Today should have been a day to celebrate, and it is still in many ways. A beautiful day of time trialling, with the weather playing ball all day, no crashes (that were broadcast at least), and all of the major protagonists steering clear of misfortune (with the exception of poor Stefan Küng and his dropped chain). Some stunning scenery in the winelands of Burgundy, on a well-planned route, and a chance to see some new national champions jerseys on display (Bruno Armirail for France, Stefan Küng for Switzerland and Matej Mohorič for Slovenia).

A first Tour de France stage win for the fastest man in the world against the clock, in his maiden Tour, and completing the Grand Tour trilogy in the process. Some early front-runners who kept us guessing, and a close-fought battle between those at the top of the tree, that kept the GC relatively open and reminded us that there is still everything to play for. And a hint of the chaos that may ensure on the final stage in Nice, where a much more challenging time trial will confirm the winner of the race. Not to mention a beautiful moment as Lidl-Trek’s Julien Bernard, who lives local to the area, took the time to high five fans on the way up the climb and then was mobbed by family and friends, coming to a stop, and sharing a sweet moment with his wife and child before being roared off once again. It was unusual to see a rider stop mid-time trial, but he still finished within plenty of time, and the smile on his face as he crossed the line and waved to fans spoke to his joy at such a unique and memorable moment unfolding, one which will remain in his memory forever.

And it’s that which brings me to the down side of today, a sour twist in the tale that’s taken the shine off what was a really good day – the UCI’s ridiculous decision to fine Bernard for ‘unseemly or inappropriate behaviour during the race and damage to the image of the sport.’ A 200CHF fine that has been heavily criticised by – well, everyone. Bernard’s response –

(‘Sorry UCI for having damaged the image of the sport. But I am willing to pay 200CHF every day and relive this moment.’)

It’s ridiculous and unnecessary, and follows hot on the heels of the fine to Davide Ballerini, who stopped before the line to watch his teammate Mark Cavendish win on stage 5, and was also subsequently fined. Moments of joy, spontaneous and uplifting images of riders celebrating and getting the chance to savour the sweet, fleeting episodes of fun in the toughest race of the year, taking the chance, however brief, to enjoy the fruits of their labour, and to relish the beauty of the best race in the world. To tarnish that with such a cynical response is just hugely disappointing. And exhausting, because surely there are issues that warrant more attention from the governing body of our sport?

It was pointed out that perhaps it was the blocking of the road that caused the fine – it they had explained it as such, perhaps there would be less outrage. Magnus Cort will soon find out exactly which element of the apparent infraction was the issue, as he has willingly drawn attention to this lovely moment from the other day, which was obviously either missed, or deemed appropriate.

Anyway, let’s briefly return to the time trial. I touched on the course and the conditions, so who stood out, against the clock? Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-EasyPost) was the first of the time trial specialists out on course, and after some mishaps on previous big occasions, he was able to make it around without incident to take the hotseat for a while. He was ousted by stage 2 winner, Kévin Vauquelin (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) who once again showed his skill against the clock and his future GC potential in the process. He would have been unseated by Stefan Küng, but the Swiss suffered a dropped chain and once again heart-break on a big occasion. What is it about Swiss time triallists called Stefan and bad luck?

In fact it was former specialist-turned Classics man, serial breakaway botherer and general fun guy Victor Campanaerts who took hold of the lead with an excellent effort reminiscent of the form that saw him briefly hold the world Hour Record in 2019 And he was the ‘best of the rest’ in end, with Wout van Aert not in anything like the form he would hope to be in, and in spite of Ben Healy, who greatly impressed, particularly on the uphill segment of the course, but was unable to maintain his effort all the way to the finish line.

And it was all yellow

In the end though it was the race’s ‘big 4’ who finished in the top 4, almost in the same order that they are on the GC standings after the stage, but with Remco victorious in his favoured discipline. Pogacar rode extremely well, despite looking like an aero banana with more yellow details than is perhaps advisable, but hey, if you’re the maillot jaune, why not lean into it. It was in fact his 25th yellow jersey, at the age of 25, which in itself is an incredible achievement – one more than Bernard Hinault at the same age, and only bettered by riders from over a century ago. Not half bad, eh?

Compiled and designed by Anna McEwen

FEATURE: Welcome to the Weekend - Part 2

It’s that time again. Take a seat at the bar and enjoy a drink as you kick back and digest the last week’s worth of racing.

Dans Mon Bidon

by Stine Momo Agerbæk

We’ve been watching the riders take on a pretty wine-country heavy route so far, and this weekend will be no different. But as I am the bartender, not the sommelier, of this newsletter, for the true culinary Bourgogne experience, I’ll refer back to yesterday’s Dispatch; my mouth is still watering at the thought. However, I will take my inspiration from that segment as well, as it specifically mentions Kir. A drink that, rather unfairly, has gotten a slightly dated, 80's housewife image in some countries, where it has been the ubiquitous welcome drink at faux-fancy festive gatherings since the walkman was a new invention...

