Here’s the LR predictions for today’s stage, composed in the car where we could only imagine what happened.
First, everyone rides their bikes, like, 110 kilometers or something and then has lunch. At this point Phil and Paul explain “what’s in those little bags.” (They used to explain that riders don’t attack each other at points like the feed zone, but they don’t seem to say that anymore.) They also assure us that the riders aren’t littering because the crowd collects the bags as souvenirs.
By this point also, three riders whose names you do not know have been out in front since, like, kilometer 4, and they will be caught by the “hungry” or “angry” peloton–after being “hung out” in front, “roasted in the sun” or played like a fish on the hook–at 15, or 10, or 6 kilometers before the sprint finish. (All together the riders will have covered a distance comparable to that between two American cities.) There will be three intermediate sprint points and some “little ripples” n the route, but Paul will explain that they don’t matter, because of the 3 guys you don’t know who aren’t even contesting them.
Frankie Andreiu or Robbie Ventura will show us some piece of technology that is either obvious or more complicated than they make it seem. Paul will share details that are already on the screen about at least one fortified church and one chateau. The helicopter camera will show us something cute that a farmer has built and also some grapevines and/or sunflowers. Explanation of the aerodynamics of drafting, with embarrassing graphics. Interview with an American rider who will decline to reveal that day’s strategy.
Phil points out how many riders are bandaged and reassures us repeatedly that riders returning from a “natural break” at the back do not need to panic about catching the peloton.
Someone will have to stop to change a wheel (or this year the thing seems to be shoes). Then at the end the riders all go a lot faster, with HTC, Lampre, Cervelo organizing the front (and Sky disorganizing it). They catch the breakaway amidst a flurry of metaphor from Phil and Paul. Phil begins to shout as complicated things happen that will only be clear when the heli shot is replayed later in slow motion. The final sprint will be shown in such a long telephoto shot that the foreshortening effect makes it impossible to tell who’s in the lead. The winner is recognizable because he makes a variation on the “look, Ma, no hands!” pose. It will either be Cavendish or it won’t.
There will be no change on the leaderboard for the GC. The first women aside from spectators will be seen in appalling outfits helping the winners of the various categories get dressed in public (back in the day, Sheryl Crow would be seen at least once every stage, nowadays there’s no women unless they happen to see that one woman who surprised Phil when she showed up on the yellow official’s motorcycle).
OK, so what actually happened on stage 6? We’re not sure, because we’ve traveled south for family reasons and arrived late. We had to resort to the pricey “tour tracker” package from Versus.com, and it doesn’t stream so well over a slow hotel wifi. But it looks like things went more-or-less according to script. We were sorry to say goodbye to the mighty Amet Txurruka and his awesome name. The Lanterne Rouge gap stands at 42:55 (which we of course are not able to ride today), held by Astana’s Jesus Hernandez Blazquez. We caught the phrases “he only spins for the win” (re: Cavendish) and something about the team riders, maybe the leadouts, being like “pilot fish.” We did watch the sprint, which seemed pretty interesting, and it’s nice to see Farrar getting into it. Oh, and there was a fight or something, though nothing like in hockey.
Finally, we drank a pretty generic Pinot Noir from Bourgogne: Albert Bichot Bourgogne Vielles Vignes 2006. Some nice flavor, but a bit thin and watery considering it was one of our pricier bottles so far. Or maybe we should blame the hotel glassware?