Tuesday, September 21, 2021
HomeDiariesLe Tour '11, Stage 14 - last day in the Pyrénées

Le Tour ’11, Stage 14 – last day in the Pyrénées


Andorra. Everything about it seems wrong. For a start, it’s an independent tax haven/principality; sounds good, posh perhaps, like Monaco – but really it’s just a run-down Pyrénées skiing town sitting at the top of a Pyrenean mountain, an hour’s drive over sweeping twisty hair pinned roads from the nearest habitation.

Some pals said to me that when they went to Andorra for skiing, they thought the place was OK. Perhaps the snow-covered all the cracks, but I’m not sure how the inhabitants’ attitudes could be masked; almost – no, everyone – we met was unpleasant, in attitude and manner.

Smoking seems to still be allowed indoors, and so the smell in the hotel was revolting. We booked the hotel on the basis that it promised “wee fee”, but of course upon arrival and starting the laptops up in the horrid dining room we were told “the router she not work”. Clearly the young guy manning reception was more interested in smoking and chatting with his mates in the bar than helping us out.

In a nearby bar, there was a guy on a laptop when we arrived, so we figured we were onto a winner.

Whilst we were able to get the day’s pictures uploaded, the smell, the constant looks from the people in the bar, and the guy abusing his girlfriend at a table across from us, made us retire as quickly as we could to our room, half past midnight and meal-less.

Catching up with Aldus, the HTC team doctor, at the feed zone.

Ed and I had enjoyed our day before all that though.

We had driven the parcours from the start in Saint-Gaudens, the central town in the Pays de Comminges popular: with fishermen, mountain bikers and skiers, with a plan to find a parking spot within a few k’s of the last climb, the summit finish at Plateau de Beille.

Just a little unnerving.

The Trappo peaks.

Driving on race route is always a privilege, and seeing the fans waiting excitedly by the roadside for over a hundred miles across the countryside and up the mountain passes is cool, most of the time.

The race passed Fabio Casartelli’s monument, and we stopped to pay our respects, and got annoyed at fans leaning their bikes against the memorial.

We were enjoying the experience, windows down, sun belting in, when a bunch of Dutch fans thought it would be a terrific laugh to throw full cups of water in our windows, soaking us, our ‘phones and camera equipment. I’m driving up a narrow mountain road, just missing the masses of people by the roadside, and then get a bowl of cold water in my face.

“Stop the car!”

Of course, once confronted with their stupidity by angry Scotsmen, no one was admitting to anything.

The guys on the Col d’Agnes weren’t the water-throwers.

In due course we arrived on the Plateau de Beille climb, where the stage finished at the top.

We saw a spot large enough to squeeze the car into around 3km from the top and waited for the race to come up to meet us.

Alberto looked comfortable, sitting with the other ‘heads’.

Voekler was riding strongly, sitting in a small group with the Schlecks, Contador, and Cadel.

Thomas keeps his yellow jersey for another day.

Cunego is doing okay.

William Bonnet too, riding well this year.

But old Levi isn’t having a great time – he looks out of it.

Levi passes us and looks like he just wants it all to end.

Some of the riders are just riding within themselves, making the time limit is good enough for today.

Nearly at the top.

Martin Williamson
Martin is our Editor, Web site Designer and Manager, and concentrates on photography. He's been involved in cycling for over 42 years and has raced for many of them, having a varied career which includes time trials, road and track racing, and triathlons. Martin has been the Scottish 25 Mile TT and 100 Mile TT Champion, the British Points Race League Champion on the track, and was a prolific winner of time trials in his day, particularly hilly ones like the Tour de Trossachs and the Meldons MTT.

Related Articles

Le Tour de France 2014 – Stage 1; Leeds – Harrogate, 191 km. Kittel from Sagan!

Welcome to VeloVeritas' coverage of the Tour de France 2014. Stage one looked like a "truce" to VV - except for that finale, of course. We give our views on Cav and a few other aspects of the 2014 "Grand Boucle" (with a bittie to Yorkshire tacked on, that is.) You'd have to be devoid of a soul not to feel sorry for the man - even more so when he puts his hand up and says; "my fault!". Last year he wasn't at his best in le Tour, despite the stage wins. He'd finished a very hard Giro - aren't they all ? - and then rode the Tour.

