Just when we were about to write the day off as another procession – I mean, Cav still on the back of the peloton at 2,000 metres altitude?
We thought that the break would stick – which it did and that Chava, Casar or the Norwegian ‘Moose Boy’ would win; we got that right, at least.
But we weren’t prepared for the mad finale off the Cote de Pramartino – Boasson Hagen attacked there, out of the break to win.
And Contador showed once again that he’s back, albeit his exploit with Sanchez gained him no time, but it did see the other favourites having to ride out of their skins to get him back and again exposed the Schleck’s weakness on technical descents when the pressure is on.
Maybe this race will be won on the descents?
As Dave said; ‘he tried to be too gallus’ a Scots word which means ‘bold, daring.’
Indeed he did, and paid the price, running out of road not once but twice.
But he still leads overall – and the adventure continues.
We spent the night in Briancon, right beside the parcours; but we wanted to be there when le Tour had it’s first really big day . . . .
. . . . Montgenevre ski resort, the scenery is stunning and the sausages are sizzling already – les coureurs won’t be here for another three hours.
It’s a nice place but we’re going deeper into the Alpes, across the border in Italia and up beyond 2000 metres for the first time – to Sestriere.
Brian Vandborg (Saxo) told us that ; ‘riders like me go “boom!” up there, due to the lack of oxygen.’
Sestriere, is like many ski resorts; the old sits with the new, it works in the winter but not so well in the summer – that snow blanket blends everything in nicely.
But that doesn’t matter to the fans; they’re out in fair strength – Velits, the Danes, Vino, the Schlecks, the Aussies all have their following.
The Tour in Italia isn’t the Giro, though and the atmosphere is calm, there’s not the manic buzz of a Giro mountain stage.
In honour of the fact that we’ve crossed into Italia, we buy the Gazzetta; the editors obviously don’t fancy Ivan’s chances – there’s a postage stamp sized line or two on the front page saying that Basso gave away 54 seconds to the ‘heads’ yesterday.
And it’s pages 30 before the Tour coverage starts.
Whilst the Italian sports paper might not be as good as the French one; the big bonus of being across the border is that you can get a proper coffee.
At the Giro a stop at the smallest bar or cafe will result in the smoothest of cappuccino; that’s not the case in France.
As John Wayne would say; ‘tastes like it ran off my boots!’
But before we dive in for our coffee – made on a Wega machine, they used to sponsor Ole Ritter – it’s caravan time.
As I’ve said before, I do have a soft spot for the Skoda Yeti and the Kleber boxer dog.
But some of the fans do take it too far, diving on to the road for worthless bits of plastic and allowing their kids to run around hyper.
It’s just as well it’s only once a year.
The bar has a TV, lovely – and that big break isn’t coming back.
We savour super smooth cappuccino listen to Eurosport; Sean Kelly’s carefully measured words contrast with the sentences spilling from David Harmon.
Soon the break is on the lower slopes of the mountain we’re perched on top of.
Roadside – Ruben Perez (Euskaltel) has jumped his erstwhile amigos and looks at one with his Orca as he heads for the ‘sommet’ banner just around the corner.
The break is tranquilo, they know they’ll get him back – Boasson Hagen, a Rabo (Bauke Mollema?) and Chava (QuickStep) lead whilst Casar (FDJ) brings up the rear, plotting the downfall of his co-escapees, no doubt.
Three are trying to bridge around two minutes back – Nicolas Roche (AG2R), Kevin De Weert from QuickStep, who could be on a good thing, he started the day 12th @ 9:13; and the irrepressible Johny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil).
The peloton is way back, Europcar are riding tempo; savage it’s not.
Tommy is well to the fore and so are the other ‘heads.’
Cav looks nowhere the mess he was on Plateau de Beille, he’s dangling at the back but the top is just around the corner.
Stone last is Movistar’s Rui Costa, he’s off the back and has around 60 K to ride, but a lot of that is down hill.
On the way back to our bar to see the finale we pass Claudio Ciappucci, pressing the flesh, happy to pose for pix and no doubt recounting his 90’s adventure in to Sestriere which almost won him the Tour and required Miguel Indurain to pull in all his favours.
The Norwegians moose call, the French groan as Tommy rides into someone’s back yard and the Schleck fans cheer as the ‘bruvs’ get back to Bert and Samu on the line.
Today was a like a fireworks display where the early gunpowder is damp but the spectacular pyrotechnics at the end make up for it.
Galibier tomorrow – a mere 22.8 kilometres at 4.9% average.
Talk to you from there.