Up at 7am & back to the usual schedule. It made so much sense to ensure that I got up early to put the coffee/tea on. I relaxed into the role and put the cool box on to chill.
After a little bit of coffee and some blogging it was 8am and time for breakfast. Then, the car battery was completely dead, I can't think why! I asked our friendly neighbours, the efficient Germans to help us start, but they quickly found out they had the same problem. So we turned to the final UK lot in the other corner. Even with their engine off, when we connected up their battery everything in my car jumped into life!
We headed back into Luchon and concocted a devilishly clever plan to take the back road to get closer to the start. We arrived at the key junction to find the police had come up with the same idea and were sending everyone that way. Our devilishly clever dropped down to just plain ordinary thought. Just like that.
despite queue of cars, we parked pretty easy. Right next to the hotel where all the stars were staying. Not much chance of a view here though, they were already on Team Buses.
As we walked into town we weere aghast at the sheer increase in numbers after yesterdays finish! This is just a start!
We looked at the start line then wondered up the street just as the Team buses started to arrive. Perfect timing. Passed the Astana and Liquigas buses then paused at Radioshack. Suddenly considered the scrum that'd be opposite there so headed one more up and perched on the barriers opposite the HTC Columbia bus.
There were loads of people with event passes and were inside the barriers. We considered jumping over and seeing if anyone noticed. Or threw me back out or sent me to the Bastille for the rest of my natural for disrupting a French event.
More buses arrived and cars appeared festooned with super bikes. It's interesting to note that the bikes on top of the car, in total, where double the cost of the car underneath.
A HTC mechanic started shifting bikes off a car and setting them up on stands just outside the bus. Another mechanic then fitted radio devices under the seat. This allows them to monitor all kionds of mechanical and biometric info and did stream to the web (www.highroadsports.com/velostream) about 15 seconds behiond real time. Pretty spectacular! And a big swoop at the Garmin team that haven't done that so far. If you don't know, the team sponsor, Garmin, make GPS devices.
All bikes set up it a slightly dull wait ensued. This was interrupted by the odd cycling celeb walking passed, like Christian Prudhomme, the Tour de France organiser. OMG it's Christian Prudhomme! Then Eric Zabel popped out of the HTC bus. He won the green sprinters jersey 7 times in the 90s, the most by anyone. He's now coaching our own Mark Cavendish to do the same. Only Mark's already won more stages than Eric just not got near the green jersey. It really is less his "thing" than he'll care to admit.
Cyclists started to drift past our spot on there way to sign on for the race. I'm at the point where I'll recognise around 10percent of the riders. It's not much but it did allow some quick photos at close range and slow speed. David Millar has become unrecognisable now he's taken to wearing goggles. However, when the Sky boys came through it was easy!
Wiggo looked very focussed and didn't react at all. Geraint Thomas politely thanked me for my support, Edvald Bossen Hagen gave a big broad smile when I shouted "Eddie" in his face.
Finally Cav appeared out of the bus in front of us. He was immediately swamped by people and journalists, so I couldn't get a greeting in anywhere. I'll have to leave that on the road.
The off was soon, we meandered down to the start and as soon as we arrived they were off. It's nice to be recognised. Their journey encompassed 3 cols and a strong competition for the race at hand. Our journey involved toilet breaks, getting toilet roll, and some cheese. We ended up in a similar place. You'd have thought they'd had learnt by now.
Actually our journey was harder going from the ridiculous to the sublime. We headed up the Col de Bales for lunch. It was where they were yesterday so why not. After that, and a few butterflies, we circumvented the mountains on the Autoroute. Only we had to get from it to the race.
A main road gave way to a village street that gave way to a single track road into the hills. We had a couple of "return points" because the signs were "wrong" but we kept going. Then everything went out of hand completely.
Our single track road ended in two dirt tracks. The map said go left, so we did. I was expecting to end in a corn field listening out for a banjo and guitar duet (come on! Deliverance!). After a few corners the metalled road came back. But the whole "you're in a field" thang really never left.
And indeed, the road turned into a track again. The feeling of deep, undiscovered France rang so true. Mostly as we felt that was it, no-one was going to discover us. A couple more "return points" occured but we suddenly came upon the Tour route. Again, the sound of banjo was never far us. Thew local Gendarmes told us to park in the nearby supermarket. We then walked, oh, 10 yards to the route itself.
There was no-one there. A few village kids and some parents. This is where you feel obliged to help. We waved our arms around as the caravanne appeared. No-one else seemed to get out their chairs. We scored big and passed on items of little value to small kids. It makes them smile so everyone wins.
I had my eye on the yellow Tour arrow opposite me. The only problem was it was it was in the middle of a very warm sunspot and surrounded by kids. The kids left after the caravanne finished. Who teaches these people nowadays? When it came to it I wandered over, ripped it off the lampost with the local Gendarmes staring quizically. "ah, a souvenier" was the only comment. Darn it. Should have got the one up the road as well.
I should say that this was a bit of a swansong. Lance Armstrong, who is the winniest rider ever, was racing in the very front group saying he's not to race again. We saw him pass and wished him well. We didn't work it well enough for him.
Racing over we headed back to the mountains for a campsite. A Camp a la Ferme sign threw us off route and into some more banjo hills. After many strange roads a farm appeared that a bit more than the basic. We camped with a view 20 miles long including the peaks on the Spanish border. Thats when the fiog allowed! Yes. It happened. We plunged from horrific heat to ridiculous rain in a few short hours. A hastily constructed shelter held most of, but didn't survive a hard downpour. Suddenly 9pm seemed like the perfect bedtime!