It's 11:00 and we just arrived in Paris. Luckily, the angels above gave me a hall pass and a miracle occurred – I got to get from Ventoux to Paris on a plane....now that's the way to make a seven hour drive – in 45 minutes! On board with me and Hummer was the entire French TV crew which included Laurent Jalabert, Ronan Pensec and Laurent Fignon. It's pretty sweet that Ronan is still rockin' the big Harley Davidson that he bought in Albuquerque when he visited me back in 1991 – those big Harley's are hard to come by in France so once you get one you have to hold on to it. It's good to see Fignon too. He's having a hard way with pancreatic cancer, but he decided to tough it out and still cover the race...that's a Tour de France biker for you.
I do feel sorry for all these people getting on the plane with me...there's like 600 French people and they have no one doing good in the race. Here we are; two Yanks and two Brits and we have like seven guys in the top running.
It's not any different from the bikes that make up the race either. Look at the top ten – nine of them are from American bike companies. And why? Because the Euro bike makers are all shackled with goofy teams. Look at Time. They make sweet bikes, but they've e aligned themselves with B-Box who have no hope of doing well in the Tour. I think for the U.S. companies, not only do they display more R&D zeal, but their dreams of doing well outweigh the bureaucratic relationships that define the racing culture in Europe. Cofidis could probably make it worthwhile for a U.S. company to sponsor them, but instead they just bounce back and forth between Look and Time. The problem is that it's the entrenchment of all these old relationships between team managers, the bike makers, and the riders that win out - and not true racing judgment.
As for Ventoux, what made it special today was the people on the hill. It's not easy to make that journey and yet they rode, walked and crawled their way to the top to be a part of something special, some spectacular. They numbered in the hundreds of thousands to watch an exhausted group of men withstand obvious fatigue to haul themselves up one of the most unforgiving climbs in true championship form. Don't you just love bike racing?
All the boys were impressive today. I'd say that once again Lance made the most of it. He matched all the accelerations and once again provided us with such exceptional moments of talent and determination. Without question, Lance's third place finish is as impressive as any of his wins.
Tomorrow will be mostly processional, but the race for the win, the battle between Hushovd and Cavendish, will be something to behold. It's a tough choice, but I'm putting my money on Cavendish.