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SURVIVING MOUNTAINOUS ETAPE DU TOUR Since 1993, ride has been the holy grail for cycling devotees By JEANETTE WANG “JUST so you know it is probably one of the hardest sporting things you’ll ever do, but at the same time it’s totally doable… You’ve just got to go in with the attitude that it’s going to be all right in a very horrible kind of way.” If this was David Millar’s idea of a pep talk, then it’s a good thing he rides bikes for a living instead of giving motivational talks. On the night before attempting the Etape du Tour, the event that pits amateurs against a major mountain stage of the Tour de France, this was not quite what we had hoped to hear. Millar, 36, is riding his 12th Tour de France as part of Garmin-Sharp, a team in which he is a part owner. His sister Fran was among a bunch of women – myself included – invited to do the Etape by Rapha, the London-based cycling apparel company that is on a mission to get more women in the sport. Fran thought a pep talk from her brother would help ease some nerves before we tackled the challenging 128km course – the same one that the pros ride in today’s penultimate stage of the Tour de France. Yeah, right. Our ride up the mountainous Etape took place on July 7. It started beside the lake in Annecy, France, and finished on the 1,700m-high Semnoz. Although not nearly as long or with as much climbing as the previous 20 Etape editions, the route offered little respite, with a total of 3,500m of cumulative elevation gain distributed among many ascents – including a final 11km climb with an 8.5 per cent average gradient.

Cyclists tackling the 128km Etape course – the same one that the pros ride in today’s penultimate stage of the Tour de France. PHOTO COURTESY OF JEANETTE WANG In comparison, the climb up to Mount Faber via Mount Faber Road is only 1.3km long with a 5.9 per cent average gradient. Since 1993, the Etape du Tour has been the holy grail for “cyclosportive” enthusiasts, the equivalent of Boston for marathoners and Kona for triathletes. It is organised by ASO, the same French company behind the Tour. For most participants, the goal is enjoyment and to get to the end, rather than a podium fin-

ish or a personal best. Miller offers a few simple rules to follow: eat much, drink more, drink lots of Coke (“it works a treat,” he says), try not to crash, and break up the route into micro goals rather than thinking of how many more mountains to go. “Don’t compete against anybody else, you’re out there doing this against yourself, with yourself and with your friends, so make sure you look after each other,” he says.

For the pro riders today, it will be the complete opposite. Anything could still happen during this stage, where only the first part around Lake Annecy is flat, says Christian Prudhomme, general director of the Tour. “After this, a group of climbs, including Mont Revard, should see a number of attacks. The unprecedented finish in Semnoz involves climbs which are sharp enough to cause a last-minute upset,” he adds.

Tour de France race director Jean Francois Pescheux predicts that although the yellow jersey may be safe with Team Sky’s Chris Froome, the podium places could well be decided on Semnoz. It certainly brought many riders to their feet – off their bikes and walking up the mountain – during our Etape ride. By the time we reached the base of Semnoz, we had climbed five mountain passes and hills: Cote du Puget (5.4km long), Col

Ashes, 2nd Test In London, day 2: England 361 (I. Bell 109, J. Bairstow 67, J. Trott 58, S. Broad 33, G. Swann 28 n.o.; Harris 5-72, Smith 3-18) v Australia.

Cycling Tour de France 172.5km Stage 18 from Gap to Alpe d’Huez: 1 Christophe Riblon (Fra/AG2R) 4hr 51min 32sec. 2 Tejay van Garderen (USA/BMC Racing) +59sec. 3 Moreno Moser (Ita/Cannondale) +1min 27sec. Selected: 7 Chris Froome (Gbr/Team Sky) +3:18. Overall: 1 Froome 71:02:19. 2 Alberto Contador (Esp/Saxo-Tinkoff) +5:11. 3 Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar) +5:32. Selected: 18 Andy Schleck (Lux/RadioShack) +31:19. 29 Cadel Evans (Aus/BMC Racing) +46:16.

Football Women’s Euro C’ship In Sweden, Gp B: Germany 0 Norway 1, Netherlands 0 Iceland 1.

Golf Sanderson Farms Championship In Madison, Mississippi, rain-disrupted 1st rd (USA unless noted): 63 Daniel Summerhays. 66 Will Claxton, Michael Bradley, Jonathan Randolph. 67 Bill Lunde, Dicky Pride, Skip Kendall, Peter Lonard (Aus), D.J. Trahan, Chad Campbell, Donald Constable. Selected: 68 Rory Sabbatini (Rsa). 69 Noh Seung Yul

(Kor). LPGA Marathon Classic In Sylvania, 1st rd (USA unless noted): 65 Alison Walshe. 66 Lexi Thompson, Paula Creamer, Jessica Shepley (Can). 67 Jacqui Concolino, Gerina Piller, Karine Icher (Fra), Park In Bee (Kor), Kang Hae Ji (Kor). Selected: 69 Pak Se Ri (Kor).

