Salle de Presse, Meridien Hotel, Paris, 18.55 Sunday July 27th. We were in Etampes and we just watched Steegmans demonstrate how to sprint, he’s a much better sprinter than he is a time triallist.
Sastre won his, and CSC’s first Grand Tour without drama, there was the usual show boating — ‘Carlos with glass of champagne’, it says here on this script – and French riders grabbing TV time, so the sponsor’s VIP’s could enjoy their champagne more.
For me, it’s been another day of great experiences. By choice, I always like to write about racing or racing cyclists. Ideally I would have liked us to have walked the circuit, doing interviews as we went and counting down the laps in a ‘real time’ as the race flashed past. But Pez pays the bills and he wanted me to go with the Festina motor on the Publicity Caravan.
I’m glad I did, if you drive a stage, you cannot help but be affected by the joy, enthusiasm and just sheer ‘good to be alivedness’ of it all.
We spent the night in Orleans, an Ibis Hotel — it was first class and not dear at around 60-odd euros including an excellent breakfast.
There was an Arab run café next door and we had frites and pizza at about 11.00 pm — it looked a bit rough, but the boys were sound and the grub was great.
Martin rattled the Volvo up the road this morning and we were at the start in Etampes in no time.
Pascal Orsini was the man to talk to, quietly though; he’d been partying the night before and needed shades to protect his eyes from the Sunday morning sunlight.
The caravan is amazing, some of the set ups are just so ingenuous and inventive. Vittel have a set up with four or five racing bikes bolted on to motorbike side car beds, so as it looks like the guys are riding the bikes alongside the motorbike.
The bikes have big Derny style seats to stop the ‘riders’ backside getting too sore; they ‘ride’ the full stages, including the mountains.
They have a lovely 60’s sports car as a team car and a police car, they get up to all sorts of nonsense before and during the stage, the guys must be actors, maybe mime artists, because they are so quick witted and clever at what they do.
One of them ‘arrested’ me this morning, (his cuffing technique was much lighter than the real thing, though) and then he and I were on the kiddies motor cycle in the supermarket — nonsense, but it makes for good photos for the sites.
Poor Martin drew the short straw again, I got the ride in the Festina van and he had to drive the car to Paris.
After the finish, I grabbed the Metro up here to the Hotel Meridien to meet up with him, which is four kilometres from the finish and quite plush. It’s where most of the teams stay tonight, and as we leave the press room there’s a lot of riders, showered and in their ‘clubbing gear’ with their wives and girlfriends in the lobby.
We walk past Dave Millar, looking about seven feet tall in his black shirt and troos and fresh-as-a-daisy, almost as if he hadn’t touched his bike today let alone ridden the biggest race in the world.
I think ‘I’m ‘written out’ for the day, so I’ll say ‘ciao’.