Thursday, July 20, 2017

Stage 17 La Mure / Serre-Chevalier - Aero is Everything

Stage 17 and the Tour headed back to the stunning French Alps for a gruelling 183km from La Mure to Serre-Chevalier.

Gabs was in one of his favourite parts of France, the Savoie region to taste the finest of goat and sheep chiises. He visited the Aussie run alpine retreat and cookery school ‘Chalet Savoie Faire’ so I can strike that off my shortlist of quirky hipster cafe names.

When it comes to chiisses waiyne is never too far away and I’m not talking the uni politics club gathering with cubes of cheddar and Chateau de Cardboard served in a plastic cup.

The race got under way and the forecast was cloudy with a chance of macarons. At the 20km mark a crash brought down the polka dot and green jersey wearers Warren Barguil and Marcel Kittel before a sizable breakaway headed for the first big climb of the day the hors categorie Col de la Croix de Fer.

As the riders descended the Col de la Croix de Fer, Troll DJ rocked out to Jane’s Addiction’s ‘Mountain Song’ and so did the couch peloton whipping out their air guitars from their air guitar cases.

News crackled over race radio that Marcel Kittel’s injuries from the earlier crash were too much, forcing him to abandon the Tour. A real shame after an outstanding five stage wins at this Tour and just as the points competition was really starting to heat up with Michael Matthews narrowing Kittel’s lead to just nine points.

However, Kittel’s loss is Matthews's gain and so long as Bling can stay upright all the way to Paris the green jersey is his. I just think it’s an unfortunate way to get it, but as Mattie and Robbie point out that’s bike racing.

Rumour Mill: A story emerged in the Colombian news that Nairo Quintana was looking at a move to Team Sky or Astana. Got to admit Nairo Quinstana has a certain ring to it but Movistar dismissed the rumour.

Kittel ponders what might have been.

New French President Emmanuel Macron got a box seat in the big red car to watch the Tour and as is tradition the French head of state gets to meet the heads of state – of the Tour that is.

Macron was looking, well, very presidential but don’t you think there’s a side to him where he’d love nothing more than suiting up as a colourful vanilla buttercream filled biscuit and jump up and down at the roadside?

The riders hit the cat 1 Col du Telegraphe and you know why it's called that? It’s called the Col du Telegraphe because by the time you reach the top the legs are sending a message to the brain to FUCKING STOP STOP.

The 12km climb up the Telegraphe was beginning to hurt and Robbie observed a lot of ‘goldfish style breathing’ as the air became thinner and there was still the 2,642 m Col du Galibier to go.

This stage was do or die for the GC contenders who, according to Robbie,"give you nothing, take you nowhere".

Former Tour champion Alberto Contador searched and found some of his old form and hope sprang eternal for Bertie as he sniffed out a possible stage win.

Following the short descent of the Telegraphe, the road headed skyward for another 18 km up the hors categorie Col du Galibier, the highest point of this year’s Tour.

One by one riders and the peloton began cracking and I always wonder if that coloured smoke you see from the roadside is from a flare or a rider blowing up.

Robbie saw some riders had their shoulders almost up to the ears. Wrist bone connected to the shoulder, shoulders almost up to the ears - the Tour is absolutely brutal on the body!

Primoz Roglic was first over the top of the Galibier and with a fast downhill run all the way to the finish in Serre-Chevalier Mattie said, "the former ski jump champion now has to float to the bottom".

Back in the yellow group and Romain Bardet was off with Chris Froome reacting to every move. ‘Barguil the Brave of Brittany’ fought on with the a bloodied knee.

'Fallible Fabio Aru' struggled with the Galibier climb and saw his position slipping from second in the GC.

Roglic's ski jumping nerves of steel and top tube were put to good use knowing the value of 'aero is everything' to solo across the line for his and Slovenia's first Tour victory.

Bertie deservedly earned the most combative award and the now highly visible Rigoberto Uran moved to second behind Froome and Aru slipped into fourth overall.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Stage 16 Le Puy-en-Velay / Romans-sur-Isère - Ride Like the Bling

Stage 16 resumed after the second and final rest day in picturesque Le Puy-en-Velay as the Tour heads towards the Alps for two massive stages in the coming days.

Gabs bobbed up in the gorgeous Rhône Valley drinking the famous local waiyne with a bunch of Aussie tourists and you know if you’re drinking with Aussies things are about to get messy.

Earlier in the day Gabs visited the Valrhona Chocolate headquarters for all things chocolate. Gabs seems to have developed a sweet tooth this Tour, or maybe it’s because he has a cookbook to flog ‘So French So Sweet’?

The riders set off on a hot and windy flat stage that looked anything but flat for a fair bit of the way. Conditions made it difficult for a breakaway to properly form – that and Sunweb throwing down the hammer which made life difficult for Marcel Kittel with Sunweb sniffing an opportunity to get some more sprint points for Bling Matthews.

By the way, I’ve had the feeling there's been too many flat stages this Tour, if you can call stage 16 flat. So far I’ve really loved the punchy, hilly stages like Blagnac to Rodez, incidentally won by Matthews.

Back to the racing and Mattie and Robbie were curious about the whereabouts of George Bennett. He appeared to have popped off the back indicating some kind of trouble. The Kiwi abandoned with a “serious case of man flu” and we all know how devastating man flu is and we wish he gets well soon for a crack at the Vuelta.

With temperatures hovering at 35 degrees the heat was beginning to soften up the road.  Tyres can lose traction on a corner during a fast descent and Robbie warned you want to stick to the firmer, lighter tarmac whilst avoiding the dark bits. Come on Robbie, we know you really wanted to say ‘avoid the dark arsefault’. Then again, after more than two weeks of commentary we forgive Robbie for dropping the ball – NOT!

Troll DJ couldn’t help but drag out Christopher Cross’s ‘Ride Like the Wind’ for a wind montage (yes, you read right, even the wind gets a montage) although ‘Fly Like the Wind’ by the Meat Puppets would have worked equally well.

