In previous years we’ve  posted stories and interviews live from the Tour de France, but we usually haven’t joined the race until it’s into the second week.

This year however, we thought we’d bring you our exclusive great coverage right from the very start of the Tour!

We’ll be posting daily diaries direct from France starting today until stage nine they’re from Gordan Cameron, then Ed and Martin take over until the finish in Paris. In addition, we’ll bring you the Spanish perspective from Al, and from time to time we’ll present Viktor’s View as well!

Tune in every day for all the fun, and by all means post a comment if you have your own view!

Gordan Cameron

Allow myself to say ‘Hello’. I’m Gord, yet another Scottish cycling fan, but definitely the youngest!  I’ll be covering the first nine stages of the race live, until Ed and Martin get across here and take over.

So, I’m despatched to Monaco with two missions — try to keep both Martin and Ed happy! I’ll be sending over a few words each day, setting the mood for the annual frenzy that is the biggest bike race on the globe.

Well, here goes… it’s bloody hot. It’s really bloody hot in Nice, where I’m camped for four nights, and even hotter in Monaco.

Of course, that’s fine for your average Continental professional but harder going for a pasty face Scot carrying kilos of kit around with him.

This guy isn't a pasty-faced Scot - Cadel is back for another go at the top spot.
This guy isn’t a pasty-faced Scot – Cadel is back for another go at the top spot.

As usual, the Thursday before the Tour is all about getting your credentials — you’re walking into the lions’ den of the ‘Permanence’ and praying that someone is going to hand you your Press Pass and your car stickers, your road book … and if you’re a serious freebie hogger, a ticket to the buffet and a map to the Haribo sweets stall!

It took a while to get it sorted, but we have a friend, Dominik [he set up Ed’s ride on the Kawasaki last year], on the inside at ASO who smoothed the way, even if the cards hadn’t even been printed when we turned up. Nerve-wracking stuff, but I dare say I won’t be taking the credentials from around my neck for the next ten days or nights.

Nike not only make contentious videos featuring LA, they also sprayed their logo on a sheep, and let it loose on the streets. We'll let you be the judge of this.
Nike not only make contentious videos featuring LA, they also sprayed their logo on a sheep, and let it loose on the streets. We’ll let you be the judge of this.

Of course, there’s a bike race to cover, and we checked out Saxo Bank’s press conference with the guys in fine form.

Even Bjarne Riis himself cracked a few jokes, although none were as good as when Jens Voigt weighed in on the issue of the radio ban. Jens might just about be old enough to remember racing before radios came in, but he’s most defintely progressive, not old skool, on this issue.

“Why don’t we have two days without helmets (laughter) … or two days where they cut the brake cables just to make it interesting!” (Huge laughter from all, and applause!)

Voigt feels pretty strongly about the use of race radios.
Voigt feels pretty strongly about the use of race radios.

So, that was one of the highlights of the day.

The other was the scene round the back of the team presentation grandstand when the Agritubel squad were taking a lap of honour.

Christophe Moreau proved there’s plenty life in the old dog yet, nearly taking down his entire team, turning round with total disregard for anyone’s safety when he realised there was a bus load of nubile young ladies snapping his picture!

Moreau nearly brings him team down, swerving across the road for the lasses.
Moreau nearly brings him team down, swerving across the road for the lasses.

There’s the other Tour weirdness — a sheep with a Nike swoosh, some guerilla advertisers infiltrating the course to get videoed with Cadel Evans (and anyone else who slowed down for too long) waving a toy cow around. And I thought this was sophisticated Monaco?

That’s a little of the background for what is always the most stressful day of a Tour journo’s race – the first one.

I’ll keep you posted on the other little off-the-beaten-track snippets as the race progresses.

Cheers, Gord

Al Hamilton

Spanish TV started to crank up its Tour coverage earlier in the week by showing some classic old Tour stages late at night, the best was the retro; Bahamontes from 50 years ago. Unmade roads and tyres round the shoulders etc.

Last night on the national news’ sports report (after the announcements of the latest over-priced footballer going to Real Madrid) we had the predictable interview with Alberto Contador which went along the lines of “I’m in the strongest team at the Tour” and “I think it’s a great Tour route” so no surprises there then!

All the sports papers and magazines are concentrating on Contador, he is the favourite by a mile (no pressure there then). There is some discussion about possible conflict between him and Lance, Ciclismo al Fondo/Bici Sport sums it up well with “Back to the Future!” It seems a shame that last years winner, who was Carlos Sastre in case you had forgotten, has been ignored – mind you he does hide his personality well.

Spanish cycling paper Bici sport.
Spanish cycling paper Bici sport.

Later in the evening we were shown the teams presentation with the usual speeches. First, Tour Director Prudhomme, followed by Prince Albert II of Monaco.

The speeches were enlivened by the not-so-hasty removal of a badly positioned “For Sale” sign behind the prince that could be seen through the screens above the Tour Logo.

All the teams were paraded out and introduced to the crowd, with one rider from each team being asked an amusing or serious question.

Mark Cavendish didn’t seem sure how to answer the question “Which rider in your team will not win a stage?” He was looking down the line trying to decide when the interviewer covered his embarrassment with laughter.

Astana/Lance received a loud reception from the mainly non-French audience. Alberto and Lance made all the right noises, and it was time for everyone to go home – except for the formality of introducing the nearly forgotten Cervelo/Sastre team.

Roll on Saturday!  Al.