Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day Six Le Tour

Friends: Day six of The Tour and Vincent and I are right on schedule, in fact a bit ahead, allowing me time for the Internet. We've arrived in Le Mans, the start of tomorrow's Stage Seven, awaiting Dave the Australian. We had arranged to meet at the start of the stage at noon today and then set out, trying to get at least 75 miles down the course, leaving us 60 miles to get to the finish by two tomorrow.

Dave left us at the end of stage four in Mur de Bretagne, as he'd reserved a hotel ahead of time nearby and he wanted to ride some of stage five to Cape Frehel. He's got the legs for the extra miles, as he modestly left slip the other day that he finished ninth at the latest 24 hour mountain bike world championships. He is an elite endurance athlete who can gobble up the miles and ride for hours and hours. He might have finished even higher at the world championships but he had to curtail his riding with 45 minutes to go when he started hallucinating.

David the German accompanied Vincent and I until noon yesterday when he decided to take a more direct route to tomorrow's stage finish and give his legs a rest, though he too has strong legs despite riding in sandals and taking regular cigarette breaks. After the bicycle, his two favorite things are coffee and cigarettes, the title of a most entertaining Jim Jarmusch movie. He knew the movie and very much likes Jarmusch, but generally doesn't like movies, so hasn't seen it. David can't remember the last movie he saw and says that he walks out on at least half that the does go to see. Such behaviour does not sit well with girl friends, but he is a very strong-minded individual with very strong opinions who is fairly set in his ways. He makes for a very entertaining travel companion. Dogs particularly irk him, as he says they have a Hitler-complex, all wanting a leader. He prefers cats and their independent ways. We hope to be rendezvousing with David at two tomorrow under the jumbo screen at the finish line in Chateauroux.

Vincent and I were disappointed not to see the finish of stage four, even though we arrived at it four hours ahead of the peloton. It was drizzling, so instead of finding cover and lingering, we pushed on and had to watch Cadel Evans, Vincent's fellow Australian, just barely nip Contador at the line in a bar. It was a steep one mile climb to the finish that was as dramatic as could be with all the strongmen up there fighting it out. Vincent is even more of an Evans fan after meeting him last Thursday at the team introductions thanks to Skippy. Vincent heard from friends back home that their handshake was caught on Australian television, making Vincent even more of a celebrity among his mates.

Vincent and I might have opted for the short cut that David is taking along the Loire River, but a strong westerly wind picked up with Tuesday's rain, blowing directly towards Le Mans. Back to back days of 105 and 112 days didn't take much effort. Now we're about to head due south for the next 250 miles. It is cloudy and cool and we've had to put on our rain jackets a couple times already today.

I was particularly disappointed to have to wear my rain jacket hiding my Garmin jersey riding the final ten miles of stage four past the hundreds of fans, as the day before Garmin's sprinter Tyler Farrar took his first career Tour de France win in Redon. I was there at the finish line and was immediately getting many hand claps and bravos as I rode past all the fans after the race. I've only seen a couple of other fans wearing the Garmin jersey, and those seem to be Thor Hushovd fans wearing this year's jersey, which is distinctly different. I get extra respect for being a veteran fan wearing last year's team jersey. I always get some response from fans riding my loaded bike, so now I don't know if the cheers are for me as a touring cyclist or me representing the Garmin team.

The Le Mans start is right along side the famed car racing track where the 24 Hour race is held. Vincent is presently there awaiting Dave. The course markers are already in place and some barriers are up, but otherwise none of the construction of the many many buildings of the Tour Départ Village have gone up. They are still in place over 100 miles away in Dinan where today's stage is about to start.

Later, George

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