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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, 21 July 2011

2011 Tour de France: 17th stage Norway win again 18th: Pinerolo to Col du Galibier

Yesterday's excursion into Italy saw another Norwegian victory. This time for Edvald Boassen Hagen, who was second yesterday to his countryman Thor Hushovd. Boassen Hagen attacked his breakaway companions on the last climb of the day and handled the difficult descent well to give himself a comfortable victory in Pinerolo. The narrow climb featured further attacks by Alberto Contador but he was unable to gain time on his principal rivals – Evans and the Schlecks. Again Contador linked up with fellow Spaniard Samuel Sánchez.

Thomas Voeckler's lead was again nibbled away by Evans, Sanchez and Contador when he made an unexpected diversion into someone's driveway on one of the final descent's tight corners losing a few precious seconds. Evans and the others gained another 27 seconds, so Cadel is now 1.18 sec behind with Frank Schleck four seconds behind Evans. Andy Schleck is at 2.36, Samuel Sanchez at 2.59 and Alberto Contador at 3.15. Ivan Basso came in at the same time as Voeckler, so he slipped a place in overall ranking as Daniello Cunego moved above him.

In the Green Points competition Mark Cavendish took the sole point left at the intermediate sprint after the 14-man breakaway had picked up the rest.

Stage 18
Today's stage from Pinerolo to the top of the Col du Galibier (200.5k) is brutishly tough featuring three hors categorie climbs – Col Agnel (2744m), Col d'Izoard (2360m) and the Col du Galibier (2645m). The stage celebrates 100 years of the Tour passing through the Alps, although I'm not sure the riders will see this stage as a celebration!

This ought to be one of the decisive stages of the Tour. I'll be surprised if Thomas Voeckler manages to hold on to Yellow but he has surprised me and many others on previous stages. However this 18th stage is extraordinarily tough with a significant time spent at over 2000 metres. The leading contenders will have to attack Cadel Evans, who is best placed and generally is a good time triallist. I'm sure we can count on further attacks from Alberto, although I don't expect the action to come on the Agnel – the first col. The leaders won't want to put many of their teammates in danger of finishing outside the time limit.

The day's intermediate sprint is at 45.5k before the climbs so the points will either be taken by a breakaway or, if the bunch is all together, Mark Cavendish will have an opportunity to gain further points.

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