Tour highs and lows: Thrills, spills, sprints and a pot-bellied pig

Best mountain stage

It has to be the Tourmalet finish on stage 17, if only for the strange, almost spooky, imagery of Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck, the race's two strongest riders, powering through the mist and two solid walls of spectators as the rain lashed down.

The scene recalled Raymond Poulidor versus Jacques Anquetil in their legendary duel on the Puy de Dôme in 1964, but even more it was a repeat of Jean Robic versus Gino Bartali in 1950, riding parallel for mile after mile and into a state of such exhaustion on the nearby Aspin that by the summit, unable to beat one another, they were simultaneously riding and propping each other up.

Best non-mountain stage

This award goes to stage three over the cobbles to Arenberg. For once, the predictions of carnage were right, as the riders pounded over the unmade backroads of northern France and the race split apart. Unusual, exciting and a real break from the normal first week succession of bunch sprint stages. More again, next time round please.

Best overall contender

Andy Schleck. He didn't win but he shadowed Contador so closely that the race was nowhere near decided until the final time trial. And even then Schleck refused to give up, forcing Contador to go through such pain that afterwards the champion described it as his hardest day of the Tour.

Best sprint

Mark Cavendish at Bordeaux. With no lead-out men to guide him, Cavendish blasted out of the pack to win by over two bike lengths. It was simply sublime: if Barry Hoban, Britain's previous winner at Bordeaux, also in a sprint, was watching, he must have been proud of the Manxman.

Best team worker

Cavendish's HTC-Columbia team-mate Bernie Eisel helped the Briton over many a mountain climb, leading the Manxman to say that he had been following the Austrian's calves for so many hours that he could easily draw a perfect picture of them.

Worst crash

We've had a lot in this year's Tour, but Lance Armstrong's skidding fall at 60kph on stage eight took the biscuit – it wrecked his bid for one last Tour victory. Getting in a break in the Pyrenees was a sad reminder of what could have been, while the persistent drip-drip of allegations over doping from Floyd Landis in the ongoing federal investigations does the Armstrong legend no good whatsoever. A strange, low-key and – for Armstrong – probably very frustrating exit from a sport he once dominated with ease.

Worst barney between riders

This is a draw between the episode when Spain's Carlos Barredo thwacked Portugal's Rui Costa over the head with a bike wheel, and the moment when Cavendish's lead-out man Mark Renshaw headbutted Kiwi Julian Dean three times in a sprint.

Strangest hotel pets

We've all seen cats and dogs lazing around rural hotel lobbies, but La Maison De Navarre near Sauveterre de Béarn, close to the Pyrenees, has gone for a slightly different option: two donkeys and a Vietnamese potbellied pig (kept outside, we hasten to add). Suggestions the porker might go on that evening's menu (which was delicious) were met with frosty glances. And it made a change to be woken up in the morning by a donkey's heehaws, not a couple rowing in the next room.

Most surreal journalists freebie

No flower-shaped vibrators as were on offer in 2009, but something just as wacky: a packet of building sand taken from the construction of the Millau Viaduct, the tallest bridge in the world with one tower a whopping 343 metres tall, higher than the Eiffel Tower. The fact the Tour didn't go over it this year, just near it, is of course, by-the-by.

Worst sleep over

Heartfelt thanks (not) to the Best Western at Tinqueux for overbooking and then sending us to a far-from-adequate replacement.

The second choice hotel boasted yellow, stained sheets and pillows, a single toilet per floor, neckbreaking stairs, no lift, corridors so narrow you couldn't have swung a cat in them (and so dark you wouldn't have found one anyway), a building site just opposite and drunk English tourists raising Cain outside at 5am. All for €30 a night: bliss!

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most