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The Vino of les Vinqueurs is annoncéed! Tout le Monde wins! Cathy & Fusao top the Liga di Plonko; Wil F gets the Good Stuff July 23, 2012

Posted by John Ashburne in Prize announcement, Tour de France 2012.
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Oh no! Not the Chateau Ashburne 2012!!!

Due to the kindness of an anonymous benefactor, we are pleased to announce some EXTRA VINO PRIZES

P31. Prix des Jeunes Inconnus. Awarded to the highest finishing young rider who is not a stage winner, nor holder of the White Jersey.

P32. Prix de Justice. Awarded to the most excellent rider (chosen by the committee) who, through some quirk of the sweepstakes set-up or sheer bad luck, does not bag his punter a bottle of plonk.

P33. Prix des Eminence Grises. Awarded to the highest-placed ‘old timer’ in GC who has officially announced that it will be his last ever participation in the Tour.

P34. Prix du Dernier Rouleur. The rider who is last to cross the line on the final stage to Paris.

P35. Prix des Allemagnes Volantes-Maigres. For the highest placed quite thin German finisher in the GC.

And the, er, lucky winners are:

P1. Stage 8 (July 08): Riki’s Tim (Thibaut Pinot)

P2. Stage 9 (July 09): Individual TTT Wil F (Bradley Wiggins)

P3. Stage 10 (July 11): Fusao (Thomas Voeckler)

P4. Stage 11 (July 12): Riki (Pierre Rolland)

P5. Stage 12 (July 13): Joe B (David Millar)

P6. Stage 13 (July 14): Bastille Day Mike D (Andre Greipel)

P7. Stage 14 (July 15): Gail (Luis Leon Sanchez)

P8. Stage 15 (July 16): John A (Pierrick Fedrigo)

P9. Stage 16 (July 18): Fusao (Thomas Voeckler)

P10. Stage 17 (July 19): La Fete du Jean de Jellyjambes Jack H (Alejandro Valverde)

P11. Stage 18 (July 20): Paris B (Mark Cavendish)

P12. Stage 19 (July 21): Individual TTT Wil F (Bradley Wiggins)

P13. Stage 20 (July 22): Paris B (Mark Cavendish)

Additional Prizes are awarded for:

P14. Maillot Jaune, the Yellow Jersey for Overall Winner (July 22nd): Wil F (Bradley Wiggins)

P15. Polka Dot, King of the Mountains Jersey (July 22nd): Fusao (Thomas Voeckler)

P16. White Jersey for Best Young Rider: Cathy (Tejay van Garderen)

P17. Most Combative Rider: Paul W (Chris Anker Sorensen)

P18. Prix 89-H For the rider finishing halfway down the field at the halfway point of the race (determined by the Committee as 89th place on the July 11th stage 10 from Macon to Bellegarde-sur-ValserineSasha A (Christian Vande Velde)

P19. Lanterne Rouge: Cathy (Jimmy Engoulvent)

P20. Oldest rider to make it to Paris: Sasha A (Jens Voigt)

P21. Holder of the Winning Team: DJ (Radioshack-Nissan)

P22. Prix Bastille, for the top French rider on July 14th Kevin R (Sebastien Hinault)

P23. Prix de Fete de JDJ, for the 51st finisher on my 51st birthday (July 19th) Topher W (Jorge Soto Azanza)

P24. Prix Tommy Simpson, for the first rider over the Col du Tourmalet on the Tour’s “Queen Stage” (July 18th): Fusao (Thomas Voeckler)

P25/26. Prix des Escargots Vites, for the slowest rider in each of the Individual Time Trials (July 9th & 21st) Cathy (Jimmy Engoulvent, July 9th), Paris B (Karsten Kroon, July 21st)

P27. Prix de Cheval Crepusculaire, for highest-placed Dark Horse: Cathy (Tejay van Garderen)

P28. Prix Mark Anthonie, for the highest-finishing Trusty Lieutenant: Riki’s Tim (Thibaut Pinot)

P29. Prix Domestos, for the highest-finishing Warrior in the Saddle: Steve A (Haimar Zubeldia)

P30. Prix du Chien Malade/Monsieur Burghardt, for the first rider to hit a dog. In the event that no rider ploughs into a canine, this will be awarded to the unluckiest rider on Friday July 13th. Mike D (David Moncoutie).

P31. Prix des Jeunes Inconnus. Awarded to the highest finishing young rider who is not a stage winner, nor holder of the White Jersey. Colin D (Steven Kruijswijck)

P32. Prix de Justice. Awarded to the most excellent rider (chosen by the committee) who, through some quirk of the sweepstakes set-up or sheer bad luck, does not bag his punter a bottle of plonk. Tomas S (Christopher Froome)

P33. Prix des Eminence Grises. Awarded to the highest-placed ‘old timer’ in GC who has officially announced that it will be his last ever participation in the Tour. John B (Alexander Vinokourov)

P34. Prix du Dernier Rouleur. The rider who is last to cross the line on the final stage to Paris. Aaron C (Danilo Hondo)

P35. Prix des Allemagnes Volantes-Maigres. For the highest placed thin German finisher in the GC. Sanborn B (Andreas Kloden)

Cavendish wins the Stage; Wiggo Makes History; Wil F gets some decent plonk for once July 23, 2012

Posted by John Ashburne in Tour de France 2012.
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Et voila we have it. The maverick mod from a Norf London council estate becomes the First Ever Briton to win the Tour de France. The boy done good, wot?

From the Torygraph:

For half an hour, he smilingly took the backslaps from all the warriors he had ridden into the ground over the previous 2,172 miles and then determined to deliver one final, crushing message to them about why he is a great, historic and worthy first British champion of the Tour de France.

Even before Wiggins sped down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées into one of the most glorious fairytales in a century of British sport, setting up his team-mate Mark Cavendish to take a fourth consecutive sprint triumph on the final stage, our first Tour champion had eschewed the traditional sip of bubbly in the saddle.

Hiding his joy beneath those shades and yellow helmet, he was already plotting not just Cavendish’s moment in the sun, and a seventh British stage win, but also thinking beyond that to his next amazing trick.

Because from the moment in Chartres on Saturday when the 32 year-old had thrust forward out of the saddle and punched the air like Superman, realising that he had won the final time trial and thus sealed his historic triumph, his restless mind was already shifting. It turned towards an Olympic tour de force a week on Wednesday, and dreams of a victory which would see him surpass Sir Steve Redgrave as the most bemedalled British Olympian in history.

First, however, was this glorious, unforgettable summer’s day in Paris. Yes, said Wiggins, it was “goose pimple time”, a joyous afternoon to live all those dreams he had harboured as a bike-mad mod pedalling around a Kilburn council estate.

