Thursday, June 20, 2024

Le Tour de France 2013 – Stage 19: Bourg-d’Oisans > Le Grand-Bornand, 204km. Rui Costa in the Monsoon


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Le Tour de France

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.

Rui Costa
The scenery is amazing in this part of the world. Photo©Martin Williamson

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.

Rui Costa
It’s a certainty that we’ll bump into Didi when we drive the stage. Here, Martin has a shot of the trident! Photo©Ed Hood

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.

Rui Costa
We stopped driving the parcours on the last climb and it was beautiful, then thunder and lightening and within minutes we were totally drenched. Photo©Ed Hood

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 !

Rui Costa
Rui Costa heads towards us out the gloom. Photo©Martin Williamson
Rui Costa
Rui Costa heads for his second stage win in the downpour. Photo©Martin Williamson

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.

Rui Costa
Kloden and De Clerq follow next. Photo©Martin Williamson
Rui Costa
Tom Dumoulin looks weary. Photo©Martin Williamson
Rui Costa
Simon Geschke. Photo©Martin Williamson
Rui Costa
Ruben Plaza will finish tenth on the day. Photo©Martin Williamson
Rui Costa
Romain Bardet. Photo©Martin Williamson
Rui Costa
Jens Voigt was part of the break that fell apart on the final climb. Photo©Martin Williamson

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.

Rui Costa
The Bigs stick together. Photo©Martin Williamson
Rui Costa
Chris Froome concentrates on Bert Contador’s rear wheel. Photo©Ed Hood

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?

Rui Costa
We’ve seen poor David Garcia at the tail on the mountains, his work is in the first part of the stage, and his mission only to make the time cut after that. Photo©Ed Hood

Even the guys in the autobuses didn’t look too stressed with Greipel climbing ahead of the final CavBus.

Rui Costa
Peter Sagan adopts the “must get this over with, then I’ll do a wheelie” face. Photo©Ed Hood
Rui Costa
Andre Griepel climbs pretty well for a huge man-mountain. Photo©Martin Williamson
Rui Costa
The CavBus climbs with enough effort simply to get inside the time cut. Photo©Martin Williamson

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.

Rui Costa
Valverde could well have something left for tomorrow, and is in an ideal position to have a go. Photo©Martin Williamson

He’s looking good at this phase of the race and would have been challenging for the podium