Welcome back to the Tour, and the Dispatch, after a well-earned day of rest, for riders and fans alike. We hope you spent your rest day actually resting, unlike Team Jayco-AlUla's Chris Harper who's 'recovery ride' was over 130km in length - that's one committed rider. Hey, at least he chose to spend his rest day ON his bike, unlike Alpecin-Deceuninck's Axel Laurance, who went cyclocross style into week two.

 So to stage 10, where the writing was on the wall as to the way the stage would go, when Christian Prudhomme waved his yellow flag to get the day underway and nothing happened. This is the third or fourth time we've had a non-breakaway situation and it seems that a combination of the stages being too flat, the nerves for the threat of crosswinds too high, and the relative strength of the sprint teams just discourages anyone from even giving it a go.

Despite the fact that, last time the race visited the finish location of Saint-Amand-Montrond, Mark Cavendish won the stage, not in his usual style, from a bunch sprint, but from a late breakaway launched during the crosswinds section. Jonas Vingegaard even asked the Manx Missile if he was considering a repeat of the move, before the stage start.

And so the day proceeded and viewers clung onto anything, anything at all to focus their attention on to pass the time, as the race proceeded at a pace a good quarter of an hour slower than the slowest predicted pace on the race schedule. Like this excellent sign:

And this extremely random piece of art, and some fire engines. There were also swans, Didi the Devil, and some very fancy chateaus. This was the kind of day to notice the small stuff.

Even the official Tour Twitter account had to make their own fun...

There were also two sprints, both won cleanly by Jasper Philipsen of Alpecin-Deceuninck. Well, he didn't technically win the intermediate sprint, as Intermarche-Wanty's Kobe Goossens was sent on a defence raid up ahead of the peloton to snatch points away for his leader, green jersey wearer Biniam Girmay, and he took Lotto-Dstny's Harm Vanhoucke along for the ride, so the top two sets of points went to them.

After that though, Philipsen set out his stall for the day, beating Girmay and the rest, the Eritrean getting caught out by a narrowing of the road due to a change of barrier type, and that led to a long period of - um - some more 'nothing' happening, a small panic about possible crosswinds that came to - you guessed it - nothing - and then the inevitable build of tension to the final sprint. Though even that didn't feel particularly tense, by Tour de France standards. No, it seems as if something of the sting has been taken out of this year's Tour in terms of general peloton stress, and it's really lovely to see riders racing with smiles on their faces, no panicked fights for position (well, aside from the entrances in the gravel sectors on Sunday) and the absolute bare minimum in terms of crashes so far. It's kind of... relaxing?

Anyway, the final sprint transpired and this time Alpecin had their ducks (swans?) in a row, Mathieu van der Poel finally executing the turbo-lead-out he was lauded for in last year's Tour with aplomb, and delivering Jasper to the final from whence the Belgian rider sprinted out of his skin to win by a fair margin in the end. The relief was genuinely palpable: the sense of the pressure on that particular rider within that particular team has always had an air of oppressiveness about it and I'm sure it will be a weight off his shoulders.

And if you made it all the way through that stage, then you too, are a winner.

FEATURE: Zen and The Art of The Bicycle Race

by Anna McEwen

We love Le Tour for its spectacle, for the excitement, for the thrill. We hold our collective breaths on descents that seem to defy the recognised laws of gravity. We gasp at the unexpected attacks that come on seemingly impossible climbs. We cheer the underdog who snatches victory from under the very nose of the favourites. Following this sport is a wondrous rollercoaster of emotion.

But the uncomfortable truth is not every race can be a white-knuckle ride from start to finish. There are the stages that are somewhat more sedate in nature. They come with a gentle push of the pedals, the thighs not pumping not quite so hard, riders sharing a joke and waving at the camera as they roll by. Days that challenge the commentators to fill the empty air.

Us fans at home can find this frustrating after all, we have tuned in to watch the greatest show on earth. However, there is a beauty to these ‘slow burn’ stages, you just need to stay the course.

  1. Make yourself comfortable

Comfort is key. No one can be expected to endure four or five hours of serious watching in uncomfortable clothing, or on a wonky chair. This is a great opportunity to have extra cuddle time with the pet of your choice. Blankets are optional depending on the local time zone and climate.

  1. Resist the Urge Nap

Be comfy but not too comfy. Otherwise, the temptation to nap may be overpowering. You may think, it can’t hurt to ‘rest my eyes’ for a moment, but don’t fall into this trap. Someone may get a mechanical, a crosswind could take the peloton by surprise, you may miss a really interesting castle. If you wake up and discover you have missed a vital move, you’ll kick yourself. So stay vigilant.

  1. Stay fed and hydrated

It’s a marathon, not a sprint, oh wait no, it is a sprint but we are in for the long haul. It is vital to make sure you have plenty of snacks and drinks to hand. You don’t want to miss the action of someone dropping back to the team car to fetch a bottle because you had your head in the fridge.

  1. Keep yourself occupied

Although the mission is to stay with the race for its entirety, it is advisable to give yourself a side quest. Maybe pick at a puzzle, to keep the brain active. Or grasp the opportunity to learn a craft you have been meaning to try. Go crochet that scarf, now is your chance. Or if you are so inclined, write an article about how to enjoy a slow sprint stage…

  1. Adopt a state of Zen

Life is for the most part is busy and hard. There is an expectation to ‘do’, to ‘be productive’, to have ‘worth’. But now you can let that go. Just enjoy being in the moment, with no expectation of what has been or what will be. This is an opportunity to just exist quietly within the universe. Grasp it with both hands.