He remembered the day he had come here as a 13 year-old with his mum on the Eurostar and he had stood on the very spot where thousands were now cheering him on Paris’s most famous thoroughfare. No, he thought back then, dreams like his would never come true. Yet now he had discovered the impossible could materialise as he played the part of a working-class hero in yellow, a champion playing a high-speed domestique leading the Sky sprint train into the final 400 metres and punching the air amid the peloton as he watched Cavendish complete an utterly glorious Tour for Britain.

But after becoming the first Englishman to achieve the ultimate prize on French soil after 99 years of Tour history, there was still no time for Wiggins to relax. For a couple of hours after bathing in triumph in front of the Arc de Triomphe, he was already being flown back to Britain where, on Monday, he is planning a lonely ride around the Lancashire hills near his Eccleston home.

“I’ll just go on my usual loops and it will be nice to ride along with a bit of peace and quiet, enjoying riding the bike without all these bloody idiots on motorbikes taking photos of you!” he laughed .

It would be, said Wiggins, the start of the next stage of his preparation for London, where on Saturday he promises to ride his heart out in the road race to give his Sky team-mate Cavendish the best chance to deliver Britain’s first gold of the Games.

Allez Wiggo they said, and allez he did! Bradley blows away the Field on the Road to Chartres; More Vino for Willo & Paris B; le ‘Rider hits Dog’ Connondromme July 21, 2012

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Est-ce un oiseau, est-ce une avion? Non, c’est le Bifteck supersonique!

This (adapted by Atomic Saddles) from Le Torygraph:

The official anointment comes on Sunday afternoon the moment Wiggins, in the yellow jersey, leads Team Sky on to the Champs-Élysées but the 2012 Tour de France is done and dusted and a new chapter written. YEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAH!

Wiggins is not only the first Briton to win, he is also the first Olympic gold medallist from the track to win the Tour de France, a slice of history that highlights his extraordinary all-round talent which a wider audience is beginning to appreciate. TAKE THAT, YOU FROGGIE SWINE! (Saddles, behave – Ed)

As he negotiated the 53.5km from Bonneval to the cathedral city of Chartres, he was blissfully in his comfort zone pedalling away in that wonderfully fluid style of his that the rest of the cycling world envies but secretly admires as well. With a lead of just over two minutes from Sky colleague Chris Froome, he could have played safe but Wiggins went out hard and gained well over a minute on Froome before easing back just a tad in the final third to avoid any needless calamity.

Wiggins eventually finished 1min 16sec ahead of Froome to claim his second stage win of the Tour but, much more importantly, to lead the GC competition by 3min 21sec, a lead which will not change on the Champs-Élysées on Sunday afternoon. Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford promised a British Tour de France winner in five years when he launched the team in January 2010, but instead it is a British one-two in three years.

Somebody is due a very handsome bonus and knighthoods undoubtedly beckon before the year is out.

“It was a beautiful course and beautiful way to finish the tour with the course lined with cheering fans, many of them waving union jacks,” said an emotional Wiggins after fighting back the tears on the winners podium. “Time-trialing is what us British do best and it was nice to finish the tour with a bang. Riding that last 10km was very emotional.

“I dredged up a lot over that last 10km,” he said. “I was thinking of a lot of things that were spurring me on to go even harder.

“Like thinking back to my childhood, of my father [professional cyclist Gary Wiggins] leaving us when I was a kid. Then growing up with my mum in the flat in central London. And my grandfather, who was my role model, dying during the Tour in 2010.

“Then there was my wife and children who’ve had to live with the criticism I’ve had when people were saying when I signed for Sky, ‘Oh, Wiggins will never win the Tour’.

“And then I thought back to being 12, 13, thinking, ‘what chance will there ever be of a kid growing up in central London winning the greatest race of all?’ ”

I realise what I have accomplished but it doesn’t make it any easier to sink in.”

Le Wiggo Yello

Before Saturday’s time-trial started, Wiggins and Froome shared a friendly lunch and Wiggins insisted last night there was never a problem between the two riders as some commentators have suggested:

“A lot of people would like there to be a story because perhaps there hasn’t been much to write about but there is no issue, no problem. The reasons we have been good this year is that we are a team. Next year it could be him winning the Tour de France.”

Prior to this year, the best British performance at the Tour had been a fourth place by Robert Millar in 1984 and another fourth place by Wiggins three years ago when he made his first breakthrough as a General Classification rider. The following year, however, resulted in a disappointing 23rd on his Team Sky debut, a result he considered humiliating but a “hurt” that spurred him on.

Wiggins changed his lifestyle, lost more weight, trained more scientifically and started entering races to win rather than just compete. This year, before he even reached the Tour start line in Liege last month, he had claimed a unique treble of big race victories at Paris-Nice, Tour of Romandie and the Critérium du Dauphiné and climbed more than 100,000 metres during races and training. This had to be his year. If not now, when?

Meanwhile, the 2012 Tour de France has morphed into a uniquely British tour with first and second in GC and six stage wins from four riders with power before Sunday’s final stage in Paris where Mark Cavendish is unbeaten. The sight of the Champs-Élysées awash with Union Flags and “Allez Wiggo” stickers will only underline that.

Wiggo follows in Henry lV’s footsteps, stuffing the Continentals in Chartres.

So hail Brad Wiggins. For three stressful weeks he has led Sky by example, twice leading out his sprinters out in the final week, which is unheard of from the race leader, while he ordered the peloton to behave when young turks wanted to attack after reigning champion Cadel Evans became a victim of sabotage.

Two days earlier he had diplomatically made a joke of a serious incident when his arm was burnt by a fan running alongside the maillot jeune with a flaming torch. He has beguiled the locals with his ‘pub French’ – “Cochons! Merde! Two pints of pastis, Garcon and make it vite!” – and given the most honest answers to drug questions we have heard in years – “Cheating f#$#*ng Luxemb#*$#ergers”.

On the wine front, more for Wil F of course, but also to Paris B as Karsten Kroon wobbles in last.

Par the way, the Committee has been debating how to award Prix du Chien Malade/Monsieur Burghardt, for the first rider to hit a dog after some canine-induced carnage on Stage 18 . Philippe Gilbert (John A) was the rider most seriously affected/pissed off (see below), but as he was one ‘among several riders brought down’, the original decision to award the prize to the unluckiest rider on Friday July 13th still applies (Mike D for mountain specialist David Moncoutie who crashed out that day in his ‘final tour’).

“Je vais inserter votre chien up votre Champs Elysees!” exclaimed Philippe Gilbert. Not in front of les enfants, please, Philippe

Full story here from Velo News:

BRIVE-LA-GAILLARDE, France (AFP) — The stray dog is one of the peloton’s biggest fears and it came to painful life for Philippe Gilbert on the 18th stage of the Tour de France.

