Friday, July 12, 2013

Stage Twelve

It was another great day on the bike.  It began with the final sixty-six miles of Stage Twelve into Tours past all the early arrivals to the course, many of whom had camped along the road side as I had. And it ended with forty miles of evening riding on the Stage Thirteen route to within sixty miles of its finish, past many encampments of RV Tour followers.  In between were a dozen miles to the bar where I watched Cavendish lose another sprint, this time with only himself to blame, starting it a tad early and being passed at the line by a surging Kittel, claiming his third win.

My first segment was a virtual non-stop ride other than for a few photo ops, as I needed to make it to the finish line by two when the gendarmes would start evicting unofficial personnel from the course. I tried to limit myself to just one photo per ten miles and only when I was on an incline or braking into a turn, not wishing to give up more than a bare amount of momentum. I reluctantly passed up many a classic shot, such as the middle-aged couple sitting on a blanket, leaning back-to-back, each reading a book.  It is the rare sporting event that people bring books as their pre-event reading material.

I had hoped for a short supermarket break along the way, but as is typical, the route wound its way through small-town rural  France, la France profonde, and there wasn't a supermarket to be found.  I just had to wait until I reached Tours for my daily yogurt drink and the purchase of my food for the day.  I knew the supermarket I would go to.  It was just four blocks from Florence and Rachid.

After picking up my supplies I buzzed Florence and Rachid at 2:06, just six minutes later than had been my aim.  I was hoping they'd come scampering out of their building with their bikes and  accompany me down the road for an hour or two.  Unfortunately, Florence was under the weather and Rachid was somewhat sleep deprived having just finished an art project for a major annual festival in Orleans.  He had been one of one hundred artists selected to decorate a fish, another spin-off on the Cows of Chicago.

I made my visit a thirty minute pit stop, plopped on the floor of the lobby of their building, resting my legs and drinking yogurt and eating a pâté sandwich and having a pleasant chat with Florence and Rachid.  I didn't even care to dash up to their apartment for a shower, even though I hadn't had one since Corsica over a week ago.  I'm plenty adept at bathing with cemetery faucets, and during the recent heat wave had been semi-bathing several times a day.  Hot water is no necessity, though I did let Florence take one of my water bottles up to their apartment to run hot water through its nozzle to unclog it of its grime.  Once cleaned, I had forgotten how strongly the water could squirt out of it.  Bringing it back to normal was so great, it was hard not to think that was the highlight of my visit, though I could never say such a thing, as any visit with Florence and Rachid is a noteworthy event and always one of the highlights of my time in France. I was lucky to see them twice this year.

It would have been nice to stick around and join them as I have before for the arrival of the caravan and the peloton,  but I had no time to spare if I wanted to reach the next stage finish 108 miles away in less than 24 hours.  I only had to go one block from their apartment to pick up the next day's route, though the first couple of miles were still the neutralized zone.  A couple miles further the route ventured on to a road that prohibited bicycles.  I knew that every gendarme within miles would be on Tour duty, so I could safely ride it for five miles rather than making a painful and time-consuming detour.

Today's bike art included mannequins realistic enough for me to nearly ask if I could take their photo.

Another was from an era past.

And I added to my random sampling of the common folk making a day of The Tour.

I was a moment late in catching all five of this clan.

Today's route also included several popular Tour tributes that I hadn't seen yet this year.  One was a giant yellow jersey just outside of Tours.

The Tour has finally ventured into a region of giant rolls of hay that make for building blocks.  On the team time trial stage a farmer had spelled out Vive Le Tour with the huge rolls for the helicopters.

As sunset approached I was delighted to have good reason to still be on my bike, nearly ten hours for the day between 7:45 am and 9:45 pm. My legs were surprising me at their eagerness.  The day before I had woken with a calf so stiff I couldn't put any weight on it.  But after half an hour of pedaling it had loosened up and was pain free.  The slanting evening light gave a sharp definition to the countryside making it all the more fetching.  And around nearly every bend were Tour followers in their campers.  It was a forest for me this evening.

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