‘Country House’ was a no brainer for a chateaux montage which just whizzed by in a blur.

Podium prize for the stage win. Can we make this a thing?

At 34km to go Alberto Contador launched a surprise attack forcing Skybot Michal Kwiatkowski to drop his lunch as three musettes were discarded so he could chase Bertie and the hay-makers. The attack was short lived and whilst Kwiatkowski missed out on a feed of Bertie Beetles, Bertie blew his biscuits which cost him a spot at the table for the run in to Romans-sur-Isère.

Mattie and Robbie fell silent a number of times in the caravan of commentary. The couch peloton speculated if they taking nature breaks. Mattie returned to apologise for technical issues. Was the heat causing havoc? No, turns out Tommo kept tripping over the cord unplugging the audio equipment. French OH&S better have a look at that.

The peloton hit the flatter more open countryside as it approached the finish line. After battling cross and head winds that were almost, according to Mattie, ‘blowing the petals off the sunflowers’, the tail wind had the riders pick up the pace to a blistering 65 km/h.

Time for teams to get their best riders forward and Robbie explained the principle of ‘surfing the peloton’, or the art of smoothly navigating your way up to the front. However, if you’re surfing the peloton you’d better be on the lookout for Nibali...

With Kittel nowhere to be seen the final run to the line came down to a sprint with Aussie Michael Matthews across the line ahead of the wonderful Edvald Boasson Hagen and John Degenkolb.

Degenkolb's protest against Matthews was quickly dismissed and Bling collected his second stage win of the Tour.

A week ago Marcel Kittel looked to have an unassailable lead in the points competition. Bling has narrowed the margin to just 29 points. Could it be we’ll see an Aussie in green in Paris?

Chris Froome finished the day in yellow still only 18 seconds ahead of Fabio Aru. With Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uran also within 30 seconds of Froome and some huge mountain stages ahead, the battle for yellow is very much alive.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Stage 15 Laissac-Sévérac l'Église / Le Puy-en-Velay - Mollema Writes a New Chapter

Stage 15, rest day tomorrow and the riders set out on a lumpy course from Laissac-Sévérac l'Église to Le Puy-en-Velay in the upper most reaches of the Loire Valley.

Prior to the race Chris Froome was interviewed about the preceding day’s stage that saw him back in yellow. He described the run through Rodez prior to the uphill finish as full of, "technical road furniture", which has got to be at least a double shot in the couch peloton drinking game.

Gabs (yes, we haven’t seen much of him lately) was up to the usual sampling waiyne and chiiises and also the green Le Puy lentils which, it was pointed out, are gluten free. Don't tell me the French are in on the ridiculous gluten free fad too? They’ll be off the butter next.

Phil and Paul stopped by for a chat with SBS. Phil noted that,"French people have fallen in love with the Tour". Well you know, it is held in France and it's only taken what, 104 editions?

Out on the road and looked like breakies too numerous to mention might have a chance. Michael Gogl was spotted and I wonder does he ever watch Gogl Box?

Tommo was bemoaning the lack of facilities and resources other TV networks enjoy including catering. SBS does a fine job because as Tommo says they do their job out of love but surely the NBC caterers invite everyone over on cassoulet night?

Field art standards had slipped somewhat with an attitude of ‘let's just hang some nice words from that stack of hay bales over there’. 3/10 for effort, lift your game!

Robbie explained as the peloton headed across the ’barren’ Aubrac Plateau that the lack of agriculture explained the lack of field art. Excusez-moi? Lack of agriculture? What do you call all the vaches and moutons?

Robbie spotted a mixed herd or have I miss heard? And wasn’t just vaches to keep things interesting, there were drystone walls too. If only to be a fly on the NBC commentary box wall...

Back to the race and Robbie watched riders working together and said there’s, "no two without three". Oh geez, Robbie, don’t even go there!

Mattie was concerned with not getting a good reading of wind direction with a lack of trees and flags. Well, you don’t need a wind sock when there's always the highly scientific lick the finger and it stick in the air method to fall back on.

It was Simon Geschke’s turn to step in front of the cameras as the man with the most lush beard in the peloton. The fashion hasn’t completely caught on in the peloton but you’ve got admire the work he puts in with careful trimming and the correct application of bespoke beard oils. Or maybe he's still getting through all the leftover boxes of (former team sponsor) Alpecin caffeine shampoo?

Jan Bugalugs took a turn in front of the camera and I must he's been quiet for a few days.

Troll DJ had the colour green on its mind inspired by a green river that flows through the area. Creedence Green Water Revival? Oh how clever! Later Troll DJ trotted out ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’ in tribute to Marcel Kittel. Yeah, it's not easy being green, just ask Lee Rhiannon and Scott Ludlam.

Troll DJ turned it’s attention to yellow and we’re not sure if Donovan's 'Mellow Yellow' was a tribute to Froome back in yellow or the nature breaks.

Stock photo

Mattie spotted the chateau with the highest elevation in France. A chateau at altitude! That’s got be triple word score on the McKeeno bingo card. However, Primoz Roglic was mentioned without the ski jumper reference. Points deducted.

The riders went through the feedzone, no silly crashes but plenty of musettes stuffed as full as a show bag when I was a kid. Just hope the soigniers remembered to slip a couple of Bertie Beetles in there.

Word from the Skybots that there’s no tension between Mikel Landa and Chris Froome in the Death Star. Landa is reportedly in total support of Chris Froome. Yeah right, like when the coach or the CEO has full support of the board.

There was the usual assortment of roadside randoms and the Citroen 2CVs were back racing the peloton over the plateau. They've been chasing the Tour all over France.

Just as sections of the couch peloton started to abandon, the race got interesting with Panzerwagen Tony Martin attempting a solo time trial from 66 km to go. Martin went at it perhaps a little too hard and looked, according to Robbie, like a ‘goldfish out of water’.

The tongue was out on more than one occasion so do we start calling him Tony Voeckler now?

Just as we thought the field art competition was wrapping up for the day an hourglass with sheep dogs and sheep was spotted. Not quite tractors dripping through the hourglass but hats off nonetheless.

