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Stage 18: Real mountains have curves

18/07/2013
Not only is Alpe d´Huez one of the most important ski stations of all of France, it has become legendary in the world of cycling. Not many know that is has the longest black course of Europe, but many can tell about battles held in the final stages of the Tour de France on this mythical summit.
Stage 18: Real mountains have curves

Winning on this alpine giant is something that very few can brag about and its value is so important that it has led many winners to inscribe their names in one of its mythical 21 curves. Today’s winner was Frenchman Riblon, the third French racist to earn victory here, following Hinault and Rolland, to the great joy of the local spectators. One of the most interesting aspects of this stage is how each country has taken claim to a particular curve. Apparently each curve corresponds to a specific nationality, although without a doubt, the most famous is curve 7 where the followers from the Netherlands are found. Therefore, it has become known as the "Dutch Mountain" and it offers an incredible colour to the race due to its reduced space filled with more people per square metre and where loud music is played throughout the day. But this stage is not only enjoyed by the Dutch. Italians, Spaniards, Colombians, Australians, Belgians, and this year, many Norwegians also fill the course, making this day very special. 

Today the racers flew by; there was a very fast pace and battles were held from the get-go. On the one hand, there was the fight for the stage victory and on the other hand, there was the battle for the overall win. The attitude of Froome and his team was hard to understand and it seemed that the South African didn’t understand this mountain, attacking too hard too early and wound up paying the consequences. Because as strong as you may be, one must always respect these peaks that will always be superior to the riders. Climbers say that the mountain puts everyone in their place and this is demonstrated on a daily basis. Despite everything, the racer from the Sky team still has the Tour in the palm of his hand and even though today he bonked, my friend Perico says that tomorrow he is sure to recover as he is clearly superior to the rest. Still, these even slightest signs of weakness offer a bit of spark to the race even though, save a major catastrophe, it is clearly a race for second place. "The beetle" Nairo Quintana is causing quite a sensation due to his challenging attitude and it is a shame that Contador is not sharp because they could form a dangerous duo against the yellow jersey. But in the Saxo Bank team there is another fast bullet in Kreuziger. The Czech is a magnificent racer who has yet to explode in this three week long race, and this is proving to be his year. So if the Madrid racer is not particularly sharp then Kreuziger should be set free to race. As for our BH Sojasun team, it is clear that today was not our day to shine but we remain very satisfied with ourselves because we have been main characters in the race and all of our members are prepared to arrive to Paris, a feat in itself. Furthermore, young racers such as Vuillermoz and Marino are progressing well and have learned a lot, and this is sure to prove useful to them in the future.

The summit of Alpe d´Huez always brings fond memories, especially from 1991 when Indurain virtually ensured his first Tour victory here. It was a beautiful day and there were dangerous Italians lurking with Bugno and Chiapucci, trying to win the yellow jersey, not to forget Fignon, Lemond or Mottet. There was a battle going, but Miguel had a great lieutenant in Jean François Bernard. The French racer was the second to last link in the Banesto chain and he quickly passed each and every one of his rivals, eliminating them all, except for Bugno. Bernard did what only a great cyclist can do, gregarious with a power and a class that was superior to the other racers. He ruined the party of all of those who thought that the Villava cyclist could be beaten. But Miguel was majestic, racing with a great tranquillity and demonstrating that he was the best, the owner of the yellow jersey. It was an exhibition of strength and style and he did not doubt in giving up this stage to the brilliant Bugno who raised his arms with a bit of sadness, knowing that despite this great triumph, his possibilities of winning this edition of the Tour were gone. As incredible as it would seem, Indurain was the calmest member of our team. Having made a definitive step towards winning his first Tour, he took it in stride, as if it was nothing out of the ordinary. That was Miguel and perhaps it is why he would reign as champion for five continuous years.

Memories aside, tomorrow’s race will be very tough. Two giants, Glandon and la Madeleine at the beginning may overcome more than one racer and there is sure to be a great battle ahead. At this stage in the race, not only are they racing for the lead spots, but also for the mountain, team classification or for eighth place in the overall and that could lead to some unusual situations and strange tactical moves. Tomorrow, everyone will try to spread the panic. Get ready to enjoy.

And that is all friends. Regards from Alpe d´Huez.



 

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