In the bathroom at Tour de France.
I’m writing this post in the bathroom of my hotel room in Digne Les Bains.
Yup, France just doesn’t put too many power outlets on the wall so I’m plugged into the bathroom. It’s almost 1AM because that is the Tour schedule for anyone who is writing more than one thing.
How was my day? Not as good as Rui Costa of Movistar who held off the rest of his escape group to take a solo win in Gap. Bad memories of Gap from two years ago when I realized I’d forgotten to make hotel reservation for that stage. Called around everywhere, nothing. Friend of mine found a bed in a women’s convent. I tried sleeping in my car and at 6’4″, I didn’t sleep much.
Got to the start in Vaison La Romaine nice and early with a plan in place for the day. You have to have a firm plan to cover the Tour and a backup plan and then the confidence to improvise no matter what happens.
My plan was to get the free food and coffee and pastries and two small pours of wine at the Village du Depart and then get to work. I have my Clif Bar project and I’d heard that Tom Danielson was riding the Tour with a small green dinosaur that his 3 year old son had given him glued to the top of his stem. That’s a fun story.
I’d already worked out that I could stay after the caravan left and still pick up the race course ahead of that promotional monstrosity with some fast driving and clever GPS work.
As often happens, that plan dissolved. Danielson was late getting out of the bus and although he was great and told me all the details, my window for jumping on the course was gone. That always make me sad and irritated because if you want the ambiance and atmosphere of Le Tour, that’s where you find it.
That meant about 275K on the off route, hors course routine before getting to Gap about an hour before the riders. When you’re driving on a freeway at 130K an hour, you’rE not seeing much of France or the race.
Let’s count the hours: one hour drive to start, 4 hours on the off-course to finish and one hour to hotel in Dignes Les Bains. That’s actually a short day in Le Tour where 7 hours is the norm.
I got my media parking spot and went out toward the finish line. I like suffering more than speed. I saw Costa go by and thought, that’s cool, solo win. But what I find a lot more interesting is past the finish.
That’s when you see the riders come in with their faces dark with road grime and enough lines on their face to make them look ten years older than they are. That’s when you can see the stress and strain and incredible efforts these guys put out.
I had to walk-jog a mile to get to the Garmin bus in time to see Dan Martin and Andrew Talansky cool down on the trainers. It’s funny how no matter where the bus is parked, the trainer gets set up — could be the side of a cliff, an alleyway, a restaurant front sidewalk, it doesn’t matter.
The battle at the end of the day is the media trying to get some quotes out of these guys and the teams trying to pull their riders and get them to hotels as fast as possible. The bus engines are revving while journalists are trying to interview riders who moments ago were pushing themselves to the limit. It’s a crazy scene and riders are weaving through crowds who don’t even know there’s a guy on bike behind them
The end of a race is basically a fast moving mob of spectators, mechanics loading bikes, cameramen trying to shoot video, reporters chasing riders up and down the street and police dealing with an already out of control traffic jam. It’s like everyone trying get off the Titanic — chaos, confusion, minimal crowd control, shortage of life boats.
Tomorrow I head to Ebrun and then skip teh finish for an early trip to Alpe d’Huez. That will be plenty of stories and probably a night car camping. At 6’4″. looking forward to that. Lucky my wife’s parting gift was two ambien sleeping pills.