Tour de France 2015 – Alternative Week 3 Round-up

As if he wasn’t already grabbing the headlines, on Stage 16 Chris Froome’s Welsh wingman and all-round decent chap Geraint Thomas was clipped by an out of control Warren Barguil on the descent of the Col du Manse, and sent careering over a fence and head first into a telegraph pole.

As all pro-cyclists know, in this modern world of unfettered global communication an incident like this is internet gold, and for a few hours at least it made ‘G’ one of the worlds most famous sportsmen.

Not only that, crashing head first into something solid on live TV is the ideal way to cement a reputation as a hard man amongst hard men, and ensure a mention on all Tour de France ‘best of’ clip shows for evermore.

Despite understandable concerns from those watching on, and talk of serious damage and a possible emergency response, the telegraph pole thankfully emerged unscathed.

Stage 17 to Pra Loup was won by the German Simon Geschke, putting himself at the vanguard of the new breed of beard-touting hipster cyclists.

Simon Geschke and hipster beard (Image: Jérémy-Günther-Heinz Jähnick / Isbergues - Grand Prix d'Isbergues, 21 septembre 2014 (B056) / Wikimédia France & Wikimedia Commons)
Simon Geschke and hipster beard
(Image: Jérémy-Günther-Heinz Jähnick / Isbergues – Wikimedia Commons)

Putting aside the slight disappointment that he didn’t ride the stage on a vintage chrome-lugged fixie, and respecting his decision to resist stopping at the summit of the Col d’Allos for a syphon brewed coffee made from single source Kenyan beans purchased directly from an organic co-operative in Nairobi, it was an impressive and commanding win.

How long Geschke can maintain the hipster image remains to be seen.

For one thing, that generic Giant Alpecin team kit will do nothing for the image as he pedals his way down the high street in Shoreditch, artisan loaf of bread in one jersey pocket, bottle of craft beer in the other.

We were treated to another master class in descending from Roman Bardet on the slopes of the Col du Glandon on Stage 18, as he broke clear to win the day and provide the Tour’s second of three French stage winners in 2015.

As Bardet explains it: “to lose Stage 14 to Steve Cummings made me frustrated. Being angry probably helped me win today”.

Which is all well and good – the boy was riding with a bit of fire in his belly – but the idea of an angry and fired-up Roman Bardet is a difficult one to square with his slight figure, boyish looks, and braces in his teeth. It’s hard to imagine him angry.

Mind you, as he descended the Glandon and powered on to win in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne he did have the look of a teenage boy who’s mum has discovered he’s got homework to do, and has confiscated his X-Box and changed the Wi-fi password.

Stage 19 was also the day when Geraint Thomas’ dreams of a podium finish were well and truly flattened.

After the previous days’ stage, and with Thomas firmly in fourth spot, talk began – from journalists and even, cautiously, from Thomas’ team-mates – of overhauling Alejandro Valverde to take third spot in the race overall.

Psychologically, however, this change of focus seemed to flick a switch in the Welshman’s head.

As he made the mental leap from willing workhorse to Tour de France podium contender he found himself firmly on the receiving end of what the French call ‘un jour sans’ – a day without; running on empty, dropped on the climbs, and finishing the stage slipping well down the rankings.

Having said that, and much as I like to play amateur psychologist, two and a half weeks and two and a half thousand miles in the unstinting service of Chris Froome may have had something to do with it.

As Geraint himself put it, “sometimes you’re the hammer and sometimes you’re the nail. I was a cheap Ikea nail today.”

Geraint Thomas in time-trial mode (Image: denismenchov08 via wikimedia cc)
Geraint Thomas in time-trial mode
(Image: denismenchov08 via wikimedia cc)

Come Stage 20 and the Alpe d’Huez was…well, Alpe d’Huez.

As usual, that hairpin known universally to all cycling fans as Dutch corner, with it’s deafening roar and it’s hordes of orange clad northern Europeans swarming the road, provided an alcohol fuelled scene which must have sent the local Health and Safety Officer (if they have such a thing in France…it seems doubtful) into a state of panic.

Or at least back to the office for another stack of incident report forms and a new pen.

The rest of the Alpe was no less raucous, and we got the usual backdrop of mankinis, sunburn, beer, and sound systems, and the small matter of the world biggest bike race picking it’s way single file between a tunnel of very excited cycling fans.

Up front Thibaut Pinot won the stage and saved his own Tour, Nairo Quintana attacked, and attacked, and attacked, and Chris Froome hung on by the skin of his teeth to take the overall win.

Of course Froome was spat at, but this is apparently no longer even newsworthy.

I can’t help wishing the French public would save their intense dislike of Sky for Rupert Murdoch himself, rather than taking it out on a man riding a bike.

The build up to the final stage of this years race was characterised, as every year, by the insistence that it’s simply a procession into Paris – a chance for Chris Froome to sip champagne and for Team Sky to try out a new colour scheme – until the very moment they pass Joan of Arc for the first time and the commentators ramp up the tension and assure us that “this is anything but a procession now folks!”

Make up your mind, lads.

Anyway, procession or not, this year’s final stage was wet, slippery, chilly, but largely free of meaningful action until Rohan Dennis had a dig late on and attempted to time-trial his way clear.

Froome stayed upright and took yellow, Greipel won the sprint, Sagan finished with a solid top-ten, Edvald Boasson-Hagen was close-but-no-cigar…

Yes, everything seems to be in order here chaps.

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7 comments

  1. The only thing about fro one is he looks like a praying mantis eating its lover when going uphill …. (Yeah I know it is the female) Nibali Contador Pinot and Quintana all look the champion – even Voeckler is prettier to look at with his ballet facial antics. Also the sky behemoth careful planning reminds many of Armstrong and that era.

    Liked by 1 person

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