The team time trial here in Montpellier, it’s beautiful; speed, strength, skill, trust, unity, honour — everything that makes pro bike racing special.
As my tele kindled up, there was big Den Menchov picking himself up off the tar — it was Rome all over again.
But this time he wasn’t picking himself up to finish in triumph just around the corner — it was only to continue the nightmare that is his 2009 Tour.
Just minutes later, BBox raised a dust cloud as they put four men in the scenery — it was a dangerous course.
And a tough one, as I watched Katyusha spat men out the back.
AG2R got round in one piece in respectable fashion but Silence’s day wasn’t the best; Charly Wegelius’s face told a story about how tough it was.
Liquigas were classy, Pellizotti, Kreuziger, Nibali — all good riders and don’t forget that it was the men in green who nabbed the TTT in the Giro last year.
Garmin are rampant; Tyler Farrar ‘blows’ — I was supposed to be talking to him tonight; maybe leave my questions ‘til tomorrow, that man is hurting.
Pate has gone too, so has Maaskant and Dean — they’re down to five already; it’s death or glory with Brad looking hugely impressive.
Lance nods and waves to the crowds at the start, practising for those gubernatorial walkabouts, no doubt.
He’s a magnet for cameras, a sponsor’s dream — but maybe not Spanish products.
Time check two and Garmin go top, just five of them but they’re on fire.
Cancellara is leading from the front, he really is a bear of a man; but despite his huge spells at the front, Saxo are only third fastest, 15 down — could Lance be heading for yellow?
No, please, I can hear Viktor already!
Wiggins puts in a huge spell with Hesjedal unable to come through — the big Canadian is under presh, he simply cannot get dropped.
Sean Kelly reminds us that the big problem for the Garmin guys is recovery time; the Astana men have so much more of it with the longer string.
Check 3 and Garmin are 31 seconds up on Liquigas, Columbia are fifth, that’s the price of yesterday’s echelon.
Saxo; ten to go, they look like a TGV.
Garmin go top, 46:47 — great ride.
But Astana are 38 up at check 2.
Cancellara drags Saxo in, like some yellow clad medieval torturer — to judge by the faces.
Contador looks like a stranger in his own team in that Spanish champion’s jersey.
A rear shot of Astana, and there are rows of hard ribs poking through every rider’s skin suit; maybe they’re titanium, maybe Lance has replaced the team with Terminator replicas?
Check 3 and Lance is maillot jaune virtuelle — this is bad!
Columbia finish, Cav leads them home — fourth.
George is wearing a Camelbak; let’s hope Vik didn’t spot it.
Astana, and Popo explodes; job done as Leipheimer, Kloden, Lance and Bert try to kill each other up the finish straight.
They go top.
Garmin are second at 18 seconds and it’s a tie for the maillot jaune — Lance and Fabian.
This is tense, I couldn’t handle Lance in yellow;: “I see that Armstrong boy is leading the Tour de France!”: – but Fabian’s smiling face reassures us.
“Swiss precision timing!” beams the big man from Bern.
I’ll drink to that, Fabian.
* * *
“Armstrong no se corta!” He’s not finished yet!
What a stage yesterday! And after everything that was said: about the end of the “war” in the Astana camp.
In today’s AS, Astana are playing down what happened in the stage to La Grande Motte, “Contador es el jeffe de filas” insiste Bruyneel. So the boss still thinks Contador is the boss, maybe he should tell the man from Texas!
Alberto is not sure about the team tactics and said “I’m not sure of the value of the team tactics, but you will all come to your own conclusions”.
He was impressed by the team work of Columbia; “El Columbia se organiza muy bien”.
Cavendish maybe the fastest sprinter at the moment, but he doesn’t seem to be endearing himself to the others in the peloton, he referred to them after the stage as “juniors!” “If they race like juniors what do they expect?”
The other day he was fighting with a Skil rider, who he incorrectly named, and I’ve heard there is a rider from Wick who tangled with the man from the Isle of Man in the past.
A visitor on the Tour yesterday was Ben Stiller. Lance blamed him for his being late for the sign on and all the Astana riders receiving a 100 Swiss Franc fine.
I’ve not heard Eurosport in English for ten years, so I can only remember “Duffers” and his reminisces of riding tricycles and what he had for dinner the previous evening.
Here on Teledeporte we have Perico Delgado, who knows his stuff, but on every occasion of an attack he has to make trumpet noises like the charge of the Light Brigade.
Yesterday he had great difficulty explaining what was going on, but when Lance directed his men to work; we got another blast!
On the national TV channel, TVE, there was a very nice interview with Carlos Sastre at his house and out training, he talked about the lost years away from his wife and children and the time spent training etc.
He comes over as a very nice person, of yesterday he said “Cometi un error”, but it makes you think of how many more races he would have won if he was a bit of a bastard!
No back page today as Cristiano Ronaldo took over most pages.
Hasta Mañana, Al.
photos ©Al Hamilton, ©cyclingnews.com