Rouleur Centenary Tour de France
Read a few sample pages from Rouleur Centenary Tour de France. For the 100th edition of the world’s greatest bike race, and the seventh annual edition of the sport’s greatest cycling publication, Rouleur sent seven writers and photographers on the road at the Tour de France, each given three stages to record their individual takes on La Grande Boucle.
From: Ian Cleverly Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2013 09:54:07 Subject: Annual 7 Dear lovely Rouleur photography-type people, We're shaking things up a bit for the next annual. Time for a change. It is going to be Tour de France only, divided into three days per photographer. And, most likely, with lengthier writing contributions. How you approach your three-day section is your call, just let us know what you have in mind. We want a range, so if following a sprinter struggling up the mountains is your thing, ﬁne. Want to hang with a soigneur for the duration? No problem. Got one particular rider who ﬂoats your boat? Get him. So long as we have a good range of ideas/subjects, it will work. I want to start organising this straight away as it will require a fair bit of logistics (Corsica may be a struggle...) so let me know what you want to do. And if you don't fancy it, no problem. You are the A-team, so we have asked you ﬁrst, but I'm sure others will be happy to come along for the ride. Ian Note Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the content of this book is as technically accurate and as sound as possible, neither the author nor the publishers can accept responsibility for any injury or loss sustained as a result of the use of this material. Published by Rouleur Books An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square London WC1B 3DP www.bloomsbury.com First edition 2013 Copyright © 2013 ISBN 978-1-4729-0080-7 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means – graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or information storage and retrieval systems – without the prior permission in writing of the publishers. A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Special thanks go to: Peter Guest at Image Studios, Edwin Ingram at Tapestry, Brian and Chris at BDI, Juliette Brossard, Thomas Cariou, Fabrice Tiano and to all at A.S.O. who allowed us to get closer to the Tour. Rouleur magazine is published eight times per year ISSN 1752-962X Rouleur Gruppo Media Ltd Holborn Tower 137, High Holborn London WC1V 6PW +44 (0) 207 199 3810 www.rouleur.cc Made from wood grown in managed, sustainable forests. It is natural, renewable and recyclable. The logging and manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin. Body typeset in 13pt on 10pt MetaPro Book by Jonathan Briggs, UK Printed and bound in Spain by Tallers Gràfics Soler Credits Editors: Guy Andrews and Ian Cleverly Design: Jonathan Briggs and Rob Johnston Photography assistant: Jordan Gibbons Illustrations: Tom Jay Podium images: Olaf Unverzart 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 SEBASTIAN & SIMON SCHELS AND RICHARD WILLIAMS Porto-Vecchio to Bastia p8 Bastia to Ajaccio Ajaccio to Calvi GEOFF WAUGH Nice to Nice p48 Cagnes-sur-Mer to Marseille Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier TIMM KÖLLN AND OLIVIER NILSSON-JULIEN Montpellier to Albi p90 Castres to Ax 3 Domaines Saint-Girons to Bagnères-de-Bigorre ROBERT WYATT AND IAN CLEVERLY Saint-Gildas-des-Bois to Saint-Malo p132 Avranches to Mont-Saint-Michel Fougères to Tours TAZ DARLING AND GUY ANDREWS Tours to Saint-Amand-Montrond p170 Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule to Lyon Givors to Mont Ventoux PAOLO CIABERTA AND ANDY MCGRATH Vaison-la-Romaine to Gap p212 Embrun to Chorges Gap to Alpe-d’Huez JAKOB KRISTIAN SØRENSEN AND MORTEN OKBO Bourg-d’Oisans to Le Grand-Bornand p254 Annecy to Annecy - Semnoz Versailles to Paris Champs-Élysées 213KM SATURDAY, JUNE 29 ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 1 Porto-Vecchio to Bastia 11 12 ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 1 Porto-Vecchio to Bastia ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 1 Porto-Vecchio to Bastia 13 14 ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 1 Porto-Vecchio to Bastia BUS STOP 15 ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 1 Porto-Vecchio to Bastia T he ﬁrst indication that this Tour might an an unusual one came even before kilomètre zéro. The eight jets of the Armée de l’Air’s aerobatics team were still painting the Corsican sky with tricoloured smoke trails and the peloton was rolling gently