07/16/03 2:05am- BUT AM I READY???
Good question. Had a final proof-of-concept ride Tuesday
morning up King's Mtn, bringing along a handlebar bag stuffed,
essentially, with weights, along with an extra camera in one of my
rear pockets. Not so bad; did about 27:30 up the hill (with
Todd, Kevin, Steve & John attending). Handling isn't quite as
fast with a bag up front, but it's workable. Next diary entry
will be in a couple days from Paris!
07/16/03 1:38pm SFO SO DO I SIT BY THE
WINDOW WATCHING FOR MY BIKE TO BE LOADED or just not
worry about it? This isn't Minneapolis, after all, home of the
ultimate baggage-mangling ground crews. It's quite the
display; if you're in the Minneapolis airport on your way to
somewhere else, make sure you watch what goes on, right under your
nose. Stuff falls off conveyor belts 10 feet or more to the
ground, guys throwing (literally) large piece of luggage that may,
or may not make it to their intended bulls-eye. Not a place
I'd feel comfortable routing a bike through. But here at SFO,
watching them load & unload luggage is pretty boring. Probably
the way it should be.
So far, things have worked out well. No extra charge for
my bike, and I'm still sitting pretty in seat 17C on a
777... supposedly one of the very best economy-class seats you can
find (verified by www.SeatGuru.com,
a pretty nifty site that tells you about seating on all the major
airlines). Would have liked biz class, of course, but that's
tough to get on SFO to CDG flights (unless you're willing to burn
150,000 air miles instead of 50-80,000 for a normal seat). I
do feel a bit like I'm cheating, as this is the first time I've
flown using Frequent Flyer miles.
So how many people on this flight are heading out for the 'Tour?
My guess is quite a few, based on snippets of conversations I've
heard (as in, "Did Beloki really break his femur, elbow and
finger?"). Still, only saw one person checking a bike in ahead
On the plane, seems like I can't travel anywhere incognito.
"Are you a scientist?" the young woman asks? Uh...no. "I
know you from somewhere. Do you live in Berkeley?" No, I
own a bicycle shop. "In Berkeley?" No, Redwood City.
"Oh! I bought one of my bikes from you!" To which I
tried to humorously reply "Probably" but she took it differently,
thinking I was doubting her (which wasn't the case) and replied "No,
I'm positive I bought the bike from you!" And then
somebody else on the plane was nice enough to give me some VeloNews
magazines to read... as if I needed one more reason not to sleep on
the plane. Sigh. Doesn't really matter... no matter
what, I really don't sleep on planes.
ARRIVAL IN PARIS CDG (the
main airport in Paris) remains one of the more interesting enimgas
I've come across. Normally the mass confusion occurs when
you're trying to catch a flight out, but this time trying to get out
was a bit of a hassle, as they had one half of the passport check
area closed off for maintenance, and it seems people don't have a
clue about how to queue up for such things. Still, the most
thing about CDG is the center of each of the main terminals, where
you have something akin to Disneyland's people-mover (if you're old
enough to remember that) gone mad. People traveling in tubes
in all manner of different directions across the center of the
terminal, with a trip down unavoidably requiring a trip up first.
Whoever designed the bizarre traffic patterns inside CDG probably
gets a real kick out of the parts in some movies where all the
lights in an intersection turn green at the same time, resulting in
massive pile-up. That pretty much describes most of my
Also had my first experience getting taking advantage of on the trip
from the airport to the hotel. I'd arranged with Airport
Connections for a shuttle via their website, which I very clearly
specified a "shared" shuttle (as opposed to the much more expensive
"private" option). And, as the website stated, drivers carry
machines so you can pay with a credit card. Well, we get to
the hotel and all of a sudden the 35 euro fare is 65 euros, and he
has no credit card machine on-board. Yeah, right. This
one I'm going to follow up on later.
I'm now settled in... in the strangest way, it seems like I'm back
home. Bruno, our French service manager in Redwood City,
probably has a very difficult time figuring out how somebody who has
such a hard time picking up the French language can possibly be as
much at ease as I am here, and I really can't tell you why.
