Gear Change Up

Thursday, July 27, 2006

"Brit! What happened at the Tour de France?!"

The lateness of this analysis is due to a combination of factors. One, French lunch. I am currently reading a book by a somewhat misguided individual who is explaining why Europe is going to dominate the 21st century. I promise you, Europe will never dominate any century if the French keep insisting on taking 2 hour lunches everyday and kicking Brit out of the internet lab. I can't get anything done, and I'm not even a productive member of society. Two, after I got back to Nevy from the tour, I kind of collapsed, and I am working on un-collapsing. It was fun, but man I am tired. Three, the race may be done but the Tour is not actually over, as we're waiting on drug test results for Floyd Landis, the winner-of-the-moment. And four, the biggest reason of all refers to the question posed by many of you that makes up the subject of this e-mail. And if you wanted a short answer, the better question to ask would have been, what didn't happen at the Tour de France?

It was crazy.

It was fun.

It would have been amazing even without all the scandals that happened and are still going on. This will be portrayed over and over again throughout my excessive use of the bold and italics functions that are available for me to use to display extreme excitement.


The Mystery of Liberty Seguros...
Maybe I had been in Nevy too long and not following the news as closely as I should have been. But I left and picked up a car in Lyon, where after ten months of travel I finally made my somewhat triumphant return to driving, and driving on the righthand side of the road. I was a little rusty, but fortunately everyone is bad at driving in France, so I fit right in. Sweet. I rented France's social equivalent of a Volkswagon Golf, and came to the realization that I had been traveling for way too long when I picked it up and thought, "Wow, look at all this space!" I could throw in my backpack, my bike, all my food, and still have space for a British guy named Martin. I zipped out of Lyon train station with the freedom of the open road and not a care in the world.

Except for a slight curiosity. I had caught the headlines of one of the papers as I headed out of Gare de Lyon, and something caught me as funny. The Astana-Wurth cycling team was under suspicion of doping. Being a cycling fan, the doping was not what had grabbed my attention. It was the fact that the team was called Astna-Wurth, not Liberty Seguros, which is what it had been called for a while now. I thought to myself, "Self, isn't it odd for Liberty Seguros to completely pull their sponsorship on the eve of cycling's biggest event?" Liberty Seguros is the Spanish version of Liberty Mutual, so I knew they couldn't have gone out of business. Huh. Isn't that funny that it all happened pretty much a week before the tour starts.

The Prologue to the Prologue
I arrived in Strausborg and set up my fabulous tent (brand: "North Pole" (this will later prove to be different from "North Face")) at Strausborg's municipal campground. In the future, for those of you looking to follow the Tour de France, absolutely, positively, camp. Bring a tent. First, it is the most practical way to go. With a tent I was able to stay in the campgrounds in the towns of all the finishes. In contrast, some people I was working with through Outdoor Life Network had to find places sometimes 50 kilometers a way. And if they have trouble finding places to stay, you are really gonna have trouble. So camp. It's easy. Second, its so fun. Because everyone is camping and everyone is there to see the Tour. So the campgrounds are filled with cyclists, cyclotoursts, and everyone who really just wants to be a part of the event. It was such a positive atmosphere.

I got to Strausborg on the evening of the 29th, and woke up the next morning (June 30); the day before the Tour started. I went for a ride, and got in touch with Bob Roll at OLN, and we agree to meet up over in the media area. I head over and call Bob, and OLN is lost. Not a problem, I figure I'll just hang out as security has not been set up yet so I can go anywhere. So I watch the mechanics from Team CSC work on the bikes, talk to some journalists, and all in all pretend I am supposed to be in this area and know what I am doing. Suddenly, inexplicably, everyone starts running. In the process of trying to fit in, I decide to start running too. It was a mad dash to the Holiday Inn, and not because of the free breakfast buffet. It is because Bjarne Riis, the director of Team CSC is about to announce that "This is a huge problem for our team, but we will just have to regroup. The tour will go on." I stayed and watched the whole press conference which occured in at least six different languages (unreal the linguistic ability of European cyclists. I guess they have to be able to talk shit in a variety of different languages). And then I get a call from Bob Roll.

