Monday, June 17, 2024

Le Tour de France 2013 – Stage 17: Embrun > Chorges, 32km ITT. Froome From Bert

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HomeDiariesLe Tour de France 2013 – Stage 17: Embrun > Chorges, 32km...
Le Tour de France

Chorges…this must be the place; Andrei Greipel’s pedalling back to his hotel, the road’s blocked with cars, buses and civilians. Yes, it’s the finish of the 32 kilometre mountain time trial – trouble is that we want to be at the start and the satnav is routing us through the finish area.

But the cops and race officials are tame and they guide us through to the ‘off course’ route to Embrun – that’s the one the team cars and motorcycle police use to get back to the start in place to place chronos.

The moto gendarmes are amazing, guiding their little convoy of team cars through the traffic at high speed, often one handed as they give bold and unambiguous hand signals to other road users and exuding supreme confidence on a motor bike – very impressive to watch.

But circuit TT’s cause a lot less hassle.

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This chap looks surprised to see Andre Griepel ride past. Photo©Ed Hood

We wanted to follow a rider but not only that; check the hardware a wee bit, snap guys warming up and just get the general TT vibe.

The parcours were certainly not for your single 57 ringed lo pro TT special, not unless you fancied walking the two climbs – both were ‘video nasties,’ steep, hair pinned and with poor surfaces.

The first one climbed straight out of the start house – no flat whatsoever.

Having duly snapped the start area we headed off to join the queue of cars following riders – we’d chosen French Elite Road Champion, Arthur Vichot.

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Arthur Vichot gets the cool jacket on. Photo©Martin Williamson
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It’s very hot as Arthur does his best to prepare for the time trial. Photo©Martin Williamson

The F des J man is cool but we just hope he doesn’t fall into the ‘next French star’ trap; the salary goes up, the car gets faster and so do the girls – and the results never come.

Let’s hope not.

It’s always a thrill to follow a rider in a Grand Tour test – to be honest it doesn’t really matter who you follow, they’re all damned quick and good bike handlers.

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Arthur revs out and has to tuck in on the second descent. We’re approaching 90kph here. Photo©Ed Hood

You only think you can handle a bike until you follow someone like David Millar in a technical time trial – your eyes jar open as you watch him hurtling into tight bends on wet pavements like there’s no tomorrow.

And talking of wet pavements, there was an apocalyptic shower on the second climb of the day – I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed rain like it outside of the Gulf Coast in the USA.

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Arthur rode up the second climb in some of the heaviest rain imaginable. Photo©Ed Hood

But first let’s talk hardware.

Despite the fact that the major manufacturers all have wind tunnel access there are still different approaches.

Take something as basic as front brake placement – Giant goes for the tucked behind the fork crown location but Cervélo stays faithful to the traditional location whilst Canyon go ‘integral,’ a la Trek and Ridley.

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Belkin’s Giants hide the front brake behind the crown. Photo©Ed Hood
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The Euskaltel Orbeas have a neat electronic cable setup. Photo©Ed Hood

On the subject of Canyon, their TT machine is visually the ‘cleanest’ of them all – and whilst I know what looks right isn’t always right when you get it in a wind tunnel, aesthetically it’s a lovely, mean machine.

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Joaquim Rodriguez’s Canyon TT bike has the smartest front end of them all. Photo©Ed Hood
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Rogriguez has a 58t chainring for the super-fast final descent, if he changes bikes. Photo©Ed Hood

But it wasn’t a day for time trial bikes, as we soon discovered as soon as our boy Arthur left the start house.

It’s always organised chaos at the start, but somehow you end up where you’re meant to be, the countdown starts and you’re away.

It was a great course to see and exciting to follow Vichot, but from a pictures point of view, it wasn’t the best, the climb was narrow plus there were two team cars behind him who really weren’t interested in us getting views of their rider.

Its best with one team car and a ViP car or commissaire, you can usually gesture to them that you want to come up and take pics – and most of the time they’ll play ball.

But not today – so apologies if we’re not as close as we might have been.

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Arthur started the TT fairly steadily, but by halfway up the first climb was ripping into it. Photo©Ed Hood

I think that whilst following a rider is good to write about it can’t be the whole story – 15 pics of a riders bum get a tad tedious.

The rain on the second climb really was mad – like a monsoon, bouncing off the tar with the wipers barely able to cope.

We were thinking that the descent to the finish would be lethal, but the rain stopped and the tar dried in about the same time it takes me to write about it.

The final descent to the finish was fast, with a capital ‘F’ – Vichot went down like a bat out of hell, revving out a few times and having to tuck low.

It’s hard not be impressed with the pros’ skill and sheer gallusness – Vichot was riding at 80/85 kph for a good part of the descent.

AG2R’s Jean-Christophe Peraud crashed on this part of the course – which is horrible to think about because it was just so damn fast.

It must have hurt – and of course, he’s out of the race, a shame because he was best Frenchman and inside the top ten.

A huge blow to one of the lower budget teams like AG2R – luckily, the insurance company recently extended their sponsorship.

He’s an unspectacular rider, as an ex-mountain biker, he’s solid, strong in the tests and hard to drop in the mountains – we hope his recovery goes well.

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Arthur hops onto the turbo as soon as he’s back at the team camper, and is immediately interviewed by French TV. Photo©Martin Williamson

After we’d seen Monsieur Vichot to the line we headed back along the off course route to the point where it ‘kissed’ the parcours.

We parked up and a short walk had us at the point where the riders dropped off the first climb to immediately start the second – with no flat whatsoever between.

We caught all of the top ten – including poor Peraud who we didn’t realise at that time was heading for disaster.

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Poor Jean-Christophe Peraud was riding with a broken collarbone sustained whilst reccy’ing the TT course earlier in the day. It must have compromised his ability to handle very technical and super-fast descents, leading to a second crash which put him out the race. Photo©Martin Williamson

They all looked fast, focussed but the watch doesn’t care about how cool you look.

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Bert attacks the second climb on a road bike with TT bars and a disc. Photo©Martin Williamson

Contador was fastest from Froome and Kreuziger; both of the Saxo riders were giving it 100% and looked the business.

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Roman Kreuziger. Photo©Martin Williamson
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Michal Kwiatkowski. Photo©Martin Williamson

Froome looked composed and would steal back the missing seconds on that mega descent we mentioned where he changed to his time trial bike to shave those aero seconds.

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Apparently Sky have practiced changing bikes, and reckon they lose only 15 seconds. Photo©Martin Williamson
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Chris Froome rode to another superb stage victory. Photo©Martin Williamson

It was ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’ for Mollema though, dropping two minutes to pretty much end his podium dreams.

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Bauke Mollema. Photo©Martin Williamson

Rodriguez rode a brilliant second half – 27 seconds down on Contador where he passed us, that was back to just one click of the second hand at the finish.