Friends: Tom Danielson, riding The Tour for the first time at the age of 33 for the Garmin team, commented after previewing the first stage after a training ride with his team that he was amazed by all the decorated bikes along the route. He's ridden the Tour of Italy and the Tour of Spain, the two other major three-week races, as well as the week-long Tour of Switzerland and countless others races in Europe and America, and he's never seen anything like it.
Welcome to THE Tour Tom.. It truly is in a class until itself beyond anything one can describe. It has to be experienced to believed. And he ain't seen nothing yet. Wait until he sees the throngs along the road and their fervor with signs and flags and road graffiti and cheers. They've already been parking their campers along Sunday's time trial course four days ahead of time. I passed several dozen of them in the six mile segment I biked last night on my way back to the Stage One start after watching the team presentations on a large screen at the Tour Village of sponsors in Les Herbiers, finish of Stage One.
There were throngs there as well. It seemed as if everyone in the vicinity and their poodle were milling around the vast area of sponsors in a large hall and outside it. I encountered Skippy an hour and a half before the presentation was to start. He suggested we head over to Tour central and see if we might find someone who could get us into the presentation at the Puy du Fou park seven miles away. He noticed Christian Prudhomme's car parked outside, the director of the festival who Skippy knows. After half an hour waiting for him to come out we learned that he had already gone in another vehicle. Then we tried the press center near by. Though Skippy knew quite a few of the journalists and others, none could help us.
So it was back to the large screen at the Sponsor's Village. That was a fine enough setting for me sharing the experience with dozens of others. It was held in the replica Roman Coliseum with the teams ushered out with gladiators in costume and some in chariots. The big story was Contador being booed, not once but twice. His Spanish teammates took such offense to the booing they refused to wave to the crowd when they were introduced, unlike the other 190 plus racers. On the telecast afterwards former racers Jacky Durand and Richard Virenque said it was terrible and a shame. It will be interesting to see if that is the story throughout the three weeks of The Tour.