I do solemnly swear that this is what WILL happen in this year’s 101st Tour de France. If a different result occurs, it is because our international race fixing syndicate have been sleeping on the job.
As has now become a tradition, I do solemnly swear that this is what WILL happen in this year’s 101st Tour de France. If a different result occurs, it is because our international race fixing syndicate have been sleeping on the job.
We shall begin.
Le Tour de France. Behemoth of cycling. Greatest spectator sport in the world. Source of drama, elation, horror and pandas running up hills with mankini-clad twits. In Yorkshire. With tea. Bring it on.
Stage 1: Leeds – Harrogate
Yorkshire. What can be said about Yorkshire that hasn’t already been said? Playground of the giant snow leopard, ancestral home of Sir. Chrispian Banjax, inventor of the inflatable bicycle chain, and the Marianas Trench, deepest water mass on Earth.
It will also have loads of skinny freaks bouncing out of hedgerows and sliding into tea rooms, come Saturday. Yes, its the first stage, or Where Everyone Except Bernie Eisel Crashes, as the pros call it.
Carnage on the beautiful, snaking lanes. Ferrets dodging for cover. Etc. The weather holds up though, and we view England at its prettiest. Meanwhile, appearing through a din of splintering carbon and sliding pedals on tarmac comes…Harvey Keitel! I mean Maxwell Kittel. Cav is caught up in a crash and his dream of yellow shattered, along with his 16 Gigamillion Pounds McLaren Incredobike With Orangey Bits.
A collective British audience mutter “bugger’ politely at their TVs.
Stage 2: York – Sheffield
Even narrower roads today. So much so that riders from Saxo Quickstep Movibank have fitted 25cm width handlebars and had their shoulder blades removed. Commitment.
Endless short sharp climbs make this one for the punchy little bastards like Simon Gerrans. The bunch will split, and as light rain hits slick tree-lined corners, more carnage awaits. Frank Schleck goes down and out, but we knew that already and it gets it out the way for us. Phew.
A select group of wall-climbing impresarios make the winning move on Cote de Jenkin Road: Kwiatkowski, Gerrans, Sagan, Slagter and Valverde. Nobody wants to drag Sagan into Sheffield for an easy sprint win into yellow, so they attack on the run in. Kwiatkowski first, then Slagter, then Gerrans just as he’s caught. Gerrans wins from Sagan, with a much reduced bunch of 30 elite riders 8 seconds behind. Gerro repeats his victory of last year and we nod in reverence.
Meanwhile, vital lieutenants and helpers for key GC riders litter the byways. Bad day for most.
Stage 3: Cambridge – London
The previous night Sagan delighted a select group of nubile journalists, as he joined Cambridge Footlights on stage for a complete rendition of Wagner’s Ring Cycle (pun) in Speedos and a honky red nose. Swoon.
Screamingly a pure sprint stage, it all goes to plan, apart from the usual jittery crash mayhem, and it comes down to a battle royale between Marcel Marceau, Mark Cavendish and German Gorilla dude, whatshisname.
Cav does the Queen proud on The Mall, and the Tour leaves Britain with a nice pressie for it’s hosts. Marcel is now in green, Gerro stays in yellow. And some French dude from Cofidis we haven’t the foggiest about has the spotty jumper. Onwards to France.
Stage 4: Le Touquet Paris Plage – Lille Metropole
Essentially the same as yesterday, except more sunflowers.
A huge pile up on the final turn sees the powerhouse favourites decimated, and out pops John “I will not do up ze jersey” Dekenkolb to snatch a cheeky win. He gives good facial hair. We like John. Well done John. Do up your zip though, eh? There are kids watching.
Stage 5: Ypres – Arenberg Porte du Hainault
The toilets will be extra busy this morning. Flat as a pancake, but no sprinter’s lead out trains. This is COBBLES, YEAAAA!!!! Team Sky have tied water wings to Froome’s tiny upper arms, so he can bounce. Contador is having a massive strop. And Andy Schleck is saying this isn’t part of cycling. EAT THIS YOU MUTHAS!
It all starts scattering as soon as the first cobbles are hit at 87km. Not so much that they’re hard, just the fear. A select group of MEN WITH BIG BALLS stretches ahead. Dekenkolb, Thomas, Eisel, Terpstra, Cancellara, Boom, Vanmarcke, Oss, Burghardt and Sparrrrtacus.
It is finally whittled down to two, as Geraint attacks on the penultimate section and John “is that zip still broken?” Kornonthekob go clear.
Jersey John sits in and takes the sprint from G. G takes yellow, as he came in ahead into Sheffield. Lovely. Kristoff rounds off the podium with third.
Meanwhile, not so lovely as Froome’s water wings fail to prevent a very nasty stack as he spends too much time staring at his stem, and not the massive craggy cobbley things. Froome breaks his collarbone (natch) and is out. Contador loses 3 minutes on the winners, and there is all round mayhem. The best placed favourite is now Kwiatkowski, brought in safely by cobbles gods Omega Farmer QuickSharp.
Geraint beams. We beam.
Stage 6: Arras – Reims
Wiggins. Wiggins wouldn’t have crashed. He’d have bossed it, the media scream. Brailsford’s plan is all or nothing. Nothing this time. It seems….It seems…..
Kittel wins into Reims, outfoxing Cav and Bouhanni, stretching his green lead.
Wiggins. Wiggins. Wiggins. Blah blah blah.
Stage 7: Epernay – Nancy
It looks flat. It is flat. But it has two gits (nasty little climbs) to traverse right at the end. Out pop our completely differently built puncheurs, Sagan and Gerrans. Gerro gets a few metres on Cote de Boufflers, but Sagan kills himself to get back on, sits on him, and Gerro’s tactical nouse is stumped. Sit up and the hard charging peleton at 15” will have them. Drag Sagan to the finish and its an unfair fight. He flicks his elbow and screams at Sagan to pass. No way.
Sagan wins an epic sprint, just, with both riders looking ready to fall over for most of the last KM. That was fun. But not for them.
Sagan’s win display as he crosses the line is an emotional interpretive dance piece called Soul Child, depicting the essential Human Condition and our spiritual inability to separate our intellectual needs from the physical.
And he pinches someone’s arse.
Stage 8: Tomblaine – Gerardmer La Mauselaine
DUN DUN DUNNNNNN. Geraint’s first test in yellow. A snazzy group led by Chavanel goes clear. Bakelants aims to repeat his great success last year, Voigt sees an escape, so of course he’s in there, Trofimov and Paolini are stage hunting for Katushka, Taaramae and Barta complete a classy break.
They get a maximum 8 minutes, and stay clear all day. Chavanel escapes on the descent of the Gross Pierre, only to get caught by Barta, Taaramae and Bakelants and the last shortish steep ascent. Barta outsprints Bakelants uphill for a famous and important win for NetApp Endura.
Meanwhile Thomas is attacked by Nibali, looking to show his chops on the descent and gain a psychological advantage of Contador. Team Sky chase, and fail, but Nibbles only gains 10” on an elite chasing group. G stays in yellow and looks relaxed. Early days….
Stage 9: Gerardmer – Mulhouse
Team Sky, with no Froome to support and Porte struggling to find form, realign behind Thomas. No GC attacks go, and this leaves another high-grade escape to benefit.
Surprisingly, given his high-class domestique duties for Bertie, Michael Rogers is given his freedom, and drags Riblon, Simon Yates, Slagter and Voeckler over the climbs towards Mulhouse. A long flat run in suits Rogers, but only if he can break clear. He tries, and fails, unable to mimic his two wins of the Giro. Slagter takes advantage, easily outsprinting his spent companions.
Very much a transition day. Cards unplayed.
Next week, more predictions.
Will G hang on to Yellow?
Is Sagan slacking on the bum-feeling and wheelie-pulling?
How grumpy is Contador? Wouldn’t you be grumpy if you had to work for Barney Rice and Oleg “Clown Face Killa” Tinkov?
These and more fetid ditchwater next week.
Enjoy the Tour.