They're still lost. "What are you doing?" he asks, and I tell him about the press conference. "Really, what does Bjarne Riis have to say?"
"Well, he says it's going to be a big problem for his team but they will regroup and the tour will go on."
"Hey Bob?" I ask. "When I say, 'It's a big problem for his team,' what am I referring to?"

What is going on?

What's going on is that the team directors have voted unanimously to kick their own riders out of the Tour if they are connected to a drug scandal that broke in Spain a few weekis before the tour started.

This is huge. It would be like if baseball managers decided to kick out players associated with steroids (not even tested positive, just associated), and then announced they would forfeit the season due to having these players on their team. Absolutely unheard of. And it took out three of the Tour Favorites. Twenty two riders in total. So if you had asked me at that point, "Brit, who is going to win the tour?" the answer of course would be who isn't going to win the tour? I was so glad I had brought my bike along, I figured they'd be so desperate for riders that I would finally get my chance. Wrong again. Not only were the riders being kicked out, they were kicked out and not replaced. So, for example, a team like Astana-Wurth who had four riders connected in the drug scandal in Spain would ban those four riders from riding. A cycling team consists of nine riders, to kick out four leaves you with five, and to start the tour you need six. So not only were teams losing riders, the Tour lost teams like Astana-Wurth. And that explains why Liberty Seguros had yanked sponsorship just before the tour.


So then bike riding actually begins...First the flat stages...
I wasn't as focused on results while watching this Tour de France. Mostly because when you watch the Tour from the sidelines and don't understand French, unless you have a collaborative decision-making comittee of Americans, British, Kiwis, and Australians cluttered together trying to decipher the six words of French they actually know, you don't know whats going on. So in terms of results, if you really want to know how the tiny Italian guy you never heard of did, I direct you to

This explains why the Tour de France is not a bike race. I know, some of you are sitting by your computer wondering, "If its not a bike race, why was I getting up at 6 AM to watch?" The answer of course is, yeah, why were you? they show it again in prime time. But it's not a race then either. You see, the Tour is a French Event. And watching the tour is an all day extravaganza, and actually watching the race is a fifteen second span of time. The tour is an all day event in that the town that the tour is departing from, going through, or arriving in \ncompletely shuts down. Thousands upon thousands of police line the route, and if you want to get across, better go early. Otherwise grab a seat.

Grabbing a seat is all there is to do all day, so people will line the barriers starting around 10 in the morning. The race gets there around five in the evening. In between, you get some food. You go to the bathroom. You watch the people on stilts. You sweat a lot because someone forgot to tell France that it's actually really far north. You talk to the peope next to you if they speak english, and if not you smile at them a lot, ask them where their flag is from, and it's usually from some obscure province you never heard of but is days away from becoming an independent country. You watch the battle among sponsors for handing out hats, and you yourself end up wearing about seven hats just to make them stop giving them to you.

That's one way to do it. After the first few stages I got smart and rode my bike around. The Tour is the biggest promoter of cycling I have come across in my travel, and not just because its a bike race. It\'s because when you shut down every single road the only way to get around is by bike. Way more successful than any bike to work day. And its fun because then people know you\'re a cyclist and they want to talk to you about your bike, and bam! You\'ve killed another 20 minutes. Only 3 hours before the riders come! At this point the race is put on the jumbotron and you can follow their entire progress across 200 + kilometers.

The Publicity Caravan
About an hour and a half before the riders come through, the publicity caravan arrives to entertain the crowd. Its not so much entertaining, but if a giant schoolbus painted like a fish was blaring its horn and spraying everyone standing in your frontyard with a hose, admit it. You would watch. The publicity caravan is made up of over 140 vehicles assigned to sponsors of the Tour de France. After offering up large sums of money, they have earned the right to drive their vehicle with their logo at 25 miles an hour for six hours for three weeks along the race course. They usually make the best of this by completely decking out their cars in the form of lions, water bottles, electric grills, and assigning two to three girls to sit in the back and wave. In the US we call this an "internship," and these girls will go back to their university and report that they got real business experience with Credit Lyonnas. So everyone wins.

