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

Friday, 21 July 2017

2017 Tour de France: Barguil wins again, Froome's slender lead, Stage 19 preview

 Another fine stage win by Warren Barguil 
clinching Polka Dot Climbers Jersey

 Chris Froome leads Romain Bardet by 
23 seconds and Rigoberto Uran by 29

 Warren Barguil comfortable winner of Climbers' Jersey

Young Rider: Simon Yates lost a little 
more time by has 2.06 advantage over Louis Meintjes

The climb to the finish at the top of the Izoard was predictably tough but produced few changes overall. However, it did highlight once again the talent of Warren Barguil, who broke away from the GC contenders close to the top of the climb, passing everyone ahead and winning the stage. He also clinched the Climbers' Jersey with a lead of 89 points. 

Despite a group of more than 50 riders getting away Sky controlled the race for most of the day except when AG2R La Mondiale took control at the top of the Col de Vars continuing on the descent to the Izoard and the early part of the climb until they burnt out all their riders leaving Romain Bardet alone. Dan Martin, Romain Bardet and Chris Froome, himself, tried attacking but none was successful in shaking off their closest rivals. Bardet gained a four second time bonus on the line moving him to 23 seconds behind Froome, who gained two seconds on Rigoberto Uran.

It should now be down to Saturday's Time Trial in Marseille to decide the overall outcome. All the other Jerseys look decided provided their holders reach paris safely.

2017 La Course: Col de izoard
The women raced up the Col before the men in the 1st Stage of La Course. Highlights here. Annemiek van Vleuten won with Lizzie Deignan second. They ride a pursuit stage on Saturday over the men's TT course.   

Stage 19: Embrun to Salon-de-Provence 222.5 kms

 Lumpy profile and forecast – storms in 
part of second half, wind at the end 

Finish: slightly downhill with flat 
but technical run in

This is the longest stage in the 2017 Tour. It is quite lumpy as it gradually makes its way down from the Alps to Provence. Will the diminished number of sprinters want to control the race or will they let a break stay away? Will a GC contender look to put Sky under pressure or will they conserve their energy for tomorrow's time trial? The last forty kilometres could well be quite windy, which could split the race with the possibility of some GC contenders losing time.


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?