But as we were landing, there was this brief feeling that I'm "home"
again. Go figure.
how about the view from my hotel room? I'm staying the first
night at an Ibis Accor hotel in the Porte de Clichy area with a
great view of an aging train yard. The room itself is like a
dorm room just barely big enough for a single person/bed, yet it has
two of them squeezed in. It's just me for the night so it's
not a problem (I booked a single room for this trip, so I could
spare somebody else my snoring, as well as not bother somebody while
spending a couple hours/evening updating the website.
Well, it's time to hit the road, er, Metro. I discovered one
thing I left behind... water bottles! So I'm off in search of
a bike shop, of which I understand there's one on the far side of
the Arch d Triomphe.
Note to Bruno: I'd have an easier time picking up complex
(greater than 10) numbers in French if I could spend time watching
their "Keno" game show... that would be the one with the very cute
woman very clearly calling out the numbers.
Another note to Bruno- Just got back from my mini-tour of Paris to
get the water bottles, and some tourist comes up to me and asks if I
speak English. You'll never believe what almost came out of my
mouth. "A little." Seriously. Something weird
happens to me over here!
07/18/03 (I think!) ANOTHER TRAVEL DAY
as we head on the bus to Toulouse. A rather longish trip,
heading from the north end of France to the South, and this isn't
bus in the world, but we're getting there.
And even on a bus dominated by a reported 23 Kiwis (that would be
New Zealanders, for the uninformed), there are a number of people
who are from the SF Bay Area and have been to our shops, as well as
Steve (a regular on our Tuesday/Thursday Kings Mtn ride) and his
wife Thalia, seen in the picture outside the hotel. Glad I brought
enough tools to fix just about anything, as my reputation might be
on the line here!
the way to Toulouse, we stop at several roadside places that cater
to the traveling French; I'm not sure if it's comforting or
disturbing that the French are no better than us in going into such
places, as they're far more expensive than the same food would cost
in a nearby town. Convenient, yes, but it's not as if friendly
small towns are a rare thing in France.
almost as if there are two Frances, and I've been lucky enough to
experience both. There's the France that caters to the tourist
(French or foreign) in the most
commercial (and expensive!) way, and the other France that exists
for the locals (but really seems to enjoy the tourists as well).
This is my fifth trip here, and, curiously,
is the first time I've really noticed this... probably because I've
spent so much time in the countryside, instead of driving through it
to get somewhere. As revelations go, I'm sure this comes
across as a resounding "DUH!" on the reader's part. But if we
hadn't stopped at that last place, I never would have seen the
tractor-driving groundskeeper in full Dutch (orange) uniform!
In the meantime, we travel on towards Toulouse, which is now less
than an hour away, and somewhat anxiously as we know that the time
trial has been over for some time.
Unfortunately, we just heard the news that Lance isn't going a whole
lot faster... Jan Ullrich won today's time trial???!!! This
TDF is wide open. We all have far more questions than answers,
and are very much looking forward to viewing the carnage (that is,
the race that Lance was supposed to have in his back pocket) in
07/18/03 11:55pm- NO CONNECTIVITY AT
THIS HOTEL/NO UPDATES TONIGHT, darn! There's
this strange adapter that's needed once in a while in odd places in
France, and we're most definitely staying in a slightly-odd place
tonight...and I left the adapter behind, since I hadn't needed it
the past three years. So much for timely updates!
07/19/03- THIS DAY IS IN DANGER OF BECOMING "LOST" as I'm
having to recreate it a bit after the fact, due to the Internet
hassles. But basically I was up most of the prior night due
to uncomfortably-high temperatures in a hotel that is neither air
conditioned nor quiet, so opening up the windows exposes you to
the strangeness of a street that remains active 24 hours/day.
So after perhaps two hours of sleep we load up into a bus and
drive maybe 15-20 kilometers outside of Foix, from which we ride
to the final climb (via Ax Les Thermes) to watch the race.