But that's not all. Before the departure of the prologue in Strausborg, I was able to see into one of these publicity vehicles, and in the back under where the girls sit were tons of boxes and bags and other gear. "Hmm," I thought. "I wonder...what are they gonna do with all that junk...all that junk inside their trunk?"

The answer is throw it at you close-range from a speeding vehicle as hard as they possibly can. And after three weeks of waving (elbow-wrist-elbow-wrist), these girls are throwing hard. The other job of the sponsors is to give out tons of free stuff to the waiting crowd, and they use the carvan to distribute their various bottle openers, pens, and (noooo!) more hats. People actually like the caravan more than they like the race. They get more out of it and it lasts longer. Some people even leave after the caravan comes through, assuming that 1) no permanent damage was done while wrestling over a key chain, and 2) they were not run over by a jar of pretzels when trying to escape with their prize.
Fully mature adults will really resort to assault to get a keychain?
What about a refrigerator magnet?
Yes...if the refrigerator magnet is a cow, and the cow is wearing earings.

Then the race is getting exciting because the riders are getting close and the break might actually escape. This is when the we all get excited because they think, "Maybe this time someone will defy the peloton and triumph!" But the peloton usually catches the break, swallows the break, and spits it out the back. Its actually very demoralizing. The race ends in a sprint, and we all go watch the award ceremony so we can actually figure out who wins and who is in yellow.

And then...jump in the car, drive a few hours, crash (as in sleep), get up the next morning and do it all again. So went Week One.

The Pyrenees and the Alps
For those still considering following the tour live, here's another pieve of advice: Skip the flat stages, go to the mountain stages. Because this is where you see the art of watching the tour. The amateurs in the flat towns show up at the finish. But there is nothing to describe the scene of a mountain stage of the Tour de France.

This is where the true advantage of camping comes in. During the Tour de France, the French police let you camp right on the mountain, right by the side of the road, and wait for the race. This way the real die-hards have a chance to see from a good spot, and the French police don't have to worry about people driving up the day of the race because they are already there. It's actually really a great way to vacation. You grab the wife, the kids, the dog, the beer, the bikes, the lawnchairs, you drive up a mountain, and you hang out and wait. People just pull over on the side of the road and either park the camper or pitch the tent. And there they are. They bust out the folding table, the baguette, the cheese, and the board games, and they occasionally glance down the side of the road to see if the Tour is coming when it is not scheduled to arrive for about three days. After all, you don't want to miss it. The best part about this is that it's not just a few people. I cannot stress this point enough:

Thousands and thousands of people are just camped all along the road on this mountain in the middle of nowhere.

And then the publicity caravan comes and they go crazy. And then the race comes and they are equally as excited.

And then they pick up and move on to the next stage.

I was able to watch from the Pyrenees on Col de Marie-Blanc, Col de Tourmalet, and Col des Ares. In the Alps I was able to watch from Alp D'Huez, Col de Galiber, and Col de Joux-Planes. Fun never stopped.

Favorite stage to watch...
Was Stage 17, when I got to watch from Col de Joux-Planes. It didn't start out as my favorite. The day before American Floyd Landis had bonked in the mountains and lost the yellow jersey by eight minutes. I woke up depressed that morning, but I still donned my Phonak hat and rode the col (definitely harder than Alp D'Huez), and on the way up, I was able to take a poll by the number of people yelling to me that 1) Landis was finished, and 2) I seemed to be climbing the Col pretty well. Somewhat positive. I wore the Phonak anyway, figuring Landis needed all my help he could get.

