Tour de of Britain, Stage 4. Mansfield to Newark-on-Trent.

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The Mansfield Council Cycling Hotline receives some information on another two-wheeled maniac.

Today’s stage started under a cloak of secrecy and the feelings of nervousness which engulfed the peloton have never been seen at that level since David Brailsford-Sir watched Shane Sutton at the Parliamentary Select Committee. We snaked around the deserted streets of Mansfield, some keeping an eye on what was ahead of us and others watching the sky above. The experience reminded me of my time flying Spits in the war, always on the lookout for the enemy. The reason for our behaviour was that we had heard there were busy-body, head shaking, tutting members of the local council about. These characters had banned cycling in the town centre in July last year. Nobody wanted to risk the £1000 fines which came into place after reports of anti social behaviour from some human beings forced the Mansfield mafia to bar anyone on a bicycle from their fine town.

After a few close calls we got out safely and headed around the beautiful countryside and woods to the finish in Newark-on-Trent. Along the way we passed through the Sherwood Forest which is a huge structure of oak trees. The area was once home to a gentleman called Robin Hood, Sheriff of Nottingham. The story of this Mr Hood is little known and there is little in the area to even suggest he was from there. There are more people in Nottinghamshire who know that Adam Hansen makes his own shoes than those in the know of Mr Hood’s antics. He was said to have robbed the rich and given to the poor, kind of the reverse of Team Skye taking all the top GC men off other teams.

Another do-gooder from Nottingham is the active travel safety campaigner Mr Loophole also known as “Nick Freeman”. In his valiant pursuit of safety he has come up with some great initiatives such as fluorescent clothing for pedestrians and compulsory licenses and insurance for cyclists. Everyone knows that the licensing and insuring of drivers has taken down the number of accidents involving motorised vehicles to virtually zero but Mr Loophole won’t rest until the roads are completely safe for all. He is up against it in his quest though because somebody is helping drunk and speeding get back on the roads. I am sure the good Mr Loophole can’t fathom who would consider police procedures in cases where someone is known to have committed a crime more important than keeping dangerous drivers off the road. Maybe someone who considers getting massive lawyers fees more important than the countless lives lost on the country’s roads.

I thought I would try and have a chat today with the gentleman called Bernard Eisel who rides for Team Dimension Data Team. I was interested in the academy system in his country and how it manages to churn out many great cyclists. But when I stated talking to him, with my best Aussie accent so he would understand me, he just rode off with a confused look on his face. Another country that can guarantee a production of top youngsters is Columbia. Fernando Gaviria has been a revelation this year and going forward Columbia promises more revelations than Istvan Varjas.

And it was Gaviria who won the stage and Elia Viviani regained the Green Malliot Jaune. 

Tour de Past, Stage 4. 2011, Cadel Lays Down His Marker.

Looking over the editions of the Tour de France which I have followed has shown me that stage 4 is the most dull stage of each Tour, though yesterday was very much the exception to the rule. Hardly anything has happened on a stage 4, which have either been flat sprinters stages or some form of time trial. No significant crashes or abandons, no drugs violations, they are the type of snooze fests which leave you having to listen to Carlton Kirby witter on about different types of sheet metal for hours.

2011’s stage from Lorient to Mur-de-Bretagne was thankfully slightly different though as it was in one of the editions in which the organisers tried to spice things up in the first week. Stage 1 had already seen an exciting hilly finish won by Philippe Gilbert and he was hoping to be in contention on a similar end climb up ‘The Wall of Brittany’.

He would though be up against a strong GC field trying to steal time over their rivals. Contador, Evans, the Schlecks, Wiggins and Jurgen Van Den Broeck were  all at the race and all in with a shout of winning.

The day played out in much the same way as a sprint stage would only the dash was up a hill. Contador and Evans were the two fasted at the finale. The Spaniard thought he had it and performed a semi celebration but the photo finish showed that ‘cuddles’ had won.

Just a routine stage, only 8 seconds separated the top 40 riders in the end but the significant thing was it showed that Evans was ready to win the Tour. He had two 2nd place finishes in 2007 and 2008 where he gained a reputation as a bit of a wheel sucker. After then he started riding  more aggressively, trying to animate the race rather than follow others, and became more in control of his own destiny. He won the World Championships in 2009 and whilst in the rainbow jersey added La Fleche Wallonne to his palmares then won the epic ‘White Road’ stage at the Giro. This stage, his first road stage at the Tour, was the final piece of the jigsaw which revealed him to be someone ready to win the Tour de France.