Along the way we stopped at a great little roadside store, run by
an elderly couple that couldn't be happier to see a bunch of
cyclists ride into town.
some great shots of Lance and Jan, and came across a number of
our customers there (like the two drinking cokes on the climb to
The bus ride to Lourdes has convinced most of us on this tour
that it's much better to find a way to ride back to a hotel,
rather than get onto a bus after having ridden for a good distance
in the heat. There's something about sitting in your shorts
and jerseys for 4-6 hours after a hard ride than just doesn't cut
07/20/03- WHAT HAPPENED TO LANCE???!!! I've always said
that it's not a foregone conclusion that Lance would win this
tour, and today's events underscore
Lance dropped his lead over Jan to under 20 seconds after Jan beat
him up on a climb... something that isn't supposed to happen.
We had a nice ride up the Col d' Aspin in the morning and came
back to watch the race coverage in a bar/restaurant (our hotel
rooms don't have televisions). Great ride, with especially
nice (a bit cooler) weather, and a pretty easy climb. But
Lance didn't have nearly so nice a day...ouch! Still haven't
found a way to connect to the Internet here in Lourdes.
07/21/03- JUST ANOTHER BORING DAY AT THE
TOUR? NOT! Highlights?
- Rode a loop from Lourdes
including the famous/infamous "Tourmalet" climb. People are
going to ask me how it compares to Sonora Pass & Mont Ventoux.
It's different, that's about all I can say at this point. It
seemed tougher than it should have been, but that might be partly
because I didn't realize I was swallowing a lot of blood... I'd
bitten my tongue pretty nastily the night before, and didn't
realize it had started bleeding again on the climb until I started
wondering about that salty taste in my mouth. So I spit onto
the road and noticed it was more blood than anything else... yuck!
Don't think I'd make a good vampire.
- On the way up the hill, stopped
at a restaurant about 5k from the top, ordered (in my
extremely-limited French vocabulary) a glass of coke and some
bottle water, and the guy not only asked if I would like ice (a
rarity in France) but replaced the bottled water I'd picked out
with a bottle from a cooler. Also ran into several customers there,
including Latisha, her husband (whose name is... Robert?) and
another guy whose name I always forget (OK, it's a
couple weeks later and he's in the store right now... it's Shawn
S), but that's
ok, because he was chasing up the hill after me, yelling out
somebody else's name. When he called "Chain Reaction" I got
the clue that it was probably me!
"CytoSludge", seen in the restaurant photo to the right.
Basically, you mix up some Cytomax with the absolute minimum
amount of water to make sludge (highly concentrated Cytomax) which
you can then mix with ordinary water to create Cytomax. Why
would you do something like this? Probably because you
forgot to bring some plastic baggies that you could portion out
dry Cytomax into!
Things I didn't bring? So far, just plastic baggies and
water bottles. Oh, also a phone hacker's guide to France (so
I might hot-wire an internet connection somehow!).
Got a prime viewing spot at the top of Tourmalet, on the final
corner of the climb.
view of the top and the lead-in, with no obstructions (in other
words, people). Don't even know how it worked out so well...
we just set up in front of an Imax crew that was there doing a
special on the CSC team, and eventually the Gendarmes came in and
requested that we move on. We thought they meant we had to
leave, but no, we just had to move about four feet further up the
road, with nobody allowed downhill from us for about 100
meters!!! I spent the four hours with a very nice couple
from England, Ginny & Steve (who you can see at the right in the
photo, and verify what a great spot we had to watch the race).
- From the top of the Tourmalet,
called my wife via cell phone to let her know when the race was
approaching, so she could see me on TV (Outdoor Live Network's
live coverage). Funny that I can make a more reliable cell
phone call from a remote place in France than I can from my house!
- Once again got some great shots
of Lance and Jan. More
I seem to have figured out how to snag the Aquarel bottled water
they toss from the Caravan. Well, they don't actually toss
it, you have to grab it out of their hand. I've scored three
so far, but this last one (on Tourmalet) took some effort... seemed
like she didn't want to let go of the bottle. Would I have
pulled her off the truck if I had to? Hey, somebody's got to
let go, and it ain't gonna be me!
