Blazin' Saddles

The Nose of Marmande Part II

Blazin' Saddles

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It was a case of deja vu for the Tour on Tuesday as Pierrick Fedrigo smelled victory in the Pyrenees yet again after edging out compatriot Sandy Casar by a nose and a half in Pau.

Last year in Tarbes, Blazin' Saddles threw a big snout out to the Frenchman, nicknamed Le Nez de Marmande due to his quite simply stupendous schnoz, after he crossed the Col d'Aspin and the Col de Tourmalet on his way to a famous second victory on the Tour.

Well, 12 months on and Fedrigo repeated this feat, crossing the same two legendary beaks - sorry, peaks - as well as the Col d'Aubisque and the Col de Peyresourde before sprinting to an equally memorable win.

While last time round Fedrigo only had to beat Franco Pellizotti's curly merkin in the sprint finish, this time the Frenchman had to muzzle the likes of grizzled veterans Lance Armstrong and Christophe Moreau in a seven-way showdown in Pau.

The 31-year-old from the nearby Lot-et-Garonne region hid behind his prodigious proboscis at the back of the group in the final straight before using his aerodynamic bill to sniff out an opportunity near to the barriers and snoot home with all the conviction of a man who clearly has a nose for these kinds of exploits.

Some say Fedrigo's win was written in the stars; in fact, after stage 16 Saddles picked up a copy of Nostrildamus and saw that the his triumph had been predicted all along. If only Armstrong had read it - he would have saved himself a whole lot of hassle.

Fedrigo's win meant consecutive scalps for Bbox-Bougyues following Tommy Voeckler's emphatic performance on Monday. The odds on these two lowly Frenchman taking the spoils on two of the biggest Pyrenean stages of this year's race must have been pretty long.

That's six victories so far for France this year. The last time they home nation won this many was back in 1997; although half of those where from the Festina team, the era's equivalent of Liberty Seguros or Saunier Duval (but worse). "Your time, your life" - try telling that to Messrs Brochard and Virenque...

On a lighter note, Fedrigo's second Tour win last year saw his personal fan club leap from 317 to 366 according to his rather archaic personal website. That number should go into overdrive now.

Poor Carlos Barredo though - the Spaniard was swept up by Fedrigo's chasing group just metres before the finish. Still, if the Tour organisers managed to throw out one rider for a few high-speed head-butts it's probably fair that another rider who hit a rival repeatedly around the head with his front wheel didn't go on to win a stage.

Talking of Mark Renshaw, did anyone see RadioShack's Chris Horner do his best impression of the Australian as he pulled out to stop Jurgen Van De Walle's attack on the outside of the final bend at Pau? Seems old LA really wanted that victory...

And what of the continued fallout from Chaingate? Angry Schleck promised revenge and started stage 16 defiantly at the back of the peloton, refusing to take his place, as white jersey, alongside the man who stole his maillot jaune in such controversial circumstances on the Port de Bales.

Early on, an inviting Alberto Contador dropped back to his team car to have mobile adjustments made to his bike - but still Andy failed to capitalise. Such a goodie goodie two Sidi cycling shoes.

Payback seemed to be put on hold for the day after both rivals seemed content to take it easy - much to the disappointment of fans who ultimately were left slightly nonplussed by a stage which promised so much in the opening hour but which fizzled out as quickly as a Contador podium celebration.

It emerged later that Schleck and Contador had had a chat during the stage and that all had been forgiven.

"Stop now, for Alberto and for me," Schleck then said in Pau. "Alberto apologised to me and it was big of him. We're good again. End of story. He knows that he shouldn't have done it and that it was a mistake. I can't complain. I could already have lost the Tour in Spa."

Gosh, Saddles wouldn't ever want to incur the wrath of Andy Schleck - the guy sure does know how to go about getting his revenge.

Quote of the day #1: "That was the hardest start of any Tour stage I've done." A big statement from George Hincapie, veteran of 15 Tours.

Quote of the day #2: "All suffered here today. I rode in with a group that indicates my level... can't remember a time I came in after the presentation was done." How about last year, Cadel?

Quote of the day #3: "We've settled things out but we're not going for a pint yet." Nicholas Roche and team-mate John Gadret still have a long while to go before they become drinking buddies again.

Quote of the day #4: "I'm doing 70km/h on the first descent when my front tire explodes. Before I hit the asphalt I actually manage to think that this is going to hurt. Both knees, elbows, hands, shoulders and the entire left side of my body were severely hurt. My ribs are hurting but hey, broken ribs are overrated anyway. Fortunately, I didn't land on my face this time and I'm still alive. I was offered a ride on the truck that picks up abandoned riders but I'm not going to quit another Tour de France. Now there's a rest day and Paris is not that far away." Jens Voigt shows why he's the peloton's answer to Chuck Norris.

Word of the day: YouHorn - website where you can see videos of balding men grinning while serving others in a higher position but not on a higher plane.

Stage 17 prediction: After the rest day both Contador and Schleck are going to be caught napping as they continue their discussion on the pros and cons of Tour protocols. Menchov will show the world just why he's called 'The Silent Assassin' by knifing them both in the back before powering up the Tourmalet. Despite falling twice on the ascent, the Russian will ghost into the yellow jersey, with Sanchez moving into second. Fabian Cancellara will complain via a video on YouTube. Andy will get very angry once again, but then forget all about it and hug Alberto.

Plat du jour: Apart from revenge, a dish best served cold, we'll try some delicious, finely speckled, melt-in-the-mouth Bigorre black pig meat.

Peleton prattle: Which rider is offering a refund for anyone who has come out to support him in the Pyrenees this year, perhaps safe in the knowledge that he won't have to shell out much.

Uses for Pierrick Fedrigo #1: A sundial.

Follow Blazin' Saddles throughout the Tour on

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