It's OK to think this is a dull Tour this year, occasionally, the Tour is a dull affair. Each Tour is a novel written by the participants and this year's edition just happens to not include many dramatic moments in the battle for the general classification. Stage 16, with its four monster climbs was one of the last opportunities for anyone with aspirations for yellow to take a shot at the Sky armada, but it seems that they are too formidable, and the only rider who seems capable of putting Bradley Wiggins into difficulty is dutifully pulling Wiggo up the mountains. Sky is putting on a demonstration of classic corporate racing tactics that is very effective and will probably win them the Tour, but no one writing the story of this Tour will use "panache", "daring" or "Cav wins three stages" to describe Sky's Tour campaign. But a win is a win, and the race isn't over yet, and there's more opportunities for panache to happen.
And speaking of panache, the captain of the panache barge himself Tommy Voeckler managed to get away once again to take a daring and audacious stage win, reaffirming Europcar's dominance of mountainous stages in the Tour (that's actually a fact, between himself and Rolland, they have Frenched the crap out of Tour mountain stage dating back to last year, and if I weren't lazy, I'd look up the actual stats about the mountain stages, but I won't). Tommy V is an astute tactician, and while he isn't in the hunt for the GC, he's targeted certain stages and gone after them, here's his explanation of his tactics: (from cyclingnews)
"For me I had four races in my head today, each climb was a separate race. I know every metre of the climbs from training here in this region. There were 197 kilometers of racing here, and I knew all 197 kilometres by heart."
The net result of this diligence is that Voeckler rolled in alone after ridding himself of his breakaway companions (and staying ahead of Chris Anker Sorensen, who in tandem with Voeckler put on a clinic in the "facial expressions of discomfort" jersey battle). After carefully checking his gap numerous times during the final Ks, Voeckler found he had a large enough gap to give the French public the opportunity to see the full range of his facial expressions. He did everything from to "agony" to "overwhelmed with emotion" to "a bit randy" (that one was for the ladies). It was an impressive display from an impresario at the top of his game.
Yesterday's stage also saw Cadel Evans demoted from team leader to (in Tejay Van WhywasIpullingyouallthistime terms) "sort of co-leader". On the "Ass Pan" (as pronounced by Sean Kelly), Ivan Basso went to the front and ended Cadel's Tour ass-pirations. It was hard to watch as Cadel was gapped, and BMC no longer requested Tejay fall back to help. It's been a wild ride Cadel, and I'd say we'll see you next year, but Tejay Van Imoveradecadeyounger might not want a co-leader along.
The rest of the stage saw Nibz, Froome and Wiggo roll in together like a trio of bros out on a margarita run. Nibali wasn't able to get away on the descent and Froome had his Sky shock collar on, so the three were very cordial on the run in. It looks as if Nibali has come to terms with his third-ness in the Tour this year. Which is a fine result and something to be proud of, but it makes for a lousy end to a novel.
You know that old box of bike parts you've put in your closet?
Recorded inside the press room at Grenoble Velodrome, we bring you Episode #8 of the Insider from the 2011 Tour de France, our final podcast.
Recorded 1,850 metres above sea level atop the famed Alpe d'Huez, we bring you Episode #7 of the Insider podcast from the 2011 Tour de France.