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

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

2012 Tour de France: a look back at the first third

Today's rest day brings the first third of the 2012 to a close, so a good time to look back at the race so far. 

Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky are in a very good position to propel the first British rider to win the Tour de France. With Bradley having 1.53 over Cadel Evans, his nearest rival, and 2.23 over Vincenzo Nibali and 3.02 on Denis Menchov must be as good as they had possibly imagined. Not forgetting the big bonus of Chris Froome at 14 seconds behind Evans on 2.07. But for Froome crashing on Stage 1 and losing time, Sky would have one and two overall.

The only downside for Sky is that Mark Cavendish has only won one stage. There were two other stages he might well have won – Rouen and Metz – but in both instances he wasn't able to contest the sprint due to crashes. The chances of Mark now retaining his Green Jersey are now very slim. It looks like the new sensation Peter Sagan (3 stage wins already in his first Tour!) is odds on to take the Green, providing he gets to Paris and, for the moment, there looks to be no reason why he won't. On flat sprint Cavendish is still faster than Sagan but Sagan is very strong on uphill finishes. He can also climb quite well and only gets dropped when the gradient is very steep. 

Sagan is one of a number of young riders hitting the headlines this year. Thibaut Pinot was this year's first French stage winner. The Tour's youngest rider he rode a mature race to win in Switzerland. Not surprisingly he rather paid for his efforts in yesterday's time trial but remains an outside contender for White Jersey (best young rider under 25). At the moment this competition is a closer contest than that for Yellow. After his fine time trial yesterday when he nearly beat Fabian Cancellara, Tejay Van Garderen leads Rein Taaramae by 42 seconds with Tony Gallopin at 45 seconds and Pinot at 3.39. The only other possible contender is Spaniard Gorka Izaguirre Insausti at 5.11.
The mountains start tomorrow and Evans and Nibali will surely have to start attacking here if they are going to have any chance, assuming that Wiggins doesn't get sick or crash, of winning this Tour. With a 53.5K time trial across the Beauce from Bonneval to Chartres for the penultimate stage, they will want to have a cushion of at least two minutes on Wiggins by then. For Evans that means gaining four minutes and more for Nibali.
The first week of the race was marred by multiple crashes that saw a number of riders being badly injured. I hope we will see many fewer from now on and that the injured are soon back to racing fitness.

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