The Salle de Presse in Saint-Amand-Montrond, 17.30 Saturday 26th July and Carlos Sastre has just won the Tour de France, it won’t be official until tomorrow after the big show on the Champs Elysee, but it’s won.
Personally I’m happy with the result; at least Sastre took the race by the scruff of the neck on L’Alpe D’Huez, an ‘exploit.’ Evans strategy of following may have been dictated by the weakness of his team, but it would have been hard to be enthusiastic about him as a Tour winner.
Sastre is a good pro, who doesn’t have an over inflated opinion of himself, and I’m a fan of most things Spanish, so that’s cool.
As we sit here though, the word is out from Denmark “that Frank Schleck and (Bjarne) Riis met with Fuentes in Madrid back in 2005 and suggests that Frank Schleck is linked to the Puerto nickname Amigo de Brillo,” depressing — but who cares, apart from conservative Danish newspapers?
I was lamenting the lack of fans on L’Alpe t’other day, I have to eat humble pie and say that the last two days have not raised any such complaint from me; yesterday especially the crowds were great, and when we followed Adam Hansen in the time trial today, it made me really want to be roads side with my neebz, and a cool box full of baguettes, fromage, jambon et biere.
On the monitors, French TV is interviewing Marc Sargeant [did I ever tell you that Dave used to race against him when Marc was Belgian amateur champion?] the word ‘devastated’ was invented with this interview in mind.
Now we have Schumacher explaining how he can beat the best time triallists in the world twice during this Tour… aye, right.
Then, all of a sudden, there he is, just a few feet away — Carlos Sastre, a small, shy man who looks rather overwhelmed by it all.
Brian Nygaard, the CSC press and ‘fixer’ guy beams from the podium; ‘questions, s’il vous plait?’
Carlos answers in Spanish, with a lot of words extended with an, ‘eeeeeeeee’ on the end as he thinks about the rest of his answer.
The room is ‘flat,’ no ‘buzz,’ not helped by Carlos snacking on peanuts as he listens to the questions being translated.
Behind us a battery of TV cameras have appeared, to record every word the little Spaniard says — he can talk, that’s for sure, we just had a huge monologue, which thanked everyone in CSC, including the gardener at CSC world headquarters, who makes such a great job of cutting the grass.
Now we have the; ‘will the 2008 Tour not be remembered for the doping scandals, rather than the racing and why should we believe that any rider is clean, including you?’ question, it’s from a US journo, in English.
We get the answer in French — that’s handy, but we do get a translation; “I am clean, I know how much I suffered, I know how to train, we can’t eliminate the cheaters, but we can fight them, etc, etc.”
There’s no applause for Carlos when he leaves the room.
It’s the second time we’ve had riders in here today, Arvesen and O’Grady got chucked out earlier because they didn’t have the correct creds, the Norwegian was making a big production of it; “I just want to see my team mates on TV and this man is throwing me out!”
Matthieu, the ASO man in question was unimpressed; “Leave! Now!” All good fun.
We enjoyed today’s trip around the chrono course, it’s always uplifting to drive the route and today the country was nice, it was cool when Adam caught Steegmans, it gave me a good focal point to write about.
Hansen is a cool guy, thoughtful and helpful, as are most of the pros that you come across.
One day to go, we’re supposed to be on the Festina Tour caravan lorry, hope I don’t have to dress up!
Wait a minute, Festina? Didn’t they …