Bonjour! Stage 16 was the prelude to the final climbing stages in the Alps. This stage again followed a long, hot course through dramatic scenery. This stage had two hard climbs but was really more about the infamous descent into Gap. This road has seen many riders come to grief and Sky’s Geraint Thomas fell prey to it this time with a very nasty fall. Heroic descender Peter Sagan worked his magic, weaving his way down the mountains, hoping for his first stage win only to be pipped into second place yet again by a remarkable ride from Rubén Plaza. Here…
Bonjour! Stage 15 pressed on through the stunning scenery beside the rivers Ardèche and Rhone towards the Alps. The conditions were hot with the Tramontane wind’s influence. In spite of the hills and climbs, there was a chance for the sprinters on the flat at the finish – really the last before Paris, so there was much to chase for the key riders. Team Katusha looked strong in the earlier part of the stage, Team Sky continued to hold their position, but the excitement came at the close, where four sprinters charged for the line. Another great performance from Andre Greipel who took…
Bonjour! Stage 14 passed through some of the most stunning scenery so far on this Tour – the stars of the stage being, arguably, Les Gorges du Tarn. Back down to earth with the bike race and Team Sky held their place, but the wonderful surprise came from a British rider, Stephen Cummings, who took the stage win for his team MTN-Qhubeka – the perfect celebration for Nelson Mandela day! Here are my drawings:
Bonjour! Stage 13 came down the slopes and back into the sunshine but accompanied by oppressive heat. The terrain was deceptive, long flat roads suddenly reaching hills, passing through pretty towns set on the river Tarn, just lovely! In the race, special mention for popular French rider Jean-Christophe Péraud, who had a very serious fall, yet managed to battle on and complete the stage. The win went to Greg van Avermaet who pipped Peter Sagan to the post. Here are my drawings:
Bonjour! Stage 12, the final one in the Pyrenees, where the weather gods seem to punish all and sundry! From sunshine to hail, with driving wind and rain, it was a gruelling stage. There was a great spell by World Champion, Michał Kwiatkowski who with Vanmarcke lead for some distance, but the day belonged to Joaquim ‘Purito’ (the little cigar) Rodriguez, who rode a phenomenal last stretch to conquer the mountain. Wow! Here are my drawings:
Bonjour! Stage 11 saw the second day in the Pyrenees with a course that included two notorious climbs, the Col d’Aspin and the Col du Tourmalet. The climbs are so hard but the speed in the descents is hair-raising! So many close shaves and near misses – even a herd of cows – adroitly dodged by Warren Barguil. The crowds were out in force, tents caravans and bikes everywhere. Majka took the win and Team Sky continue to pursue their goal with skill and determination. A great day! Here are my drawings:
Bonjour! Stage 10 on Bastille Day, was the first of three days in the Pyrenees, following a great course through the foothills, up into the mountains and finishing with a testing climb. The dazzling performance of the day came from Chris Froome, who broke away with 6km to go and left everyone behind, almost dancing on the bike up to the finish. This was an astounding performance, securing the King of the Mountains jersey as well as retaining Yellow. He won on Bastille day the year he won the Tour, perhaps too soon to assume that history will repeat itself, but we’ll see….