through the neutralised zone in the streets of Porto-Vecchio, between the départ ﬁctif and the départ réel, when Chris Froome hit a concrete barrier and came oﬀ his shiny black Pinarello. The race hadn’t even begun and there, while the ﬁrm ante-post favourite was hastily given a new bike, were four Sky riders – Edvald Boasson Hagen, Kanstantsin Siutsou, Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas – waiting to accompany him back to the front of the bunch in time for the start of the contest. A moment of no substantive signiﬁcance in the grand scheme of things, with no one hurt and all 3,404km of the 100th edition still to race. But you did wonder. The 97th, 98th and 99th Tours had taught Team Sky that departures from the script, sometimes abrupt and alarming, are to be expected, and that even such carefully prepared plans as those devised by Dave Brailsford and his lieutenants must incorporate a high degree of ﬂexibility. But silly little incidents like this sometimes have a way of being magniﬁed by hindsight. Stage One would turn out to have a much bigger surprise in store, although once it had properly got under way the day began with a conventional ﬁve-man break involving Cyril Lemoine of Sojasun, Jérôme Cousin of Europcar, Lars Boom of Belkin (formerly Rabobank), Juan Antonio Flecha of Vacansoleil and Juan José Lobato of Euskaltel. Back in the bunch, still rubbing the sleep from their eyes, the road captains of the major teams allowed the group to open a three-minute lead within the ﬁrst 10km, and there it stayed as they wound northwards beside the Tyrrhenian Sea along Corsica’s east coast. Lobato took the ﬁrst climbing point of the race on the fourth-category Côte de Sotta, and with it secured a Sunday in the polka-dot jersey, while Boom took the only intermediate sprint at San-Giuliano, after 150 of the day’s 213 kilometres. A couple of minutes behind the Dutchman and his four companions, the action warmed up for the ﬁrst time as the big-name sprinters contested the remaining points: André Greipel crossed the line ahead of Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan, Matt Goss, Marcel Kittel and Nacer Bouhanni. The battle for the green jersey was under way. Omega Pharma, Lotto-Belisol and Argos-Shimano had been setting the tempo at the head of the bunch, gradually squeezing the gap to the break and eventually sucking the escapees back into the main group. With 35km to go RadioShack pushed ahead to force an acceleration, joined by BMC and Saxo-Tinkoﬀ. By the time they passed the lichen-stained Cathedral Santa Maria Assunta, with 25km left, Sky were in front, accompanied by Omega Pharma and Lotto-Belisol, and the pace was clearly being controlled as they rode six abreast towards Bastia. At the ﬁnish line, however, something very strange was happening. On stages such as this the team buses arrive well ahead of the race, funnelled down the barricaded ﬁnal section and across the ﬁnish line before being guided to a parking place where they can be easily reached by the riders. The ﬁnish line itself is spanned by a temporary bridge which announces the principal sponsors’ names to the television audience and contains vital equipment: the photo-ﬁnish cameras essential for a bunch ﬁnish and the transponder sensors that register each competitor’s arrival. It is raised mechanically to allow the large buses to pass through, and then lowered to its normal height to await the riders. Back in the race, the riders were 13km from home and Johnny Hoogerland – still etched in many fans’ minds as the victim of a barbed-wire fence during the 2011 Tour – had just crashed after getting himself tangled up in an advertising banner running alongside the road when the news came through: the ﬁnish line was blocked. The bus of the Orica-GreenEdge team, arriving late, had wedged itself ﬁrmly beneath the span. Within moments there was a heavy crash at the back of the peloton, bringing down Ryder Hesjedal, the winner of the 2012 Giro d’Italia, who fractured a rib. Prevented by a virus from defending his title in Italy, the Canadian had been expected to mount a challenge for his ﬁrst Tour victory. Already the race was taking its toll. In Bastia, frantic eﬀorts were being made to shift the delinquent bus, apparently to no avail. To try and drive Orica’s custom-ﬁtted Irizar i6 any further as it stood would be to risk bringing the entire structure crashing down. Its driver, a Basque named Garikoitz Atxa, known to the Australian team as “Gary”, was distraught: this was his ﬁrst Tour and, as a former rider himself, he was fully aware