Monday, September 27, 2021
HomeDiariesLe Tour de France 2009 - Stage 15: Pontarlier > Verbier, 207.5km

Le Tour de France 2009 – Stage 15: Pontarlier > Verbier, 207.5km

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Montpellier

We finished in Verbier today, but first, a little diversion; I’ve always admired Bradley Wiggins as a pursuiter, but as a roadman, he’s never cut the mustard; the cycling saddo’s bible, ‘Velo‘ doesn’t lie:

  • ’03: # Tour de L’Avenir, prologue.
  • ’05: # Circuit de Lorraine, time trial,: # Tour de L’Avenir, stage.
  • ’07: # 4 Days of Dunkirk, prologue,: # Dauphine Libere, prologue,: # Tour du Poitou Charentes, stage,: # Duo Normand.
  • ’09: # De Panne, time trial,: # Tour of Qatar TTT.
Verbier
Contador stamped himself all over the race and his team today.

It’s not bad, but it’s not amazing – today was amazing; he dropped Lance and was driving in front of Nibali and Schleck.

I thought that maybe the Head’s sedate progress through the Pyrenees had been responsible for his exalted GC position – but no, today was a death race with the absolute best on the planet.

Verbier
Total, unqualified respect, Bradley. Photo©Martin Williamson

Alberto Contador; any man that can win the three biggest stage races in the world is special – today he put a line under, boldened and italicised the word ‘special.”

The thing about what we do is that you don’t see much of the race on TV; but I believe that Lance was big enough to admit that he didn’t have it and that the skinny man from Madrid is the best – respect to you too, Mr. Armstrong.

Verbier
We see Craig at the feed zone, waiting to give Contador his lunch, whilst brandishing an SRAM bottle opener! Photo©Ed Hood

The parcours were tough, today – to average 25 mph on a course like that, with a nine kilometre climb to the finish is extraordinary.

It was a long day, today.

Verbier
A Swiss meadow, with Tour ‘copters in the sky. Photo©Ed Hood

We had around 1:45 to drive from the digs in Dijon, to the start.

During the drive I began to rough out the piece about Lance’s bike, on the BlackBerry.

Driving the course is always fun, but you have to be paying attention all the time and make sure that you take sufficient pictures to support the piece.

I write most of the words as we go.

At the foot of the Verbier climb they halted all traffic not directly involved with the race; we could have chosen to take the cable car up, but I’ve done that before, at the Giro, a few years ago – getting of the hill was terrible.

We settled for walking up a bit, taking some pics, then watching the finale on the TV in a little outdoor bar.

Verbier
The Livestrong guys are out very early these days, painting the roads with their messages. We just wonder if they help wash them off again. Photo©Ed Hood

Our parking was good; we were one of the first cars off the hill, but it was still a fair trail to the digs on difficult roads.

Verbier
Nocentini has enjoyed a week in yellow, but that’s over now. Photo©Ed Hood

By the time we reached them, I had the day’s piece and the Armstrong bike piece filed.

The words are only half the battle, though – the pictures have to transferred on to the laptop, culled, edited, labelled and sent, then the “label holders” have to be inserted into the text.

And, of course, there’s always the pallava to get on-line to send the images.

I can’t imagine how it must have been in the old days; photographers had to develop their pics in the bathroom and arrange for couriers to collect and deliver them – I guess we have it easy, when I think about it.

That's our view from outside the chalet hotel.
That’s our view from outside the chalet hotel. Photo©Martin Williamson

We’re in a chalet hotel in Megéve, high in the Alps, near Chamonix – ski country in the winter; walking and mountain bike country in the summer.

Verbier
Our hotel for the next five days (unheard of on a Tour!). It’s a really beautiful spot in the French Alpes called Megeve. Photo©Ed Hood

The wi-fi wasn’t too much of a struggle and the guys that run the place are helpful, so again, “musn’t grumble!”

Rest day today; we’re working our way towards an interview with the Schlecks, this morning – wish us luck!

Breakfast calls.

* * *

Al Hamilton

Casi Hincapié

That’s the headline in AS this morning, nearly Hincapié; the American missed it by five seconds. Winner Ivanov. : It has been eight years since the Russian champion won in 2001 in Aix le Bains.

Verbier
Poor old, popular, likeable George.

Hincapié “Una lástima no ser lider” – ‘it’s: a pity I’m not the leader’ is a bit of an understatement. But you have to feel sorry for the man who was so close. He said;

“it’s a pity I didn’t get the yellow jersey by only 5 seconds. It was hard work in the break to get the gap on the peloton, Garmin and Ag2r didn’t give me anything”.

“Rocky” is now how AS sees Lance Armstrong, at a hotel on a crossroads in Vosge a man with no less than 40 guards making a imaginary police cordon.

Lance Armstrong is the mysterious person waiting, dressed in a grey sweat top with the hood pulled over his face; it’s Rocky Armstrong. “They will never find anything ever” that’s what Lance has to say to the UCI, referring to the dope controls.

Mother and father (and uncles and aunts) of Alberto Contador are at the race to see their son take the race in Verbier. Paqui and Francisco have made the trip from Pinto, near Madrid, to see Alberto, as you would expect from a mother she said he (Contador) “has no rivals”. Aunty Esther sums it up with “Contador, El Mejor”, The Best!

Before the stage to Colmar we heard Evans and Schleck say they were going to attack and nothing happened. Well they are both saying it again about today’s stage to Verbier. Andy Schleck says “we have a plan” lets see.

Verbier
Oscar suffered from pellet wounds after being shot with an air rifle!

“The Tour is exposed to lunatics…” those were the words of Tour director Pescheux after the incident of Oscar Feire and Julian Dean being shot.

The police are questioning two 16 year olds who had an air pistol. The Tour is guarded by 55 moto police and a total of 25,000 police covering the 3,459 kilometres of road and over 1,000 other members of safety organisations.

The back page of AS thinks team Columbia were the big losers yesterday, no points for Cavendish and no yellow jersey for Hincapié”.

Marca opens with the abandonment of Tom Boonen, maybe he shouldn’t have started?

Also top stories are the declassification of Cavendish for irregular riding in the sprint. Alberto Contador is quoted saying “today things will change, there cant much more possibilities for movement, this is a very beautiful stage”:

So there you have it, let’s hope something happens today!

¡Vamos a ver! Let’s see! Al.

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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