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Stage 18 – spectator rest day

Siestas are popular in south-western France, it must be the Spanish influence. I suggest you consider having an afternoon nap too as this afternoon’s stage promises to be a dull one. Certainly it’s a day to focus on the day job, to clean the bike or generally avoid the race. Just tune in for the final minutes of the stage.

The stage starts at the “A” point on the map above and heads north towards Bordeaux. Look at the satellite view and note the dark green colour. The race passes through Les Landes, the unremittingly flat sandy terrain occupied by a massive pine forest. I’ve raced through there and it was very dull, it reminded me of racing in Australia, only you swap the gum trees for pine. The scenery doesn’t change for hours.

The region is popular with tourists though. The sea is pleasant enough and has some good surfing spots. Plus the local terroir offers up Armagnac and foie gras. The riders probably won’t have time to appreciate this but given the stage looks so easy, they probably could stop for a taster and it would make no difference.

Bordeaux has always been a finish for the sprinters, although the last visit in 2003 saw Servais Knaven win solo. It’s the city with the most stage finishes in France, beyond Paris of course. Perhaps it’s time for an exception to the sprinters but the battle for green means several teams have a vested interest in the sprint. And HTC-Columbia exist to provide Cavendish with wins so they will alone be trying.