Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Third Day - Cocorico

Third Stage – 7 July

I saved a bit of time today and probably will do for the next few days. I am not going to be able to watch all of the “after Tour” show, because Naurika wants to watch one of her favourite show, “Un diner presque parfait”, a nearly perfect dinner. They have the same show in the USA and the UK I think, with five strangers cooking dinner for each other and getting marked on the result. It clashes with the Tour wrap up and interviews, and our TV system cannot video one show and watch another at the same time. Failure of technology. Still, gives me a bit more time to write and read.

Today I caught a bit of the pre-Tour show and loved it. There was a short feature on the typical family and friends’ picnic at the side of the road. Some people think that it is really not worth “watching the Tour” on account of the exceedingly fleeting glance you get at a huge pack of cyclists going by at an astounding speed. You “can’t see anything”, they say. True! But they miss the entire point of watching the Tour. It is like people who think that you go to a café and buy a coffee and drink it, then leave. Watching the Tour live consists of getting there two or three hours before it passes. This is easy enough as it does not start, normally, until lunch time. That means that you normally have enough time to eat and drink before the caravan passes. The passing of the caravan can occupy an hour or so, while you try to grab cheap souvenirs before the other people near you try to grab their cheap souvenirs. For this caravan watching/grabbing it is best to be in a town. But if you are in the country, you set up the picnic, tables, chairs, perhaps a shelter, and of course food and drink. You hang out and do that, just in time for the Tour to pass. You might even catch the arrival on TV or radio. This is the entire experience, even though in terms of watching the riders, unless you are at a mountain stage or a time trial, it IS just a blur of colour and that bizarre sound of 180 chains going around and 360 tyres touching the road. Plus the cars, and motorcycles. That moment when they pass is quite special too, but you have to be attentive to catch it. Anyway the interview with the group of picnickers was excellent. I doubt there is any other event of world class where you can picnic for free within one meter of the sportsmen.

The show and the paper also went into the question of why “a French team”, Française des Jeux, rode hard at the front of the race to bring back the escape which consisted of four French riders from other teams (yesterday). It was explained to these ignorant punters/picknickers overcome with national pride, that the interests of each team have absolutely nothing to do with what country they are registered in or what nationality their riders are. It is the team that matters and FDJ had a rider, Philippe Gilbert in the green jersey and wanted him to be in at the finish to defend his jersey. In the end, he failed to do that anyway, but the strategy was valid.

Also caught a slightly edited reply of the joint finish of Lemond and Hinault on Alpe d’Huez, was it 1989. Pleasure to watch,; although for Lemond it was a tense nightmare race, with Hinault riding “against” him even though they were on the same team and Hinault had promised to help Lemond win. I would do this every day if I were a bit more idle.

So a “cocorico” day for the French. A French rooster (the national animal symbol) does not say cock-doodle-doo (as in English). nor does it say kikeriki, as in German. Nor does it say in Egyptian Arabic dialect: كوكوكوكو kukukuuku. I won’t go on. So today, with a French stage winner and a French rider taking the yellow jersey, it was a time for the French to feel a little bit “cocorico”. And the TV guys took this to an extreme. Larry Fignon is not quite so excessive as the other guy, who is meant to be an everyday sports guy, instead of a calm analytic guy. He was a bit unbearable, but what the heck. I am delighted for Samuel Dumoulin who is usually the smallest guy in the peloton, and for the young sprinter Romain Feillu. Although this will mean absolutely nothing for the overall standings within a day or two, and has nothing at all to do with the end of the race, it is still momentous. There are 180 or more riders in the Tour. Less than eight (that is the record) will wear the yellow jersey during the Tour. And maybe 15 will win a stage in any one year. Some riders who are pretty good, never win a stage during their entire career. You can dine out for the rest of your life as a “former stage winner” or “former yellow jersey winner”. You can also sign good contracts for several years, based on this victory. It is really a BIG DEAL. So I am glad someone not so famous won.

Furthermore, we were treated to a slightly unusual finish. The usual escape was allowed to get free. For nearly the entire stage. All French guys from three teams. And, due to the complexities of alliance formation and careless calculations of “the peloton” and wind directions and so forth, THEY MADE IT. I like that. I love it. The escape, one of the best moves in cycling, without which it truly would be ONLY a mob of multicoloured blokes riding around France in a clump. The success of this escape will mean that there will be many more who try during this Tour. But then they always try.

In terms of the race itself, very little is clear, other than the unlucky injury of Soler, the Colombian former best climber.

I just got q long phone call and it is very late again. I am not taking this seriously. In any case, nothing is yet clear. A certain hierarchy will begin to emerge after the time trial tomorrow and certainly after the finish at Super Besse on Thursday. We just have to be patient. Then come the Pyrenees where all pretenders for various titles must show up or give up. Until then the race is not begun. Although I do detect the possible emerging confusion in the race for the climbers’ jersey, as well as the sprinter’s jersey, as well as the young rider’s jersey. Big mistake for Ricco to lose time today. But then; every year, I hope for interesting races in all categories. I really am an optimist against all evidence. I am just getting used to the Tour. I have not looked at a single other website yet to get commentary. But I am getting warmed up.

The Tour long, anything can happen.

Sorry, but I really have to go to bed. Good night.

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