As I have previously done, here is the first of my tongue in cheek Tour de France stage reviews. I love professional cycling, after all it is one of the toughest sports in the world. But it is full of drama and some bizarre goings on (grown men and women in mankinis anyone?). So I can’t help but being a bit irreverent in my assessment. So once again, the Tour de France has kicked off again and I am very much looking forward to a sleepless July of road racing and helicopter views of chateaus in the country of France.

The Grand Depart in the North of the Empire

When you have to listen to your English cycling buddy (JB you know who you are) carry on about how grand the start was with three people with no interest in cycling named Windsor cutting the starting ribbon, then you have to wonder whether you just watched the Tour de France kick off. But I have to swallow my antipodean pride a bit because I love Leeds and my wife is a Yorkshire lass. The English Northeast put on a real show for the peloton and it was absolutely amazing seeing the throngs of people line the streets. There were strange decorations about with pretty much every town hanging up yellow painted bikes in bizarre places, including churches. But the most bizarre decorations would have to have been the yellow painted flocks of sheep.

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The race was really one of two halves. And the thing I was most looking forward to seeing was last year’s Grey Jersey winner (I’ll detail that further down in my post) Jens “The Jensie” Voigt go on the attack. As soon as Christian Prudhomme waved the flag, both he and two French riders (Nicolas Edet – Cofidis and Benoit Jarrier – Bretagne – Seche Environnement) went to attack in the breakaway. The fact is the two French boys just could not keep up with the 42 year old Jensie who knew that if he could hold off the peloton over the two climbs, he would be riding in a polka dot jersey (the climbers jersey) in this his final tour. So for 50km the Jensie became one with pain and dished out a lesson to the peloton.

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Once they reeled him on over the top of the final climb, the reality is that the stage became a boring countdown to the sprint. The countryside and scenery was spectacular, particularly the far to often mention dry stone walls which Paul Sherwin dutifully informed me were on average 52 inches in height but that this was not a standard (I am putting this in my stiff sh!t collection of facts – thanks Paul). To have my mate JB ring me during the stage and tell me further how glorious these stone walls were further reinforced the boredom of the stage. The reality is that the peloton showed much trepidation knowing that they could lose the race in this stage but not win it.

The Sprint Trains Motor Up

So the anticipation for the sprint was what I was watching for, and the concept of a sprint train is now well understood by the teams targeting the speed finishes. The Gorilla’s (Andre Greipel) team, Lotto Belisol, did a big turns on the front as did Vanilla Ice’s (Marcel Kittel) team of Argonauts, Giant Shimano. But when the action really kicked in it was The Manx Missile (Mark Cavendish) and his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team who upped the ante in the final 4km. But they were disorganised and went out too early. Losing steam on an uphill champion, my boy’s favourite rider – Spartacus (Fabian Cancellara) jumped with 1km to go and nearly got there, but even this gladiator was not strong enough to keep the others at bay. This was nearly the biggest shock of the finishing sprint, until the Missile tried this…

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Head butting Simon Gerrans from Orica GreenWedge and bringing him down and a host of others. The calamity that ensued robbed us of an awesome sprint finish and Vanilla Ice was in the perfect position to claim the win and be the only one of the big sprinters to fight it out. Of note was the Terminator (Peter Sagan) chomping on his shoulder, and issuing a warning to everyone that he wants the Green Jersey.

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So the General Classification (Yellow Jersey) contenders were just happy to survive the first stage in the beautiful North of England, and an Argonaut is in Yellow for stage 2.

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 and a demonstration of adherence to Rule #5). Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category.

5 pts – Jens Voigt (extending his lead for the most number of points earned in the hunt for the Grey Jersey), demonstrated for 50km to the whole peloton

3pts – Fabian Cancellara for his brazen attack in the final stages of the race.

1pt – Chris Horner for showing the rest of the peloton that a nasty crash and punctured lung is no excuse not to get back on the bike and flog yourself in the toughest race in the world.

 

For a more serious look at the first stage of racing check out.

Cycling NewsStage 1 Report

SBS Cycling CentralStage 1 wrapup

VeloVoicesTour Stage 1

N.B. the photos of the racing have been sourced from Cyclingnews.com and the copyright obviously remains with the copyright holder.