Saturday, July 24, 2010

All The Way to Tourmalet...or not

At 2 a.m. we are awakened by an air raid siren. I think it is a religious commemoration - Wally nails it - it’s the lightening alarm. Thunder and lightning all night. 

And itching. And scratching.Something is eating us alive. Later we discover we are covered with welts...

Up at dawn - Col de Tourmalet is far away. It is pouring, and if we ride up Tourmalet we will have to walk the last couple of miles, the roads are so tiny they won’t let bikers up the last bit. And then we’ll be stuck up there until the Tour has passed, and we will descend the wet roads with the cavalcade of cars, motor homes, drunk drivers, drunk walkers, and mad cyclists. After dark. Then we find out Sarkozy will be at the finish and it will be even crazier than we thought. We go back to bed. 
It’s still pouring later that morning when we drive to a small town to watch the tour. From a bar. Aah, the luxury.  Through a combination of bribery, sharp elbows and timing we manage a collection of disconnected seats, and have to defend them against invasion until the tour caravan comes by. Then everyone dashes for the street, mobs the barricades, screaming and waving flags and zip! the cyclists blur by and they’re gone. 

It is astonishing how fast these guys go - I've watched it on TV since Miguel Indurain was racing, and I know some pretty fast guys at home, and these guys would eat them for breakfast. There's a reason they're called elite cyclists. If they are F15 jets we are rubber duckies in the bathtub, even the fastest among us.
Tour Contact, the B&R guides call it. It's a carnival, a moving drinking cheering madhouse.

The B&R van dies at the entrance to the hotel, smoking and smelling. Got us back before the end of the tour, didn't leave us on the road or halfway to nowhere. We dub this the B&R miracle of Lourdes. We make jokes about putting holy water in the radiator and seeing if that fixes things.
We watch the last few kilometers of the race from the comfort of our hotel bar, and epic duel between Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador. The same hotel bar where we maybe got all these itchy bites. On the floor because the bar is mobbed with other cyclists following the tour and all the seats are taken. 

Not the day we had planned, but exciting and dry. And we have been moved to the luxury wing of the Roach Hotel. I have a photo that I can't find (new computer) and I'm late for dinner. And tired. More later.

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