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Tour Titbits 2: What's happening off the bike at the Tour de France

Andy Schleck talks girls, rugby great watches Renshaw's run-in, USPS's (cinema) history lesson...

While most of the focus at the Tour de France is on the racing and its aftermath, cycling's biggest race plays host each year to any number of rumours and snippets of news related to the pro peloton. Here's the second of our regular round-up of some of the ones you may have missed.

Andy Schleck and The Lady In.... White

When Andy Schleck moved into the overall lead of the Tour de France on Tuesday following Cadel Evans’ collapse on the Col de la Madeleine, some wondered whether the Luxembourg rider had taken the maillot jaune too early in the race; after all, he and his Saxo Bank team mates faced the prospect of defending it for almost two weeks until the race hits Paris.

Schleck Junior, however, has another reason to rue having to swap the white jersey of the best young rider, in which he had started the day, for the maillot jaune.

It’s not so much that he’s seeking to emulate Jan Ullrich’s record of three victories in the young riders’ competition – if he finishes in yellow in Paris, he’ll win that by default anyway – but the fact that Schleck himself said last Saturday when he took Geraint Thomas’s place at the top of the classification that the white jersey had the nicest podium girls.

This being the last year in which the 25-year-old is eligible for the young riders’ contest, it could just be that he’s trying to get into said podium girls’ er, good books, but one can only imagine how his comment has gone down with the ladies in yellow who have planted a kiss on his cheek over the past three days after helping him into the maillot jaune.

The Team Saxo Bank star, however, can count on one young lady as a massive fan, with his niece Leea hijacking her father Fränk’s Twitter account – okay, since she’s only a couple of months old, it was presumably dad, recovering from his broken collarbone, who composed the message – to congratulate him on his Stage 8 win, saying “hey uncle andy, my daddy and mommy already opened a bottle...we are so proud of you! Now you can go for yellow...Leea.”

Well, he’s in the yellow jersey for the time being, and having already promised her one of the white teddy bears given out each day at the white jersey presentation, presumably Leea will also be sharing her cot pretty soon with one of the cuddly lions presented to the maillot jaune on the podium at the end of each stage.

Caveman watches Cavendish win

One of the guests of honour at yesterday’s stage finish in Bourg-les-Valence to see Mark Cavendish take his third stage win of this year's race was none other than local hero and French rugby union star Sébastien Chabal, formerly of Sale Sharks, and nicknamed The Caveman on account of his beard, flowing hair and rather direct style.

Given the reputation of French forwards for their tendency to turn a blind eye to the game's laws, Chabal will no doubt have appreciated Mark Renshaw’s uncompromising approach in yesterday’s sprint finish that saw him headbutt Garmin-Transitions’ Julian Dean three times before veering across Tyler Farrar’s line – an Aussie vs Kiwi battle worthy of the Wallabies’ Bedisloe Cup encounters with the All Blacks.

We’re sure that should Renshaw, who is based in the South of France, decide to change sports following the decision of Tour de France officials to kick him out of the race, Chabal will be able to put him in touch with a local club on the lookout for someone who isn’t afraid to mix it with his opponents.

US Postal have had French in a spin for longer than you'd think

When this year’s Tour de France began in Rotterdam a couple of weeks ago, one of the big stories of the day was of course the Wall Street Journal article in which Floyd Landis expanded upon his allegations of drug-taking among members of the US Postal Service including Lance Armstrong.

We’re not sure how big a fan Armstrong is of post-war French comedy, but at one of last week’s stage starts, there was a Jacques Tati impersonator entertaining the crowds complete with bicycle, dressed as the postman from the classic film, Jour du Fete.

In the comedy classic, the character played by Tati, an amiable French village postman, drinks himself into a stupor, leading to all kinds of bicycle-related high jinks, after seeing a film that highlights how far ahead the Americans are due to the cutting-edge methods used by the US Postal Service to ensure its workers get their job done in the shortest time possible. Plus ça change…

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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