A guide to the Tour de France
The Cycling Podcast made a day of watching the Tour de France from the roadside yesterday (Stage 8), in a village not far short of the finish in Amiens.
They discussed the relegation of Greipel and Gaviria after the sprint finish. François Thomazeau thought that the situation was similar to Sagan and Cavendish last year, except that nobody crashed. Lionel Birnie said, 'we're arguing about second and third place', and as such it was a storm in a teacup.
Is that right, though? Surely it is conduct that should be penalised, not consequences.
The team filled us in on a couple of rumbling rumours. When Cavendish says he can't compete with Bora and Quick-Step, apparently he is making a reference to being unhappy with his bicycle, and he would prefer to be riding a Specialized.
The other rumble is from Team Katusha. Manager Konyshev finds Marcel Kittel selfish, and is annoyed that the German is ensconced in his mobile phone when Konyshev gives his briefings.
Stage 9 is the sort of race that attracts viewers to live coverage, because it's action all day, and that's why it's on a Sunday. I watched a lot of adverts, but quite a bit of bike racing too.
As usual, it was in the company of Ned Boulting (short, as you may know, for Nedmondio della Boulting) and David Millar; Stuart O'Grady was with them too, as an expert guest.
O'Grady thought that this stage was too cobbly for the Tour de France. In spring, at the one-day Classics, everyone wants to be there, and they have practised and practised. At the Tour, you're sending climbers over cobbles, with everything bouncing and 'water bottles like hand grenades', when they don't want to be there.
The attrition rate was certainly high. There were crashes for Richie Porte (early on the stage, before the cobbles), Dylan Groenewegen, Steven Kruijswijk, TJ van Garderen, Mikel Landa, and many more.
There was a bit of a masterclass in cobbles from O'Grady. The crown of the road is the place to be, but it's hard to stay there, and when you get tired, you tend to slip down to the mud at the side of the road. That's where you puncture.
A lot of the crashes came on corners. Apparently, a combination of dusty wheels, and the camber of the road, makes this happen even when cornering in a way that would not be extreme in other conditions.
Ned came up with a good description of today's battle: a GC punch-up.
For the past couple of days, he and Millar have been filling time (I imagine - there's a limit to how much Tour de France even I can swallow on flat, sprint stages). Today, there was almost too much action. The dynamic duo were incredibly good at rider ID. A Quick-Step team member went down, and from the aerial shot, they worked out that it was Niki Terpstra. How did they know?
John Degenkolb is a worthy winner, and it is great to see him come back from injuries sustained in a bad crash in training some time ago. My pick for the stage, GVA, was second - which is great, but as far as my tally of correct predictions is concerned, he might as well have been 150th or ended up in a ditch. (I'm glad he wasn't and he didn't).
Correct predictions of stage winners on this website: 2 out of 9
Stage 10 of the Tour de France 2018 is 159km from Annecy to le Grand Bornand. This first stage in the Alps comes after a rest day.
Read about Stage 10 of the 2018 Tour de France.
Arras is the capital of the Pas-de-Calais département, within the Hauts-de-France region. It is the historic centre of the county of Artois, and is situated at the confluence of the Scarpe and Crinchon rivers.
The first known settlement here was by the Gauls, and they called it Nemetocenna, meaning 'sacred place'. It was a a garrison town under the Romans. In 667, the Abbey of Saint Vaast was founded, and the basis of the modern town grew up around it as a grain market. The name Arras was used from the C12th, and its origin is uncertain.
Arras was close to the front line during much of World War I, and around three quarters of it was destroyed. Arras is about 7 miles away from Vimy Ridge, where the Battle of Vimy Ridge took place on 9th April 1917. There's a memorial to Canadian soldiers there.
In World War II, Arras was the scene of an unsuccessful counterattack by the British in May 1940, as the Germans advanced towards the Channel coast.
The local population is around 43,000, and it attracts many more visitors for its historic architecture.
There are two squares in the centre of Arras, the Grand'Place and the Place des Héros. They are surrounded by Flemish Baroque style town houses, originally built in the C17th and C18th, but re-built after World War I. The town hall has a belfry, originally built from 1463 to 1554, but re-built after the first World War.
The Boves is a network of underground tunnels which can be visited. The tunnels were designed to connect the cellars of residents, and they were used as bunkers to protect people and possessions from bombs during both wars.
The Citadelle, where Stage 9 starts, was built by Vauban between 1667 and 1672. It has never been involved in heavy fighting, but members of the French Resistance were shot there during World War II.
Maximilien de Robespierre, a key character at the time of the French Revolution, was a deputy from Arras.
Arras is twinned with Ipswich (UK).
This was the first of France's regional natural parks, created in 1968. It's also the smallest, and the most densely populated.
Scarpe-Escaut park is based around the Scarpe and Escaut (or Scheldt) rivers, and consists of marshes, flat agricultural land, and landscapes with a history of mining and industry.
Cambrai is a town in the Nord département and the Hauts-de-France region. It's on the Scheldt river (known locally as the Escaut). The population is around 32,000.
The Romans had a town here, which was the capital of the province of Nervii.
The history of this area during the Middle Ages is complicated. Cambrai was part of the lands to the east of France, belonging to the Holy Roman Empire, until 1677 when it was captured for France by Louis XIV. Prosperity in the Middle Ages came from weaving, particularly woollen cloth and linen.
Two legendary figures, Martin and Martine, are said to have protected Cambrai in the C14th. They appear as bell-ringer statues on Cambrai's bell tower, and giant Martin and Martine figures are paraded through the town during the summer festival in August.
Cambrai was the Duke of Wellington's HQ, when he led the British Army of Occupation after Waterloo (1815 to 1818).
The Germans occcupied Cambrai during World War I, and burned the town centre before leaving. The Battle of Cambrai took place nearby in late 1917, and it was notable for the use of tanks.
There was further destruction of buildings in Cambrai during World War II, with bombing by the Germans during the Battle for France in May 1940, and by the Allies in April to August 1944.
Cambrai is twinned with Gravesend, Kent (UK) and Houma, Louisana (US).
Roubaix is a town of about 96,000 people within the Lille metropolitan area. It grew rapidly in the C19th as the textile industry expanded. The Canal de Roubaix crosses the town.
The name Roubaix probably comes from the Frankish rausa (reed) and baki (brook).
In cycling, Roubaix is famous as the finish of the Paris-Roubaix race. Also known as the Hell of the North, the finish line is in Roubaix's velodrome.
Roubaix is twinned with Bradford, West Yorkshire (UK).
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