After yesterday’s rain, Nice flicked it’s customary sunshine back on. Dry Tarmac, a slight length to the September shadows, and a race of two halves. In contrast to yesterday’s race of seven or eight halves.
With the descent of the Col de Turini we were treated to one of those classic, achingly beautiful, yet ultimately inconsequential sequences so beloved of the Tour de France.
The TV helicopter peered down on a tagliatelle of Tarmac draped just so down the mountainside, the peloton strung out through three or four hairpins, descending on a string, back and forth, like a kid’s caterpillar toy.
The stuff of opening credits and highlights reeks for years to come.
Vive, indeed, le Tour.
The Turini had been our second of two Category 1 climbs and from there, with the Col d’Eze, the Col de Quatre Chemins, and a town centre finish line in Nice, came the race.
Pretty pictures now second fiddle to stone-cold serious game faces.
The Yellow menace of Jumbo Visma gripped the Col d’Eze like a 2014 era Team Sky with a full repertoire of Alpha male shenangians. Numbers at the head of the race. Robert Gesink, the big gurning Dutchman, pulling a turn that could only accurately be described with the use of two or three strong arm emojis.
You know the kind of thing.
From there came a quick descent and a final up and down. The day’s break long since caught, moves would be made. Julian (I’m only here to hunt stage wins) Alaphilippe would be involved, no doubt.
On the Quatre Chemins he leapt clear, with a move so telegraphed it might have been launched by the great Samuel Morse himself. With a couple of dots and a dash he was clear. Swiss Sunweb rider Marc Hirschi, a twenty-one-year-old pup to the sporting icon of King Julian, boldly followed.
They were joined, before long, by Adam (I’m also only here to hunt stage wins) Yates, and it soon became clear. Our stage winner and new Yellow Jersey would come from these three.
Into our Nice finish, six-hundred-metres to go, and Alaphilippe reeled off each of his ticks. He tightened his shoes; adjusted his jersey; casually scratched the back of his head like a Sunday cyclist considering a coffee stop. Each move a casual cue to communicate I’m so relaxed…this is all very ordinary for me…the Tour de what, you say?
The final two-hundred and fifty metres and games were ever so slightly being played. The peloton snorting and snarling, the TV camera angle has them breathing down a trio of necks.
Waiting.Embed from Getty Images
King Julian refuses to die wondering. Launching left, Yates is beaten within a pedal stroke. The precocious Hirschi, announcing himself, pushes and pulls to within inches, but our French hero has it.
The Stage. The Jersey. A swinging right-hook fist on the line and tears and cuddles to follow. We all, as one, remember just how much we love him. Time to strap ourselves in for another year of Gallic drama.
(Top Image: Julian Alaphilippe by Malmont2012 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)||Second Image: Col de Turini by Jérémie Forget / Public domain)