Yeah I rode the Tourmalet today for Versus Channel’s "Ride with Bobke" promotion. The guy I rode with was this mountain bike shredder from Louisiana named Josh. I was expecting some “Joe Six Pack of Donuts” kind of guy who would barely make it, but he was a shredder. It was about a 22k climb and originally I was planning on taking some very sticky handed bottle feeds - the kind that would last for about 7k! There’s one 5k section that has about a 9% grade – it’s murderous. But we made it up in about an hour and a half – the Pros went outrageously fast and made it up in about 50 minutes.
The whole scene was pretty surreal. I mean first of all, I never expected to be climbing up the Tourmalet almost 30 years after I did it in the race. But beyond that it was like some Euro version of a drunken Woodstock with all these Euro-schloogs that were as hammered as a tent stake at the circus.
The one good thing to see is the return of the crowds. I haven’t seen this many people at the Tour since the Armstrong/Ulrich glory days. The crowds, the hysteria, the traffic jams and all the food is gone from the markets – the schloogs are cleaning out the food aisles! It took Lance seven years to build this into a huge race. It took the Euros three years to almost ruin it and then another two for Lance to build it back up.
I think the Tour organizers have learned two important lessons; The first is that personalities count. The old regime with Jean Marie Blanc always saw the race as bigger than the riders. The race is huge, but over the years it’s always been the same race. What the fans want to get behind are the riders. They respond to the trials and tribulations of a sympathetic character.
The other thing they learned is that you just can’t throw a rider out for doping if you base it only on suspicion. I think they’ve learned that throwing the book at a guy based only on suspicion is bad for the sport. If a guy gets popped, absolutely throw the book at him. Otherwise, praise the riders on, celebrate them and praise them. I think, I hope, that there will be no more guilt by association just because you throw a leg over a top tube.
As for tomorrow, it could be like last year where the promoters ran the stage up Mt. Ventoux late into the race thinking it would bring added excitement. But the riders were so exhausted by the time they got there and none of the big drama came into play. So tomorrow could be like that….or it could be a blood bath!