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, 14 July 2011

2011 Tour de France: Cavendish's 18th + Stage 12: Cugnaux - Luz-Ardiden

Mark Cavendish duly won the exciting massed sprint at Lavaur in foul conditions. Brilliantly led out by Mark Renshaw, Mark C exacted revenge for being beaten by André Griepel the day before. This time he went full out and nobody could close the gap, although Griepel tried swooping across the road in a desperate attempt to take Cav's wheel but to no avail.

This latest stage victory takes Mark Cavendish to 8th place in the all time list of stage winners with an extraordinary 18 wins in just four Tours. He is now just four wins behind André Darrigade, the leading sprinter in the all time list. Darrigade raced during the 1950s and 1960s and took 11 years to amass his 22 stage wins. There are two more potential sprint stages in this year's Tour – Montpellier and Paris – and one wouldn't bet against Mark winning both of them.

He also now has the Green Jersey with 251 points. Jose Joaquin Rojas has 235 points and Philippe Gilbert 231. Although Mark's only chance of picking up further points in a finish are at Montpellier and Paris, he can still continue to get points from the intermediate sprints which even on the mountain stages to come are usually placed before the mountains start in earnest.

With today's first mountain stage it will be interesting to see how well Philippe Gilbert does. If he can stay with the leaders then Gilbert is likely to win the points jersey. If he can't then Mark Cavendish must have a good chance to take the Green all the way to Paris. There is also the question of how Rojas will cope in the mountains.

All of today's climbing comes in the last 70-80 kilometres of this long 211 kilometre stage (Cugnaux to Luz-Ardiden). It starts with La Hourquette d'Ancizan, which the Tour has never climbed before. Then on to the classic Col du Tourmalet before the final climb and finish up at Luz Ardiden. With all the climbing concentrated into the final third there ought to be an opportunity for someone to have a real go – one of the outside favourites perhaps. I fear the favourites may well not be prepared to take risks – instead playing rat and mouse tactics.

Today is Bastille Day – the celebration of the French Revolution – so there will certainly be French riders keen to have a go!

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