England in the semifinals was an amazing feat, could they go a step further? The next series of posts show that the answer to that was a resounding ‘Yes!’
Back from Rome to Wembley, with great opponents, Denmark had played with huge strength of character following the traumatic start to their campaign. Sixteen minutes in, goalkeeper Jordan Pickford leapt into the air with John Stones to push a great shot on goal away to safety. Playing a vital part of the team’s performance, Pickford was assertive and strong.
The stage was taken in fine solo style by popular and talented rider Bauke Mollema – the Dutchman broke away from the rest of the breakaway group with 42km to go and won his second Tour stage with over a minute clear, a lovely ride. Cavendish completed before the cut-off time which is all I needed to know!
Now, it’s time to divert back to Wembley for a special football match tomorrow…
Here is the group again, from the back – and against the light (contre-jour), which I love! Just played with the light and colour here and let the paint do its thing! You can see how the electric pink of Higuita’s jersey ‘ran’ to the left – When watercolour decides to do this, there isn’t much to stop it but I rather liked the effect here…
The first stage heading towards the Pyrenees – a tough four days ahead, no doubt. The pace is high, starting at the beginning with this man, Julian Alaphilippe – one of my favourites – He rides with great style and flair. Something of a swashbuckling approach, he’s never dull but rides most selflessly for his team when he needs to.
This is a first response to Stage 13, which saw Mark Cavendish take his 34th stage win. It was not an easy victory – and very tight and technical all along – I have so many pictures I want to make from this stage, but football and the Pyrenees are calling, but this image is the first that I am pleased to publish – What a brilliant win!
With all the beautiful scenery and scent of lavender, it’s important to remember that there is a race on!
The stage was won by Nils Politt who took a solo victory, while Tadej Pogacar retained the leader’s yellow jersey.
Politt broke away clear with 12km left on the 159.4km run to Nimes after being involved in a long-range 13-man breakaway. It was great compensation for his team Bora-Hansgrohe, who had seen the retirement of team-mate and three-time world champion Peter Sagan prior to the start, through injury.
Sad for the Tour to lose Peter, but Nils was a delighted man and lovely to see him on the podium.
The last scenic painting for now but I really couldn’t resist this view – No mistaking where this is at all! We always think, traditionally, of sunflowers with the Tour de France – and of course, with good reason, but to suddenly see the lavender fields and this beautiful shot from the Tour camera of the peloton riding past these deep violet flowers was something I had to paint.
I can only imagine the scent as they rode past – possibly made everyone just a little drowsy – but must have calmed the nerves, if only for a few seconds?
Mont Ventoux nearing the climax of the stage – The road was heaving with people, all the way up, more or less – Just a remarkable sight to see.
Here, I have juxtaposed two views of the same scene, looking straight up with the people – and also the view to the side where the blue sky meets the side of the mountain. You can make out shapes of flags and motorbikes but it was very dreamlike – to me only – I’m sure that the climb twice in one day was more than real to the riders!
Mont Ventoux as the riders reach the climb for the first time – This time high up through the branches of the pine trees, which do grow there, at least at this point. The climb leaves the trees behind the higher it goes.
Lots of people, motobikes, flags all the fanfare and hurrah as the Tour arrives on the mountain.. the first time.
Mont Ventoux always reminds me of the moon, with its white, grey stoney surface – beautiful shades of Naples yellow and grey – and what seems to be little in the way of living things… It’s a strange and evocative scene – something of science fiction…
Something about this lovely scene, a prelude to two merciless climbs of Mont Ventoux, reminded me of Mallorca – The stone wall and field of orderly olive trees, with pines in the distance, just take me back! It’s been a while now sadly, like many of us…
Mont Ventoux always reminds me of the moon though…
Something in the air…. definitely proved to be right – The crosswinds blew, the echelons formed, but the Deceuninck–Quick-Step team protected their missile, ready for the perfect leadout by Michael Mørkøv – all of them rode their hearts out, taking turns for him. Michael Mørkøv and Mark Cavendish are the dream combination and once launched, the Missile fired home – to Stage win No.33!
Stage 10 was a long stage, mostly flat and as the climax drew near, the sky turned very dark and cross winds began to blow.. There was a feeling of excitement and anticipation, as echelons began to form.
Stage 10 saw the race resume in sunshine! A long stage and everything geared towards the sprinters and notably, Mark Cavendish – so much pressure for him to take another stage win and edge nearer to that magic target – He looked calm as he set out and set his stall out for the stage win by not going for the intermediate sprint.
The route passes through the area where the famous green-yellow drink Chartreuse originates, which seems highly appropriate today –
Even the landscape is a gorgeous mix of greens, as you can see…
Stage 8 was awful, but the weather on Stage 9 saw a fall of rain of almost biblical proportions – Just horrendous. Cast your mind back to the last time the Tour attempted to finish in Tignes, in 2019, when a landslide caused a dramatic change of plan – Seeing this torrent of rain, it’s easier now to understand why that landslide happened.
My painting shows the Ineo Grenadiers rounding a bend greeted by a group of saturated, caped figures, so wet that you feel the spots might run off… The fans are dedicated too, as members this strange order populated the route throughout – incredible.
A truly dreadful day – mercifully the Rest Day tomorrow.
Well, another long title but it goes with the preceding image of Davide Formolo, who was part of this move – with one last grimace, he pulled away to the side, and Pogacar made his move. The only rider able to follow him was Richard Carapaz, Ineos Grenadiers, but even he couldn’t keep up with the reigning champion for long.
