Bonjour! Usually I start the VeloVeritas diary for Le Tour de France 2009 in the morning but then have to switch to ‘other work’ mode for most of the day – going back to poor old VV late in the day, as Martin and I fight off le vieux homme Morpheus.

But today, you got me all to yourselves – at least until this afternoon, when le Tour hurtles into Paris; with Astana as winner’s (and winning) equipe at it’s head – as tradition dictates, because right now Martin is driving us from Lyons to Paris, a small matter of 350 miles.

Talking of L’Equipe, some good (or sad, depending on your viewpoint) stuff today:

  • oldest podium place was Raymond Poulidor at 40 years and 3 months – [hey! isn’t that amazing, we could have Lance for three more years!]
  • “Contador wins and puts an end to the politics – a good strategy” says Philippe Brunel, damn right, Phil!
  • Garate 10/10; Brad 4/10 “the Ventoux is just a little too high for him.” Kloden 1/10.
  • Team classement on national teams [3 riders] 1) Spain. 2) USA. 3) France. 4)Germany. 5) Italy. 6) Luxembourg. 7) Russia.
Andy pulled Bert and LA up the Ventoux.
Andy pulled Bert and LA up the Ventoux.
  • Fastest up the Ventoux, yesterday was Andy (or Awndee as Daniel Mangeas calls him) Schleck in 58:40 for the 21 kilometres. The record? Iban Mayo in the Dauphine 2004 with 55:51.
  • Garate: this was his third Grand Tour stage win – Giro 2006 & Vuelta 2001 plus a stage in the Tour de Suisse 2002 and the Spanish champs in 2005.

Martin was reading me out Armstrong’s ‘tweets’ tonight, he was in Avignon with “McConaughey, and others.

One has to respect the man’s ability, single mindedness and drive but I think that the “McConaughey” reference sums up what I dislike most about the whole Lance-Mania carry-on.

Bicycle road racing is the people’s sport, you don’t have to pay through the nose to watch it; the parcours go past your front door or over that big hill, just down the road.

Eddy Merckx was the greatest ever – I don’t recall bodyguards.

Lance's minders clearing a path for him, and shoving anyone in arm's reach out the way.
Lance’s minders clearing a path for him, and shoving anyone in arm’s reach out the way.

I’ve seen babies thrust into Johan Museeuw’s arms for a photo opportunity and Johan responding with a laugh and the perfect pose.

The sport isn’t about excluding people, minders and Hollywood – it’s about Brittany, Flanders, old ladies cuddling Tom Boonen, Christophe Moreau stopping by the roadside to meet his family, Nico Mattan heading straight for his supporter’s club cafe after he wins Gent-Wevelgem – it’s about real people, real life.

Bert handled the extra stress of having to race his teammates superbly well.
Bert handled the extra stress of having to race his teammates superbly well.

Meanwhile, Contador keeps it low key, no tweets, no celebrity pals and even though he must hate the sight of the kit he wears, he’s never seen sporting anything else – except yellow, that is.

Ah well, Cav again!

Number six for Mark. And Renshaw second - stunning.
Number six for Mark. And Renshaw second – stunning.
Tour 09 Stage 21 Map.
Tour 09 Stage 21 Map.
Tour 09 Stage 21 Profile.
Tour 09 Stage 21 Profile.

Al Hamilton’s Le Tour de France 2009

As you might guess the Spanish media is full of Juan Gárate and Alberto Contador.

Front page headline “Gárate se coronó en el Mont Ventoux” Gárate is crowned on the Mont Ventoux and lets face it he has saved the Tour for the Rabobank team who after a great Giro d’Italia have done nothing here until now!

Garate took the "queen stage" to Mont Ventoux.
Garate took the “queen stage” to Mont Ventoux.

Juanma Gárate is no stranger to victory as he was Spanish National Pro Champ and yesterdays Tour stage win goes with his Giro and Vuelta stage successes. And winning on the Mont Ventoux? “It gave me goose flesh…I can’t explain it in words! It’s the gold badge of my career”.

Alberto Contador: “Corri dos Tours, uno en la bici y otro en el hotel” – I rode two Tours, one on the bike and another in the hotel. This refers to his problems within his Astana team, Armstrong/Bruyneel and their working relationship past and future. And next year? “After tomorrow I will be talking about my future. Armstrong and I are working on different projects”. What about the insinuations of Greg Lemond? “I have no problems over doping. I am available 365 days a year and have taken all the necessary controls. I think there has been a change in the mentality of cyclists. A Tour without doping is also a victory”.

Bert fought 'two Tours' - one on the bike and one with his teammates.
Bert fought ‘two Tours’ – one on the bike and one with his teammates.

A big “Fiesta” is planned in Alberto’s home town of Pinto. After the finish in Paris where the Mayor of the Madrid Community and the Spanish minister of Sport will be in attendance, Contador will be having a private party in Paris with his girlfriend; Macarena and all the team of Astana, then at 12:30 he is off to Madrid airport and Pinto for a “Grand Fiesta”.

After the Tour the two Astana riders (Contador and Armstrong) have very different schedules. Contador will be going to his celebrations in Pinto and then riding a post-Tour criterium in Holland. Lance Armstrong, on the other hand, is off on his holidays to the Bahamas.

Last word goes to Carlos Sastre: “I just didn’t have any strength in my legs!” the ex-Tour Champion dropped to 17th overall at 26 minutes and 21 seconds behind Alberto Contador.

Hasta Mañana, Al