First we had Siberian snow at the Giro – and now, Rangoon rain at Le Tour. It’s never boring with VeloVeritas on the Grand Tours, and we saw Rui Costa take the win today.
But first – a rant!
Sodden, tired and in need of victuals the VeloVeritas crew inched down through the traffic jams off the Col de la Croix Fry towards our inn for the night.
Smiling, we present ourselves to our hostess;
‘Twin room?’ – ‘non! double!’
‘OK, but we can eat here?’ – ‘non!’
‘Oh well! wi-fi?’ – ‘non!’
And that’s how we first came to be in here McDonald’s ‘til chucking-out time, last night.
In fairness to Madame Non she did give us our breakfasts for free and last night we did enjoy our Maxi Cheese Royals – and McFlurrys, of course.
We drove the course, yesterday, our brief isn’t just to talk about the race, it’s as much to give the folks in Hackensack, New Jersey a flavour of the race and La Belle France.
We spent the night in Grenoble – it’s a nice city, clean and bright with wide boulevards and lots of trees.
Just a pity there was no time to visit my favourite bar, Le Clemenceau which is just two minutes from Les Stade Des Alpes where the winter track is.
We picked up the beautiful parcours at Bourg d’Oisans – spikey peaks; soft, green valleys; lovely timber architecture; ice arches; huge scree landslips and lots of nice folks roadside.
And it’s not until you drive a real giant mountain stage like this that you remember just how seriously savage the Cols are – five of them one after another.
All the Cols have their own stats – length, altitude average grade and grade by the kilometre, number of times crossed, the names of the riders who breasted them first each year – the scope for statistical sadness on Le Tour is endless.
And on the subject of riders who breasted big climbs in pole position; Tricky Dicky Virenque and The Floydster Landis both cropped up yesterday – oops!
Of course, with us being hardcore, it’s the racing bit we enjoy most.
We parked up high on the last hill – the Col de la Fry in sunshine with Pierre Rolland making a desperate bid for mountains points, failing in his quest to wrest the polka dot jersey from Froome by one point.
I’m not a huge Pierre fan but you can’t help but feel sorry for the man.
After his exertions of yesterday he has two chances of gaining enough points – bearing in mind that it’s almost inevitable that Frome will score points on the big HC at the end – as Don King used to say; ‘no chance and Slim chance, but Slim just left town !’
But this Tour being as it is and full of surprises, Costa was the man who passed us first, with the rain stotting six inches up off the tar.
A big break had formed and reformed during the stage then exploded on the Croix Fry with the proverbial ‘men all over the hill’ scenario never more appropriate.
The ‘Heads’ were all tightly packed with Kreuziger and Porte continuing their roles as the loyalist of loyal lieutenants – Alberto and Christopher should be giving those boys a bonus at the end of this Tour.
The way the stage panned out was inevitable with a group of ‘safe’ riders going up the road to contest the stage.
The GC guys were all wasted from l’Alpe the day before but trying to persuade each other and themselves that they weren’t.
When I look back a decade to those relentless mountain battles, day after day, I think; ‘how the Hell could we have believed that was possible?’
Even the guys in the autobuses didn’t look too stressed with Greipel climbing ahead of the final CavBus.
Having said that, the Sky guys all look wasted – even Froome, with Porte looking freshest of the lot.
It’s a test of wills now, until the end – Froome is as wasted as any of them but has a five minute buffer.
It’s actually good to see Froome and Contador fraying a wee bit around the edges – it makes them more human and out of the realms of ‘extra terrestrial.’
Whilst Riblon and Costa are both worthy and believable stage winners, keeping their powder dry for the stages which suited them.
Today, the hype may be that Quintana will go after Contador – but the reality is that Movistar management will be much more concerned about Rodriguez snaffling the Colombian’s third spot on the podium.
I must confess that I didn’t see Rodriguez as a podium challenger but he’s obviously riding into top form and could very well grab second – he’s 47 seconds behind Contador and just 26 behind Quintana.
Earlier I was expressing sympathy for Rolland – another man who you have to think would have been right there, had it not been for an untimely wheel change is Rodriguez compatriot, Alejandro Valverde.
He’s looking good at this phase of the race and would have been challenging for the podium today, I’m sure
And sad to see Cadel Evans and Ryder Hesjedal languishing way down the classement – but that’s the Tour for you.
Merciless; with some elements of the Media even telling us that Contador is ‘all washed up’ – and there was me thinking he was still on the podium.
Almost time to desert our friendly McMedia Centre and head off to the supermarche to buy a disposable Barbie, a haff pund o’ bacon, kebabs, rolls, coleslaw and Stellas.
Sometimes it’s tough on Le Tour – but most of the time it’s just braw.
Results - Le Tour de France 2013 – Stage 19: Bourg-d’Oisans > Le Grand-Bornand,
2 Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:48
3 Jan Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack Leopard 0:01:44
4 Alexandre Geniez (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:01:52
5 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:01:55
6 Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Belisol 0:01:58
7 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:02:03
8 Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:02:05
9 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0: