Friday, 18 July 2008

Our Day Out - 18 July

Our Day Out – 18 July

Our day was very uneventful actually. A bit like the "usual" transitional stage, also very uneventful, with the usual small exceptions. The spectacular crash on a piece of totally useless street furniture. Rider OK, bike destroyed. The futile escape of yet another French guy and a Dutchman. The last ditch valiant heroic attempt by Sylvain Chavanel to ride faster than all the sprinters’ teams for the last five kilometres (failed). Very mellow countryside that I love deeply, although tailing off into boring vineyards, when it got out of our area. Last but not least, a massive sprint on the flat won by … Mark Cavendish. He is clearly the main personality of this Tour so far. No one else remaining in the Tour, has done anything of real note, except the top GC guys who have so far “not lost” the Tour.

Naurika noticed on the news (I missed the news trying to do this blog) that the French are actually starting to do what they usually do. They say that the reason that the French riders are not doing so well, as usual, is that they are the only clean ones. The rider who was interviewed and implied this without really saying it, did refer to"les étrangers". There is no way to know that this is a good analysis. It would be a shame for the French if one of the French riders, not a foreign rider on a French team (which has happened often enough), was found doping. What bothers me is that I have been reading Vélo, the French racing mag published by ASO, the same people who brought us the Tour. there are many articles about the French riders and their eating and training. It is my distinct impression that the French teams, for some reason I do not understand, are less good at training riders; the riders often talk about rather haphazard and self organised training plans. their eating habits are far too often French, not "cycling". Interviews with other riders often comment on the changes in training and eating when they go to other teams. I remember O'Grady particularly when he left Credit Agricole and went to CSC. I have no insider information, but I have the distinct impression that the other teams train better. Maybe they all use drugs. Columbia? Garmin (who have not done well)? CSC? Rabobank? All these teams are drug cheats? I guess we will just have to wait and see.

For us the day began by the short drive to Roujan, our chosen vantage point, mostly because it was easy to get to and might just make it onto the TV coverage. Technically the coverage began in time for us to be on TV, and you can see from one of the photos, if they had been showing the passage through Roujan we would have been on TV. But in fact, they showed several minutes of the escape climbing the little hill after Neffiès, plus some minutes of a Legend of the Tour and by the time they got back to the peloton, they were already through Roujan. Must happen every day in the Tour, entire villages missed out. Works of folk art never shown. Videos scrutinised only to find the camera on the motorcycle was pointing the other way. Still, that’s the Tour, you take the rough with the smooth.

Other than a very slight alteration in the Green Jersey competition, absolutely nothing changed, so rather than write a thousand words or more, I shall add my "home photos" to the blog. I still don’t know how to add them at the right place, so you have to read them at the end of the blog and from the bottom up. Sorry. Robbie McEwen managed to finish second today, best he has done. I don’t think this means he wants Green. I think, like all the sprinters, he would just like to beat Cavendish on a flat mass sprint. The young French guy who was in yellow for a day, Romain Feillu, finished third. Top five looking quite normal, except for Kirchen, who insists on staying there, only three points behind Zabel and 18 behind Hushovd and Cavendish. But it still is very much a competition. Cavendish is now in second place, up from fifth yesterday, but nearly everyone is speculating that he will drop out to focus on the Olympics, and not make it to Paris. And clearly Freire is still quite serious about the jersey too. So this is one battle that is not over in any way.

The yellow, spotted and white jerseys are still subject to hot competition, but since nothing happened to give us any hint of anything new, I will skip the subject entirely.

I will say one thing, Evens sometimes looks as if he is riding lop-sided. Maybe it will be all right, his shoulder, but he looks funny sometimes. Even today a bit.

These photos are best understood from the bottom up, not the top down, but I simply can't change the options yet.

I drove up with my wife. Me at the Tom Simpson stele on Ventoux just a few weeks ago. I know it is nothing to do with the stage, but I saw it in my photos. Just popped it in, wonders of technology.

Almost missed it, but you can see that Valverde even has a spare bike painted in the Spanish Champion's colours. I thought that was attention to detail, and of course, a big budget. Its on the far left, almost out of the picture. No comments about the quality, it has a massive shutter delay, just a little camera, no motor shots or anything.

I try every time to watch carefully. I try to pick a spot when they will be going slowly and not be in a bunch. Good choice today. And every time I don't even pick out the distinctive jerseys,nor hardly ever identify more than three or four riders. Its just a blur, like this shot which I intentionally picked to give the essence of watching a bunch of riders go by. You can see how a given person on a given day at a given place might find it a rather boring "sport" to watch.

As you can see from the angle of the TV camera and from the angle of my camera, we would have been on TV if they had chosen this guy's shots at this exact time. They didn't. Did you know that Ronan Pensec, the French rider who once wore the yellow jersey, is in the TV studio alerting the actual real time editor of the TV shots, hat might be a good shot at any given time.

We really did want the sausages, but nothing came our way.

This is one of the more over the top loads that must be driven all over France. The people who are now the sole betting agents in France for sporting events, and it is only on the horses you can bet. Soon it will change and I can bet on the Tour next year.

Naurika managing to attract the attention of the washing powder people and getting freebie number four. sometimes it is embarrassing how much junk they give away, but that is the Tour. We failed to get a Cochonou sausage and there was no coffee. As far as our part of the caravan goes, we thought there were less vehicles and less stuff. Slightly boring in fact.

Although it looks like the streets might not have filled up yet in Roujan, they were actually stunningly empty all day. Quite a throng in the middle of town, but just a few hundred metres from the centre, there were mostly people outside their houses. Down the road it looked more crowded and on TV it looks like there are loads of people. But this is the least crowded observation point I have ever chosen. Seem to be endless English people in Roujan. Still a bit of shade, and a nice ambience.

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