Gilbert, who wore the yellow jersey of the race leader last year, was among several riders brought down in a spill at the 120km mark of the 226km race from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde on Friday.

A family watching the race go past saw their huge dog, which some riders later compared to “a pony,” run out into the road.

It brought several riders down and left BMC’s Gilbert with a sore shoulder. He hopes his Olympic road race hopes for July 28 will not suffer.

“I hurt my elbow and my hip but it’s my shoulder that is quite sore. Plus we have a 400km transfer by bus tonight — not ideal for recovering,” said Gilbert.

“The most important thing is that nothing’s broken for the Olympic Games next week. That’s my biggest worry.”

Gilbert eventually got back on his bike to resume racing and receive treatment by medical staff, but not before giving the dog owner a piece of his mind.

He added: “I wanted to hit them, but (team manager) John Lelangue managed to calm me. Afterwards I was really annoyed.

“What can you do against people who insist on standing to watch the race with a dog that size that isn’t on a lead? It’s not right. The proof is it caused an accident.”

Lelangue said shortly after the accident:

“His hand has been injured a little as well as his elbow and knee. The dog was stronger than him, and it won that bout, but the important thing is that he could return to his place in the peloton.

Correction: vino for Jack H, Topher W and Paris B as Wiggo heads for Paris in yellow. July 21, 2012

Posted by John Ashburne in Tour de France 2012.
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Alejandro Valverde bagged vino orribilo for Jack Harris on stage 17 and the Prix de Fete de Jean de Jellyjambes, for the 51st placed rider on my 51st birthday, went to Topher W courtesy of Jorge Soto Azanza.

Paris B gets his first bottle of plonk thanks to a resurgent Mark Cavendish who was set up by Wiggo as payback for his loyalty to the wearer of le Maillot Jaune. It was the Yorkshire-Scouse Manxman’s 22nd stage win, and do you know what? Saddles is beginning to warm to him.

Yesterday’s stage report:

Team Sky‘s world champion surged down the closing straight in Brive-la-Gaillarde to win the 222.5km stage ahead of Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) and the green jersey Peter Sagan (Liquigas).

After his second stage win of an otherwise quiet race, Cavendish embraced team-mate Bradley Wiggins, the yellow jersey, who comfortably finished in the pack to preserve his lead in the general classification ahead of Saturday’s final time trial to Chartres.

Wiggins leads another Briton, Chris Froome, in the overall standings by two minutes and five seconds in a Tour which has underlined Team Sky’s status as the best all-round squad in professional cycling.

Cavendish’s victory was his 22nd Tour de France scalp – and Team Sky’s fourth win in a race which is now destined to be won by a British rider for the very first time in history.

Led out in textbook fashion by Wiggins and Norwegian national champion Edvald Boasson Hagen, Cavendish launched his sprint early to overtake breakaway riders Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) and Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale) in the closing 100m before powering over the line several bike lengths ahead of Australian Goss.

“I had to go early because the break was still away,” Cavendish explained. “I haven’t done anything this Tour so I had so much energy. I knew I’d get the win. I knew I’d got what it took today.”

Sky team manager Dave Brailsford was ecstatic after a fourth win for his riders – and yet another show of solidarity from the British team.

“I knew Bradley and the guys were very motivated to repay Cav’s loyalty and hard work with a good lead-out,” Brailsford said. “The win was never in doubt and he’s demonstrated once again what a great world champion he is.”

Saturday’s 53.5km time trial is expected to be won by overwhelming favourite Wiggins, while Cavendish’s return to form will put the Manxman down as firm favourite for Sunday’s concluding stage on the Champs Elysees in Paris.

Here’s the Grauniad on the Froomie-Wiggo ‘incident’ (Good on Froomie say I):

The last obstacle to Bradley Wiggins‘s victory in the Tour de Franceappeared to be removed as Vincenzo Nibali weakened on the slope of the Peyresourde yesterday but the events of the closing minutes of stage 17, a 143.5km circuit of the High Pyrénées, ensured that the nature of his victory will be discussed as long as there are people alive who still remember it – and probably, given cycling‘s love of myth and legend, for much longer.

As the riders crossed the Col de Menté, the Col des Ares, the Côte de Burs and the giant Port de Balès, the field was gradually reduced until only seven riders were left in the bunch.

The earlier part of the day had been enlivened by Thomas Voeckler’s successful attempt to secure the king of the mountains jersey, which he managed by outsprinting Fredrik Kessiakoff, his young Swedish rival, to the top of the first three climbs, including the hors-catégorie Port de Balès, and by a crash in the feed zone involving Mark Cavendish and Richie Porte, two of Wiggins’s Team Sky colleagues, who became entangled with a spectator’s flag. But now the serious business began.

About a minute ahead, alone in the lead, lay Alejandro Valverde, the 32-year-old Spanish rider who returned at the start of the season from an 18-month doping suspension. Never a contender for overall victory in this year’s Tour, Valverde was an irrelevance to Thursday’s enthralling main narrative.

The seven-man bunch included Wiggins, his Sky mountain wingmanChris Froome and Nibali, whose own gregario di lusso, Ivan Basso, had already made his contribution.

Once a grand tour winner himself, Basso has also come back from a doping-related ban. Still a stylish figure on the bike but seemingly no longer able to switch on the turbochargers during a steep climb, he was the last of Nibali’s Liquigas team-mates to fall back after shepherding his leader most of the way up to the summit of the Peyresourde, the final climb before the ascent to the 1,603m ski station at Peyragudes.

The other members of a diverse but distinguished final group were Tejay van Garderen of BMC Racing, who had seen his leader, Cadel Evans, humiliated once again; Thibaud Pinot of FDJ-BigMat, the youngest rider in the race and already a mountain stage winner; Jurgen van den Broeck of Lotto-Belisol, fourth in the overall classification; and Chris Horner of RadioShack, lying 13th. One by one Froome and Wiggins wore them down, with Nibali starting to drop back before they topped the Peyresourde.

“As they were fatiguing off I was feeling better,” Wiggins said. “so it was actually getting slower the higher we got up. Once we went over the summit I knew Nibali was in trouble, and a few of the other guys. I had a little chat with Froomey on the descent and that was it.”

But not quite. The two Sky men could be seen talking and listening to their radio earpieces and the outcome of their discussion was hard to interpret. Wiggins slipped to the front at the foot of the last climb but then Froome went ahead again. Both were spinning their gears at a high cadence and Froome was starting to make frequent glances back at his team-mate, pulling a few metres ahead while gesturing for Wiggins to hurry up and join him.

It was these signals that caused some to assume that Froome was demonstrating to Wiggins that he is the stronger man in the mountains, as some suspected him of doing before the finish at La Toussuire last Thursday, when he appeared to respond to radio instructions to slow down and allow his leader to catch up.

“It wasn’t a beau geste,” Laurent Jalabert, the retired French grand tour winner who now commentates for TV, said as last night’s stage ended. “You don’t do that between team-mates. I think it darkens the triumph of Wiggins.”

A lot of people had come to that conclusion before the two protagonists were able to give their interpretations. Wiggins said that when he crossed the Peyresourde with Nibali in trouble, he knew for the first time that he had won the Tour – a seductive thought, and a dangerous one.

“We were talking about Nibali and we said, ‘He’s nailed, he’s finished,’” he said. “I heard on the radio that we were alone, just the two of us. I just lost concentration and started thinking a lot of things. In that moment all the fight went out of the window, everything to do with performance.”

They had talked about the time gap to Valverde. “Chris really wanted to win the stage today,” Wiggins said, and it was clear that Froome had enough in the tank to have closed the gap to the Spaniard, which finished at 19sec, while narrowing his own 2min 5sec deficit to Wiggins in the overall standings. But the team’s priority was clear and it was to ensure Wiggins’s safe arrival.

“That was the plan for today, to work for Bradley and protect the yellow jersey,” Froome said. “Everyone in the team has made sacrifices. Cavendish, he’s made sacrifices every day, everyone in the team. That’s cycling. It’s our work.”

Wiggins was quick to praise the work of his principal assistant. “Chris has the talent and in the years to come he’ll have all the pressure of the press and so on,” he said.

“Mentally he’s very strong and I’m sure that he’ll win the Tour one day.”

But not this one, which has Wiggins’s name on it. “Obviously we’ve got the time trial to come,” the yellow jersey said, referring to Saturday’s penultimate stage: a 53.5km race against the clock from Bonneval to Chartres, which follows tomorrow’s undemanding 222.5km transition stage from Blagnac to Brive, and in which he will mount the final defence of his two-minute lead. “But that’s very much our domain,” he concluded. “You’d put your house on me not losing that sort of time.”

Update: Real time blogging, yeah! Fusao bags another bouteille as Tommy V is the first over Le Tourmalet July 18, 2012

Posted by John Ashburne in Tour de France 2012.
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Well done Tommy! But who is gonna win the stage? Still gotta get over Deux Pimples Enorme. So, my money is on someone out of the top GC contenders. How about, for example, a certain rider by the name of.. Tommy Voeckler?

Ha-ha! For once Atomic’s prediction was right. Brilliant ride by the gurning Froggie hero, who stayed away to get Fusao not one but deux bottles of Mongolian Muscadet. Wiggo looks imperious in yellow, he and Froomy neutralising Vincenzo Nibali’s power surge on the final climb. Cadel Evans’ tour is over jersey-wise as his stinker meant he is now some 9 minutes down on the maillot jaune. Chapeau to Yukiya arashiro, btw, for having a go on the Col d’Aspique, which he crossed in 4th place.

There will be more ding-dong des hautes today, and  more wine on offer: tis my birthday today, and there will be an extra bottle of wine awarded to the rider finishing in 51st position, to commemorate the number of brain cells left in Atomic Saddles’ bonce (and the yen in his pocket).

Enjoyez!

Here is the race report from Cycling News:

French favourite Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) added a second stage win to his 2012 Tour de France account with a masterful performance in stage 16, 197km from Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon. The 33-year-old Frenchman emerged from a massive 38-rider early break to solo to victory on a legendary Pyrenean parcours, taking in the Col d’Aubisque, Col du Tourmalet, Col d’Aspin and Col de Peyresourde, and arrived at the finish with a 1:40 lead over former breakaway companion Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank).

Gorka Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) outsprinted Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) for third, 3:22 behind Voeckler.

In addition to the stage victory, Voeckler swept up top honours at each of the day’s four summits to unseat Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) as mountains classification leader, 107 points to 103 at the stage conclusion.

“I can’t really figure out what I’ve done,” said Voeckler. “It’s the kind of thing I watched on television as a kid, and today it was me who did it.

“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 top three riders on general classification, maillot jauneBradley Wiggins (Sky), Chris Froome (Sky) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) finished together, leaving the top of the overall standings unchanged. Nibali led Wiggins and Froome across the finish line in 11th place, 7:09 behind Voeckler and the first riders not part of the early break to arrive at the finish. As a result, Wiggins continues to lead Froome by 2:05 and Nibali by 2:23 overall.

“I’m just glad that one’s out of the way, the team were incredible today,” said Wiggins. “It was hot out there, and everyone reacts differently to it. Everyone’s going through different things with their body. The day after a rest day is always difficult, and I’m just pleased we passed the test as a team. I’m glad we got through it ok, it was tough going out there.”

Less than a minute later Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) led the next group on the road across the finish line for 14th place, ahead of white jersey holder Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto Belisol), Haimar Zubeldia (RadioShack-Nissan), Alejandro Valverde and Juan Jose Cobo (Movistar), plus Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan).

Cadel Evans (BMC) was the big general classification loser on the day as was dropped on the final climb and conceded four minutes to the maillot jaune group. Van den Broeck now holds fourth overall (@5:46) followed by Zubeldia (@7:13) and Van Garderen (@7:55). Evans dropped from fourth to seventh overall, 8:06 back.

“I think now it’s sort of a co-leadership, he’s only one place behind me,” said Van Garderen, in reference to his teammate Evans. “He could easily bounce back the next day, or I could crack.”

Mass exodus on classic Pyrenean parcours

The legendary “Circle of Death”, comprised of the Col d’Aubisque, Col du Tourmalet, Col d’Aspin and Col de Peyresourde ascents, awaited the peloton today as the Tour de France kicked back into gear after its second rest day. With the knowledge that the general classification contenders would likely keep their powder dry until the latter portion of the stage, seemingly every rider with an inkling of early aggression was given the freedom to form the early break in advance of the stage’s first climb, the 16.4km, HC-rated Aubisque.

When the early break finally consolidated 25 kilometres into the stage, 38 riders formed the massive escape group: Steven Cummings and George Hincapie (both BMC Racing Team), Yaroslav Popovych and Jens Voigt (both RadioShack-Nissan), Thomas Voeckler and Yukiya Arashiro (both Europcar), Jorge Azanza, Egoi Martinez and Gorka Izaguirre (all Euskaltel-Euskadi), Danilo Hondo, Marco Marzano and Simone Stortoni (all Lampre-ISD), Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) Maxime Bouet and Sebastien Minard (both AG2R La Mondiale), Rein Taaramae and Samuel Dumoulin (both Cofidis), Brice Feillu, Guillaume Levarlet and Jean Marc Marino (all Saur-Sojasun), Johnny Hoogerland and Rafael Valls Ferri (both Vacansoleil-DCM), Gianpaolo Caruso, Yury Trofimov and Eduard Vorganov (all Katusha), Sandy Casar, Pierrick Fedrigo and Matthiew Ladagnous (all FDJ-Big Mat), Steven Kruiswijk and Laurens Ten Dam (both Rabobank), Rui Costa, Vladimir Karpets, and Vasili Kiryienka (all Movistar), Sergio Paulinho and Chris Anker Sorensen (both Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), Fredrik Kessiakoff and Alexandre Vinokourov (both Astana) and Matthieu Sprick (Argos-Shimano).

Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) was the best-placed rider on general classification, 18th overall at 18:04, but perhaps the most intriguing contest, in addition to vying for stage honours on the Pyrenean parcours, was the battle for the polka-dot jersey, held by Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) at the start of the day. Kessiakoff had amassed 69 points thus far, but the riders in third and fourth on the mountains classification also made the initial selection: Sorensen (39 pts) and Voeckler (37 pts).

The first two climbs of the day, the HC-rated Col d’Aubisque and Col du Tourmalet, each offered 25 points for the first rider across the summit. The latter two climbs of the stage, the Col d’Aspin and Col de Peyresourde, are each category 1-rated and would reward the first rider across with 10 points. Totalled together, a maximum of 70 points were up for grabs, very much a potential game changer for the mountains classification.

The breakaway group knocked out a steady tempo up the Aubisque with the only ripple in the proceedings occurring at the summit with the day’s first KOM points up for grabs. Arashiro played the perfect teammate for Voeckler as he led-out the Frenchman in the climb’s finale. Voeckler crested the summit first with Kessiakoff on his wheel for second place. Arashiro took third at the summit, followed by Sorensen for fourth.

 

Tomorrow. Just a dream? Mes rêves s’élèvent aux Étoiles… the Pyrenees beckon, and our new resident Soothsayer avec Les Massifs Centrales tells us what will transpire à demain. Er, or not. July 17, 2012

Posted by John Ashburne in Tour de France 2012.
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“I see… Wiggo, Wiggo, mais…”

Atomic Saddles is proud to introduce a new correspondent to the site, a certain Madame Soutè de Sayeur-à-Cobblers who has looked into his/her crystal balls and divined what will happen on tomorrow’s monumental stage in the Pyrenees. He/she prognosticated, whilst we passed some silver across that crusty gypsy palm of his/hers:

Now then, now then, mes amis. Here’s un idea. On the morrow, the Tour de France is both won and lost. It is won by someone by the name of… peut-être, Brimstone Wigmore. It is lost by everyone else, including qu’est que c’est ça? Vincenco le Twibbly? Cadre Elle-des-Vins? Mais it is cloudy. Like at the summit of des montagnes de ma tête. All is bien et good. But le Froome et un peu mysterieux. Je ne connais rien except le vinquer et un homme de deux wheels circulaire. L’homme who wishes for the past gets le future. With les knòbs on. Zut!

Frankly we have no idea what Madame Cobblers is on about, but here is Saddles’ translation, as best as nous manage (Is that a trois? – Ed).

Bradley Wiggins won Olympic glory on the track in Athens and Beijing. But will fame solely as un pisteur, a track rider alone, will it suffice? Non, we suspect. Bradley is after nothing less than… nous avow, a place en histoire. The Maillot Jaune. Worn on the podium in Paris. By an Englishman. The emphasis is on the histoire.

Tomorrow we will see a different rider. A man with one foot on the pedal of the past, one foot on the pedal of the present, and one foot on the pedal of the future. (You OK Saddles? – Ed)

Wiggo’s angel. BTW, Atomic Saddles read this book not that long after it was published in the late 60s, as it belonged to mon frère and our fellow sweepstakes participant Steve.

So… [predicts Madame Cobblers] Wiggins will explode tomorrow on the Ventoux, breaking away on an individual attack that takes him past Tommy Simpson’s memorial (still a footnote at best for most riders in this tour, but not for les Anglais) in the lead, blowing away Nibali, Evans, everyone. As he passes the cenotaph for his fallen countryman, despite his exertions, he will make a small bow of recognition. And then he will attack further. I don’t know if he still does, but Wiggins used to have Simpson’s picture stuck to his top tube. When everything goes très interessant insane, Bradley is going to have have an angel on his shoulder.

And superman at his side.

Wiggins’ great lieutenant, Chris Froome, (pictured above) will reign himself in, dragging Wiggins up the mountains knowing that his time will not only come but that his name will be also written in the history of the Tour for being ‘the rider who might have won, but chose not to’ (sounds better in French, honest). And will thus get to lead his own team in the future. “Legs and head” they say, is what makes a great rider. And that’s true. But to be a great Tour de France rider you need something else. Passion. Humilty. A little madness. And last but not least, une âme, a soul.

OO cor blimey, I just woke up. Please disregard all of the above, and I think Ms Soutè de Sayeur-à-Cobblers has nicked my wallet. Team Sky to nullify any attacks, all safe over the hill for Bradley Wiggins, it’ll be dead boring all the way to the outskirts of Paris…

Then he’ll fall off hitting Le Manhole sans Pitié

Or peut-être not. Arf. Enjoy, mes amis… This was a rest day. So why am I staying up until 1.42am scribbling this nonsense? Could it be that I am a little excited?

Well blow moi down with une plume! Pierrick Fedrigo he da man! I bag le plonk. July 16, 2012

Posted by John Ashburne in Tour de France 2012.
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Le garcon done good. The Froggie with the giant schnozz and vaguely Shakespearean-sounding monicker (‘Alas poor Pierrick, I knew him, Gaston, a fellow of infinite Gauloises, etc’) was strongest in the breakaway yesterday on the flat comme un pancake road to Pau, and thus bags moi-meme, me and myself a fine bottle of Chateau Merde-des-Bisons.

Pierrick ‘Le Nez’ Fedrigo

This from Eurosport, with some ‘helpful additions’ by Atomic Saddles:

It was a fourth career Tour stage win for 33-year-old FDJ-Big Nose, sorry Big Mat, rider Fedrigo – whose last victory on the Tour came on the race’s previous visit to Pau back in 2010.

Fedrigo launched his decisive attack from a six-man group with 5km remaining of the short and lumpy 158km stage in south-west France.

The cursed Garmin-Sharp’s Vande Velde managed to latch onto the Frenchman’s wheel but had no answer when Fedrigo jumped out of the saddle in the closing metres and nosed over the line (geddit? – Ed). Another Frenchman, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) whose lolling tongue is a similar length to the victor’s proboscis, took third place ahead of Denmark’s anatomically ordinary Nikki Sorensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff), 12 seconds back.

Yellow jersey Bradley ‘Stick Insect’ Wiggins crossed the line safely alongside his GC rivals in the peloton almost 12 minutes in arrears to retain the race lead ahead of the Tour’s second rest day.

