Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Thursday, 20 July 2017

2017 Tour de France: Roglič overcomes the Galibier, Stage 18 – showdown on the Izoard?

 Primoz Roglič wins in Serre Chevalier

 Overall Chris Froome still in Yellow, Fabio Aru loses time 

 Green: Michael Matthews leads 
following Marcel Kittel's retirement

Climber: Warren Barguil still leads 
but advantage has been trimmed a little 

Young rider: Simon Yates still leads  
but Louis Meintjes is now closer at 2.28'

Primoz Roglič soloed to a very fine first Tour de France stage victory – first over the Galibier and the long 28 kilometre descent into Serre Chevalier. This first Alpine stage revised the Overall Standings slightly with Fabio Aru losing time at the top of the Galibier and then more on the descent. Aru was at 18 seconds to Chris Froome but now is down to 4th place at 53 seconds. Rigoberto Uran and Romain Bardet are now Froome's closest challengers tied on 27 seconds.

Only Dan Martin and Bardet attacked Froome on the Galibier but each time these attacks were easily neutralised. At the very top of the Galibier Martin was also dropped and is now at 2.37, while Simon Yates also lost time down to 4.07. He still leads the Young Rider Competition but his advantage to Louis Meintjes has now been reduced. Despite crashing Warren Barguil rode another fine race and still has a comfortable lead in the Climbers' competition. 

Alberto Contador tried one of his typical daring long range attacks that nearly came off – it certainly enlivened the race. Initially he had Nairo Quintana for company but to Contador's surprise Quintana couldn't sustain the effort. Quintana is now at 12th place 12.54 down, which is easily his worst Tour de France result.    

Unfortunately Marcel Kittel was involved in a crash early on in the stage and, although he rode on, had to abandon the race soon after. This is a great shame for Kittel but also deprives us of an exciting finale to the Green Jersey competition. Providing Michael Matthews reaches Paris he will surely now win the Jersey. Before Kittel abandoned Matthews had already closed the gap to just nine points. Matthews now leads André Griepel by 160 points. 

Stage 18: Briançon to Izoard 179.5 kms

Today is the last chance for the overall contenders to challenge Chris Froome in the mountains. Froome is expected to perform better in Saturday's time trial in Marseille than Bardet and Aru. The uphill finish, only the third in this Tour, gives someone the chance to grab the Yellow Jersey. Realistically, unless Froome blows up, only Uran and Bardet are likely to be able to do this. However, Sky remain the dominant team, especially with Mikel Landa climbing so well and Froome didn't show weakness yesterday. Should be a gripping climb up the mighty Izoard! 

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

2017 Tour de France: Matthews wins again, Stage 17 first crucial Alpine stage

Michael Matthews wins sprint and closes on Kittel 

Difficult and windy conditions at end sees 
Dan Martin loses 51 seconds 

After today Matthews is just 29 points behind Kittel – remarkable!  

Anyone hoping for a nice quiet transitional stage would have been severely disappointed today as it was full-on racing for almost all of today. Marcel Kittel was dropped on the first climb of the day but only around 22 seconds off the main peloton and his points adversary Michael Matthews – result full out racing. 

Kittel's group never got back on, so Matthews took both the intermediate sprint and the stage win – 50 points in total and closing fast on Kittel. Matthews has been following the tactics used by Peter Sagan to great effect in the last few years – getting in breaks and picking up points a pure sprinter can't. 

As predicted wind played it part in the final 20km or so. Of the leading contenders only Dan Martin got caught out losing 51 seconds to his rivals and now at 2.03 to Chris Froome. Martin paid the penalty of his team splitting between looking after Kittel and Martin, so poor Martin was short of helpers at the crucial moment. 

Stage 17: La Mure to Serre Chevalier 183 kms 

First big test: La Croix du Fer

 Col du Télégraphe and and the legendary Col du Galibier

Tomorrow is the first of two big stages in the Alps. I suspect that if Chris Froome is to be beaten it will have to be on one of these two stages. If he goes into the the Marseille TT in the lead it will be almost impossible to beat him unless he has mechanical problems. Can Bardet do something at the top of the Galibier and then on the long descent to Serre Chevalier?   

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

2017 Tour de France: Stage 16 Preview – could be windy

Stage 16: Le Puy-en-Velay to Romans-sur-Isère 165 kms

There are just six more stages to decide the 2017 Tour de France – at this point the closest Tour ever! In reality it is only five for the overall classification as the ride into Paris is ceremonial, except for the sprinters at the end. 

After a lumpy start this shortish stage descends down to the Rhône Valley for a fairly flat last 50 kilometres. This may be a day for the sprinters but the last kilometre is uphill so may not fully suit Marcel Kittel. Will Michael Matthews try to escape on the climb out of Le Puy? Could an overall contender be caught napping right at the start?

Wind in the Rhône Valley is the other complication – forecast to average 30 kms with gusts up to 60 kms. We could well see some splits in the peloton and perhaps some overall contenders lose valuable time – equally gain some valuable time.