Kir deserves better than this. As an opening act for a big event, it is tasty, interesting enough to make you want more, yet not so strong or heavy that it knocks you out flat before the main course. Kinda like the first week of this Tour de France, n’est-ce pas? However; Kir is uniquely Bourgogne and this is NOT even close to that version, so to avoid the wrath of my French co-writers, I won’t dare to call this one something even remotely Kir-ish. It’s not a Kir. #NOTaKir

This one is to Kir, what time trials are to road racing. Related in its fundamental elements but also fundamentally different experiences. Our drink special of the weekend is a personal creation, specifically invented for an event my Burlesque troupe was organising a few years ago. It started as a joke about nominative determinism in drinks creation and the ingredients are as such determined by the name. The drink is called: The ChaChaCha! (See; not Kir!)

I put it down to synchronicity, but coincidentally it also fits the upcoming weekend and week of racing, regionally speaking.

To make a ChaChaCha you need:

CHAmpagne It almost goes without saying given this weekend’s racing destinations. So let this be the moment where I jokingly remind you that Sunday’s gravel roads can only be called Chemins Blancs, if they are from the Champagne district in France. Without that they’re just sparkling plugstreets and potholes. For this particular drink, maybe leave the bone-dry Brut versions for another time and lean into the sly and sexy slight sweetness of a Sec and Semi-sec instead. Using a Doux will turn the final cocktail into something that resembles an energy gel in sugar content, and that’s too intense for my liking. But if you like your drinks sweet enough to fuel an entire peloton, feel free to try it out… 

CHAmbord Some of the stages next week take us into the famed Loire Valley. Home to even more wine, but also to the intense raspberry liquor with the opulent bottle and equally bombastic name; Chambord Liqueur Royale de France. The deep red Liqueur’s predecessor was said to be a favourite of Louis XIV (the famous Sun King), and today it clocks in at 16,5% and is made from cognac, raspberries (the strongest taste in the mix), blackberries and blackcurrant with notes of vanilla and orange. It’s gorgeous and very sweet, aromatic and fragrant. An easy, tasty option is to simply add a half measure of Chambord to a fancy glass (if there ever was a time for those overly festive flutes, it’s probably now) and top with chilled Champagne. This could be called a Chambord Royale (again #NotaKir, but close…)

But we are one Cha away from the ChaChaCha, so for this we’ll add…CHAmomile (Do not try to say the cha- of chamomile in a way that matches champagne and Chambord or even chachacha, just… accept the suspension of phonetic disbelief here for a second, please?)

We can hopefully agree that sprint stages are not good for ANYONE’S blood pressure. Even if the first 160+ km of this week’s editions of this are totally chill and nap-worthy, the final 10km will leave us frazzled and frantic. That is probably how it feels for the riders too. And as we now go into a whole week of racing where several of those stages may happen, we may all need something soft with our tipples. France has a long-standing tradition of the humble but wholesome tisanes, aka herbal teas and infusions, and chamomile is a classic within this genre. Chamomile is known as a gently relaxing herbal remedy, and may calm our nerves and soothe our sore throats after too much yelling at the telly. Most people probably know chamomile tea in the hot and honeyed cold-busting version, but try to brew it extra strong (3-5 tea bags in a mug) and let it cool, and you’ll have an easy and aromatic mixer as well.

For the ChaChaCha pour a measure of strong chamomile infusion into a fun glass over ice, add half a measure of Chambord and top up with champagne. (Or Cremant/Prosecco/Cava, depending on taste and desired price tag…) The result is summery and uplifting with a gentle sweetness and floral fragrance. It feels surprisingly grown-up despite the unavoidable “berry cordial” vibes Chambord adds to any drink, and the chamomile adds a certain whimsical je ne sais quoi to the experience.

Non-alcoholic Version

You can easily emulate this cocktail without the buzz of alcohol too. Grab a good quality raspberry syrup or cordial, make some strong camomile tea, pour over ice into a festive flute and top up with either sparkling water, alcohol free sparkling wine or a tart lemon soda. If you want to get creative you can also mix a sweetened chamomile tea with raspberries and kombucha (or a raspberry kombucha, which is always a hit for me) for another fun non-alcoholic tipple with similar taste notes as its boozy counterpart. The Kombucha even adds another level of -CHA to the party! Enjoy your drinks, enjoy the race and remember to drink responsibly!

Alors En Danse

by DJ Momo

The theme of this weekend mix is: Something old, something new, something British and something… Blue. So, kinda like the current peloton, I guess. The number of tracks chosen for this one was 100% determined by my desire to hit a very specific number overall... I’m sure certain riders can relate to that, no?

