115km to go: We have reached halfway. And it’s taken three hours and 15 minutes.
121km to go: In the breakaway, Cofidis rider Stephane Rossetto is about to enjoy the highlight of his day. His team car has pulled along side him and somebody in the passenger seat is handing him a selection of treats – sweet and savour rice cakes, proper cake, chocolate, etc – wrapped in tinfoil, which are going into his pocket along with the usual selection of energy gels and bars. We’re still not halfway in what must be one of the most boring stages in Tour history …
An email: “In my personal experience of La Vuelta the descent of riders on no-exit finishes is pure common sense,” writes Dave Langlois, who has something to say about everything we’ve been discussing today. “Cycling back down from watching the finish at Los Lagos de Covadonga we’ve even passed some of the last stragglers still struggling up.
“Indexing: I agree with emailers who’ve said that gears can go out of synch even without the bike being used, perhaps even more so.
|Boring stages: the best big tour recently was Froome’s Vuelta. Hardly one boring flat stage. Lots of punchy climbs day after day. Surely real sprinters should be able to climb moderate hills and then dispute the sprint like Sagan or Matthews? Stages like today’s should be no more than one or two per Tour.”
131km to go: Stephane Rossetto was the first of our breakaway duo over the second climb of the day, the Cote de Chassagne-St Denis. It’s a category three climb, so he gets two King of the Mountains points. Yoann Offredo takes the other one available.
133km to go: The gap goes back out to 4min 10sec, while in the peloton, Astana rider Jakob Fuglsang drops back to his team car for a change of shoes. On Eurosport, the commentary team are deep in conversation, trying to figure out why he’s the second rider to have changed his shoes on this stage. Yes, it’s that kind of day.
138km to go: Nothing much continues to happen out on the road, where the two-man breakaway is being kept on a tight rein. The gap is down to 2min 58sec.
Meanwhile in my email inbox, the subject of my jumpy bicycle gears is proving much more of a crowd-pleaser.
“The indexing on the gears of a new bike are actually quite prone to be a tad temperamental,” writes Euan McKinnon. “Any new bike will have been indexed without any significant power being put through the pedals, save for a cursory rotation of the cranks. Once you put a human on a bike and they start pedalling the components are likely to behave slightly differently.
“Some futzing around with the barrel adjuster on the rear derailleur should solve the problem, although it does take a bit of trial and error. Your local bike shop should be able to help with this for a very low price. I had this done by Pop Up Bikes in Manchester which is a fantastic cycle repair shop and café underneath a railway arch near Victoria Stations.”
Some clarification: “Yep, that’s oilseed rape,” writes barley expert Bob O’Hara. |They were on the floor above us. It’s the seed pods, so it’s already flowered. Oilseed rape is basically the cabbage’s first cousin.” Everyday’s a school day.
An email: “Myself and 1,076 other cyclists will be telling you your gears need re-indexing if they’re jumping about,” writes Paul Graham and 1,076 other cyclists. “A decent local bike shop should be able to do this in an hour or so. You could try to follow a gear indexing tutorial on Youtube, but I’ve always found that once you start fiddling it’s a hiding to nothing.”
You may well be right, Paul, but I think it’s just me not knowing how to use all those gears properly. I haven’t done enough kilometres on this bike for anything to need re-anything-ing. Like, less than 50.
147km to go: Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma), Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step) and Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal) are taking turns at the front of the bunch, maintaining the necessary speed to control the breakaway for the benefit of their respective team’s sprinters come stage’s end. The gap is 3min 46sec.
150km to go: “I realise that for someone following the Tour from abroad or far away, a day like today is a bit like watching paint dry,” writes Michael Godden. “However, having grown up in a tiny village outside of Belfort, the fact the Tour goes through the hills and city is a big deal. No other event (other than Zidane dragging France to the world cup final in 98) brings complete strangers in the street in such a positive and uplifting environment! Think of the tour as a 3500km picnic.
