Blazin' Saddles

Tour de Farce: Nibali goes hands-free on the Hautacam

Blazin' Saddles

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Nothing could stop Vincenzo Nibali from securing his fourth stage victory of the Tour de France at Hautacam - not even a carefree girl in a bikini talking on her mobile phone on a tight bend and with her back to the action.

[HISTORIC WIN FOR NIBALI]

In astonishing scenes, Nibali, the lone leader, swept around a tight hairpin bend with around 6km remaining only to see his route barred by an adolescent waving at the camera and speaking in the phone.

You can almost imagine how that conversation went...

"Can you not see us? I'm wearing the orange and yellow bikini I got for my birthday last summer... Hang on, let me step out and wave... See us now? We're on the corner and there are loads of cars coming - and a cyclist dressed as a banana. I think he's about to– [thud] – ."

With no time to alter his trajectory, Nibali shoulder barged the girl, who dropped her phone before getting shoved off the road by the motorbike commissaire - the very same chap, no doubt, meant to ensure such things don't happen in the first place (try driving ahead of the action next time, pal).

The phone was reportedly not broken in the incident - although it was 25 minutes later when Lithuanian rider Ramunas Navardauskas passed by in the gruppetto.

In this still below you can actually see the phone dropping from the girl's hand...

Shark Attack: Part IV

Well, there were four Jaws films and so it's hardly surprising that the man they call 'The Shark' was bent on securing his fourth scalp of the race on Thursday.

Having latched onto a move by Chris 'Papi' Horner - the man who denied him a second Vuelta victory last autumn with what Nibali described as "an extra gear" - the Sicilian powered clear in pursuit of lone leader Mikel Nieve with 9.5km to go.

The way Nibali then caught, passed and spat out the Spaniard - without even deigning to look at him - was comedy gold, especially given the imploring eyes of the Sky rider.

Watching from home, former Giro d'Italia race director Michele Acquarone shared his pearls of wisdom on Twitter...

But before Nibali was in a position to attack his main rivals on the final climb, he had enjoyed some sterling work by his Astana team who made up for the lack of an TTT on this year's route by taking a leaf out of Tony Martin's book and just creating their own one.

Even as Nibali rolled out of the start town at Pau, however, the Italian national champion looked pretty serene ahead of a day he added Hautacam to La Planches des Belles Filles, Chamrousse and, er, Sheffield on his list of lofty stage triumphs this July.

Despite an attack on the descent of the Tourmalet, Alejandro Valverde had a shocker on the final climb, the Spanish toad eventually being leapfrogged by French duo Thibaut Pinot and Jean-Christophe Peraud as he dropped off the podium.

You could also say that it settles any arguments about Movistar's Giro selection next year, too: Valverde's spring just got busy.

Tourmalet and tractors

Two riders broke clear on the famous Col du Tourmalet, with Spaniard Mikel Nieve (Sky) doing practically all the work as he tugged along Blel Kadri (Ag2R-La Mondiale) up the tortuous ascent, only to see the Frenchman jump out of his shadow near the summit and trouser the special Souvenir Jacques Goddet prize.

Crossing the prestigious summit in pole position would have made up for being splashed with water by a fan halfway up the climb - although this screengrab of Kadri's disgust at the incident does make it seem like Kadri was actually the guilty party after manhandling a dwarf in polka dots.

In an otherwise unspectacular climb of the ascent that made Octave Lapize once famously describe the race organisers as "assassins", the highlight came from this superb display of just what man can achieve with 20-odd tractors, an aerial camera and a bit of imagination.

Coquard's radio drama

Much earlier in the stage Europcar did their thing by getting three men in the day's main break - primarily, it seems, so that Bryan Coquard could keep up his record of taking maximum points in pretty much every intermediate sprint possible.

But look carefully at this one and you'll see the spunky tyro losing an expensive piece of equipment. Anything to get the voice of Jean-Rene Bernaudeau out of your head for the afternoon...

Rast but not least

To wrap things up how about feasting upon perhaps the best piece of bike handling we've seen throughout the race. Sit back and savour as Trek's Gregory Rast nudges a rogue water bottle to the side of the road with his front wheel - and don't let the discarded bidon distract you from the fact that Rast was himself carrying a full jersey load of the things as he pulled out his party piece... Chapeau!

Felix Lowe - Twitter: @Saddleblaze

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