Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Saturday, 22 July 2017

2017 Tour de France: Boassen Hagen wins in Salon, Marseille TT preview

Well deserved solo victory for Edvald Boasson Hagen 
in Salon-de-Provence 
No change overall as peloton 
goes for long training ride yesterday 

Edvald Boasson Hagen was a worthy winner in Salon-de-Provence yesterday. He and Nikias Arndt choose the right way round a roundabout with just three kilometres to go opening up a little gap to the rest of the small leading pack. Boasson Hagen quickly exploited this dropping Arndt and soloing to a popular victory – his third TDF stage victory. The peloton came in 12.27 down having decided to go for a club ride once the breakaway got away. 

Stage 20 Preview: Marseille TT 22.5 kms The final decider 

TT course is flat apart from steep 
1 km climb up to Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde

Just at this year's Giro d'Italia the winner will be decided by a time trial right at the end of the race. OK the Tour still has the stage into Paris but this is ceremonial apart from the sprinters race of the Champs d'Elysée. 

Athough the 22.5 km course is largely flat around the Port and coastline of Marseille it does have a sharp, steep climb up to Notre-Dame-de-la Garde followed by a speedy descent. The course is technical so good bike handling will be very important. Fortunately the weather is expected to be dry – let's hope so we don't want a repeat of Düsseldorf.

The odds have to be on Chris Froome winning his 4th Tour de France – his third in a row. The biggest threat comes from Rigoberto Uran who is 29 seconds behind Froome rather than Bardet who is at 23 seconds. Uran could dethrone Froome but my guess for the podium is Froome (1st), Uran (2nd) and Bardet (3rd).

Friday, 21 July 2017

2017 Tour de France: Barguil wins again, Froome's slender lead, Stage 19 preview

 Another fine stage win by Warren Barguil 
clinching Polka Dot Climbers Jersey

 Chris Froome leads Romain Bardet by 
23 seconds and Rigoberto Uran by 29

 Warren Barguil comfortable winner of Climbers' Jersey

Young Rider: Simon Yates lost a little 
more time by has 2.06 advantage over Louis Meintjes

The climb to the finish at the top of the Izoard was predictably tough but produced few changes overall. However, it did highlight once again the talent of Warren Barguil, who broke away from the GC contenders close to the top of the climb, passing everyone ahead and winning the stage. He also clinched the Climbers' Jersey with a lead of 89 points. 

Despite a group of more than 50 riders getting away Sky controlled the race for most of the day except when AG2R La Mondiale took control at the top of the Col de Vars continuing on the descent to the Izoard and the early part of the climb until they burnt out all their riders leaving Romain Bardet alone. Dan Martin, Romain Bardet and Chris Froome, himself, tried attacking but none was successful in shaking off their closest rivals. Bardet gained a four second time bonus on the line moving him to 23 seconds behind Froome, who gained two seconds on Rigoberto Uran.

It should now be down to Saturday's Time Trial in Marseille to decide the overall outcome. All the other Jerseys look decided provided their holders reach paris safely.

2017 La Course: Col de izoard
The women raced up the Col before the men in the 1st Stage of La Course. Highlights here. Annemiek van Vleuten won with Lizzie Deignan second. They ride a pursuit stage on Saturday over the men's TT course.   

Stage 19: Embrun to Salon-de-Provence 222.5 kms

 Lumpy profile and forecast – storms in 
part of second half, wind at the end 

Finish: slightly downhill with flat 
but technical run in

This is the longest stage in the 2017 Tour. It is quite lumpy as it gradually makes its way down from the Alps to Provence. Will the diminished number of sprinters want to control the race or will they let a break stay away? Will a GC contender look to put Sky under pressure or will they conserve their energy for tomorrow's time trial? The last forty kilometres could well be quite windy, which could split the race with the possibility of some GC contenders losing time.


Thursday, 20 July 2017

2017 Tour de France: Roglič overcomes the Galibier, Stage 18 – showdown on the Izoard?

 Primoz Roglič wins in Serre Chevalier

 Overall Chris Froome still in Yellow, Fabio Aru loses time 

 Green: Michael Matthews leads 
following Marcel Kittel's retirement

Climber: Warren Barguil still leads 
but advantage has been trimmed a little 

Young rider: Simon Yates still leads  
but Louis Meintjes is now closer at 2.28'

Primoz Roglič soloed to a very fine first Tour de France stage victory – first over the Galibier and the long 28 kilometre descent into Serre Chevalier. This first Alpine stage revised the Overall Standings slightly with Fabio Aru losing time at the top of the Galibier and then more on the descent. Aru was at 18 seconds to Chris Froome but now is down to 4th place at 53 seconds. Rigoberto Uran and Romain Bardet are now Froome's closest challengers tied on 27 seconds.

Only Dan Martin and Bardet attacked Froome on the Galibier but each time these attacks were easily neutralised. At the very top of the Galibier Martin was also dropped and is now at 2.37, while Simon Yates also lost time down to 4.07. He still leads the Young Rider Competition but his advantage to Louis Meintjes has now been reduced. Despite crashing Warren Barguil rode another fine race and still has a comfortable lead in the Climbers' competition. 

Alberto Contador tried one of his typical daring long range attacks that nearly came off – it certainly enlivened the race. Initially he had Nairo Quintana for company but to Contador's surprise Quintana couldn't sustain the effort. Quintana is now at 12th place 12.54 down, which is easily his worst Tour de France result.    

Unfortunately Marcel Kittel was involved in a crash early on in the stage and, although he rode on, had to abandon the race soon after. This is a great shame for Kittel but also deprives us of an exciting finale to the Green Jersey competition. Providing Michael Matthews reaches Paris he will surely now win the Jersey. Before Kittel abandoned Matthews had already closed the gap to just nine points. Matthews now leads André Griepel by 160 points. 

Stage 18: Briançon to Izoard 179.5 kms

Today is the last chance for the overall contenders to challenge Chris Froome in the mountains. Froome is expected to perform better in Saturday's time trial in Marseille than Bardet and Aru. The uphill finish, only the third in this Tour, gives someone the chance to grab the Yellow Jersey. Realistically, unless Froome blows up, only Uran and Bardet are likely to be able to do this. However, Sky remain the dominant team, especially with Mikel Landa climbing so well and Froome didn't show weakness yesterday. Should be a gripping climb up the mighty Izoard!