The glance behind, almost to see who has the audacity to follow, is a treat – Carapaz is full of grim determination, but you just know that he will be spitting Pogacar’s mud from his teeth before long.
The reigning champion went on to regain the Yellow Jersey at the end of this stage – Not surprising really, he is on outstanding form.
This has to be the longest title of a picture of mine but I felt poor Davide Formolo of UAE Team Emirates deserved it – The camera seemed to catch him as the rain was full in his face, spitting it away almost.
In fact, this scene preceded what for me was a fantastic moment from the stage – Davide peeled away seconds later to allow his teammate Tadej Pogacar to speed through, almost relishing the conditions – Great team work by Formolo in the dreadful conditions
What a contrast to Stage 7! Not only did the sunshine go in but the rain well and truly came down! Conditions were awful really – made even more dangerous because it was the first mountain stage, not only with serious climbing but serious descending too – very tricky and tough.
This image shows Mattia Cattaneo battling through the wet at 144.2km.
Matej Mohoric held an 88-kilometre breakaway to win Stage 7 – a great ride for him and an emotional end to his day – I have him here, head down as he rode the towards the finish line past the blur of hands beating the barriers as he passed.
Another typical view of France as the great race progresses – This time through a town where the houses are the most beautiful shade of honey pink – with shutters either open or closed, but really couldn’t be anywhere else! Very pretty and much missed by travellers this past 18 months!
This is also a new format – a larger square shape which is great for most compositions. This one is 28cm x 28cm (11in x 11in), which is a square version of A4 – It’s a nice size, gives room for some gestural marks!
This moment is another classic Tour scene beautiful countryside, but climbing in the mountains – The red Polka Dots will take centre stage over the next few days as the race moves to the Alps – This could be seen as the calm before the first mountain storm perhaps?
This is also a new format – a longer panorama shape which is great for showing a vista like this. This one is narrower and longer than usual at 9cm x 38cm (3.5in x 15in), which is quite close to a banner!
Stage 5 was an absorbing and close run time-trial – and my chance to see the faces of each rider as they wait to start their lap. I find this brief glimpse very interesting – not only from a technical point of view – to achieve a likeness for a start, not to mention the reflections on the glass of the helmet and so on – but here is the chance to look into the eyes of a rider and see their character perhaps?
This example is of defending champion Tadej Pogačar – who looks even younger this year than last when he won! He is a terrific cyclist – the complete racer I feel, very exciting to watch and this stage is where he set his stall out – He won it in great style – and although Mathieu van der Poel – very gifted and young too – retained the Yellow today, something in the gaze of Pogačar makes me think that it won’t be his for much longer…
For now he waits and will strike when the time is right.
Gosh! England were good! A fantastic performance saw four goals against Ukraine in the quarter final match played in Rome.
Both sets of fans were restricted in numbers to the Stadio Olympico due to travel restrictions, but they were all in good voice, and speaking personally, it was great to see a Leicester City flag prominently on display!
The first goal came only four minutes in, with a super shot from Captain Harry Kane, sliding to the ground, following a beautiful pass from Sterling…
The second came straight after halftime in the 46th minute, with a superb set piece free kick. The most delectable cross from Luke Shaw flew across to the head of his Manchester United teammate, Harry Maguire, who slammed the ball home in great style. There were big hugs of thanks between them.
I made two pictures to show this, a little panorama dyptich to show the drama!
The third was another header, and a second for Harry Kane. The move began with the most audacious flick of the ball from behind by Raheem Sterling, across to Luke Shaw who sent the ball across just as before, beautiful move, different Harry! I need to make the Sterling Shaw part of this goal but haven’t worked it right yet, but I will add later on.
Finally, header number three, in the 63rd minute, but header No1 for Jordan Henderson who scored his very first goal after 63 caps for England. What a way to seal the win and secure a place in the semifinal against Denmark back in London at Wembley… The England team is coming home… is football?
Tuesday 29th June 2021 is a very special day for British sports fans, well of cycling and football certainly. It will live long in my mind that’s for sure.
In the evening, England progressed to the quarter finals of the Euros with a win against Germany, but earlier in the day, Stage 4 of the Tour de France was won in classic style by Mark Cavendish – to the astonishment of most viewers and pundits alike.
The much-loved rider from the Isle of Man has had some awful luck one way or another for some time and yet still held the belief that his story with the Tour de France, his favourite race, was not yet told.
Well, this is a lovely chapter! The finish line was approaching and it looked as though no sprint would happen; Brent Van Moer (Lotto Soudal) held onto a gap into the last kilometre, until the peloton charged him down.
Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) launched the sprint but Cavendish exploded past him and held on to take victory; the 31st Tour stage win of his career.
The emotion of the moment overwhelmed him, (and me!) as the tears flowed, he clasped and hugged his teammates one by one and then went round again!
At the start of the race, Cavendish needed five stages to pass Eddie Merckx record of 34 stage wins, so now it’s one down, four to go.
Whatever happens, his record even as it stands now, far outnumbers the stage wins of other sprinters of his generation, all of whom are phenomenal, but The Manx Missile really is the greatest of them all. To me… he’s a gem!
This moment was a classic Tour scene from Stage 3, beautiful countryside, with a lovely Breton flag waving at the side of the road by a small group of spectators and a small breakaway group with the long road before them and some race vehicles ahead in the distance…