I should admit that it's not too tough getting great shots of
Lance and Jan on this tour, as they're kinda focused on being at
the front of the pack.
- Since the race continued on past
the Tourmalet, finishing at the Luz Ardiden ski station about an
hour later, I used the cell phone to call her to find out what was
happening at the race. It was obvious this was a pivotal
stage, with Lance and Jan (plus three or four others) crossing the Tourmalet well ahead of the main pack. I then asked her to
call back for the final kilometer and gave the play-by-play to
other english-speaking people in the area. At first I
thought that, at $1.29/minute, that's quite a bit of money but
heck, people spend lots more than that on the Psychic Hotline!
- Being at the top of a big climb,
followed by a big descent, some riders grabbed windbreakers from
the team car for the trip down, while others stuffed newspapers
under their jerseys. As the clouds had moved in pretty
heavily, and I had no windbreaker, I decided to "go pro" and try
the newspaper thing myself. It works! Fortunately,
newsprint stains wash off with soap & water.
- Wonder where all that goat cheese
in France comes from? Goats, duh! Wonder
all the goats are? On the Tourmalet! We're descending
through the heavy clouds and come across an area where there must
be, literally, thousands of goats. All over the hills, and
no fences. What keeps them off the road? Turns out
nothing keeps them off the road! When they want to cross,
doesn't matter if there's heavy traffic or bikes, they just go.
First one, then a couple more, and finally a virtual stampede of
- On the way back from the
Tourmalet, made several train connections back to Lourdes.
By train connections, I mean hooking up with very strong, fast
groups heading out in various directions. Really steep
climbs seem to be my nemesis these days, but give me rollers and
flat stretches and I seem to be able to hang in very well, nearly
always surviving the final cuts (meaning that riders are being
blown off the back until you're left with some machine-like madman
that can do 45-50k and, instead of backing off, you take your own
turns at the front). I was
so relieved this guy didn't take the left turn towards
Lourdes, for three reasons. First, there were a couple of
moderate climbs that would blow me apart. Second, I needed a
break. And third, I really needed to relieve myself,
something I hadn't done since much earlier in the day, since there
aren't facilities at the top of the Tourmalet, and we were waiting
four hours for the race to come through.
- After dinner I was sitting
outside our hotel, with a bunch of Aussies and Kiwis (they had a
purpose for being there, that being to drink beer...I was nursing
my Schweppes Bitter Lemon) when a couple of women pull up in a car
and look like they were having a very bad day. Aussies and
Kiwis being the helpful folk they are ask how things are going
(not well, as one of the women works for Sports Illustrated and
was trying to find a place to upload a story on the Internet...
sound familiar???). So the women working for Sports
Illustrated dictates her story via cell phone while the other
woman sits down with us and has a glass of white wine. Turns
out she works for Eurosport (European TV sports network), and is a
commentator for their Tour de France coverage. Hmm. I
recognize the voice, so I ask the question- your name?
Christy (or maybe it's Kristi).
As in the woman I made fun
of on this very website last year for making a fuss about Botero's
beautiful blue eyes. Christy as in wife of Phil Anderson,
famous Aussie racer of days past. Christy as in teller of
some great stories, inside poop that will never make in into
print, about the goings-on of the TDF.
OK, I can tell you want to hear more about Christy's TDF scoops,
don't you? You want to hear how she predicted Lance
would win today's stage (and by two minutes, which might have
happened if not for the crash). You want to hear about just
how hard that crash was and what happened to his bike (that he
didn't know about until after the race). You want to hear
her explain that, no matter how tough this race is, Lance is
coming back to try and win #6, but that he won't, because no
French person alive will let him ruin the memories of their great
heroes (Anquetil etc). So, OK, she redeemed herself quite
nicely. HOWEVER, she takes great pride in commenting
on what's actually going on in the race, as opposed to doing fluff
pieces (she won't, for example, do side pieces about the horrible
traffic jams that accompany the race)... which seems a bit at odds
with her comments last year about which riders had the nicest
eyes. I even mentioned that I recalled her piece at last
year's race about Beloki's "beautiful blue eyes" and she
immediately corrected me... those were Botero's beautiful blue
eyes! And did so in a way that convinced me that she really
thinks they're special.
