Blazin' Saddles

Tour de Farce – Navarro’s disturbing exit, birthday blues, mountain views

Blazin' Saddles

Stage 13 of the Tour de France was the hottest yet with temperatures rising to a sweltering 40 degrees centigrade as the riders led out the indomitable Vincenzo Nibali for his third win of the race.

Usually, such stifling heat plays into the hands to Spanish riders in the mould of Dani Navarro. With the cold, wet weather now a distant memory and the prospect of the high mountains looming on the horizon, it seemed all the ingredients were there for a perfect 31st birthday for the Cofidis climber.

Instead, Friday's 13th stage was a complete nightmare for Navarro who, with around 100km remaining, was spotted lurching across the road off the back of the peloton. Anyone turning on their TVs would have been forgiven for thinking the man in red was drunk as he swooped and swerved, almost colliding with spectators and parked cars.

Once Navarro did finally come to a standstill beside his Codifis team car, he dismounted before stumbling past a muscular soigneur in a fetching sleeveless gilet before apparently mistaking the open window of the driver's side of the car as, well, a toilet cistern.

With bile sticking to his chin and his eyes rolling back, the Spaniard finally got into the passenger seat and called it a day. You can see the whole video for yourself above...

Navarro is the latest former/current climbing lieutenant of Alberto Contador to quit the race after Tinkoff-Saxo's Jesus Hernandez withdrew with head trauma following a crash just days before Contador's own departure because of a fractured tibula.

Birthday boy Navarro was not the only one who had his Tour candles blown out through illness: Frenchman Arthur Vichot (FDJ) pulled out of the race with bronchitis while sick Colombian debutant Janier Acevedo threw in the towel moments after Navarro - despite his Garmin directeur sportif trying to change his mind.

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Supporters with 'Gallopin' (in reference of France's Tony Gallopin) written on them cheer along the road during the 197.5 km thirteenth stage of the 101st edition of the Tour de France cycling race on July 18, 2014 between Saint-Etienne and Chamrousse, central eastern France.

It later emerged that Richie Porte - Sky's Plan D - was also suffering with sickness, although the Tasmanian slyly left it until the tortuous final climb to reveal his symptoms, once both Alejandro Valverde and Vincenzo Nibali (his previous rivals for the podium) had put in some stinging attacks.

It was these attacks that spelled the end for lone leader Alessandro De Marchi of Cannondale, who before the Col de Chamrousse had been riding some 3:30 clear of the peloton with Belgium's Jan Bakelants in pursuit.

When Bakelants finally succumbed to the heat and the laws of logic, the Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider sunk like a stone. And although he was only riding at around 5kmph he still managed to make a hash of picking up a fresh bidon of water, prompting an almighty huff and lashing out in the direction of his hapless soigneur.

Someone should tell Bakelants that failing to pick up a water bottle while riding in slow motion is not half as bad as riding over a rogue water bottle at top speed on a fast descent. Just ask Jakob Fuglsang...

Fuglsang later apparently blamed the crash on a water bottle discarded by Belgium's Jurgen van den Broeck, who last week got caught in a war of words with Alberto Contador as the pair traded insults over who was the most dangerous rider of the two (the Lotto Belisol rider had the last word when he claimed that the Spaniard crashed out "by his own mistake" riding "in his typical style" on Monday).

Elsewhere in a thoroughly scenic stage on the Tour it was au revoir to the myriad castles that dominated stage 12 on Thursday and a very large bonjour to the jagged cliffs and mountain peaks that dominated the aerial skyline as the race finally hit the high Alps.

It's fair to say the helicopter camera men had a complete field day to bring the world a medley of stunning images of Europe's most famous mountain range.

It made a change from all those turrets and portcullises and manicured lawns...

Although there still was some time for the odd castle - or chartreuse, to be more precise.

If these images aren't enough to make tourists flock to the Alps then the world has gone crazy.

We leave you today with an image of new BFFs, Greg LeMond and Stefano Bernabino, the zany characters behind the daily LeMond On Tour segments that top and tail Eurosport's live coverage of the race. Greg and Stefano have been on the road now for two weeks and it's clear that they are getting on like a house on fire. Their chemistry is electric and their double act is growing in stature.

All we need now is for Stefano to lend Greg some of his colourful trousers... the yellow ones would do - that's Greg's favourite colour after all.

Felix Lowe - Twitter: @Saddleblaze

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