ysobelle: (Kayli)
[personal profile] ysobelle
Stage 11: Carcassonne to Montpelier, 162.5km

Note to self: see the staggeringly beautiful medieval walled city of Carcassonne before I die.

Anyway! Hello, there! We’re 45 minutes into the stage, and there have been multiple crashes, terrible cross tailwinds, and hey! A massive forest fire! A couple of riders went down pretty hard— one of them headlong into a ditch. George Bennett? Thibaud Pinot, the Polka Dot Jersey, is down, too. I’ve never seen the medic’s car treating one rider on each side before, but it’s nice to know they can. Still, it could be so much worse: we’re still at 192 riders. Into the second week, and only six gone? Amazing.

So. Two riders up at the front: French National Champion Arthur Vichon, and Australian Leigh Howard . It’s not a really climb-y stage. Only two Cat 4s— nothing big. It's the wind that’s the problem. And as the stage progresses, the race goes back into the wind from another direction. It’s rough, and makes even this comparatively flat stage dangerous.

The gap to the two leaders was up to two minutes for a while, there, but sadly, now, it’s down to 65 seconds, and it looks like they’ll be caught, soon. Out on the wide, flat fields of this glorious region of southern France, they can, no doubt, see the peloton coming for them, bearing down.

And sure enough, at 61km to go, there’s the catch. They did very well, but this was inevitable. It’s right before a sprint, too, so the peloton has some work they’re lining up to do. There’s a big group pff the back, in fact, though they’re trying to catch up.

OW! They’re into a little town, just over a speed hump, and WHAM! Rafael Majka, Champion of Poland, goes down, and goes down hard, sailing in an horrific bellyflop right over his handlebars, ribs first into the tarmac. The front of his kit is black, though thankfully, not ripped, so he’s not bleeding. His bike lands on top of him, and a gendarme runs up to disentangle him. Worse, Winner Anacona IS bleeding, and limping. He’s taking some time getting back on the road. Tejay Vangarderen got caught up as well, though he didn’t go down, but BMC came back for him, and he caught up again to the race.

1km to the sprint point. Etixx is up in front for Kittel— and they sail easily through, snagging 20 points in the Green Jersey competition. Peter Sagan is right on his wheel, but it wasn’t a huge race. Nevertheless, the crowd is pounding on the advertising placards on the barriers, making a huge noise for the riders.

Ugh— there’s a shot of the Movistar bike mechanic up and out of the car window, securing a falling bike on the fly. There’s only one rider small enough to pass a bike to top GC man Nairo Quintana should Quintana suffer a catastrophic failure where the car can’t get to him, and this is that rider’s bike. With as crazy as this stage has been, no one is leaving anything to mechanical chance.

Here’s an interesting note: at 20km to the end, riders are prohibited from going back to their team cars for bottles of water. It just gets too crazy, But this stage is so intense and so hot, race officials have said they can have until 15km. Also, Michael Matthews, who who yesterday’s stage, dedicated the win to his wife, whose words helped rejuvenate him when he felt like giving up after two crashes, and to his dog, Geegee. Aw.

Wind keeps changing direction, and it’s not a lot of fun. But hey, there are flamingos out there— yes, lots and lots of wild flamingos— so there’s that.

There’s an interview with Marcel Kittel, and they ask him how fresh he is. “I’m as fresh as every else,” he says. Slick answer.

Chris Froome is up at the front of the peloton, unmissable in Yellow. But Tinkoff is pulling at the front, also , to get Peter Sagan up near the front for the sprint, now less than 10km ahead. There are these huge roundabouts that split the field again and again, but they’re going at such a clip it almost doesn’t matter. The riders are strung out across the road in thin diagonal lines, the telltale mark of a crosswind. Jesus— the helicopter pulls back, and the entire race is a ing line— the peloton absolutely wired.

Peter Sagan tries a breakaway— but Chris Froome is on his tail! Froome, who is NOT a sprinter, is going with one of the top sprinter in the world! This is crazy, but it shows Froome’s greatness. Geraint Thomas, Froome’s teammate, is right there with him. Back in the group behind them, oh, damn— Nairo Quintana is alone, and locked in. He has no riders to help him bridge up to Froome, and he’s watching his standing slide. The breakaway is ten seconds ahead, twelve— if this keeps up, Froome could potentially win this entire race right here, today.

Where the hell is Movistar? Why aren't they with their GC man? Jesus.

There are four riders up there— Sagan, Froome, Thomas, and a Tinkoff rider I don’t know— ah, Maciej Bodnar. They’re going at full speed— up to 70km. What’s this? Cav is off the back of the peloton in the cars! Did he fall? Fuck. Sounds like he may have had a mechanical.

Seventeen seconds’ lead, now. Froome has doubled his lead at this point. And Thomas is with him to help.

FINALLY, there’s a Movistar rider with Quintana, but— fuck. There’s Cav, and he’s nowhere. Off the back, pedaling like he’s out for a Sunday trip to the store. Dammit. Something went catastrophically wrong, and there will be no sprint for him. Oooo, yes. Part of his bike sort of imploded. Terrible luck for him!

The first four are under the Flamme Rouge— the 1km marker. Thomas drops back, work done. Froome knows he won’t win a sprint against Sagan, but he is out for every second he can get, as other riders have pushed the pace up as far as they can behind this group. He pushes as hard as he can— keeping up with a world-class sprinter, for G-d’s sake!— and crosses the line right on Sagan’s wheel. It’s amazing!

The next group comes over about six seconds back, but with the time bonus, Froome’s won eleven seconds on the GC. Amazing work, especially considering tomorrow’s stage is up the terrifying moonscape of Mont Ventoux.

I’m listening to Froome’s interview, post-race, and listening really closely to his accent. I had forgotten until today that while he’s British, he was born in Nairobi, and learnt to ride there. I can hear it, now.

So anyway. Exciting stage today, and thankfully, no one’s seriously injured— far as I know. Tomorrow will be utterly grim: Mont Ventoux is a terrible, terrible climb. But hey, it leads to pretty pictures!

Here’s Sagan’s win, with Froome looking over his shoulder, and Maciej Bodnar third, sitting up to celebrate his teammate’s win.

Peter Sagan wins stage 11 ahead of Chris Froome. Photograph: Yoan Valat/EPA. via https://www.theguardian.com/sport/live/2016/jul/13/tour-de-france-2016-stage-11-live

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