Follow these tips and you will be able to follow a slow stage with ease and the rewards are there for those who make it.

As the climax draws near, a certain kind of magic weaves through the television screen and infects you. The slowly building tension is palpable. The pace is increasing. The peloton is less jovial. The teams organise themselves, trying to get their preferred position in the group.

There is jostling for position. You find yourself starting to edge forward in your seat. The crochet is abandoned. You edge forward again annoying the cat. The end is in sight. Nerves jangling. Your palms, sweaty. Riders surge towards the promised land. You are praying everyone stays upright. Your eyes are glued to the screen trying to pick out who is who in the chaos of the swarm.

You spot your favourite up at the back of his lead-out train. You lurch forward in anticipation, dislodging the cat. Your heart is pounding in your chest. They are in the lead. You can’t believe how long those final hundred metres are. You are screaming at the television, ALLEZ! ALLEZ!! Are they going to hold on. You can barely breathe. The opposition are closing in and that line is still so far away. But then.. it's there! The winner has their arms and voice raised to the heavens. The vanquished bow their heads in defeat. You are cheering and shouting in the living room. And the cat is gazing up at you from the floor with a look of contempt.  

And congratulations, you’ve done it. You hung in there and made it from the opening pedal strokes to the final crescendo like the experienced cycling fan that you are. Apologise to the cat and go fetch yourself something tasty from the fridge as a treat, you’ll need your strength as we go again tomorrow.

Stage 11 - Evaux-les-Bains - Le Lioran

About tomorrow...

1-1-1 Things of the Tour de France

by Mathieu Fraisse

one food, one fact and one local rider, for every place on edition 111 of Le Tour

1 food: CHEESE!

Whether it's Cantal, Bleu d'Auvergne or Salers, if you're a cheese lover today's area surely must be heaven for you!

With tourism, agriculture and most especially cattle farming is one of the primary activities in the area. 

So being famous for cow cheese really comes as no surprise! Incredible landscapes, welcoming people and cheese… I know where you are spending your next holidays 😏

1 rider: The one and only Romain Bardet

The first Maillot Jaune holder of this 2024 Tour de France is our rider of the day! 

Born just an hour from the stage finish in Le Lioran, Romain will definitely be one of the main protagonists on stage 11! Especially given it's his last Tour de France (*sad noises in the background*)

With one stage win and a day in yellow, Romain's TDF is already a success, could it get any better with another stage win on home soil? YES PLEASE! 🙏

1 fact: Frodo Baggins loves Cantal 😮

In 2015, Léo Pons, a young Cantalou (the name of Cantal’s people) and Lord of the Rings fan, directed a movie called “Le Hobbit: Le Retour du Roi du Cantal” (The Hobbit: The return of Cantal’s King) after realizing the set of the original movie looked a lot like Cantal.

A story starring Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf and Theorin, entirely set in Cantal and with the French voice actors from the original movie!

The movie aired in a few theatres around Cantal’s area. Léo decided to send a message, with the movie trailer and some Cantal photos, to Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood. Just for fun.

To his surprise, Elijah Wood eventually came back to him a few days later with a small video of him telling him how beautiful Cantal was! A good egg this Frodo!


Like I said in my stage 9 review, it really is 0 or 60 rather than 0-60 at this Tour, and with stage 10 being very much at the 0 end of the spectrum, tomorrow is absolutely a 60.

Heading south once more into the Massif Central, the race ramps up, with the second longest stage of the Tour so far, and a vicious 4350m of altitude gain packed into the profile, gathering in difficulty throughout the day. While the climbs aren't long, arduous ones, they are frequent and punchy and there will be little respite for anyone, regardless of which end of the peloton they end up at.

Expect a strong breakaway, and a cagey GC battle in the earlier stages, but I foresee attacks from Primož Roglič, who excels over this kind of climb, and Remco Evenepoel, who was frustrated at his inability to maximise on Sunday's gravel stage, and of course the race leader isn't just going to sit passively and defend his lead because OF COURSE HE ISN'T. Chaos ensues and hopefully, Romain Bardet gets a properly beautiful send-off on his home roads.

WBR team Predictions:

Sam: The breakaway will be kept on a short leash all day. Roglič makes a move on Col de Font de Cère (yes Roglič, according to Firstcycling he’s in the race), he gets chased down and Remco, infuriated that the podium isn’t yet secured, goes on to take the stage.

Mathieu: Why would I say anything other than Romain Bardet at home?

Jo: Breakaway day for me. Healy, Bettiol, Lutsenko, Van gils and maybe Pidcock to go in the break. Healy to win. Although I do think Pogi is gonna have a go and I can see him and Remco duelling.

Anna: The quest for polka dots will begin in earnest, with a strong group of usual suspects.

They will get a good lead but have their hopes dashed by the GC guys in the final climbs. Pogačar will take it closely followed by the rest.

Before you go...

This lovely headline caught the eye of those outside of the cycling sphere.

And here are your Rest day riddles solutions (what do you mean, you didn't see the rest day riddles? Go back immediately one stage and have a crack at them before you spoil the answers for yourself!)

Anagrams: (1) Jasper Philipsen (2) Alexis Renard (3) Carlos Rodriguez

Teammate merger: Mikel Landa and Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep)

Until tomorrow, when I anticipate we'll have a whole lot more action to cover, bon soir, mes amis.

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