Procycling's daily Tour de France dispatch - stage 11

Saxo Bank’s Frank Schleck has felt the sport’s highs and lows in just on 10 days – becoming the Luxembourg national champion first, and then crashing out of the Tour de France. That definitely makes him one of the day’s losers.

Saxo Bank’s Frank Schleck has felt the sport’s highs and lows in just on 10 days – becoming the Luxembourg national champion first, and then crashing out of the Tour de France. That definitely makes him one of the day’s losers. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Schleck watching same Tour?

Frank Schleck says that "those who plan the Tour route have no right to play with the riders' lives just to have a spectacular race". Frank claims to be watching his brother Andy on TV every day. We can only assume he skipped yesterday's stage…

Combativity prize for CN's Farrand

Belated news reaches of a ruck, involving our esteemed colleague - or colleague - Stephen Farrand of Cyclingnews, at the finish of Tuesday's stage ten of the Tour. The "Oldham Octopus," as he is affectionately known - or known - was standing beyond the finish line in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne when one of the official red Skodas pulled up at speed, and tried to park in the space occupied by Farrand, who is - in rugby parlance - "a big unit".

The driver emerged and a scuffle ensued between the 6ft 5ins, generously-spanned Farrand and the car's driver, who happened to be Pascal Lino, the retired French rider, and former yellow jersey at the Tour.

Mid-brawl (it was more handbags at dawn, if we're honest) they were confronted by one of the riders from the leading break, who put his foot down - literally and metaphorically - to break them up. The identity of the peacemaker? Alberto Contador, and he didn't even need to pull out his pistolero.

[Editor's note: Stephen has told us that he has spoken to Lino following the scuffle and assures us that their relationship is definitely better than that between HTC-Columbia and Garmin-Transitions.]

First to go electric

Do not assume that small, hundreds-of-centuries-old French towns like Bourg-lès-Valence have not caught on to the benefits of technology or are unaware about the concerns of the environment. The finishing town for Stage 11 lies in the heart of the Rhône Valley and has a population of just 20,000, but is highly committed to sustainable development. In fact, it is the first town in the Drôme area to make electric bicycles available to its residents. So when you visit, get on your bike!

Heat of the moment

That it was hot on today's route, we frankly didn't need to count the gallons of Orangina consumed in the Procycling car to figure out. Just how hot, we didn't find out until reaching the press-room in Bourg-Lès-Valence, when a news bulletin from the local authorities claimed that the temperature had reached a scorching 60 degrees at ground level. The tarmac on the run-in to Bourg even had to be watered to stop it from melting.

Girls, Girls, Girls, Girls

Quizzed by Juliet Macur of the New York Times on whether podium girls are a Tour de France anachronism, Saxo Bank's Jens Voigt said he could think of at least one good reason not to abandon the tradition. "I know that more than one of my colleagues is married to a podium girl or former podium girl. I could name ten off the top of my head," Jens boasted, before hesitating. "Er, I mean, er, Stuey [O'Grady] met his wife at the Tour Down Under, there's [Christophe] Moreau, er, Gert Steegmans…er…Pavel Tonkov met his at the Tour of Spain…er, er."

When we last checked, Jens claimed he had thought of one more, but said it had gone now….

L'itinéraire hors course

The scribes at Procycling are often asked the question, ‘do you follow the race the whole way each day?' The answer to that is non: what mostly happens is that we first go to the start town an hour-and-a-half before the stage start, to grab a quick breakfast at the Village Départ, get a feeling for the day's racing and interview various riders and personalities; then around 20 minutes before the gun, we zip outta town and hit what is colloquially known in Tour de France parlance as ‘l'itinéraire hors course', or the off-race route.

Invariably, this route is longer than the race route, but, making use of motorways whenever possible, it is often quicker. But not today: for the eleventh stage from Sisteron to Bourg-lès-Valence, the off-course route was a hefty 300 kilometres, and tomorrow, Stage 12 from Bourg-de-Peage to Mende, it's a whopping 460 clicks! Good music is essential, and this is where Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe compensate to some degree for their shambolic organisational skills, which is where Anthony Tan comes into his own.

Stay up to speed with the Procycling troupe's traveling antics on their daily Tour de France podcast, free to download here (be patient for the episode to load) or from iTunes.

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