I rode back down to my car to pack up my tent, and then I found a good viewing spot about four kilometers up. I got to chatting with a couple of Aussies and a couple of Danes. The Aussies had a little black and white battery powered TV in the back of their van with an antenna, which was great because it was the only way any of us could follow what was going on. What was going on was Landis had not only recovered from the day before, but he was breaking away, and the peloton was in a panic. So the five of us were crowded around the window of a 1985 red renault van watching the race on a three inch black and white TV while the publicity caravan went by, while the race officials went by. We watched on TV as Landis hit Col de Joux-Planes, the last climb of the day and the last HC of the tour, and took off. He dropped the T-Mobil rider who had been clinging on to his back wheel, and let loose. We jumped away from the TV to see Landis come up the road at about a 9 percent grade. And he was hammering. We set our watches as he passed to take our own splits, and waited for the chasers. And waited. And waited! The next rider did not come by for six minutes and eleven seconds. Landis was riding for yellow. We jumped back to the TV and watched and waited. Landis won, and moved from eight minutes back to thirty seconds back. He would win the Tour. We all knew it then. My Aussie friends had green, my Dane friends had polka dot, but I had yellow. All that was left was a time trial, and in a time trial (barring disaster) you already know. The challengers that were left would not be able to beat him. The Fin de Course truck passed, and I jumped back into my car to follow my American instinct of "Must Beat the Traffic," but on the way down I had my windows down, the radio blasting, and my hat on backwards because it was a great day to be an American. Even better than the Fourth of July. I knew then that Landis would make up what time was left in the time trial, and go to Paris victorious after being eight minutes down and declared for dead. Too good to be true.

Too Good to be True.
A couple days after his victory in Paris, drug test results have shown that Landis has tested positive for an elevated amount of testosterone in his body. Landis has repeatedly denied these claims, and nothing official will happen until the results of the B sample are known, which will be at the end of this week, sometime before lunch. If the first set was positive, the second set is expected to be so as well.

So where to go from here? Well, cycling is really two sports in one. The first sport is the bike racing part. The second sport, which can be kind of fun in a disheartening kind of way, is watch the cyclist defend himself against positive drug tests. Landis claims the elevated levels could be due to a variety fo reasons...

1. He was taking drugs for his hip (which actually is bad and will need to be replaced)
Possible, but unlikely. Ever since the 2000 Olympics where Romanian gymnast Andrea Raducan was stripped of all around gold due to accidently ingesting banned substances through a cold medicine provided by an official team doctor. Ever since that, team doctors have read labels.

2. He has a naturally high level of testosterone in his body
Maybe. But then I think he also would have tested positive in the Pyrenees. Reports have also been released that say some testosterone in his body was found to be synthetic.

3. He had a beer the night before and this messed with the testosterone levels in his body.
See, I told you this was a fun sport. This is a very true claim, it was published in all the French papers, and I had to include it. Now, I know I am going to really crush some dreams here, but it needs to be said. Beer is not a performance enhancing drug.

I want there to be no misunderstanding: Beer is not a performance enhancing drug.

Again, Landis still needs the B test to come back. But this, in a word, sucks. It was supposed to be a clean Tour. It was supposed to be a turning point for the sport. I think for me, the most disappointing part was displayed in my initial thought. Usually with such a scandal, my first thought would be, "Unbelieveable!" Unfortunately, regardless of Landis's guilt or innocence, it really is pretty believeable, and its not shocking at all. And this is what bike racing has come to. They thought they fixed it in Strausborg, but the dopers stayed one step ahead.

It's sad. Mostly for the people of France, because remember. This is not a bike race, it's a French event. And make no degrade the event in this fashion is highly offensive to the French. In Bjarne Riis's words, the Tour will go on. It made it through two world wars. The drug scandals of the past years (1998, 2006, and also all of Armstrong's career if you count, "He keeps winning and there are no drugs! This is a scandal!") are bad, but they won't kill the Tour. Still. I don't know what happens now. I'm waiting for the results. And then we go from there I guess.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The ocean I associate with the word "Ocean"

I saw the Atlantic the other day.

