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

Friday, 22 July 2011

2011 Tour de France: 18th stage Schlecks finally dare, 19th stage short but very tough

The 18th stage from Pinerolo to the Col du Galibier was certainly brutally tough. Andy Schleck finally went for it and produced a great ride to win the stage from an attack 60km from the finish to move him to just 15 seconds away from taking the Yellow Jersey. Again Thomas Voeckler rode well surprising me once more as I predicted yesterday that he would lose it. I'll stop making predictions!

Cadel Evans also did a great ride up the Galibier to limit the lose of time to Andy Schleck and incidentally ensured that Voeckler remained in Yellow. Evans is now at 1.12 behind with Frank Schleck at 1.08. These four are now well over two minutes clear of Damiano Cunego and Ivan Basso both on 3.46. The big losers of the day were the two Spaniards – Alberto Contador and Samuel Sánchez. Both blew up at the top of the Galibier and lost a lot of time. Alberto is now 4.44 down and Sanchez at 5.20.

The pity for Evans was that the chasing bunch wasn't able to rise consistently to reduce the gap between them and Andy Schleck. Indeed the gap went out on the climb up the Col du Lautaret as no one was really prepared to take up the chase. It wasn't until right at the top that Cadel opted to really go for it that the gap started to come down but without assistance it was impossible to bring it right down. Evans reduced the gap by about two and half minutes but still finished 2.15 behind Andy.

More than half the field finished outside the time limit including Mark Cavendish. The Tour organisers decided to keep all the riders in the race but docked Mark 20 points from his Green Jersey total, so he is now only 15 points ahead of Rojas who just managed to cross the finishing line in time.

Stage 19: Mondane to L'Alpe d'Huez 109.5km
This is a very short but again brutally tough stage. Back over the Galibier but this time going up the harder northern side and heading down to Bourg d'Oisans and the famous L'Alpe d'Huez with its 21 steep corners. The Schlecks will want to take further time out of Cadel Evans. I'm sure Thomas Voeckler would love to hold on to Yellow at the end of this stage. Can Contador find the legs to attack on the Alpe and regain time?

If the favourites race hard all the way it is going to be very difficult for many riders to make the cut as the stage is so short. Mark Cavendish has to beat the time limit otherwise he will be in real trouble.

The Alpe is an amazing place to watch the Tour. We went there once in 1986 and saw Bernard Hainault and Greg Lemond ride up together. We had hoped to see Robert Millar doing well but he had an off day and was well down.

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