“Shout out to my mates René, Dabbi and Siddi in Reykjavik, where I currently live! Just in Belfort for the Tour, and the temperature difference is brutal!”
151km to go: Once our breakaway duo have cycled another 36 kilometres, they’ll be halfway through this stage. It’s a milestone I’m looking forward to.
An email: “I’m always amazed when mention of cycling books is made, that more people haven’t experienced the absolute joy of reading Need For The Bike, by Paul Fournel (who also wrote Anquetil Alone),” writes Howard Rich. “It’s personal, poetic and utterly beguiling. Every page makes you long to be on your bike. Given the nature of today’s stage, here’s Fournel on gear changing: ‘On the flats, I had to learn the merits of going from tooth to tooth. There can be a chasm between 53×16 and 53×17, and as a general rule it’s the wind that carves it out’.”
I’ve just started reading that book and it is delightful. On the subject of gear changes, in a bid to shift excess timber, I am planning on getting back on my bike after a long absence. It’s a fancy racer that’s far too good for me, but I recall that the last few times I rode it, the gears kept jumping around without being asked by me. The bike is too new for there to be anything wrong with them – so I presume I’m just not used to them and am using them wrong. Anyone got any pointers as to what I might be doing wrong?
160km to go: The gap from Messrs Offredo and Rossetto to the bunch is 4min 22sec.
An email: “Do we no longer name the breakaway on these TDF live blogs or did I miss it?” asks Robert Moore. “In case I haven’t, I’d like to suggest Offredo & Rossetto – an Italian inspired deli/cafe – possibly in Fulham, definitely overpriced. Do a lovely range of Cannoli though.”
Corrections and clarifications: “It is oilseed rape in the photo below, not barley,” writes Tom Overbury. This happened last year too. Perhaps the Guardian needs an agriculture consultant for the live blogs?”
Are you sure about that, Tom? I thought oilseed rape was a lot more yellow?” Bob O’Hara might be able to help.
“For my PhD (a few years ago now) I would spend a lot of time cutting up leaves of barley, so that I could blow mildew spores all over them.”
167km to go: “In response to Luke Harrison,” writes Banaby Nicholls. “The latecomers have to watch out for more than the early finishers descending the mountain – when attending stages last summer it was common to see spectators riding and walking down once their favourites had passed. There didn’t appear to be any protocol, but people would take the corners wide and slow. I felt a twang of pity for the slower racers but they didn’t appear to be in any danger.”
169km to go: The peloton is ridiculously strung out and is being towed along by Deceuninck-Quick Step’s Kasper Asgreen. The gap to the breakaway is 4min 06sec.
174km to go: Further to Luke Harrison’s email regarding Tour riders having to cycle back down a mountain they’ve just asccended once the stage is over.
In that Mitchelton Scott video diary of yesterday’s stage, Matteo Trentin points out that spectators accompanying them back down can be a problem, as they tend to take risks, presumably in a bid to show off. He carries a whistle around his neck in lieu of a bell to ring, to get them out of his way. This suggest to me they take a different route down to the one the riders go up, presumably on any spare bit of road that is left over once they erect the barriers.
178km to go: The gap from our two-man escape party to the bunch is 4min 20sec. At the back of the peloton, Movistar rider Carlos Verona has just raised his arm to call for assistance from his team car.
An email: “I know that on some mountain top finishes, such as yesterday, there is not enough room for the team buses at the top so the riders have to freewheel back down again after finishing,” writes Luke Harrison. “I noticed from the helicopter shot soon after the soon after the leaders finished yesterday that some of them were already starting to head down while the slower riders (most of the race) must still have been making their way up the climb.
“What is the protocol here to prevent the descending riders going round a bend straight in to a group of ascending riders or an official car? Do the slow guys know that they have to keep to the right side of the road for this reason?”
A good question. I’ve seen this happen, but I don’t know what – if any – the protocol is. There may well be some fenced off corridor for the riders who are finished to descend down, but I can’t remember. Perhaps they just rely on good sense and trust that these guys know what they’re doing. Anyone?