The last time I saw the Atlantic was over a year ago on Block Island with my crew. The first time I saw the Atlantic I was real small, it was real big, and I was on a beach somewhere in Miami.

The Atlantic is an ocean I associate with beaches, swimming, salt, the best frosted flakes you have ever tasted, the storm that wiped out the best frosted flakes you have ever tasted, sailing the bays, eating, eating some more, driving the coast of north carolina in a golf cart, or cramming six people into a lincoln in Surfside. Riding the cape. Its the ocean you go to regardless of last second wins and last second losses, and somewhere out there is a Cuban refugee wearing my Dad's sunglasses.

The Atlantic glows in the middle of the night.

If you disturb the plankton.

After a year of flying over the Pacific, dinner on the beach of the Gulf of Thailand, kayaking Cook Strait, skipping rocks in the Tasman Sea, riding the Groningen Sound, and storming the coast of the Mediterranean on my bike, it was nice to see the waves crash against the rocks of the lighthouse, and know that as opposed to oceans apart, nine months later I am down to ocean apart. Not far and not long now.


Rest day.

For whom exactly I'm not sure. The riders still ride. The caravan drives the entire Atlantic coast of France. So its just that no one is racing, no one is waving, no one is fighting for a spot on the barriers, or killing each other for a rubber bracelet. That kind of rest.

So after a week of hitting the roads across northern France I find myself in Dax. Dax is what you would get if you combined Glenwood Springs with Miami Beach and stuck it in the middle of the field. A French resort town, but I'm having a hell of a time figuring out what they have resorted to. But its warmer. And folks are nice. And really, really this time, only one more day of racing before we hit the mountains.

A crazy game of poker it has been. One thing about watching the Tour live is that I tend to have no idea what is actually going on in the race until about two days later. So T-Mobile has the yellow, and the Americans kind of fell flat in the time trial, and all should be worried, except for the fact that the Tour De France is an interesting competition in the sense that you can race for a week and still not have even really started yet. I would be worried but there has been nothing to worry about yet. I think the Americans can climb better than the Ukranians. But then again I've never met a Ukranian.

I have learned a lot about watching the sport though, and I have discovered that cycling is so much easier to appreciate once you understand what's going on. And basically what's going on is that the riders are going through hell but they pedal on anyway. I used to fall asleep to the Tour on TV. But now when I watch and I see a guy hammer out just to catch a looks like just a guy pedaling...but make no mistake, that shit is hard.

Other good news is that the Tour has by far been the most successful part of my project, and there is so much more to go. Everyone here just wants to talk about cycling. Not just French but people all over the world. I may get that global cyclist yet.

Racing resumes today with sprinting. I drove the road into Dax the riders will be taking. Not only are there no hills, the road doesn't even bend.

Then tonight its off to Pau, because tomorrow its time to party with spanish separatists.*

The Pyrenees.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

The logistics game...Stages 4, 5, 6

Following the tour is one of the most logistically complicated endeavors I have ever taken on. Somehow, you need to find the stage, watch the stage, find you car, get to the next town, all while making sure you somehow eat, hydrate, sleep and shower.

Usually you have to choose between a few of those. Meals and showers tend to be the first to go. Bobke tells me that everyone has that problem. The Tour de France is the hardest sporting event in the world to cover just because it is so massive and covers such a physically large territory. And even guys that have been covering the tour for years still find it to be a massive grind.

It creates for long days. But a awesome day each day, so when you don't want the day to end its good that it's long. I have my mornings which is nice, so I can ride or run. Then I pack up the tent and move my car to a strategically advantaged getaway position (away from the tour, close to the highway). I jump on my bike and ride the few kilometers to the finish line and scout out a good position to watch.