of the signiﬁcance and possible consequences. With 10km to go, the riders were told through their radios that the ﬁnish was being moved to the 3km line, where equipment is always set up to check the individual riders’ positions at that point, in the event of crashes in the closing stages. That made logical sense, but it was a hard message to get across to a couple of hundred riders whose adrenalin was starting to ﬂow. Always nervous at this moment of a race – even more so on the opening day of the Tour de France, with some big teams wanting to manoeuvre their lead-out trains into position ready for the sprint and others needing to stay close to the front in order to protect their general classiﬁcation contenders – the peloton reacted like a ﬂock of starlings spotting a hawk. With 6.5km to go another big crash occurred close to the front: some top riders came down, including Sagan and Tony Martin, who lost half the skin oﬀ his back in the process, while others, like Cavendish and Bouhanni, were brought to a halt, forced to pick their way through and around the carnage before setting oﬀ again in pursuit of the rapidly vanishing leaders. 16 ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 1 Porto-Vecchio to Bastia They were only 2km from the place where they now expected to end the race, and starting to prepare for the ﬁnal eﬀort, when a new instruction came through: the bus had been moved at last and the ﬁnish would be at the original location. A solution had been found, apparently by someone from Movico, the Dutch company responsible for the Tour’s portable grandstands and other ﬁnish-line facilities. Perhaps he or she had recalled the title of a comic ﬁlm of the 1960s, starring Jerry Lewis: Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River. The answer was to stop trying to lift the span clear of the bus’s roof, and instead to let some air out of the tyres on the vehicle’s ten wheels before easing it out without demolishing the whole thing. While the road captains of the leading riders were recalibrating their already recalibrated eﬀorts in the ﬁnal kilometres, Greipel joined the list of casualties, the rear mech of his derailleur gears sheared oﬀ in a crash. While he stood holding his useless machine, waiting for a replacement amid the chaotic procession of team cars whose occupants were trying to work out how many riders they had left and exactly where they were, the remaining sprinters started to wind up for the climax. They were on the ﬁnal bend, almost in sight of the line with 350m to go, when Matt Goss hit the barrier and came down: the last but one survivor of the group of top sprinters who had been expected to contest the ﬁnish, and another unhappy moment on a bad day for Orica-GreenEdge. The last man standing was Marcel Kittel, the big 25-yearold leader of the Argos-Shimano team, who did not fail to proﬁt from his good fortune. Through his earpiece a 17 ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 1 Porto-Vecchio to Bastia few minutes earlier, he had heard his directeur sportif shouting: “The ﬁnish is at the ﬁnish!” Once he had parsed the meaning of that enigmatic command, he came in ahead of Katusha’s Alexander Kristoﬀ and Vacansoleil’s Danny van Poppel. Fourth, to his own delight and astonishment, came Garmin’s David Millar. “Yeah, 4th in the bunch sprint, whatevs,” the 36-year-old time-trial specialist tweeted. For Kittel, capturing the yellow jersey, the green jersey and the white jersey with a single blow, it was a 12th win of the season. Van Poppel, 19 years old and the son of Jean-Paul van Poppel, a former green jersey winner, became the youngest man to stand on a Tour podium in more than 80 years. Behind them, the victims of a malign fate traipsed in with stormy faces, to discover that at least the race organisers had awarded them all the same time, so that the general classiﬁcation contenders would start Stage Two on an equal footing. While poor Gary Atxa was left to give interviews in which he expressed his contrition, the Cavendishes, Sagans and Martins were licking their physical and mental wounds. Corsica’s debut as host of the Tour had been a memorable one, but not for all the right reasons. words RICHARD WILLIAMS photography SEBASTIAN & SIMON SCHELS 18 ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 1 Porto-Vecchio to Bastia ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 1 Porto-Vecchio to Bastia 19 20 ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 1 Porto-Vecchio to Bastia 154KM SUNDAY, JUNE 30 24 ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 2 