The current weather is putting me very much in mind of an old film noire by Laurence Kasdan. Called Body Heat, it was set in a sultry Miami and featured Kathleen Turner and William Hurt. I distinctly recall one scene where, thanks to ever-soaring mercury, they both got into an ice cube filled bath to cool down.
Sadly, my beloved and I will not be able to similarly indulge. I have only a small jacuzzi in my bathroom which is (deliberately) far too small for him, lest he ever be tempted to use it. While he has only an all singing, all dancing shower in his bathroom. The bath in the guest bathroom is also too small for two. Yes, separate bathrooms lead to everlasting marital bliss.
However, after a hot and sticky ride there’s nothing better than a soak in cold water. I’ve refrained from adding ice cubes. I’ve seen pictures of the Tour riders chilling out after a stage in what at first appears to be children’s paddling pools. In addition, during recent stages, they’ve resorted to ice on their helmets and pouring loads of water over themselves to cool down.
With the peloton looking for a little rest and recuperation after the Alps, and before the Pyrenees, Wednesday was the perfect opportunity for a rider, sitting well back on GC, to get in a breakaway, stay away and win the stage. As it was Bastille Day it should by rights have been a French rider but, with three stage wins, two days in yellow and the spotty jersey, the French aren’t faring too badly.
The early escapees, including a couple of Frenchmen, built up a commanding lead but 14kms out they attacked one another leaving Sergio Paulinho (Radioshack) and Vasili Kiryienka (Caisse d’Epargne) to fight it out. Fortune, and a successful background in track sprinting, surely favoured the Belorussian, but the wily Portuguese won stage 11 by a whisker.
On the run in to Gap, Wednesday’s stage passed over the same roads where, in 2003, Joseba Beloki (ONCE) in hot pursuit of Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile) fell heavily, thanks to a melting road surface. Beloki was left screaming in agony from his injuries, while Armstrong (US Postal) avoided crashing by riding across a field to regain the road. This remains one of the worst falls I have ever seen.
Thursday’s stage 11 was one for the sprinters and the escapees, including Stephan Auge, without whom surely no echapee is complete, were pulled back by the sprinters’ teams well before the finish. Riding into cross-winds, Saxo Bank tried to force a split in the peloton and distance Bert who was riding in the middle of the bunch, seemingly on his lonesome. Cue one Alexandre Vinokourov to the rescue. He led Alberto back to safety near the head of the peloton.
Of course, yesterday’s big talking point was Mark Renshaw’s expulsion from the Tour following a head-butting incident with Julian Dean in the final dash for the line. A hat-trick for Cavendish, while Garmin-Transitions were initially left fuming at Renshaw’s treatment of both Julian Dean and Tyler Farrar. Having viewed the footage, I feel Renshaw was too harshly treated while Dean seems to have gotten off lightly.
A cast of thousands (ok, only 18) finally escaped on today’s stage 12 but never built up too commanding a lead. Indeed, most were taken back by the peloton before the final climb of the day, a wicked 3km at an average of 10%. That man Vinokourov distanced the other three remaining escapees and seemed to be heading for a stage win but was overhauled before the top of the climb by Joaquim Rodriguez and Alberto Contador. The latter seized an opportunity to put 10 seconds into Andy Schleck but, more importantly, struck a psychological blow. The former took his maiden win, on his maiden Tour, outsprinting the latter.
Meanwhile, it’s been hard keeping track of the green jersey which has been hopping from the shoulders of Alessandro Petacchi to Thor Hushovd and back again. Thor got into today’s breakaway, grabbed the intermediate sprint points and put some daylight between himself and Ale-jet. Similarly, the spotted jersey has been swapping daily between Jerome Pineau and Antony Charteau. It’s now in the possession of the latter.
The heavens opened after today’s stage so temperatures may be cooler tomorrow, or not.