Tennis ATP Colombia Open In Bogota, 2nd rd: Matteo Viola (Ita) bt Edouard Roger-Vasselin (Fra) 6-3 7-5, Vasek Pospisil (Can) bt James Duckworth (Aus) 7-5 3-6 7-5. ATP Hamburg Open 3rd rd (selected): Florian Mayer (Ger) bt Feliciano Lopez (Esp) 7-6 (7-1) 6-2, Roger Federer (Sui) bt Jan Hajek (Cze) 6-4 6-3, Tommy Haas (Ger) bt Carlos Berlocq (Arg) 6-2 6-4, Fernando Verdasco (Esp) bt Jerzy Janowicz (Pol) 7-5 4-0 (ret). WTA Bad Gastein Open In Austria, 2nd rd: Patricia Mayr (Aut) bt Petra Martic (Cro) 6-4 6-4, Elina Svitolina (Ukr) bt Chanelle Scheepers (Rsa) 7-5 1-6 6-1, Arantxa Rus (Ned) bt Estrella Cabeza (Esp) 5-7 7-5 6-3, Yvonne Meusburger (Aut) bt Irina Begu (Rom) 6-3 6-3. WTA Swedish Open In Bastad, 2nd rd: Serena Williams (USA) bt Anna Tatishvili (Geo) 6-2 6-3, Richel Hogenkamp (Ned) bt Lesya Tsurenko (Ukr) 6-1 2-6 6-3, Mathilde Johansson (Fra) bt Andrea Gamiz (Ven) 7-5 6-2, Flavia Pennetta (Ita) bt Simona Halep (Rom) 4-6 7-5 2-0 (ret).

NEXT 48 HOURS Today Cricket England v Australia, 2nd Test, Day 3 (Live, StarHub Ch236 and mio TV HD Ch123, 6pm). 1st ODI: Sri Lanka v South Africa (Live, StarHub Ch235 and mio TV CH122, 4.45pm). Cycling Tour de France: Stage 20 (Live, StarHub Ch205, 7.30pm). Football S-League: Young Lions v Warriors (Jalan Besar, 7.30pm). East Asian FF C’ship, Women: Japan v China (3.10pm). Men: South Korea v Australia (5.55pm) – Live, StarHub Ch222. Club friendly: Indonesia XI v Liverpool (Live, mio TV HD Ch102, 9.25pm). Golf British Open: Day 3 (Live, StarHub Ch208 & HD Ch210 and mio TV Ch114 & HD Ch117, 5pm). Motorcycling MotoGP, USA: Qualifying (Live, StarHub Ch209 & HD Ch210 and mio TV Ch114 & HD Ch117, tomorrow, 4.25am). Swimming Fina World C’ships, finals – Open water swimming: 5k Men (Live, StarHub Ch203, 7pm). Diving: Women’s 3m (11.30pm). Synchronised swimming: Solo Tech (tomorrow, 1am) – Live, Ch202. Tennis ATP German Open: S-finals (Live, StarHub Ch211 & HD Ch255, 6pm). ATP Claro Open: S-finals (Live, StarHub Ch203 & HD Ch255, midnight).


Cricket England v Australia, 2nd Test, day 4 (Live, StarHub Ch236 and mio TV HD Ch123, 6pm). 4th ODI: West Indies v Pakistan (Live, StarHub Ch235 and mio TV Ch122, 9pm). Cycling Tour de France: Stage 21, final stage (Live, StarHub Ch205, midnight). Football East Asian FF C’ship, Women: South Korea v North Korea (Live, StarHub Ch222, 5.10pm). Men: Japan v China (Live, Ch201, 8pm). Concacaf Gold Cup, q-finals: USA v El Salvador (Monday, 4am), Honduras v Costa Rica (Monday, 7am) – Live, StarHub HD Ch255. Golf British Open: Day 4 (Live, StarHub Ch208 & HD Ch210 and mio TV Ch114 & HD Ch117, 6pm). Motorcycling MotoGP, USA: Main races (Live, StarHub TV Ch209 & HD Ch210 and mio TV Ch114 & HD Ch117, Monday, 4.30am). Swimming Fina World C’ship, finals – Diving: Men’s 10m platform synchronised (11.30pm). Synchronised swimming; Duet (Monday, 1am) – Live, StarHub Ch202. Water polo – Women’s prelims: Australia v New Zealand (4.15pm), China v South Africa (5.30pm), USA v Greece (6.45pm), Spain v Netherlands (Monday, 3am) – Live, Ch203. Tennis ATP German Open: Final (Live, StarHub Ch211 & HD Ch255, 8.30pm). ATP Claro Open: Final (Live, StarHub Ch203 & HD Ch255, midnight).

The writer is a former Straits Times sports desk journalist who is now based in Hong Kong as health editor for a daily newspaper

Chinese divers aim for clean sweep

SCORES Cricket

de Leschaux (3.6km), Cote d’Aillon-le-Vieux (6km), Col de Pres (3.4km) and Mont Revard (15.9km). Unofficially, there were many ramps in between that are not mentioned, but the burn in the legs made no secret of them. Fortunately, the weather was perfect – between 18 and 25 deg C. It egged me on, as do the cheers from the crowds lining village streets, the hypnotic sound of cow bells, the smell of freshly cut hay and the calming sight of the azure blue sky meeting green vegetation. The refreshment stands were frequent and well-stocked: energy gels and bars, cakes, biscuits, bananas, oranges, dried fruit, and even local products such as Bauges Mountain cheeses, herbal tea and wine. I passed on the delicacies, preserving my stomach – as I’d been doing with my legs – for the final push up Semnoz. In bike races, most climbs are designated from category one (hardest) to four (easiest), based on both steepness and length. Semnoz is hors categorie, which is French for “beyond categorisation”, meaning it is tough beyond description, and on the same level as mythical climbs such as Mont Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez. I stay seated on my saddle for most of the way, grinding out each pedal stroke with eyes fixed towards the summit. The flamme rouge, or the red flag that marks the final kilometre, came sooner than I expected. The final straight was dotted with spectators, just as you see on TV when the pros ride the Tour. In the final 500m, one zealous (and possibly inebriated) Spanish fan even gave me a gentle push. I crossed the line, relieved, elated, tired, and with a whole new level of respect for the pros who do it day after day, for 21 days of the Tour.

Brooklyn Nets recruits (from left) Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry with their new jerseys during a news event. The trio were acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

New Nets trio target title NEW YORK – Former Boston Celtics stars Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry made their debuts on Thursday as members of the Brooklyn Nets and already began talking about winning a National Basketball Association title. In fact, the words “champion”, “champions” and “championship” were said a combined eight times in the first five minutes of the news conference that also featured Russian billionaire and Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, new Nets coach Jason Kidd and team general manager Billy King. “We’ve got all the ingredients we need to win a championship,” Pierce said. “We just need to figure out how to make it all come together. Great players always figure it out and I think we will.” The Nets have clearly made dethroning the two-time defending champions Miami Heat their mission. “We’re talking about a championship,” Kidd said. “The big picture is the championship trophy and hopefully we can win that. The gold trophy is what we’re here for.” Pierce, 35, was the 2008 NBA Finals’ Most Valuable Player and Garnett, 37, dominated inside as

WINNING COMBINATION We’ve got all the ingredients we need to win a championship. We just need to figure out how to make it all come together. – New Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce

the Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers for the title five years ago, while Terry, 35, helped Dallas beat Miami in the 2011 Finals before joining the Celtics last year. “We’re about winning a championship and coming to the Nets gives us the best opportunity,” Garnett said. “Adding what you see up here to what they already have here, I feel like this gives us the best option to win it all.” They join a Nets squad who went 49-33 last season, losing to Chicago in the first round of the Eastern Conference play-offs.

With guard Deron Williams, forward Joe Johnson and centre Brook Lopez likely to be joined by Garnett and Pierce in the starting line-up and Terry coming off the bench along with 32-year-old Russian forward Andrei Kirilenko, another newcomer to the Nets, Brooklyn promise to be a formidable club. “We’re going to be right up there with the best of them,” Pierce said. “Miami, they are the champs. There’s Chicago, Indiana, then I think you have to look at us. With me, Kevin and Jet along with Jason (Kidd), we don’t have any egos. We want to compete for a championship.” Prokhorov is spending huge sums to make the Nets instant winners, adding toughness, experience and leadership in Pierce, who averaged 21.8 points and 6.9 rebounds a game over 15 years in Boston, and Garnett, who has career averages of 19.1 points and 10.5 rebounds a game. The owner will spend US$101 million (S$127 million) in salary next season and another US$82 million in NBA luxury tax penalties for exceeding the league salary cap. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BARCELONA – China’s divers are looking for another gold medal clean sweep when the World Aquatic Championships start today in Barcelona as the swimming world adjusts to life without pool legend Michael Phelps. Having retired after London 2012, where he collected a record 18th Olympic gold medal, Phelps, 28, will be only a spectator at Barcelona’s Palau Sant Jordi stadium. In his wake, the likes of compatriots Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte, Australia’s James Magnussen plus Chinese pair Ye Shiwen and Sun Yang are aiming to take over his mantle. The eight-day swimming section runs from July 28 to Aug 4, but China’s divers are in action from today, hoping to repeat the 10 gold medals they achieved from 10 diving events at the 2011 World Championships on home turf in Shanghai. China finished with six of the eight gold diving medals on offer at London 2012, but the reigning world champion Qiu Bo failed to add the 10m platform Olympic gold to his world title despite dominating the 2011 Diving Series. But the 20-year-old has a new dive planned for Barcelona. “I lost at the Olympics because I was struggling with illness,” he said, with his British rival Tom Daley doubtful after a bout of glandular fever. “I will show a new dive in Spain. I hope I can perform it well.” China’s women won all the golds at both the last World Championships and the Olympics, but Wu Minxia, who has four Olympic golds, sits out Barcelona. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE Fina World C’ships, finals – Open water swimming: 5k men (Live, StarHub Ch203, 7pm). Diving: Women’s 3m (11.30pm). Synchronised swimming: Solo Tech (tomorrow, 1am) – Live, Ch202

20130720 Straits Times - Etape du Tour  
20130720 Straits Times - Etape du Tour