Quicker than you can say ‘doping scandal’ the 104th edition of the Tour de France rolled off in the German city of Düsseldorf with a 14km individual time trial.
In case you’ve been living under a rock (not looking at social media), Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen are not back for their regular three weeks of giving lessons in history, geology and bird watching. The usual snarky calls of ‘get ‘em off’ were replaced by genuine shock of a large portion of the fair weather riding couch peloton.
I for one am sad too, heck the Ps have given me so much material over the last few years this blog has pretty much written itself. Inevitably the years roll on, we don’t get any younger so it was probably the right time for the duo to take a step back like the late legendary cricket commentator Richie Benaud.
Thankfully we have our own Matt Keenan and Robbie McEwen in the caravan of commentary. ‘Keeno’ has served a long apprenticeship under Phil and Paul. Former Tour sprint ace Robbie McEwen brings his photographic memory of every blade of grass on every course he rode and brand of humour.
Matt and Robbie are the new masters, gone are the Sherliggettisms of old (‘suitcase of courage’, ‘pilot fish’, ‘hammers down’ and ‘job of work’) and in with the McKeenanisms of new (‘cream rising to the top’, ‘the original reality television’ and Robbie’s ‘arsefelt’).
I expect to see some classic McKeenanisms forged during this Tour, especially of the ‘too much information’ variety from McEwen because, “too much information can sometimes be too much information”. Welcome to the Tour Robbie.
Upon hearing of SBS’s decision to relegate the Ps to guest comments duties, Keeno was reported to have felt ‘a bit like I shot Bambi’. SO. IT. WAS. YOU. KEENO????? I thought you were such a nice guy...
But you know what they say in French about plus ça change and all that? One thing of certain is the return of Gabriel Gaté as Tour cook and tour guide to the culinary specialities of the regions.
First stop is Düsseldorf and it wouldn’t be visit to Germany without – you guessed it – the obligatory beer, sausage and potatoes. Gabs went traditional and treated the peloton to schnitzel with mashed potato and red cabbage. Every good mash deserves a good knob of butter and Gabs opens the buerremetric counter account with 60g.
Believe me, you do not want to Google 'sausage fest' at work.
Out on the TT course it had been raining, not ideal for a course with a few pretzel like bends at the Rhine River. I have to say when I visited my sister in law in Düsseldorf twenty years ago that apart from the occasional stabbings and shootings near her apartment, it wasn’t a bad place to visit.
The wet and slippery conditions were a cause of concern with most riders playing it safe. After all, who wants to crash out in the first stage of the Tour? Unfortunately that’s exactly what happened to Moviestar’s wingman to Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde.
He fell and slid across the road and his knee made contact with a metal barrier. It looks to be season over for Valverde and without the ‘Green Bullet’, Quintana’s chance to stand at the top of the Paris podium is starting to look shaky indeed.
No drama for Tour favourite Australia’s own Richie Porte who played it perhaps too safe finishing in 49th place.
‘Panzerwagen’ Tony Martin (the rider, not the comedian) was expected to wipe the soggy floor with his opponents only to finish in fourth place to Skybot Geraint Thomas. It seems the Welshman out-panzerwagened the Panzerwagen.
Then again it’s probably no surprise the G man won under tough conditions considering he almost demolished a power pole with his head a few years ago AND KEPT ON GOING.