The Aussie accent coming over Radio Tour tells us all we need to know; Mick Rogers has done it again – just like he did on the Zoncolan in the Giro.
Infiltrate the big break don’t get caught out when it starts to disintegrate and make sure you have enough left to administer ‘coup de grace.’
He explained it like this;
“I had the feeling that my stage truly began at the foot of the final climb and at the top, we were only three guys left in the group. On the descent, Europcar’s Gauthier bridged the gap and rejoined Voeckler but I just rode as fast as I possibly could on the lower slopes, created the gap and kept the pace up to the finish line.
No one was going to beat me today.
Of course, I’m immensely happy and it’s a good feeling to have a Tour de France stage win on my resume.”
When PEZ spoke to Rogers’ Tinkoff team mate Michael Morkov, yesterday he told us that the team had ambitions in the Pyrenees with Rafal Majka.
He got the crime scene right but the perpetrator wrong…
It was late when we arrived at our hotel last night, the second rest day – we’d planned our day well; pick up the car at 10:00, collect our creds at the Permanence, attend the Quick-Step ‘Moules Fete’ then high tail it to our interviews with Michael Morkov and Zak Dempster – which were unfortunately both in the wrong direction for us.
But that’s life on le Tour.
And cruel fate intervened in the shape of a laid back rest day vibe in the Permanence; ‘no accreditation until 2:30 pm’
Ah well . . .
On our way out of Carcassonne we stopped to photograph the memorial to General Marcel ‘Bruno’ Bigeard, one of the French paratroop Commanders at the legendary battle of Dien Bien Phu where the Vietnamese forces of Ho Chi Minh ended the days of ‘French Indo China’ in a crushing defeat for the cream of The Republic’s fighting men.
There were just the North African wars to come before France’s days of empire were over forever.
The moules fete went well, as did the MM and Zak interviews – but Old Father Time was against us and it was wearing on for midnite when we fell into bed.
On the plus side we were on the parcours within minutes, this morning.
Despite the fact that it was perhaps six hours until the race passed, the locals had their chairs out in prime spots already.
The first climb of the day was the Col de Portet-d’Aspet – cat. 2 and nippy at the top, especially.
On the descent of the Aspet stands the memorial to Fabio Casartelli, the Italian 1992 Barcelona Olympics Road Race Champion was riding the 1995 Tour for Motorola when he crashed on the descent.
Casartelli’s death due to massive head injuries was one of the factors in the UCI making hard shell helmets compulsory.
The white marble memorial to the man incorporates a hole drilled in the marble through which at the day and hour of Casartelli’s demise the sun shines through…
As we drove off, John Lennon’s ‘imagine’ played on Radio Nostalgi – it seemed appropriate.
The Col de Ares was our second climb of the day, cat. 3 short but no fun – with a wild boar warning us not to touch his mountains – we wouldn’t dream of it!
The Port de Balès is a video nasty, 19 K with a hairpins and gradient changes making settling into a rhythm impossible.
We ignored the summit chaos and headed down off the Col to do something we’ve long discussed but never done – cover a descent.
We chose a 180 degree hairpin perhaps five kilometres off the sommet.
A beer cooled our blood nicely until caravan time – we know, it’s cheap, crass, commercial and a relic.
But we love it.
Despite the distraction of taking pictures we bagged healthy swag – most of which will go in a waste bin when we get to Paris.
But certainly not our Haribo sweets or Belin cheesey things – just the job for car snacks.
All our faves were there, the Kleber boxer dog, the Cochonou salami gingham 2CV’s and the Vittel wagon with the girl on the spray gun giving me a free lens clean.
Back to the car, check out our swag count from the caravan, set the satnav for tonight’s digs and wait . . .
Ironically, given the speeds they’re hitting, you get a better view of the riders here than you do on a climb – there’s no need for hand to hand combat to get a good spot.
Rogers, Tommy Voeckler and Jose Serpa are first down, line perfect.
The rest of the original 21 man break follow in ones and twos; everyone of them takes an almost identical line with faces masks of intense concentration – Kiryienka, Gallopin, Albasini, Reza . . .
The gaps are big but there’s no on of any danger here on GC.
Vincenzo’s maillot jaune is visible way up the mountain – so bright it almost shines.
The Italian is concentrating – but no stress.
Valverde is there, Pinot, Peraud – but two who are noticeable by their absence are white jersey, Bardet and Tejay van Garderen.
NetApp’s Leo Konig is a little of the pace but focused to the max.
Here’s Bardet – that’s a big gap, he looks a worried man.
More time passes before Tejay hurtles into the bend – he has two team mates with him, Velits and Moinard and they’re on the limit, almost taking out the Basque fans on the exit to the bend.
And on that subject, Euskaltel may have gone – but the struggle goes on…
Ritchie Porte looses another shed load of time – more names, Chava, Gerrans, Demare, our chum and the man who cried bitter tears on Stage 15 – Jack Bauer.
Stone last with the voiture balai breathing down his neck is Astana’s Dimitriy Gruzdev.
Job done, move the barriers, tuck in behind the break down truck which follows the race and let’s get out of here before the civilians make it really dangerous.
The first day in the Pyrenees is over, a great day for Rogers, Riis, Tinkov and Pinot; status quo for Vincenzo but ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’ for Romain and Tejay.
We’ll be back fighting for a high altitude parking place tomorrow – Peyresourde? Val Louron-Azet ?
We’ll decide over a pizza.
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,100 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.