Tony Martin ploughed on and on one of the descents car tyres were squealing in pursuit of Martin. Are we watching the Tour or that movie ‘Hell Drivers’?

Good to see Henk Vogels joining the commentary team for the week and presented his findings after careful analysis of the climbs - nasty but not quite filthy enough for Henk.

At 40 km to go Froome had a mechanical and no one was stopping this time. Skybot Michal Kwiatkowski gave Froome his back wheel and AG2R threw the unwritten rules out the unwritten window and lit the afterburners.

Froome had a lot of work to do to catch his rivals and limit the damage to his lead. Amazingly Landa actually started working for Froome - must have had a really stern talking too in the Death Star.

Bauke Mollema soloed away to cross the line and, in the words of Mattie, "Mollema the Dutch book week ambassador has written another chapter".

Another chapter indeed with the title 'My first Tour win'. Chris Froome takes the yellow jersey into the rest day with an 18 second lead over Fabio Aru.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Stage 14 Blagnac / Rodez - Nothing Toulouse

Stage 14 from Blagnac near Toulouse to Rodez commenced with an inspirational quote from Robbie McEwen –“You don't dance on the pedals... smash them”.

Thomas Voeckler was the first to smash the pedals from the flag fall and then took a group of breakies with him including Thomas De Gendt.

And De Ghent pretty much stayed out front for most of the day in a ho-hum kind of a stage in a beautiful part of the world more suited to a casual ride on a tree lined road by the Tarn River on a sunny day than a bike race.

First town the peloton rode through was Grenade that features the old Gothic church of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption and when I hear old Gothic I think of a church that wanders rainy streets in a long black coat at night and goes back to the bedsit to play Sisters of Mercy records...

The peloton rode on through fields of wheat, corn and tournesol. No top marks handed out for field art apart from a tractor made of hay bales – how meta!

Troll DJ was getting restless and couldn’t help but bust out Warren Zevon’s ‘Werewolves of London’. Aruuuuuuuu!!!!

There was some time for interviews with Curious George Bennett and then General Director of the Tour Christian Prudhomme. Prudhomme’s questions were presented in dichotomous format eg wine or cheese? Socks up or socks down? Sunglass arms inside or out of helmet straps? Curiously ‘scrunch or fold?’ was missing from the list.

Tommo and Macca took some time out have a chat with SBS Radio producer and real life French person Christophe Mallet to chat about what the French think of their cyclists.

Apparently they are well regarded and twelve year old Romain Bardet is very popular with the youngsters and kiddies stick pictures of Bardet on their school books along with pics of Wham! and the cast of Neighbours.

Tommo and Macca breathe a sigh of relief when Mallet accompanies them to a restaurant in France because having a French speaker will ensure you don't struggle with the menu and end up with a live octopus delivered to the table.

Meanwhile the Troll DJ must have been bored out of its mind and put together a homage to the Pyrenees vultures and Phil and Paul will be in raptures, or is that raptors?

The Tour choppers soared over the towns and villages of the region and it seems you can have any colour of roof you want in Toulouse so long as it's red. Or you could say they have both kinds of roofs – terra and cotta (thanks to @cinquecento62 from the Couch Peloton for the contribution!)

OMG, there is an Aldi in Albi!

Mattie was commenting on the work teams Sunweb and BMC had been doing up front of the peloton. He noted former BMC rider Taylor Phinney is the son of speed skater Connie Carpenter-Phinney. Not sure how this bit of info was relevant but if Phinney was going to win he’d need to do a Bradbury today...

Some more fun facts about the riders – apparently Chris Froome loves to watch the marathon...

Windows down, eardrums banging, which could either mean a ride from one stage to another in Robbie’s 2CV or just the general din of the caravan of commentary.

But seriously, is there actually ANYTHING going on today? Is there an Aldi in Albi? So many questions.

Alexey Lutsenko was spotted being ‘held together with masking tape’ and it looks budget cuts are really hurting in the Astana team which puts all the more pressure on Fabio Aru to stay in yellow to collect enough prize money for proper bandages.

24 km to the finish and the winds had sprung up and the darling of France Warren Barguil had worked up a thirst. The wait to collect a water bottle from the team car was as long as queuing for a drink at a music festival. Finally the team car did pull up and he was off, in the words of Robbie, “with a bunch of bidons stuffed down his shirt like Santa Claus”.

Thomas De Ghent powered on in his trademark Thomas De Ghent Engine style in the house of pain until the inevitable catch.

This time Sky was setting the pace at 10 km to and Aru’s slim hold on yellow was slipping away.
In the uphill sprint in Rodez ‘the boy from Canberra’ Michael Matthews lit up an otherwise boring stage to beat golden boy Greg Van Avermaet to the line and claim is second ever Tour win.

Chris Froome reclaimed the golden fleece leading Aru by 18 seconds. Not a big lead and if Froome is intent on taking yellow all the way to Paris he really has...

...nothing Toulouse.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Stage 13 Saint-Girons / Foix - Christmas in July

Stage 13 and it was going to be the shortest stage in the saddle barring the individual time trials for the 101 km from Girons to Foix in the Pyrenees.

Tour organisers had been listening to calls from fans and commentators for shorter stages with full gas racing, so they’ve taken a leaf out of the cricket book and went with a Twenty20 style experiment, you know, with fireworks, music, dancing, colourful costumes and...oh hang on, cycling already has that.

The riders were lead out of Saint-Girons by the big red car. Jakob Fuglsang’s left arm was bandaged up and he was riding hands off the handlebars which wasn’t got a good sign since you can’t really climb without hands on the bars.

The flag dropped, Frenchmen Warren Barguil and Thomas Voeckler were off like scolded cats in a "go until you blow" effort according to Robbie.

The attacks started coming and Barguil and Voeckler were hauled back after 10 km of racing.
Sylvain Chavanel, Philippe Gilbert and Alessandro De Marchi got out front and Chavanel collected the maximum intermediate sprint points.