The tour is inadvertantly one of the best promotors of cycling I have ever seen. Not just because its a bike race. When the tour comes through a town, or when it stops in a town, everything shuts down. Roads, local public transportation, regional transportaztion, everything. The only way to get around is by bike. Way more effective than any Bike-to-Work day has ever been. Even if you're going to watch the tour you ride from home and get to the finish. Then to find a good place the ebst way to scout is by bike. Sometimes you want to get to the other side of the barrier, and that involves riding a few kilometers around the barriers. Or you just need a place to sit.

So bike to the bike race. Its great fun and you can see all the sights of the town pretty quickly as well. Then grab some food and find a spot (preferably in a tree) to watch the race on TV as it comes in. Avoid getting pegged by the publicity carvan, because after a week of waving those girls are getting pretty buff and winging the freebees at folks. Then cheer like hell for 15 seconds, watch the presentation, jump on the bike for the sprint back to the car, throw the bike in, foot to the (car) pedal and pedal to the metal, because then I drive to the next town which can be 2-3 hours away. Set up the tent by 11, crash, do it again tomorrow.

Time trial today. After watching McEwen have his way with the peloton for the past few days, the GCers are gonna start to come through.

Time to stop screwing around.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Pedal to the medal

Contrary to popular opinion, flat stages are not flat. They happen do be flat when compared to going over the Alps, which is not fair because the alps are one of the largest mountain chains in the world. A big apology to the Hamilton Bike Co-op. Upstate NY would be considered a flat stage in the Tour de France.

And College Hill would be a Cat 4 climb.


As I try to define cycling culture in other countries, I inevitably compare each one to the US. One thing I have been thinking a lot about is how to define the American cycling fan. It's a very small, very fanatic, rather intense group of middle to upper class group white people. Who have for the most part been very successful in their lives, and have adopted a big can-do attitude (which, by the way, is also a very American attitude). They see riders go up and over these big climbs, and there is a small voice inside them that says, "I can do that," and a slightly larger voice that says, "Regardless, you must try." American cyclists honestly believe they could do what the tour riders do if they just worked hard enough. That's why we keep buying more and more expensive bikes. Obviously if we lost a chain ring here and put some carbon in the seatpost, we could do what they do.

And then the hardest rides turn out to be "flat" stages. The cycle of try try try, fail fail fail, try try try again has hooked a very small group of Americans who just can't stop looking for an edge.

Which brings up another plurality of cycling: Sane vs Insane? As my british friend Mark who is riding from Strausborg to rejoin watching the tour on Alp D'Huez said, "When I'm riding, I can't tell if I'm loving it or hating it."

Stage 2 continued the pattern of ride, ride, ride, breakway, break gets minutes, break gets sucked back in, break caught. But it got a little exciting toward the end when the peloton came up on some hills and a rider here and there decided to go for it. An exciting 30 seconds before the sprinters swallowed them abck up and spit them out the rear. Matthias Kessler, a T-Mobil rider almost did the lone break successfully. But the sprinters did it their way. I think one of the most disheartening things I have ever seen was Kessler getting caught about 50 yards after he passed me, maybe like 75 yards to the finish. It was one man out on his own, but you saw the crew coming up on him, you saw his candence and knew he was close, but not that close.

George lost yellow, I think he got caught behind a crash. He'll get it back.

Stage 2: Credit Lyonnas vs Skoda
TPS busted out their own white bucket hats trying to...get ahead (hahaha) in the race to make sure that there is not a single square inch of scalp showing between the finish line and 500 meters to go. Skoda countered with rollerbladers and leading a group of Italians in singing their theme song ("S-Ka-O-De-A") But in the end Credit Lyonnas came back again and actually had distributors stand in front of people and not move until the yellow baseball cap was being worn. Stage 2 vicotry to Credit Lyonnas.

Caravan I Feel The Most Sorry For: The TPS girls that have to dance on the back of pickups everyday, six hours a day, to "Come on Eileen."