07/22/03- REST DAY, RIDE DAY, WORK DAY.
For the Tour de France racers, this is a well-deserved day of rest
after yesterday's gnarly, back-breaking stage. For the many
people in France on tours built around the race, this is a day they
don't have to worry about finding a place to watch the race and just
go out and ride. But for me, this is a work day... a
have to get everything on the website caught up and downloaded to
the Internet, because
I have found the mythical Internet Cafe! Along
the way I found a very friendly elderly Frenchman who saw me looking
at a map and wanted to help... he spoke zero English, and that
combined with my miniscule French... well, let's say it wasn't the
exchange of useful information that made it such a pleasant
experience, but rather that someone would step out and help someone.
To get to the Internet Cafe you first must find the marketplace
at the center of a town that has no center. That's the tough
part! But once there, you've discovered a sort of
not-so-secret treasure... the place where the locals go to buy their
food, a place where zero English is spoken but
everyone is very nice, and where you can buy a huge 150cl bottle or
Orangina for just $2.50 euros. Oh, I suppose I should also
mention three different pastries for $3 euros total.
Sorry, but the hotel "breakfast" consisting of a greasy croissant, a
very hard roll, cereal & warm milk just doesn't cut it for me.
07/22/03 6:17pm GRRR!!!!!! I skipped out on all the fun today so I could get the website
updated, but something's gone wrong (for the second time in a month)
with our ISP so everything's getting totally garbled.
Wonderful. Like I can easily deal with it while in
France???!!! Still waiting to get a reply from the ISP;
hopefully things will get fixed soon, but I don't know when I'll be
able to get back on-line again. As I said, GRRR!!!!.
Hopefully by the time you read this it will have already been fixed.
COL D' AUBISQUE IS AWESOME!
Here I thought the Tourmalet was the monster hill of the Pyrenees,
but after today's ride, I'm thinking the Pau side of the Aubisque
has to be the meanest monster of them all, possibly (yes, I'm really
saying this) even worse than climbing Sonora Pass. Thankfully
we climbed from the Lourdes side, which is simply long and
So what could it possibly have over Sonora Pass?
Cattle. Lots of cattle. Big HUGE cattle that
just meander slowly down the one-lane road as if they own it...
and they do!
- Scenery. Sonora Pass
is spectacular in a granite sort of way, but Col D' Aubisque has a
bit of everything, including places where the road is built into
the side of the mountain, so you feel a bit queasy about easing
off the brakes.
- Tunnels. Dark
semi-scary tunnels that you enter quickly and realize you're
wearing your sunglasses and can't see the road, and you're
thinking of that line out of the Blues Brothers about it being
dark outside and wearing sunglasses.
Great little places to grab a bite or a coke or bottled water.
Sure, they're not cheap, but they'd be a bargain at half the
price. That $2.50 euro coke I had at the top of the Soulor
(a pass that precedes the Aubisque) was priceless... I felt so
much better after it. I definitely had a coke and a smile!
- Part of a great loop,
beginning in Lourdes and heading up over the Col d' Aubisque, down
into Pau (where today's stage began) and back to Lourdes. Of
course, I was riding with a group considerably faster than my
capabilities, but hung on until the final 8k into Lourdes.
- All the better when you
get back in time to watch Tyler Hamilton win a stage of the Tour
de France on TV!
07/24/03 12:58am JUST FINISHED PACKING
as we're finished with our five days in Lourdes. It's with
mixed feelings that I leave the Pyrenees behind; a number of
mountains have been left unclimbed (including the famous Hautacam,
which I had to skip since I was trying to run down the web update
issues), but it does seem time to move out of this
strange town and
head for Bordeaux, where we'll ride in from about 100k out of town
to see the stage finish. Then it's a night in Angers, with a
two-night finale in Paris.
Hard to believe the trip is well over half over! I'll have to
read over my own entries to see where the time went.