“It’s really incredible,” said Fedrigo, whose 2011 campaign was largely wiped out after he contracted the debilitating Lyme disease while hunting des warthogs enormes in the off-season.

“When you’re on the Tour you have to read the situations and get into the right breaks,” he added. ”It was a very strong group – with riders like Sorensen and Voeckler – but I waited for the right moment and took my chance.”

The breakaway did not form until 60km into the stage after a fast and nervous start saw numerous thwarted attempts over the rolling terrain of the Gers region near Toulouse.

Frenchmen Fedrigo and Voeckler were joined by compatriot Samuel Dumoulin (Codifis), Belgian Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and the American Vande Velde off the front of a peloton which had already reeled in two previous minor breaks.

Denmark’s Sorensen nevertheless fought back against apparent orders by Team Sky to slow down in the bunch by darting off in pursuit of the five leaders.

As the break quickly built up a lead of five minutes, Sorensen rode – gutsy that – along alone in no-man’s land 45 seconds off the pace. This prompted his Saxo Bank team to come to the front of the peloton and increase the tempo. Moments later, the five escapees sat up and allowed Sorensen to join the action after the information was seemingly relayed through on radio.

Once Sorensen was part of the break, Saxo Bank dropped off the front and the pace slowed considerably. Soon the leaders had carved out a 12-minute gap on a largely indifferent peloton.

Three minor climbs in the second half of the stage proved little obstacle, with Voeckler taking the points over each peak.

As the leaders entered the final 10km, Sorensen made two failed attempts at breaking clear – the second of which Fedrigo used, nostrils flaring, as a springboard for his own counter-attack.

Vande Velde latched onto the Frenchman’s wheel but missed out once again to Fedrigo – who beat the American into third place back in 2006 when he took his first stage win on the Tour de France.

Voeckler and Sorensen made a last-ditch effort to return to the wheels of the two leaders inside the final three kilometres but neither rider had the strength. They crossed the line 12 seconds down, with Devenyns taking fifth at 21 seconds and an exhausted Dumoulin rolling home more than a minute down for sixth.

“It’s a great day for the team and for Pierrick who won here in 2010,” said the barking mad FDJ-BigMat manager Mark Madiot after his team’s second stage win – and France’s fourth – in this year’s Tour. “We knew he’d be okay today once he got in the break. Whenever Pierrick’s in a break he’s always in terrific condition.”

Germany’s Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) led the peloton over the line 11:50 in arrears ahead of the American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) and the green jersey Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale).

The Tour enters the second rest day with Britain’s Wiggins retaining his 2:05 lead over compatriot and Sky team-mate Chris Froome. Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) is third, 2:23 down, and defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC) fourth, at 3:19.

The race resumes on Wednesday with the terrifying, potentially game-changing 197km ‘Queen stage’ numero 16 which features the famous Pyrenean climbs of the Col d’Aubisque, Col du Tourmalet, Col d’Aspin and Col de Peyresourd before a downhill finish in Bagneres-de-Luchon.

Attacks on the Road; tacks on the Road; Vino for Gail merci à LLS July 16, 2012

Posted by John Ashburne in Prize announcement, Tour de France 2012.
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Gail becomes the sweepstakes dixieme-plonkeur, pardon the phrase, as Luis Leon Sanchez took stage 14 yesterday, breaking away from the breakaway (as I predicted. Honest) to seize victory in Foix, home of mounjetado bean stew, don’t you know.

The victorious Mr Sanchez

Here’s the Grauniad report:

The Mur de Péguère is a savage little climb, its last four kilometres a narrow tunnel of trees and excited spectators urging on the straining riders. On Sunday afternoon it was as dark as night, with barely room for two riders abreast on a gradient that touches 20%. A tough test for even the strongest climber, it was new to the Tour de France this year, but its debut will be remembered for the wrong reasons after one of those spectators scattered carpet tacks on the road and induced around 30 punctures among the group of riders including Bradley Wiggins, the Tour’s overall leader, and his chief rivals.

Quoth the Torygraph:

Bradley Wiggins, Britain’s Tour de France leader, was christened “Le Gentleman” by the French media on Sunday after the race came under attack from saboteurs and Wiggins slowed the peloton in order to help a key rival.

The summit of the climb came 38km from the end of stage 14, which began in Limoux and ended in Foix in the foothills of the Pyrenees, and the incident occurred as the peloton emerged into the light and passed under the banner at the top, a quarter of an hour behind a five-man breakaway.

Cadel Evans was the first to suffer, quickly dismounting and waiting to take a bike from one of his BMC Racing team-mates, only to discover that the first of them had also punctured. The next one surrendered his bike, only for that, too, to give him a second flat as he started the descent. There would be another bike change, and the sight of his mechanic falling into a roadside ditch, clambering out, and falling back in again.

Oi Wiggo! ‘old on there, me ole matey. Someone’s nicked my bike

The timing of the incident raised the question, almost certainly destined to remain unanswered, of whether, having allowed the escapers to pass by unhindered, the culprit had waited specifically for the yellow jersey group before sowing his mischief.

Such incidents, part of the cherished mythology of the Tour’s early years, are rare in modern cycling, although a 62-year-old local councillor was arrested and subsequently released after tacks had been scattered during the 2009 Etape Caledonia, a sportive held on closed roads in Scotland, causing countless punctures among the 3,500 riders.

Cycling’s complex etiquette contains an unwritten rule that riders in contention for a race win should not be penalised for sheer misfortune. Wiggins, who suffered a puncture of his own, took immediate steps to control the peloton’s pace, ensuring that the group waited for Evans and allowing the other sufferers from punctures to catch up and ride in to the finish together.

“I just thought it was the honourable thing to do,” he said. “No one wants to benefit from someone else’s misfortune. There’s nothing to stop that sort of thing happening, whether it was aimed at someone in particular or not. It’s the sort of thing we have to put up with as cyclists. People sometimes take for granted how close they can get to us. If it happened at a football ground, there would be arrests.”

There was the sternness of an old-fashioned Tour patron in his rebuke to the young Frenchman Pierre Rolland, the only one to ride away from the peloton and seize the opportunity for a lone attack before being absorbed back into the bunch, where he was received with coolness.

Dans la maison de merde. Rolland has been sent to Coventry by the Peloton. Or somewhere similar in France. Probably Saint-Étienne.

“I thought that was a bit uncouth,” Wiggins said. “The gap was 17 minutes, we’d all been up a climb that was really tough, a lot of people had punctured and the race was over. Only he would know why he did it. It didn’t seem an honourable thing to do.” Rolland later claimed he had not known about the punctures.

