So, it’s the sporting highlight of the year tomorrow…not England v Sweden, but the Grand Depart of Le Tour de France. Will ‘Froomy’ join the select group of 5-time winners (thereby leaving the even more select club of 4 time winners, of which he is the only member)? Will Mark Cavendish add a stage win to his tally before he crashes? Who will lead Movistar? All these questions, and more, have filled hundreds of magazine pages and the minds of cycling fans (Nature abhors a vacuum) for months, but such idle speculation is beyond the remit of this blog.
My attention will instead be directed towards Armchairtifosi’s very own intermediate sprints competition. Many years ago, the much-lamented “Cycle Sport” magazine featured a similar concept, but they sent two junior reporters to France to find the exact halfway point of each stage (memorably, this was once on a mini-roundabout) where they chalked a line across the road, stuck a cardboard sign onto the grass verge and awaited the peloton, who were blissfully unaware of the competition’s existence. I imagine the 2 reporters had a great time, sampling the wines and cheeses of France and the attentions of stoned Dutch girls on Alpe d’Huez. Unfortunately, I can’t take 3 weeks holiday to bum around France in a camper van, but, as every stage will be shown in its entirety on Eurosport, I’ll award the points at somewhere near halfway: hopefully somewhere with a castle or a writer’s house that will be interesting to mention en passant.
I realise that I have missed out on an ideal sponsorship opportunity – who better to back Armchairtifosi’s competition than Chateau D’Ax, manufacturers of luxury furniture and, of course, sponsors of a cycling team in the late 80s that featured Francesco Moser, Gianni Bugno and Tony Rominger on its roster, and also bequeathed us one of the most iconic Team jerseys of the era. So we’ll pretend that it’s the Chateau D’Ax Sprints Jersey (if anyone in their marketing department feels the urge to send me a few Euros for the free advertising…..)
Tomorrow’s opening stage looks like being a sprinters’ benefit – when the route has headed north-west along the Atlantic coast of the Vendee, it will pass through the town of Les Sables d’Olonne (twinned with Worthing), famous, amongst not many other things, for the Museum de Coquillage, whose website offers a “Tour of the World of Seashells in 80 minutes” – most of the Trip Advisor reviewers were of the opinion that it was a good way to spend a rainy day, one enthusiastically stating that “the admission [ 8 Euros] was worth it for the googly-eyed stuffed fish alone.” It seems a good place to have the first Chateau D’Ax sprint…. if the route passes it, which close inspection of Google Maps and my Tour stage maps in Procycling has been impossible to ascertain.