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, 15 July 2011

2011 Tour de France: thoughts on Stage 12 and preview of Stage 13: Pau to Lourdes

Although the first mountain stage yesterday wasn't decisive it has clarified who are the leading contenders. A number of outside bets like Klöden, Gesink and Tony Martin have been eliminated from contention.   

At the top of Luz-Ardiden the number of contenders for overall victory is now down to seven max: Andy and Frank Schleck, Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso, Damiano Cunego, Alberto Contador and Samuel Sánchez. Although it would be dangerous to discount Alberto Contador I think he and Sánchez are now outside bets. I believe we saw a tipping point when Alberto couldn't respond at the end to the attacks – he lost his aura of invincibility which even during last year's Tour was under question. It will be very interesting to see what happens on Saturday with the climb to the Plateau de Beille. There has been little discussion so far of Ivan Basso but he looked strong yesterday. He won last year's Tour of Italy, which was extraordinarily tough, and he is a good time trialist.

Good day for Mark Cavendish who increased his lead over Rojas by 2 points and over Gilbert by 6. Mark and HTC appear now to have sorted the sprints with Mark picking up maximum points after the bunch and his HTC team soaking up a number of the other points available – Mark Renshaw swallowed 8 points, so denying an additional one to Rojas. Looks like it is now only the teams of Mark C, Rojas and Gilbert who contest the intermediate sprints. Cavendish now has 260 points, Rojas 242 and Gilbert 234.

Gilbert did a great ride today but showed his limits in the high mountains when the going gets really tough. He remains a threat and could quite possibly pick up points tomorrow at Lourdes. Depends how much today took out of him. Cavendish should be able to pick up more intermediate points today.

Today's stage is from Pau to Lourdes. Quite short at 152.5 kilometres it isn't esepcially difficult with one 3rd cat and a 4th cat before the major climb of the day the Col d'Aubisque. Although it is hors categorie it is 40k from the finish in Lourdes so unlikely to play a part in the overall race. I fancy that Thomas Voeckler, who did a great ride yesterday, will remain in Yellow today – he has a lead of 1.49 on Frank Schleck. I think, however, that he is likely to lose the jersey on Saturday.    

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