Another good sleep, alarm at 06:00 and straight into the shower, shave, jump into shorts and a T-shirt then down to the car and haul the bike out, stick the wheels in, blow the tyres up, run over it with a baby wipe [they work great] and we’re off to the Strasbourg Prologue.
The mission is to ride, photograph and review the course. My Ibis hotel isn’t far from the race HQ, once I got down there it took a bit of time to orient myself.
A road gang was hard at work tarring-over the tram tracks which crossed the course – should have had those boys over for the Scottish 25. I rode-up the finish straight but fell-foul of one of those power-mad guys the Tour seems to do so well: “Go back!” I showed my press pass: “Go back!” “Cheers pal, it was nice listening to you.”
The start and finish are close to each other – the race goes down one side of a dual carriageway, loops through Strasbourg then comes back to the same dual carriageway to head back in the opposite direction to the finish. It is almost completely flat with just a bridge over the river to give gravity any role in the day’s proceedings. It is technical though and windy.
I didn’t put Zabriskie down as a winner due to the frequent 90 rights and lefts; he could blast on the straights but the corners would cost him time. I rode the course twice, stopping to take notes and pictures on the second lap. It was braw to be on the velo in the cool morning air with the thought of being able to write about bike racing in my mind.
Whilst Thursday and Friday gave me great war-stories, reporting mega drug scandals isn’t what my trip is supposed to be about.
Pedal back to the hotel, another shower, some breakfast and off to work. I parked-up in the press car park and walked down to the press room, it was just after nine but already really warm and hotching with people.
It’s important you get to the press room early because it get’s so you can’t swing a cat in there despite it being a huge space. I filed my copy then had to sit and caption my pics from the prologue ride before emailing them off to Canada.
The press room gives you cabin fever after a while so I struck-out to try and find Millar’s bike — no dice – there was just one machine on a stand at the Saunier Duval camp.
When I was out I took shots of the publicity caravan. How do they get MOTs for those things? “Have you made any alterations to the vehicle?” “Yes, I’ve put a bear on the roof.”
I grabbed a shot of old Didi the devil too and some of famous names from the past — Dag Otto Lauritzen, Joan Bruyneel, Marc Sargeant, Dirk De Wolf and Jean Luc Vandenbroucke — uncle of that talented but troubled man, Frank.
Jean Luc is in very good nick, slim and young-looking, he rides his velo most days apparently.
Back to the ranch to caption and email that lot, then I did a piece about my first impressions of the race, I finished that and emailed it off.
I really wanted to see David Millar’s comeback ride and arrived down at the ramp just as he was circling to await his start, looking so skinny you want to hit him. Bradley Wiggins was doing the same thing but the pair studiously ignored each other.
Millar was being greeted every two minutes by riders and management figures, pats on the back and hand shakes; ‘welcome back son, could have happened to any of us.’
Once Millar was off I ambled over to the other side of the Place, at about 500 metres to go to watch the stars finish and try for sunstroke (don’t I ever learn) Savoldelli looked good, so did Valverde, Boonen, Rogers, Zabriskie and Hincapie but Hushovd was just awesome, mouth open, pain in every line on his face – a beast of a boy.
With the benefit of hindsight the course was made for him — a strong man’s parcours, but one where bike-handling was at a premium.
A surprisingly slow ride came from Floyd Landis, but it transpired later that he missed his start, despite being on the patch I don’t know by how much he missed it, but word is that he could have won without the penalty.
Millar was 17 th, but what will really piss him off is that Wiggins was 16 th, I was hoping for a Scottish win, but to expect the man to compete against men who have been racing since January is unrealistic with the benefit of that old hindsight thing again.
Wiggins, well, he’s a wonderful pursuit rider but I just don’t think he has the sheer horsepower to be a top chrono-man, despite what ‘the Comic’ says.
They both looked lean, smooth and fast, but didn’t have that slow-revving, mega-power technique that Hushovd and Hincapie demonstrated.
Back to the press room to write it all up, caption the pics and email it all away, then time to write this. That’s 19.30 from a 06.00 alarm, with no stop lunch, I think I’ll enjoy that pizza even more tonight. Sprinter’s day tomorrow, I might even ride the last 10km so I can give Big Tom some tips, talk to you then.