Ca va, ca va !
Friday, en route the Stage 19 start and it’s been hectic.
We arrived on Sunday afternoon but by the time we got to Valance, the Press Centre was closed – so it was ‘Plan B,’ go to the finish at Gap the next day and uplift them.
Vital bits of plastic duly collected on Monday morning we headed off up the Col de Manse which is just behind Gap for Stage 16.
The Manse is the col where Beloki crashed on the descent and Lance took to the grass to avoid him.
It was big Lampre Spaniard, Rubens Plaza doing the business with the remarkable Sagan second, again.
The race was hugely spread out but with ‘Froomey’ looking well in charge of affairs.
And we even enjoyed a visit from cycling Royalty …
Second Rest Day
The rest day was busy for us – there was our fave QuickStep ‘mussel party’ then an interview with Mark Renshaw – who’s since quit the race.
Lampre were in the same digs and full of nonsense.
Then we high-tailed across town to meet the MTN boys, team principle, Doug Ryder, team manager, Brian Smith and stage winner, Steve Cummings.
Steve is one of the good guys – grounded, friendly and very easy to talk to.
And it’s nice to see ‘one of our own’ in there at the highest levels of the sport, Brian Smith and ‘doing the biz.’
Sleep wasn’t a problem for us back at our digs in Embrun – a nice town.
The weather makes all the difference, it’s so nice to be able to sit outside a restaurant at 10:00 pm, enjoy the warm air and watch the world go by.
Stage 17 was the one to Pra Loup – we made camp on the lower slopes, conscious that with ‘dead end’ finishes, getting off the hill is a real battle.
It was another day of baking heat and it’s hard to imagine how tough it must be for the riders on a long grind like the Col d’Allos – heat as well as gravity sapping your strength.
Geschke came into the early slopes – which begin straight off the bottom of the Allos – like a rocket, with little warning so our pictures of him weren’t the best.
Talansky, Uran and Pinot were all in hot pursuit but the chunky German held them all off for the biggest win of his life.
Those of my age will remember his dad, Jurgen who was a top individual and tandem sprinter back in the days of East German track domination in the 70’s.
A thing which never ceases to amaze us is that folk who have been up the hill for hours on end to watch the race begin to flood back down after the first 20 or so riders.
Crazy – and disrespectful.
Last man was MTN’s Louis Meintjes interview who made the time cut by three minutes but abandoned that night – too ill to continue.
Up ’til that point MTN along with Lotto-Jumbo and Europcar were the only three teams in the race with full rosters.
There was a huge thunderstorm as we came off the hill, making dodging civilians and mad team car drivers all the more difficult for driver Callum.
Our digs were in the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is Les Orres – a ski bum hang-out in winter – inadequate street lighting, unfriendly restaurant staff, some sort of huge kid’s free for all taking place in the apartment reception and wi-fi to make you cry.
We won’t be back there in a hurry and were happy to drop down the hill out of the place to our breakfast stop at beautiful Savines-le-lac.
The last time I was here we met Jim Cusick!
Yesterday’s Stage 18 was all about the new climb of the Lacets de Monvernier a zig zag wonder which somehow scales a gorge wall.
But not before we’d worked the start a wee bit – bread with legs and handsome coureurs the order of the day.
The views on the way over the parcours were stunning.
We knew we’d have to walk in to the Lacets climb – traffic was restricted to Tour vehicles and team cars only but weren’t prepared for the fact that it was shut to ALL civilians.
We had the climb to ourselves – there was just one “I’m too cool to speak to you guys, your lenses aren’t big enough” photog and a few bamz who’d dodged the cops.
We’d have like to get there a little earlier to get higher up before Bardet spun into sight but our spots weren’t bad and neither were the pictures.
The wi-fi in the digs was steam driven and we had to send our images one at a time – which took forever.
Still, our burger with blue cheese and salad wasn’t bad at all – and we enjoyed our introduction to Génépi liqueur, the local speciality.
Maybe that’s how we’re so thirsty, today ?
The Stage 19 start beckons – and I’ll try to keep us more up to date for the last three stages of this the 2015 Follow Froomey Sportiv.