Montpellier

It had to be an early start, today for Le Grand-Bornand. To get down to the Bourg-Saint-Maurice start, we had to drive against a section of race route and decided to get away early to beat the closures.

By the back of 08:00 we were clear of the worrisome section; we grabbed a coffee then made our way down to the start.

Bright sunshine, pretty girls, a free breakfast and a meet with a yeti – what more could you want?

Le Grand-Bornand
Ed meets the Yeti, and another myth is busted. Photo©Martin Williamson

In the village we had a chat with ex-British pro road race champion, Tim Harris who drives the VIP’s on the Tour; **** hotels, a helicopter trip over the race, champagne picnics – a snip at 3,000 per head.

Le Grand-Bornand
We chat with TIm Harris, driver for the VIP’s. Photo©Ed Hood
Le Grand-Bornand
The lovely Charlotte – it’s a tough job snapping these girls, but it’s their job, and someone has to do it! Photo©Martin Williamson

Breakfast scoffed, lovelies snapped; time to go, but we had to wait until the caravan passed – a nice distraction.

I got to meet the Skoda Yeti – the white furry suits are so hot that there are vents in the bum – then off to the car, via the jersey stalls.

Le Grand-Bornand
100 euros for a kid’s jersey and shorts! Photo©Ed Hood

It’s a 100 euros for a kiddies Columbia shorts and jersey package; but the good news is that the Astana kit is all reduced in price – can’t think why.

Le Grand-Bornand
No gran – if we’re going to the race, you have to come too. Photo©Ed Hood

We met the Peebles CC crew, Gary Robson et al, on the Colombiere but our parking wasn’t the best when we stopped to chat.

A rather miffed Bernard Hinault gave us an ear-full for that one.

Le Grand-Bornand
Fancy bumping into you lot on the Col Du Colombiere! Photo©Martin Williamson

A pig of a parcours which saw Evans in the autobus, Sastre’s podium dreams end and brave lanterne rouge, Kenny Van Hummel crash out.

Not a great day for Wiggins, but not a disaster – I think he can square it again, around Lac D’Annect against the watch, tomorrow.

Le Grand-Bornand
LA rode well on this brutal stage, but we reckon he took a lot out of himself to do so. Photo©Ed Hood

In fact, I think Bradley can win that TT – it’s just a pity that Contador always looks like he’s on the way back from the paper shop.

Le Grand-Bornand
Our pal J-L Arrieta came over the top on his own. Photo©Martin Williamson

If Bradley can get back level with Lance and Co. then it’s all down to The Ventoux for second and third – just like ASO wanted.

First? Alberto, on less than 90% effort, I’d say.

Le Grand-Bornand
Bert stamped his dominance on the race today. Now for that time trial tomorrow… Photo©Ed Hood
Le Grand-Bornand
Schleck senior wins, a present from Bert. That’s one you him, Frankie.

And that’s gone midnight, again.

Bon nuit.

Le Grand-Bornand
Tour 09 Stage 17 Map.
Le Grand-Bornand
Tour 09 Stage 17 Profile.

* * *

Al Hamilton

Mikel Astarloza’s win yesterday put him on the front and the back page of today’s AS. “El gran Astarloza” is his headline and “Victory for the Euskaltel leader. Andy Schleck attacks Contador”. Not that it did the young Schleck much good!

Le Grand-Bornand
Astarloza can be proud with himself after today.

The Basque, Mikel Astarloza is a bit hard on himself in his interview as his self description is of a “pathetic team leader”. He isn’t big headed or charismatic, but he can win races. At the moment he is in 11th position at 4 minutes and 38 seconds, good, but not great!

Contador: “Ya hablo en carrera con Lance”. The relations between the leaders of the Astana team seem to be improving as Alberto admits to speaking with Lance during the race. Also in the Astana news is that team manager Johan Bruyneel will be leaving at the end of the year; “I’m turning a page in my career”.

Le Grand-Bornand
Lance had a pop at Bert today for attacking and putting Kloden out the back – since when did LA care about a teammate on the podium? Anything to have a go at AC.

All this along with the announcement of a new team by “The Boss” Lance Armstrong on Twitter the other day, all looks too pre-ordained. Where does this leave Alberto Contador? He still has 1 year left of his contract with Astana.

The crash of Saxo Banks, Jens Voigt gets good coverage with five photos, the retransmission of the Tour on Spanish TV last night showed the crash in all its bloody details. So far we know he has a broken cheek and collar bone and will be in hospital for a while. Marchante also crashed into his Cervelo team car yesterday, but he did finish.

Spanish TV will be showing today’s (Wednesday) stage live on the normal channel (La 2) and on the sports channel (Teledeporte). Co-presenters; de Andrés and Delgado will be doing more than 5 hours transmission again.

They are very happy with their work and receive many e-mails on facebook. “Many chicas [women] are very interested in cycling” they say, and at the stage finishes Pedro still gets shouted at by the fans “:¡Perico, Perico!

That’s it for today; let’s hope there is more action to talk about before the finish?

Hasta Mañana, Al.