Blazin' Saddles

Tour de Farce: Jack Bauer’s mission impossible

Blazin' Saddles

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Man of the moment Jack Bauer defied wind, rain, storms and big Tony Martin for around 220km before being taken down by a Norwegian hitman at the 11th hour.

It was a sad end to a defying ride by Garmin-Sharp's kiwi cyclist, who joined forces with Swiss national champion Martin Elmiger of IAM Cycling soon after the start of stage 15 in Tallard - and held on until the final hundred metres in Nîmes.

Inevitably, Twitter was awash with lame Jack Bauer from 24 puns - admittedly, for the most part, from yours truly.

But there was no denying Bauer's death-defying antics as he and Elmiger stretched out a maximum lead of seven minutes on this long transitional stage through the lavender fields of Provence and Vaucluse. Just look at his homage to aerodynamics - more eye-catching than those of Tony Martin himself.

As if to emphasise his brilliance, the Tour's official social media person threw in five Greg LeMond-style guns to underline Bauer's tough man status.

Alas, it was not to be. Incredibly, the leading duo still held 13 seconds over the pack going into the final kilometre - and a moments hesitation by both Bauer and Elmiger in the closing straight meant that none of them took the spoils. As you can see in the video of Alexander Kristoff's second win, Bauer opened up the sprint but was passed agonisingly close to the line. He eventually came tenth - scant reward for such a prologued audacious coup.

The pain and disappointment was inevitable as Bauer went into what he later described as "meltdown" mode over the finish line.

To make matters worse, the race jury awarded Elmiger, and not Bauer, with the combativity prize for the day - a bit like naming Tony Almeida TV's biggest badass despite the grizzled longevity of Keifer Sutherland's best known character.

Of course, there could be another explanation for Bauer's exasperation...

On to other matters now, and the crosswinds that animated the middle phase of the stage prior to the storms saw one piece of quite superb bike riding by the yellow jersey, Vincenzo Nibali. Potentially caught out as BMC threw down the hammer, the Italian surged past a whole swathe of riders to move back onto the front alongside Tejay Van Garderen and his men. Full marks for expolsivity.

One of the main reasons for the nervous splits in the peloton were the reports filtering through to the riders' earpieces of torrential downpours and cracks of thunder at the finish in Nîmes.

In fact, if Luca Paolini wasn't so busy fighting back on after an untimely puncture, the bearded Italian could have checked his Twitter timeline and seen the advent of global doom and destruction posted by the Astana official feed.

Images on Eurosport later showed that the picture was indeed no huge exaggeration - although they may have taken advantage of some of the hipster settings on their Instagram.

The scenes were familiar to some fans old enough to remember a classic film from the 80s.

The rain eased up after the intermediate sprint before a second, even bigger, downpour.

Still, the French countryside and their treasured architecture of old weren't ruined by the conditions...

Although at one point it became hard to actually see what was going on out there...

Explosive Pole Michal Kwiatkowski took the opportunity to ride clear - although it was perhaps more of a bid to avoid the carnage that could come with 30 roundabouts with standing water in the final 45km. Three mischievous youths were tempted to pull a set of moonies - but their effort was a bit of a damp squib.

Far better was the toilet humour that came earlier in the stage with one or two eye-catching outfits.

You can always trust a priest cropping up close to a giant– er, let's end it there, shall we? [ed] In fact, let's end it here - with an image of the French countryside before the heavens opened...

Enjoy the rest day - and go easy on the Carcassonne cassoulet or there'll be more Arnaud Demerde-style stories on Tuesday...

Felix Lowe - Twitter: @Saddleblaze

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