In the sweltering ninety degree temperatures the most popular person in the caravan of sponsors is the person on the Vittel float spraying everyone with water. No one turns away or goes running as they do in cooler temperatures. It may be the last of the 170 vehicles in the parade of sponsors and not dispensing anything to take home, but no one is disappointed by what it does offer.
Young and old have their hands out as the parade goes by dispensing morsels that they scramble for as if their life's depended on it, only to discover they've made a fool of themselves for a packet of laundry detergent or a flimsy key chain. But they delight in it as if it's a nugget of gold.
It's as thrilling as Christmas morning for the kids.
They are nearly overcome with glee.
Capturing their ecstasy is more satisfying than capturing anything the caravan has to offer.
I nearly had the opportunity to share the caravan experience with Skippy. He passed me in a car less than an hour after I had left my campsite in a public park. He was being chauffeured by a fellow cyclist who offered him a place to stay the night before just minutes after we'd encountered each other on the outskirts of Dole. They were going to continue another ten kilometers and then climb aboard their bikes. Skippy said he'd wait for me, but I came upon a supermarket that I couldn't pass up, as one never knows when one might encounter another on the small roads of The Tour route.
After the caravan passed it was less than an hour before the peloton flew by, less of a time gap than usual as it was riding furiously not allowing any breakaway just yet. A breakaway finally did form and for the first time held off the peloton and produced the day's winner--a French rider for the second time, Lillian Calmejana of the French Direct Energie team. He rode alone up much if the seven-mile Category One climb seven miles from the finish and then held off the chasers on the somewhat flat remaining miles. Froome and company came in fifty seconds later, not sacrificing any bonus seconds to any of the contenders with the top three places going to guys in the break. The French broadcast concentrated on the French rider with only glimpses of the Sky led peloton behind, so one couldn't see the effort the pursuers were having to summon. Contador afterward said though it was s hard day with an expenditure of energy that may be needed tomorrow.
I was able to watch it at a bar at a lakeside resort that I had to make a two-mile detour to reach. Both the bar and the lake were packed. The route through the Jura mountains was scattered with lakes teeming with bathers in this heat. Tomorrow's stage starts right beside one in Nantua. I won't be riding any more than the first few miles of the day's route that heads into the mountains with three Beynd Category climbs that will make for the most explosive days of racing so far. I camped fifteen miles before reaching Nantua, content to arrive in time for the early caravan departure of 9:45, followed by the peloton two hours later, its first pre-noon start.
The next day is the first of the two Rest Days. The Race entourage will be making a long transfer across the country. There is no easy train connection. A friend of Skippy's took a train yesterday up to Paris and then another down to Périgueux where Stage Ten starts. I'll leave The Tour for a few days and either pick it up after the Pyrennes on the Massif Central or possibly abandoned it altogether. Janina is enticing me to return with her on the Queen Mary, but first has to find out If it will accept my bike. If that's the case, I'll bike up to Cherbourg and take the ferry across the Channel with Janina and then have a week of luxury across the Atlantic.
I've gained some altitude in the Juras, blunting the heat a bit. Just as the US has state pride, the French have pride in their Département. There were banners and signs all along the route celebrating the Jura Départment that today's stage took place in.