Bastia to Ajaccio 26 ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 2 Bastia to Ajaccio EVERY DOG HAS ITS DAY I f the ﬁrst day had threatened to end in chaos, the second almost concluded with a disaster that would have left Corsica with a very unenviable place in the Tour’s history. The race had reached the outskirts of Ajaccio when a little white dog couldn’t resist joining the spectacle. Four kilometres from the ﬁnish line, the six members of a late escape had just gone past at high speed, with a 10-second lead over the bunch, when the West Highland terrier made its own break, dashing into the narrow road. Its horriﬁed owner set oﬀ in pursuit, then saw the peloton thundering towards him at 60kph, and thought better of it. As he turned back to regain the grass verge, the dog – which must have heard his shouts – stopped, turned, and looked back. Then it, too, spotted the phalanx of riders and, with barely a second or two to spare, sprinted for the safety of the opposite verge. A potential disaster had been averted. The Westie did not, after all, enter the history books alongside Emily Wilding Davison, who perished a hundred years earlier to the week after throwing herself under the King of England’s horse during the Epsom Derby while trying to attract attention to the cause of female suﬀrage; or Neil Horan, the defrocked Irish Catholic priest who, a few days short of 10 years earlier, had danced a jig among the Formula One cars heading down Silverstone’s Hangar Straight at 200mph and, a year later, barged the leader of the men’s Olympic marathon oﬀ the course in Athens, on both occasions while carrying placards bearing religious messages. Instead the dog preserved its anonymity, and the riders of the 2013 Tour de France preserved their skins. 27 ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 2 Bastia to Ajaccio By contrast with Davison and Horan, the little terrier appeared to have no political or spiritual agenda. Like the rest of the population of Corsica, and those who had arrived from elsewhere to take their holidays on the island during the last week of June, it was simply taking the opportunity to join in the festive atmosphere that accompanies the race on its long journey around France: a spectacle and an ambience that no sporting event in the world can match. The Tour was created in 1903, and gradually the ﬁrst 99 editions extended the race’s coverage to all the 96 départements of metropolitan France, with the exception of the two into which the island oﬀ the coast of Italy is divided: Haute-Corse and Corse-du-Sud. No doubt there were many reasons for this omission. It costs money to put on a Tour stage, requires a reasonably high level of infrastructure, and most of all it is a good idea not to venture into the territory of a local independence movement with a reputation for violence. Back in 1976 Corsica’s national liberation front, the FNLC, announced its formation with a series of bombings in Ajaccio, Bastia, Porto-Vecchio and elsewhere. It then switched its attention to the mainland before returning to a concentration on local targets, including military barracks and holiday homes. In 1998 the French prefect for the island, Claude Érignac, was assassinated by a nationalist. Attacks have since become more sporadic, but they still take place and the calls for independence from France are still heard. Perhaps the Tour organisers, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), were inspired by the highly successful decision taken in 2011 by their Spanish counterparts, to include the ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 2 Bastia to Ajaccio 29 30 ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 2 Bastia to Ajaccio Basque Country in the route of the Vuelta a España for the ﬁrst time in 33 years. The Vuelta had stayed away for a similar reason: the violent activities of ETA, the Basque separatist group, had deterred them from taking the race to a region that, thanks to the achievements of Miguel Indurain and the Euskaltel team, could be thought of as the heartland of modern Spanish cycling. When they did return, they were received with the sort of wild enthusiasm that only Basque fans, with their orange outﬁts and red, green and white ﬂags, can bring to the sport. Corsicans have no such umbilical connection to cycling, and are perhaps not quite as prone to displays of excitability in public. Nevertheless by the second day of the Tour there was no doubt that they were enthusiastic about the presence of the race, even if some of them were happy to take the opportunity to