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Le Tour de France 2007 – Day 9: Stage 19, Cognac – Angoulême

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We’re in Angoulême and I forgot to say last night, for the first time in this Tour, I got a prediction right. I chose Casar out of the four man break, you could see it in his eyes, he wanted it more than any of the others.

There’s a great picture of him on the front cover of L’Equipe today – it’s all there in his face, determination and pride; “maybe the other French guys can’t win a stage, but I sure as hell can!”

Angoulême
The superb market where we bought our picnic lunch for later. Photo©Ed Hood

Cafè au lait (have you noticed that Martin has shown me how to get accents above the letters now?) and a Cognac, nine euros!?! “Eef you cannot steeff les touristes, then oo’ can you steeff, hien?” Still, it was a good coffee, a grande measure of cognac and the toilets were free of Lasa Fever.

Angoulême
This is a lovely part of the world. Photo©Martin Williamson

We’ve just passed the stage finish, but we have to go to the start to get on the course, there’s absolutely no danger of getting on to it from a side road, even with creds.

Angoulême
There’s an extra range of stickers and creds you need if you want to follow a rider in the Time Trial. Photo©Martin Williamson

It’s nice country here, flat with unfenced fields of sun flowers and grape vines stretching away from the road to the horizon.

Angoulême
Egoi Martinez doesn’t look too worried about the time trial ahead. Photo©Ed Hood

Finding the start was a doddle today, and even getting the crucial yellow sticker, which you need to follow a rider in a test, wasn’t too bad.

Angoulême
Big wide roads for Charly and us. Photo©Ed Hood

We had a great day, following Charly was cool, even though he’s no specialist you can’t fail to be impressed by the bike handling and speed.

I said to Martin that as you get older, you get better at recognising the times of your life when you are having them, and not after the fact.

Following Charly today, through the beautiful vineyards of Cognac with huge, screaming crowds at the top of the drags – an experience I’ll never forget.

Angoulême
Dave Millar warms up before his test. Photo©Ed Hood

Like I said, in some places the crowds were huge, but not consistently-so, and I can’t help but feel that maybe all the scandal is biting, as far as road-side presence goes.

Angoulême
Davide de la Fuente giving it ‘laldy’. Photo©Martin Williamson

We shared wine and cheese with some nice local folks, it was great; when it was time to go there were hand-shakes all-round.

It sounds corny, but you meet the best folks roadside at le Tour.

Angoulême
KoM Mauricio Soller is no tester, but looks great all the same. Photo©Martin Williamson

The time checks we took were showing that there was a real battle going-on, it was unlikely that Leipheimer or Cabel could win, but the fact that 31 seconds now cover the top three speaks for itself.

Angoulême
After following Charly, we stop and have our picnic. Photo©some random bloke

We were standing at 10K to go and there was a good buzz there, but the radio commentary wasn’t the usual frenzy, rather matter of fact it was.

The press room is never exactly friendly and it’s uncool to get excited about the racing, but it was even ‘flatter’ and more subdued than usual.

Angoulême
A puncure for a QuickStep rider right in front of us -the wheel change took 20 seconds! Photo©Martin Williamson

I’m not daft on the press room, it’s bad for my kharma, I’m so full of enthusiasm for the racing and I feel it drain out of me when I walk in the place – or maybe it’s just me.

Contador’s press conference took place next door and he had no-sooner sat down, than the Puerto questions started. I don’t know what his involvement was with Fuentes, but if you ask the same questions today as you did yesterday and the day before, you’ll get the same answers.

Especially given that I know he speaks at least a little English, but he’ll only take questions in Spanish. This means he’s hearing most questions twice, before he answers them.

He also seems quite a thick-skinned wee cookie, he sits there impassively as the Puerto this, that and the other questions come at him. If he was involved, shouldn’t the UCI have acted?

It’s now 23.41 and we’re nearly in Paris, I even took a wee shot of driving. I’m going to go on the internet and see if I can get details of the French driving test.

I’m particuarly interested in learning to tail-gate correctly and also the new arrangement of manouvere, signal and what’s a mirror?

To get points on your licence in France, you would have to fire an RPG out the back window at a squad car.

Anyway, a good day, but I’ll be glad to see a pillow. Last day tomorrow – Boonen?

Ed Hood and Martin Williamson
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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