The route of the Tour de France 2014 has been presented today and the news is that the Vosges mountains will again feature in the race and in particular a summit finish at La Planche des Belle Filles - the site of Chris Froome's very first Tour stage win in 2012. Our very own Gordan Cameron was there roadside that day to catch the action and atmosphere that we will expect to see again in '14.
Two weeks ago, I was sitting in a departure lounge in Geneva airport. My Tour adventure over for another twelve months, I was priming myself to readjust to real life - since I got home, Wiggo's been on the front pages of every major newspaper in Britain, the headline story on every national news broadcast, congratulated by Queen and country. Now that I've decompressed from twelve days inside the Tour bubble, what stood out for me this year? A few personal observations...
Roadside Finale: 'A L'Heure Anglaise' - the 'Hour of the English' says L'Equipe. There's a huge image on the front page of Bradley Wiggins punching the air as he wins yesterday's final time trial. Any thoughts we entertained of Froome running his Boss close or upsetting the band wagon were quashed with a time trialling master class from the Londoner.
Ah what a finale, unbelievable. I’m not his greatest fan but Mark Cavendish, brilliant, four in four on the Champs and in the Rainbow Jersey too. It just topped it all off for Sky. An incredible team effort. But what about this race as a whole?
Race Report: On an historic day for British cycling, Mark Cavendish decided to make it even better taking the final stage in a stunning sprint. The Manx Missile is now undefeated in sprints on the Champs Elysees - 4 from 4!
Roadside St.19: Bradley Wiggins punches the air; the English couple at the front of the bar where we’re watching the race on TV, applaud as the maillot jaune crosses the line at the end of the stage 19 time trial of the 2012 Tour de France.
Race Report: Bradley Wiggins is one of the fastest time trial riders in the World, so today should have been a bit of a jaunt for the tall Englishman, he didn’t take that way and demolished the others to lengthen his overall lead before tomorrow’s last stage into the centre of Paris. I think now the fat lady has sung! Bring on the Champs Elysйes.
Over the past 7-10 days, I had my doubts about Mark Cavendish. The World Champion had a great sprint to win Stage 2 of the 2012 Tour de France, but after that he faded out of the limelight as Peter Sagan and Andre Greipel led the sprinters’ brigade.
Roadside St.18: If you boil le Tour right down to the essence, the main purpose is to sell things - from sausages to washing powder by way of yoghurt, biscuits and newspapers. But the Tour also sells dreams – like being as cool as your favorite pro just by riding the same bike as him.
Roadside St.17: Luchon is from another age, a spa town with wide boulevards, old money, health giving waters, Pyrenean air, Salons du The, and elegant street cafes. On this final day of mountains at the 2012 Tour, we mixed it up with the teams as the circus got ready to leave town...
TDF St.17 What a difference a day makes. Yesterday he looked feisty but today the last big chance for Vincenzo Nibali to have a crack at Wiggins, or even to try to take second from Froome, failed to come to anything after he himself was dropped by the Sky pair. Froome was the strongest guy in the race and let everyone know, and a certain Spaniard with a certain past managed to turn back the clock and bring home the stage win...
Stage Report: The last day of mountains and things could change or show how we will be set in Paris. Alejandro Valverde wanted this stage and his team worked for that, Liquigas-Cannondale also worked for Vincenzo Nibali, but that didn’t work. Sky was again in control at the end, Froome was the strongest, but Wiggins is the man in yellow and Paris is not that far off.
PEZ spoke to Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank's Michael Morkov on the first rest day about his tenure in 'poids' - the red on white polka dots of the king of the mountains jersey which he made his own during Week 1 at Le Tour.
Roadside St.16: It's over for Evans; the gap back from a Basso driven group of 'heads' was over two minutes when he passed us with four kilometres to go on the Peyresourde; he drops from fourth to seventh. But that's just a small part of the action as Ed & martin drove today's Queen stage through the Pyrenees...
TDF St.16: Imagine the scenario. You’re tucked up in bed in some dingy French hotel after a hard day in the mountains. You’re racing in The Greatest Show On Earth. You feel good, great even. Your legs are recovering well and you feel stronger by the day. You are, in fact, quite possibly the strongest guy in the race right now. Lee Rodgers delves into the difficult life of super domestique Chris Froome and ponders the big question - attack the boss or no?
Stage Report: Today was billed as the toughest day of Le Tour and it proved to be that way for some as Wiggins' challengers fell by the wayside as the mountains and heat took their toll. It was French favorite Voeckler who proved to be the hero of the day though - chapeau!
Analysis Pre-Pyrenees: As the peloton rests today in the foothills of the Pyrenees, the Tour de France is getting set for Act 3. We saw the chaotic flat stages and decisive time trial from Act 1 in the first week. A series of medium mountain stages and two big days in the Alps punctuated Act 2, and now the final act looms ahead. The third week of the Tour de France can be full of surprises, especially when it’s set up like it is this year.