display political banners alongside the route, such as the one reading “Corsica Libera – Corsica Is Not France”, hung on a railway bridge where the helicopter-borne TV cameras and the press photographers could hardly avoid it. Stage Two set oﬀ in Bastia, the prefecture of Haute-Corse, and journeyed to Ajaccio, the prefecture of Corse-du-Sud, on a diagonal path from one end of the island to the other, cutting across the heart of the volcanic mountains and taking in four categorised climbs. Missing was the Col de l’Ospedale, which has been a key feature of the Critérium International ever since that three-day stage race, also organised by ASO, was moved to Corsica in 2010, providing a trial run for the Grande Boucle – and also for Chris Froome, who won the 2013 edition three months before the start of the Tour. As the race set oﬀ, a four-man break was allowed to form, consisting of Lars Boom of Belkin, Rubén Pérez of Euskaltel and two Frenchmen, Blel Kadri of Ag2r-La Mondiale and David Veilleux of Europcar. At Castello-di-Rostino, after 33km, Boom took the only intermediate sprint of the day, and the Dutchman was also at the front when the quartet went over the ﬁrst of three third-category climbs, the Col de Bellagranajo. Then he fell away, along with Pérez, while Tommy Voeckler attacked out of the peloton and brieﬂy attempted to make something happen with Veilleux, his team-mate. But a lone attack by Kadri saw him cross the Col de la Serra ﬁrst before he was joined by another Europcar rider, Pierre Rolland, who took the only second-cat climb, the Col de la Vizzavona, and the maillot à pois with it, as they started to wind down to towards the sea and Ajaccio. Now Sky, RadioShack, BMC and Garmin were at the head of the peloton, joined by Movistar and Sojasun as the race entered the ﬁnal 15km, with Vasil Kiryienka and Richie Porte bringing Froome up to a place of safety at the front. As they approached the last climb, the short but steep Côte du Salario, Europcar’s Cyril Gautier broke away, but suddenly the race produced its ﬁrst moment of true relevance 31 ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 2 Bastia to Ajaccio when Froome, in that leggy style which is as supple as it is inelegant, attacked the leading bunch with 150m of the incline to go and simply rode away from them. Was this an early attempt to provide the 2013 Tour with its deﬁning moment? Yes and no. Froome was intent on allowing himself a clear run at the twisty and narrow descent to come, but he was also giving the world an early and possibly demoralising glimpse of his capabilities. On the way down he sat up, settling back into the bunch as ﬁve other riders formed the late break in time for the Westie to make its appearance. Now the Sky leader’s principal rivals – Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Alejandro Valverde, Andy Schleck, Nairo Quintana – had plenty to think about while rolling towards the ﬁnish, and plenty to discuss in their debriefs. Were Team Sky, after all, more than just a machine that functioned according to the dictates of its power-meters and the orders handed out in the battle bus on the morning of the stage? Might their tactics be diﬀerent from the tightly controlled behaviour that brought victory for Bradley Wiggins a year earlier? Might a Sky rider with the talent, the intelligence and the instinct to act spontaneously be an even more dangerous creature? “It was a clever move to make,” Frédéric Grappe, a Français des Jeux coach, told L’Équipe. “On a stage like this, ﬁve hours long, his only focus of concentration is the wheel of the team-mate who’s guiding him. The worry is that his muscles won’t be able to produce a voluntary eﬀort, because he’s always reacting to what others are doing. If he stays in that mode for too long, he can’t be sure that he can produce a voluntary eﬀort because there hasn’t been much stimulus. It’s like a computer in sleep mode: you have to do something to wake it up, but sometimes the system might pause for 30 seconds before starting to function.” The day’s last break was led by Omega PharmaQuickStep’s Sylvain Chavanel, celebrating his 34th birthday, but gradually its members were reabsorbed until only Jan Bakelants of RadioShack was left, straining every sinew as he gave spectators the welcome sight of an escaper holding oﬀ the bunch, in this case by no more than a hundredth of a second from the charging Peter Sagan and Michał Kwiatkowski. This was the 27-year-old Flemish rider’s ﬁrst win as a professional rider, and he was talking to himself as he neared the line. “Just hold on to