Arthur Vichot hoisted up the white flag abandoning the Tour. After a great first week in which Arnaud Demare took stage 4 and led in the points competition, FDJ was reduced to a shadow of itself with just four riders remaining.

The Tour choppers were back in the air after the unscheduled chopper rest day and brought us magnificent breathtaking pictures of the Pyrenees. The choppers were also on Pyrenenean vulture watch in case they started circling any stragglers in the Gruppetto. Two vultures were spotted soaring high above the valleys and Phil and Paul must have been going berserk out the back of the NBC catering truck.

De Marchi was first over the top of the Col de Latrape. Back down the road Barguil attacked in the yellow jersey group and, Mikel Landa and Alberto Contador followed.

Landa looked to be riding for Landa again and some of that old Bertie El Pistolero spirit was back to try and get a stage win.

Speaking of Bertie what was with his bottle cage with the chop-top bidon? A packet of biscuits? For some reason Robbie suggested it was tin foil. Perhaps it was just a blanket he could throw over the riders up front.

So much was going on in the race and Mattie declared that, "not even Nostradamus would dare to predict a winner". Well yeah, there’s that and the fact that he’s dead.

Twenty20 cycling comes to Paris

On the second climb of the day Landa and Bertie dropped De Marchi with Nairo Quintana in pursuit. Mikel went Rogue Landa when it became apparent he wasn’t working for Froome anymore and got a sniff of yellow.

SBS commentator Henk Vogels turned up for official Tour duties and Tweeted, “Love the short stages , real bike racing none of this controlled BS , love a filth stage’. FILTH STAGE!!! HENK IS BACK!!!

The winner of the Criterium du Dauphine Jakob Fuglsang abandoned the Tour after trying to ride up mountains with no hands became too much for him. This meant team leader Fabio Aru was on his own now to try and fend of Landa’s tilt at the golden fleece.

The final climb was the brutally steep goat track Mur de Péguère or ‘Wall of Péguère’ which must have felt like a wall of purgatory to the Gruppetto. Quintana and Barguil reached Bertie and Landa albeit at snail’s pace. The track narrowed so far that even the neutral service motos had trouble getting through. Any mechanical problems and neutral service drones would need to be deployed to drop in spares.

Barguil reached the top of the Mur de Péguère, then passed the Fidler on the Camping Car Roof.
Back down the road and Froome dog looked to be in a whole lot of trouble, or maybe he was foxing? ‘Boring’ Curious George Bennett was anything but boring and Aru stuck like glue to Froome.

‘Voldemort’ (no not that Voldemort, Lance) Rigoberto Uran was stirring up the yellow group and somehow remained, “almost unseen in the brightest kit".

The yellow group crested the Mur de Péguère and it was on for young and old with constant attacks on the descent and all the way to Foix.

Barguil crossed the line and got the win every French man, women and child desires on Bastille Day.

In the battle for GC Froome finished 6 seconds behind the Italian national champion and I bet there were some words for Rogue Landa in the Skybus later.

Aru was presented with his second yellow jersey and right now, in Mattie’s words, "Fabio Aru has got more presents under the tree than anybody else".

It must be Christmas in July.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Stage 12 Pau / Peyragudes - Great Day For Bardet, Not So Fab For Froome

Stage 12 and the riders set out on a rainy 214 km journey through the Pyrenees. Mist over the mountains prevented flying so it became an unofficial rest day for the Tour choppers.

A twelve man breakaway including the likes of Stephen Cummings, Cyril Gautier, Diego Ulissi, Jack Bauer, Marcel Kittel and Michael Bling Matthews formed in earnest. Bling collected intermediate sprint points ahead of Kitteh but has a long way behind the man in green.

Kitteh was dropped on the category 1 Col de Menté. The Gruppetto formed through what Robbie called ‘natural selection’ as the road headed skyward and the Gorilla was spotted in the mist.

Chateaux were few and far between in this part of France with the exception of the old castle in Mauleon-Barousse which, as Mattie explained, had been destroyed and restored a number of times in its long history and was used as a prison during the French Revolution. The history lessons are enlightening but I wonder - was there anything NOT used as a prison during the French Revolution?

On the hors categorie Port de Balès Stephen Cummings was the first over the top.

The yellow jersey group commenced the descent of Port de Balès to the base of the Col de Peyresourde and Skybot Mikel Neive gatecrashed a picnic among the camping cars on a corner taking Chris Froome and Froome’s shadow Fabio Aru with him.

Controversy erupted when the rest of the yellow jersey group waited for Froome to rejoin. Keeno called it ‘driver error’ and there was no need to wait unlike for a mechanical or a crash. Now, if that was Aru in the group up the road...

Gotta wonder if Froome is a protected species, not just by his Skybots but the rest of the peloton.
So much for the unwritten rules and the unwritten rules are due for a rewrite.

And what was it with all the nature breaks? Was there beer in the bidons? The moto cameras didn’t know where to look. Robbie got sick of calling them nature breaks switching to 'comfort break'.

On the penultimate climb of the Col de Peyresourde, Cummings was still leading until caught 3 km from the summit. Hats off to Cummings, a huge effort which earned him 'the most biggest job of work' award.

In the yellow group Narrow Quintana was dropped at 11 km to go and it seems the attempt at a Giro-Tour double has taken its toll on the Colombian. Alberto Contador was looking a little more like his old self and even mustered up a bit of a Bertie dance on the pedals before eventually blowing up.

After a short descent of the Col de Peyresourde there was a short but brutal 2.4 km long climb to the finish at Peyragudes. 

Riders were "throwing out the bidons" (it's sandbags Robbie, sandbags) and Kiwi 'Curious George Bennett' attacked but was quickly pulled back by Skybot Mikel Landa who looked like he was riding for Landa, not for Froome. Froome struggled as Fabio Aru slipped into the yellow jersey on the final ramp up to the line.

But it was the twelve year old Romain Bardet who first crossed the line to claim his third Tour stage win.

On the podium Aru had a grin wider than the entrance to Luna Park as he was presented with the golden fleece.