Jean-Claude Pescheux, the race director, paid tribute to the decision of Wiggins, helped by his Team Sky colleagues, to moderate the pace. “We couldn’t neutralise it straight away because we didn’t know what had happened,” he said. “Fortunately Sky neutralised the race. We’ve found some of the tacks. They were obviously thrown by a spectator. We don’t know who it was. No one saw anything. There were around 50 riders together in the front peloton at the top and about 30 of them ended up with punctures. Some of them had three or four nails in their tyres. They are imbeciles to have done this.”

For Evans, this was not a new experience. “This has happened to me before, two times in Spain,” he said. “That’s why I don’t race in Spain very often. There’s a few people that just take things too far. It’s cost me a Vuelta and cost me other races.” It may have been no more than a coincidence that Sunday’s crowd contained a high proportion of Spanish fans who had travelled across the Pyrenees to watch the race.

There were no changes to the overall standings after a stage won by Luis-León Sánchez, the Spanish rider with the Rabobank team, who broke away from the other four escapers – a powerful group including Peter Sagan, the wearer of the points leader’s green jersey, who had initiated the break almost as soon as the stage began, and Philippe Gilbert – as they entered Foix and began a 12-kilometre circuit on flat roads before returning to the finish in the town centre.

This was a fourth Tour stage win for the 28-year-old Sánchez, who suffered a bad crash in the first stage two weeks ago. He crossed the line 45 seconds ahead of his pursuers with his fingers pointing to the sky, a dedication to his late brother, also a rider, who died seven years ago in a quad-bike accident

Greipel outsprints Sagan to Le Cap d’Agde bagging vino for Mike D; plonk de Bastille Day for Kevin R July 15, 2012

Posted by John Ashburne in Prize announcement, Tour de France 2012.
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The Tour rolled into Europe’s largest nudest colony yesterday with the Big German beating the hunky Slovak by a few extra centimeters (You are talking about cycling, yes? – Ed). Mike D gets the bottle of Chateau des Baboons-Derrières, whilst the special Bastille Day plonk is awarded to Le Duc de Knobblyknees-blanches Kevin R, thanks to the 4th place achieved by Sebastian Hinault. The latter is a great achievement for the 38-year old who was only drafted into his team a few days before the start of the race.

I am happy to announce that with nine prizes awarded so far, there has been no avalanche of abysmal plonk for just one, er, lucky punter as has happened in past sweepstakes. The battle between Sagan and Greipel in the sprints, and the open nature of this year’s race helped that. Also there is a roughly 50-50 split between punters in the UK and Japan. Bravo! Tomorrow’s stage is likely to be one for the breakaway too. Good luck mes amis.

Victorious punters so far, with une bouteille apiece are: Riki’s Tim; Wil F; Fusao; Riki; Joe B; Mike D; Sasha A; Kevin R & Cathy. Prizes are updated more-or-less daily here, don’t forget.

The moment of triumph for Greipel

This report is from cycling news, with some, er, ‘clarifications’ by Atomic Saddles:
Half-gorilla, half deep ocean sea creature Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) took his third stage win at the 2012 Tour de France, winning a photo finish over Peter Sagan of Liquigas-Cannondale. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) took third in the mass sprint in naughty, nudist Le Cap d’Agde.

Bradley Wiggins, who set up the sprint for Boasson Hagen, easily defended his overall lead as he tried to turn provider for his teammate, who has spent much of the race at Wiggins’ side.

“It was just the last kilometre, slightly downhill. It was the safest place to be and I wanted to try to repay a friend of mine,” Wiggins said.

“Sometimes it is just best to be in the front, it is best to do the effort in first position than further down the peloton in 20th, especially when there are chances of splits in the bunch. You have to pay attention to every single day, even a day like today because of the bends in the last 400 metres. You have to be careful every day until [the final stage in] Paris.”

Wiggo and Eddy looking calm

Greipel’s team did much of the chase work in the closing part of the race, and the big German rewarded them for their efforts. He had one less rival to face, as the near-invisible Mark Cavendish had been dropped on the day’s only ranked climb 23km from the end. The world champion ended up crossing the finish line more than eight minutes down.

“It was very close,” acknowledged Greipel, who turns 30 on Monday. “I was next to last over the climb. But the team worked great and brought me up to the front.”

“This win is a special one with the Mont St Clair [climb] so close to the finish. I managed to hang on in this climb and then Lars Bak took me back in the bunch. It was once again great team work and we deserved this.”

Futile breakaway ahead of sprinter’s delight

Once again, the day’s break formed almost immediately, with Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ), Michael Morkov (Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) and Roy Curvers (Argos-Shimano) the first to go. Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur-Sojasun) and Maxime Bouet (AG2R-LaMondiale) joined them and Jerome Pineau (Omega Pharma-QuickStep finally rounded out the group.

Not quite 50km into the stage, they had built up a lead of some nine minutes, which was enough to set off alarms in the peloton. Orica-GreenEdge did much of the work to close the gap.

There was one abandon during the stage, as Tony Gallopin of RadioShack-Nissan gave in to the Revenge de Montezouma which has plagued him and made other riders most wary of racing in his, er, slipsteam. Urgh.  Peter Velits of Omega Pharma-QuickStep decided inexplicably to nut a barrier at the intermediate sprint, but was able to continue.

Tony, Gallopin seulement towards la Lavatoire, alas

There was no drama this time at that sprint. The eight in the break group took the big points, and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) easily claimed the next points in the field, ahead of Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) and Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEdge).

With about 64km to go, the gap had dropped to two minutes. Pineau tried to pick up the group speed, but in response, Morkov took off alone. He quickly built up a lead of over a minute over the chasers, but it was a long way to go.

Thirty kilometers later, the gap from Morkov to the field had dropped to just over a minute, and the field’s speed was high enough to shed riders along the way.

Mountains classification leader Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) was amongst those involved in a crash with 26km to go, but all got up and going again.

Morkov took less than a minute lead up the day’s only ranked climb, the category 3 Mont Saint-Clair, with 23km to go. The field caught the remaining chase group on its way up, and eventually Morkov as well.

Cadel Evans of BMC attacked with about 24km to go, out of the field, with Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto) at his side. But once again, Wiggins calmly drove the field up to the Australian and reeled him in.

Evans led the field over the mountain ranking, and into the descent. Various riders tried to get away on the descent but none was allowed to go. The field had become noticeably smaller though, and the sprinters were amongst those who had been dropped.

Alexandre Vinokourov took off out of the group, and with 16 km to go, Michael Albasini of Orica-GreenEdge went after him. The Wiggins group was then joined by more riders from behind. Sky’s Cavendish was not amongst them, being caught in a group more than a minute back and losing time every meter. Caught without teammates, no one else was willing to help the World Champion move up, and he had to resign himself to missing out on yet another sprint.

