Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Great Dane, a lucky Labrador and a Kazakh hounded out - Mouth of the Mersey

Today's stage of the Tour de France took the riders through some picture-postcard Alpine scenes, as they pedalled from Val-d’Isère to Briançon. Twelve years ago, inspired by the deeds of Roche and Zulle, Hinault and Lemond, Herrera and Parra, I took myself off to ride that same road, tackling first the Col du Telegraphe and then the fearsome Col du Galibier. Even with 1100cc of Yamaha power to help, it was no easy matter and gave me an enduring respect not just for the riders' endurance, but for the bike-handling needed to get up and down these ancient routes. These roads are for the hardest of sport's hardest men.

Race organisers like to include a chance for all types of riders to have their day in the sun, so, with two mountain top finishes to come next week when the race hits the Pyrenees, today's stage was constructed for the opportunist who could build a lead over the mighty Galibier and hold off the peloton all the way down to Briançon. Overall contenders know that on stages like this the Yellow Jersey can be lost but never won, so will sit back to let others make the race.

However, the first noteworthy incident of the day is destined for "What happened next?" quizzes and youtube immortality - we can laugh now we know all parties were unhurt, but it shows the dangers of open road racing. Click here for the action http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/gallery/2007/jul/17/tourdefrance.cycling?picture=330211215 and navigate with the arrowheads. Barking mad!

On the lower slopes of the Galibier, two questions were resolved: (i) the stage's opportunist would be wild card entry Barloworld's Columbian climber Juan Mauricio Soler Hernandez; and (ii) pre-race favourite Alexander Vinokourov was in trouble with his injuries.

Soler had two minutes over the Galibier which proved enough on the 38km descent into the finish. His stage win will send his cycling-mad countrymen into riotous joy and makes us aging fans recall the great Cafe de Columbia equipes of the mid-eighties - how I would have liked to have worn that jersey without the fear of people pointing and laughing. His win rewards his enterprise and the race organisation, whose punt on Barloworld is proving very wise. Soler will never buy a drink in his homeland for the rest of his life.

Chasing Soler were a a very select group that included GC men Valverde, Evans, Contador, Mayo, Leipheimer, Kloden, Sastre and a brave Moreau. It also included a very strong Race Leader, Denmark's Michael Rasmussen, who must be hoping that the jersey will inspire him to personal bests in the time-trials to come. He is clearly the strong man in the mountains. The most prominent name missing from that list is Vino's who finished in tears and now trails the Yellow Jersey by an unbreachable 8 minutes 5 seconds. Vino's dream is over, probably for good.

The race is wide open as it leaves the Alps. You can get 3/1 about Valverde and Kloden; 5/1 about Aussie Evans; and 13/2 about Rasmussen and Contador; with Mayo at 16/1. The Mouth advises a piece of those two climbers at 13/2.

Join me on Sunday for an update after Saturday's Contre-le-Montre and Sunday's ferocious stage to the Plateau-de-Beille, before Mimi's back for next week's denoument.

26 comments:

mimi said...

Thanks for this one Mouth. The Col du Galibier is really mighty, and interestingly the only truly historic climb for this year's tour. I love how this tour is so open, and Barloworld are really making their presence felt. Never marked Soler for a stage win, but don't think anyone else did either. Shame about Vino - but damn, how much pain can even a hard, hard man take.
Cheers mate.

offside said...

Great stuff, Mouth, and that polka-dot bikini really suits you!

offside said...

Just checked the link, ouch!

And I thought Labradors were clever...

MotM said...

I wrote this having watched much of the action through a little window on the computer courtesy of a Dutch feed. Having seen the stage with the benefit of being able to recognise the riders, and with Phil and Paul peerlessly on the mic, it makes the win by Soler all the more impressive. I was also hugely impressed by Contador who has the inestimable advantage of Bruyneel in his earpiece. Smart ride from Rasmussen but he'll need to limit his losses on Saturday and then hope to go two up with Boogerd and / or Menchev to Plateau de Beille.

Mimi - I hadn't clicked that so many of the great climbs are missing - Ventoux, D'Huez, Tourmalet - but I think the Col de Peyresourde is in there., which has its history.

Thanks for the kind words.

offside said...

Mouthtig, MimioftheMersey,

do you two ride a tandem?

DoctorShoot said...

Mouth
thank you for this excellent MoTM take on the stage.
Loved the ride through on the Yammie preface (my own preferred mode of transport for many years).

Perhaps the Labrador had given it's seeing eye human the slip...

Think I'll get a slice of Cadell at 5/1
cheers
Doc

mimi said...

Dunno what Mouth feels about this, but I'm thrilled to be MimioftheMersey for a while. Thanks chaps.

Labrador said...

My cunning bid at sabotage is now online:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGTs8Uz7V5o

Home For Lost Puppies said...

