Bonjour! VeloVeritas joins le Tour.
The hotel is the Formule 1, Viry, with a wonderful view of a pile of tyres – it’s a glamorous life.
But we’re not complaining.
Easyjet, Edinburgh to Geneva wasn’t too bad, finding the car hire was a bit of a magical mystery tour but we were soon headed for Mâcon, our credentials and the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank hotel.
French radio seems to be getting worse so we’re fully CD-ed up this year; Bob Marley’s ‘Keep on Moving’ seemed like a good choice to begin with.
And – we’ve got a satnav.
The TomTom makes life so much simpler – with Brian Blessed’s booming voice taking us straight to the industrial estate where the permanence was.
Picking up your ‘creds’ – accreditation – is rarely straightforward, except on the Vuelta where it’s horizontally laid back.
We had to get our car stickers changed, for some reason they’d allocated us orange stickers which mean you can only take the car on the parcours after the race – not much use, really.
We needed blue – they let you drive the parcours between the advertising caravan and the race.
It didn’t take too much negotiation to sort it out – and soon we had the vital bits of plastic.
It’s always a weight off your mind when the car is ‘dressed’ and you have the lanyard around your neck.
Christian Prudhomme was on hand, reporters hanging on his every word – we were more interested in making cheese pieces from the local cheeses and bread.
We tend to avoid the permanence as a rule, due to the ‘I’m too sexy for my job’ crew; but there are always goodies in there – like free copies of l’Équipe.
What’s interesting in the panel inside which deals with his palmares is that pre-2011 there’s nothing – he did have a few results, but these tended to be time trials in minor French stage races.
His re-birth has been spectacular.
Mâcon is the geographic heart of France and a nice city it is, too – located beside the river Saone with roadside cafes and a Mediterranean vibe.
There’ll be plenty of time for road side cafés for us later in the race – we had a man to meet…
Saxo-Tinkoff was holed up at the Campanile Motel with a very relaxed feeling in the air.
Nick Nuyens was hanging out at a reception – not resting those legs, we noted.
Fritz, one of the team soigneurs – and a man who likes Scotland; and Peebles in particular – tracked down Michael Mørkøv for us.
Michael has come a long, long way from the young track rider in his first six day down in Grenoble where I first met him, what must be seven years ago.
He’s been World Madison Champion, team pursuited at the very highest level, ridden – and animated – most of the major classics, ridden the Giro, and now, the Tour.
And through it all, he’s changed little – except that he’s more confident, slimmer and has the musculature of a panther.
You can read the interview with Michael here.
If you’re a journalist, you’re meant to be impartial, but it’s hard for us with Michael, I like the man a lot – for me, he stands for all that’s good about the sport.
He’s dedicated, fiercely loyal to his team, a perfectionist when it comes to his appearance and bike – a professional, in other words.
And to make me love him even more, he presented me with one of his signed polka dot jerseys – tears weren’t far away.
Just to take us back down to earth, as we drove back to our digs in Viry, the email came in that Di Gregorio had been dragged off the race by the gendarmerie.
What we can’t help but observe is, why drag him off the race? Why not wait until the race is over?
There’s little doubt that there are other interests at play with these doping cases – people trying to make a name for themselves; especially in the Lance case.
But let’s forget drugs, witnesses, courts, attorneys and all the negs.
The Tour de France is in full flow, a British rider leads, today we head for the high mountains and VeloVeritas is here to do our best to transport you to La Belle France and le Tour in July – there’s not too much to complain about.