Procycling's daily Tour de France dispatch - stage 5

Brailsford, Pevenage, Basso, Podium girls, Bubbly

Brailsford’s Midas touch

Just what was Sky Team Principal Dave Brailsford whispering in Mark Cavendish’s ear before the stage start in Epernay this morning? Words of advice or consolation? A sure thing for the 6:20 at Epsom Downs? The on-sale date of Procycling’s September issue? Whatever it was - and Brailsford answered “Never you mind” when we posed the question in Montargis this evening – it clearly did Cav no harm.

The stench of scandal

A Scandinavian TV crew asked HTC-Columbia chief Bob Stapleton before stage 4 whether Rudy Pevenage’s revelations to L’Equipe about arranging Jan Ullrich’s visits to Eufemiano Fuentes had unleashed an “ill wind” on cycling and the Tour de France. Stapleton’s priceless reply: “Whatever wind blowing out of Rudy Pevenage is usually pretty foul….”

Crossed wireless

Every day at the Tour, L’Equipe publishes its own version of the Procycling daily dispatch, with assorted rumours, quotes and indiscretions plundered from start villages and team hotels. Having caused a stir with their description of Robbie Hunter and Jakob Fuglsang’s mid-stage handbags yesterday, the L’Equipe scribes outdid themselves 24 hours later with their account of Ivan Basso haggling over the price of wifi internet when Liquigas checked in to the Reims Novotel on Wednesday. Cue Basso’s sarcastic, visibly irritated response on having a L’Equipe TV microphone thrust under his nose in Epernay: “Tell your colleagues well done for what they wrote this morning…All I was asking was how to connect to internet!”

Basso’s cobbled capers

One thing Basso didn’t establish any particular connection with this week were the pavés which his former CSC team-mate Andy Schleck seemed to relish on stage 3. “Put it this way, I don’t think you’ll see me at a Paris-Roubaix any time soon,” Basso told us this morning.

Podium girls at work

Don’t assume that those pretty girls you see on the finish podiums are only required to look beautiful and kiss the respective jersey wearers at the end of the day. If you’re lucky enough to gain entry into the Village Départ, you’ll invariably see them in different attire and working various jobs to the pleasure of those who are served by them.

For example, one of the two ladies that stands next to the maillot jaune works in the Credit Lyonnais stand, handing out free copies of L’Equipe to reporters and for those who need an early morning jolt, a short black. Another, who stands besides the polka dot jersey at the end of the stage, works a morning shift in the Vittel stand, replenishing the thirsty during the searing month of July. A Procycling member was actually looking for the toilette when he came across the latter, but so beguiled was he by her presence, he downed half a litre of water and became even more desperate to find the loo.

A toast to Epernay

Thursday morning, it didn’t take an Einstein to work out the Tour de France was in the heart of the Champagne region. Epernay, the start town of the fifth stage, is in fact the region’s capital, and the gathering point in the Place de la République is adjacent to one of the most famous streets in the world, L’Avenue de Champagne, which happens to be home to some of the most famous champagne houses in the world. Smack-bang in the middle of 30,000 hectares of vineyards, Epernay boasts 110 kilometres of cellars with an estimated 200 million bottles of bubbly stored underground. We would have loved to have stayed longer, but with a 260 kilometre off-course route on the cards, the Procycling posse had to hit the road to Montargis.

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