I am taking the rest day as the opportunity to write up my take on Stage 15. Looking forward to racing kicking off again, but now suffering heavily from Tour induced Southern Hemisphere insomnia.

The Death Star (Sky Team bus) must have entered into orbit over Mont Ventoux and switched on its tractor beam for the Froome-dog. I fear that this may have been the nail in the coffin for the rest of the riders in the chase for the Maillot Jeune. The Froome-dog had his stormtroopers ready to lead out in front, with his chief lieutenant Richie Porte primed to do his duty. To top that all off, the race organisers ASO decided it would be a good idea to make this stage the longest of this year’s Tour at over 240km through the beautiful Provence. Provence is beautiful and I want to go, but Ventoux is not. In fact Ventoux, as the French say, looks like a bald man with its lunar landscape and complete lack of trees. The tower at the top only reinforces the possibility that when no-one is looking this is a station for extra-terrestrial communication.

Mont_Ventoux

How the Race Unfolded

Of course there was going to be a breakaway. But of all the Tour’s breakaways, this one would have to be the most futile of all. Still, there was some meaning to the break because within this group was The Tourminator – Peter Sagan and he was chasing the intermediate points win to all but seal off the competition for the Maillot Vert. The Gorilla (Greipel) and the Manx Missile (Cavendish) were left to worry about the ascent of the looming giant that is Mont Ventoux. Sagan celebrated his points win in the best possible way, he popped a wheelie on his bike and rode it one handed while he waved to the crowd! Tourminator, you’re awesome.

Pierre Rolland (of fashion faux-pas polka dot fame) was not in this breakaway group but tried to catch up. He failed, and would later blow up on the climb up Ventoux. This would mean a loss of the spotty dots off his back (thank God, he can go back to wearing black lycra shorts – Pierre you should read Rule #14, and when you are finished reading it read again).

The group of 10 breakaway riders also included one of the strongest riders this year, Frenchman Sylvain Chava(nel). Chava has been p!ssed at not being able to win a stage on his birthday (stage 2) so he has been riding like a storm ever since. He eventually broke away solo from this breakaway group and gave the French public someone to cheer for on their National Holiday – Bastille Day. In true Chava fashion he hammered with much cement in his bidons and buried himself. It was awesome to watch, and in the twilight of his career he needs to get some of that stuff into other French riders.

The Ascent of the Giant

But for Chava it was not to be. The Empire (Sky), along with Movistar and Euskatel-Euskadi set chase to begin the real game. First it was the turn of some riders trying to break and light up the stage. Rui Costa (Movistar) and Jan Bakelants (Radioshack Leopard-Tank – and TdF2013 star) were first to go get him.  Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) would be next and he was dangerous. His attack would prove quite a prompter, as next to jump was Nairo Quintana (yippee! Also from Movistar). Little Quintana, trained in climbing mountains by outrunning FARC rebels and Colombian druglords, has been electronic electrifying in this Tour – and he is only 23! Quintana soon caught up with Nieve, leaving the others in his wake,  and the two of them joined forces in a mini-rebellion against the Empire.

The Empire then decided to lead the chase and buried themselves at the front. First it was A Schleck (Radioshack Leopard-Tank) to blow up and nearly get pushed off his bike by an overzealous helper. The Cadel Evans (BMC – Champion!) who has demonstrated that in the modern age you cannot ride the Giro and the Tour and do well at both.

Side note – I felt sad watching this, as I don’t think many people have contemplated what his career might have been had he not ridden amongst such a group of drug addicts. Take a look at Cadel’s first Tour de France in 2005 where he finished 8th. Have a look at the rest of the names in the top 10 (1. Pharmstrong, 2. Basso ???, 3. Ulrich, 4. Mancebo, 5. Vinokourov, 6. Leipheimer, 7. Rasmussen, 8. Evans, 9. Landis???, 10. Pereiro) and spot the non-drug addict. This would be the case for much of Evans career. Back to the stage…

The Empire was killing off all the competition, and they had a target to catch in Quintana. It was finally down to Richie Porte driving up front followed by the Froome-dog in yellow, with El Pistolero (Contador the deli man), Mollema and Ten Dam (from the Team formerly known as Rabobank formerly known as Blanco now known as Belkin) and many of the other top 10 riders. They all started to crack leaving Porte, Froome, and El Pistolero in the final assault and chase of the mini-Rebellion. Until Porte pulled over and Froome-dog took off like he was scolded. El Pistolero had nothing, and no cold meats to fuel his cadence.

Quintana broke from Nieve and went solo, with the chasing Maillot Jaune about to catch up. Nieve was dispatched mercilessly by Froome-dog and then it was down to two. It brings me to a song I sing to my son, The Pok, “There were two in the bed and the little one said roll over, roll over, so they all rolled over and one fell out…” The one who fell out was the little one – Quintana. The Froome-dog locked onto the Death Star tractor beam and blasted away from Quintana with just over a kilometre to go. His cadence was so intense, I can’t even turn the pedals like that on the flat.

tdf_2013-stage_15-winner

The Maillot Jaune took his second mountain stage win of the Tour and destroyed the rest of the field. El Pistolero eventually blew up and lost much of his attack, unable to take 2nd place in the GC from Mollema. Nieve as his reward would take third on the stage.

The Froome-dog’s performance was so dominating that it has raised the spectre of the use of magic potions. I reiterate that I firmly believe that Emperor Brailsford has long ago banished the druids from the Empire. I very much think what we saw were the next generation of riders who will be the best in professional cycling for the coming years. They are currently 1. Froome-dog, 2. Mollema, and 6. Quintana in the Maillot Jaune competition and with a fourth leading the Maillot Vert competition – Sagan.

Serious look at the days racing check out:

CyclingNews – http://www.cyclingnews.com/tour-de-france/stage-15/results

VeloVoices – http://velovoices.com/2013/07/14/tdf-stage-15-froome-lowers-the-boom-on-the-way-up-ventoux/

SBS Cycling Central – http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/road/news/50152/froome-extends-tour-lead-with-dominant-w…

The Cement Ladder – The Grey Jersey

Watching the toughest sportsmen in the world, I have decided to start a “cement” ranking that reflects truly great feats of endurance and the overcoming of pain (basically a bit of HTFU). Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category. There was so much cement on offer it was difficult to choose, but here are my points.

1. Sylvain Chavanel – Chava angry again and hammering it – big respect to a non-climber.

2. Mikel Nieve – the instigator of the most telling attack on the ascent of the giant.

3. Richie Porte – Destroyed everyone in the peloton to keep the Froome-dog in yellow.

4. Jan Bakelants – On the attack AGAIN! I hope he gets a contract rate increase next year – the find of the Tour.

5. Jens Voigt – he is 41 and raced up Mont Ventoux. “How good is that?”

The Turbo Training Challenge

I did another session on the turbo trainer, and with my busted wheel locked in. I don’t care if I destroy it indoors, I can just stop riding and move to my couch. New wheels are on the way (still Kaching-Ouch!) and I am waiting anxiously for them to arrive. I will now be able to compare pretty quickly what a lower weight set of wheels does to my performance.