Unlike the 1981 Louis Malle film of almost the same name,
dinner with Andre on Tuesday might well have been pretty eventful, enjoyable
It certainly would have been a warmer, more celebratory
affair than dinner in the Omega Pharma-Lotto hotel after stage five in
Chateauroux, where the Belgian-based team put their eggs in Philippe Gilbert's
souped-up basket - only for the in-form Gilbert to be pipped by Mark Cavendish,
leaving sixth-place Andre Greipel to grumble about favouritism.
Wasn't the reason why Greipel left HTC not simply so he
could race in the world's biggest cycling event but more importantly so he
could put in some winning performances?
As it was, Greipel found himself playing second fiddle to
Gilbert - and when his chance did come, on the flat stage seven to Chateauroux,
the German Gorilla found himself a second-place Jane to Cavendish's
But it was a smiles for Greipel after he netted his first
ever win in the Tour on Tuesday's stage 10 - and that's a good thing, for the
German has one of those rubbery faces so conducive to generating great gurning
Granted, Phil Gil still tried to hijack Greipel's day -
cleverly masquerading his solo attack retrospectively as a tactic set to pave
the way for his team-mate. But who can begrudge a rider as classy and confident
as Gilbert trying something as audacious as that?
And what about Thomas Voeckler, latching onto Gilbert's
wheel, leading the Tour not just in name but in practice and in popularity as
he powered over the final climb of the day in pole position?
It's a huge statement, but in Voeckler, Gilbert and the
brave Johnny Hoogerland, never has the Tour had such a popular and charismatic
trio leading the three main jersey competitions. They are a joy to watch - and
when he retires, Voeckler should have streets and squares all over France named
If the French can commemorate someone like Marshal Petain,
the architect of the Nazi-kowtowing Vichy regime, then surely there's a place
for the fresh faced Europcar captain - a man who only ever gives his all, who
rides as if he's cycling's number one fan, and as if each day is his last on a
Talking of the French - surely it's time they finally nailed
that first stage win? Or perhaps they're waiting for the Thursday's Pyrenean
slog to Luz Ardiden on Bastille Day. It may explain John Gadret's decision to
take the first fortnight of the race off, chilling at the back of the peloton.
Anyway, back to our dinner with Andre - it would have been a
splendid affair. Omega Pharma-Lotto are proving to be the go-team in this
year's race. Already on the top of the prize money standings, they now have
another stage winner - this time a Gorilla - in their midst.
Morale must be sky-high - in fact, you could see by the way
Greipel's team-mates came up and congratulated him after his landmark win.
Greipel always said he was good enough to race in the Tour -
but after he crashed in the neutral zone before the opening stage, there were a
few who feared for his reputation. But now the 28-year-old has that
all-important maiden win - and with it, proof that he can beat his old buddy
Cav in one of the sweeter smelling races.
As for Cav, his evening meal was a more morose culinary
experience than that of the Omega boys - although the HTC camp remains
positive. The Manxman tweeted: "Had dinner with warriors I call my
teammates. Incredible how they stay upbeat after riding so hard all day and I
don't finish the job."
The main course, of course, will be served on the cobbles of
Gaffe of the Day:
Anthony Delaplace, the youngest rider in the Tour, came close after showing his
inexperience by almost losing control of his bike at top speed. But the winner
goes, in general, to the peloton: moments after the start there was an
unprovoked token pile-up which prompted David Millar to later tweet:
"About 10km into race we had first big crash. Big wide straight road,
smooth surface, DRY, and UPHILL. Still we crash. Embarrassing now."
Plat du Jour: No
time to eat today, so Saddles just snacked on Carmaux's local aniseed-infused
Word of the Day:
Voeckler - as in the French dish 'oeufs à Voeckler', fried eggs sunny-side up
(with the yellow yokes very prominent)
Uses for... Thomas
Voeckler: a 24-hour non-energy consuming light bulb
Quote of the Day:
"I felt better on my bike today than lying in my bed or walking around." Hard
man Johnny Hoogerland reflects on his first day back after 33 stitches were
sewn into his legs.
Stage 11 prediction:
FDJ to instigate an attack, to be joined by at least three other Frenchmen -
plus Garmin's Ramunas Navardauskas, if only to make a name for himself. Cofidis
are yet to record a win too, so expect Mickael Buffaz to have a pop, if only
because Saddles has never heard of him before and he must be on the team for
something. The first crash to come on the descent of the first climb. But it
will be a bunch sprint, with only one outcome: number three for Cavendish.