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Tour Stage Four: Because not every day can have hills

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Le Baule - Sarzeau (195km)

The Chateau de Suscinio, Sarzeau
UIG via Getty Images

On Stage Four

Did everyone enjoy stage three? Happy that we’ve got some bigger time gaps on general classification and the race is starting to take shape? Everyone excited to be heading towards Brittany and two days of hilly, classics style riding for stages five and six? Fun first week all round? Great.

Stage four, though… stage four doesn’t have much going on. There’s a hill. Sort of. Saint Jean of the Pottery may be worthy of canonisation but she doesn’t have anything on Saint Gottard when it comes having big mountain passes named after you. There’ll be a point for the KoM competition but it won’t be enough to stop the bunch sprint that we’re all expecting.

The weather continues to be fair, which has made a tough first week marginally safer and should continue to do so on Tuesday. For once, the race organisers have fought off their usual desire to put big turns in the final section of the race. There are roundabouts, of course, but they are outside the 3km line and are hopefully too early to meet with the predictable chaos of stage two.

So, a sprint finish, then? We saw a vastly reduced bunch fight out Sunday’s stage after a crash that knocked out Gaviria and the badly-placed Groenwegen and Kittel. Together with Cavendish, if he finds his mojo, those three will be looking for compensation. Sagan was in the right place and rode a good finish for the win, green and (temporarily) yellow and can be in the mix again. The slightly uphill finish will be to his advantage and could also help stronger finishers like Kristoff and Demare. Despite a slightly tough finish, I think we’ll see Fernando Gaviria pick up his second win and Peter Sagan retain green. Let’s hope, too, that we avoid further crashes in the field, though that’d be a rarity for the early part of any Tour.

Amy’s wine of the day

Domaine De L’Ecu Classic

Why, yes, back to this producer already. Because it was time for a muscadet. Since we already read about the Domaine, let’s see what the producer has to say about the wine, with some help from Google translate:

This wine is intended “Classic” only to stand out from a fashion tending to promote wines whose aromas have their origin neither in the grape nor in the soil ... This Muscadet is elaborated and vinified to be appreciated in its youth, “On the fruit”. This wine will perfectly accompany a seafood platter, a fatty fish (mackerel / sardine / salmon type) and will of course be the perfect companion for your aperitif.

Of course, it is THE wine of the estate to taste your dozen oysters.

On the Tour

David Brailsford picked Sunday afternoon to launch a tirade against UCI President David Lappartient, accusing him of having “the local French mayor mentality.” I’m going to assume that Brailsford mentioned France to imply bias in this specific race, rather than because he believes French mayors are somehow worse than other mayors. Even if that is the case, these were not words spoken in anger but a careful ratcheting up of an ongoing war of words as the Froome case continues to be fought in the court of popular opinion, after the formal resolution is complete.

Getty Images

My view is simple: a plague on both their houses.

The UCI have, in my view, acted shortsightedly in response to the ASO’s attempt to stop Froome riding the Tour. I don’t say he was guilty, simply that the timing of their decision smacks of PR opportunism far more than of any due process. As such, it damages cycling’s reputation, which is far from strong. I believe this is a cleaner sport than most, but that is not the popular perception and it has only got worse over the last fortnight.

On the other hand, I truly don’t see what Brailsford and Team Sky have to complain about. Their star rider returned an adverse analytical finding (for whatever reason). Since then, Froome has trained and ridden wherever he wishes, won the Giro, and is nicely placed to go well in the Tour. We should all wish for such punishment and to suffer such discrimination.

Davids: shut up. There’s good cycling on the roads and this petty, ugly and pointless war of words is letting the sport down.