Tour+de+France+logoJack Bauer; tall, dark, slim, handsome, polite, grounded, friendly – it would have been so nice to add ‘Tour de France stage winner’ to that description.

Dave and I were holed up in a nice old bar/restaurant attached to a genteel hotel in Carcassonne watching the finale of Stage 15 and willing the big man from the land of the long white cloud to cross that line first.

It wasn’t to be – and our red wine fuelled chat died away as we watched the images of a heart broken Bauer sitting on the ground in tears as his team mates tried to console him.

Fate decreed that we wouldn’t have to wait too long to console the man in person.

This evening (I’m writing this on the evening of the Monday rest day) we were in the NetApp hotel to find decent wi-fi after McDonald’s usually decent wi-fi let us down, and in walked Jack, looking a million dollars.

I gave him a cuddle when we met and was immediately reminded of just how damn skinny you have to be as a pro in 2014.

Jack Bauer
Jack and Dave catch up. Photo©Ed Hood

It was good to see him and we hope to follow him in Saturday’s time trial.

He’s over the crushing disappointment of Sunday and was happily signing autographs.

His next target after le Tour is the Commonwealth Games and he has a real notion to win – he’s almost one of us so shout loud for him.

Jack Bauer
Martin Elmiger and Jack work hard to surprise the peloton with 50k to go. Photo©G.Demouveaux/ASO

Our day in Carcassonne was cool, as well as watching le Tour on le tele we explored the town.

The Canal du Midi meanders through it and we agreed that to pedal it’s 240 K tow path on a mountain bike would be cool.

Carcassonne is divide into the Cite, the old town up on the hill and the Ville Basse, the more modern sprawl around the base of the hill.

The Ville Basse is nice with leafy squares and parks and that France Sud vibe.

The Cite looks amazing but is actually commercialised tatarama hell.

We had to bail out, the souvenir shops cracked us.

Jack Bauer
The lower town seen from the castle and the fortress wall of the Cité.

Our hotel was fine, basic but clean, with good wi-fi and a pizza place right next door.

That rest day saw us carless, as we’d originally planned to come out on the Monday but flight times changed; between our initial research and actually booking the flights it became a Sunday flight.

We bussed into town, did the tourist thing, watched Jack on the TV and then slept like you do after getting up at 02:00 am.

Our rest day master plan was to get the bus back to the airport, collect the car, pick up our credentials then attend the QuickStep “mussel party” and press conference then we had a couple of interviews booked – with Tinkoff’s Michael Mørkøv and NetApp’s Zak Dempster.

We got the car without drama but back at the Permanence things took a turn for the worse when the staff informed us that the Permanence didn’t fire up ’til 14:30.

Plan B had us head out to the QuickStep gig first then have to double back to Carcassonne and the creds before heading for our interviews with Michael and Zak.

Before we were let loose on the mussels, the team presented their title sponsor for next season, Etixx.

The QuickStep team will be changing their name from Omega-Pharma to Etixx next season.
The QuickStep team will be changing their name from Omega-Pharma to Etixx next season. Photo©Ed Hood

Mark Cavendish flew in for a catch up with his team mates and to be part of the photo shoot.

Jack Bauer
Mark ignores the question to pose for the VV camera. Photo©Ed Hood
Jack Bauer
The team have missed Cav but have refocussed their efforts superbly well. Photo©Ed Hood
Jack Bauer
The journos are on a rest day too; Michael Kwiatkowski is put to work interviewing Matteo Trentin. Photo©Ed Hood
Jack Bauer
Ale Jet has the scars and mahogany legs of the seasoned pro he is. Photo©Ed Hood

At the Tinkoff-Saxo hotel Michael looked great and with Majka’s fine rides in the Alps the team’s heads are back up – but mention of Alberto’s crash elicits a big sigh from the Dane…

Zak Dempster is way skinnier than he was in his Condor days but is still as cool and chatty.

Anyway – on race route for Stage 16 so best say, ‘ciao’ and we’ll let you know how it goes, a demain.