Just when you thought the Tour was predictable the race can be turned on its head in the space of a few hundred metres. Aru only has a 6 second lead but Froome looked vulnerable - everyone waited when he was in trouble and still he lost yellow.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Stage 11 Eymet / Pau - Time Not On Bodnar's Side As Kittel Makes It Five

Stage 11 and can you believe it we’re already half way through the Tour? How time flies. Another flat stage from Eymet to Pau at the foot of the Pyrenees - one, as they say in the classics, for the sprinters.

From the moment the flag was pulled into the red car Marco Marcato, Maciej Bodnar and cow-milker extraordinaire Frederik Backaert formed a breakaway. Getting into the breakaway is by now a familiar pattern for Wanty-Groupe Gobert rider Backaert – you could say he Wanty the TV time..?

Not much happened out on the flat through the fields of tournesol and corn until a crash in the feed zone near the 'Chapel of the Cyclists' at Labastide-d'Armagnac . Clearly the cycling Godz were away on a group ride with no offer of protection in the hazardous feed zone. Dario Cataldo was left with a broken scaphoid and a scare for GC contender Jakob Fuglsang who was nursing a sore wrist.

The field art followed the familiar themes of bicycles with animated wheels and clocks and OMG, A TRACTOR HOURGLASS!!! Like tractors through the hourglass...10/10 for originality!

As the race progressed the ‘cross tail’ winds, according to Matt and Robbie, were picking up slightly. I’m not sure of the significance of a cross tail wind which I interpret to mean ‘not too annoying but not all that helpful’.

Conversation turned to Nacer Bouhanni’s swing at Jack Bauer on the run into Bergerac the day before. Matt and Robbie were slightly incredulous at the punishment levelled at Bouhanni which was a one minute time penalty and a fine of 200 Swiss Francs, which according to Mattie is about the price of a sandwich at a Swiss airport. does the saying go again?

At 30km to go Maciej Bodnar flicked the switch into time trial beast mode and soloed away. To the hum of carbon the power-house Pole was powering to Pau. Bodnar looked like he was dreamin’ but he dared to dream and who dares sometimes wins despite the odds of a rampaging peloton against him.

Meanwhile Alberto Contador’s nightmare continued with the two time Tour winner crashing with team mate Michael Gogl. Bertie just can't take a trick this Tour and it’s kind of sad to see a champion fade away.

Bodnar continued to power on to the Pau and Mattie thought he was, "spending all his petrol tickets". Petrol tickets??? And another Keenanism is born.

Robbie declared, "Bodnar is not normal" and at the front of the peloton a group of elite time trialists was chasing a time trialist and this year’s field art theme is starting to make more sense.

As the peloton headed to Pau the sprint teams were getting organised at the front but they still had to catch Bodnar. Yesterday’s winner and leader in the points competition Marcel Kittel had, according to Mattie,”been flying in economy and has moved to first class just before the cockpit". Don’t know about you about but I’ve never been able to swing an upgrade like that.

But Kittel showed he’s all class as Bodnar was denied a 200km time trial victory in the final 300 metres and the man in green sprinted to his fifth Tour win.

In the post race interview Kittel revealed the secret to his sprinting prowess, which is not about power and speed but being good at Tetris by getting the right gaps.

Chris Froome arrived safely in Pau, Kittel is in the form of his life and at the halfway mark this Tour is starting to look – predictable.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Stage 10 Périgueux / Bergerac - Kittel Sitting Pretty with Win Number Four

After a well earned rest day in Dordogne after the carnage of stage 9 in the Alps, the Tour resumed from Périgueux to Bergerac in the beautiful south west of France.

The sprinters were thankful for the flat stage after the hell of Sunday. Normally flat stage means boring but not today as the Tour made its way past gorgeous hilltop villages and more chateaux than you can point a lance at.

As the Tour choppers brought us gorgeous pictures of the chateaux, Mattie explained that Tour organisers do the polite thing and ask the owners for permission to film them. Most owners oblige and wouldn’t it be an awful job travelling the whole Tour route stopping at chateaux to chat to the owners?

Mattie noted that he spoke about 32 chateaux, a personal record and didn’t complain once about ‘not ANOTHER chateau’ after the tenth. Post broadcasting I see another career as a tour guide for Keeno.

After ten stages do I detect a little bit of tension in the caravan of commentary? As we know Mattie is very particular about neatly ordering his highlighters on his desk. Robbie dared to knock one them out of place and if there’s one you shouldn’t do is touch Mattie’s highlighters.

Mattie pressed on with his chateaux commentary and noted that the unusual ‘cliff castle’ Maison Forte de Reignac has an exhibition of torture and capital punishment – which sounds just like the Gruppetto on a huge mountain stage.

Back to the incidental racing commentary and Mattie noted the riders were ‘tapping out the tempo'. Mattie? Who taught you?

But discussion inevitably turned to the drama of stage 9. Richie Porte addressed the world from his hospital bed thanking his lucky stars injuries were not worse after the horrific crash on the descent of Mont du Chat.

Porte is vowing to be back on the bike by the end of the year, and no doubt with his level of drive and determination, he will.

The most positive story to emerge from the stage was Rigoberto Uran’s narrow win when everything was stacked him. We know he had a problem with his derailleur but it emerged he had a pesky race radio earpiece on the loose to deal with as well.

He may not be a household name but he proved to the world he’s a rider of the highest calibre, and I reckon if Rigoberto Uran's had leg fallen off in during the stage he'd still have found a way to win.

And Mattie and Robbie doffed their hats to Warren Barguil, who put in a massive effort only to fall just short to Uran and earned the most combative award. Perhaps for a huge mountain stage it should be renamed 'the most biggest job of work' award.

Not that Bergerac.

Back to the ‘battle of the chateaux’ and Troll DJ couldn't help itself but to bring out Shakin’ Stevens version of ‘This Old House'. Oh Troll DJ, you slay me!

Chateaux watch was rudely interrupted by the intermediate sprint and if we hadn’t noticed the two man breakaway of Yoann Offredo and Elie Gesbert quietly collected the points.

