It’s 9:00 pm and we’re headed for the A7 “Autoroute du Soleil,” and the drive north to Paris.
Incidentally, the A7 is one of the most dangerous roads in Europe; so that’s a comfort.
It’s been a day-and-a-half, albeit I think we were all expecting more from the stage.
But perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect that men are going to race like demons after three tough weeks around France.
We were up early and away, this morning – panic; traffic jams to the horizon, however, once we made the autoroute, things speeded up.
Breakfast was in the Tour Village; sausages, bacon, bread, fruit salad – parfait!
The plan was to get away early, to give ourselves loads of time to take pictures on the Ventoux.
However – we hadn’t gassed the car-up; a mad breenge off race route ensued, we resuscitated the wee Citroen and rejoined the parcours.
Unfortunately, we were caught up in the race caravan, by them and had to sit it out.
Still, we bagged two wee bags of salami, three bottles of water, a key ring and three hats – result!
The rest of the day was spent nudging into the rear of the caravan.
The weather was beautiful, the scenery magnificent and the ambiance as we’ve come to expect from le Tour fans – warm, friendly, fun.
It has to be said though, that it’s warmer, friendlier and more fun, after the caravan has off loaded the goodies.
With the benefit of hindsight, if I was doing it again, I’d have missed yesterday’s stage – which was never going to be decisive – and gone to the Ventoux.
It was simply impossible to stop on the lower 60% of the climb, the crowd was perhaps the biggest I’ve ever seen at a bike race; apart from Alpe D’Huez in the early 90’s, when it was still, “Dutch mountain.”
We got lots of shots of “crazies,” but had no opportunity to stop and chat to folks, take pictures of the countryside – and it would have been nice to wander round Bedoin, again.
Dave, Viktor and I were on the Ventoux in 1987, when “Jeff” Bernard won the time trial up the climb.
We took tents down but had to bail out of them and into the mini bus in the middle of the night because it was so cold.
The water bottles froze solid – by noon the next day, the heat was extreme.
We had to be on the mountain the previous night due to the road being closed at around 2:00 am.
I remember Bedoin being relaxed and friendly; there was an old gypsy caravan in the town square which had a wood burning oven that produced the best pizza we had ever tasted – and back then, prices in France were reasonable.
Bedoin was just a blur today, crowds, noise, heat and just glimpses of the town – ah, well!
The climb was wild, about the craziest I’ve ever seen.
It looks great for the TV but one has to wonder about the safety aspect – some stretches were genuinely scary.
It’s getting close to midnight now, so bon nuit.
Talk to you from Gay Paris, tomorrow.
Hinault: “Contador puede ganar cinco Tours” that’s today’s front page headline in AS. Bernard Hinault thinks Alberto Contador could equal his five Tour wins.
The big question is for which team would he be riding for? The F1 driver; Fernando Alonso is serious about his project of having a Protour team by 2011 with Contador as the leader. But what about 2010? If he stays with Astana for the second year of his contract, which will be with Vinokourov, he might not be able to ride the Tour.
Bad news was the loss of two Euskaltel riders; Amets Txurruka and Alan Pérez finished 30:58 after Mark Cavendish won the sprint and they were out of the time limit. Their team leader, Astarloza, is battling for 9th place overall as he is only 1 second behind Le Mével.
“De Cavendish al Ventoux.” The British sprinter won his 5th stage yesterday. Today the last battle”. The Mont Ventoux looms large on all the riders on the Tour and this could change the podium and the top ten overall. The mythic mountain of death, not just Tom Simpson, but the many riders who have had problems on its slopes. The battles between Kubler and Mallejac, Gimondi and Poulidor.
Then in 1958 between Gaul and Bahamontes who went on to be the first Spanish Tour winner the next year. The deception of Delgado in 1987 by Hinault and Herrera, more recently the triumph of Pantani over Armstrong and the arguments that caused! We can only hope there will be action today!