It would seem like the Tour organisers had the foresight to work out that the best way to impede the Death Star (the Team Sky bus) or any other vehicle from the teams was to make the peloton climb up Alpe d’Huez not once, but twice! Twice! Not 21 hairpins to ascend, but 42! Twice! As the French would say – “c’est fou!

It was unclear to me how this stage would unfold. The only thing for certain was that the guys with the big thighs would suffer, a lot. When I switched on to the coverage, it was a pleasant surprise to see a breakaway of high quality for the second time in 3 stages.

The breakaway contained Tejay van Garderen (from BMC with the continued aim to erase the donuts), Moreno Moser (who is probably Cannondale’s only climber from the Tourminator’s squad), Christophe Riblon (from AG2R alphabet soup La Mondiale and teammate to hardman Peraud who had left the Tour with a Grey Jersey on his back), Tom Danielson (from the Rebellion – Garmin-Sharp), Jensie (Radioshack Leopard-Tank), Chava(nel) who along with Quintana is my rider of the Tour, and 3 others.

The First Ascent of the Alpe

These guys got to as much as over 8 minutes on the Maillot Jaune group, and given the calibre it looked quite possibly like the source of the day’s success. El Pistolero sent two of his teammates up ahead to see if there was any cold meat on offer, but they couldn’t catch up. Then by the time they hit the base of Alpe d’Huez for the FIRST climb it was on, van Garderen and Riblon attacked! Moser chased to catch up, with the rest of the breakaway smashing it but dropping back.

Side note – I love downhill bombing on two wheels! It is awesome and fun getting up to these sort of speeds. But the descent on the back end of Alpe d’Huez scared the crap out of me just watching it. One off and you are rolling down a mountain side for a couple of hundred metres – and probably dead. Still this is bike racing, back to the stage…

Tejay hit the group of three hard and lead the downhill bombing. But typical of BMC’s year (remember donuts) he had a mechanical while at speed rolling downhill. This gave Riblon and Moser the chance to leapfrog him. These guys were really pushing it, with Riblon trying to imitate Pharmstrong with a bit of MTB action on a road steed. Problem for him was that he went into the mountain and not down it and got his shoes dirty with bog in the process. He was alright and so was van Garderen in the end as he eventually caught up to the other two to reconvene the group of three.

The rest of the GC riders were sorting themselves out and the the riders on the periphery were dropping off. The Empire were leading from the front, and stymied El Pistolero’s plans. The true dark horse, Quintana (Movistar), was biding his time to pounce. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha – gee they have been quiet at this year’s race) was also plotting.

The Second Ascent of the Alpe

On the second climb van Garderen attacked again, this time only Riblon could give chase with Moser hitting the wall. Tejay was chasing glory, but ultimately it would be too much for him as he hit the last two kilometers. Riblon sensing the opportunity was told by his team car to push it and he did. The mountain erupted spontaneously to support his attack and French viewers everywhere waited with baited breath to watch a rider from the home country finally win a stage in the centenary edition of the Grand Boucle.

Vive la France!

Further behind – El Pistolero and Kreuziger (his teammate) cracked, The Froome-dog cracked (but not the Empire’s Super-Super-Super-Domestique Richie Porte), Mollema and TenDam (from the Team formerly known as Rabobank formerly known as Blanco now known as Belkin) cracked – but Quintana and Rodriguez didn’t and attacked! They put a minute into the Maillot Jaune who further got docked 20 seconds for eating M&M’s on French soil.

tdf2013-etape_18_winner

I can’t say enough times how good this year’s Tour has been and we still have three days left.

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. Epic amount of cement laid out on the Queen stage of this race, here are my picks.

1. Tejay van Garderen – did all the work and hit incredibly bad luck to still get donuts.

2. Christophe Riblon – came off, gathered his composure and then attacked. He rolled the dice and salvaged glory for la France.

3. Nairo Quintana – showed smarts and hardness to go out and attack, and duly rewarded with a current position in the top 3.

4. Joauquim Rodriguez – matched Quintana and now threatening a podium place.

5. Richie Porte – for continuing to feed the Froome-dog M&M’s on the way to possibly winning the Maillot Jaune.

and

6. The Jensie – Jens Voigt jumped into the breakaway to attack up Alpe d’Huez (we love the Jensie)

 

For a more serious assessment of the stage, check out:

CyclingNews – http://www.cyclingnews.com/tour-de-france/stage-18/results

VeloVoices – http://velovoices.com/2013/07/18/tdf-stage-18-christophe-riblon-france-is-proud-of-you/

SBS Cycling Central – http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/news/50264/Riblon-wins-on-Alpe-d’Huez-as-Froome-survives

 

The Turbo Training Challenge

The new wheels on my ride bike have been installed and are ready to roll for the next stage. I was transferring shoes over as the stage commenced. For the first time I also installed a gear cassette on the rear wheel of a bike. A little bit tricky, but with the correct tools (chainwhip, cog lockring tool, wrench, a bit of grease, and a spacer) it turned out to be relatively straightforward. The new wheels are Shimano Dura-Ace C24 clinchers and they are light (500g lighter than the stock standard Bontrager wheels that I had with my Trek Madone 4.7)! I will be going for a couple of road spins on the weekend so I will see how they perform up the climbs and how stiff they are in comparison. The wallet is lighter by the same amount.