Tour de France diary: Macron’s man-hug, Barguil usurps Bardet and a killer wolf | William Fotheringham

Another Chris Froome PR disaster; cringeworthy presidential memories; a new French hero is born; and a return to Puy-de-Dôme must be on the cards

For the first time this year, I drive the roads of the Tour stage; the last 120km. Up to 10 years ago, this was a daily occurrence, but it is something we never do now, as all superfluous cars are directed on to a diversionary route to avoid risks to spectators. As always, there are insights to be gained from actually seeing the roads that you simply don’t get from a television camera, and there is local colour in abundance. Everywhere is the emblem of the Beast, an 18th century legend involving – depending on who you believe – a vast homicidal wolf, or a serial killer who covered his crimes by inventing the legend of the wolf. Vast wolf prints are drawn on the road, trailers of hay bales are covered with wolf posters, and a lifesized wolf model sits on a roundabout in the town of Saugues. Also commemorated is a big beast of French cycling writing, Pierre Chany, whose poster adorns a tower in his home village of La Margeride. The L’Équipe writer died in 1996, one of the last of the old-school devotees of chain-smoking Gaullists, proper lunch breaks and typed copy, who could recall passing a bottle to Louison Bobet from a press motorbike in the mid-50s. Truly the stuff of legend.

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