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 3: Verviers – Longwy, 212.5km. Peter Sagan is just too strong

Peter Sagan’s quote of the day? “What is pressure?” As team mate Marcus Burghardt said; “he was such power in his head and that’s what makes the difference.” Despite pulling his foot in the sprint at the top of that nasty finish climb he was just too quick for everyone...

We Know That We Don’t Know (Preview: TDF12 St14)

Cadel Evans’ aggressive riding late in Stage 13, and the subsequent carnage and one day style “balls to the wall” racing has assured us of one thing this Tour: we don’t know what’s next! Today is a day with two large climbs a long way out from the finish, the second including ramps up to 18%, and peaking some 40km from the finish. The descent ends about 20km from the line, and the whole stage is right by the southern coastline again, bringing wind into the equation.

Cadel Evans – A Grand Victory?

Cadel Evans is going to win the Tour de France in 2011. Hahahaha! I'm going to say that again, just because I can. Cadel Evans is going to win the Tour de France in 2011. What a nice sentence to read and write! The time trial last night was expected to be a shootout between the world's best time triallist, Fabian Cancellara, and the next big thing, Tony Martin.

Daryl Impey – the First African Maillot Jaune

Chris Froome will go down in the record books as Great Britain’s second Tour de France winner. But whilst the slim man who now lives in Monaco may have GB next to his name in the record book – he’s originally from Kenya by way of South Africa and his win is a huge shot in the arm for cycle sport in the Dark Continent. But Froome was beaten to the punch as the first African in yellow by a man whose passport still declares ‘Republic of South Africa.’

Le Tour ’11, Stage 11 – a wet start, typical Pyrenean thunderstorm

It was a very warm evening yesterday, and we wandered back round to the hotel last night after our dinner in the middle of a typical Pyrenean thunderstorm - huge bolts of lightning searing across the sky and claps of thunder which lingered and reverberated for what seemed like 20 seconds. In the space of 5 minutes, the roads were flooded. We went to sleep in our "pod" room to the sound of pouring rain, and woke up to the same - only worse. It wasn't a nice day to be outside, let alone reporting on, or riding, a bike race.

At Random

Entrepreneurs on the Saddle – an extract from “The Cycling Professor”

"Entrepreneurs on the Saddle" is the first of several excerpts from my book "The Cycling Professor", to give you a flavour of the topics I discuss in it. Thanks to the guys at VeloVeritas for the opportunity to do this.

Jack Bauer – Aiming for the Commonwealth Games

Tour Doon Hame final stage winner, Endura's New Zealand National Elite Road Champion, Jack Bauer took time, just a few hours after his win, to tell VeloVeritas how it was done.

Norrie Drummond – Reminiscing with Quality Trivia

It’s hard to believe but it’s now 13 years since VeloVeritas’ Belgium and East Europe archivist, Ivan and I drove through to Strathaven to meet Mr. Norrie Drummond, former racing cyclist of note in Auld Scotia and Belgium and patron of the Drummond Trophy Road Race, one of few remaining ‘landmark’ races in Scotland. We chatted to Norrie recently to hear some more stories about the old times...

George Mount – the Original Colourful, ‘Salty’ American Racer

Along with Californian Mike Neel the man who opened the door for US riders performing in Europe was a certain George Mount, a prolific winner in the US. He turned pro for San Giacomo in 1980 after the US announced their boycott of the Moscow Olympics and rode as a cash man for three seasons. Suddenly it wasn't a dream for US riders - Neel and Mount were actually doing it. We caught up with Mr. Mount recently – he’s not bland!

Pre-season Chat and the Tour de San Luis

My season kicks of in a few days at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina. I've never been to Latin America, so I'm a bit apprehensive - Brits aren't the most popular in Argentina, but it's probably just paranoia on my part.

Hamish Strachan – “I thought Italy would play much better to my strengths”

You may have read our recent interview with Senor Flavio Zappi here on VeloVeritas? This season the Zappi Racing Team will have strong Scottish representation with Messrs. Hamish Strachan and Matthias Barnett quitting Bonnie but chilly Scotland and the brooding, icy waters of the North Sea for La Bella Italia and the more benign waters of the Adriatico.