Blazin' Saddles

  • Curmudgeonly race officials showed no mercy on Tuesday after kicking out 30-year-old Tour debutant Ted King because he finished seven slender seconds outside the official cut-off point.

    The Canondale rider had already battled his way through excruciating pain to even make it to Nice, but according to official timekeepers Festina he finished the 25km team time trial in 32:32.

    That meant he missed the 25 per cent time limit by one second less than Greg LeMond's total advantage over Laurent Fignon in the famous 1989 Tour finale in Paris. Not a bad effort considering that his injury-wracked body

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  • GreenEdge train proves just the ticket for Gerrans

    It had become a running joke that the biggest impact Orica-GreenEdge would make on a Tour finish would be through their bus driver rather than any of their riders.

    The Australian team entered their second Tour de France still looking for an elusive win and things started rather inauspiciously when their bus got GreenWedged underneath the finish gantry in Bastia.

    To make matters worse, Matt Goss found himself on the front and shorn of his main opponents following a nasty succession of pile-ups - only to fall off his bike for no apparent reason on the final bend, allowing Marcel Kittel to sweep

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  • No puppy love from the peloton as dog almost gets run over

    Perhaps dismayed by the lack of high-speed pile-ups during the Tour's second stage in Corsica, one dog owner decided he'd level things out by letting his cute pooch off the leash just as the world's biggest bike race approached at breakneck speed.

    Animated by the whooshing past of birthday boy Sylvain Chavanel, the dog - which looked very much like a West Highland White Terrier - scampered across the road into the path of the Cannondale-led peloton.

    Having seen his pet almost reach the other side of the road, the owner had the smart idea of whistling and beckoning it back - a bit like seeing

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  • Corsican opener proves a real roof-raiser

    You wait all day for a bus and when it finally comes not only does it bring the world's greatest cycling race to its knees - quite literally - it also spells the end for a stuffed kangaroo.

    They say a picture says a thousand words, and this priceless shot of the Orica-GreenEdge bus - complete with distraught driver and comedy prone stuffed marsupial mascot - wedged underneath the finish banner in Bastia, certainly falls into that category.

    This wasn't the script for the Tour's first ever visit to Corsica, whose stunning natural beauty had been captured early on by a succession of aerial

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  • Can Froome do it? Corsican!

    What better way to get the 100th edition of the Grande Boucle off to a flying start than with the kind of pun that will be a staple fixture in this daily musette of Tour de France blog fun?

    With the world's most famous bike race starting on the island of Corsica and visiting the only two departments of Metropolitan France yet to be graced by the Tour's travelling circus, Chris Froome, last year's runner-up, is the logical favourite to take the yellow jersey into Paris, at dusk, in three weeks' time.

    In the absence of defending champion Bradley Wiggins, it's his team-mate Froome who carries

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  • Pick your Fantasy Tour team with RoadCycling UK

    Forget Sky's comparatively minor headache of picking a leader from Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome - try picking your own nine-man team from the whole peloton of Tour riders.

    This year, British Eurosport are sponsoring RoadCycling UK's Tour de France Fantasy League competition - giving readers the chance to win a cluster of prizes while pitting their pedalling prognostic skills against fellow cycling enthusiasts.

    WHERE?

    First up, you have to go to the official entry page - http://rcuktourdefrance.fantasyleague.com - where you'll find all the rules and information required to join the game.

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  • Riders’ partners find it’s a man’s world

    They tend to wounds and provide much-needed mental support all year around, yet the wives and girlfriends of professional riders often feel left out in the sport's male-dominated world.

    Cycling WAGS emerged into the public consciousness during last year's Tour de France when Chris Froome's partner Michelle Cound engaged in a Twitter clash with Bradley Wiggins's wife over Team Sky's tactics.

    For once, pro riders' partners took a seat at the table without asking permission, which is not always welcome.

    "The teams are not really partner-friendly," Cound explained.

    "I was fortunate enough to join

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  • Tour de France starts and ends at the table

    Like most things French, the Tour de France starts and ends around a lunch or dinner table.

    In 1903, when Geo Lefevre told Henri Desgrange, his boss at sports newspaper L'Auto about his idea of a cycling Tour de France, Desgrange summoned him to explain the details of his plan at Zimmer's, one of Paris most famous Alsacian brasseries.

    The deal was struck between cheese and desert and the crazy idea, probably fuelled by a little bit of wine, was so good that it celebrates its 100th edition this year.

    The start of the first Tour was in front of a bar, Le Reveil Matin in Montgeron, near Paris,

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  • Leading Tour de France contenders

    CHRIS FROOME (Britain, Team Sky, age 28) - aka Froomey

    Best Tour performance: 2nd (2012)

    Best other grand tour performance: 2nd (Vuelta 2011)

    Strengths: Has won four of the five stage races (Oman, Romandie, Criterium International, Criterium du Dauphine) he entered this year. One of the best time trialists, possibly the best climber. Backed by a strong team. The only man to have beaten him on a stage race this season, Italian Vincenzo Nibali, is not on the Tour.

    Weaknesses: Has never led a team on the Tour de France.

    RICHIE PORTE (Australia, Team Sky, 28)

    Best Tour performance: 34th (2012)

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  • The Tour de France for beginners

    Q: Why will Mark Cavendish never win the Tour de France?

    A: Because the Briton, one of the best sprinters in the world, is not a good climber. Since 1913, the final standings of the Tour have been based on the overall time clocked by each rider, adding the time of each stage.

    Time gaps in mountain stages are far bigger than in flat stages, giving climbers a huge advantage over sprinters. On the other hand, climbers, who are usually diminutive and light, often lose time in individual time trials, which favour powerful riders.

    In the last few years, the event has been won by climbers - Oscar

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