Thursday, July 29, 2010

Time Trial

On our bikes and along more typical B&R roads - a fantastic morning.  I’m zipping along,feeling great, keeping up with the beautiful people when I feel a sharp pinch in my armpit, then a few more down my back. I screech to a halt. When Wally comes back to see what happened I am standing at the side of the road in my bra and bike shorts, shaking out my top, swatting and swearing. What is it with me and bugs on this trip?
We stop for a typical B&R lunch - again in a tiny town, on limestone terraces that step up the narrow street. 

Goose rillettes, salads, omelettes - Wally orders a glass of wine and is handed what looks like a cigar in a glass tube.
What a great idea!
A few more kilometers and we pile our bikes on boats in Blaye...
to cross the Garonne and cycle on teensy gravel roads.
to a winery along the time trial route. Fanny is riding in flip flops and toe clips and she is still fastest. 
You can hear the roar as each rider approaches. They zoom by with the afterburners on. For 52 kilometers. They start two minutes apart, but more than once we see a rider pass another in front of us. It’s thrilling. And they are going more than 50 kilometers per hour. Boggles the mind.
They look skinny on TV, but in person they are almost delicate they are so thin. Tammy tells me a story about asking a thin young man she met on a ride back home if he raced. He said “Oh no, that’s for the stick figures.” 
Every time trial rider has a team car following him. This is Lance.
The top riders have a helicopter overhead and motorcycle cameramen, so you can tell who the stars are by watching the sky.  Schleck looks like he might win the Tour, he is gaining time on Contador, but he runs out of gas near the end (boy do I know what that feels like!) and Contador has the Tour in the bag - all that’s left is the ceremonial stage in Paris. 
By the time we get back to Grand Barrail it’s eight. We rode 72 gorgeous kilometers today, we’re back late because the bus to take us back to the hotel didn’t show up. He got stuck in traffic. Apparently didn't get the memo about the Tour de France. Hello!?!

This was supposed to be a night on our own; we could have a romantic dinner a deux, eat with a few of our new friends, have room service. But it’s late, and we are bushed, room service isn't available, so Annik organizes a pizza restaurant for all of us in St Emillion.
We sit on a stone terrace and feel the air grow cool and watch the sky turn into a Maxfield Parrish painting, an unreal deep turquoise. It is enchanting. Good thing, because the white wine is so bad we can’t drink it. Channing slings it over the wall towards a pool, leaving a tell-tale dribble down the wall. Looks like an incontinent Frenchman or a really tall poodle happened by. 
Shonagh takes our glasses and flings the wine far into the pool. If this were basketball she’d be a three point star. No tell-tale dribble. We switch to red wine. 
It takes forever to order, and things come out piecemeal. I know there is a logic to the order in which dishes appear, an inviolable logic. I just don’t know what it is.
Food finally appears. “Royale!” calls out the waiter. Wally raises his hand and the waiter smacks a pizza in front of him. It is delicious. We wolf it down. Shonagh and Channing get salads and snails; Jack gets wine. No food. We ask, the waiter shrugs and disappears.
The waiter reappears and yells “Calzone Royale!” and we realize we have just eaten Jack’s pizza. We promise him dinner at the French Laundry as compensation. We learn Jack didn’t get his lunch either. Food jinxed and starving, yet he’s still calm and polite. 
It is near midnight when we stumble back to the hotel and fall into bed too tired to download photos, check email. Lucky we got our teeth brushed. Off to Paris tomorrow.

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