Monday, July 22, 2013

Stage Twenty-One

Its official.  Cavendish is no longer the King of Sprinters.  That title now goes to Kittel who won as fair a fight as all the contenders could ask for on the Champs Elysees to conclude a most magnificent 100th Tour de France.   Kittel, Cavendish and Greipel were all wheel to wheel right up to the finish line and the man with just a smidgen more power and desire than the others was Kittel with Greipel coming in second.  The three were all so close, the also-rans will be eager for a rematch.  But Kittel with four wins in this year's Tour compared to Cavendish's two and Greipel's one, has strutting rights for the time being.  And thus perhaps ends the era of Cavendish.  His two wins this year is his fewest in six years.  But his twenty-six sprint wins are the most in Tour history and will be difficult to surpass.

As has been the case throughout this year's Race, I once again reached a goal within minutes of when I wanted to.  I found a television at 8:30 pm, an hour before the final sprint and an hour before sunset, in the remote village of St. Lever-sous-Beuvray after a five-mile climb into a national park.  It was in a small four-stool, two-table bar attached to a hotel/restaurant.  A dozen tables out front were filled with diners enjoying the warm evening.  

The television was tuned to a cable news station.  The owner of the hotel was at the bar cash register totaling the bill of a diner.  When I asked if he could put on The Tour, he said it was over, not realizing for the first time ever the final stage was an evening affair.  Still, he didn't want to put to on.  He said the kitchen was closed.  I told him all I wanted was a menthe á l'eau.  He could have easily picked up the remote control beside him and hit a button, but he said wait five minutes.  He was that French stereotypical proprietor, who I rarely encounter avoiding establishments that cater to tourists, who prefers to be testy rather than accommodating. He wasn't going to unnerve me.  I plopped down and patiently waited for him to put on The Tour.  

When it finally flashed on the screen, my eyes immediately went to the upper left hand corner to see how many kilometers remained to the finish--forty-five, about an hour's worth of racing.  My first worry was that the owner might want to close down before the finish and would take delight in turning off the television and kicking me out.  I was also concerned that it could be dark by the finish, making it not so easy to find a place to camp.  But a full moon was rising and I was also in a thickly forested national park with easy camping wherever I looked.  Within minutes of putting on The Tour I was joined by others interested in the outcome and also the beauty of Paris at dusk as the peloton circled the Arc de Triomphe and sped past the Louvre and the Tulieres Garden and the Seine.  Even the hotel owner had to watch.  I was confident now that I would get to see the outcome and not have to wait to the next day to find out, as there was no Internet reception here.

When Hinault, LeMond and Indurain were shown in the back of a convertible, one of the patrons excitedly identified them all for his wife.  It was another classic spot to be experiencing The Tour.  Little did those watching it with me know they had an American to thank for this opportunity nor that this American had biked a good portion of those miles that the peloton had.  I felt almost as exhilarated as did Froome when he crossed the finish line with his six teammates who had survived The Race.  He was positively luminous.


stephenallen28 said...

Great finish to a great tour! Thanks for the fantastic coverage.

Bill Burns said...

George, it's been very enjoyable following your escapades along the tour route. Bon voyage!

JeffOYB said...

Yay, George!