When we spoke to Cav’s personal soigneur, Aldis half way through the stage we knew it wasn’t to be; ‘And Mark, today on the Champs-Élysées?’
Aldis screwed up his face; ‘he’s a little sick…‘
So 4:1 to Greipel – and the rumours about Cav having to learn to understand Brian Smith’s accent at MTN get ever stronger.
We changed our system and didn’t drive race route for the last stage; instead we drove straight to the digs, got organised, had a shower and headed off across a wet Paris to the finish circuit.
The first two cops we negotiated with were fine, the third one was a jobs worth and the was NO ! way were getting on that circuit.
We drove a kilometre back up the road and the young cop waved us through with a nod.
We crouched down in the wee Nissan as we zoomed past Robocop and checked the mirrors for a kilometre or two.
The route took us through the Louvre and along the Rue De Rivoli; the crowd was like the weather – grey.
But Joan was as gold as ever.
There were zero PDAFF (public displays of affection for Froomey) that we could see.
The atmosphere was flat with a capital ‘F’ – it was damp, which didn’t help, making the cobbles slick but instead of Sky roaring into Town with Froome in their wake, they ambled in.
It added to the air of anti-climax which hung over the whole affair.
The racing was predictable with a break of three going away until the mighty Lotto Red Guard turned on the watts and the gap vanished like ‘snaw aff a dike.’
And ‘The Bigs’ just wanting it over and done with.
Greipel it was – for his 10th Tour stage – but young Coquard was right there; Cav was too far back across the Place de la Concorde and didn’t have his usual winning face on.
Not a bad old Tour for QuickStep though with stages to Martin, Stybar and Cav and Martin’s truncated spell in yellow.
And we got the low down on why Mark Renshaw quit, from Aldis – on the really hot stages, the soigneurs pass up ice socks to the riders to put onto the back of their necks.
The deal is that the rider is supposed to move the sock around so it’s not on the one spot all the time – but the day’s racing was so fast that Renshaw couldn’t take his hands off the bars and the concentrated cold on the one spot on his neck was what sparked the crippling migraine which forced him out.
On the subject of riders who were forced out, we met Brian Smith – and his wee boy, Joseph – on the Champs with a slight looking chap in a rain cape – Louis Meintjes.
His stomach problems hadn’t full cleared – despite two over night stays in hospital.
His next race will probably be the Arctic Tour in Norway – a wee bit of a change from the baking heat of Southern France in July.
There was the usual ‘end of term’ vibe around the buses – Saxo had the pizzas in; MTN had the barbie fired up and Lotto had the cheese and wine on the go but at some of the buses it was obvious that they just wanted to clear the decks, ‘soon as.’
I stalked the Sky bus at the end; if you’re Scottish – or worse still, a Fifer – the aura is very much, ‘Rapha/Sportiv/Vroomey/I’m a Daily Mail man, myself,’ at it’s worst.
False bonhomie, back slapping, belly laughs, ‘in’-jokes and an air of elitism.
The team has won the Tour three times in four years; a magnificent achievement which is largely down to the vision of Sir David Brailsford and has to be praised.
But as far as endearing themselves to the continental public, they’re non-starters.
Sure, it’s about winning but they seem oblivious to the fact that it’s the ‘people’s sport’ – you can hang over the fence at a French criterium or a Flemish kermis and all it will cost you is a Euro or two for a beer.
You don’t need a £200 Rapha man bag or a ten grand Pinarello.
But listen to me – I sound like our guru Viktor on a bad day.
Fact is, they won the race and it’s not Froome’s fault that Contador and Nibali just were not on their game.
L’Équipe was still, ‘having a pop’ at Froome on Monday telling us – on the front page – that he’s had to defend himself even from the podium over ‘suspicions and criticisms.’
Let’s change the subject and return to safer ground …
Froome’s win in the GP Montagne – he wouldn’t have pursued that, it comes as a consequence of his being at the head of affairs most of the time over the high cols.
But he’ll not be disappointed with the contribution it makes to the team’s Euro tally for the Tour.
Sagan; his fourth green jersey in four years with 42 top ten finishes in Le Tour since 2012 – four wins, 16 second spots, six thirds, seven fourths, three fifths, two sixths, a seventh and three ninths.
Remarkable – with his 432 points tally up from 431 in 2014.
Best young rider, Quintana; nothing is cast in stone as far as the future goes in cycling but if he keeps on the same trajectory, he’ll win the Tour, for sure.
But ‘IF’ is a big word in bike racing.
Movistar is the team for him – no question, bringing him along just right.
No stage wins for the ‘Telephone Team’ but second and third on GC; the white jersey and the team – not a bad haul.
Third-placed Valverde tops the latest UCI rankings, Movistar are second team to Sky and Spain top the nation ratings.
The team with most distance off the front – but no stage wins – at 1,977 K was Europcar with Lotto’s Thomas De Gendt ‘le Baroudeur du Tour‘ with 679 K, ‘up the road.’
Lanterne rouge was Sebastien Chavanel @ 4:56:59.
And to close, Sky – who else ?
Froome’s ‘mechanical’ on the circuit ?
A Big Mac bag; a sign of our disposable culture, some might say – will they speak of Froome’s wins in the same tones as they still do of a young Merckx, Ocana, Thevenet or Hinault ?
I think not.
But VeloVeritas certainly doesn’t grudge Wout Poels that beer!