Friends: And now we are four. A couple hours after the scintillating team trial which Vincent, David and I watched on the jumbo screen just 200 meters from the finish line won by Garmin putting the Garmin rider Thor Hushovd from Norway into the yellow jersey, as the three of us were riding the Stage Three route we were passed by a hard-riding young cyclist with rear panniers. We latched onto his wheel and quickly learned he was an Australian also intending to ride the entire route.
Two years ago I met Vincent trying to do the same and then David last year, so I was wondering who it might be this year. In year's past I usually happen upon some rookie trying to ride the course before stage one or on stage one. I was concerned there would be no one new this year, so we were all delighted to have a new recruit for our touring team.
He is another David, though we'll distinguish him from David the German by calling him Dave. He is a quite gung-ho 21-year old thrilled to be at The Tour. He races back in Australia so is plenty fit. He has shaved legs and a few bruises from crashes that haven't entirely healed. He immediately won our favor when he said he sold his car so he could afford this trip. David was just slightly disappoint that instead of selling his car he hadn't put a torch to it. David has never owned a car in his 42 years and is easily irritated by the exhaust they spew and the noise they make and the hurry they are in and the toots they give us. He was particularly appalled when a camper in The Tour entourage passed us pulling a car. Vincent commented, "You know how it is David, most people can't have enough cars."
Dave is riding a carbon fiber bike and carrying four water bottles, two behind his saddle and two on his frame. Like David he only has rear panniers, while Vincent and I have our gear spread out over front and rear bags. Dave is still learning the in the ways of France. He inadvertently ended up on an expressway his first day out of Paris and was pulled over by the police with a few minutes. Rather than a warning, they put him and his bike in the car and took him to the police station to collect a 22 euro fine. He didn't know that most grocery stores are closed on Sundays in France so had to leave the time trial before it ended to go to a larger city twelve miles away to get food. If he hadn't had to make that detour we might not have met.
We galloped along at nearly twenty miles per hour alternating between being a four man pace line and riding two abreast to chat until ten p.m. camping in a freshly cut field of hay, perfect for Dave as he didn't bring along a sleeping pad. "Anybody have a rake?" he asked. I offered one of the PMU green hands I had picked up from the caravan to help gather the hay for a mattress; He easily had his best sleep of his ten days so far in France. But he hadn't bought enough food for dinner.
Us three vets had food to spare, Vincent a pack of potato soup, David some noodles that he just cooked up and me some corn flakes and three packs of candy from the caravan that I had planned on tossing out to people along the route the next day. , But I had plenty of other stuff, even after a gave Vincent five of the red polka dots hats I nabbed and one to Dave, his first. David likewise had a good haul of caravan goodies. Initially he scorned all the useless junk they give away, but when I told him how much satisfaction we give to people along the route ahead of the caravan dispersing goodies ahead of time, he became as exuberant as anyone in trying to grab stuff. He has a perfect set up with a wire basket on the front of his classic Bianchi racing bike. He says these baskets have become popular among messengers in his home down of Bremen. He worked as a messenger himself for a couple of year before he became a professional bird-watcher in 2003.
Twenty miles into our sixty mile ride to today's Stage Three finish in Redon we managed to lose Dave. We waited for 20 minutes on the huge bridge over the Loire waiting for him, but to no avail. The bridge rose high enough over the river to qualify as a category four climb for the riders. But we met up at the stage finish under the giant screen, as was our backup. The biggest loss in getting separated was that Dave missed out on meeting The Devil. David got the opportunity for the first time and was able to do some translating, as The Devil only speaks German. He warmly greeted me saying "musée, musée" as he identifies me as one of the rare people following The Tour to have visited his museum of bikes he has built and all his memorabilia in a small town south of Berlin.
Now we have a couple hours of enjoyment of watching Garmin on the front of the pack defending the yellow jersey. With luck they ought to keep it for five or six stages. People today along the route were responding to my Garmin jersey shouting out "Garmeen." Once today's stage is done we will try to match last night's 50 post-race miles heading to the Stage Four finish in Mur de Bretange. If its as nice as last night we'll feel as if we could go all the way to the finish.