Today the riders continue up to Holland, while I opted to cut the corner and watch the stage from a nice cafe in the shade in St Quentin, France. St. Quentin is a town that was pretty much destroyed during WW1, and is doing so much better today. By far my most favorite town so far, as they have put a beach and swimming pool in the main town square.

I have learned a lot about following the Tour, and that is that you must always be prepared to get caught without food, water, and sometimes you must race the sun to your destination. So I took today to ride, restock, refuel, and get psyched for tomorrow. It's hot now, but the clouds are building up to the west, and its looking like rain sooner rather than later.

So leave me your predictions for stage 4 as to 1) Who's gonna win? 2) Who's gonna get the muddiest? and 3) Is Brit's tent going to leak?

1. Thor 2. Ekimov 3. Man, its gonna be close...

Happy fourth of July, all.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Stage One...ole!

Flat stages on the Tour de France are usually boring, but when you're actually at the race they are fun. It's great to just go to the finish and watch the jumbotron with everyone because its all just a big relaxing party, talk to the people you're standing next to, hang out. Then as the race gets closer and the crowd builds up, it actually gets quieter. People are concentrating. The Germans are trying to figure out if their men will be caught. The French are trying to figure out how long till the peloton swallows up any hope and inspiration a break could ever create. The Americans are hopelessly trying to convert kilometers into miles. But you watch the jumbotron and you watch kilometers to go, and you see it ticking down pretty fast. You start to recognize some of the background scenery. The team cars come and speed by you. You hear the helecoptor overhead. And finally they turn the corner and you see the people ahead of you go crazy and its like a wave that passes and does not stop till the last rider passes.

And then it pickes up again when everyone realizes that that actually wasn't the last rider, and you should cheer for people who got dropped.

In the end the French won out to take the stage and last night's soccer game. So they are really excited about life right now. The Americans are psyched because George Hincapie is in yellow, and we really like winning. Norway is not so thrilled because Thor went down and I watched the replay a ton and I still can't figure out why. The British are just bitter about everything at the moment, but they'll cheer up.

George leads the pack
Stop doing that. You make me nervous man. You will get yellow eventually. was cool though.

Skoda vs Credit Lyonnas
Skoda looked to make it 2 for 2 and drop Credit Lyonnas. And things got even more hectic with Champion throwing their hats into the ring (so to speak). Skoda pulled out all the stops and employeed the roller bladers and go karts to distribute the white bucket hats along the sidelines. Unfortunately they made their move too early and died toward the end, while Le Credit Lyonnas interns dodged race officials and oncoming sponsor cars to get more yellow hats to the sideline. Stage One goes to Credit Lyonnas.

Today's favorite Caravan vehicle
The Lion. It's the only hairy vehicle.

Word on the sidelines
People used to say that Italians were the best dopers. Then it was that the Spanish are the best dopers. Now they say that Americans are the best dopers just because no Americans were swept up in the drug scandal.

Foreigners really bug me, and I run into them everywhere.

Rocky Road to Paris
Its nice to see the start, its nice to see the finish, but we just would never get there if the racers kept making circles around Strausborg. Tomorrow its off to Luxemborg for Stage Two. My predictions are more flatness; a safer race for Hincapie, a break will take off and be caught, and good times had by all in Luxemborg and along the way.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


Cycling is an endurance sport. Hardest sport on earth. It's really unfair. I have to stand there for seven hours, while they only have to race for seven minutes, and I only get to see them for about seven seconds.

It's also a very hard fought and competitive sport. Today, it looked like Credit Lyonnas was going to take the victory with more of their yellow baseball style hats being worn on the sideline. It was a fierce battle with Skoda and their white bucket hats. One side would send all their representatives down the line of fans to distribute hats, only to have the other company do the same thing. This went on for a while until all the fans had about 14 hats each. Eventually Skoda grabbed the prize when it exploited its later position in the publicity caravan, and was able to be the final hat distributor.

Watching a bike race is a very long day.

But when its George HIncapie barreling down with 400 meters to go and a chance to take the yellow jersey, its all entirely worth it.