Ciao! It was gone midnight when we hit the hay last night, here at the Le Tour de France 2008. There was no thought of food, just sleep, it seemed to take an age to get off the mountain at Pratto and get to our digs at Racconigi – maybe it was just because we were so tired.

Breakfast was chronic, stale bread, no cheese, no ham and everything else in polythene wrappers.

First mission of the day was to meet Stuey O’Grady at the CSC press conference.

Le Tour de France 2008
The CSC guys look like they’d rather be anywhere else.

The press conference was crowded and Bjarne told us how proud he was of everyone in the team – the team looked bored and the journos didn’t ask anything too risque.

As soon as the conference was over, Martin approached Stuey, introduced himself and we grabbed a seat on the hotel patio – inside it was stuffy and warm.

Just as we sat down, the guy from Pro Cycling Mag arrived and without introduction told us that he wanted to speak to Stuey and he didn’t have time to wait, his face “the length of Leith Walk” and his brows “gatherin’ storm.”

Le Tour de France 2008
Stuey gave us as much time as we needed – despite other UK ‘journos’ being utterly rude.

We asked Stuey if there was a meet organised with these guys, but there wasn’t, so we just “dadded on’ with the interview.

A prerequisite for being a pro cycling journo, it would seem, is a sense of self importance and a lack of courtesy; we’ll happily stay amateur.

Stuey was cool, he’s an easy guy to talk to. I’ve never seen him look skinnier, if you’re in any doubt that he’s a pro – check out the tan and battle scars on his arms. We took a few more shots of Voigt, Cancellara, Sastre and Schleck then bolted to get some breakfast.

En route back to the town we passed F des J and Lampre out for their rest day easy run; “bonjour Philippe!”

Le Tour de France 2008
FDJ take a sunny ride for a couple of hours.

Editing pictures and writing is much nicer sitting outside a café in Fossano than it is in the press room.

As we sipped our capuccinos, Lampre rolled past, Martin got a great pic of Ballan; and there was ‘Bruz’ – Bruseghin – our podium hero from the Giro; no such lofty heights here, but a cry of “Vai! Bruz!” got a smile and a shout of recognition back.

Le Tour de France 2008
Ciao Ale!

Although it has to be said that Lampre don’t have much to smile about in this Tour.

Le Tour de France 2008
Getting the iPod setup.

The Columbia hotel is in Fossano, so that’s where we are just now, my Pez Stuey interview words are away, Martin has sent the pics to go with it, so that’s our piece done for today, whatever gets done now is a bonus.

However, we have interviews arranged with Dario Cioni and Adam Hansen for later in the day – and maybe Matt White.

Not long after I wrote that paragraph, AG2R’s – who share the hotel with Columbia – hugely experienced Jose Luis Arietta ambled past.

Le Tour de France 2008
…and thees site, VeloVeritas. Es muy bueno.

He was in the day long break over the Agnel and Prato yesterday finishing fourth, and has been a pro ‘since gress’ as we say in Fife. He was an Induarain domestique and rode for Banesto way back when Jez Hunt was there; “Jerimee iz good guy,” he tells us.

Martin used those Spanish lessons to good effect and the dark, skinny climber chatted away for ages, even showing us his favourite Spanish cycling website and his palmares thereon.

Another man we bumped into was former World Pro Points Champion, Laurent Biondi, he’s on the AG2R management team.

I know him from the Grenoble Six, where he helps Bernard Thevenet run the show, we had a wee chat, employing my best school boy French.

We decided to head down to Caraglio to catch Matt White, he’d said he’d phone us, but DS’s are busy guys and sometimes you have to be a wee bit gallus.

He was chatting to friends when we arrived, so we had a good skek at the Felts.

Le Tour de France 2008
Some really nice carbon here.

The black bare carbon ones are nice; the equipment is the usual “real world of pro cycling” mix of 2008 and 2009 Dura Ace.

For example, Millar has the new 2009 rings on his 2008 cranks because there aren’t 180’s available yet.

This doesn’t look nice because the new rings sit proud of the old cranks – but it’s what many pro bikes are like if you look closely. That said, they will always be immaculate and function to perfection.

“Whitey” was interesting, eloquent and good fun.

Le Tour de France 2008
Whitey was generous with his time, tactics, and tips.

As we left, Jonathan Vaughters wandered round the car park, BlackBerry bolted to his lug.

Our next subject, some 40 minute drive away at Pianfei, was Cadel’s main man, Dario Cioni, who gets skinnier, more tanned and handsome every time I see him. It was like meeting an old friend.

Le Tour de France 2008
Dario even brought VeloVeritas some of his own olive grove’s oil. Good lad.

Hovering around was Dirk de Wolf, now with Lotto management – he was chuffed that I remembered he was a Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner, in the ‘old days.’

Dario has an olive grove, from which he produces quality olive oil, the business is going well for him and when we left him, we were both clutching bottles of the precious liquid.

It was interesting to see Denis Menchov being interviewed by Spanish Radio, right behind where we were sitting.

He doesn’t look nearly as imposing off the bike and clearly wasn’t particularly enjoying the experience – like all the Russians he talks through the pedals.

One to go!

We were late back to Fossano to meet Adam, but he came out of dinner to give us our 20 minutes, he must think we’re worth talking to, or he wouldn’t do that.

He’s laid back, big, strong, tanned and a man who gives you carefully considered answers.

Le Tour de France 2008
Adam interupted his dinner to meet us.

His personality isn’t as extrovert as most Aussies, but he likes a chuckle and isn’t hard to talk to – again, the interview is on Pez here.

We searched Fossano high and low for a restaurant, but we couldn’t find a pizza place.

It was well gone 10.00 when we finally sat down to a slab of take away pizza and panini outside a bar, we had a beer to wash it down and an ice cream to finish – braw.

As my tutor at college told me never to write, we got back to the digs; “tired but happy!”

Ciao, ciao, montagna tomorrow, stay tuned.