CyclingRevealed's First Impressions '08
Stage 13 - (Friday) July 18th, Narbonne to Nîmes, 182 km Flat Stage
A Straightforward Affair
Another stage for the sprinters with just three modest Category 4 climbs and two intermediate sprints. The final 10kms on flat wide roads could well see Mark Cavendish take out win number four in the center of Nîmes.
Grand sites of the Department of Hérault and Camargue [ Images ©: Travel France ]
Much of the course passes through the Department of Hérault which is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. The department is geographically very diverse, with beaches in the south, the Cévennes Mountains in the north, and agricultural land in between.
The final part of the days race passes along the northern part of the Camargue. With an area of over 930 km² (360 sq. miles), the Camargue is Western Europe 's largest river delta (technically an island, as it is surrounded by water). It is a vast plain comprising large brine lagoons or étangs, cut off from the sea by sandbars and encircled by reed-covered marshes which are in turn surrounded by a large cultivated area.
Q1. What does today's finish town have in common with (blue) jeans?
Q2. Mark Cavendish is from the Isle of Man. Where is the Isle of Man and what is its cycling heritage?
(Answers at the end of today's report)
Next Sunday the real race for Yellow starts on the road from Embrun to Prato Nevoso in Italy . With the prospect of three brutal stages in the Alps just ahead of them it s not surprising that the peloton tempered its aggression today. Also the after-shock of the Ricco affair was probably weighing heavy on many minds.
Three modest Cat 4 climbs and two intermediate sprints reflected a stage profile much like the previous stage. Consequently everyone was predicting a bunch finish with Mark Cavendish as the obvious choice to claim his fourth stage win of this Tour.
From the gun two riders shot away from the peloton. Niki Terpstra (Team Milram) and Florent Brard (Cofidis) quickly set about establishing a solid lead. No threat on GC (or any other classification) and they were given their “15 minutes of fame”. Actually they were out there for most of the day wallowing in personalised TV coverage. Great for them, even better for their sponsors. Their maximum lead was greater than 8 minutes at one point but the bunch was keeping them on a well controlled leash.
Like all breaks, the duo of Terpstra and Brard put their heart and soul into their effort but sadly it was not much more than a suicide break. With just over 100kms to go the peloton slowly started to turn the screw.
The two intermediate sprints came at km 139 and km 155. With Terpstra and Brard still away Oscar Friere sent one of his men off the front to nullify his challengers in the Green Jersey competition. This tactic succeeded beautifully as his man nabbed the final points at each sprint.
At the second intermediate sprint Terpstra had his own plan. He jumped Brard and disappeared up the road to start his lone quest for a stage win. He had 27kms of TT effort to keep the peloton at bay.
A well known track rider, Terpstra used his speed to great effect. He not only distanced Brard but he also started to put more time into the peloton. In fact in after 10kms he opened the gap to the bunch by about another 30 seconds and with 18kms to go he had a 1m 42s advantage. This was bad news for all of those riders targeting the Green Jersey.
Realising the power of Terpstra the sprinters teams moved into panic mode. The brutal acceleration spelt doom for Terpstra who was closed down with 10kms to go. The junction was used as a spring board by Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) who then managed to squeeze out a 10 second lead. The sprinters were having none of that and he too was eliminated in short order.
Four for Four
The big wide roads leading into the finish were a perfect receptacle for one of the Tour's true gems - the bunch sprint. The final kilometer was unbelievably chaotic and in the huge high speed traffic jam the big favorite looked to be well and truly boxed in right up until 200m to go. But as he has now shown us on many occasions, he has both skill and devastating speed. With the cream of the world's road sprinters looking on in awe behind him, Cavendish burst through and claimed his fourth stage win of this Tour. Four for four!
Stage winner Mark Cavendish congratulated by Romain Feillu
[ Image ©: www.gazzetta.it/AFP ]
As Tour stages go this was a classic hot South of France stage with one long break that was eventually eliminated to create the scenario for a bunch gallop. It really was a straightforward affair.
SPECIAL NOTE : Meanwhile behind the scenes - As the Tour continued “business as usual” the authorities were hard at work dealing with he Saunier Duval affair. Leonardo Piepoli had his home on Monaco searched and rumors were rife that he too had failed a drug test. In parallel with this news some sources were saying that the Saunier Duval team would be disbanded. Should this happen we see yet again where the (criminal) actions of the few affect many. The team employes large number of people and they along with the remaining team riders will all lose their source of income.
The general attitude of the media and the general public has a somewhat different feel to this latest drug scandal. One senses that most people see these latest developments as the death throes of cycling's drug culture. Contempt and discust are aimed at the central culprits. One only had to see the huge supportive crowds lining today's route to understand that the Tour and cycling in general can overcome this latest episode.
Relatively new civil laws in France are particularly harsh towards drugs. Getting caught with illegal drug use in France can lead to prison sentences. Perhaps locking Ricco away for a few years will finally knock sense into anyone left who still thinks that they can cheat the system.
Tour Trivia Answers:
Q1. Serge, a twill fabric, was developed in Nîmes during the 17th Century. The material was generally known as ‘Serge de Nîmes'. Over time this name was shortened to ‘de Nîmes' and from this to denim.
Q2. The Isle of Man is located in the Irish Sea between Scotland and Ireland. The Island is just 32 miles long and between 8 and 15 miles wide. In 1907 the island created the now very famous Isle of Man TT which has always attracted the world's top motorcycle racers to the annual week long event.
Mimicking the motorcycle event the island also created a week of cycle races using the famous and much revered motor bike circuit around the island. The climax to the annual cycle races was always the professional event. These races reached were most famous during the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's when the top European pro's had the Isle of Man on their list of must-do races. Jacques Anquetil and other equally famous riders often demonstrated their craft on the island's rugged and weather prone terrain.
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