Monday, May 20, 2024

Le Tour de France 2012 – Stage 18: Blagnac – Brive-la-Gaillarde, 215 km.

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HomeDiariesLe Tour de France 2012 - Stage 18: Blagnac - Brive-la-Gaillarde, 215...

It’s a new hotel chain today on the Le Tour de France 2012 – Stage 18; Premiere Classe – we had a bit of a battle to get in.

To keep the costs down, they only man these places in the morning and early evening – during the day you have to punch codes in to gain access.

We started with credit card information, then the reservation number – no dice. Eventually we stuck Martin’s name in – et voila!

The room is of usual prison cell proportions but there’s a shower pod in the corner and it’s clean.

The wi-fi is ok but not powerful enough to stream music consistently – you can’t have it all.

Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 18
Sky rock up to the ‘Parking Equipes’.

We worked the start this morning, on a tight agenda – it has to be that way, sometimes.

The agenda was the bikes of Bradley Wiggins and Tommy Voeckler.

Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 18
Like almost every other rider on the race, Brad runs an SRM on his rig. But he’s got a yellow one now.
Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 18
The ovalised rings on Bradley’s Dogma. He wouldn’t have them on if they didn’t make a difference.
Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 18
Tommy’s bike has gone all spotty. Understandable as we’re now taking pictures of it, but classy?

We were in the bus park early and met our amigo Jean-Michel Monin; he’s a key man, the one who dishes out ‘le stickers’ for journos to follow riders in the time trial.

He’s a full time employee of ASO and helps plan the Tour route when he’s not organising where the buses should park; ‘chaos if I’m not here!’ or marshalling the shoals of motorbikes amongst the riders out on the road.

What we didn’t realise until today, is that Jean-Michel was a member of the winning French team pursuit squad at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics; along with Christophe Capelle, Philippe Ermenault and Francis Moureau.

Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 18
Jean-Michel is second right, with Christophe Capelle, Philippe Ermenault and Francis Moreau. Photo©Vandystadt.

He’s a ‘Weegens fan’ because he knows how hard it is to go from the track to the road – he rode pro for Aubervillies 93 and Big Mat-Auber, but was ‘just a little rider.’

He’s a cool guy, tall, powerfully built, tanned and full of good chat – he scores a 10/10 on the VV ratings.

Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 18
These TV guys setup for a piece to camera through the spinning wheels.

Snapping Brad’s bike wasn’t too much of a grief-fest, we know the Sky media guy, Dario Cioni from his days as a rider with Liquigas, Lotto and Sky.

We’d been pestering him at Luchon to get pics of Brad’s bike – but the crowd was pretty much out of control in the start straight where the busses lined up.

When he saw us today, we could see him thinking; ‘oh no! not this pair, again!

We were ushered inside the force field to snap away as Dario hovered, conscious that Mr. Brailsford may appear at any moment and enquire; ‘who the hell are they?

There was a look of genuine relief on Dario’s face as we shook hands and bid him ‘au revoir.’

Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 18
Brad’s bike is of the time, a tool, rather than a thing of beauty.

Stephen Roche said that bicycles ceased to be things of beauty with the advent of low profile bikes – ‘le velo plongeant’ as the French named the high at the back, low at the front look pioneered by the East Germans and latched on to by Hinault and his Renault Gitane squad in pursuit of an advantage in ‘les chronos.’

I know what he means, but times move on and steel bikes now look strange with their skinny tubes and expander bolt extensions.

Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 18
We’re chuffed that Dave has had a successful Tour, with a great Stage win.

But some bikes are still bonnie, the Liquigas Cannondales look great to my eye and I also like the Ag2R Kuotas – no-nonsense pro bikes.

Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 18
Martin gets to play with Peter’s bike a little.

On the subject of the Liquigas Cannondales, Sagan’s ‘Tourminator’ paint job is cool – but only if your name is Peter Sagan.

Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 18
Sagan’s block, one for the high mountains.

The bike hunting was in aid of a ‘bikes of the jerseys’ feature and as well as Bradley and Peter’s bikes we snapped Tejay’s BMC and Tommy’s Colnago – the latter in those hackneyed red spots.

It’s been done, so many times – it needs someone to come up with something fresh for next year.

Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 18
Tejay is a big lad, but unusual to see an unbranded item on a bike at this race.

Tejay’s BMC is another bike which is a ‘tool’ rather than an ‘objet d’art’ to my eye but it’s – light, strong and stiff and has a Tour win to its credit.

They’re a popular bike on the Sportif scene – which is huge on the continent; and growing all the time in the UK.

Probably the most ‘avant garde’ bikes here are the Radio Shack Treks – they’ve dispensed with the rear brake bridge – which Trek claim increases comfort by dialling flex in and dropped the rear brake under the bottom bracket.

Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 18
The Trek has the caliper slung low. Looks neat, bet the mechanics hate it.

It’s kinda crowded under there, with the Di2 battery box being very close to the brake – but Trek bikes haven’t won all those Grand Tours because they don’t know what they’re about.

I’m not sure about the ‘square’ carbon stems on the Cofidis Looks, and whilst I like David Millar’s Saltires on the bike, those Rotor rings just aren’t the bonniest to my eye.

Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 18
The beefy Look stem, quite nice close up actually.

But they have their devotees; and riders who I’ve interviewed who ride them say that they make a big difference, smoothing the pedal stroke and making the hills easier to ride.

Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 18
Andre’s calves are a sight to behold.

And in closing, we have to mention Cav – and Christopher.

Cav was stunning – at a different level from the rest, there’s little else to say.

Time trial tomorrow, Wiggins from Froome; or will the fair haired, soft spoken man from Africa surprise us all, again?

And as Tim Harris said to us, today; ‘if Froome hadn’t lost time with that puncture, tomorrow would be a cliff hanger.

A demain.

Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 18
Tim gave us a shout this morning, but alas, no offers of a VIP helicopter ride.

 

Result - Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 18

Stage Result

1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky Procycling 4:54:12
2 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica GreenEd