Monday, July 3, 2006


Friends: I beat the peloton to the finish here in Luxembourg for stage two by three hours and have a few minutes on a free computer that I can't fully fathom.

Yesterday was an all round sensational day, riding the first 35 miles of the course, watching the peloton pass, riding two hours more to a town large enough to have open bars on a Sunday so I could watch the final hour of the race and then riding 40 miles afterward until 9:30 just before sunset. It's well nigh impossible to rank the many daily episodes that give me a jolt of pleasure and delight following The Tour, but there is nothing more sublime than those evening hours of riding when the roads are especially quiet and the temperatures are cooling off and I have already had a momentous day to reflect on as I'm having a few more pleasurable hours on the bike.

Yesterday was further highlighted with George Hincapie, long-time Lance super-domestique slipping into the yellow jersey thanks to a two second bonus he picked up finishing third in an intermediate sprint. I didn't actually get to see him put on the yellow in the post-race ceremony, as the TV coverage was preoccupied with focusing on the former yellow-wearer Hushold.
He was gushing blood after having been accidentally hit by a green cardboard sign of a hand held by a fan along the road just before the finish. There might have been a delayed broadcast of it, but I couldn't afford to wait around in the bar too long, as I needed to be on my way knocking off miles on the next day's route, a 142-miler, the second longest stage of this year's Tour.

It took me six tries before I found a place to watch the race. The first bar didn't have a TV and the next two weren't open in the afternoon. The fourth had the race on, but it was only open to a private party unrelated to The Tour and was closing shortly. The fifth had an audience watching music videos, who had no interest in switching stations. Finally the sixth had a TV that was off, as everyone was sitting outside, but the bartender was willing to turn it on for me. I could then settle in to the joy and thrill of watching the peloton fly along roads I had just ridden, past crowds who have also cheered me.

I will be able to watch today's finish simultaneously live and on the giant screen that carries the cable feed. Today's route abounded with stacks and rolls of hay in the form of bicycles. Yesterday's route was themed with stacked bikes on poles as well as lines of bikes dangling from fences.

I was fortunate to be camping far enough from the city center of Strasbourg Saturday night that the horn blowing after France beat Brazil at eleven p.m. that went on for at least an hour was a mere distant roar that didn't keep me up. I watched the match with a mob on the campground TV. There were several Italian fans that were a menace, chanting "Italia, Italia." Italy wasn't playing, but it is one of the remaining four teams. Otherwise it was an orderly crowd of many nationalities, many there for The Tour. I was tempted to start a "Basso" chant in response to the Italians, but they were deranged and drunk enough that they might have stood outside my tent all night chanting something or other.

Later, George

No comments: