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

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

2014 Tour de France: First stage in Pyrénées

Stage 16: 237.5 kms from Carcassonne to Bagnères-de-Luchon

Today is the longest stage in this year's Tour – 237.5km. It's a savage introduction to three tough mountain stages in the Pyrénées. Of the five categorised climbs – two are significant: Col de Portet d'Aspet (Cat 2) and the final Port de Balès (HC). It was on the descent from the Portet d'Aspet that Fabio Casartelli had his fatal crash in the 1995 Tour. 

Although this stage isn't a mountain top finish, it is straight down to Bagnères-de-Luchon from the top of the Port de Balès, so virtually no chance of making up any time lost on the climb. The Port de Balès has recently started to be popular in the Tour. It made its first appearance in the 2007 edition, after the road had been resurfaced then in 2010 and 2012. The famous chaingate incident occurred in 2010 when Andy Schleck slipped his chain when attacking Alberto Contador, who was criticised by some for not waiting for Schleck. Had they been riding together it might have been reasonable for Alberto to wait but as Andy had put in an attack I can't see why Contador should have been expected to wait for Schleck to sort out his chain. In the event Andy Schleck won the 2010 Tour because of Contador's drugs offence. 

Fortunately the forecast is good for the next two days with the possibility of showers on Thursday afternoon. 

Will Vincenzo Nibali show any weakness today – I doubt it. Instead it looks to be a battle for 2nd and 3rd places. 

See video preview of Stage 16 here.


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