Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Le Tour de France 2012 – Stage 13: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux – Le Cap d’Agde, 215 km.


HomeDiariesLe Tour de France 2012 - Stage 13: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux - Le Cap...

We’re in Le Cap d’Agde and we’re puzzled.

We’ve steadfastly avoided getting involved in speculation over the ‘d-word’ – if you regard yourself as a serious journo, you have to be able to distinguish between factual information from a good source and wild speculation on Twitter from individuals who may well have never even seen the race, let alone spoken to anyone on it. Maybe it’s because we’ve been here on le Tour during the Ulrich, Basso, Mancebo, Bottero, Landis, Morreni, Rasmussen, Contador – and if we forgotten any, sorry – ‘affairs.’

If you love the sport and you’re part of the race during these debacles it is grimly depressing.

When Rasmussen was sent home, we considered doing the same thing – going home that is, not kidding on we were in Mexico – the disappointment and disillusionment was palpable.

But what strikes us is that there’s a whole section of cycling ‘fans’ out there who seem to be interested solely in discussing ‘dopage’ rather than bike racing.

Only the most dyed-in-the-wool conspiracy theorists would say that there’s still a culture of organised, systematic doping within teams.

So what’s puzzling us is why people are surprised that Friday (when David Millar won) was ‘piano.’

Le Cap d’Agde
Voekler and Kiryienka don’t look like it’s just been ‘a ride down to the shops’. Photo©Martin Williamson

Surely it’s logical that if you have a ‘death race’ – as there was to La Toussuire on Thursday – the stage the next day was going to be easy?

If we go back to an era which we don’t need to name, the same team would ride on the front at a killing tempo day after day.

We’re not alluding to Sky’s tempo riding, as Marc Sergeant says; ‘that’s not so hard’ – we’re talking about hard riding, uphill and down dale, day after day.

When we look back, it just wasn’t credible; we should be happy to see Dave Millar and Co. go clear by ten minutes whilst Sky tap along behind and everyone is happy to sit on.

If you want death racing every day then it’ll be back to the days of riders main concern in the hotels after the stage not being massage, food and sleep – rather that there was a good supply of ice.

Rant over.

* * *

David Millar dominates the front page of L’Équipe and beautiful it is to behold.

Le Cap d’Agde
Today’s l’Equipe shows Dave’s air punch – just great. Photo©Ed Hood
Le Cap d’Agde
We grab a word with Dave in between interviews. Naturally, he’s much in demand this morning. Photo©Martin Williamson

We decided today that weren’t going to drive the parcours, it would have been nice to see the Mediterranean and that spectacular finale.

But there’s one road in and one road out of Le Cap D’Agde – we received an email from ASO the other day telling us to avoid the finish because the ‘traffic congestion’ would be bad.

Given that post-stage chaos is the norm, if ASO say it’s going to be ‘bad’ that was enough for us.

The angle for the day was ‘sprinter’s and their bikes’ – it sounds simple, but to do it properly you have to make sure that you have varied pictures of all of the riders you pick, not just the same ‘hero pics.’

Le Cap d’Agde
Chatting to the riders means you spot things you might otherwise miss. Photo©Martin Williamson

You also have to get pics of the bikes, again, not all the same side-on shots.

It was fun though.

Le Cap d’Agde
Thibaut Pinot is making a name for himself here. Photo©Martin Williamson

Matt Goss was being quizzed by radio journos about how he felt about being docked 30 points – I’d say we could guess the answer to that one.

Le Cap d’Agde
Matt seems reconciled to the penalty, as he says; ‘there’s nothing to be done to change it.’ Photo©Martin Williamson

His Scott Foil is a nice machine – especially with the Di 2 battery tucked away inside the down tube.

It’s a custom under-size job which they slide up through the bottom bracket, with charging being carried out through the rear derailleur command cable – clever stuff.

Some of the bikes were ‘stock’ and could be bought over the counter in the UK, but Greipel’s Ridley is a real tool – those neat concealed brakes could well find their way into the mainstream.

Le Cap d’Agde
Andre’s Ridley Noah look pretty bling, might not be to everyone’s taste. Photo©Martin Williamson

They are neat and given that they appear to work on V-brake principles, they should be very effective.

But we’d like to talk to the mechanics at Lotto about how much more awkward they are to work on than standard or dual pivot side pulls.

We first saw them on Bjorn Leukemans Ridley – they were the team bikes at Vacansoleil last year; but this year the Dutchmen ride Bianchi’s.

We had a good look at Kenny Van Hummel’s Super Leggera – a nice machine.

Le Cap d’Agde
Kenny’s wee Bianchi is very nice indeed. Photo©Martin Williamson

But we’re a bit puzzled by Kenny’s saddle angle, in common with how a lot of Continental riders used to angle their seats, the nose is downward pointing – we believe UCI rules are that when a spirit level is placed across a saddle it should be level?

And going back to brakes for a moment, we’re not knocked out by the lines of the new Shack Treks which have no rear brake bridge and the brake under the bracket – TT style.

Le Cap d’Agde
Might be a great idea, but to us it looks a bit naff. Photo©Martin Williamson

Trek say that it gives a more comfortable ride and we can’t argue with them – never having ridden one and being well aware that Trek is at the forefront of bicycle design.

But it’s just not easy on the eye – and we can’t imagine the mechanics being chuffed about the amount of muck the back brake will catch, and it has to be much more difficult to access?

It was nice to catch up with Charly Wegelius over at Garmin, where he’s on a 100 day contract to do big races; ‘getting out the bike much since you retired, Charly?’ says us.

Le Cap d’Agde
Charly shows us Tyler’s bike. Photo©Martin Williamson

I’ve done 18 kilometres since I retired!’ he beamed – he’s looking well on it and is the most relaxed we’ve ever seen him.

On our meanderings we caught up with Michael Mørkøv, he was quiet and steely – we knew he was going up the road; and so it proved.

The Tour can make a rider – this one has certainly done Michael no harm.

Le Cap d’Agde
Five years after his dad passed away, Michael wanted to get on the podium for him. He did – well done sir. Photo©Martin Williamson

And it was Martin’s birthday last night, we had visions of a wee square in Carcasonne, sitting outside with a glass of red, watching the world go by.

But the motto on le Tour is to ‘expect the unexpected’ – Carcasonne was on lock-down for Bastille Day celebrations, no cars in or out.

We found a wee ‘kid-on Spanish’ restaurant next to an industrial estate – the steak wasn’t bad at all and neither was the peche kir, Pelforth blonde and Armagnac – happy birthday, Martin.

Pyrenees today, the sun is already high in the sky, we slept well and there’s gas in the car – not much more a man can ask for.

A demain.

Le Cap d’Agde
We passed Phil Anderson driving a minibus – he has his own Tour company these days. Photo©Ed Hood

Result - Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 13, Le Cap d’Agde