The songs are there to mainly reflect on themes, impressions and emotions from this first week of racing. There was a lot of heart-warming (and also just warm), some heart-stopping and a few heart-breaking (and collarbone breaking…) moments of racing. A few specific years (1985, 2008) suddenly became part of the race coverage in specific ways, so that was also a part of the background inspiration as well. And yes! I am aware that I technically added two Charly XCX tracks in a row here, and that neither of them are from Brat, but what are you gonna do about it? Relegate me? ;) 

(DJ’s note: I was almost tempted to include Bowling for Soup’s 1985 in the mix, but it is simply TOO silly and I needed the number of songs to fit a specific metric here, so... If you want to, feel free to play it as a bonus track.) There’s a lot of 80s/90s dancefloor-centric 12” Maxi vibes going on in this mix, along with some powerpop, and some modern takes on something inherently oldschool, either in the form of remixes or as more retro-modern, gated reverb revival goodness.

The latter category brings us to my pick for 2024’s Hit of the Summer which is Heartbreaker by Purple Disco Machine + Chromeo. Yes, I basically just threw that one in there because I am currently in love with it… But if you set the crossfade to 12 seconds, Spotify actually manages to do the automix between that and Heaven is a Place on Earth some form of beautiful justice. Try it out, and enjoy! I’ve decided that this is my vibe for the summer, and on top of that, it makes me want to rewatch Black Mirror’s San Junipero episode as soon as possible… But that’s what the rest day is for, right?

Stage 8: Semur-en-Auxois - Colombey-les-deux-Eglises

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 Le Tour

Stage 8 : Semur-en-Auxois - Colombey-les-deux-Eglises

1 food: Burgundy

Yesterday's “chef's special” covered extensively Burgundy's gastronomic excellence. So for today I'll just suggest a glass of Burgundy wine of your choosing to unwind during a not-so-flat stage. It's Saturday after all.

1 rider: Julien Bernard

After Geoffrey Bouchard on stage 6, the other emblematic rider of Burgundy is fan favourite Julien Bernard!

The runner-up is an invaluable asset for his Lidl-Trek teammates. Either setting Ciccone on track in the mountains, pacing hard to bring back Mads Pedersen in the peloton on stage 1 or just taking part in breakaways. Julien is a dream of a rider, any team would be happy to have him.

Even if the stages set in Burgundy probably won't suit his skillset, I'm sure he'll enjoy riding on his home roads.

1 fact: 2 churches? More like 9!

The name of the town where stage 8 will finish literally translates as “Colombey the 2 churches”.

But in fact, there are 9 churches located throughout the town!

Known for being the residence of former French president Général de Gaulle, the original town merged with the nearby town of Lamothe-en-Blaisy in 2017. But they chose to keep the original name.


Stage profile, courtesy of Tour de France official site

It's the fourth of eight stages so far this Tour designated 'flat' by the organisers ASO, but it's safe to say that one of these stages is not like the others... Yes, what we're looking at here folks is your classic 'breakaway day'. Now don't get me wrong, the sprinters will have an eye on this one, particularly those who can handle a climb or two - we're looking at Girmay, Van Aert and Pedersen here - but they will face the hope and inspiration of a peloton full of riders who haven't had a fair crack of the whip since, arguably, stage 2. Riders who aren't going for GC, aren't sprinters or time trial specialists, but are really rather good at riding their bicycles and would like the opportunity to try and win a stage of the Tour de France, please and thank you.

As a result, expect frantic attacks from the get-go, and a long, drawn-out battle for the break. Then a long, drawn-out battle for the bunch to catch the break. And quite possibly a last-gasp bunch versus break dash for the line. Go on, Tour de France, give the people what they want.

In the spirit of a day of nuance and intrigue, I invited the team to make their predictions a little more imaginative than just a single name. Here's what they came up with.

WBR team Predictions:

Sam - heartbreak as the breakaway is caught, Bruce Groenewayne [Groenewegen] does it again but Jasper manages to stay in a straight line

Stine - I'm going for the breakaway of badassery: Mads, Wout and the likes gunning for something else than a pure sprint. Wout [van Aert] finally wins, in front of Mads and Lapeira. (Danish Comms will rant all stage about Wout not babysitting Jonas and then get annoyed when he beats Mads. Standard).

Anna - a strong breakaway day, time to see those rolling breakaway specialists at play, Magnus Cort, Alberto Bettiol, Valentin Madouas and Ben Healy. With Bettiol clinching it.

Peter - a reasonable group of rouleur types get away - about 4 in number and all of the sprinter teams try to do the least amount of work whilst working so the gap stays at a minute for the last 30km but they just cannot close it and no-one dare burn their lead out so the massive game of peloton chicken leads to Moscon winning

Before you go...

This guy... still just 24 years of age, and already with a Grand Tour trilogy under his belt. Not to mention the small matter of the World and European ITT titles. Here is what he had to say.

I'll leave you on this amazing image of the aerobullet in action.

Until tomorrow, thanks for reading!

If you have enjoyed reading this post and would like to show your support for my free cycling content, consider buying me a coffee. And if you’d like to hear from me more regularly subscribe.
Share this post