It’s a tailwind, cool and damp – not a bad day for climbing. The climb is not a killer, the cow bells clang and there’s the top.
Switzerland, no stopping at le Douane for le Tour and soon we’re on the second climb of the day, the short Cat 3 Col de Etroits – we’ve only done 18.5 K and that’s two categorized climbs in already.
The descent is dry, fast, open, with good tarmac; you’d expect that in Switzerland, but as we drop, it gets a little damp and more technical.
And there’s a marvelous view of Lac de Neuchatel – glorious. Any one who had a bad start to the day will get back, down here.
At the top of the next third cat climb, there’s an intermediate sprint. If Cav has any notions left of taking green, he’ll have to contest it – Thor will!
We roll through the tidy Swiss countryside; heavy roads, long drags – the sun shines, but it’s breezy.
On the third Cat 3 of the day, La Carriere climb, things get a little more Swiss with beautiful chalets and multiple cow bell clangers; it’s not too tough a climb.
Over the top and we’re rolling again, up to the PMU sprint, it’s a toughie; uphill all the way – this piece of road will go a long way to deciding whether the green jersey goes to the Irish Sea or the Fjords.
Moudon, 63 K the valley road and it’ll be fast along here; right and we’re on the Prevonloup climb, the fourth and last of the day’s Cat 3 climbs. It’s a replica of the last climb, wide, well surfaced, fast, open. Over the top it’s tough race country, constantly rolling.
Real Swiss countryside, meadows, farms, cows, chalets and a strong wind sweeping down from the montagne.
We really need to get that mechanical arm for waving back to the crowd – a man could spend 200 K with his arm out of the window.
The feed, Epagny and there’s Craig Geeter from Astana, complete with SRAM carbon crank bottle opener – I have to get one of those!
Pit stop, Auberge du Lion D’Or and the TV is tuned to le Tour – that’s a surprise.
The break has gone, around 10 riders, Flecha, Hesjedal, Cancellara and Moncoutie – could it be his day? Coffee, Martin has a sandwich – we’re off!
The Cat 2 Col de Mosses; no messing, up it goes, through the trees, the road carved into the side of the gorge.
It’s a climber’s climb – the gradient varies constantly, there’s no chance of a nice steady rhythm up here.
The surface isn’t too clever either; but it’s a long way from here to Verbier.
An email from Matt; the break is ten strong, Moncoutie has Moinard to help him, that’s a strong group but there are 96 K to go and Astana and Columbia are riding tempo.
Meanwhile, we’re over the Col du Mosses, the descent is wide, smooth, fast and long, long, long – a committed group would drop down here faster than the peloton.
The valley floor, Aigle, home to the UCI; it’s wine country too, and the vineyards perch precariously on the hill sides.
We wouldn’t need our automatic waving machine here, the fans aren’t as friendly – maybe it’s that “Swiss reserve.”
It’s fast along the valley, if the break survives the Col, then the descent and valley will be good for them, especially with that tail wind.
The Livestrong crew have been out stencilling the road with PMA slogans – good job they didn’t do that in Scotland; they’d have got him banned for life!
We stop to take a pic; the wind is now wearing on for a gale – good news for the break.
Martigny, right under the mountain, sunshine, crowd lined streets, joy – but there won’t be much of that for the riders, as soon as the climb starts.
Past Martigny it begins to drag, not steep, but ever upwards.
The sun is warming the tar, you can smell it; wafting in the window with the barbecue and sun tan lotion aromas.
Villette-Le-Chable, the foot of the climb and we can go no further; there’s a cable car ride to the top, but “been there, done that,” at the Giro, a few years ago. You have to be a trained Navy Seal to fight your way through the queue: we’d still be up there tomorrow.
Park up among the team buses for a rapid getaway.
A quick salami sandwich and bottle of Coke at the Poulibar before we head up the climb on foot – the race is on the bar TV and we catch Liquigas driving hard; Nibali? Kreuziger? Pello will be all used up after his early mountain points raid.
We walk, find our spot and then there’s that calm period before the storm.
Then the air horns blast, the motor bikes buzz, and there’s Spilak, but we can see the group behind, and there’s the bunch – not today for Davide Moncoutie.
Cancellara is in the break but team mate Voigt drives hard; he’ll ride like that ’til he blows.
Those Schleck boys must be “on!” It’s a big group, all the favourites plus at least 50 more.
There are stragglers, Millar, Pate, but the autobus is right behind, Thor and Cav ride beside each other but not because they are chums!
“Atak de Awndee Sccchlek!’ sprays the announcer; we’re high tailing it back down to the Poulibar where the smell of grilling chicken, beer and sweat is reaching bio-hazard levels.
But we soon forget that; Schleck’s attack was a counter, Alberto Contador has gone already – ‘Bert’ dances, his shoulders loose, he sits down, pumps out the rhythm.
Kloden is setting the tempo for Lance, but the Texan looks grim.
And now Frank Schleck goes, chasing his wee brother – as we say in Scotland.
Bert is flying, the crowd are in raptures; they know class when they see it.
Fans run beside the Madrileno, but he’s in the zone and doesn’t want some fool shouting in his ear and spraying him with spittle; he lashes out, left then right.
The gap grows, Andy Schleck grinds it out as behind, Wiggins impresses, he’s dropped Lance and driven up to Frank Schleck, Nibali is there too – the Italian looks across at the tall Londoner with awe.
Cadel attacks Lance, too late Cadel, too late.
Lance is wasted, Kloden sets the tempo.
Evans catches Sastre, but it’s irrelevant, there’s only one man who really matters on this sun baked rock today – Bert’s lines are good, he attacks each bend, he dances, he sprints.
Young Schleck battles on; Wiggins astonishes; Lance dies.
Despite his greed for every second, Bert gives a victory salute – he’s earned it.
Andy Schleck hangs on for second; Nibali and Frank Schleck jump Wiggins; Sastre, Evans and Lance struggle in.
The GC reads: Bert on 00; Lance @ 1:29; Brad @ 1:36.
That was a day!
But don’t forget last man on the road, Kenny Van Hummel – respect!
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