Blazin' Saddles

Impey makes history as Gorilla pooh-poohs Sagan

Blazin' Saddles

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Six stages in and we've had six different winners - although one thing has remained pretty constant: if there's a sprint at the end, Peter Sagan will finish second.

Last year, the Slovak tyro in his pre-podium molesting days notched three stage wins en route to nailing the green jersey in his debut Tour; this year, Sagan's still sitting pretty for the points classification, but he's stuck in a rut of three bridesmaids' finishes.

One more runner-up berth, and Sagan will have managed to mirror, in this year's Tour, his spring classics wedding campaign - that's to say 2nd in Strade Bianche, 2nd in Milan-San Remo, 2nd in E3 Harelbeke and - you guessed it - 2nd in the Tour of Flanders.

This time round, it was Andre 'The Groom' Greipel who denied Sagan the top spot on the podium - the rider whom Sagan managed to beat on his way to finishing behind 'Best Man' Mark Cavendish the day before.

"There's no shame in being beaten by Andre Greipel in such a sprint," Sagan said at the finish.

"It's nice to hear that Sagan thinks it was impossible for him to win against me," Greipel reacted.

The German Gorilla didn't as much pooh-pooh Sagan as PouPou him with his victory: the Cannondale Bull now has a palmares that is even more Poulidorian than the man who first earned the 'Eternal Second' moniker.

Should a crash forced Sagan out of the race tomorrow, Sagan could always hang around the race and appear alongside Raymond Poulidor in his daily drive-by in the Tour caravane.

'Peter and PouPou' has a nice ring to it - as a pair, they could really go places.


Perhaps Simon Gerrans read yesterday's blog? 18 hours after Saddles suggested that he should hand over his yellow jersey to team-mate Daryl Impey, Gerrans did just that.

Showing the kind of selfless team work for which he was commending his team-mates after taking the race lead in Calvi, Gerrans rode hard in the final kilometres in Montpellier to launch Matt Goss for the sprint.

In doing so, Gerrans slipped off the front and came home five seconds down after a split occurred in the peloton inside the final 500 metres. This was, of course, enough to see Impey into yellow.

Quite what to think of the fact that Impey himself finished two places ahead of the man he was meant to lead out, Goss, Saddles will leave open to discussion. Perhaps he was very keen to finish those nine places ahead of Gerrans had the peloton crossed the line as one unit?

Anyway, it's all history now. No, it really is: Impey became the first African rider to wear the race's coveted yellow jersey in a year where we all expected that accolade to go to Chris Froome.

There must be something in the water in Montpellier - gold, diamonds or biltong, perhaps - for Saffers love breaking records here: six years ago, Robbie Hunter became the first African rider to win a stage of the Tour in the same city.

The upshot of all this is that surely next year we'll see MTN Qhubeka in the Tour peloton at the expense of Cofidis.

TWEET OF THE DAY: "So so hot today. But no Manx sunburn. Roadburn? Yep. Hit the deck. Leg-burn? Yup. Got beat in the sprint. Nice one Andre Greipel." Mark Cavendish.


HOT: The whole point of lotteries is that you win some; you lose some. Normally, you lose more often than you win - otherwise we'd all be millionaires by now. But for Lotto Belisol and their sprint train, when they have the right ticket, they usually win more times with Andre Greipel than they lose. A day which started badly with the withdrawal of their GC man Jurgen van den Broeck ended on a high note with the Gorilla's fifth career stage win on the Tour.

A natural born winner, Mark Cavendish won't be pleased with fourth place in the student town of Montpellier where he won so convincingly in 2011. But the fact that he was there to even contest the sprint says a lot about a rider who, lest we forget, is still suffering from the lingering effects of bronchitis.

Perhaps on hearing the rumours, through his earpiece, of Andy Schleck joining OPQS in the off-season, Cav lost his composure on a roundabout 33km from the finish and shouldered the tarmac at speed. Having changed bikes, he then fought back onto a fast peloton, and then onto the front - all before composing himself and trying to find the energy to fight for the win. Most sprinters would have just given up.

Luis Angel Maté's lone breakaway attempt may have only lasted about 40km but he did carve out a lead of 5:30 before coming to his senses and slinking back into the pack. The thought of having to ride out alone in such fierce heat can't have been appealing.

NOT: Maté's solo ride up front was soon mirrored by Nacer Bouhanni's agonising vain attempts at staying in the race. Forget the fact that the sum total of his drafting over the past couple of days must almost have rivalled the seven slender seconds that were enough to disqualify Ted King in Nice; nobody likes to see a man suffering - even a man who had caused the big pile-up that ended the Tours of Van den Broeck and Maxime Bouet. Still, the bunch sprints will be a safer place without Bouhanni, the Sebastien Grosjean of cycling.

Astana had a bit of a shocker in the heat, with Frederik Kessiakoff quitting and Janez Brajkovic crashing very heavily 12km before the finish. The Slovenian finished the stage more than 10 minutes down and was later became the team's third withdrawal from the Tour after advice from race doctors.

The KO left Brajkovic fearing for his future, the rider tweeting soon after: "Left my 2013/14 contract on the road, 12km from the finish. Not allowed to start tomorrow. Big thanks to Tour medical team. Amazing people."

Don't worry, Jani - you crashed alongside a load of Cofidis riders so Saddles is sure their directeur sportif picked up your contract... If that's not motivation enough to turn things round Astana, then what is?


We're almost a week in and Peter Sagan is still without a stage win and so it's pretty much a done deal that he'll go for the win today. He'll be pushed by Edvald Boasson Hagen, whose team may be prepared to take the yellow jersey one day ahead of its scheduled arrival on Ax-3 Domaines on Saturday.

It's hard to tell if this one will come down to a sprint or not - and it will all depend on who gets into the break. GreenEdge won't want to bid adieu to yellow and so it may come down to a bunch affair. Thomas De Gendt will no doubt attack to pick up enough mountain points to take Pierre Rolland's polka dot jersey. He'll probably let the Frenchman keep the spotted bike, gloves, sunglasses, bib shorts, socks, helmet and bidons, though.


A local delicacy of the Tarn region is "Melsat" - a spicy white pudding made from pork offal (we're taking throat rind, spleen and liver) and eggs. To make a whole meal of it, why not start things off with some pumpkin soup, followed by slices of fried Melsat with some buttered leaks. Finish off with some Gimblette d'Albi - a local ring-shaped donut flavoured with anise, lemon and orange blossom.

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