Good to hear Robbie’s French is coming along since last year's Tour and learnt that 'I had my legs around my neck' is French for 'turning yourself inside out'.

After Mattie ran out of chateaux to talk about it was back to the race and despite Offredo and Gesbert’s heroic effort, the two were inevitably reeled in to the peloton at 7km to go.

The sprint teams made their way up front and the peloton was moving at a leg stinging 50 to 60 km/h through the streets of Bergerac. Nacer Bouhanni did his level best to find a way to earn a disqualification by taking a swing at Kiwi Jack Bauer.

Marcel Kittel notched up his fourth win of this Tour, that's 40% of the stages so far. Chris Froome looks to stay in yellow all the way to Paris. 

And the result of Bouhanni's punch? A one minute time penalty and 200 Swiss Franc fine. 

Go figure.

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 was he 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.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Stage 8 Dole / Station des Rousses - Calmejane Keeps His Cool and Collects

Stage 8 and the Tour arrived in the Jura for a weekend of mountain racing from Dole to Station des Rousses.

Gabs was off sampling the very best ‘waiyne and chises’ the lovely Jura region has to offer. Looks like he’s hung up his chef’s hat and left the catering to the NBC. I bet the NBC caterers hadn’t banked on having another 193 mouths to feed.

Speaking of NBC Phil and Paul took some time out to chat with Tommo and the SBS team. Paul compared the day’s stage to tomorrows as the, “hors d'ouevres to hors categorie climbs”. Nice to see the Sherliggetts haven’t changed. Phil and Paul revealed they have started commentating on their drives to get to the next stage. Oh to be a fly on the windscreen.

Out on the road and several attempts to form breakaways were short lived.

Robbie seemed to have his mind on his new passion, golf, which is the new cycling for Robbie.

At the 75 km mark Robbie reported a 50 rider breakaway. What? Um, isn't that a split Robbie? One week in to the Tour and already Matt and Robbie's brains are going soft.

Over at the finish line Tommo was with an old friend of his and of the couch peloton, Rupert Guinness and OMG RUPE'S TROLL SHIRT IS BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A peak into Rupe's wardrobe. Don't forget the sunnies.

We haven’t seen the troll shirt for a few Tours by now and Twitter lost its mind as it appeared on our screens in all it garish glory.

No time for dancing for Dr Leo Sayer, who was kept busy patching up riders and applying magic spray from the medical convertible.

The riders hit the hills and the ‘laughing group’ of the big sprinters was way down the back struggling to stay within the cut off time. Strength and stamina was put to the test and you needed to be a... *lowers shades* ...Juracell bunny to survive the stage...

Robbie spotted Jan Bugalugs doing a job of work, and noted he was an ‘interviewers dream’. Hmm Robbie, only if your idea of an interviewers dream is enough idiotically controversial comments to feed the papers with.

Greg Van Avermaet was looking good for the stage but he was in among  an increasing number of riders who in the words of Mattie were to, “pull the parachute” – which is the opposite of throwing out the sandbags.

After the bidons were thrown out to gain height riders were seen throwing out tiny sandbags in the form of energy gels.

More and more riders headed for ‘the exit aisle’ and all there was left was Lilian Calmejane calmly riding up front with Robert Gesink who looked to have thrown out the kitchen sink in bobbing pursuit.

The riding styles of Calmejane and Gesink couldn’t be any different with the young Frenchman tapping out a rhythm compared to what Mattie described as, “the knobby knees almost touching the top tube” style of the older Dutchman.

The quad wrestle turned to a wrestle with cramp for Calmejane at 5km to go and in an effort to fight through the pain it became, according to Robbie, a battle between Calmejane and himself.

As Calmejane continued to solo up to the line there was a tongue salute to teammate and Tour legend Thomas Voeckler and I could almost cry.

It’s France’s second taste of victory at this year’s Tour and as one legend rides off into retirement we may have seen the birth of another at Station des Rousses.

Before I go, another poem:

Gesink threw a kitchen sink
Calmejane calm enough
To see off Van Avermaet
To Voeckler he paid tribute
With a stirling tongue salute.

Stage 7 Troyes / Nuits-Saint-Georges - Kittel by a Bee's Pixel

Stage 7 and on another hot one the riders set out from Troyes for a long day in the saddle to Nuits-Saint-Georges.

Out of the kitchen (because that’s where he always seems to be these days) Gabs was trying out the famous Dijon mustard and the pinot noir and chardonnay of the Burgundy region. He’s out of Champagne and into Burgundy. Hmm, this is beginning to sound like a three week bender.

On the road and a breakies Maxime Bouet, Manuele Mori, Yohann Gène and Dylan van Baarle made what looked like a doomed breakaway with Lars Bak at the front of the peloton leading the chase.

Why Lars Bak at the front? Because, in his words he’s, “so beautiful” and modest too. Gotta hand it to him, Lars Bak has got more front than Myer.

The kilometres rolled on and this was shaping up to be the dullest stage so far. Sure there were some vaches to look at, the odd clock field art but it took a couple of classic Citroen 2CVs racing alongside the peloton on a field to raise even the mildest of interest in the couch peloton.

Good thing there wasn’t a ditch in the way of the Citroens – if they’d hit at speed they’d break the ditch.

Robbie had checked the weather forecast and it’d only been for mild winds across the open fields. His ‘Inspector Gadget’ head said otherwise and started to worry that the caravan of commentary might blow away.

The winds were starting to play havoc in the peloton but the riders managed to huddle together. It was a struggle up front and Robbie noted one rider was, "doing a job but his work is cut out". Um Robbie, let me correct you, it’s ‘job of work’? Mattie noted an, “enormous amount of work”. Sorry Mattie, have to pull you up on that one, respect please for the ‘job of work’.

It’s getting increasingly harder for the sprint teams to get up front which according to Mattie is,"like getting a booking at a Michelin starred restaurant". Looks like SBS is paying too much to Mattie.

Pretty soon Mattie was getting bored and started commentating on a soccer match with a, “deep into the second half but it's still nil-all'.

