We left Ax3 Domaines this morning, and are now in Lourdes – a strange place, like a religiously themed Blackpool; only it’s not little replicas of the tower they’re selling, rather all manner of tat plastered with religious images. The last time I was there was with Martin, we sat, stunned in a late night pizza place – yellow jerseyed Rasmussen had just been sent home from le Tour by Rabobank.
I’m hoping for no scandals this time.
Our digs are near Lourdes in Argeles-Gazost, a reciprocal deal with a bike tours company – EUROPEDS – we get digs, they get ads.
We were up on the Port de Pailhères today, baking in the sun, we’d expected a sort out, instead we got a gallus ride from a Frenchman – always good for the race.
Christophe Riblon has made it a good Tour for AG2R and guaranteed himself a ride for next year along with a wage rise.
At the top of the Pailhères the ‘heads’ were together and we’d thought that maybe the sort out would come on the final climb to Ax-3 Domaines.
But no, apart from Sanchez and Menchov taking a few seconds back on the final climb, it’s status quo.
Bradley lost big today, four minutes, he was just off the back of the favourites group when we saw him, but he didn’t have it.
He’s come clean about his lack of form in an interview that’s on the Daily Telegraph site.
To us it was apparent from the prologue; he’ll probably go better now that the play acting is finished.
A rider has to come in to le Tour at the absolute top of their form to have any chance of doing anything.
The competition among the riders on the French teams is especially fierce; every young rider dreams of le Tour.
Long term, Geraint Thomas looks a much better prospect, still only 24, he’s been a world and Olympic champion, world record holder, rode a solid Dauphine, won the British road race title and performed admirably in this Tour.
Provided he’s not placed under the ‘British Tour winner by 2015’ pressure and left to mature, we predict even better things for this very down to earth young man.
The weather was fabulous yesterday, it matched the scenery, not just the rugged beauty of the mountains; the quiet flatlands running in to the foothills had us saying a lot; ‘it would be really nice to ride these roads on the bike.’
I wasn’t saying that on Pailhères, though; a brute of a climb, continually changing direction and gradient and impossible to find a rhythm on.
The crowds in the Pyrenees are never as big as in the Alps – that’s simple geography, the Alps are in the middle of Europe whilst the Pyrenees are on the fringe of the continent and sparsely populated.
But that’s not say that fans are scarce, far from it – the noise and excitement at the top of the Pailhères made it a very special place to be.
Our digs are nice, by the time we’d edited and sent our pics it was past dinner time but the lady of the house made us a salad and the vin rouge was just braw.
Port de Balès tomorrow, 19.3 K @ 6.1% – ouch!
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