I could end it here, without mentioning that I went out for a beer
with my Kiwi friends... note that, for me, that's a beer, as
in one. Now that I've got my annual beer out of the way, I
feel like I can get on with the rest of the tour!
GOING UP SOME OF THE
GRADES in the bus, heading towards Bodeaux, you
cannot help but notice that the sounds of the engine straining
remind you of how your legs felt on your bike the preceding day.
The weather outside is questionable; not raining at the moment, but
it has been off-and-on for most of the night, and there's a good
number of us who are thinking that a day of sight-seeing in Bordeaux
might be preferable to a 100k flat ride in the rain.
We've got probably another hour or so to get to our drop-off point
for today's ride; the plan is to ride the last 100k of the course,
trying to stay ahead of the caravan. Shouldn't be too tough, I
mean look at what Tyler Hamilton did to win the stage yesterday (a
very long breakaway), and we'll have the advantage of riding in a
07/24/03 11:43pm THANK GOODNESS WE'VE SAID GOOD-BYE TO LOURDES! Actually that's a bit harsh; the area surrounding Lourdes is
spectacularly beautiful and a great place
to ride. But the
town itself is a mess... hopelessly confusing to get around in, a
hotel that has such a poor phone system that you cannot connect to
the Internet (a common problem with area hotels), and a
Disneyland-like atmosphere built around a famous Catholic shrine
(St. Bernadette) that will challenge the most tacky, crass,
commercial (almost disgusting and certainly depressing) exploitation
of human suffering that you'll find anywhere. That does sound
a bit harsh, doesn't it? Perhaps I'll remove this paragraph
later, when I'm of more sound mind. In the meantime, let me
tell you about today's events-
Got out of Lourdes (and checked into a really nice hotel in
Bordeaux; too bad we're spending just one night here!
- Rode the last 100k of today's
stage into Bordeaux, trying to keep ahead of the peloton.
Didn't quite go as planned, as they shut the run down for the
caravan before we could get into town. Kind of exciting
riding ahead of the race, knowing that rolling road closures
behind you are gradually catching up. When they wouldn't
allow us to continue on the course, we switched to a more direct
course into town, hoping we could get to the finish line first.
Exactly who we were kidding I'm not sure, but we did come close,
and possibly would have made it if it weren't so confusing trying
to navigate old French cities. We missed the finish by ten
minutes at the very most.
opportunities for adults to act like kids as the TDF Publicity
Caravan flew through the area we'd been stopped (by the road
- Had a terribly embarrassing
time as somebody mistook me for a racer (was it my unshaved
legs, my official tour-issue handlebar bag that all the riders
use, or my much larger stature than the typical tour rider that
this person somehow missed?). OK, so what happens when one
person is trying to get your autograph and snag your water bottle?
In very short order you've got a whole mob of people who think
you're a real live TDF racer. And it doesn't even stop when
you explain to them
you're not... they think that maybe you're a former TDF racer, or
perhaps an official on a US Pro Team, because, after all, you have
a TREK bike. It was weird beyond belief. At 47, I
suppose it should be considered flattering that someone would
think I looked the part of a Pro Racer, but I think what it really
means is that the TDF is popular well beyond the cycling
aficionado. In the US, just about anybody who sees bicycle
racing as sports entertainment is probably someone who knows a
fair amount about it. I don't think we have the same sort of
"casual" fan they have here in Europe.
- Need to learn more French!
The fact that I'm very sure of myself (meaning I'm not
concerned about being embarrassed... not that I wouldn't do
something embarrassing, but I'm confident while doing so!)
means that I can more easily fake my way through things, appearing
to know much more than I do. Thus a limited French
vocabulary on my part evokes a major elicitation of French on
theirs... and I become simply dumbfounded. I suppose
I should just go up and say "Je parlay Anglais?" Or simply "Do you
speak English?" but doesn't that kind of dumb everything down a
notch or two?