Sometimes I think the design of the parcours is more to test the resolve of the couch peloton than the riders themselves.

Pixelated Kitteh.

And just as the couch peloton started drifting off, it was startled from its micro-sleep by the Troll DJ standard ‘Moving Right Along’ from The Muppets. Ah The Muppets, remember Phil and Paul? Neither do I, just kidding!

As the sprint teams got themselves organised the wind appeared to swing to the rear and calm down allaying fears of another errant umbrella incident.

At 15km to go the riders passed some startled hay bales, the peloton was gaining rapidly on the breakies with the four carrying on attacking like fighting fish until the inevitable catch at 6km to go.

Charging into Nuits-Saint-Georges, the lead out men delivered the sprinters to the line and PHOTO! 

Mattie and Robbie called it Kitteh by a whisker but on the photo it looked like a dead heat between the German and the Wonderful Boasson Hagen.

Robbie’s Inspector Gadget head observed Kittels tyre was in front by a ‘bee’s pixel’, but it was up to the judges to decide if it was Kittel by a bee's pixel or Boasson Hagen by a Higgs Boson particle.

After some time the verdict was in, and Kittel claimed his third stage victory and the green jersey.

A dull stage capped off by a thrilling victory – there’s something new every day at the Tour.

I’ll leave you with a poem:

Lars Bak
More front than Myer
The couch peloton
Began to tire
Kittel by a bee's pixel?
Or Boasson Hagen
By a Higgs Boson particle?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Stage 6 Vesoul / Troyes - Corks Pop for Kittel in Troyes

Stage 6 and the riders departed Vesoul for the 216km journey to Troyes through the gorgeous Champagne region. It was going to be a hot one which meant a raid on all the stores by the soigniers for pantyhose to make ice socks to keep riders cool.

Right from the start the three man team time trial of Perrig Quemeneur, Vegard Stake Laengen and Wanty-Groupe Gobert’s cow-milker extraordinaire Frederik Backaert made a break for it.

In the kitchen Gabs had been busy preparing the local specialty Andouillette de Troyes which a special kind of sausage filled with mystery ingredients and you know what they say about sausages being like the laws of pro-cycling - they are best not seen being made.

It goes without saying Champagne is famous for the grape but viticulture is not the sole agricultural activity in the region. There’s a fair amount of wheat production and many an active combine harvester was seen out in the fields, not as some field art show pony lying idle by the roadside.

The stage was looking just like another day in the office when a large beach umbrella appeared from nowhere and blew across the road. Thankfully the peloton avoided the catastrophe of having a stake through the heart or spokes.

Robbie reminded the folks at home that hazards can pop up when you least expect it and the number one fear? Dogs off leash. I agree and I find when I’m out on a bike it’s the sausage dogs you need to look out for, although I was once rushed at by a duck.

A cyclists worst nightmare.

As the race progressed more beach umbrellas where spotted by the roadside causing a little more wariness in the peloton. What is this? Take your umbrella to a bike race day?

The temperature had reached the low thirties, ice socks where being handed out and the domestiques were kept busy on bidon collection duties. When riders are done with a bidon they toss it to the roadside and are eagerly collected by fans as a memento of the Tour.

Robbie was more direct in his description of souvenir hunters who are, “on to bidons like a seagull on a chip”.

Chapeau to boundary rider Ant McCrossan for his job of work today in bringing us the pre-race interviews with the riders and the odd Directeur Sportif.

Consensus was reached in the couch peloton that the main field art theme is ‘time’ and we’ve seen a number of examples of clocks, a calendar château and even the odd wristwatch. If it gets any hotter at the Tour we’ll soon be seeing a melting Dali clock.

As the peloton made its way to Troyes the countryside got prettier and prettier. Mattie spotted a regional nature park, which would make a nice place for a break.

Out on the road fans used whatever they could to get the best view of their favourite riders. Cherry pickers were just the ticket and they're get bigger every year. There must have been at least a dozen fans way up in the air on a couple of them. How things change, in simpler a times a raised scoop on a tractor would do.

The day’s field art (or should it be field performance?) award went to the man on a bike on a tight rope. No mean feat, there was a bit of wind and he appeared to have no support from harness or cable. The rig looked very professional, so this guy really knew what he was doing.

As the race drew to its conclusion the heroic three man team time trial group was swallowed up by the peloton at 3km to go. Marcel Kittel and his team looked to have left it too late but managed to pick its way up to the front. Mattie's eyes where on elbows and Kittel crossed the line for his second stage win of the Tour.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Stage 5 Vittel / La Planche des Belles Filles - Aru All Smiles

Stage 5 of the Tour kicked off under sunny skies but a cloud of controversy over yesterday’s disqualification of Peter Sagan over that elbow knock to Mark Cavendish. Perhaps for the Manx Missile it was a bit of ‘what goes around, comes around’ with his history of playing rough in the sprint. Many fans and commentators were of the opinion that Sagz should have been disqualified for the stage but not kicked out of the Tour altogether.

The takeaway from all this folks is just don’t play rough in the sprint, someone’s going to catch you one day.

While we’re on the topic of takeaway, Robbie and Mattie were still fielding questions about how riders answer the call of nature. Again, without too much information, they explained what Mattie called a ‘takeaway nature break’, the nature break you take without stopping. I guess that makes sense when you order a coffee to go.

From the start an eight rider breakaway got away including seasoned riders Edvald Boasson Hagen, birthday boy Philippe Gilbert, Thomas De Gendt and ‘French housewives’ favourite’ Thomas Voeckler.

Jan Bakelants was in the breakaway too and much had been made of derogatory comments he made about podium women prior to the Tour. He apologised for the remarks but he won’t be able to play it down for some time yet. Interestingly I seemed to keep hearing Matt and Robbie call him ‘Bugalugs’. I’ll pay that, from now on its Jan Bugalugs.

As the peloton passed through Saint-Loupe-Sur-Semouse, Mattie noted it’s claim to fame was furniture production, hence the town is known as the ‘city of furniture’, not to be confused with ‘cities of road furniture’, which is just about everywhere else in Europe.

