“Bonjour,” really that should be the German equivalent there of, but my German is even more limited than my French. We spent the night in Freiburg here at Le Tour de France – just across the German border, the hotel room is huge, if a tad Spartan; but that didn’t stop us from sleeping like bricks, before starting our day to Besançon.
It’s very difficult to get digs close to the stage town; best to book around an hour away – which is what we did.
After the sleep deprived living death that was Thursday, we were “fully kindled up” – as we say in Fife – yesterday; a good kip makes all the difference.
Martin and I got three pieces away yesterday, usually two is the target, but we had Tyler Farrar to catch up with.
Today we’re targeting two stories; the riders’ view of the first two weeks and “Lance’s bike” with a piece on the caravan as our “banker.”
Breakfast was fine; 08:50, nearly time to go – more tonight.
It’s 15:50 now, we got our caravan pics and ten riders’ worth of sound bites and headed off to find Lance’s hotel, to pester the mechanics.
But there’s no escaping le Tour; round a corner we came and it’s route barré (I think that’s the right spelling).
So, we’re sitting in this wee village – name unknown! – waiting on le Tour to streak through.
The word is that Big George Hincapie is in a break which has gone eight minutes clear and he’s maillot jaune virtuelle.
The sun’s oot, we’ve got two pieces in the bag and two cameras full of good pics; no need to panic.
The ‘speaker car’ zooms past; Martin reckons they said the gap is 8:30 from the peloton to the break of 12.
You never can tell in this Tour, we thought a break would be let go but be controlled smartly by AG2R; or it would end in a sprint – this wasn’t scripted.
But we’re at 45 K to go; maybe there’s time for AG2R to hang onto that jersey.
There’s a tail breeze rising as the motor bikes hurtle past – cops, photos, service, official – and Jeez! they’re here! motoring!
Partners in crime, brothers in arms all with a common goal – until the sprint, when they’d cut each other’s throat for a stage win.
There aren’t too many stages left to win; the Heads will take the mountain top finish stages and time trial; there are only three men in the race on the Champs Elysées – but there are an awful lot of teams desperate to justify the expense of dragging 30 or 40 folk round France for most of July
A Francaise des Jeux, a Lampre, Ivanov – Stijn Vandenbergh told us that was the Katusha tactic – Hincapie, Maaskant and others that I couldn’t register.
It was nice just to watch the break there and not to worry about taking pictures.
It’s a big gap; and whoosh! a tide of blue, yellow, brown and white – Astana and AG2R.
One more day of hard work for Nocentini’s faithful servants and one more move on Johan Bruyneel’s chess board.
And then they’re gone.
Usually I never ask about moving barriers or the like – I “just do it!” but for some reason, this time, I ask the head cop.
‘Jobsworth’ doesn’t do him justice; he doesn’t even look at me as I make my polite request; “Non! Vous attendez!” – “No, you wait!”
Despite showing him our creds and pleading, he’s adamant; then I realise he’s loving it – why are people like that?
Martin takes us on a half hour loop through the hills to get onto the course further up, looking forward to passing the cop, but on the other side of the barriers back at where we started; but by which time the damned road is now open to the public – ah well!
Dave texts to say that the gap is 6:42 with 27 K to go; on GC, George is at 5:25 – it might be close.
We get the Tour on the car radio – Ivanov has jumped the break and taken it. He’s been a pro since ’96, Lada, TVM, Fassa Bortolo, T-Mobile, Astana and now Katusha; that’s what you call “experienced.”
Now it’s 8:30 and we’ve just left the Astana hotel where we were talking to Lance’s mechanic, Craig Geater and playing with Lance’s Trek.
Dirk Demol (Astana DS) was telling us that it was Garmin who hauled the Hincapie/peloton gap down enough to deny him the jersey. Dirk said he couldn’t think of any tactical reason other than one American team seeking to deny another the yellow jersey.
Astana were happy to let George take the jersey; it would have kept the pressure off them.
A text from Dave, more scandal – Cav declassed for riding big Thor into the barriers; this could make it very difficult for Cav to take the green jersey at the end.
There’s only one sprint stage to go – the Champs Elysées and with an 18 point buffer on Cav, it’s hard to bet against the big Norseman.
We’re on final approach to the digs at Dijon and there are a lot of pix to edit and send, so best say “bon nuit” and “au demain.”
* * *
“Nadie se mueve” Nothing moves.
“Los favoritos no se atacaron. Haussler gana y Txurruka, secundo” sports daily AS reports today. The favourites don’t attack. Haussler wins and Txurruka, second.
All a bit disappointing as the stage to Colmar was to be the first appointment with destiny for the Tour favourites, but a big nothing!
Other news starts with the shooting of Oscar Friere and Julian Dean.
There are photos of the bullet marks on the leg and arm of Oscar Freire, he and Julian Dean were shot at around the 155 kilometre mark of yesterday’s stage to Comlar with 4.5 mm shot.
“I felt a very strong pain and there was a lot of blood” Freire said back at the hotel after the team doctor had removed the bullets.
Rabobank and Garmin teams have put the case in the hands of the French Gendameria, who have opened an investigation – and I thought that only happened in Drumchapel!
Alberto Contador said;
“This is the Tour with the least attacks. The cold and rain had much to do with yesterdays disinterest in action from the favourites, very quiet. My biggest rivals are Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck. Sastre is a little behind, but a great racer and the last week is good for the complete rider”.
What about the loss of Leipheimer? Alberto thinks;
“He is a big loss for the team. I hope he recovers soon”. Levi said “I couldn’t move my hand. I’m going home to convert into the No.1 fan of Astana”.
On the same page as the bad news of the “positivo por CERA” for Landaluze and Serrano is Lance Armstrong complaining that he has suffered another analysis by the UCI dope controllers. He and team-mate Andreas Kloden were requested at the control at the end of the stage at Colmar.
“This is one of the hardest sports and I had to get up at seven in the morning on a mountain stage!”
Serrano and Landaluze maybe felt the same way about their dope controls, but they are guilty.
Just so you don’t think that the Tour is the only cycling at the moment, AS reports on the Vuelta a Madrid.
Alejandro Valverde was second in the first stage time trial, 23 seconds behind local rider, Hector Guerra, who rides for the Portuguese Liberty Seguros team.
Oscar Sevilla of Rock Racing was 4th and team mate Mancebo was 10th, tomorrow they race over a hilly 180 kilometre course.
That’s the news from Iberia.