This is a guest post by Mr.Q, a professional quizmaster and an ardent Tour de France follower
Anncey – the lake town !!
In the Alps, we have seen some of the best scenic routes & towns as we pass by with the Tour de France. The natural beauty of the place with lots of greenery is refreshing to the eyes. Add to that the friendly nature of the people we meet along the route, all makes for a very good combination of fun & festivity something which the Tour de France organisers want to showcase for the fans.
The old town of Annecy is a delight to walk through. With some clean canals crisscrossing the town, Annecy is otherwise known to tourists as the “Venice of Alps”. With cafes liberally spread out, this small town gives us a real warm & cozy feeling.
The 18th Stage of the Tour de France was a time trial around the lake town of Annecy, a distance of 40 kms. This town with a population of around 60,000 is based around a Lake. The cool waters of the Lake is a turquoise green colour & the water is so clear that one can see the bottom of the lake at most times!! The locals here tell us that at one time the entire drinking water supply to the town was from the Lake, but now though the waters are quite clean, they have other resources.
With summer being very pleasant here, we found that there are lots of sales going around and almost all shops except Supermarkets & Pharmacies have good discount schemes going on. We saw a board which said 80% discount & went there to find that they were selling Skis & Snow boarding equipments, something which we are never going to use in Kerala!!
The Tour has stopped at Annecy twice before and comes back to the town after a gap of 50 years. The course for the day started with the flat roads and then comes the only climb of the day to Col de Bluffy. Thereafter it drops down slowly & ends in the flat road around the lake of Annecy.
Traditionally, the time trial is the last stage before the final stage of the race reaching Paris, but this time around the Tour is breaking with tradition as we still have the toughest of the mountains – Mont Ventox still unconquered as Stage 20!!
Today’s race is more a technical course and not one for flat out sprinters. So it was not surprising that the Schleck brothers were keen to get on course to show their mettle. One of the world’s best time trial riders is Fabian Cancellara and he proved that once again when he finished his ride under 49 minutes. Most of the riders where on good pace for the first 2 stages but then slowed down on the climb of Col de Bluffy. Armstrong started very strong but couldn’t carry his momentum, though he piped Frank Schleck out of the 3rd place overall. Wiggins was expected to get in a good performance & he did that though he couldn’t match Cancellara’s time. But the best was from Contador as he powered his way around the lake to beat Cancellara’s time by 3 seconds. Now with just 3 more stages to go, the Individual title seems to be a forgone conclusion!!
For the record in Stage 18 – the winner was Alberto Contador of the Astana team. The individual standings of the top changes though the Yellow Jersey remains with Alberto Contador. Andy Schleck remains on 2nd position & Lance Armstrong moves up to 3rd spot. The Green Jersey remains with Thor Hurshod of Norway & Andy Schleck retains the White Jersey.
News on Jens Voigts is that, he is safe now after his crash traveling at around 80kms speed while descending during the 16th stage. Though he has a fractured cheekbone & a clot in the brain due to severe concussions, he is ruled out of danger. His team has already extended him the next years contract and he is planning to ride the Tour in 2010.
The big news at the Race site was that Lance Armstrong had announced his signing up with a new team for 2010 and to participate in the Tour next year too. The Radio Shack, an electronics retail giant, is the brand which will sponsor his new team. With lots of dissension in Team Astana on why Contador attacked his own team mate Kloden on the climb to Col de la Coloumbiere in Stage 16th overlooking team interests, it will be no surprise if Johan Bruyneel the team director also quits & joins Armstrong.
The 19th stage of the tour starts from Bourgoin-Jallieu and ends at Aubenas, a distance of 178 kms. Though this is generally a flat stage with no climbs to mention of some heavy action is expected from all those who have promised to deliver, but who have not been able to so far, as this is the last stage they will get a chance to stake a claim in this year’s Tour de France. Though me thinks that the Cavendish & team might use this as a dress rehearsal for the final stage at Paris!!
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