Blazin' Saddles

Tour de Farce: Sagan’s Bergerac blues, peloton protection, elephants and a Condom..

Blazin' Saddles

View photo

Garmin-Sharp finally got their stage win after a tour de force of teamwork on Friday - Tom-Jelte Stagter paving the way in the break for Ramunas Navardauskas to finish off the job in rain-soaked Bergerac.


Having a stage culminating in the most middle class and British of French towns was always going to spark a frenzy for the UK audience - and the jokes came thick and fast during a largely uneventful 208.5km schlep across the soggy vineyards of Dordogne.

The cultured Rob Hatch - of Eurosport and BBC fame - couldn't resist showing that he was above referencing rubbish British TV shows with his knowledge of the French literature scene...

Although Rob later betrayed his soft-spot for the famous detective series - the Channel Island's third biggest claim to fame after its zoo and being occupied by the Germans during the Second World War.

Some used this as a vehicle to hilariously peer into a crystal ball and make some bold predictions for the stage finale...

And wasn't he right!

Peter Sagan - the green jersey chasing his first win of the race after 10 top-10s and seven consecutive top-fives in the opening week of the race - was leading the chasing pack as they pursued Navardauskas into the final few kilometres when he lost control on the slippery roads and hit the deck, causing a mass pile-up that took out the likes of Frank Schleck and Romain Bardet.

So much for some of the pre-stage predictions about the Slovakian finally ending his stage hoodoo...

It was a miserable day for Giant-Shimano too: having lost Marcel Kittel on the Cat.4 climb 15km from the finish, the team witnessed a resurgent John Degenkolb finally win a bunch sprint - for second place.

To make matters worse, one of the Giant riders overcooked a bend in the approach to the final climb and rolled off the road and slammed onto the grassy verge.

It wasn't clear who the rider was until Dutchman Koen de Kort owned up to the mishap on Twitter after the stage.

It wasn't just Bergerac that made its mark on the British viewers, whose ears pricked and stood to attention when the race passed through the town of Condom. Thanks to its name, the town sign at Condom is one of the most photographed things in France - right up there with the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and selfies taken dangerously close to cyclists wearing yellow.

But the race passing through a place with such a risque name was always going to prove a bit of a dilemma to some English-language broadcasters - SBS and NBC's Matt Kennan, for example.

The general consensus was that Matt should either play it safe or unroll with it...

By the time the pack reached Condom it was fairly well lubricated: it hadn't stop raining for well over an hour. This made things difficult for the voice of 'Radio Tour' - the man in charge of providing race information to everyone in the race convoy.

One person looking particularly grim in the break was that man Tom-Jelte Slagter, who looked thoroughly put out as he rode alongside his team car prior to making his solo dash with 22km remaining.

For some, this was as good a reason as any to provide a link to a bit of choice photoshopping - showing a yellow shark (clearly Vincenzo Nibali) swimming along a flooded Champs Elysees.

Beyond imaginary sharks, there were some real animals on display during the stage - including a St Bernard dog so big that it made Eurosport's roving reporter Laura Mesegeur look about as small as Sammy Dumoulin.

Most unexpectedly there was also a roadside elephant - which is not something that you see every day on the Tour.

Of course, the sight of a creature made famous by Hannibal's crossing of the Alps more than two millennia earlier was good enough reason for one illustrious cycling blogger to put in a plug for his new book - for which he rode in the footsteps of the Carthaginian general from Barcelona to Rome.

And to finish - an aerial view of the type we will soon have to wait a whole year again for another sighting...

Felix Lowe - Twitter: @saddleblaze


View comments (4)