Ad watch: by now it’s hard to escape the Skoda ad doing the rounds (it’s a major sponsor of the Tour de France). At first we thought it was clever, playing on the car company’s slogan ‘simply clever’. It features the co-inventor of wifi pondering who was behind inventions and innovations such as the traffic light and who came up with roasting coffee beans. It’s starting to wear thin by now and I have a question - annoying ads on high rotation, who was the inventor?

From what I’ve heard these Skodas are pretty good and maybe it’s time for Robbie to ditch the old Citroen – all Mattie could smell on the long steep drive up to La Planche des Belle Filles was clutch.

Fabio Aru opens up on La Planche des Belles Filles

Troll DJ had been a little quiet, suggesting the Spotify subscription had run out. Once again my request went unanswered, that being anything by Elbow...

At the intermediate sprint Boasson Hagen got the points, which was wonderful.

It wasn’t long before the riders were, according to Mattie, "getting their tickets ready for business class at the pointy end".

Thomas Voeckler grabbed a bidon from the team car to cool off and performed all his checks for take-off;







Philippe Gilbert was enjoying his birthday breakaway and as the group headed uphill ‘blew out the candles and went for the cake’ taking Bugalugs with him.

Inevitably the attacks came and riders where being dropped left right and centre. The Skybots reeled in Bugalugs and Gilbert and with a quick hug their day was done.

At 2.4km to go Fabio Aru launched his attack with Chris Froome, Dan Martin, the twelve year old Romain Bardet and our own Richie Porte hot on his heels.

Aru proved too strong and soloed to his first Tour stage victory. The Sardinian couldn’t contain his huge smile and according to Mattie had his, “mouth wide open like a flip-top head for a toothbrush commercial”.

Geraint Thomas handed over the golden fleece to fellow Skybot Froome and Porte moved up to fifth.

No doubt Froome will be doing everything to stay in yellow all the way to Paris but it’s early days and there are many more battles to come.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Stage 4 Mondorf-les-Bains / Vittel - Vittel not to be for Kittel

Stage 4 and the riders rolled out of Mondorf-les-Bains on the 207km ‘transitional stage’ through the beautiful Lorraine region to the town of Vittel.

We’ve come to know’ transitional stage’ to mean ‘boring AF’with long flat roads and a bunch sprint at the end. But the sun was out and finally started to feel like summer.

Right from the start Wanty-Group Gobert’s Guillaume Van Keirsbulck went out on a solo ‘suicide breakaway’ with the peloton happy to let him go. Robbie and Keeno explained that being a new comer to the tour (Wanty-Group Gobert secured a wild card entry) the Belgian team would have lots of  TV time and free advertising. That’s one explanation, perhaps Van Keirsbulck just wanted to be first to the post-race massage table.

Back in the kitchen Gabs was baking Nancy’s chocolate cake (we must thank Nancy for the recipe). The recipe calls for 125g of butter so I’ve brought back the buerremetric counter to record a total of 935g of butter so far this Tour.

But being the 4th July American cuisine was the order of the day, so out came the burgers and hotdogs which was a blessed relief from the 2 minute noodles of the day before. I was surprised to hear that Matt and Robbie are not fed by Gabs but by caterers of US broadcaster NBC.

And while we’re on the topic of food and drink, Robbie described the ‘Karotewasser’ of the Lorraine region. Apparently this rather strange practice dated back to medieval times where knights errant would dunk the local porous carrots into black tea. Mate, I think someone on Wikipedia or in Russia is having a lend of you Robbie, FAKE NEWS!!!

Speaking of carrots, Robbie waxed lyrical about the ‘crash carrots’ of the now defunct Basque Euskaltel Euskadi team, famous for their bright orange jerseys and habit of spending more time off the bike sprawled across the road than actual racing. Because of this it was safer to have them behind you than in front.

Later in the stage Matt and Robbie revealed which Tour riders they pretended to be when they were children (yes, really). Obviously an Euskaltel Euskadi rider was not one of them.

Sagz be like.

Troll DJ was busting out the tunes and The Smiths 'This Charming Man' was an obvious choice. Sadly, my request for Creedence Clearwater Revival's 'Have You Ever Seen Lorraine?’ went unanswered.

Later Troll DJ was trolled itself by a roadside random dad band belting out The White Stripes ‘Seven Nation Army’. Nice one dads.

There were no new McKeenanisms of note but as nod to the Sherliggetts Matt dropped a 'job of work' describing the massive restoration effort on Toul's Cathedral of Saint-Etienne in the 1980s.

It wouldn't be the Tour without the famous fields of sunflowers and at 89km to we had our first sighting of the tournesol, which happened to be right near a huge solar panel power station. Well I’ll be, a tournesolar power station!

Time seemed to be today’s theme, which appeared to just drag on. There was some impressive clock field art which also featured a tractor, combine harvester and sheep followed up by the vary impressive ‘calendar château’ of Château de Haroué in Nancy with its 365 windows, 52 fireplaces etc. (Robbie challenged the couch peloton to guess how many chimneys).

The riders approached the home of bottled water and Tour sponsor Vittel. I wonder just how much Vittel paid for the naming rights for the town of Vittel?

Van Keirsbulck was inevitably caught by the peloton after his huge solo effort at 16km to go, then it was time for the sprinters to get organised for the charge into Vittel.

Robbie cautioned about the hazards of a narrow departmental roads and potholed arse-fault on the shoulder. He added, "there's a real bottle neck in the centre of Vittel". We saw what you did there Robbie.

A crash within 2km to the finish saw current yellow jersey holder Geraint Thomas hit the deck. Fortunately he was okay, not so for Mark Cavendish who was elbowed into the barrier by Peter Sagan. 

Frenchman Arnaud Demare emerged victorious, Cavendish withdrew with a broken shoulder blade and in a dramatic decision that will divide cycling fans for years to come (on social media anyway), Sagz was kicked out of the Tour.

Whoever said transitional stages were boring?