Le Tour de France, Bourg-de-Peage-Mende, and Bert’s back! And we were there to see it, a privilege. L’Equipe today says ‘Fin de la Trêve’ – that’s ‘end of the truce, (or respite)’. That’s how it looked to us, Contador letting Schleck know that he’s just fine.
Bert had his ‘pedalling back from the paper shop’ look on his face – but many riders didn’t.
We were standing at the top of the savage climb out of Mende up to the finish at the airport – that’s 3 K @ 10% grade.
Many of the riders chose to ride off the hill rather than wait and go down in a team car and pedalled past ‘against’ the race at low speed; the looks on their faces said it all – wasted.
And yes, that means we’re here – at last, it’s been a long wait; trying to catch the stages on Eurosport, scanning the Guardian every day, logging on to the ‘net and making the daily – but often fruitless – trek up to the International Newsagent on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile in search of a two day old L’Equipe.
Not now though, there’s creds round our neck and on the car windscreen and a current copy of L’Equipe is never more that a stroll to the newsagents away.
Getting here was a bit of a test of human endurance; taxis, trains, cars, planes and a distinct lack of sleep – but what the hell?
We’re here now and with a good night’s sleep in Millau under our belt and fortified by a good breakfast of rough baguettes, croissants, cheese, jam and coffee we’re ‘good to go.’
Millau sits in the shadow of Norman Foster’s amazing Millau viaduct – pictures of that tomorrow, folks.
But back to the race – Contador looked excellent, Schleck looked panicky – he’s burned up his team but there’s a transition and four Pyreneean killer stages to go.
Pete Jacques – who’s close to Stuey O’Grady – tells us that the Australian is exhausted from the work load that’s been imposed in defending the maillot jaune – for Schleck and twice for Cancellara.
Talking of Fab, he looked done yesterday – running on empty.
That’s the thing about Grand Tour time trials, it’s not just about how good an unpaced rider you are, it’s down to how fresh you are.
The chrono speciallists like Cancellara and Martin are tired with all that domestique work; don’t be surprised if Contador wins that TT at Bordeaux.
The Sky boys all looked tired, albeit Brad wasn’t too far off the pace – and, as Dave said, ‘he’s hurting!’
Today’s stage is another transition stage from Rodez to Revel on tough, lumpy little roads – the riders won’t be looking forward to it; but we are!
* * *