The day started off with a brilliant warm sun beckoning race fans from all over the world. With RBA’s Euro correspondent Tim Maloney at the wheel we made good time to the seaside start. On the way I got a bit excited when we came upon the team Cofidis convoy and without thinking stuck my head out the window to grab a quick shot and poof there went my highly coveted, sweat & dirt stained pink John Deere hat. The hat was a relic of my Wisco days and Tim was kind enough to throw a 180 to go back and fetch it.
Hours earlier and later, this section of road would be about five feet underwater!
The start town was a quaint little place that was inundated ten times over with race fans and officials. The coolest part was the road course that took advantage of the low tide to pass through the Passage du Gois which is either dry or underwater depending on the hour of the day. The road surface was rough and still wet in places. As usual, there were plenty of both patient and enthusiastic race fans parked out along the course - a vestige of the Tour that you won’t find in any other sport.
Maybe the best part of the day? The following message....
The tv reception has been spotty, I'm hoping its not affecting the Tour so much...I'll keep you posted. I MISS AND LOVE YOU -Original Message-
To: Xakota Espinoza
Tim does his best impression of a Gendarme magnet - in the end, he showed them!
A few hours later we found ourselves atop the finish climb uo Mont des Allouttes. The place was even more packed as the scene at the start and at no time did the Gendarmes seem to know what the correct policy was in terms of who could get where. In typical Maloney, he would have none of their ignorance and expected them to give way to the correct policy no matter how many of them surrounded the car to tell us we could not proceed as intended. Imaging what a French version of a Rodney King-like beating would look like, I sheepishly urged Tim to obey, but as principled as he is, he would have none of it. Following his persistent arguments, the cops finally realized that indeed, Tim was right and we should be allowed to pass the barricades. It made all the difference in the world and I was once again appreciative of Tim’s ability to make things happen.
Todd and Bobke - good friends for the next three weeks!
Once up at the finish we happened to find our way to the Versus Channel truck where we were embraced by our ever-lovin’ Uncle Bobke and his new sidekick and former American racer Todd “Go-Go” Gogulski. With some strong coffee and candy bars to keep us fueled we sat and watched the race as Todd and Bobke continued to discover the boundaries of their new-found relationship….it went something like this...
“I was reminding Bob of when Bob and I first met,” Todd exclaimed, “and he says he has no recollection of it. It was at the Coors Classic in 1986 when we were in a group that included Bernard Hinault and Andy Hampsten. For 45 minutes I sat on Bobke’s wheel and I was totally cross-eyed from the effort. All of a sudden BoB turns around and yells, “If you want to fight, let’s get off the bike right now!” I thought he was crazy and we never talked about it until just yesterday – and he has no memory of it happening!”
On the big screen we watched in horror as the big crash unfolded as the riders approached. That magnificent pile-up (which would undoubtedly be played endlessly on TV news channels the world over) was followed by a second crash inside the 3km limit. Wow, what a crazy end to the race. In the end, much to the chagrin of popular opinion, Lotto’s Phillipe Gilbert pulled of his widely expected win by out dueling Fabian Cancellara in a big gear mashing uphill effort. It was awesome. As the riders pulled through to the team cars it looked like veterans returning from battle; withered faces and bloody body parts. This is such a freakishly awesome hard sport!
We had a moment with American idol George Hincapie who was “enjoying” his 16th Tour de France. “ I crashed, but at least I fell on top of somebody else so it wasn't so bad!”
Okay, that's it for this round, Tim is spinning donuts in the parking lot outside - we're off for the team time trial.
BIKES ON PARADE
Here's what a roof rack of Look 695s look like at speed.
The color green seems to be popular this year with the Sky Pinarellos joining the Europcar Colnagos with green accents.
Astana's fast looking Specialized Venge.
You know a team (Garmin) is well supplied when the exotic R5 California is the back-up bike.