A guide to the Tour de France
Geraint Thomas at the 2014 Tour de France in Yorkshire, by Lucy Crocker
'This job consists of driving round France, looking for beautiful vistas to ruin by sticking ourselves in front them.' That was Gary Imlach's intro to last night's highlights programme. I would argue that Imlach's job consists of fronting a consistently enjoyable and well-made cycling programme which a lot of us have appreciated for many years.
Ned Boulting (short, as you may know, for Tommy Smith) did a good job in commentary on Stage 12, but really the racing was so exciting that nothing needed to be added.
'Team Sky are probably unbeatable,' said François Thomazeau after Stage 11. He sounded completely depressed. The podium is more or less done and dusted. The Tour is over and it's left to bits and pieces.
Talking often helps when you're down in the dumps, so at least Mr T is in the right job.
I don't think he is correct about the race being finished, though. Ok, Sky are strong, but we saw in the Giro d'Italia how things can change around. There's still an awful long way to go. One swallow does not a summer make. In the event, Steven Kruijswijk was not far away from pulling off an audacious, long-range bid for victory on Stage 12 at Alpe d'Huez.
Richard Moore expressed his confidence in Geraint Thomas. 'I would be astonished if he gets through these three weeks without a bad day, without falling off.' Even if he is cheap, I suggest Sky and Thomas strike Moore off their list of possible guest motivational speakers, for the duration of this bumble round the Hexagon at least.
We learnt from Moore, who heard it from some Slovenians who attended a Podcast event, who heard it from Primoz Roglic's family, that Roglic would attack on the 5th from last bend on the way up Alpe d'Huez. In the end, the race was just too hard for that to happen, but Roglic's performance was brilliant anyway.
The team were in Valmorel last night, and Annemiek van Vleuten was one of the guests. She is taking a few days off cycling - after winning the Giro Rosa, then La Course immediately after, she deserves a break.
Dylan van Baarle, the Dutch Sky rider, was there too. He doesn't know Geraint Thomas well enough to call him 'G', apparently. Fair enough, but as Mr Thomas's autobiography is called 'The World of Cycling According to G', I'm not sure he is in any position to object to anyone calling him by that name.
Herman van der Zandt was in a kitchen, and pretending to cook up the perfect recipe for a day watching the Tour de France at Alpe d'Huez - putting toy model cyclists and a Madeleine cake into a saucepan and pretending to fry them up. The concept could have flopped badly in other hands, but with Michelin-starred presenter/comedian Herman, it was alright.
It's a great atmosphere on Alpe d'Huez, and perhaps you can't do anything about the people running alongside the riders with flags. When they touch the competitors, though, it goes too far. I thought I saw someone hit Froome, but it wasn't mentioned by the commentators. They did pick it up in the highlights programme. The person should be arrested and charged with assault.
Nibali was knocked over in the chaos, seemingly when motorbikes in front of him got stuck at a pinch point. If you take Mont Ventoux the other year as a precedent, the time loss he suffered should be negated, and he should be given the same time as the stage winner. Apparently a fractured vertebra might put him out of the race, so perhaps that's the least of his worries.
Thomas rode over Nibali's back wheel, but managed to stay up. Maybe it was luck, maybe when you're feeling strong, you save yourself, where if you were right on the limit, you might fall.
If Froome was grateful to Dan Martin on Stage 11, for a wheel to follow and an excuse to ride back up to Thomas, on Stage 12, Thomas must have been grateful that Tom Dumoulin was strong enough to drag him back up to the Kenyan-born Brit. In the end, Thomas pulled off the trick of not being disloyal to his team leader, but winning anyway.
Correct predictions of stage winners on this website: 2 out of 12
Stage 12 of the Tour de France 2018 is 175km from Bourg Saint-Maurice to Alpe-d'Huez.
Read about Stage 12 of the 2018 Tour de France.
Bourg-Saint-Maurice (public domain)
Bourg-Saint-Maurice is a town in the Tarentaise valley, on the river Isère.
It is surrounded by ski resorts, and there's a funicular railway link to Arc 1600, part of Les Arcs. Bourg-Saint-Maurice is also popular in the summer as a base for walking, mountain biking, and road cycling. There's a whitewater canoe and kayak slalom course on the Isère at Bourg, used for training and competitions.
Moûtiers is a modest-sized town at a bend in the river Isère, roughly half-way between Bourg-Saint-Maurice and Albertville. It serves as a hub for the ski resorts of the 3 Vallées (Courchevel, Méribel, and Les Menuires/Val Thorens).
The settlement here was called Darantasia in the Gallo-Roman period. The name Moûtiers comes from 'monastery'.
There's a small historic centre near the Cathedral Saint-Pierre.
Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne is a town at the confluence of the Arvan with the Arc. It's named after John the Baptist, and reputedly had relics of John - three fingers brought back from Egypt in the C6th.
The main industries in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne are aluminium production and tourism. Among the visitors it attracts are cyclists who use it as a base to tackle the Alpine cols nearby.
Alpe-d'Huez is a ski resort in the Isère département of France.
It was developed from the 1920s, and the first button lift (made by Jean Pomagalski and his Poma lift company) was installed in 1936. Alpe-d'Huez hosted the bobsleigh events of the 1968 Grenoble Winter Olympics.
The Alpe-d'Huez climb is from Bourg-d'Oisans in the Romanche valley, on the D211. There are 21 hairpin bends, it's 13.8km, and the summit is at 1,850m. It was first included in the Tour de France in 1952.
There are often chaotic scenes as thousands of spectators line the route up to Alpe-d'Huez, and it is especially popular with Dutch cycling fans.
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