186km to go: “Like James Davidson I’ve always thought bike racing makes for better written accounts than TV,” writes Martin Gilbert. “The classic writing comes from the early Tours when the heroism and mystery was preserved by the riders being out of view for long periods.
“Tim Krabbe captures it well. I’d also recommend Tomorrow We Ride by Jean Bobet- inside knowledge but he’s a proper writer too. The modern Tour is often a bit like watching a travel show with some sport going on. Look at the transcontinental race for a bit of the original Tour spirit.”
188km to go: Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Gobert) and Stephane Rosetto (Cofidis) are 5min 38sec clear of the peloton. Offredo, who has spent an inordinate amount of time in assorted breakaways this week, has got the point on offer at the top of Col de Ferriere, a category four speed-bump.
An email: “Long time reader, first time emailer here,” writes Riocard. “Just on the subject of great cycling books, Paul Kimmage’s Rough Ride has to be up there? Perhaps a somewhat controversial choice, but nonetheless a great and revealing read. Also, on the matter of pointless and futile tasks – I work in finance, so I reckon my jobs up there with the most pointless and futile?”
192.5km to go: BIG NEWS!!! Mikael Cherel (AG2R La Mondiale) has just dropped back to his car to change his shoes. Rather impressively, he did so without getting off his bike.
197km to go: Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Gobert) and Stephane Rosetto (Cofidis) are 4min 52sec clear of the bunch. I’m about to abandon my post for five minutes and 52 seconds, which is just enough time for you to enjoy yesterday’s thrilling instalment of the always entertaining Mitchelton Scott Tour diary in my absence.
An email: “I also enjoyed Max Leonard’s Higher Calling, his examination of why cyclists feel the need to taste the exquisite pain of riding up higher and higher mountains,” writes Philip Laing.
“The Rider by Tim Krabbé is, I think, a semi-autobiographical work of fiction, in turns a rider’s description of an amateur bike race in France and a history of the anonymous rider’s life in cycling. Thoroughly examines the mindset of a racing cyclist, and all the whims and doubts therein.
Lastly, I read the Escape Artist, by the Guardian’s Matt Seaton, years ago, a real autobiographical work, taking us through his life on and off the bike, his racing career and his family life, encompassing both triumph and tragedy. It’s stayed with me over the years, which I put down to it’s authentic humanity.”
205km to go: We’re 2,470 or so kilometres from Paris, but just 205 from Chalon-sur-Saone. The gap from the two lads to the other 172 lads is out to 4min 28sec.
An email: “I am recording the diameter of craters on a bit of Mars’s surface,” writes Adam Hepburn, who is a PhD candidate in Glaciology. “I take great comfort in knowing that someone else is spending their day watching a screen on which nothing happens for six hours. At least yours vaguely promises some action at the end.”
Yours might too, Adam, if a little green man pops up out of one of the craters. OK, we have our challenge for the day – can anyone top the tasks being undertaken by Adam and I this Friday for futility and pointlessness? As mine is guaranteed to liven up at some point, our clubhouse leader is currently recording the diameter of craters on the surface of Mars. That’s going to take some beating.
211km to go: Stephane Rosetto, for anyone who’s interested, began the day in 128th place, over 49 minutes off the pace set by maillot jaune Giulio Ciccone.
214km to go: Arguably the most reluctant two-man breakaway in Tour de France history, Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Gobert) and Stephane Rosetto (Cofidis) are now 3min 50sec clear of the peloton. In 174th place out of the 174 remaining riders, Ofredo is currently the Lanterne Rouge … which seems as good a time as any to recommend the excellent book of the same name, by Max Leonard.
An email (and please keep them coming): “I hope the scenery and roadside antics are able to make up for the lack of sparks today,” writers James Davison. “The TV commentators will need some content. There was an article the other day about the relaxing nature of watching a stage play out on live television. I’d not thought about it in that way before but makes sense.