it,” he was saying. “It’s going to be the nicest day of your life.” He did. And, as he felt his arms slip into the yellow jersey, it was. words RICHARD WILLIAMS photography SEBASTIAN & SIMON SCHELS 145.5KM MONDAY, JULY 1 36 ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 3 Ajaccio to Calvi ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 3 Ajaccio to Calvi 37 38 ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 3 Ajaccio to Calvi VILLAINS TO HEROES 39 ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 3 Ajaccio to Calvi O ne man winding his way towards the end of a long weekend in Corsica with not much in the way of happy memories was Geraint Thomas, heavily brought down in the biggest crash of the fraught opening day and still suﬀering. An X-ray revealed a minor fracture of the pelvis: hardly life-threatening, but not the sort of injury you’d be wanting to carry up the Ventoux and the Alpe d’Huez, or even while doing a long pull on the lower slopes, which was one of the tasks that would have fallen to the 2012 Olympic team pursuit champion. But Tour riders are special human beings, and Thomas continued to report for duty, despite knowing that it would be a while before he could fulﬁl the expectations that had led him to be chosen for Team Sky’s ﬁnal nine. Midway through Stage Three the Welshman could be seen hanging on to the Tour doctor’s car while receiving the beneﬁt of a pain-relieving spray before joining Mark Cavendish, Philippe Gilbert and others in a gruppetto as they made their way up the second-category Col de San Martino. This was the famous stage in which, according to JeanFrançois Pescheux, the riders would encounter not a single metre of ﬂat road. “We’re not going to hide our feeling of satisfaction with this one,” the race director crowed. “It’s the kind of stage for which we’ve been looking for years.” The idea was to create breaks in such a way as to provoke activity among the contenders for the general classiﬁcation while opening the possibility of a stage win for a French puncheur, with Tommy Voeckler and Sylvain Chavanel as the obvious contenders. Three French riders – Sébastien Minard of Ag2r-La Mondiale, Cyril Gautier of Europcar and Alexis Vuillermoz of Sojasun – made it into an early ﬁve-man break completed by Simon Clarke of Orica-GreenEdge and Lieuwe Westra of Vacansoleil. With Jan Bakelants in the yellow jersey, RadioShack controlled the pace at the front of the peloton, Maxime Monfort and Jens Voigt to the fore, the team’s Trek bikes painted in an almost-Bianchi celeste, a reminder of the days when Leopard was the main title sponsor. The 145.5km of road from Ajaccio to Calvi – where Lord Nelson lost an eye while defeating the French – runs northwards along the western coast of Corsica; the roads beneath the jagged granite dentelles are narrow and twisty as well as endlessly undulating. Pierre Rolland, already wearing the polka-dot jersey (and, less creditably, shorts), took the points at the top of the Col de San Martino, but as the bunch began to descend it could be seen that the Sky team had slipped on to the front: their usual extensive reconnaissance had told them that this was the safe place to be. A pattern had been set: RadioShack would lead on the lumpy bits while Sky took over on the descents. With 20km to go, and only one climb left, Clarke and Minard were the sole remnants of the day’s escapes, their lead down to less than a minute. As they began the Col de Marsolino, another second-category climb, Rolland and Euskaltel’s Igor Antón bridged the gap, with Rolland easing away to take the points. With 12km of descent left before the ﬁnish, Euskaltel’s Mikel Nieve and Belkin’s Lars Petter Nordhaug rode up to join them, followed by Peter Sagan and Argos-Shimano’s Tom Dumoulin, a highly promising 22-year-old Dutch rider who is no relation to Sam Dumoulin, the diminutive Frenchman who was badly injured after hitting a dog in his ﬁrst Tour in 2004. There were only two kilometres left on the road to Calvi when Tom Dumoulin tried to mark his Tour debut by escaping, but the sprinters’ trains were starting to get organised and he was caught with 500m to go, at which point the real business of the stage began. Sagan, the favourite to take the points jersey in Paris and several stages such as this one, was being led out by Alessandro De Marchi, his Cannondale team-mate, when suddenly Daryl Impey, the South African rider with Orica, made a move and latched on to De Marchi’s wheel, with Simon Gerrans close behind him. Impey and Gerrans swept past the two Cannondale riders, diving