And they’re almost off

Passage du Gois

I can barely contain myself, the Tour starts today and I’m going to be viewing as much of it as I can. French television’s coverage is epic and I have to ration myself otherwise I wouldn’t budge from sunrise to sunset. So I limit my viewing to the actual racing but have been known to watch the evening highlights too. What can I say? Hello, my name is Sheree and I’m addicted to cycling……………………….

I have equally afflicted friends coming for dinner this evening and I know that we’ll be hotly debating all things cycling particularly today’s stage. I have the menu planned, the place is spotless and I’ll be off down to the fish monger’s shortly to pick up my fish which I’m cooking in a salt crust and serving with salsa verde. The meal has been designed so that a significant proportion can be prepared in advance and just cooked at the last moment. It’s using the best local, seasonal ingredients and I hope my friends enjoy it. I’ll be serving pre-dinner nibbles, including one of my savoury cakes, with my favourite beverage on the terrace where we’ll have an excellent view, later on, of the firework display. Apart from the marriage celebrations taking place along the coast (Prince Albert and Charlene – charming couple whom I met at Le Grand Depart of 2009 Tour), there’s the Festival of the Fisherman in our town this evening, followed by the obligatory  display,  for which we’ll have a ringside seat.

Lest we forget, there’s also the Wimbledon Finals and the Moto GP from Mugello to watch this week end. In addition, Sunday’s pointage will be taking us to one of the best feedzone feasts at Marie sur Tinee. I should add it’s put on by the village, rather than the club responsible for the pointage. I’ve swapped out today’s ride for one of the swims in my training programme. Swimming has made a return to the programme though I’m not sure my frantic doggie paddle is quite what my coach had in mind. He probably assumes, and I’m not about to disabuse him,  I’m powering down the swimming pool using a stylish front crawl, if only!

Back to the important matters in hand – today’s stage. Velo have fingered Thor for today’s win and it’s easy to see why. The 191.5kms  from Passage du Gois to Mont des Alouetttes is pretty pan flat apart from the finish with the steady rise (to 257m) up to the Saint-Michel-Mont-Mercure followed by the Cat. 4, 2.2km climb (av. 4.7%). Most commentators seem to feel that it has PhilGil’s name all over it and one would certainly expect him to be in the mix. Likewise, little Tommy Voeckler who, along with his team, is based in the Vendee and will possess, all-important, local knowledge of the route.

At low tide, the Passage du Gois connects France with the Ile de Noirmoutier. At high tide, it’s underwater. One assumes that the race will start at low tide, however this stretch caused the riders a wee bit of bother in 1999 when patches of wet sea weed bought down huge swathes of the peloton, causing significant time gaps. Expect the riders to approach this a bit gingerly if the tide’s only just receded. The route hugs the coast until Les Sables d’Olonne before heading inland past the first sprint point at 87km in Avrille. Lunch will be served in Rosnay. This stage’s worth winning as it’s likely the victor will get to pull on all three jerseys. Something surely to aim for.

Postscript: If the rest of the Tour is as exciting as Stage 1, we’re all in for a great three weeks. Spaniards caught nappping (and chatting) just over 8km from the finish by massive pile up. Contador and Samu cede time to other favourites, time the latter can ill-afford given tomorrow’s TTT. PhilGil came through to win looking resplendent in his Belgian Champion’s kit which he’s going to swap tomorrow for the yellow jersey. A word to the wise, the blonde job, not a good look Phil.