Blazin' Saddles

Tour de Farce: Rogers refuses to be fooled by Europcar

Blazin' Saddles

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When Europcar put three men - including wily Thomas Voeckler - in the main break of stage 16 it looked like their barren run was going to come to an end.

Mick Rogers had other ideas. Still fuming about Kevin Reza's supposed lack of pulls during the early phase of the stage (while team-mate Voeckler and Cyril Gautier were trying to join the break), Rogers hunted down both Voeckler and Gautier when they attacked on the Port de Bales.

The grizzled Australian from Tinkoff-Saxo then had a firm word with Voeckler on the final descent, showing the Frenchman a wagging finger when he tried to slow the pace to allow Gautier - his heir apparent at Europcar - to return to the leading group alongside Sky's Belorussian baron of stealth, Vasil Kiryienka.

Neal - we don't have a GIF, but how about a slow motion video? Here you go...

Voeckler is a popular rider in France - but the general consensus is that the rest of the peloton unanimously hate his antics: the gamesmanship, the constant attacks, the 'Pinocchio legs'...

With two previous wins in Bagneres-de-Luchon, Voeckler was clearly trying every trick in the book to make it a hat-trick - and enough was enough for Rogers.

"I remembered this finish from 2010 when Voeckler won so I knew he was motivated again," said Rogers. "After thirty kilometres I was in a breakaway with four guys and one of them was sitting on, not taking any turn. He was the the Europcar rider [Kevin Reza]. He was saying: 'No, my team-mate is chasing behind'.

"Then, at the bottom of the last climb, when we had three riders left, Voeckler said to me: 'I can't ride, I have a team-mate behind'. I told him: 'Look, I already heard that two-hundred kilometres ago!' I wasn't going to be fooled on that one.

"With three Europcar riders in the front group of 21, Voeckler could control. But when they were two out of five, it became harder for him."

Thanks for that one, Ed - we'll use it instead!

When Gautier surged past the leading trio with 5km remaining, Rogers was first to react - catching the all-fart-and-no-poop Frenchman before leaving him for dead ahead of his own mini individual time trial to the finish line.

Rogers' detractors - and there are many - will have spat in their soup as the Aussie veteran ostentatiously took a bow and lapped up the cheers (or were they jeers?) in Luchon.

It's fair to say, having ridden at T-Mobile in the dark years, he left Sky under a cloud and then unfortunately ingested some infected meat in China last year, there are some who feel Rogers shouldn't actually be racing in a season that has now seen him notch three Grand Tour stage wins.

Poor Tommy - the conniving escapee was in the end duped by his own sword, his bid to become the first rider since Charly Gaul in 1961 to win three Tour stages in the same town thwarted by Rogers, who rolled over the line nine seconds ahead of the French housewives favourite.

If Voeckler was a bit miffed, then it was all smiles for Tinkoff-Saxo owner Oleg Tinkov. Reduced to tears following Rafal Makja's victory on Sunday, the Russian billionaire was in a celebratory mode after Rogers doubled up and eased the pain of Alberto Contador's withdrawal.

To make things even better, Majka - led out by his Polish chum Michal Kwiatkowski - snared a solitary point going over the first climb of the day and moved above Joaquim Rodriguez in the polka dot jersey standings. Not a bad day in the office, then, for Saxo.

It was a pretty good day in the office for Alejandro Valverde's Movistar team, too. Before Thibaut Pinot and his FDJ cronies took over the baton, the Spanish team - through Benat Intxausti and John Gadret - were setting a blistering pace up the Port de Bales.

Gadret's contribution was definitely enough to warrant a little mention in this humble blog - if only for this quite splendid tweet doing the rounds afterwards...

Pinot himself was so impressive on the climb that he managed to distance both Nibali and Valverde towards the summit - leading to quite confusing scenes as the peloton's most meek descender actually edged ahead of the yellow jersey on the drop into Luchon.

Admittedly, this was more to do with the quite baffling presence of a media car driving downhill at the exact same moment as the main GC riders, causing Nibali to check his speed going round a few early bends.

Yes, indeed, the car in question - belonging to the Brittany-based newspaper Le Telegramme - will be removed from the race as a punishment in stage 17.

Inevitable rumours, of course, continued to spread...

But it was not the only Tour vehicle to get into a spot of bother during the day. Remember the GreenEdge bus' vital contribution to the Corsica grand depart last year? Well, the team were at it again in Carcassonne before the stage start...

Felix Lowe - Twitter: @Saddleblaze

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