Blazin' Saddles

Tour de Farce: Froome doom, penguin power and podium kiss snub explained

Blazin' Saddles

Podium girl explains Nibali kiss snub

Let's just remind you of the shocking scene that accompanied Vincenzo Nibali's yellow jersey ceremony way back in Sheffield after stage two...

Ah, poor Vincenzo - we've all been there, mate...

Well, now the truth has been revealed after French newspaper Le Parisien tracked down the podium girl who left Nibali red-faced and asked her just why she made such a fool of the Italian national champion.

Contrary to some of the rumours doing the rounds, Marie-Alexie Barzerque - a veteran of seven Tours - was not making some kind of feminist stance after mistaking Nibali for finger-erring Peter Sagan.

What actually happened was far simpler. Having clocked Marie-Alexie leaning in to readjust his collar, Nibali mistook the movement as an invitation to "faire la bise" - and went in for the kill just as she received orders from behind to take the cuddly Credit Lyonnais lion and hand it to the race leader, now left looking rather sheepish on the podium.

In short, the Shark was reduced to a sheep after being denied by a bird brandishing a lion: a complete Noah's Ark of misunderstanding.

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Chris Froome

It was a bad day in the office for Chris Froome. The defending champion came a cropper in the opening few kilometres of what should have been a routine stage in northern France.

Let's take a closer behind the scenes look at the subplots that animated stage four from Le Touquet to Lille Metropole - including fans dressed as penguins, Kittel's hair gel, Froome's road rash and the truth behind Nibali's podium girl rejection.

Froome uncorks British hangover

After three heady days on British soil it took just a couple of kilometres on the continent for the hangover to set in as defending champion Chris Froome tasted the tarmac moments after French housewives' favourite Thomas Voeckler had put in a trademark dig.

We're not entirely sure about the thought process behind this tweet - and making light of a road-rashed Queen Elizabeth is perhaps a treasonable offence - but it's quite hard not to laugh at this photoshopped effort doing the rounds shortly after the incident.

The Spanish caption is quite simple and succinct: "The hangover of the great success of the Tour on British soil."

Froome doom or just minor setback?

Seeing that Froome's crash happened so early in the stage you're hardly to blame if you missed it the first time round. If it's all news to you, then here's just what happened - and when you consider he crashed heavily on his same flank during the Criterium du Dauphine... well, it makes you wince all the more.

Media scrum surrounds the Sky bus

Known as the 'Deathstar' after Darth Vadar's headquarters in the Star Wars trilogy, the Team Sky bus was a hive of activity after stage four as the world's media jostled to get the lowdown on Luke Skyhobbler's injuries.

Lord Vadar himself - aka Sir Dave Brailsford - was said to be particularly stressed, reportedly even uttering the F-word twice as he fought his way through fans and journalists. Froome was later taken to hospital for a precautionary X-ray on his right wrist - although his injuries were apparently largely superficial.

Cobbles + rain + sore wrist = pain

The race favourite's unexpected crash made news of predicted rain on Wednesday even more mouthwatering for the masochists, with numerous journalists and fans seemingly revelling in the carnage that should accompany stage five to Arenberg-La Porte Hainault.

French fans disappoint - despite a plucky Pingu

An estimated four million Brits flocked to watch the opening two stages of the Tour in Yorkshire, with the opening climb of the race, the Cote de Buttertubs, resembling some kind of warped Glastonbury Festival after-party. The opening climb in France, however, was a far less raucous affair - with Tommy Voeckler's ride up the Cote de Campagnette cheered on by a mere spattering of fans and a man dressed (rather lamely, let's admit) as a penguin.

There's something about Marcel

Marcel Kittel secured his third win in four days in Lille but not after a scare at customs threatened to take away his mojo ahead of the riders' Monday night flight to France.

Luckily for the German sprinter, losing his Brylcreem didn't stop him from being heads and shoulders above the rest of the field once again in Lille.

Gel seizures aside, the riders should count their blessings the Tour organisers put them on a plane and not a train across to France. Technical and infrastructural problems meant that - like the Lotto Belisol train, it seems - the Eurostar carrying most of the race's media was somewhat derailed on leaving London...

Felix Lowe - @Saddleblaze

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