I'm also noticing an ever-increasing number of people who are
willing to come to you aid if you look like you're having
difficulty figuring something out (like how to navigate old French
cities!), and, when they discover you know very little French and
they know absolutely zero English, they still try to help, 100% in
French, as if somehow you'll understand. You search for
words and street names that, in context, will be of help... but
the plain simple truth is that you're both very grateful for their
efforts and saddened by the lack of success. You almost want
to say "Oui, oui, Merci!" Simply to encourage them. But of
course the best thing to do is simply learn some basic French.
Gee, I've only been saying this for four years now...
07/25/03- JUST ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE
although, if I were to design paradise myself, I'd probably engineer
in a bit more time to sleep! The rest of the folk in this tour
are either off to sleep or out drinking a few more rounds, while I
get to spend a couple hours a night on the website. Not such a
bad life though... if not for the website, it would be a whole lot
harder to justify these trips to France! So how did today go?
Starts out in the town of Bordeaux,
where we had stayed in our first really nice hotel. The usual
of getting up early enough to have breakfast and be out on our bikes
by a bit after 8am, with everything moved out since we're moving on
to a new town.
- The ride? We rode
the first part of today's stage, literally from the start all the
way to the feed station about 110k into the race. Unlike
other days, this one wasn't too hilly and actually had a tail wind
We set up a pretty good pace, and I eventually (and unwisely)
decided to go with a faster group that had become unsocial and
split off. I need to keep the testosterone a bit more in
check! Anyway, we're cruising along at a good clip until we
notice there aren't any more people at the side of the road,
waiting for the race to come through. Nor any police cars
hauling gendarmes further up the course. Nor barricades.
After about a kilometer and a half we figure we probably overshot
a turn and head back. Sure enough we had missed the turn, and sure enough
there were some people hanging out there that recognized us
and were having a pretty good time at our expense!
However, the official story is that we were riding so fast
that we would have instantly vaporized had we tried to make that
corner, and it took fully 1.5 kilometers of gradually slowing down
so that our brakes wouldn't melt.
of people in the various villages cheering us on, especially
younger kids who would hold out their hands for you to slap them
as you rode past. Some of them don't quite get how it's
supposed to work though, and instead of lightly slapping them, you
get a very solid hit! Fortunately we're wearing gloves so we
have the better end of the bargain.
- Now, for those who notice there
are very few heavier folk in France, well, that might be true in
the cities, but I think they're all out here in the countryside!
Generally wearing old t-shirts and often with substantial beer
bellies, these aren't the same people you
hanging out in Paris. You definitely get the feeling there's
a different class of people, a very friendly class of people who
work the farms and mind the small towns. But the coolest
thing really are the kids, lots and lots and lots of little kids,
mostly 6-12 year olds I'd say, boys & girls, who are cheering you
everywhere along the way. Some of them even do a "wave" like
you see at a baseball stadium!
- Time travel. From
the get-go, you're trying to keep far enough ahead of both the
race and the publicity caravan that they don't kick you off the
road. It's a bit strange knowing that, as you head further
up the road, there are forces coming up behind you that will kill
your plans... so the faster you ride, the longer you can hold them
off. So in a way, the faster you ride, the more you slow
- The feed station was more
interesting that I thought it would be... I really didn't expect
the teams to have their "runners" all lined up, waiting for the
peloton to come by and grab their feed bags... but that's exactly
what happens, not to different from how a mail train used to snag
bags at the station without stopping. I've got
photos of it on our
race photos page.
I'd add more, but it's 1:30am in
France and I have another early morning as we leave from the hotel
for an easy ride along the river, and then take the coach out to
watch the final time trial. --Mike--
07/26/03- A COLD DAY IN HELL FOR JAN
ULLRICH, and a tough one for spectators at the TDF's
final time trial. Rain, rain, rain and wind combined to make
what should have been a relatively easy, non-technical race into a
real mess. Still, overall another great day-
a blue-collar French bar/restaurant to hang out during the race; it
combined that perfect ambience of a TV tuned to the race, a roof to
keep out the rain, a relatively minor (for France) amount of
cigarette smoke in the air, a menacing dog to guard the bathroom and
very interesting cuisine!
