“It’s cycling Jim, but not as we know it!”

The presentation of the Tour de France route is something we used to read about in the mags and not really think twice about. We’d see the route in the Comic and have a blether about it, but maybe not think too much about it until Tour time.

Now, there’s a fleet of satellite TV vehicles outside the Palais de Congres and the event is beamed ‘live and direct’ around the globe.

Tour de France Presentation
The Palais de Congress.

Whilst I remember; Viktor left a message on my voicemail to say that; “I saw your big bald head on the telly, and that presentation was a farce!” cheers, Vik.

The format is that once you’re in, if you’re a journo, you can wander down to the front where the riders sit and get a sound bite, and/or a picture.

The ‘Lance Effect’ really is something else.

Tour de France Presentation
Lance Armstrong, looking more statesman-like than ever.

He looks, older and a little less chiselled than when I saw him on the Tour. Immaculate in dark suit with blue tie, the hair is a little longer, and he does have an aura – no doubt.

I thought I might get a few words, but the multitudes descended – I did get some decent pics, though.

Tour de France Presentation
Johan Bruyneel, juggling two phones, one for Astana, the other for Shack business, perhaps?
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Patrick Lefevre and Wilfried Peeters plot.
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Allan Pieper.

If I had to venture a suggestion as to the real reason for Lance’s return; I’d say it was simply that he misses being at the centre of the cycling world. You can tell that he loves it; the ringmaster in his very own circus.

Tour de France Presentation
A very dapper Jonathan Vaughters.

The faces on the photographers were a treat, as if life and death depended on getting the perfect snap of the great man.

It was as if someone had thrown bodies with cameras into a big pile on the front aisle.

Tour de France Presentation
Photographers go mad for Lance.

Cav – by crivens, that laddie can swear!

Tour de France Presentation
Mark Cavendish makes sure his views are known. From not to be messed with…

“I’ll f***ing knock you out!” he informed the journo barring his way. But with his thick Scouse accent, the guy probably didn’t know what he was saying. The multiple ‘F’ words he dispensed were clear enough, though.

But an hour later he was sweetness and light, the street fighter face changed to boy band, cheeky chappie.

Tour de France Presentation
…to cheeky chappy and all round top bloke.

Andy Schleck – jeans? no tie? Hardly, Andy; you have to look the part, my boy, if you want to be the ‘Patron.’

Tour de France Presentation
Andy Schleck on casual dress day, and Bert Contador, very professional as usual.

Alberto reminds me of a 30’s matinee idol playing an off duty matador – handsome, cool, happy in his own skin – when Bert goes, there’ll be no Lance Sinatra come back.

The ASO minders lost the plot a little with us hacks; in fact they lost it a lot – pushing, shouting, bulging eyes, not really the way to do it.

The fact is that the ‘media fest’ is set up, encouraged – but if you throw blood into a tank of barracudas you can’t expect them to calm down, just because someone claps their hands.

Tour de France Presentation
The ASO guys do get a wee bit ahead of themselves.

It was good to be there, though, rubbing shoulders with Cav, Lance, Pippo, Bert, Thor, Heinrich – and all the rest.

Tour de France Presentation
Pippo’s winkle pickers!
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Brice Fiellu, slim, cool.
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The dude that is, Christophe Moreau.
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Henrich Haussler. He’s not a Tour de France stage winner, he’s a very naughty boy.
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Sergei Ivanov, complete with weird brow (wonder how?). You’d give him your last tenner though.

As for the route – it’ll be tough; the first week will see the small teams desperate for exposure on TV, they know that the Alps and Pyrenees are all about survival.

But the sprinter’s teams will need to get results during week one, too – the deep foundations for the maillot vert will have to be dug in those early stages.

Meanwhile, the GC teams will be trying to avoid trouble for their main man; be that Andy, Bert, Lance or Brad?

Arenberg suits Lance better than it suits Bert – but like Madiot says; “they have mountains every year, why not cobbles?”

But, wait a minute – nine months to go, and here I am talking about it already; Jeez ! it must be Tour Fever, and it’s a ten month incubation!

Tour de France Presentation
Are you looking forward to next July yet?