NavardauskasThere’s always drama when you work le Tour.

We’ve followed Tour time trials for years; roll up at the start, tell the dude which rider you’re following, they give you a windscreen sticker, marshall you into position at the appointed time and off you go.

This year, however we were notified that we had to attend a meeting on Friday evening at the Permanence after the stage if we wished to follow a rider.

Fair enough – but then they changed the venue a few hours before the meet was due.

We got caught in one of those horrendous Tour de France traffic jams then couldn’t find the damn venue so I guess it’ll be ‘Plan B’ – work the start then take the ‘off course’ route north to where it ‘kisses’ the parcours then set up camp to time check/take pix.

You gotta be flexible.

We worked the start today, at Maubourguet; it was nice to be among the busses, bikes and riders.

And to catch up with the guys we’ve known for years – Charly Wegelius for example.

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Charly Wegelius. Photo©Ed Hood

He’s always glad to see us and chat away.

We asked him what his take was on the current; ‘what’s Nibali taking ?’ frenzy.

A school of thought which we don’t subscribe too, I might add.

“All you have to do is look at his track record in Grand Tours in recent years; it’s not like he’s come from nowhere.

And the fact is that every Grand Tour winner for the next 50 years who’s a level above the rest will have the same things said.”

And we have to tell you that we weren’t surprised when Navardauskas won, today.

Charly told us that they were really going for it, Stage 19 was their last chance with just the time trial and Champs Elysees to go.

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Tom Jelte Slagter. Photo©Ed Hood

But the man who did the groundwork for the big Lithuanian to win was Netherlands champion, Tom Jelte Slagter.

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Craig Geater. Photo©Ed Hood

GreenEdge spanner ace Craig Geater was there too; he’ll be in Glasgow for the TT and road race as NZ team manager – we just hope the power doesn’t spoil him.

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Jens Keukeleire. Photo©Ed Hood

We had a quick skek in the Tour Village – not many riders to report although GreenEdge’s Jens Keukeleire was there and getting directions from ex-pro Bart Leysens.

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Elia Viviani. Photo©Ed Hood

Cannondale roadman sprinter and omnium rider, Elia Viviani – who we first encountered burning up the boards at Grenoble – is in support of Sagan here and must be a tired man – he rode the Giro too.

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Brian Coquard. Photo©Ed Hood

Another fast man we first saw at Grenoble is Brian Coquard; Olympic omnium silver medallist and Worlds U23 Road Race silver medallist in Copenhagen.

He’s adapted to pro life well and has been winning; but the Tour is a different animal – maybe next year ?

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Chava. Photo©Ed Hood

His ‘sell by’ may be approaching but Chava still exudes cool and is very popular.

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Matthieu Ladagnous. Photo©Ed Hood

Matthieu Ladagnous seems to have been riding le Tour forever – and with Pinot’s current form he’s entitled to smile.

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Vino chats. Photo©Ed Hood

Vino was in demand from the journos – to answer the same old questions about his past.

He kitted up was caught and served his ban – but he’s a pariah because he didn’t break down in tears and say, ‘sorry.’

If you do that then you’re a ‘good doper’ – it baffles me.

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Ekimov. Photo©Ed Hood

If you check the UCI world track records pages you’ll find plenty mentions of ‘Ekimov V.’

Despite spending a lot of time in the company of a certain Texan, he’s Teflon coated and now a main man at Katusha.

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Greipel. Photo©Ed Hood

No one asks le Gorille any questions they shouldn’t, though.

Stage 19 didn’t go his way so it’s all about Sunday and those cobble stones of the Place de la Concorde.

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Chris Horner. Photo©Ed Hood

For a Grand Tour winner, there’s not much of a buzz around Chris Horner – but it has to be said that he’s riding into good form…

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Hanseeno Shoes. Photo©Ed Hood

We grabbed a pic of Adam’s famous shoes – the new version looks much nicer but requires a bank raid to facilitate purchase.

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Tony Martin. Photo©Ed Hood

Tony Martin was smiley en route the start – maybe the thought of saying ‘hello’ to his TT bike on Saturday ?

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Jack Bauer. Photo©Ed Hood

And ever polite and grounded Jack was in demand from French TV just before the roll out.

And at that we could have headed for a bar; but instead we headed up the ‘off course’ route, Bastide d’Armagnac and the cyclists chapel in search of Luis Ocana.

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Luis Ocana. Photo©Ed Hood

He was married here and his funeral service was conducted here; albeit his ashes were scattered back in the land of his birth – España.

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The chapel. Photo©Ed Hood

Based on the Madonna del Ghisallo cyclists’ chapel in Lombardy it’s bigger and more reverential than it’s Italian equivalent.

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Immortalised in glass. Photo©Ed Hood

Ocana is immortalized in stained glass which was painted and fired by former French Professional Road Race Champion Henri Anglade.

Henri has an image of himself up there to catch the light – he’s on his bike en route Santiago de Compostella; final destination on the ‘Way of Saint James’ pilgrimage and venue for the closing TT of this year’s Vuelta.

Among the huge amount of memorabilia on display is Tom Simpson’s leader’s jersey from Paris-Nice.

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Jersey display. Photo©Ed Hood
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Tom’s memorabilia. Photo©Ed Hood

A special place – but there are deadlines to meet and we have hightail it…

A demain.