It’s fabulous being on Le Tour but it does involve hugely long days and there’s always too much to do. With that in mind, to claw back a little time to get the pictures up to date, do the washing and get some proper sleep we decided to work a stage start then head for the digs. Stage 19 started in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, a nice wee place with a long leafy boulevard where the team buses lined up and a square at the top of it where the Tour Village was situated.

Le Tour de France 2015 St. Jean De Maurienne
The publicity caravan hires lots of good looking enthusiastic young people to help advertise the various sponsors. Photo©Ed Hood

We had to wait 15 minutes to get through whilst the caravan rolled out – good for waving to all those smiley girls who get the best sun tans on the race.

Le Tour de France 2015 St. Jean De Maurienne
Arredondo’s Teeny Trek. Photo©Ed Hood

The team cars were lining up as we headed up to the Village; you get used to seeing big riders on big bikes, so when you see Arredondo’s bike on the roof of the car it comes as a bit of a surprise – it looks like it came from a toy shop …

Le Tour de France 2015 St. Jean De Maurienne
Cav’s hidden brake certainly looks good. Photo©Ed Hood

Cav’s Specialized has the latest in aero brakes – how much difference do they make in a peloton where the air is churned up ?

Not a lot I suspect; on a time trial bike, sure – but there has to be a ‘next big thing’ and right now, it’s “aero.”

Le Tour de France 2015 St. Jean De Maurienne
Pat McQuaid with ASO accreditation. Photo©Ed Hood

And there he was, the Anti Christ himself, PAT !

He was actually affable, polite and relaxed; he’s Irish, after all – and has Mr. Cookson made a huge difference ?

You’ll have your own opinion.

Le Tour de France 2015 St. Jean De Maurienne
Alain Gallopin. Photo©Ed Hood

And there was Uncle Alain, looking trim and seemingly oblivious to the fact that it’s not been a great Tour for his Trek boys.

Le Tour de France 2015 St. Jean De Maurienne
Tony Gallopin on the Lotto bus. Photo©Ed Hood

But a much better Tour for nephew, Tony’s team – with three stages to Greipel and the team in just about every break, honouring the race and grabbing TV time.

Le Tour de France 2015 St. Jean De Maurienne
Sep Vanmarcke. Photo©Ed Hood

You have to admire guys like big Sep Vanmarcke, a man of the spring dragging that big body of his over the cols with no chance now of any laurels – just doing his best early for Gesink.

Respect.

Le Tour de France 2015 St. Jean De Maurienne
Oleg Tinkov. Photo©Ed Hood

I’ve spoken to Old Oleg a time or two in the past and found him good fun – not yesterday !

He was grumpy and uncommunicative – but I guess that Giro/Tour double is a big bubble to have burst on you ?

Le Tour de France 2015 St. Jean De Maurienne
Caruso and his beard. Photo©Ed Hood

Beards – love ’em or hate ’em – as an ‘old schooler’ I can’t get into them.

As Ivan says; ‘can you imagine Eddy and Bernard battling on Pra Loup in ’75 looking like two lumberjacks ?

But, it’s the way of the world, along with Tweets, integrated brakes and ‘carbon everything’.

Le Tour de France 2015 St. Jean De Maurienne
Malcolm Elliot. Photo©Ed Hood

And on the subject of days gone by, Malc Elliott rode the Tour for ANC in 1987, I well remember loading up the mini bus and heading for Le Ventoux to watch the mountain time trial, won by ‘Jeff Bernard’ – a great trip …

Le Tour de France 2015 St. Jean De Maurienne
Romain Bardet. Photo©Ed Hood

Bardet has made amends for the Col de Mende – where he or Pinot should have won but Stevie Cummings toasted the two of them – with his win yesterday.

But he didn’t look too chuffed at what his DS was saying to him here; “I think we can win the climbers jersey, Romain” it seemed like to us.

But ‘daddy knew best’ and Romain did indeed grab the poids.

Le Tour de France 2015 St. Jean De Maurienne
Peter Sagan. Photo©Ed Hood

Ivan, Dave and Callum aren’t Sagan fans – I have to say that I am, as well as admiring him as an athlete I like the fact that he has a sense of fun and that he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

Le Tour de France 2015 St. Jean De Maurienne
Simon Geschke. Photo©Ed Hood

And whilst Simon has a beard, that was some result he pulled off at Pra Loup.

Le Tour de France 2015 St. Jean De Maurienne
The rollout. Photo©Ed Hood

And they’re off – whilst we head back to do the washing, get all the words and pics up to date and watch the GC battle finally ‘spark’ on tele.

Did I say we were en route to L’Alpe d’Huez ?

I know, we’re VERY lucky.

ciao, ciao.