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

Sunday, 16 July 2017

2017 Tour de France: Matthews wins in Rodez, Froome grabs Yellow. Stage 15 preview

 Michael Matthews wins Stage 14, Chris Froome 
one second behind retakes Yellow

 Overall: Chris Froome back in Yellow

Green Jersey: Matthews reduce 
deficit to Kittel to 99 points 

Michael Matthews won his second Tour de France stage with a finely judged sprint beating Greg van Avermaet and Philippe Gilbert, who started his sprint too early and faded a bit at the end. This win has allowed Matthews to close the Green Jersey Points deficit on Marcel Kittel to 99 points. 

In yesterday's preview I suggested that the steep uphill finish, the 570 metres at 9.6% Col de Saint-Pierre, could well see some overall contenders gain a few seconds. Like Chris Froome I never expected Fabio Aru to come in 25 seconds behind Matthews and 24 behind Froome – all because of lousy tactics by Aru and Astana and impeccable ones by Sky.   

The last 10 kilometres into Rodez were very fast and technical with lots of roundabouts, especially as the Col de Saint-Pierre approached. It was noticeable that Sky rode together not far off the front for most of the stage and in front of Astana. In the last 13 kilometres or so they came to the front and guided Froome all the way to the base of the climb. In contrast Aru was isolated on the fast descent into Rodez, which hit 85 kph in places. I kept checking for Aru's position during the descent and saw he was well back, so thought he was likely to lose some time of the col – a finish reminiscent of an Ardennes classic. Even so I was surprised he came in 24 seconds after Froome, who did a great ride to come in just a second behind Matthews. Dan Martin and Rigoberto Uran also did great rides finishing on the same time as Froome. Of course Martin always does well in the Ardennes classics. Romain Bardet lost four seconds on Froome, while Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador lost over 20 seconds each. 

Although the time gaps are still small I reckon it will be very tough to pull the jersey off Froome's shoulders but today's stage is a chance.   

Stage 15: Laissac-Severac L'Eglise to Le Puy-en-Velay 189.5 kms

Still lumpy until final three kms

This is a tough stage through the Massif Central, which could well see further changes to the Overall Classification as well as perhaps being a rare opportunity for a breakaway to win the stage.  The stage includes the steep Col de Peyra Taillade, which has never been included in the Tour before and hits 14%.

Will Aru recover enough to challenge Froome and  can he continue to challenge if the Astana team can't get themselves sorted? What about the other contenders. 

If they race hard today we could see a great stage and fireworks. Can Michael Matthews get over the first category climb – Montée de Naves d'Aubrac – well ahead of Kittel and pick up some more valuable Green jersey points? This climb comes very early – around the 17 km mark – 8.9 kms at just under 7%. Could be crucial!

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