Le Tour ’11, Stage 14 – last day in the Pyrénées
Andorra. Everything about it seems wrong. For a start, it's an independent tax haven/principality; sounds good, posh perhaps, like Monaco - but really it's just a run-down skiing town sitting at the top of a Pyrenean mountain, an hour's drive over sweeping twisty hair pinned roads from the nearest habitation.
Some pals said to me that when they went to Andorra for skiing, they thought the place was OK. Perhaps the snow-covered all the cracks, but I'm not sure how the inhabitants' attitudes could be masked; almost - no, everyone - we met was unpleasant, in attitude and manner.
Smoking seems to still be allowed indoors, and so the smell in the hotel was revolting. We booked the hotel on the basis that it promised "wee fee", but of course upon arrival and starting the laptops up in the horrid dining room we were told "the router she not work". Clearly the young guy manning reception was more interested in smoking and chatting with his mates in the bar than helping us out.
In a nearby bar, there was a guy on a laptop when we arrived, so we figured we were onto a winner.
Whilst we were able to get the day's pictures uploaded, the smell, the constant looks from the people in the bar, and the guy abusing his girlfriend at a table across from us, made us retire as quickly as we could to our room, half past midnight and meal-less.
Ed and I had enjoyed our day before all that though.
We had driven the parcours from the start in Saint-Gaudens, the central town in the Pays de Comminges popular: with fishermen, mountain bikers and skiers, with a plan to find a parking spot within a few k's of the last climb, the summit finish at Plateau de Beille.
Driving on race route is always a privilege, and seeing the fans waiting excitedly by the roadside for over a hundred miles across the countryside and up the mountain passes is cool, most of the time.
We were enjoying the experience, windows down, sun belting in, when a bunch of Dutch fans thought it would be a terrific laugh to throw full cups of water in our windows, soaking us, our 'phones and camera equipment. I'm driving up a narrow mountain road, just missing the masses of people by the roadside, and then get a bowl of cold water in my face.
"Stop the car!"
Of course, once confronted with their stupidity by angry Scotsmen, no one was admitting to anything.
In due course we arrived on the Plateau de Beille climb, where the stage finished at the top.
We saw a spot large enough to squeeze the car into around 3km from the top and waited for the race to come up to meet us.
Voekler was riding strongly, sitting in a small group with the Schlecks, Contador, and Cadel.
But old Levi isn't having a great time - he looks out of it.
Some of the riders are just riding within themselves, making the time limit is good enough for today.
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