Labrador
your statement is clear and definitive re the casual nature of bad luck and those dogged by it.

thought your post traumatic handling of the eager marshall was calm and stylish.

Labrador said...

Thanks, Home. One does what one can.

guitougoal said...

Motm?
very useful information about the
"soler" system.Rasmus, has to evolve into a meteorite for the time trial if he want to be in yellow at the end.

offside said...

La Marseillaise in Marseille, first time since 1989.

Nice move on the blind side by Vasseur. He did well to keep his nerves.

I just watched the last 15km, which they did in the time it took me to smoke a cigarette. Well, ok, a thick one.

guitougoal said...

it's a lot of pakalolo for one man only.

mimi said...

An unexpected evening of peace and quiet has allowed me to slip on the lion-print bikini, snuggle up with the Maillot Jaune’s cuddly toy (I have actually been sent an e-lion by my niece!) and follow today’s race on the highlights. Not wishing to crash Mouth’s party, a fan has requested a report before next week from the Mimi, and this is my only chance to do the biz. So what’s my take on the day? Disasterous for T-Mobile and a can of worms opened. Sinkiewitz although already abandoned is reported with a positive for testosterone A sample and did presumably sign the pre-Tour promise of riding drug-free. Just when you thought it was safe…
Still the day had much good stuff. The peloton took the day off, and not surprisingly after 3 days in the Alps. Let the breakaway go, and it set up some really hot racing. “The Arrow” Flecha was in the 11 man-break and rode aggressively, but the group split as they climbed the Cotes de Bastides. 3 men went away but Jens Voigt gave it some umpty on the descent “unbelievable” said Phil, and he then powered a 5 man train down to Marseilles. He’s a pretty mad fucker really, Jens – this is his 10th Tour and aside from today’s winner (who’s never been a Voigt style aggro-rider) – what kind of a madman puts their mind and body through 10 circuits round Le Grand Boucle? Insane. So obviously he didn’t prevail, but it was other old boy Cedric Vasseur who played the cat and mouse to perfection on the long straight leading to the line. Inside 300m to go, Cedric snuck up the barriers and held off fellow Frenchman Caspar for victory. Poor old Jens – the strong man of the breakaway only got 5th. My heart went out to him. Cedric’s announced his retirement. My betting is we’ll see Jens back next year. We may not see Vino tomorrow, though – as the tour doc changed his bandages, the signs are his wounds are infected. Ouch.
Nothing else changed. Jerseys on the same backs as yesterday, and this time, I really won’t be back till next week.

DoctorShoot said...

Mimi
thank you yet again. Excellent stuff.
yes poor mr voigt... ah well...
cycling is definitely one of those sports where out of the camera's eye work is paramount to outcomes...

alons enfents de la patriae...

I got on Cadell Evans but only 9/2... $200 on the nose to win... how's he looking?

mimi said...

Think he's 4th in GC - and still wearing Mattie's eyebrows!

DoctorShoot said...

Mimi
thank you
I caught a glimpse of him being interviewed post stage on the news and he looked ten years older already... must have been a fair old struggle that stage...

I wonder if they ever think, half way up a mountain, "wtf am I doing here...?"

mimi said...

And before anyone picks me up on a "typo", Sandy Casar's nickname in the peloton is Caspar. OK? It's a joke - not a good one, but hey - they're bike riders not Armando Ianucci's script helpers!

offside said...

Poor Sandy. A close 2nd for a stage win for the third time. Already earning a new nickname, "Poulidor". Remember him?

guitougoal said...

mimi,
I thought Halgand was the man of the day.The way he shook up the 11 men breakaway group in the col de l'Ange was decisive.

mimi said...

The saddest thing about being me or mimi, is that having to go away for the next week (or part of), I'd rather not. I'd rather be here and write little updates for the 3 or so of you who are so kind. But I have to go and do "family" and be with people who don't give a damn for the Tour, a damn for Pseuds - except my mum quite likes telling friends that her daughter is a "writer". Hey we can flog a few books there I reckon!
Anyway, goodbye all. I travel south, in trepidation, leaving my remote and comfortable life for the crowded awfulness of cities. I'll have to survive Luton to come home. If I make it home safe and no less sane than I am now, I'll write for you of the Tour next week.
Wish me luck, say charms, chant poems for safety - anything you can do. I hate being away from home.

byebyebadman said...

Fare ye well mimi...

levremance said...

Have a good trip Mimi and thanks for the updates, I enjoy them too.

I see Rasmussan's under a cloud now. Banned from the Danish national team I read, but still in le tour?

DoctorShoot said...

Mimi
Dear Ms Writer, hope the tour de mimi is a slashing success and that you win all the important stages and return to the sanctity of the Firth of Forth covered in laurels.

guitougoal said...

mimi,
going south is not so bad, Orsay and I, we don't mind at all.All the best.

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