This is a guest post by Mr.Q, a professional quizmaster and an ardent Tour de France follower…

The Killer peak tamed !!

mount-ventoux

The 20th & penultimate stage of the tour started from Montelimar and ended at Mont Ventoux, a distance of 167 kms. With one Cat – 4 climb & three Cat – 3 climbs today’s stage also had a mountain top finish with the Hors Category Mont Ventoux in the end.

Montelimar, with a population of 34,000, where this stage started is famous for its nougat industry and is an upcoming hub for big companies. The town has a totally pedestrian area with many a churches, monuments, parks & shopping arcades. The Tour came to the city for the 1st time ever.

“Bald mountain” or the “Giant of the Provence” are names by which Mont Ventoux is known to the tourists. The tour has been here 13 times before & this will be the 8th time we have a mountain top finish here. To the cycling fans this is a spot for homage, as in 1967 British cyclist Tom Simpson died on the mountain during Stage 13 and today there is a marble slab with his silhouette on the way to the top. With an average gradient of over 7% over 21.6 kms, this is one hell of a course to finish. The organisers had kept this as the penultimate stage to keep the suspense of the race right till the end and in turn have broken the tradition of the 20th stage being a time trial.

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Ever since we started waving the Indian tricolour on the routes we have been having a great time (not that we were not having one before!!). It’s a thrill every time someone waves to us and shouts out “India, India…Allez, Allez” which is the chant for encouragement for the riders when they pass by. We have been photographed by hundreds of people, some of whom actually want to stand with us for a snap!! For most fans the first reaction is – there is no Indian rider on the Tour, so what are you guys doing out here??!! And in the group of those who have been traveling along with the tour, we are the “CRAZY Indians”!! Few of the media people who have interviewed us even tell us that “we are the first Indians to follow the whole Tour de France”…GREAT.

The amount of people whom we have met, who are aware of India – having traveled there or planning to travel there is just amazing!! One such person was Andre from Germany has come to India 14 times in the last 20 years and still plans to do many more trips!! Many of them plan to travel next year as the economic situation is very bleak here now and going on a holiday will be disastrous for their jobs.

Another aspect of traveling in France that we would like the future traveler to know is that one can share a car with the owner of the car whom you can join for a specified cost – a big money saver. There is a website where in Car owners have to register and they mention all details of their travel, such as details on the route, time of travel, smoking, pets & costs. You can sign up & call them to book your travel and the costs are mostly 40% less than the train. Advantage is that its not a taxi cab, so its almost always clean & the owners are also good amiable companions. (www.covoiturage.fr)

Armstrong & Contador on Mont Ventoux
Armstrong & Contador on Mont Ventoux

Today’s race was fast & with a predetermined move 18 riders broke away. But after all the small climbs, it was at Bedouin at the bottom of Mont Ventoux that the action started. The breakaways were caught one after the other by the Astana team which kept a fast pace right through out. But once 5 km into the climb, the Schleck brothers attacked only to find Contador & Armstrong right along with them. The relentless attacks, 8 of them in all by Andy Schleck finally saw him pull away for the third position, with Contador & Armstrong finish 4th & 5th. But in the end the dash to glory was between Tony Martin of the British Columbia Team & Juan Manuel Garate of Rabobank team, both of whom started in the 18 member breakaway. The Rabobank man had the better legs & sealed his stage win with a good burst in the last 500m.

Bradley Wiggins & Christian Van Der Val
Bradley Wiggins & Christian Van Der Val
George Hincappie & Mikal Asterloza
George Hincappie & Mikal Asterloza

For the record in Stage 18 – the winner was Juan Manuel Garate of Rabobank team. The individual standings of the top remains the same – the Yellow Jersey remains with Alberto Contador. Andy Schleck maintains his 2nd position & Lance Armstrong stays 3rd overall. The Green Jersey remains with Thor Hurshod of Norway & the White Jersey with Andy Schleck. (Not to mention the 500,000 fans & over 10,000 campers lined along the route to the top would be an oversight!!)

Kim Kerchen from British Columbia
Kim Kerchen from British Columbia
Nibali, Pelazotti & Kruzenger on their climb on Mt Ventoux
Nibali, Pelazotti & Kruzenger on their climb on Mt Ventoux
Nicki Sorenson & the Schleck brothers
Nicki Sorenson & the Schleck brothers

The 21th & last stage of the tour starts from Montereau-Fault-Yonne and ends at the Champs-Elysees, a distance of 164 kms. This stage is usually a wind down stage for all riders with champagne for the leaders!! Though there will be the odd rider who will fancy a breakaway and glory for himself on the Champs Elysees, the teams with sprinters will chase them down for sure. Right now me thinks, it will be a close fight between Green jersey holder Thor Hurshod & Mark Cavendish with the later being the favourite. But never forget that Ballan & Cancellara too might try their hand at making a break!! Paris here we come…..

Au revoir!!…

Email : mrq@planningfactory.in

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