It has become a tradition for me to comment on the Tour de France and bike racing on Les 5 du Vin. For some this is controversial, not surprising given the cycling’s dark recent doped past. But cycling remains for me a compelling sport and the Tour de France an extraordinary story, so much more than a mere bike race.
Vincenzo Nibali was duly crowned on Sunday as the 2014 Tour de France winner in the 101st edition of the Tour first run in 1903. Nibali has now won all three Grand Tours – France, Italy and Spain. He joins only five other riders who have managed this feat: Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Felice Gimondi, Bernard Hinault and Alberto Contador.
Nibali is a very worthy winner – he has clearly been the best rider in this year’s Tour. You can speculate what would have happened if Chris Froome and Alberto Contador hadn’t crashed out of this year’s Tour but what is important is that Nibali finished and they didn’t. I fancy that if Froome hadn’t crashed and injured himself on Stage 4 from Le Touquet to Lille, it is very likely that he would have lost considerable time to Nibali on the cobbles the next day.
Even though it has been pretty clear from the end of the first week or so that Vincenzo Nibali would win this year’s Tour without Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, it has still been an exciting Tour. There have been unexpected and remarkable stage winners and a real battle for second and third on the podium. Great to see two French riders on the podium with Thibaut Pinot confirming his potential along with an impressive performance from Jean-Christophe Peraud to take second place. then, of course, there is young Romain Bardet in sixth place. Only a puncture in Saturday’s Time Trial prevented Bardet from holding onto 5th place.
The Tour de France continues to become increasingly global with Ramunas Navardauskas as the first Lithuanian stage winner and Rafa Majka as Poland’s first winner of the Climbers’ Jersey. Ji Cheng, clear winner of La Lanterne Rouge at 6.02:24 down on Nibali, is the first Chinese rider to compete in the Tour and the first to finish.
Given cycling’s shady past I just have to hope that this year’s edition was clean. To date no-one on the 2014 Tour has tested positive. Nibali is the first Italian to have won the Tour since 1988 when Marco Pantani won a Tour made infamous by the Festina doping bust. 1998 should have ushered in a new era of clean cycling. Sadly the reverse was true as it was the start of the infamous EPO era with Lance Armstrong either as the ringleader or the most successful proponent of blood doping. Given Pantani’s history you have to wonder whether he was a clean winner in 2008.
Although no one in this year’s Tour has failed a dope test, July had seen UK rider Jonathan Tiernan-Locke banned for two years due to irregularities in his blood passport. His victory in the Tour of Britain 2012 has been scrubbed and his contract with Sky terminated with immediate effect. The irregularities predate his joining Sky in October 2012.
Cycling still had people in senior management positions, who have a history of doping. Alexander Vinokourov, the general manager of Nibali’s Astana team, was caught blood doping during the 2007 Tour de France and served a two year ban. Bjarne Riis, the general manager of Tinoff-Saxo admitted in 2007 admitted that he had doped when winning the 1996 Tour.
Even so I will be looking forward to the next edition of the Tour. In the meantime there is the Vuelta, which starts next month, to enjoy.
Earlier in the day Marianne Vos deservedly won the first La Course – the race on the Champs Elysée for women. See details here. Curiously the manner of her sprint victory was repeated a few hours later by Marcel Kittel.
Having a Eurosport subscription for my iPad has meant that I have been able to see a lot of the 2014 Tour. Given the amount of cycling on Eurosport, £2.99 a month is a bargain even though it does make meeting deadlines even more difficult!
2014 Bourgueillothérapie: Saturday 13th – Sunday 14th September
This is a unique event blending wine tasting with art based around the appellations of Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil. It is organised by Ludo and Sophie Ragot of Café de la Promenade in Bourgueil with Sébastien David (Domaine Sébastien David).
Over the weekend the artists create works of art – pictures, sculptures etc, while based with a vigneron or group of vignerons. These are then auctioned off for charity on the Sunday afternoon. Each year the proceeds go to a different charity. This year it is La Croix Rouge (The Red Cross).
Saturday 13th September
The artists set themselves up with their easels etc. amongst their vignerons. This year there is a change instead of having each producer host an artist, the producers and their artists will be grouped together. There will be four zones: Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Restigné, the east of the appellation and Café de la Promenade for the vignerons invited from other Loire appellations.
This new arrangement will mean less driving for those wanting to visit the artists in situ and also less chance of getting lost. In the past some of the venues were not very well signposted.
Samedi 13 sept : les artistes s’installent avec les vignerons dans quatre zones de dégustation dans le vignoble (afin d’éviter de perdre des promeneurs en route et afin de raccourcir le circuit).
A Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil : Gérald Vallée, Sébastien David, Fréderic Mabileau, Les Vallettes, Xavier Amirault, les frères Boisard, Laurent Herlin
A Restigné : Domaine de la Chevalerie, Domaine Pierre et Catherine Breton, Domaine Georget, Domaine du Rochouard, Pierre Borel, Galbrun
A l’est de l’appellation : Château Minière, Xavier Courant et Les Frères Nau
A La Promenade : les invités hors appellation : Loic Terquem, Romain Guiberteau, Pascal Lambert, La Source du Ruault, Gérard Marula, Wilfrid Rousse, Antoine Sanzay et Vini Be Good
Dimanche 14 sept : 10 h dégustation sous les halles de Bourgueil puis cochon de lait à la broche à 13 h et dans la foulée à 15 h la vente aux enchères . Cette année les bénéfices seront donnés à la Croix Rouge
Le jury sera parrainé par Jean-François Carmet
Even though July is not yet over we already have one piece of art ready to be auctioned – a new shirt for Jim.