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

Thursday, 22 July 2010

2010 le Tour de France: showdown in the Pyrénées – Schleck's last chance

Today's last stage in the Pyrénées is billed as the final crunch – the day that Alberto and Andy have to stop their cat and mouse tactics and really try and put as much time into each other as possible. In reality it is Andy Schleck who has to attack if he is to win the 2010 Tour. If Alberto still has just eight seconds of a lead when they reach the top of the Tourmalet this afternoon then, barring a crash or major problems in Saturday's time trial from Bordeaux to Pauillac, he will have won the Tour.

Can Andy Schleck gain enough time on this stage to provide enough of a cushion against the time he is likely to lose in the time trial? I doubt it. The two have seemed to be very evenly matched in the mountains and I can't see either gaining a big chunk of time today.

This 17th stage runs from Pau to the top of the Tourmalet – 174 kms with four climbs, which starts with the short Côte du Renoir (4th category), followed by the steep and difficult Col de Marie-Blanque (1st category with 9.3 kms at an average of 7.6%), then the Col du Soulor (1st category with 11.9 kms at 7.8%) and finally the Tourmalet (hors categorie with 18.6 kms at 7.5%).

Although it is a long way from the finish I fancy that there could be an initial selection up the Marie-Blanque and then up the Soulor, so that by the bottom of the Tourmalet there with only be a small group of top riders still together. There seems to be some dispute over which is the harder side of the Tourmalet. Schleck going for this western ascension, while Sean Kelly* on Eurosport on Tuesday going for the eastern side up through La Mongie, the ski resort. I've ridden up the Tourmalet from both sides, admittedly a long time ago and I wasn't racing, and I found the eastern side tougher.

Today could be a really exciting stage or it could be a damp squib – last year the Ventoux didn't fully live up to its billing as the decisive moment. Hopefully Tourmalet will be different as last year it was already clear that Contador had won. Let's hope so.

* Sean is now saying the opposite that the western side is the tougher.

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