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Le Tour de France 2007 – Day 2: Stage 13, Albi Time Trial

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We’re in Albi now; for the Albi Time Trial, but it was midnight last night when we found the hotel.

The centre of Toulouse is just one enormous road work and it transpired we had been about 50 yards from the place on half a dozen occasions but the “rue barre” signs had foiled us.

Sleep came easily, and I had a great dream about 70’s soul singer, Betty Wright. The only thing was that she kept morphing from Afro-haired black soul goddess to a white woman with lank blond hair – I’ll have to ask my analyst about that one.

Albi Time Trial
We’re in lovely Albi for the tt.

We’re on the ‘peage’ – toll road – headed for Albi, our credentials and the first time trial of the 2007 Tour de France.

We just passed the Carlos Sastre supporters club bus, he’s a good rider, but Tour-winner? We don’t think so.

The time trial is a classic of the type; 54 K, long drags where it’s all about power and pain with long stretches of rapid down-grade where the climbers will loose time, hand over fist.

Cancellara will be hard to beat, he was ‘dropped’ yesterday, but that would probably be him saving his legs.

Albi Time Trial
Rabo warm up.

I think Kloden will be out to make a point to team management today. If bruised and battered Vino looses a chunk of time whilst Kloden is right up-there, then team leadership has to move back west to the German – unless Kashechkin is handed the torch, that is.

Albi – the Permanence, and it’s the usual: our creds are ready, but no car sticker. I’m impatient by nature, but it does you no good on the Tour, you just have to be polite and patient; hard sometimes as you hang around some sweltering room in a school on the outskirts of town.

The girls are nice but stressed – probably as a result of dealing with internet journalists who don’t speak much French.

Eventually we got stickered-up and head out to engage in one of life’s simple, but great pleasures – skeking bikes.

Albi Time Trial
It’s important to keep cool in the face of a storm.

The plan for today was to follow a rider and do a piece on that, but I also wanted to do the groundwork for a tech piece on time trial bikes. We had a good wander round the team buses.

There was my neebz, Alan Buttler at the Discovery Team bus, but there are no new toys there; last year I got an “exclusive” from him, he had just fitted new Bontrager tri-bars to Big George Hincapie’s Trek.

This year there’s nothing fresh, but whilst I’ve never been a huge Trek fan, the time trial rigs are cool.

QuickStep had a new Specialized time trial bike for Tom Boonen on display.

Albi Time Trial
Some trick touches on Tom’s bike.

It was pretty ‘tricky’ but does Tommeke really need a special bike to finish tenth from last?

Albi Time Trial
Tom’s tt bike.

We managed a little time under the awning of the Astana bus with Andrew James, Head Product Manager of BMC. Their TT01, Generation two is now the bench mark for time trial bikes, it’s just so well thought-through. Andrew was telling us that they can’t makes bikes fast enough to meet demand.

The Time bikes that Cofidis are on this year may not be that different from last year, but the red paint-job and huge white decals look great.

We had decided to follow David Millar in the time trial, but you need a special windscreen sticker to follow a chrono and it was time to set-off in pursuit of the ‘sticker-boy’.

Albi Time Trial
It’s very wet in Albi today!

By this time, the ‘passing shower’ had become a downpour of monsoon-like volumes. We had to purchase two plastic Tour de France rain capes to keep dry.

Eventually we tracked down the sticker-boy and the magic bit of sticky plastic was duly sellotaped to the inside of the screen – it was so wet we couldn’t get it to stick outside.

Following Millar was a great experience, he’s such a stylish and talented rider, but don’t be fooled by his lowly placing; he rode every inch of that race in a horrendous downpour and would have been a lot faster if he had ridden in the dry.

Albi Time Trial
Dave rode the whole race in torrential rain.

Albi Time Trial
There was no Saunier soigneur around for Dave, so he blagged an Astana jersey to put on, to try to keep warm, and to make his point to the team.

After the test, it was time to go to the press room and get the words and pics off. I did the words on the BlackBerry, whilst Martin wrestled with wi-fi and passwords to get the snaps off to Vancouver.

The final test result was a shocker, I didn’t expect Rasmussen to keep the jersey, nor did I expect Vino to win or Valverde and Moureau to have such bad days.

I was disappointed that Kloden crashed – yeah, your right, I’m worried about my ‘ton’ at the bookies!

Job-done, Martin pointed the Renault at Toulouse and we got lost again trying to find the hotel. We made it though, we’re fed and watered and looking forward to the 197km, 5 hour stage in the Pyrennes tomorrow, from Mazamet (hometown of Laurent Jalabert) to Plateau de Beille, at 6,500 feet the principal Pyreneean nordic skiing centre – talk to you then.

Ed Hood and Martin Williamson
Ed and Martin, our top team! They try to do the local Time Trials, the Grand Tours and the Classics together to get the great stories written, the quality photos taken, the driving done and the wifi wrestled with.

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