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