Monday, February 26, 2024

Le Tour de France 2012 – Stage 16: Pau – Bagnères-de-Luchon, 197 km.


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As a colleague from another life used to say; ‘you should never drink on an empty head.’ A sentiment I can endorse as we sit in our hotel in Vielha, Spain. Having left Pau, there were no digs to be had in France near the stage finish at Bagnères-de-Luchon – the Tour is a black hole which sucks up every hotel room within an hour’s drive and we had to cross the border to get to our digs.

QuickStep, Saxo, Movistar and Euskaltel all did the same thing and are here in Vielha, too.

It took a bit of a struggle to find the digs, tucked up a back alley, but they’re sound – no wi-fi in the room but it’s good enough in the bar where we had a cerveza or two as we edited the pics, wrote the words and got our article organised.

It was nice and quiet until some English and Aussie Tour fans arrived – not that I have a problem with either nationality, but jings, they were loud.

The mountain air, San Miguel and excitement of watching le Tour roadside create a heady mix.  And perhaps they should remember that France is France – not Rochdale and gendarmes aren’t ‘friendly bobbies.’

You don’t get views like this from the Press Room – glorious. Photo©Martin Williamson

We had our usual good day, driving the parcours; and all of France is happy with Tommy.

Tommy Voekler heads for a great stage win and the polka dots. Photo©Martin Williamson

But it’s apparent that Nibali has settled for third; the attacks today were mere show-boating.

He’s distanced Evans enough not to worry in the time trial and it would be folly to risk that in ‘death or glory’ attacks.

It’s been apparent from the first hill top finish that Evans doesn’t have the form he did, last year.

Ivan Basso keeps the speed high for Nibali, to distance Evans even more. Photo©Martin Williamson

Meanwhile, Wiggins and the Sky ‘clockwork soldiers’ tick ever onwards.

Wiggins has things under control it appears. Photo©Martin Williamson

We were going to drive the full stage, tomorrow but have decided to change our plans; we’ll be hugely surprised if there are any ‘exploits’ and we received another one of those emails from ASO explaining complicated shenanigans for evacuating the mountain top finish.

Given that the ‘default setting’ for Tour traffic is chaos and ‘bouchons’ – a new French word we picked up, meaning ‘traffic jams’ – if the organisation warns you about how bad it’s going to be, then you best listen.

We’ve now decided on a mission for the start area; but we’ll find a bar and watch the finale.

Hundreds of thousands of people can’t be wrong. Photo©Martin Williamson

The crowds today were maybe a wee bit less than one might expect in the Pyrenees but there are a number of factors in play – there were four major climbs to choose from, there are no Spanish riders in the race doing anything other than clinging on and the French fans, whilst happy to amble to road end or village square think twice about driving deep into the mountains and the subsequent nightmare to get home.

That will change perhaps, when and if Thibout Pinot, or one of the new generation French riders – maybe Demare, can challenge for the GC?

Fabrice Jeandesboz concentrates on getting to the top of the Peyrousourde. Photo©Martin Williamson

There are a lot more Aussies on the race these last few years – not just for Cadel, but for GreenEDGE, too.

Daft Aussie fans – we had to tell them to ‘put more life into it!’ for the photo! Photo©Martin Williamson

But many less Americans – that one’s not hard to figure out.

It goes without saying that there are many more English fans, roadside.

Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa gets up the Peyrousourde as best he can. Photo©Martin Williamson

There’s little doubt that Wiggins will win, and that’s what counts, but it’s in the manner of Anquetil, Indurain and Armstrong.

Have a strong team, dominate the first time trial then close the race down.

The addition of a second long time trial to the race makes it even more ‘Brad friendly’ – it’s unlikely it will be the same format next year if ASO want their race to become a great competition again.

Mark Cavendish was in the last group on the road. Photo©Martin Williamson

If it wasn’t for Sagan and the ‘exploits’ of the French riders, this would be one very lame Tour indeed.

As I’ve already said, we get the best of it, driving around the parcours and then watching a hi-ite in the finale, live – but if you’re watching on TV it’s been hard work.

On the subject of the parcours, it was glorious today – the Pyrenees are magical, the ranges stretch off forever into the heat haze.

From the top of the Aspin. Photo©Martin Williamson

It’s a place where you can see that the earth has been stretched and splintered, with huge shards of rock pointing skywards.

One of these years, it would be nice to come and see these wonders without deadlines and traffic chaos.

Michael Morkov was in the first big group today – great stuff! Photo©Martin Williamson
Fredrik Kessiakoff lost his KOM lead today to Tommy Voekler. Photo©Martin Williamson
Albasini feels Martin is standing too far out in the road. Photo©Martin Williamson

We’ve been listening to ‘podcasts’ during this Tour – my introduction to this new form of communications.

The interviews on the ITV 4 podcast with Chris Boardman and Ned Boulting are good – they spoke to Brajkovic today and it was good to hear a man just speak honestly about his race and his prospects with no spin.

Janez Brajkovic is in 8th place, and realistic about this being his level. Photo©Martin Williamson

Seventh or eighth is my place and I’m happy with it,’ similarly, Evans was honest about the fact that his Tour is over.

Bradley explained that another day had been ‘ticked off’ but thankfully didn’t mention ‘boxes.’

But as Dave said of Tommy Voeckler, ‘Man of the Day’ – it’s very hard just to get in a break in a race like the Tour.

And to consistently get in the right one is something that only the smartest of riders can achieve.

For all of his tongue exposing, jersey flapping, rocking and rolling, Voeckler is a quality rider and the Tour would much the poorer without him.

VeloVeritas would like to say; ‘Chapeau, Monsieur Voeckler!’

The QuickStep mechanics were amusing themselves by squirting water at the lasses. This guy got them back. Photo©Ed Hood

Result - Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 16, Pau - Bagnères-de-Luchon

Stage Result

1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 5:35:02
2 Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank 0:01:40
3 Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi 0:03:22
4 Alexandr Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
5 Brice Feillu (Fra) Saur – Sojasun 0:03:58
6 Jens Voigt (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan 0:04:18
7 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin – Sharp 0:06:08
8 Simone Stortoni (Ita) Lampre – ISD
9 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha Team
10 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:06:11
11 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:07:09
12 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling
13 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling
14 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:08:07
15 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
16 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
17 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan
18 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team
19 Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Movistar Team
20 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan
21 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team 0:08:48
22 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar
23 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:10:01
24 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi 0:10:46
25 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
26 Christophe Kern (Fra) Team Europcar
27 Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan 0:10:54
28 Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team
29 Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha Team
30 Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team
31 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling
32 Marco Marzano (Ita) Lampre – ISD
33 Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan
34 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
35 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0: