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Tour de France Gallery: Part III

Is Alaphilippe growing stronger or weaker in yellow? Can Thibaut Pinot hold his form? Who is leading Ineos? And, just how much hotter can it get? Our third gallery of images from the Tour chronicles six stages that have given rise to more questions than answers.

25 July 2019

Stage 12

TOULOUSE – BAGNÈRES-DE-BIGORRE

After a flirt with vertical height gain in the Vosges, the race enters the mountains proper in the Pyrenees. The stage started under gloomy skies and a strong breakaway quickly formed, including Peter Sagan seeking points and EF Education First’s Simon Clarke.
The sprinter’s skirmish for the intermediate points would always go to Sagan. As the heavier men faded, a strong breakaway took up the strain on the iconic Col de Peyresourde, led by Tiesj Benoot and Tim Wellens in search of more points in the mountains classification.
One of the most frequently used climbs in Tour history, you might recognise the Peyresourde from last year’s action-packed 65km mountain stage or Chris Froome’s death-defying descent in 2016.
This time around it was Simon Clarke, celebrating his birthday, who lit up the descent, forging away solo.
In a position reminiscent of Froome’s, the Australian was able to build up a buffer of over a minute on his breakaway rivals.
As he hit the final climb of the Horquette d’Ancizan, the effort began to show on Simon’s face and was caught by European champion Matteo Trentin just under five kilometres from the top.
Though the pace had been just a little too hot to handle, the Australian had celebrated his birthday in style. Like the rest of us, Simon gets older every year but is showing no signs of slowing down. Another great ride in one of the best seasons of his career.

Stage 13

PAU – PAU

Time trial day in Pau. An unorthodox day in the day in the regimented routine of stage racers. For those who watched on TV, there are a few things that may not have quite come across…
First off, it was hot. Very hot. With temperatures approaching forty degrees Celsius in the team paddock, many riders warmed up in ice vests and still felt a need to douse themselves in cold water. For Alberto Bettiol, it was a far cry from the freezing conditions he faces at the Spring Classics.
It was not a pure tester’s course, as the results would show. Several lumps on the 27.5-kilometres route would cause the rouleurs to toil and suit the climbers better.
There was a sting in the tail. The final ascent back into Pau was particularly steep, reaching grades of 17%. In further evidence of the quality of women’s racing, the CCC Team’s Marianne Vos set the second fastest time of any athlete up this final stretch despite having ridden much further than her male counterparts.
Seb Langeveld was the first EF Education First rider to emerge from the sanctuary of the team bus to start his warm up. Sitting second to last on the general classification as a result of a crash, he was second down the start ramp.
Yesterday’s breakaway boss Simon Clarke looked pensive ahead of his first race as a thirty-three year old...
But soon settled into his well worn warm up routine.
In what turned out to be a positive day for the team, Rigo Uran turned in a top performance to take fourth on the stage, much to the delight of the Colombian contingent of journalists. The man with the white headphones is an ever-present – and ever-audible – feature at stage finishes on the Tour.

Stage 14

TARBES – TOURMALET

There was only one place to be as a photographer on stage 14. With such beautiful views from the slopes of the Col du Tourmalet why would anyone stand anywhere else?
Despite being a 20-kilometre trip from the nearest town, the upper slopes of this iconic climb were stacked with fans.
With the ski lifts out of action at this time of the year, walking was the only way up the mountain for those who weren’t parked up in campervans.
But for diligent disciples of the sport, and for people who like polka dot paraphernalia, the effort is all worthwhile for a good spot.
As the race approached, the climb was still partly shrouded in cloud. Fans at the top of the climb were kept guessing as to which riders had made the front group, and which had fallen behind.
With a graceful sweep of tarmac, the favourites were finally above the cloud swirling below.
Rigo Uran was still in touch with his rivals but working hard to hold on. Elsewhere, defending champion Geraint Thomas was gaining time on Alaphilippe but losing it to Thibaut Pinot.
With only three kilometres left, the Colombian began to lose touch. Distanced but not dropped, it would be a real test of his mettle.
Around the final hairpin, the road twice passes beneath a chairlift before steepening significantly towards the summit. It was here that Thibaut Pinot made the race-winning move but, after a brutal effort, many took the bend a little slower.
While the FDJ-Groupama leader went on to take the stage, Uran did well to limit his losses in the final kilometres and remain in the top ten overall. The Tour is a marathon not a sprint, as he well knows.

