Stage 14 - Calm after the Storm.

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After the complete cataclysm of yesterday’s affairs, today was a relatively mild journey along the flats for the tour. As is "comme habbitude," a group of five-ten riders who were all well out of GC contention went up the road a bit, battled it out for the rare honor of a stage win (which went to Aitor Gonzalez of Fasso Bortolo), and the peloton sauntered in a cool 14 minutes adrift.

But for France, it was yet another day to celebrate as their cause celebré Thomas Voeckler got to hold on to the Maillot Jaune for not just another day, but TWO more days since the next day is a rest day. As an example of their idol worship, the cover photo on L’Equipe (the main sports paper here) was not of Lance Armstrong who won the stage and basically assured himself of a sixth victory, but instead of Voeckler, who managed to barely hold on to the jersey by a mere 22 seconds. But his face coming across the line well deserved the photo. He was absolutely ecstatic. And he’s clearly been riding out of his head to defend the jersey, because no one expected his defense to last so long. He himself even admitted he was only “renting” the jersey until the eventual leaders would claim it, but he will now have had it for a good ten days. Not bad, Mr. Never-Heard-of-You-Before-Last-Week.

Meanwhile, my troupe of co-riders here in Geneva have been making the most of the local terrain. (Unfortunately, our leader JJ has yet to receive his bike from British Airlines, so he’s been on the phone the last two days. Terribly frustrating for him. But I loaned him my bike yesterday so he could at least get in some riding.) So Todd and I took in two official Tour de France climbs the last two days. Yesterday, we went on a 70 mile rider that featured a climb up the dreaded Col de Joux Plane, where Armstrong completely bonked a few years ago and lost almost two minutes to Ullrich after having skipped a feeding zone. Even though it’s only about 8 miles long, it’s almost an 8% AVERAGE grade, with plenty of 11-12% spots, and virtually no quick little flats to recover from. Then, add in the fact that the road is in complete disrepair, barely smoother than gravel, and a temperature around 90 degrees, and I can tell you it was an abusive little monster. I decided to give it my all and maxed myself out. I felt great till about halfway, then it was just a matter of trying not to quit. I think I did it in about 50 min, so really averaging only 8-9mph. The Tour riders will do it at about 13, a good 50% faster. Terribly humbling. But that’s why we’re here: you can see the Tour on TV, but to feel the Tour, you have to ride it. It gives you a much more profound appreciation for the heroic suffering these guys undertake.

Today, Todd and I scouted out the Col du Faucille, which will be featured in stage 18 of this year’s Tour, about four days from now. This was a much more likeable climb—only 6.5%, great road surface, windy switchbacks, phenomenal views, and only about 3000 vert feet. Three hours later, we’re back in the hotel, packing up, and are off to La Grave in about an hour. From there, we’ll ride Alpe d’Huez tomorrow (a day before the TT), then return to just watch it the next day, then four more days of Alpe climbing after that.

I’ll be back with a report in a day or two. Wish me luck connecting online from our tiny little lodge in the Alps. If I can upload them, the reports should be good.

Some photos from our rides:

Faucille.jpg


Danger.jpg

Mark-Alpe.jpg

JouxTop.jpg

MarkClimb.jpg


alpe-Todd.jpg

8 Comments

On this second rest day, one is left to ponder the events of the preceding week. Like the Big Bang, the tour has exploded, separating and reorganizing riders. With the exception of Lance, the favorites and rivals of the tour who have hitherto been revered like Greek gods, have fallen like Icarus from the sky. These heros of yore have been replaced by the next generation of warriors, seeking to capture the hearts and minds of their countrymen by digging deep into their respective suitcases of courage. This next week will determine which warrior shall conquer the hell of the Alps, and will reign victorious over the peasants of yesterday. The roads of the Alps are strewn across the mountainside like discarded string, each has a story to tell. The story has begun, and soon it will end. And in the end, there will be a new beginning. Bon voyage.

Helen of Troy could have only hoped for a champion like this man, this man who is larger than life, larger than one cancerous testicle that riddled his body with metastatic disease, this one testicle that was bigger than Ullrich, bigger than Mayo, Bigger than Pantani, Bigger than Fausto Coppi, Bigger than Jaques Anquitel. This testicle was this man's True Achilles' Testicle-- but he has battled back to become perhaps the greatest champion of bicycling since Pee Wee Herman, but without the child pornography. This man, this Texan, THIS AMERICAN is truly a hero to all-- bulls, birds, retarded kids riding bikes with football helmets-- and of course, one Sheryl Crow. This man IS strong enough to be her man, as well as Johan Bruneel's man. The tour is shattered like so many broken beer bottles in a mexican brothel. Ivan Basso is better than expected, as he had the wings of Trilloli on his little biking shoes the last two days, clinging to Lance like some sort of italian parasite. But the race of truth is to come, and we shall see if the parasite can live alone. And for those of us who studied parasites in 8th grade, we know that parasites cannot live alone... becuase they are parasites.

Bob roll is an idiot and I cannot stand him.

Mark--What handsome leg and butt muscles you have! Keep on climbing.

Zoey

Radcliff you must be sucking wind today. How's the view from L'Alpe d'Heuz? Are you still drunk from yesterday? How does the yellow jersey fit? Yoyo.

On the eve of the momentous occurance of Lance Armstrong writing history on the hallowed slopes of the most prestigous mountain ascents in profesional cycling we must make a moment to reflect on the circuitous path which has brought Lance and our precious sport of cycling to the place which it is today. Tonight reflect upon history being written before our eyes by the human pen of suffering and preseverance. Tonight light a candle, and quietly reflect while drinking a Fat Tire Ale playing with your PDA.

Hey guys!

I am getting so excited for this victory! I want Lance to win by the largest margin in history (yes, including the 1897 TDF when The victor won by a cool 9 days).

I come home every day to watch the inevitable on OLN (no, not geeky guys making stupid jokes), Lance taking more and more time, pushing his way to the finish.

How are you doing over there mark?

nate

Nadcliff-

Can you believe this tour? I have been so bummed about Tyler this week, but I guess it would be worse to be JJ. How did they loose his rig? He has had an uncanny knack of losing his bikes lately. Nice pictures with Todd, he is hardcore, watch out for him on the big climbs. I will check back soon. Have a great time bruthar!

Nice copy outta you, Jean-Frederique. Post again soon.

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