Thursday, June 3, 2010

St. Honoré, France

Friends: Along with the lack of course markers and only a few preliminary decorations, road construction and detours make riding The Tour route a month early a much diluted and dramatically different experience from riding it on race day. Its great that many portions of the race route are being resurfaced, but dealing with it first-hand can get aggravating. Some of the resurfacing doesn't require a detour, but I've had several detours of more than a few miles, including two today that will make the 143-mile Montargis-Guegnon at least 160 miles for me.

Its the longest stage of this year's Race, a couple miles longer than Stage One from Rotterdam to Brussels. I'll be bypassing this stage during The Race, taking a short cut so I am sure to get a head start on the peloton for the Tournus stage into the Jura Mountains. One of the reasons I'll be bypassing it is it would require me to ride an extra 53 miles after the stage to the next day's start in Tournus. It is one of the two or three longest transfers.

This year, for the first time in the seven years I've been following The Tour, there is no monster transfer of hundreds of miles on the first rest day after Stage Eight. Everyone must be delighted. The rest day will be a genuine rest day for the racers and the race entourage, as they'll all spend Monday, July 12 in Morzine-Avoriaz in the Alps where Stage Eight ends on Sunday and Stage Nine begins on Tuesday.

I was torn between heading due north from Tournus rather than going out of my way 53 miles west over to Guegnon yesterday since I didn't need to scout it out. Still, I was curious to check out a Ville Etape and see how its preparations were going and also to plant in my mind its atmosphere. I was very glad I did.

Guegnon is fully in the spirit of being a Ville Etape, almost as much as Sisteron. Like Sisteron it had mounted a huge yellow jersey on a central civic structure. Sisteron hung its yellow jersey on a tower across from its city hall. Guegnon hung its yellow jersey on its city hall, covering one-and-a-half stories of the three storied building. When I spotted it as I began a descent down a hill before crossing a river I uttered a spontaneous wow.

All down Guegnon's main street were hung mini-versions of the four leader jerseys dangling from lines strung two stories high from one side of the narrow street to the other, almost close enough together for a cat to leap across. A considerable effort went to making the hundreds of jerseys and and dozens of lines and stringing them up. A silken yellow sheet wrapped like a skirt stood in the entry to the tourist office. It couldn't be prouder to have The Tour coming to town. Like Sisteron, it will be a grand place to be on race day.

I passed through Cormatin on my way from Tournus to Guegnon. I was disappointed to see that its superb bicycle museum that I had visited a few years ago had been replaced by the Musée du Poila, devoted to the first World War.

Last night for the first time since Cannes I camped in an open field. It was nice to have the warmth of the sun shining on me as it made its descent to the horizon, finally disappearing at close to 9:30. The wind continues blowing from the north keeping it cool and increasing the effort it takes for me to push the pedals.

Later, George

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