‘How’s it goin’ Shane?‘ we ask Skyman Shane Sutton as we cross the car park in search of Michael Barry for a rest day interview.
‘Been better, mate!‘ he fires back between hard draws on his fag – it’s difficult for a man who wears his heart on his sleeve to ‘spin.’
Inside, Michael Barry, who’s an eloquent, polite, sound guy tells us that morale is good – he best get out and tell Shane that, then.
Michael Barry was our fourth gig of the day.
If we wanted to, we could do one piece and have a leisurely day – but that’s not what it’s about.
We’re on the biggest race on the planet – you don’t waste time.
First appointment of the day was at the Euskaltel bus – and a meeting with Sammy Sanchez’s Orca.
We were bang on schedule until we got ‘pulled’ for speeding – Dave’s French and ‘little boy lost’ act was worth a BAFTA and after our lecture we headed on our way – it’s a 90 Euros on the spot fine if they push it.
Over at the Euskaltel hotel it’s friendly chaos, no ropes or barriers or inscrutable faces – the team belongs to the people of Euskadi.
Kids, riders, old wifies, mechanics, DS’s, bike riding Tour followers and journos mill around together – wonderful.
Tomas, the mechanic who shows us Sammy’s Orca is an old chum from the Vuelta a few years ago.
There’ll be a full piece on the Olympic champion’s bike soon. We liked his ‘B’ bike better than the ‘A’ – we’re not big gold hi-lites fans.
Next up was an interview with Liquigas’ Great Dane, Brian Vandborg; he’s a big strong boy with perfect English – including all the florid phrases.
Andy Schleck was holding a press conference in the back garden of the hotel so it was pretty chaotic.
‘Andy talks tough‘ say the headlines, but Contador wasn’t giving any press conferences, he knows that he has to save every bit of nervous energy for today and Saturday.
Over at the Omega Pharma Lotto press conference there were quality nibbles and an interview with Matt Lloyd.
Matt is about the size of Willie Carson but his personality is big – he’s old school; no time for hype, brouhaha about chains coming off or stages that are too hard. We like that – 1970’s pro attitude.
Our final interview was the Michael Barry one; as we walked into the Campanile restaurant, over in the corner a cluster of journos hung on every word that Mr. Brailsford said – we ducked that one.
Michael was cool, softly spoken, looks you straight in the eye and is easy to have a joke with – we like him.
Meanwhile Edvald Boasson Hagen smiled patiently through an interview with Norwegian TV.
In the evening it was ‘Friends Reunited’ time as Ed Tarwinski, ex of the Dundee Wheelers and Dunedin CC: ambled in to our hotel.
And Scottish Cycling’s new president Alasdair Maclennan and his lovely wife, Marion joined us for a drink later in the evening.
We wish him well with his plans for the rejuvenation of the sport in Scotland.
VeloVeritas hopes he’ll be the man to end the national obsession with monster hills, remote moorland and race fans that need sheared every year.
Tourmalet tomorrow – wow!
Some rest day stats for you from 2009
- Spectators: 12 to 15 million.
- 70% male, 30% female.
- 85% French.
- 130 kilometres – average distance a spectator travels to watch the Tour.
- 6 hours – average time spent beside the road.
- 118 TV channels.
- 75 radio stations.
- 398 newspapers.
- 61 internet sites from 41 nations.
- 2,477 journalists in total.
- 186 countries show the Tour on TV.
- 60 countries show it live on TV.
- 155,000,000 page views on the internet.
… and that’s why it’s the biggest annual sporting event on the planet.