I’ll watch again.
We’re up in the mountains now, and it’s so brutal— as mountain stages almost always are— there IS no peloton. It'a just clumps of riders scattered on the slopes. Alberto Contador and Mikel Landa are out ahead of everyone, with Contador showing that elegant, dancing climbing style as he takes more King of the Mountains points. There are two chases of three riders each before we get to the 20-man Yellow Jersey group. The jersey itself is on the back of Fabian Aru. Froome is a mere six seconds behind him, but Sky teammate Landa is moving himself up to third, now as we speak. Go, Sky, go!
The crowds are quite boisterous on the roadside of the ascents, here, but I’m seeing very few crazies, happily. Everyone is screaming and waving hysterically, but staying back. STAYING BACK. It almost brings a tear to my eye. And I’m seeing, oh, one Gendarme on the whole mountain? So I don’t know. Maybe people have learnt after last year’s disaster— remember Froome literally *running* up the mountain through the crowds? Nah. People don’t learn. I’m sure it’ll get worse later.
I hate watching descents. I mean, I’d LOVE watching them if they weren’t so damned dangerous. They’re so aerodynamic and sleek and insanely fast. Just effortless. Except you know “effortless” is far, far from the truth. It’s insanely difficult and technical.
Ah, race officials have pulled the caravan cars from the gap between the leaders and chase one. Yup. Only seven-seconds— that won’t last. Oh— now down to five. So that’ll be a five-man group in a short bit.
G-d, this landscape is just gorgeous. I mean, hell, the hairpins are terrifying, but you know, if you’re not thinking about their potential for blood and death, they’re really quite pretty. And oooh, what a lovely little church up there!
Mur de Peguere is our final obstacle to the finish line today. A Cat 1 climb. 7.9% average grade, but oh dang— it goes up in some spots to a 18% grade. That’s sadistic.
Quintana, Barguil, and Kwiatkowski are that second group— and Landa and Contador are not pleased. They’re pushing hard, trying to stay away. I’m surprised— they’ve clawed back to 33 seconds.
Oo— sad news: Jacob Fuglsang has abandoned. He seems to have had a crash in these days I’ve been away. Dammit. Heal fast, brother.
There’s…there’s a guy dressed as a bishop, running up the road beside the— okay, no, now a guy in a bright yellow wig and a skirt, holding out a bottle of water, which the riders don’t, of course, take. A violinist and cellist on the top of a caravan, both of them dressed in cycling kit. Stay batshit, cycling fans. Stay batshit.
Speaking of which, we’re getting to the steeper part of the climb, and just before we get there, the fans are abruptly restricted— and yeah, they’re saying it’s because of Mont Ventoux last year. Thank G-d, cos right before that cutoff, the crowd is pressing in, with a total UN of flags being furiously waved.
Ooo— Kwiatkowski has cracked from the first chase. Ouch. And Jesus Christ on Toast— the road is literally one car width— thank G-d the riders are already in more or less a single file. I would die trying to WALK up this damned thing. There’s a deep, narrow ditch on one side rising to a grass-covered wall, and on the other side, almost straight down, heavy with with trees. I swear to G-d I’m looking for Hobbits with backpacks.
Froome is not having a pleasant ride. He’s dropped back through the large group and— they’ve compared him to a big dog panting in the back window of a car. No, I don’t get it, either. But he seems to have caught his breath, and he’s back to fifth or so, solidly in the middle of the pack, now down to eight from twenty. George Bennet, however, looks like he’s about to explode his knees right out of his body. Yeah…seven.
Oooo! Barguil and Quintana have Landa and Contador in their sights!
OH! Man, it’s Bastille Day!
Are you kidding me? Froome is attacking! From fifth to WHAM out front. They’ve picked up his teammate Kwiatkowski, and they’re wrecking the group. Damn!
Up ahead, Barguil has attacked to be first over the summit and grab the 10 KotM points!
So now there are four leaders, and Froome’s attack has whittled the first chase to six. Romain Bardet is attacking now, cos he’s French and it’s Bastille Day, and he wants a French win. Wait, now there are seven. Who moved? Froome is biding his time at the back— 25km to go, yet! Wait— eight? ARE THEY REPRODUCING, HERE?!
Holy carp— this is a very short stage— only 2.5 hours— but with huge climbs and fast descents, everyone is going nuts, there’s yet another attack, with Aru riding VERY aggressively. He’s established a break— so now there’s a chase of three and a chase of five. I hate math at this hour! (Lie: I always hate math.)
Bardet has moved up to third overall in this race. Man, things change so fast in the mountains.
Getting into the more populous areas now, and the flats. Dan Martin has attacked off the group of eight! OH! I didn’t know he was Stephen Roche’s nephew. Famous British rider!
For the love of G-d, Simon Yates has now attacked in the narrow streets of town. He won’t get far away, but…man. Dan Martin is still trying to bridge yup ti the first four. Kwiatkowskii s trying to pace Froome up to the front of the group of now-seven. Froome’s the only one in the group with a teammate— that makes a huge difference.
4km to go. One more km and you can crash, guys. Except please don’t.
Man, there are four huge curves before the line. That’s gonna suck.
Simon Yates has gotten far enough to be listed as a chaser now. Oops— no, he’s caught up to Martin!
The four leaders are less than a kilometer from the finish! Barguil wants this for France, and because he thought for all of five seconds he’d won Stage 9 only to have the photos prove him wrong! THEY’RE FIGHTING! Contador battles, pushing him to the outside of the turn, but Barguil is not fazed in the least, coming right back at him and pushing to the front himself, pushing, pushing, looking over his shoulder, pushing— and he’s done it! He’s scored a French win on Bastille Day!
Martin and Yates are coming— Dan Martin wants to get back the minute he lost when he was taken out by Richie Porte’s flying body. Yates crosses first, but they’ve both done so well!
oh my g-d Foix is breathtaking! I wanna go there!
Okay. Quintana takes second for the stage, Contador third.
Interviewing Dan Martin after the line. Jesus Christ. I can’t understand a word he’s saying. I obviously need to spend more time in Ireland. Or, you know, *any* time in Ireland.
So. First Frenchman in twelve years to win on Bastille Day. Hist first Tour stage win. He’s already in the King of the Mountains Jersey. Kid’s having a good day.