I couldn’t resist it, when I saw that the Tour was coming close to Grenoble, I had to pay a visit to my favourite haunt from the six days.
Bar Clemenceau is right around the corner from the Palais des Sports and is blessed with a nice plasma TV and cool Amstel beer on tap – ‘pression’ they term draft, light pilsner beer, here in France.
There are French ‘porters’ and ales but they’re best for the winter months – in the summer a nice light beer goes down best.
Amstel as in ‘Amstel Gold Race’ – as with most countries, it’s cool to have foreign brews on tap and France is no exception.
There’s a reference to Clemenceau in street names all over France; Georges Clemenceau was French prime minister twice. He was in power at the end of World War One when he insisted upon heavy reparations from Germany for the damage done to France during the conflict.
We arrived as the leaders and yellow jersey group breasted the Col de Croix Fer.
The climb was first included in the Tour in 1947, in recent years it’s had a bit of a bad run of luck with riders who have breasted it first; Michael Rasmussen, Rodolfo Massi and Richard Virenque – enough said?
First over was Swedish former mountain biker, Fredrik Kessiakoff for Astana – that nabs him the Souvenir Henri Desgrange prime and a healthy wad of euros. Kessiakoff has had good form these last two years; last year he won the Tour of Austria and enjoyed a spell high in the rankings of the Vuelta.
This year has seen him beat Fabian Cancellara to win the time trial in the Tour de Suisse and enjoy a spell in polka dots here in the Tour – and he’d be back in the most colourful of the jerseys by the end of the day.
French GC hope, Pierre Rolland, who won on l’Alpe d’Huez last year was second over the line, he wanted the points but despite some nifty elbow work, ‘Fred’ took the honours.
Amstel duly quaffed, it’s Ricard time; in many countries, pastis is viewed as an upmarket, ‘trendy’ drink – but in France, it’s a working man’s drink.
Ricard is the brand of choice for most, this year is its 80th birthday; it came about as a replacement for absinthe – but without the blindness and madness – and is made from anise herb and liquorice root. Drink with ice, dilute with water and watch the colour change – I’m a 50/50 water/pastis man, myself.
On the Col du Mollard, it’s Kiserlovski who takes the points, again at the expense of Rolland. Kessiakoff has dropped off, back to the maillot jaune group where ‘clockwork soldier’ Rogers taps out the rhythm for kilometre after kilometre.
Time for Perrier water, pace judgement is an important part of race watching – you can’t fall asleep in the last five K.
Perrier is naturally carbonated and comes from a spring in the Gard area of France, you can get it in plastic bottles, but at le Clemenceau it comes in the real deal green glass.
Up on the screen, there are four ahead – Kiserlovski, Rolland, Anker Sorensen and Kiryienka as they tackle the last climb – la Toussuire.
Rolland fell coming off the Mollard but is banging gels and liquid down himself like there’s no tomorrow – always a sign of a man who’s going to make a move.
Rogers has gone – small wonder after that workload, now it’s Porte who taps out the rhythm for Bradley, with Froome right there, too.
Vin rouge, that French staple – we had Mondeuse Noire, very fruity and out of a nice old bottle which had done the rounds of the bottling plants.
Meanwhile, Braikovic has had enough of looking at the back of Sky jerseys and has attacked. Up front, Rolland does the same and only the Croatian can react. Van Den Broeck goes after Braikovic – it’s turned into a race with 12 K to go.
And now, inside 11 K, ‘The Shark’ goes – Porte turns to Froome; ‘I’m finished!’ we’re not surprised.
Froome takes it up, he brings back Nibali – but the Sicilian goes again on ten K to go – this is better! Froome is uncomfortable, his elbows, back and knees are everywhere – he swings off, Brad takes it up but Froome comes back.
Ahead, Nibali reaches Van Den Broeck but Froome has come back to life – he leads the chase, steps on the gas and drops Brad.
But there’s ‘a call for Mr. Froome’ – Chris reaches for his ear piece – it’s Sean Yates, from the team car; ‘Chris, calm down!’
Evans has gone and Tejay waits; up ahead, Rolland fights, rocks, rolls – and wins.
Lone victor from last week, Thibout Pinot jumps away to take second spot from Froome – but the man in the white shades will go second on GC.
Wiggins pats Nibali on the back – ‘you’re not as soft as I thought!’
The break survivors struggle in, so does Evans – it looks over for him, to us.
Time to move down the street to the Pizzeria du Vel D’Hiv – ‘pizzeria of the winter track,’ and indeed the Palais des Sports and those fast 250 metres of boards are just around the corner.
We chat to le patron about the six days – he holds up four fingers to remind us that Grenoble goes down the Zurich route, this year and cuts back to four days.
‘Du vin monsieur?’ enquires or host – ‘mais non’ we reply, reluctantly – if only we didn’t have all those damn words and pics to sort out back at the hotel.