• Eastwards it is... Destination Rodez. (AFP)Source: AFP
The Pyrénées are over. It's time to move on. Go east, my son...
By
17 Jul 2015 - 2:19 PM 

An outer suburb of Toulouse (though it declined to join Greater Toulouse) and one of six never-before-visited cities by Le Tour, this town of 25,000 inhabitants is best known for the 13th century Battle of Muret.

In the blue corner was Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester, who had been fighting Albigensian heretics during the Albigensian Crusade - a 20-year military campaign initiated by Pope Innocent III to eliminate Catharism in Languedoc, in the south of France. In the red corner was Count Raymond of Toulouse and King Pere II of Aragon, who boasted an army sixteen-fold that of their opponents, and on 12 September 1213, they beseiged the comparatively paltry coterie of Simon de Montfort the elder, as he was also known.

It turned out to be a David versus Goliath affair.

"The last kilometres should probably only concern the sprinters able to survive the steep hills."

Reads the entry in Wikipedia: "Refusing to surrender or be starved into submission, de Montfort went on the offensive.

"Leading his knights out of the town, he proceeded to position them in a wide arc, then fell upon the Toulouse cavalry with a noise like a whole forest going down under the axe. Next to fall before the Crusader army was the Aragonian cavalry, where King Pere himself fell to the sword. After this, all that was left was to scatter the remaining cavalry defending the coalition camp before turning on the infantry that had been besieging Muret's walls.

"Despite their overwhelming advantage in numbers, the coalition army numbering almost 34,000 men was destroyed by de Montfort's army of only 2,100. The siege of Muret was lifted. 7,000-20,000 coalition troops were killed compared to a handful of casualties for de Monfort's army."

Don't you just love these stories? And how many times have we seen the underdog prevail in cycling?

So much so that, in cycling, the underdog - be it an individual or collective - revels in being underestimated. The underdog sees things differently; not through rose-tinted glasses, but calm, pragmatic eyes. The underdog may be content on being underestimated but never underestimates the situation - unlike Goliath, who invariably relies on strength and terror to win - nor lets popular opinion obscure their thinking or decision-making.

Great leaders come in all shapes and sizes. Great leaders often begin as underdogs, and by their own volition, remain underdogs.

As the Tour progresses, look out for men like Simon de Montfort; they may be the next stage winner, or, dare we say, next champion in Paris...

Christian Prudhomme, Directeur du Tour de France, says:

"The older members of the pack might remember riding on some of the portions of the course used during the Albi time trial in 2007. All will certainly enjoy the dive into the Tarn valley, but some might not feel as comfortable in the hilly part of the Aveyron area. The last kilometres should probably only concern the sprinters able to survive the steep hills."

Matt White, Orica-GreenEDGE head sports director, says:

"I think these next four stages, thirteen to sixteen, we've got potential to do well in. For certain guys, if their target is in the second week, the Pyrénées will not have been so important in terms of where they finished. Today, the bunch may be really happy to let a break go, or it could be brought back for a reduced group sprint."

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