STAGE 15

LIMOUX – FOIX

The second stage of the Pyrenean weekender would be defined by its breakaway. An échappé royale, even by Tour standards, the front group included the likes of Bardet, Quintana, Simon Yates and former Irish champion, Dan Martin.
Despite broken ribs sustained in an earlier crash, EF Education First’s Mike Woods also made the break. Though he had to yield to Simon Yates in the finale, he nonetheless enjoyed his first day in a Tour breakaway.
Each stage has seen fans take up unorthodox outposts for a view of the racing and today was no different. Did this man climb onto the window sill or emerge through the window itself?
However you reach your spectating spot, it’s imperative you have a way of occupying yourself once you get there. We hope to have this man’s company next time we’re roadside.
As expected the ascent of the Prat d’Albis sparked a shakedown among the GC contenders. In murky conditions, the EF team’s main man endured a more difficult day. While Simon Yates took a second stage win, Thibaut Pinot again took time on his rivals.
Win or lose, the Colombian always has the support of diligent Spanish soigneur, Pasqual.

Rest Day

One of only three races with two rest days, the Tour’s second jour sans is always a welcome respite for riders. At EF Education First’s team hotel, even the gardener had been hard at work to make sure the guests felt at home.
Many riders often take the chance to give their shoes a clean, or even switch them for a shiny, new pair.
A trip to see the team’s chiropractor is also on the agenda to help maximise the riders’ recovery while they have the chance.
Essential maintenance it might be, this appointment is not always Alberto Bettiol’s favourite.
With a more relaxed schedule, the rest day is also a chance to savour a meal rather than rush it before or after the race.
Each and every meal eaten by the team’s riders throughout the Tour is prepared carefully in a purpose-built truck by in-house chef, Olga.

Stage 16

NÎMES – NÎMES

Tuesday’s sixteenth stage started and finished in Nîmes, where some fans were paying more attention than others.
More than any other so far this year, this stage was to be defined by the heat. Even on the startline temperatures were well above thirty degrees Celsius and riders were stuffing ice packs down their backs to keep themselves cool.
A small breakaway formed but did not have the power to build up any great advantage over the peloton. The scene was set for a relatively relaxed day and many TV producers turned to images of the region’s beautiful river valleys to keep viewers’ eyes peeled.
In a region famous for its Roman architecture, a visit to the Pont du Gard aquaduct – where the following stage would start the next day – was mandatory.
A full-strength peloton charged back into Nîmes for an inevitable sprint showdown. Spearheaded by Dane Michael Mørkøv and Argentine Maximiliano Richeze – both resplendent in their national champion’s jerseys – Deceuninck-Quickstep set Elia Viviani up perfectly but he could not match the speed of Caleb Ewan.

Stage 17

PONT DU GARD – GAP

After a fleeting glimpse on yesterday’s stage, the Tour had ample time to marvel at the Pont du Gard at the start of the seventeenth stage. A special edition of the yellow jersey was created to celebrate the occasion, though we would prefer a view of the ancient aqueduct itself.
On another stage run in soaring temperatures, these fans had the right idea.
Simon Clarke made the day’s breakaway yet another time and was accompanied by teammate and fellow Antipodean, Tom Scully. It was Clarke’s former teammate, seen lurking in the background here, who would take the win though. Matteo Trentin soloed clear on the final climb to take his team’s fourth victory in Gap.

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