There is only one word needed to describe today's stage: legendary. Since 1976, the Alpe d'Huez has been the scene of a stage finish nearly every year. It holds such a place in Tour cycling history that each of the 21 hairpin bends on the 13.8km climb is marked with a plaque honouring one of the past stage winners at Alpe d'Huez. (When Lance Armstrong won the stage for the 22nd time it finished at Alpe d'Huez, they started over again at the bottom!) (And spare a thought for those poor guys who rode the 1979 Tour - they had two finishes at Alpe d'Huez!)
For winter sports buffs, Alpe d'Huez is famous as a ski station, one of the largest in the world with 84 ski lifts and 236km of piste.
Is Team CSC unstoppable or what! Andy Schleck's pace making has been just amazing in the mountains - but it was his teammate Carlos Sastre who pulled off a strong stage win today - gaining the yellow jersey and more than one minute over his closest rivals, Frank Schleck, Bernard Kohl, and Cadel Evans. We now wait with bated breath for the time trial in Stage 20!
The standings after Stage 17:
Yellow: Carlos Sastre (CSC)
Green: Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
Polka Dot: Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner)
White: Andy Schleck (CSC)
Team: Team CSC
Important reminder! Don't forget to cast your vote for the 2nd Intermediate Sprint! I can tell you that it is NECK AND NECK between two of our shortlisted entries so be sure to have your say!
And now for an update from your teams...
Team Rabobank is panting for breath after today's tough stage. Bells has two beautiful sleeves finished, but knows it's going to be a fight to make it across the line in Paris.
Sarah has pulled a John-Lee Augustyn and face-planted right off the mountainside, losing her bicycle down the scree. She's waiting by the road for the team car to bring up another skein of yarn, which may or may not need to be bleached to look anything like the first skein. But a contender always has another project in the bag, so today she finished an Armenian-knit rooster hat based on the work of French textile and ceramics artist Jean Leurçat:
More details and pictures on her blog. The rest of the team has gone quiet - they must all be knitting too hard to check in. I expect to see smoke signals rising from your needles, ladies!
Team Quick Step Update
Everyone must be kniting hard as it's gone a little quiet here.
Jessica has posted her Intermediate Sprint #2 on regional food, drool over this!
Check out her blog to see a recipe for Tarte Flambe, or Alsatian Onion Tart.
More yummy goodness from Madalyn who has done a bit more research into how her ratatouille is made:
Marge is on the home stretch on one of the socks, she says:
"The tour and peleton wait for no one". You're right there Marge!
Shelley reported in with this: "Finished the lacework last night during that exciting finish - onto the border… hoping to be using the blanket to snuggle under while watching the sprint finish in Paris…!" YAY!
This maybe the last pic we see of Whitney's stunning Gansey.
Her camera broke yesterday and she isn't sure how she'll keep us up to date. You'll work it out Whitney, as you said "C’est la vie, I suppose. If John-Lee Augustyn can go tumbling over the edge of a mountain, lose his bike, wait forever to be brought a new one, and still go on the attack today, then I can manage this setback, too".
As for me, I'm feeling a little more confident with my lace now, just hoping I don't fall off my bike inches from the finish line!
Keep knitting girls, we're nearly there!
Over at Team SIL we are busy keeping on our toes.
Tam (rav name Merlot) is on the second sleeve of Beatrix and should be done by Sunday "as long as the pieces dry in time!" Rosered is on tier 11 of Lady Eleanor. It looks so beautiful and soft. She is afraid she'll be the Lantern Rouge. I told her she has no worries on that score. I may have to steal it from her as I lag behind on my Adamas shawl! Megan reports that while Stolen Moments is slowly growing, the BSJ is moving ahead much more quickly. Beautiful in blues and yellows. Ozknitter admits to "more watching than knitting" but is making progress on her socks. Jennifer has been re-"cycling" yarn from thrift store sweaters and is designing her own. She is happier with this project than the ill-fated Swallowtail shawl. Amy is making good progress on the "socks of doom" which were more portable and easier to take to a golf match. Sprout is also coming along nicely. And our Kelli has been too busy making baby quilts for friends and playing slowpitch softball to do much knitting.
The end is in sight.