Lotto-Belisol moved up to lead the chase of the two leaders, with Greipel having made the cut into the group. The wind finally came into play, and Lotto pulled away with 4km to go, with a handful of other riders including Wiggins and Sagan with them.

It came as it must, and with 2.5km, the two leaders were caught. Almost immediately Luis Leon Sanchez of Rabobank jumped and was joined by Matthieu Sprick (Argos-Shimano) in a massive bid for some revenge after the hideous first half of the race for both teams. But the pair were chased down by the maillot jaune himself as Wiggins led the field, opening the sprint for Boasson Hagen. Greipel still had something left and he and Sagan went to the line in a photo finish.

Joe B bags the Beaujolais de Burundie as David Millar rolls back the Years to win in the Ardeche; Moncoutié crashes out in his ‘Final Tour’ July 14, 2012

Posted by John Ashburne in Tour de France 2012.
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Zut alors et cor de blimey! The Tour des Anglais continues apace with reformed Brit drug gargler David Millar outsprinting former Froggie mountain biker Jean-Cristophe Peraud to gain the fourth TdF stage victory of his career. Millar is a likable and articulate figure – his autobiography ‘Racing through the Dark: the Fall and Rise of David Millar’ comes highly recommended and is high on Atomic Saddles’ xmas wishlist – and it was nice to see that there is life in the old chien yet as he outsprinted the 2009 French national time trial champion to take victory on the anniversary of Tommy Simpson‘s death.

It’s ‘Millar Time’ encore un fois!

Garmin-Sharp‘s David Millar took his fourth career Tour de France stage win and claimed Great Britain’s fourth of this year’s race when he outsprinted Ag2r-La Mondiale‘s Jean-Christophe Peraud to win stage 12 into Annonay Davézieux. The two riders were part of a five-man breakaway also including Robert Kiserlovski (Astana), Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel) who built up a lead of more than 12 minutes on the bunch towards the end of the longest stage of the race. The five men had plenty of time in hand as they came into the finish and made the most of it. After three hours of hard riding, they slowed down and began toying with each other over the final 4km. Kiserlovski and Martínez both feigned attacks, but it was Peraud who made the first full-on tilt for the line as they approached the 2km banner. Millar chased after the Frenchman and, as the other three waited for each other to respond, it soon became clear that the stage would be decided by Peraud and the Scot. The pair cooperated until 500m from the line, when Peraud sat in on Millar’s wheel and waited for the moment to make his move. Peraud’s mountain biking pedigree suggested that he might not to be well suited to a road sprint, but he put up a great fight. He waited until 200 metres from the line before making his move, jumping on Millar’s right as the Scot stuck hard to the left-hand barrier. Peraud got alongside Millar, but when the Garmin man got his gear turning there was only going to be one winner. As he claimed his first Tour stage since 2003, Millar punched the air a couple of times and then collapsed to the ground beyond line.

“The day worked out perfectly. It’s my proudest win since my Tour victory at Béziers in 2002 as winning a road stage is always more emotional than winning a time trial or a prologue. It’s taken our team going through turmoil to bring out the best of me,” said Millar, who paid tribute to Tom Simpson, who died 45 years ago today on a Tour stage over Mont Ventoux. Asked about the fact that all four of Britain’s Olympic team riders who are racing at the Tour have now won a stage, Millar commented: “Our Olympic team is made up of Tour de France stage winners and that should make it quite a force. I never thought I would see Britons dominating like this at the Tour.”

Garmin-Sharp DS Allan Peiper said that the victory had shown what “an old soldier” Millar is. “It was a very difficult stage as they raced hard from the start, but they knew they would have a chance after the first two climbs once the peloton came back together. There aren’t too many tactics after a hard start and long stage like that. We knew the last 5k were very hard with a side to head wind in the last kilometre. But David was looking good on the road and he made his experience count. That’s what made the difference,” said Peiper. The bunch was led in almost eight minutes later by Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge). However, within minutes the Australian was relegated for having deviated from his line in that sprint, preventing points rival Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) from getting a clean run at the finish. The Slovak’s angry gesticulations left no doubt about his feelings on Goss’s sprint.

Calm down Monsieur Sagan. You’ll never realise your life-long dream of discovering Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence at this rate

Bradley Wiggins and Sky had a relatively comfortable day, happy to let the breakaway take centre stage as the race heads for the Pyrenees. However, following the stage, Wiggins revealed that he had received burns from a flare carried by a fan on the final climb 25km from the finish. He described the incident as more scary than painful.

“I think Dave must have been beginning to feel left out and it’s incredible that he’s won on such an anniversary. He’s had a hard season with a crash that resulted in a broken collarbone, but to top it off with stage win on Tom’s anniversary is good,” Wiggins said of his former Garmin teammate. “We had a bit of a day off, but it was still pretty tough.” The break takes shape Once again, there was action right from the off as dozens of riders attempted to get into the break of the day. Heading towards the Grand Cucheron, the first of two early first-category climbs, a break of 17 riders went clear. Astana’s Kiserlovski was very prominent in it as he took the KoM points on the Grand Cucheron. Cofidis climber David Moncoutié tried to get across to the lead group here, but crashed on the descent and had to abandon the race with a broken collarbone.

Moncoutie in tears as he breaks his collarbone on his ‘Last Tour’

Six riders fell back from the lead group on that climb, and another six were dropped on the subsequent ascent of the Col du Granier, where Kiserlovski again took maximum KoM points. The five leaders had no chance to ease up, though, as riders continued to attack from the bunch, which was less than two minutes in arrears. Sagan was among those attackers. He went clear with Liquigas-Cannondale teammates Dominik Nerz and Kristjan Koren, as well as Rein Taaramäe (Cofidis) and Chris Anker Sörensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank). Sagan’s group got halfway across to the leaders, but were then hauled back as Orica-GreenEdge joined Sky in setting the pace on the front of the peloton in order to prevent the Slovak getting clear of Goss before the intermediate sprint. Once Sagan’s group had been brought back, Sky lifted the pedal at the front of the bunch, finally allowing the five-man break some breathing space. Their lead ballooned out to more than 12 minutes with 50km remaining. The only time the peloton raised its pace in that period was for that intermediate sprint, where Goss, André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Kenny Van Hummel (Vacansoleil-DCM) all beat Sagan. However… The green jersey sits ever more securely on Peter Sagan‘s shoulders on Friday evening after Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) was docked 30 points when he was adjudged to have impeded the Liquigas-Cannondale rider in the bunch sprint for sixth place on stage 12 of the Tour de France. After finishing three places ahead of Sagan in the intermediate sprint at Marcilloles, Goss had appeared set to cut his deficit in the points classification to 22 points but instead sees that gap stretch out to a hefty 56 as commissaires deemed him guilty of changing his line in the sprint and placing his colleagues in danger.

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