroudeurs’ and transition stages ?

The roads are much straighter here – bad news for our three heroes.

The Tour girls give us a big wave as they pass, pity it’s a through the windscreen shot.

Dave spots a red indian chief and we stop to take a picture, mainly to upset Viktor, he hates pictures like these.

The sprinters’ teams have done their homework well, the first part of the stage may have been classic break territory but now, one long straight follows another – a break has no chance of survival here.

The sunflowers turn to face the sun, the fans wave and at 20 K it’s still open, fast and bad news for the break.

Revel – but it’s not the finish, there’s a loop – with a hill – to ride before the chequered flag.

It’s not the Tourmalet but the men with the fast twitch muscles won’t like it; and it continues to climb past the banner.

The descent twists off the summit, five to go, four – it’s technical; a mad descender could go for a last throw of the dice down here.

Three K, and it’s flat, fast through the trees, two K, pan flat, arrow straight, one K, then a long, long wide, flat, fast blast to the line.

Take up position – 250 to go.

The three are still clear but the names the speaker is pumping over the PA are familiar, Eisel, Martin, Rogers – those Columbia guys will be dead come the Pyrenees.

The speaker starts to tell us about ‘le spreenters’ – ‘Cav-en-deesh !’ ‘Pe-tak-ee !’ ‘Ma-kyo-en !’ ‘Toor-go !’

What about Tyler? Poor Tyler finally had to give up the ghost after battling through 10 stages with a broken wrist. He’ll be back winning soon.

Rabobank take it up for Oscar, the harder the day the better for him – the others lose their edge whilst the man from Torrelavega doesn’t slow down one kph.

The Hushovd fans mass – he’ll go top ten but won’t win.

‘Montfort! Ro-gers! neuf kilometres’

‘Lan-kas-ter, Kono-lo-vass’

‘Ballan attaque, huit kilometre!’

‘Sept kilometre, Vino-koo-rov!’

The names come in too fast for us to sort out what’s going on – Voeckler, Contador, Roche, Sanchez . .

Vino clear, he must have flown down that hill – and there he is.

I get a great shot of the guy next to me’s head, damn !

But do manage a nice shot of the Kazakh’s back side.

They’re on his tail, but he’ll win; Cav second, that shows there’s ‘life after Renshaw, Ale third; Thor doesn’t get a mention – that green jersey will be headed for the Ligurian tonight, not the Fiords.

The sky boys were up there, Geraint Thomas and Michael Barry.

Ballan eases home.

And so does Lance, he’s going for a stage – Pyrenees or the TT ?

Dave reckons the Tourmalet finish, go out in style.

Stuey looks tired, no wonder, all that work.

David Millar is well back, with Tony Martin – guess it’s Bordeaux then, David?

And stone last is 175, Christophe Kern (Cofidis) – but he has three Astanas to chat to.

A sprinter’s stage then? – pity no one told Vino.

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