“I’ve always thought that a bike racing was best reflected in writing (a stage race and long Monument all have their narrative arcs, heroes, villains and intrigue, even apart from the human endeavour, geography, elements etc), and there are no end of cycling books that to me are not far short of literature. Maybe in the quiet periods today we can suggest our favourites – I’ll kick off with Riding In The Zone Rouge by Tom Isett, recounting the 1919 stage race around the Western Front battlefields.”
Maybe in the quiet periods? Today will be 229 kilometres of period, followed by one kilometre of hot sprint action.
223km to go: With the peloton dawdling along at a snail’s pace, Several EF Education First riders hit the deck and Tejay van Garderen takes a while to get to his feet and back on his bike before getting going again. He’s got a cut under his left eye and has clearly clattered his left knee too. He pedals away looking very sorry for himself after hitting the ground hard.
223km to go: We have our breakaway and it’s a reluctant two-man kamikaze mission b eing carried out by Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Gobert) and Stephane Rosetto (Cofidis). They have opened a gap of 1min 57sec on the bunch.
229km to go: Cofidis rider Stephane Rossetto shoots off into the distance, somewhat reluctantly if the way he’s jabbering into his radio is anything to go by.
Behind him, Wanty-Gobert rider Yoann Offredo bridges the gap with all the enthusiasm of a condemned man walking to the gallows. He’s obviously under orders from his directeur sportif and keeps looking behind him in something approaching desperation to see if anyone else is coming with him. There are no takers.
A point to ponder: Ahead of this stage, the riders will have spent 20 minutes or so warming up on their rollers by the team coaches. They’re now engaged in what is ostensibly another 10-kilometre warm-up before the signal to start racing is given. And once that signal is given, the vast majority of the field will find themselves on what is ostensibly yet another warm-up – one that is 200 kilometres in length – before it’s time for them to start getting their ducks in a row ahead of the inevitable sprint finish.
And what do you know? Once that’s done with and the stage is over … it’s back to the rollers by the team buses for a warm-down!!!!!!! It all seems rather unecessary to me. I suspect Dave Brailsford, Sky and their small margins have an awful lot to answer for – and I don’t mean the kind of questions they fielded so unconvincingly when called before a government select committee.
The roll-out has begun: THe ridfers on their way out of Belfort, going at a gentle pace before the signal to start racing is given by race director Christian Prudhomme. Once he waves his flag, a breakaway group will get away and cycle along on their own for several hours, before getting caught by the bunch ahead of a sprint finish in Chalon-sur-Saone.
Schedule: Today’s stage is due to start in 15 minutes or so. At 230 kilometres in length over a largely flat parcours, the Tour organisers have dubbed it “The Longest Day” – metaphorically and existentially, as well as liteally, one presumes. Barring accidents, police intervention or very strong crosswinds, it’s likely to be an utterly forgettable day’s racing. Don’t touch that dial!!!
The Move podcast: Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie and JD look back at stage six in the podcast many cycling and Tour de France aficionados can’t quite decide whether or not it’s OK to like.
Stage six review
Jeremy Whittle was at La Planche Les Belles Filles to see defending champion Geraint Thomas throw down a marker, as Belgium’s Dylan Teuns won the stage.
General Classification after stage six
Giulio Ciccone came up agonisingly short on yesterday’s brutal summit finish, but earned himself a day – and possibly more – in yellow by way of consolation.
Stage seven: Belfort to Chalon-sur-Saône (230)
William Fotheringham: The longest stage of the Tour follows one of the toughest, but will give the flat-road sprinters another chance. It’s a hilly start, but a very flat run over the final 80km, plus there is a good chance that one of the favourites will have taken yellow the previous day which will lend some structure to the race. The pressure will be felt the most by the older sprinters, led by André Greipel, who moved to the small French team Arkéa-Samsic over the winter but hasn’t produced much, and Cofidis’s Nacer Bouhanni, who has never shone in the Tour.