I feel bubbly.
Stage five of this year’s tour runs from Epernay to Montargis, smack dab in the middle of champagne country.
In Epernay along the Avenue of Champagne there are 110 kilometers of of cellars and 200 million bottles of champagne storer underground. In the event of a massive earthquake, the resulting pop of that many corks would probably blow us all to the moon.
Just standing anywhere in this region is enough to make you feel effervescent. At the village du depart in Epernay, they were pouring champagne at 9 in the morning. So in that bubbly spirit, a few toasts are in order.
1 To Mark Cavendish
It would be wise for you to keep your mouth shut on occasion but watching you cry on the podium after winning reminds us how genuine you are and how much you love the sport. Sante.
2 Tyler Farrar
Plenty of tough guys in the Tour de France. To riding the cobblestone on stage three with a fractured wrist and working like a dog for your leadout man Julian Dean in stage four (who took a fantastic 2nd place). Sante.
3 Alberto Contador
Just about every cycling writer in the universe though you’d have trouble with the cobblestones. Nope. You rode them like a pro – which by the way, you are — and rolled in ahead of Mr. Armstrong. Sante.
4 Alessandro Petacchi
Damn, you still got it, tall, sexy Italian sprinter dude. I thought you got the freebie with your first win when most of the other sprinters crashed are were held up but your second stage win was vintage Petacchi and shades of Cipolini. At 36 you still got skilz. Sante.
5 Stephane Auge
Why? Because everyday at sign-in he stops for fans and smiles and signs autographs like he enjoys the experience instead of acting like it’s a huge imposition. A class act, at least from our view. Sante.
6 Jens Voigt
Perhaps the most popular man in the peloton, Jens buried himself for his captain Andy Schleck when the skinny Luxemburger crashed in stage 2. Voigt has the unique ability to grit his teeth, go full gas, au bloc, all out and still appear to be smiling through the grit. He’s good for a round of drinks on me anytime. Sante.
7 The French Police
Now maybe having a press pass and a press banner on the car helps smooth the way and improve their attitude but I’ve found the French police uniformly — excuse the pun — helpful. Like they actually think their main occupation to caring for people. Refreshing and so necessary. I don’t have a GPS for navigation but I do have the gendarmes. They’ve been a big help. Sante.
8 The Cofidis mechanic
Everybody covering Le Tour has at least two or three bad days where everything goes wrong. The fast moving circus is just to complicated not to screw up any number of things. I got myself trapped and abandoned on the last section of cobblestones and 10 kilometers from the finish and press room. That’s a long hike at the end of a day. I was forced to hitch and the Cofidis guy gave me a lift for part of the way. If my wife had seen how handsome he was, she would have left me instantly.
9 Fabian Cancellara.
WHo looks better in a yellow jersey. SO much cooler than some emaciated climber who looks ready to die of hunger. Plus, superstar Fabian is always read to work for others in his team. Sante.
10 My fellow journalists
I used the term “fellow” loosely because unlike the Tour of California, I don’t need to file at the end of every stage. Up close the bike riders are even more impressive. Same goes for the men and women covering the tour — they’re the best of the best. Watching them deal with the travel, the deadlines, the long hours, the 1000 things that can wreck your day each and every day and do it for three weeks is pretty impressive. It looks easy when it’s online or in the magazine but now I know what it takes. Good wifi, for one. Sante,