And while at this bar, at which none of the local patrons nor
proprietors spoke one word of English (and were relatively proud of
it), we made friends with a couple of older guys, one of whom is
shown here, who did their best to communicate with us without
English and us with extremely limited French. Even treated me
to a couple drinks; their ritual for good friends is apparently a
very strong cup of coffee, some extraordinarily-strong liquor (don't
remember what it's called, translates to something like "Water of
Life") that makes Tequila seem weak, and all washed down with wine.
I passed on the wine part.
And, of course, got some photos of Jan and Lance. Not
great ones; tough to get good photos when your lens is constantly
getting fogged up and rained on!
You can find the
photos on our TDF race photo page.
Sleep? What's sleep? When I get back I'm going to
need a vacation from this vacation! The bus is way too cramped
to allow me to work on the website while traveling, and we do spend
a lot of time traveling! By the time we got to our hotel
tonight it was midnight, so my daily ritual of snagging all the
photos off the memory cards, viewing them for "keepers" and
processing them for the web, then typing things up and uploading
them... well, it's 1:14am right now, and people wonder why I
sometimes skip out on breakfast????
the big day of course- the ride with 9,999 other cyclists along the
final part of the TDF course (look for me to be wearing the yellow
jersey... along with the other 9,999!) and then, a bit later, the
TDF itself comes through. As they say, film at 11!
Oh, what's so important in that photo on the right? Nope,
not Lance riding off to his 3rd-place in the time trial (barely
visible at the extreme left of the photo). No,
the most important thing here is that Lance is the last rider
through, which means the yellow TDF arrow signs (which direct the
riders) are fair game... including the one my friend snagged from
the light pole shown here!
07/27/03- CAN YOU SPOT ME IN THIS PICTURE?
I'M THE ONE WEARING THE YELLOW JERSEY... Things are
winding up here, as I get ready to head out to watch the final stage
of the TDF. But first there was this wild ride through Paris
this morning with 9,999 of my closest friends. Tell you more
about it later; for now, time to go see the race!
07/28/03 12:17pm (France Time) TIME TO COME HOME!
It's been a great trip, and watching Lance win his
5th consecutive TDF was just part of it. After a very long day
that included the obligatory
for hours and hours and hours on the final circuit, most of our
group headed back for the hotel. This I don't understand...
Paris in the evening is Paris at its best! The long evening
hours (it's quite light until 10pm) are quite pleasant for long
strolls, and I probably walked six miles or so after the festivities
You also discover new hidden secrets about the race itself- for
example, I had no idea that the
way to access the riders after the race is on the back side of the
Arc D' Triomphe. Check it out- this Telekom rider heard
these folk yell out for him and cruised on over to accept a string
of beads. One thing you learn is that the riders do
hear you when you yell for them! In fact, Stuart O Grady came
by and snagged an Aussie flag from a member of our viewing team
during the post-race procession!
And yes, even Lance responds when you yell loud enough. We
thought he was only going to pay attention to the crowds on the
opposite side of the street, but we gave it a shot and, sure enough,
he heard us, turned and waved (as you can see in the photo).
But all things come to an end, and so must this trip. I'll
add in some more details after I get back; doing this "live" is
definitely a bit of an undertaking, when you consider there really
isn't any "free" time budgeted anywhere in the itinerary, what with
all the riding and driving and race-watching. The smartest
thing I did was to get a single room, so I don't disturb anyone
while working on the website. Yeah, that's it... has nothing
to do with my snoring!
07/28/03 9:20pm (Pacific Daylight Time)
HOME! If only they had transporter devices,
like on Star Trek, instead of 11 hour plane flights and horrible
terminals (not SFO, which is pretty decent, but rather CDG/Charles
de Gaule, which is rather awful). It's now 6:22am according to
my computer, so I've been up for just about 24 hours, and I think
that's about all I'll be up. Tomorrow it's back to the way the
world normally works, with a ride up King's Mtn in the morning, and
a full day at the shop.
THE MOST IMPORTANT thing is that my PMU hands for my kids
made it home safely. I'd been told in no uncertain terms that
I wasn't welcome back without them!