Tour de France - Blazin' Saddles: Cav in Cruise control

Eurosport - Sat, 24 Jul 07:44:00 2010

It was a Diaz to remember as Mark Cavendish proved there's life without Mark Renshaw with an emphatic victory in Bordeaux amongst some of Hollywood's leading film stars.

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Yes, Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz were inexplicably part of the entourage as the remaining riders eased their way through the flat Landes region and into the swanky boho riverside town of Bordeaux on Friday. (Poor President Sarkozy – the showbiz president sure did choose the wrong day to visit the Tour...).

Some climatologists had predicted rain, man, while others had said there would be days of thunder, but in the end the 198-kilometre stage 18 was played out under fierce sun and a vanilla sky.

A few good men – four lions for lambs in fact – broke clear early on, but their move proved a risky business before too long as a cocktail of teams combined on the front of the peloton to reel them in.

With the famous magnolia plantation of the Gironde past in a flash, the scene was set for an epic war of the worlds between the top teams. A small minority, reporters said, were in with a chance of victory – and without his habitual lead-out train, it looked like mission impossible for Cav.

But with the firm grip of a valkyrie and his eyes wide shut, Cavendish launched an early solo sprint as he roared to a remarkable fourth Tour stage win to prove he really is the peloton's top gun.

The collateral damage of Cavendish's rapid finish was that green jersey Thor Hushovd was left far and away in 14th place. Alessandro Petacchi, whose quest for the points jersey was born on the fourth of July when he won stage one in Brussels, now moves into green with a near unassailable lead.

Saddles is the real winker: A quick word to the readers of this blog who, after Thursday's piece on the Tourmalet, think Saddles is a right Ethan Hunt. Look, none of you read BS for platitudes – there are enough of those in a flat stage to Bordeaux. It's all just an opinion – and one often deliberately designed to get a rise. You don't have to agree with everything you read. How boring would that be? Imagine a world where Robbie Hunter's tweets - as amusing as they are - were the gospel. So cheer up – Paris is in sight. You don't have to put up with this BS for much longer.

Quote of the day #1: "Of course I've seen a lot of your films, but it's a little bit strange seeing you up close." Alberto Contador, towering two feet over Tom Cruise, delivers his verdict on the podium.

Quote of the day #2: "You're a pain in the ass." Given his treatment on Friday for saddle sore, maybe these were the heated words Andy Schleck uttered to his Spanish rival on the way up the Tourmalet.

Word of the day: Hushoverd – to be defeated quite comprehensively. Eg. With his international jet-setting lifestyle, Tony Blair's green credentials have been left completely hushoverd.

Stage 19 prediction: Fabian Cancellara, after crashing out when slipping on a load of grapes strewn across the road, will ask for the time trial to be neutralised – but to no avail. Contador will make up the two minute deficit and catch Schleck on his way to Pauillac; drawing level with his rival, he will mutter a few words, looking him in the eye, then wink before speeding ahead. Andy's revenge will have to wait another day. The winner, though, will be Tony Martin. (He is still in the race, right?)

Plat du jour: Well, it's a liquid diet of fine wine all the way as the riders head through the Medoc and acres of vineyards to Pauillac.

Peleton prattle: Which dandy rider slipped back off the peloton intentionally so he could grab a glimpse at Andy Schleck getting some chamois treatment for his saddle sores?

Uses for Mark Cavendish #3: Quality deputy for Mark Renshaw as Mark Cavendish's lead-out man.

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