I hate to start with our Formule 1, again – but to emphasis the true glamour of being on le Tour, we’re sharing lodgings with the race’s cherry picker truck.
I had to get up early to do a phone interview with Cameron Wurf, this morning.
He’s from Tassie; like the Sulzbergers and Richie Porte – did I ever tell you I had a Tasmanian Devil for a fiancée?
No, some other time then?
He’s with Champion Systems, this year and just pulled off a cracking result – second in the Tour of the Qinghai Lakes.
Martin had a wee bit of a long lay – well earned after all those kilometres around la Belle France and photo editing.
I’m writing this as we sip a kir in the shadow of Pau cathedral – all those hours staring at a laptop screen in an F1 room can lead to cabin fever; you get to needing a bit of light and air.
Already a couple of teams have ambled past, out for their rest day leg loosener on a day of glorious sunshine.
L’Équipe carries a huge picture of Fedrigo on the front cover; Vande Velde looks resigned to his fate.
Inside, there’s a readers’ poll – will Bradley Wiggins retain his yellow jersey in the Pyrenean Cols?
We’ll see what French opinion is, tomorrow.
Our next stop is the Vacansoleil Moules Party at 14:00 – if I’m still capable of writing, after it, I’ll tell you how it goes…
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…But before we talk ‘moule parties’ it’s now 22:56 and just as we thought it was going to be a Lou Reed, ‘Perfect Day’ as we munched our steaks, took in the street life of Pau and dreamed of basic but comfy F1 beds, the BlackBerry flashed red.
It was Ed Junior, back in Dunfermline, ‘have you heard about Frank?’ trying to be a trendy dad, I replied, ‘Bruno?’
But young Ed had the last laugh; ‘Frank Schleck has failed a dope test!’
We flashed back to that night in Lourdes a few years ago when Michael Rasmussen was dragged off the race by his Rabobank team.
It wasn’t long before the press release came in from Radio Shack.
“Our team attaches great value to transparency.
“Because of this, we can announce the following as a response to the adverse analytical finding of Xipamide in Fränk Schleck’s urine sample of July 14 during the Tour de France.
“After being informed by the UCI about the presence of xipamide in the urine sample of Fränk Schleck on July 14, the team has decided to immediately withdraw Fränk Schleck from the Tour de France.
“Even though an abnormal A sample does not require these measures, Mr. Schleck and the team believe this is the right thing to do, to ensure the Tour de France can go on in calm and that Fränk Schleck can prepare his defence in accordance with the legal timing to do so.
“On the subject of Xipamide the team can declare the following: it is not a product that is present in any of the medicine that the team uses and the reason for the presence of xipamide in the urine sample of Mr. Schleck is unclear to the team.
“Therefore, the team is not able to explain the adverse findings at this point.
“However, the team is fully determined to collaborate with the anti-doping agencies in order to resolve the matter.”
We can tell you no more at the minute, as we hear more, we’ll let you know – but what we can add is that it’s very depressing for us.
I know that it sounds corny, but if you drive a stage, wave to the folks roadside, see the smiles, the joy, the kids, the picnics, the old folks in their chairs – it’s very uplifting, you would have to be Vik on his very worse day not to be moved by it.
The ‘positifs’ come like someone dropping a sack of potatoes on your shoulders.
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The ‘moules fest’ was the business.
Vacansoleil has a good vibe to it, relaxed, friendly and accessible.
Frank Kwanten is the press guy and he works very hard at it – he understands that well fed and watered journos tend to say nice things about your team.
The mussels come all the way down from Johnny Hoogerland’s uncle’s mussel farm in Yerseke, Zeeland in Holland.
Apparently it’s a very complex business cultivating the molouscs – it takes between 18 months and two years for the little chaps to mature.
Then we eat them!
The frites were perfect and wine just lovely – just a pity we had to work and take all those pictures.
On the subject of Johnny, we had 15 minutes with him; ‘I remember you’ he smiled as we sat down to chat.
Johnny is a cool guy, no airs or graces, very down to earth – I’d love to have a few beers with him.
There were other famous names in the room, Leon Van Bon for one and – forelock touched as I say it, Felice Gimondi.
When I was a boy, watching the Primavera on ITV in 1974 I remember seeing World Champion Felice off the front of the peloton and headed for solo victory on the Via Roma.
He was in the rainbow jersey on his celeste Bianchi – pure class.
After he passed, the fans were throwing themselves into the road and bowing down.
‘What are they doing?’ I thought to myself – what they were doing was kissing the tarmac where Felice rode. I was hooked even deeper; this was the sport for me.
And to close on the afternoon – Johnny Hoogerland loves Scotland.
We retired to the FI to write the piece up, edit the pictures and get them uploaded.
That task duly done, we ambled next door to the Mercure Hotel to interview Michael Mørkøv.
It’s a pleasure to talk to the Dane; he’s so professional, so honest and open.
Rather smugly, we set off for central Pau and our steak – but you know what happened next.
Pyrenees tomorrow, if it’s going to happen – it has to be tomorrow.