for the inside of the ﬁnal right-hand curve with the sort of audacity that George Hincapie, Mark Renshaw and Mark Cavendish had shown when blowing oﬀ their Garmin rivals by picking a brilliantly unexpected angle through the Place de la Concorde to give Cavendish victory in 2009. As Impey peeled away, Gerrans held oﬀ Sagan in a photo-ﬁnish. It was the 33-year-old’s second Tour stage win, to go with his success in Prato Nevoso in 2008, when he outsprinted two breakaway companions. Two days before Gerrans’s success in Corsica, OricaGreenEdge had been the laughing stock of the sporting world when their bus got itself stuck under the ﬁnish-line arch in Bastia and brieﬂy threw the world’s biggest sporting spectacle into chaos on its opening day. Now they had won their ﬁrst Tour stage: a moment of great signiﬁcance for a team who had made their debut in the race a year earlier, only to return home to Australia with their tails between their legs. Rather like Sky on the British team’s ﬁrst stab at the Tour in 2010, they had discovered that this is a race which can’t be learnt from books. It requires experience in coping with the moments of opportunity and peril that arrive without warning. The Australian team, ﬂush with funds from the businessman Gerry Ryan, whose company sells caravans and motorhomes, and with backing from a title sponsor which manufactures explosive equipment for the mining industry, didn’t have that crucial experience to call on in 2012. Early successes in their ﬁrst season – Gerrans’s victory in 43 ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 3 Ajaccio to Calvi the Tour Down Under, their ﬁrst WorldTour event, followed by a win in the team time-trial during the Tirreno-Adriatico, Gerrans’s victory over the strongest possible opposition in Milan-Sanremo, and Matthew Goss’s success in a sprint stage of the Giro d’Italia – may have raised the level of expectation to an unrealistically high level, but their ﬁrst appearance at the Tour amounted to a very damp squib – particularly so when another Anglophone team was making oﬀ with ﬁrst and second places in the general classiﬁcation. Like Sky, Orica-GreenEdge is a “zero tolerance” team when it comes to doping, which is why the return of Matt White as their directeur sportif ruﬄed a few feathers. White, born in Sydney in 1974, had a decent if not remarkable career as a domestique with Vini Caldirola, US Postal, Coﬁdis and Discovery Channel before becoming a DS with Jonathan Vaughters’s Slipstream outﬁt. In 2010 Vaughters sacked White when he discovered that, without his knowledge, the Australian had referred a rider to Luis García del Moral, a doctor under suspicion after having worked with Lance Armstrong and US Postal from 1999-2003 (and later banned from the sport for life). In October 2012, when the furore surrounding Armstrong’s disgrace was at its height, White admitted to having been implicated in the doping culture at US Postal and Discovery Channel. “I’m sad to say that I was part of a team where doping formed part of the team’s strategy,” he said. “My involvement is not something I’m proud of and I sincerely apologise to 45 ROULEUR CENTENARY TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 3 Ajaccio to Calvi my fans, media, family and friends who trusted me and to other athletes in my era that chose not to dope.” The confession cost him his posts with Orica-GreenEdge and Cycling Australia, where he was employed as the elite men’s road coordinator, but it incurred no more than a six-month suspension and on June 11, just 18 days before the start of the Tour, Orica announced his reinstatement. He was back, ready to play a part in Gerrans’s win in Calvi and whatever lay beyond. Jan Bakelants, meanwhile, was retaining the yellow jersey for a second day, ahead of Sojasun’s Julien Simon and Gerrans. Michał Kwiatkowski of Omega Pharma-QuickStep became the ﬁrst Pole to wear the best young rider’s white jersey, Rolland was still in the polka-dots and Sagan had wrenched the green jersey away from Marcel Kittel in what already looked as if it might prove to be a decisive move. The big names were biding their time, content to leave Corsica without having damaged their chances. Finishing in the last group, and now standing 194th in the general classiﬁcation, came Geraint Thomas, already half an hour behind Bakelants and wondering exactly how much pain lay ahead. words RICHARD WILLIAMS photography SEBASTIAN & SIMON SCHELS â€œThe West Highland terrier made its own break, dashing into the narrow roadâ€? 3,404 Kilometres, 21 Stages, 21 Stories www.bloomsbury.com