Tour de France 2018 Stage 19: The Pyrenean drama-o-meter

Col du Tourmalet

It would’ve been easy to lapse into terrible cliché as the race rolled out from the holy town of Lourdes.

I could have mused on Romain Bardet and his need to seek divine intervention to haul himself back into the race. I could’ve described the crowds on the slopes of the Col du Tourmalet parting like the red sea for Julian Alaphilippe.

But actually, Lourdes, drowning in a sea of fake plastic religiosity, is a god-awful place. The riders did the right thing in getting out of town ASAP. No-one, least of all a Tour contending pro cyclist, needs a 2ft plastic Jesus table lamp.

And for spiritual, other-worldly intervention, the Pyrenean mountains are more than capable.

When all is quiet and the peloton are rolling along – chatting, eating, teasing Steven Kruijswijk about the width of his shoulders and thinking up new nicknames for Julian Alaphilippe (Begbie, anyone..?) – conditions are benign.

Skies are blue and the air is still.

The tension, today, came on that final climb (and descent) of the Col d’Aubisque. The final mountain of the Tour, and the last chance for Dumoulin and Roglic to crack race-leader Geraint Thomas.

As the end-game unfolded the Pyrenees did what the Pyrenees does.

Embed from Getty Images

The cloud began to roil and boil in the background. Great cavernous drops filled with weather, visibility closed in, and a claustrophobic set-piece began. The scenery green-screened away, distance and perspective removed, focus drawn to the cyclists.

The Pyranean drama-o-meter was turned up to ten.

As that group of main contenders and their supporting cast – Thomas, Bernal and Froome, Roglic and Kruijswik, Dumoulin and those great, long, time-triallist legs – swooped over the summit for the plunge down to the finish, the fog was thick.

The assumption that a Tarmac covered corner or straight lay somewhere amongst the weather was enough for the riders to assume an aero tuck and keep fingers away from brake levers. Not looking for the apex but pointing a front wheel at the thickest patch of fog and following the wheel in front.

And the wheel in front was Primoz Roglic.

The former ski-jumper.

Embed from Getty Images

It was hard to tell through the gloom but I’m pretty sure at one point, as he lay tucked across his top-tube, that those arms v-shaped out behind him, instinctively, in the search for speed.

Either way he slipped away in the lead, won the stage, and unceremoniously elbowed Chris Froome out of the podium positions. How rude. The others finished as a chasing group just behind to leave Geraint Thomas rock-solid in yellow.

Sunny skies all the way to Paris.

Visibility is good.

And not a plastic Jesus in sight.


(Pyranees Image: CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=666443)

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3 comments

  1. My favourite memory of Lourdes is of driving up a one-way main street behind a golf buggy-type vehicle on the rear-facing back seat of which sat a nun in full costume. Smoking a cigarette.

    Liked by 1 person

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